Offseason update -

Ole Miss Strength & Conditioning Coach Don Decker has three more weeks of the football offseason program to direct, but a little over the halfway point, he's very happy with the progress the team has made. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss Strength & Conditioning Coach Don Decker's offseason goals were quickly defined after spring training, once he had the opportunity to identify the needs of the football team as a whole and individually.

"Our offseason goals were to work on team unity/mentality, conditioning, speed and agility, strength, and body weight issues, in that order," said Decker. "We wanted to see more of everyone pulling the rope together, we felt the team conditioning in spring was not as good as it should be due to all the time off they had with the coaching change, we always work speed and agility as a top priority, we will always strive to get stronger, and we had some individuals who either needed to shed some pounds or gain some.

"So far, we have reached a lot of our goals, but we still have a critical three weeks to finish things up strong."

In the past, Decker has had a summer workout plan that called for four days of lifting and two days of running/conditioning. He changed that up this year.

"We noticed in spring training that the long layoff they had while the staff was transitioning affected their conditioning, so this offseason we lifted three days a week and ran three," he explained. "Surprisingly, we not only got in better shape, we got stronger than we were in spring, as a group, and after spring we set 13 team records in strength, so I have been very pleased.

"In other words, we were already pretty strong overall, but now we are a little stronger and in much better shape."

Decker, who was reluctant to talk about a lot of individuals, did share some nuggets with us, starting with weight issues.

"I'm very pleased Maurice Miller is down to 330. He's lost a lot of weight. And Jerrell Powe is now in the 342-345 range, which is down about 40 pounds from January. We want him at 335 when camp starts and then he'll lose a little more in two-a-days," Don added. "Emmanuel Stephens is now at 242 pounds and so is Kentrell Lockett. Both of them gained about 10 good pounds. Dexter McCluster is at 170, about 10 pounds heavier than he played most of last year, and Marshay Green is at 180, about 12-13 pounds heavier than he was in the 2007 season. Also, Ashlee Palmer doesn't look it, but he's up to 230 pounds, which is up about 10 from last season, and it's good weight, weight he can carry and not lose any movement."

From there, Decker's assessments got a bit more general, but he did provide a few tidbits for public consumption.

"Michael Oher's bench press has improved dramatically since when we got here. He's worked extremely hard and there's been no magic in it. The personalities on my staff mesh with Michael's and he's busting his tail for us," Decker noted. "Reid Neely has had a fantastic summer. Markeith Summers has been phenomenal. He's a guy with a 38" vertical and an 11-foot standing broad jump. He's worked hard and has shown excellent athleticism.

"Two players who I would match against anyone in the country in regard to offseason work are Lionel Breaux and Jeremy McGee. They have been tremendous and it's showing. Both are so much stronger than they were in spring."

Decker is also excited about the running back trio of Cordera Eason, Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis.

"Cordera is about 222 now and looks like a warrior. He's working extremely hard and has improved himself a lot," Don continued. "Brandon and Enrique are both great kids and can be special. They have come in here and worked hard and both can run. We don't time 40s, but looking at them I would guess they are both 4.4 guys. They have a lot of explosion, but when the three stand side by side, you can tell Cordera is a junior and the others are freshmen. They both need weight room work, but they have a chance to be really, really good."

Decker, overall, has been impressed with the whole freshman class.

"While I don't have a lot of concrete results yet, I can tell you their attitudes are excellent. They pay attention to detail, listen to what we are teaching and work hard," he said. "The group that has been here from the start of summer has already changed for the better. The last group that's only been here five or six workout days is still feeling their way through and learning.

"Three newcomers who have also caught my eye are Jason Jones, Marcus Temple and Derrick Herman. Jason is more mature physically than the average freshman. Herman moves around real well and Temple is a good, solid athlete who could help at corner or safety."

Decker turned his attention back to the veterans briefly.

"On the defensive front, Marcus Tillman has emerged as a leader. Teddy Laurent has had a great summer and Peria Jerry is doing well also," he closed. "Gerg Hardy has done fantastic and has turned up the volume in his training. He has been one of the guys who has championed our cause this summer and is training really hard. That's great to see."

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