Marcus Tillman, arguably the most consistent player on the Rebel defense, did a good job at defensive tackle when asked to move inside in August due to injuries to DTs Ted Laurent and Peria Jerry.
When Laurent and Jerry came back off the injury list, Tillman was moved outside to defensive end, the position he's most comfortable with.
The adjustment took a little time, but now Marcus feels he's back in the swing of things.
"It's going good. The biggest thing was getting my conditioning back for the DE position. There's a lot more running at defensive end and on the edge. It requires a different kind of conditioning, but I'm good now," said Tillman. "The first week or so was tough, but everything is fine now."
Marcus sees good improvement from the defensive front and he doesn't believe it's all about some players getting healthy.
"I think it's a combination of getting those players back and from the rest of the guys improving," he explained. "Peria, Ted and Greg Hardy are three of our best players, and it means a lot to have them back, but I also see a lot of improvement from guys like Jerrell (Powe), Emmanuel (Stephens), Lawon (Scott), Chris (Bowers) and Kentrell (Lockett).
"I was very impressed with the way they played against Vandy when the starters were rested. They played as good as we did and that is big in these SEC games where it usually comes down to the fourth quarter and you need to be fresh. I can't tell you how important it is to have good depth. This is my third year and I've never seen us have guys on the second and third team that could be starting."
Having said that, having the best player - Peria - back is about as important as any good development on the team.
"I don't know if people outside of our team really understand how good Peria is," Marcus continued. "You can't coach what he can do. He's just got it.
"When I am in the meeting room watching DL cutups and see what he does, I am amazed. He's a freak of nature in what he can physically do. A great player and I don't use that term lightly."
Tillman is also a fan of Hardy's, whose presence has not been felt much yet, but is about to break loose, Marcus believes.
"His speed and quickness in the pass rush gives us another dimension and G-Hard is now about 270 pounds, which means he will hold up against the run better than he has in the past," Marcus assessed. "It's great to have him back."
Tillman is a low-key player who deflects attention away from himself, but the coaches understand his value.
"You know what you are going to get from Marcus every snap, he does not make mistakes and he can be a playmaker," said Ole Miss Defensive Line Coach Tracy Rocker. "He's our most dependable player, which makes him one of our best."
Rocker is also pleased with the DL development, but he feels they can continue to get better and better.
"Right now, we've got a pretty good rotation going in there and I'm getting more comfortable with knowing what each player can and can't do," Tracy stated. "For instance, with Powe, I try to use him on first and second downs and put him in situations where the opposing offense will be running the ball. I try to get him off the field in long yardage situations because I don't feel comfortable with him yet out in space. Every day he gets better and he takes coaching. He wants to do well.
"Our goal is to put them all out there in situations in which they are capable of succeeding and my confidence level is rising with all my guys who are playing right now in certain situations. Jerrell, for instance, is in the same boat with several of my guys. They were great high school players who are learning to be great college players and it's a process. I feel good about the direction we are going in."
Rocker said he's using the same patience with Hardy as he did with Peria when he came back from his injury.
"He got 11 plays against Vandy and he'll get more against Florida, but I'm not ready to throw him out there for 50-60 plays yet. Again, I want to put him out there in situations where he can succeed and he's got a little more work to do to be the Greg Hardy we know he can be," Tracy stated. "I was proud of the way he responded against Vandy, but we're going to be smart with him."
Marcus Tillman -
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