Bigger and Better

When defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix mentioned every linebacker individually last week, he spoke of Ashlee Palmer quickly and then moved on. But considering what was said, elaboration wasn't necessary.

Nix used the adjectives consistent, physical, bigger and stronger. While competition exists throughout the position. Palmer has solidified a spot on the field – which one is to be determined.

The senior from Compton, Calif., is currently manning the weakside, but the Rebels' coaching staff is tinkering with shifting him on occasion to the strongside to make room for Patrick Trahan, who is improving his conditioning on nearly a daily basis.

Palmer doesn't necessarily have a preference, as he is still concentrating on consistency – something that has vastly improved since the spring.

"I look at it in a positive way," Palmer said of the shift over to the Sam spot. "I just want to be on the field. I actually played the position last year and moved over to weak in the spring. I wouldn't have a problem with it.

"I think I've been pretty consistent up to this point, as far as tackling and my reads. I'm just taking coaching, listening to things. I think I had a bad spring as far as being physical and being consistent."

Part of the improvement comes from mindset, but the second-year Rebel has also added a little weight that helps with all aspects of his game. Palmer is up seven or eight pounds and is currently playing around 230.

"It helps me compete more in the trenches," Palmer said.

Depth will do the same, and Ole Miss has been able to establish a legitimate two-deep at the linebacker position. Current first-team members Palmer, Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker are being pushed by Trahan, Tony Fein and Lamar Brumfield respectively.

The group took offense to early talk about linebackers being a negative, and whatever the motivation, significant improvement has occurred.

"We've made a big jump," Palmer said. "I think last year the linebackers were inexperienced and coming into this year we were the bottom end of the team and there was chatter about the linebackers and we got fed up with it. We have a coach who's really a hard-nosed type of guy. He's not going to let us sit back and take it. We're going out there to give it our all and be as physical as possible."

There is also incentive because of the relationship with the new coaching staff. The coaches have a history of winning, and that fact coupled with the family mindset has Palmer excited about the season's possibilities.

"We saw it was going to be a different team as soon as Coach Nutt came," Palmer said. "Like I've said, he brought a winning mentality and winning coaches who brought out the winning in us. We want to win bad. It's like, 'Win or don't win,' and we want to win. We want to win real, real, real bad."

Palmer appeared in 11 games in 2007 and led the Rebels with 89 tackles.

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