Flash back four years.
Jamarca Sanford was a wide-eyed freshman from South Panola who was just getting started on his collegiate football career.
It doesn't seem like four years ago as he enters his fifth and final season for the Rebels.
"It's been quick. The seniors when I was a freshman told me to enjoy it while it lasted because it will be over fast," smiled Sanford, who will be a fourth-year starter this season at strong safety. "I wouldn't change anything about my career, I just wish we had won a lot more games my first years here. Other than that, it's everything I had hoped it would be."
Jamarca is confident the losing ways are going to change at Ole Miss, starting this year.
"We've always been confident, but this year I feel like we have something special developing," he noted. "I think we have now got the pieces that were missing from the puzzle and we can go on and put it together.
"We've got a great quarterback now. Also, we're getting a lot of leadership from different areas. Everyone's attitude is great. We've always worked hard, but now we believe more. Everyone believes in Coach Deck (Don Decker) in the strength program and everybody believes in Coach (Houston) Nutt. It seems there have always been a few guys in the past who don't agree with the head coach, but everyone has bought into Coach Nutt and what he's doing. This system is going to work. He's always been a winner and will be here."
Sanford said even the 7-on-7 volunteer workouts have been better.
"We're competing harder and taking it more seriously," he continued. "We have a lot more guys showing up and all the freshmen are coming out with the attitude of wanting to learn and getting ready to play."
Some preseason prognosticators have pointed to the Rebel secondary being a question mark. Jamarca said they are entitled to that opinion, but he doesn't have to agree.
"I feel we can go out and do a good job. Marshay Green and Jeremy McGee being moved to corner has helped. They are great competitors. We have Dustin Mouzon, Johnny Brown, Kendrick Lewis, Cassius Vaughn and several more who are good football players. We just have to put it all together," he explained. "We have some of the best receivers in the nation and we are holding our own with them. If we can cover them, we can cover anyone.
"In spring, we were learning a new defense, but once we started catching on we did well at the end of spring. We have a great front four that's been together a while and that will help us too. Our linebackers are learning their stuff and we are too in the secondary. I think the sky is the limit for us on defense."
The safeties are definitely the more experienced of the secondary pieces so it's apparent they will be the leaders in regard to getting everyone lined up correctly and functioning in synch.
"Dustin knows what he's doing too, but in a way it's a reverse from when I got here. The safeties were inexperienced and we relied on the corners a lot. Now, we will guide the secondary from the safety slots," he noted. "But really we are all just communicating better and that's helped all of us."
In the new system, the two safeties are interchangeable, which Jamarca likes.
"We have to know both positions. The strong safety will not always be on the strong side of the formation. We will be able to line up anywhere," he added. "I think that will help all the safeties become better overall football players."
Jamarca is also excited about the aggressive mindset Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix brings to the whole defense and to the secondary.
"We are much more aggressive. Coach Nix is very aggressive and wants everything shut down. He's not teaching us to play it safe and give up certain routes. He's coaching us to get picks and make plays. We love it," he stated. "We are robbing and disguising coverages and everything."
Jamarca beleives the Rebels can make some noise in 2008.
"We've been real close in the past and I think we are a lot better now than we have been in past seasons," he assessed. "We just have to come together and get in top shape. Our conditioning is really coming around. Guys who need to gain weight are doing that and guys who need to lose are doing that. Words can't express what Coach Deck is bringing to us in the strength program."
Jamarca has one major goal and one secondary goal for the 2008 season. Number one is for his team to win. Number two is to show his skills to NFL scouts.
"Winning is above everything else. For me to do my part in winning, I have to be better against the pass. I am confident in my run support ability," he closed. "If I improve in coverage it will help my team and help my cause to go on to the next level."
For Jamarca Sanford, his career has been a blur, but maybe he and his team have saved the best for last.
Jamarca Sanford update -
OM Spirit Top Stories
Ole Miss Commitment Progress ReportThe Rebels will be looking to bring in a few impact defensive ends to help the gap with the departing seniors. A pair of their commits continue to show that they might be the…
OM SpiritYesterday at 12:09 PM
Podcast: Spirit Mailbag; Bradley Sowell JoinsIn this edition of the Ole Miss Spirit Podcast, Ben Garrett and Sudu Upadhyay answer your Ole Miss questions, and former Rebel Bradley Sowell stops by to preview LSU, among other…
OM SpiritYesterday at 9:16 AM
Friday Focus: Ole Miss vs LSUOle Miss travels to Baton Rouge to face SEC West rival LSU on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. CT on ESPN.
OM SpiritThursday at 11:48 PM
Pickett has major breakout potentialOle Miss landed Jamarko Pickett on Thursday. While being a bit off the radar, Pickett shows tremendous upside and long term potential.
Scout HoopsThursday at 8:26 AM