Ole Miss DL Coach Tracy Rocker is not subtle or elusive when asked a question.
He'll tell it like it is, no beating around the bush.
So what is his take on the Rebel defensive front?
In a brief talk with him recently, we got a few thoughts to give us something to chew on.
"The way I have to look at our situation is that we are on the bottom of the barrel based on last year's results. Vandy is better than us," said Rocker. "When you are on the bottom, we're not looking at individuals. We are all in this thing together.
"I've got 16 kids with 16 different personalities and my job is to get them to all come together as one. How good one player is does not interest me at the moment. My goal is to get these young men to play well as a unit for four quarters of every game and be ready for overtime. That's all."
Junior Defensive End Greg Hardy has been an offseason conversation piece. After being demoted to second team status in spring training, yet named Preseason All-SEC this summer, Greg is an enigma, but not to Rocker.
"I do not have any problem with Greg. Greg is not disruptive in meetings or anything like that, but every kid has to grow up and every player has to adjust to new situations," Rocker stated. "What we tried to impress on Greg in spring was that he had to give us everything he has for four quarters.
"When Greg gives 100%, he is a great player, but I have to make sure he gives us 100% every snap. As spring training went on, Greg got better at doing that. I expected that. This is not my first rodeo with kids. Greg had to adjust."
Rocker is not overly impressed when someone walks up to him and says something to the effect that Hardy "took over" the Alabama game last year.
"Yes, he did," said Rocker, "but where was he in the first half? Take over in the first half, then rest at halftime, and take over the second half. That's what I want to see, then we can talk about how good someone is.
"Greg is an athlete who has that twitch, as we call it. We want to see that twitch all the time. No plays off."
Early this week, DT Ted Laurent had arthroscopic knee surgery. Rocker said he does not know when Laurent will return.
"I leave that up to (Trainer) Tim Mullins and his staff. I have faith they are going to do their jobs," he continued. "When they tell me he can come back, I will welcome him. I will be excited to get him back. Until then, I can only worry about the ones who will be out there and work with the ones who are available."
DT Jerrell Powe is another interesting story. Powe was declared academically eligible for the 2008 season earlier this week. That has set off a firestorm of high expectations.
Rocker is happy about Jerrell being eligible, but isn't going overboard with his anticipations and expectations.
"First, we are going to have to buy a helicopter," he joked, "and haul his big butt out to the line of scrimmage from the sidelines. Then, after the play, we'll haul him back to the sidelines.
"Seriously, I have been told Jerrell has great skills, but I don't know that. He will have to prove it to me. I don't owe anyone any snaps or status on the DL. They have to earn that. Jerrell is the same. I don't give anything away. It all has to be earned. The guys who earn number one status will be special. If Jerrell is special, he will earn it."
Tracy knows Jerrell's journey is just starting.
"I've never see a house built in a day unless a lot of people are working on it," he said. "His advancement will not be a quick fix. He'll have an adjustment to make. There are fundamentals he has to learn. There will be a transition period, but I feel once we get him going in the right direction, he will be ready to contribute."
There has been work coming out of the IPF that Hardy became one of the leaders in the offseason. Rocker is anxious to see where the leadership will come from on the DL.
"I want my guys to be leaders rather than followers, but I'm not sure who my bell cow is going to be," he closed. "If it's not Greg, it may be Peria Jerry. If not Peria, it may be the 'quiet storm,' Marcus Tillman. I'm anxious to see who the bell cow will be."
Rocker wants everyone on same page
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