Newcomers excel on defense

The Rebels' defensive line got a huge boost last week with the eligibility of DT Jerrell Powe and LB Patrick Trahan.

Some believe this could be Ole Miss' best front line since the "Red Death" defense of '92 - '93 with the likes of DL Tim Bowens, DL Norman Hand, DL Chad Brown, DL Artis Ford, and DE David McGowan.

Jerrell Powe
Although Coach Houston Nutt and company are trying to downplay the importance of DT Jerrell Powe to the fans due to some of their unrealistic expectations because he has been out of football for three years, it is easy to see that when he does shake off the rust and gets in SEC condition, he will dominate.

Yes, he does get winded at times. Yes, his techniques need working on, especially staying low coming off the ball. But folks, this kid is a special player, and barring injury, I think you will see him reach that level this year.

When I watched him in warmups, yes, you can even get an evaluation by watching someone warm up by watching their flexibility, the 6' 2", 340 pounder was touching the ground with his hands without bending his knees. I looked over at the rest of the linemen and there were very few who could do the same.

But what encourages me is watching the "spurts" you get out of Jerrell that shows his capability. Watching him pursue the ball from sideline to sideline is something to see, especially considering his size. Watch out Rebel fans, I think Powe is going to be what everbody envisioned. Maybe not by game one, but at some point, he will be ready to go rock and roll.

I wanted to get a good look at the 6' 5", 230 pound DE Gerald Rivers. The first thing I noticed is that he was wearing #56, which is always a favorite number of mine after watching one of the best defensive ends that has played at Ole Miss in my lifetime wear that number, Derrick Burgess.

Gerald Rivers
On the first play of the one on one drills, Gerald put a swim move on OT John Jerry and leaped for a two-handed sack on Jevan Snead. That opened my eyes. What I see in the Georgia native, body wise, is what I saw in DE Greg Hardy when he arrived.. Greg came to Ole Miss in that 6' 5", 240 range. Long, lanky, but already had those broad shoulders that you can put on good weight in a short amount of time. Rivers has the athleticism that we were all hoping for after the Rebels won a late, hard battle with North Carolina and Kentucky to gain his signature

Speaking of DL, how about DT Justin Smith out of the state of Georgia? Justin reported in at 6' 4", 280 and already has that "upperclassman" look, body wise. The defensive line positions are deep on numbers and talent, but the Rebels signed two good ones for the future in the trenches.

DE Emmanuel Stephens can flat out get after the passer. He is the best pure pass rusher on the team, except for arguably Greg Hardy. The Texas juco product came in the spring, which gave him a better grasp of what to expect come two a days, and it shows. The "switch" has gone off and the 6' 3", 240 pound end has a chance to make an immediate impact this season. He has done so well that they have moved two year starter, Marcus Tillman, to defensive tackle.

It is no secret the Rebels were hoping and expecting LB Patrick Trahan to be an immediate impact player for their defense, and he certainly has the game to be one. Patrick admittedly has to get in game shape which he said should take "a week or two", but he has all the tangibles to be that LB in the mold of a Rory Johnson or Patrick Willis.

Patrick Trahan
By that, I mean someone who can chase down a running back from behind on the other side of the field. Patrick is relentless in his pursuit of the ball, and has the speed to get there that only the elite of the elite linebackers in the country have. And on top of that, when he meets you, he is "angry" as Coach Nutt said so giddy in the press room when discussing the former Auburn performer. This guy has put the "big hit" on several offensive players without even having the pads on. Trahan is a very/very physical tackler.

LB LeKenwic Haynes is making the transition from safety to linebacker, but the Texas native has the body (6' 3", 205) that will make him a fine outside linebacker in time. He is a deer in the headlights right now with the move up to college, but you have to be impressed with his overall athleticism. LB Jason Jones (6' 2", 220) out of Georgia wears Chris Strong's old number (53), but he looks like a slim and fit Chris Strong body wise, and we hear he is one of the stronger players in the weight room as just a true freshman.

The defensive backfield was certainly a position that Ole Miss was looking for some immediate help and depth from its newcomers, and it looks like help is on the way.

The player who really caught my eye was CB DeMareo Marr (6' 1 1/2", 180). When I watched Marr on film last year while at N' West CC, I noticed how physical he was for a CB. Marr was a true 6' 1" corner that played very physical, which spelled free safety in my eyes. But boy was I wrong. Not only is he physical, but he has the second lightest feet out of all of the cornerbacks that I saw, behind Marshay Green. Marr can flip his hips and is quick as a cat. Once DeMareo learns the system and adapts to the SEC level, watch out, this young man has a chance to be pretty special.

DeMareo Marr
You can always tell who the coaches are impressed with by watching and seeing the amount of time they spend with a player, and one of those players who Coach Chris Vaughn has spent a good time with is true frosh CB Derrick Herman (5' 11", 185). The Cleveland (MS) native also can flip his hips and stop and go on a dime. But what also stands out to me is his ability to have the mindset of an upperclassman. By that, we are talking about the ability to forget about the last play and go all out the next. You have to have that mindset as a cornerback or you will never make in the SEC.

CB Julian Whitehead has not shown much favoritism to his left leg. That is important because this is year number two after the ACL injury he had before the start of his senior year. The 5' 9", 180 Georgia native and former Hargrave standout has made several nice plays against the top receivers in the one on one drills.

We are not positive where DB Brandon Sanders is going to land, CB or S, but our best guess is safety. The 6' 0", 190 pound Georgia native just has that physical mindset that all safeties posses.

S Jared Mitchell looks much more sure of himself after getting acclimated to SEC ball in spring practice. The Hargrave product has that long and rangy body (6' 3", 180) that you are looking for in a free safety. He has also made some nice plays in the one on one drills against some of the top skilled players. The athleticism and body are in place.

Overall, I think you will see several of the newcomers not only contribute this year but start. Included in this group are DT Jerrell Powe, DE Emmanuel Stephens, and LB Patrick Trahan. I also believe that CB DeMareo Marr has a chance to be a heavy contributor for the '08 defense.

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