From week to week to week, one thing Ole Miss opponents are finding out is rushing yards are hard to come by against the Rebel defense.
And, as the saying goes, it all starts up front with the defensive line, coached by Tracy Rocker.
Rocker jokes about the early part of the season and how things were rocky at first with his group.
"I had a bunch of baby cows out there against Memphis - falling on their knees and wondering what was happening," he smiled. "It was the first game for some of them where Ole Miss was depending on them to win a game.
"I think that can be said for a lot of members of this team. Sure, some of them played some last year, but were they out there on fourth-and-one with the game on the line or with two minutes to go and the outcome undecided? It's a learning process and they have developed well from game to game."
Certainly, one of the bright spots has been the development of sophomore Defensive End Kentrell Lockett.
"Kentrell's development goes back to him coming to work every day with a purpose and the purpose is to get better," Rocker stated. "The thing I enjoy about him is Kentrell is really a good person who comes from a good family. He comes out here and works for me. I enjoy coaching him.
"His success is tied to his work ethic, his enjoyment of the game and the fact that he has gained a lot of confidence in this developing process. He believes what I tell him and sees that it works. He's bought in. He has a good time playing football - he does not come to practice dreading it. He comes out here to do something he enjoys and to work at it. Kentrell gives me a day's work everyday."
Rocker also believes there was a mental barrier Lockett had to overcome before he started to blossom.
"I think he had to learn that I believe in him. I think he needed to know someone had confidence in him," Tracy continued. "He was behind Greg (Hardy) last year and I don't think that allowed him to grow much. I've told him that it's his job and to do what he has to in order to keep the job, and he has."
Another recent development on the defensive line has been sophomore DT Lawon Scott moving ahead of fellow sophomore Ted Laurent.
"I'm trying to keep both those guys hungry. Ted started the year strong even though he was coming off surgery. He played well against Alabama, but I think he started wearing down a little," Rocker explained. "Lawon, in the meantime, has gotten better. Now, both of them are hungry and they are competing. They both want to be that guy. I'm asking them both to fight to take the job and keep it and telling Ted to fight to get it back."
A man who has slid back a little, for now, is freshman DT Jerrell Powe. Tracy does not think there is any need for worry with Powe.
"Jerrell is going to be fine, we just can't rush the process," said Tracy. "Let him develop naturally. Let him learn that some of the things he did in high school he can't do in college and we all have to realize how long he has been out of football."
With stalwarts Peria Jerry and Marcus Tillman, and the rise of Lockett and Scott, to name a couple, the Rebel defensive line seems to be peaking at the right time.
Nobody is happier about that than Rocker, who expects the improvement to continue just as it has the first nine games.
Tracy Rocker -
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