Ole Miss senior Defensive Tackle Peria Jerry had never experienced as many cameras, tape recorders and media types as he did at SEC Media Days Thursday, but the quiet big man fielded every question as smoothly as Derek Jeter handles a high-hopping grounder.
"I was a little nervous about the day, but it's been OK. There sure are a lot of people here," said Peria, smiling in front of a throng of reporters. "When Coach (Houston) Nutt called me and told me he was bringing me to this event I was surprised and honored. It's been fine, but at first I was nervous."
Peria Jerry is the centerpiece of the Rebel defensive line. He's the bull in the pasture, the driving force up front. He was not bashful about expressing high expectations for the Ole Miss defense.
"I expect a lot from our side of the ball. We have a lot of returning guys and we have some talent," he stated. "When we get Jerrell (Powe) in, we will be stacked up front and we have guys who can chase the ball on the back side of the defense."
Since he brought Powe up, the questions about the talented DT awaiting eligibility clearance came up.
"If I had a dollar every time I was asked about Jerrell, I would be a rich man," laughed Peria. "I can understand the excitement about him though. He's a special talent. I've never been around someone that big that could move like him. He's very strong and fast and now he is in great shape."
Peria feels like the Rebels have a new lease on their football lives with Houston Nutt and the new staff on board.
"We have all gotten in step with him and the staff. You can talk to Houston, uh, Coach Nutt, just like one of the guys and like someone who has been around here a long time. You are just comfortable around him. He's a great guy.
"He's a player's coach. His deal is family and everyone sticking together no matter what. I think that is one of the biggest things we have improved on - togetherness and pulling the rope together."
Peria and the rest of the defense get more contact with Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix than anyone and the closeness with him and the defensive staff and the players is growing.
"Coach Nix is a high energy guy with a great scheme that you want to play for. We will play hard for him and all the defensive coaches," Jerry continued. "(DL) Coach (Tracy) Rocker is demanding, but fair. I like his approach to football. He was a great college player and knows what it takes to be great. We listen to him because he has been there."
Individually, Peria is excited about his progress in the offseason.
"Strength Coach Don Decker identified my weaknesses and I've been working hard on them," Peria noted. "We determined my core strength needed to improve and that would help me with my strength and speed. He's right. I feel faster and stronger. I am benching 450 pounds now and feel great and in shape. Coach Decker is great at identifying what each person needs and fitting a personalized workout to our needs. I love it. There's no reason for me to work on the same things the cornerbacks are working on. We work on things that will make each individual a better football player at their position."
Peria believes the energy level of the team has risen and that has affected every player individually.
"Nobody is slacking off or moaning about workouts. As I said, we are all in it together and the energy level is much higher," he said. "The guys hwo needed to gain weight did it. The guys who needed to lose weight lost it. Everyone is on the same page. The early morning workouts have been good for us as a team. They have helped us unite."
Peria's expectations are high, but they don't necessarily mean a specific number of wins.
"Our goal is to get better every day. I can see that happening. We have not talked about a number of wins, just learning how to win and learning how to play together and finish what we started," he said. "We started developing those traits in the offseason, I believe, because nobody backed down from extra work.
"We have a deal at the end of workouts called overtime. Nobody complained about overtime and the extra work. We just fought through the fatigue and got it done. I'm not sure we would have done that - as united as we are now - in the past."
Within the team, Peria and Michael Oher and Peria's younger brother John all compete against each other.
"I love going against them. They are both great football players and it's a challenge for me to try to get the best of them in practice," he said. "Michael has gotten so much stronger this offseason. He's not as strong as me yet because I'm not going to let him catch me, but he's benching around 400 and he's going to be a different player this year - more complete."
Peria Jerry is a beast on the football field. He can handle himself against anyone.
Today, he expanded his talents. He's now at ease with the media as well.
Peria Jerry at SEC Media Days
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