The question mark with sophomore Defensive End Kentrell Lockett has been if he can hold up in the trenches against the run.
There's never been any doubt about his pass-rush ability and his speed off the edge - Kentrell has that, but playing the run in the SEC is "big boys" territory.
He's now about 20 pounds heavier than last season and believes he will do just fine against the run.
"I may not be as pretty as Peria Jerry in the trenches, but I will get the job done," said the personable Lockett. "If I could wake up tomorrow and be what I think my ideal weight is, I'd wish for 260, but I'm 247. The good thing is that I have more confidence now at 247 and believe I can hold my own in there with the big guys. I like collisions and I have confidence I can handle it. Now that I am heavier, it's even more fun than before."
So far, a week into August practice, Kentrell is one of the number one DEs with Emmanuel Stephens. (Greg Hardy is out for a while with a foot injury.)
"Everything is going really well for me. Everything is smooth. I'm more physical than I was in spring because I'm heavier and feel stronger," he added. "I'm comfortable with that weight, but I want more. The extra weight gives me more confidence because I'm not getting pushed around when I come off the ball like I was before. I'm able to hold my ground better now."
Kentrell said the rash of injuries on the DL have not been a good thing, obviously, but he sees others picking up the slack.
"Marcus (Tillman) and I have kind of had to become the leaders of the unit with Peria and Greg out. Those are big shoes to fill with them out, but we are next in line and have to do our best," he said. "Hey, it's football. People are going to get hurt. Guys are dropping all over the country. This is a violent sport and things give.
"I like the way the younger guys are stepping up."
Kentrell said the assignments from last year to this year have not changed much, but the DEs are asked to drop into pass coverage of RBs more.
"I like coverage responsibilities. It tests your athleticism. I know that RB is probably faster than me, but I believe I can get the job done and I love that compeititon," he noted.
Lockett said there's also healthy competition between him and Stephens on who gets to the QB more in practice.
"We'll pick at each other in the huddle. He'll talk a little when he gets a sack and I'll talk a little when I get one, challenging the other to match it the next snap. We have competition within the DL and that's fun at practice," he added.
Stephens draws praise from Kentrell.
"He brings a lot of athleticism and speed to the position. Emmanuel is a good athlete and he goes hard at all times," Kentrell said.
Lockett said he wasn't totally surprised when Tillman was moved inside from DE the first day of fall practice.
"Leaders respond to things like that. Marcus has experience inside and outside. The team needs him more inside and he did it without thinking about it twice. That's what leaders do," Lockett stated. "He gives us more speed with the middle rush and that's what Coach (Tyrone) Nix is looking for - speed on the field to get to the passer."
Lockett has positioned himself for a lot of playing time, but he understands the coaches would prefer a solid rotation to keep everyone fresh.
"I think everyone will get plenty of snaps. We'll all get our chances," he closed. "I'm excited to get on the field and show everyone what I can do. It's my turn and I want to prove I'm good enough."
Kentrell Lockett update -
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