Last year, the Rebs were losing, Linebacker Ashlee Palmer was injured most of the campaign and he said "everyone" was in "hell."
So far this year, everything has taken a complete 180-degree turn for the better.
"It's a whole lot different for us now. Practice is practice now and not being in hell," Palmer stated. "We felt we were in hell last year. I know the coaches are not here to be your friends, but we get more coaching now than we did last year and that will pay off."
The offseason has resulted in Palmer being completely healthy for the first time since the start of last year and an additional 10 pounds of good weight. He is currently at 230 pounds and still looks lean.
"Summer has been hectic. The coaches kind of lured us in during spring," he laughed. "Before, practices lasted like four hours. In spring with Coach (Houston) Nutt, the practices were two hours. We knew they were going to ask us for more in summer, but we didn't know how much more. We had a hard summer, but it has paid off.
"I'm at 230 now, which is good. I am stronger than I was last year and I'm more explosive than I was last year. Those are the things I was working on, but each player had areas they needed to attack and they did it. And I'm also 100% healthy. I feel great."
Ashlee took exception to the notion that the linebacker slots are a question mark on the 2008 defense.
"We talk about that all the time and we are tired of being discussed as a possible weakness of this team," he stated. "We have a different attitude now as a unit. We can't do anything about what happened last year, but this year is in our hands and we want to prove those who doubt us wrong.
"All of us have something to prove after last year, not just the linebackers. We will hold up our end of the bargain."
Individually, what does Palmer feel he needs to do to reach rarefied air, such as All-SEC? After all, his spring left something to be desired.
"It took me some time in spring to get used to the coaches and how they teach. I had a bad spring because I was not consistent because it took me some time to adjust," he explained. "Now, I feel I'm fine. I need to be more consistent and I know that."
Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker came out of spring with Palmer as the number one LBs. Ashlee is confident in that threesome, if that's the way it plays out when the first game rolls around.
"I think Allen is more humble now and more driven. He was the number one player in Mississippi when he was recruited but things have not been as smooth as someone of his status might imagine," Palmer said. "Now, he's more mature and humble and he works harder to get on the field. He realizes what it takes now.
"Jonathan is a walking playbook. He knows everything about the defense. If you have a problem, he can show you exactly what you need to do and where you need to be."
As far as how the defensive system has suited him, Ashlee likes the approach.
"We still have fits and assignments, but we just go play. We utilize our speed and play fast. Playing fast helps you make more plays," he noted. "I love it."
Ashlee believes the program is headed in the right direction.
"When Coach Nutt came in we all knew we had a winner. From the first meeting he had with us our mindset changed," Palmer added. "He's a winner, the staff is made up of winners and his training staff are winners. Being around winners makes you want to win too and gives us a different mentality.
"We want to win bad. Whatever it takes, we want to do it. Coach Nutt has us ready to run through a brick wall for him. That will result in wins."
Ashlee's spirits were lifted even higher Monday with the news of Jerrell Powe being cleared to play.
"I was one of the first people to congratulate him because I know what he has been through. I have been to four schools and been through some of the same stuff," Palmer closed. "If I had been him, I might not have stuck it out and might have tried to go somewhere else, but he stuck with it. I admire him for that.
"Jerrell is a great guy. He's real funny and a character. I expect him to come in and play to the best of his ability. I expect him to make plays and I'm excited for him and what he adds to our defense."
Ashlee Palmer update -
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