Junior Tight End Gerald Harris said he's surprised the Rebels are 5-4 thus far in the regular season, but not from a "positive" standpoint.
"Yes, I'm surprised," said Harris. "I'm surprised because our record does not show how good we are. To be honest with you, we should be at least 7-2, if not better, and we all know it.
"The coaches have put us in a position to win every game, and we have made some strides, but we - the players - do not have much excuse for being 5-4 when we should be a lot better. The flip side of that is this program is on the rise - everyone knows that too. And it will only get better under the supervision of Coach (Houston) Nutt."
Harris said the goals of the team are simple, even though he knows it won't be easy.
"First things first - we know the UL-Monroe game is a trap game and we have addressed that issue," he continued. "We know we have to play to our level or above and not to anyone else's level, and I mean no disrespect to UL-Monroe.
"We have watched their films and realize they have guys who can make plays. We have vowed to prepare for them the same way we do an SEC team and to play with that level of intensity. Beyond that, we want to win out in the regular season and win a bowl game to set ourselves up for something real special next year."
Harris has made his mark on the team as a consistent, reliable blocker while he's trying to develop as a pass receiver.
"I'm not frustrated at all. I wasn't a receiving tight end in JUCO and there are a lot of things I still have to learn. It's not an over night process," he explained. "I knew that when I came here. I have gotten better in the passing attack, but I understand where I am and that I am not ready to be a primary target other than once or twice a game.
"I have to do better running my routes and finding holes in coverages. There is an art to getting open on this level and I haven't gotten it all figured out yet, but I am getting there."
Gerald takes pride in his blocking ability.
"I came here as a blocking tight end and that's where I have been able to contribute the most," he said. "We need the tight end to be instrumental in protections and in the run game. We want to run the ball and to do that the tight end has to be a good blocker.
"Besides, as long as we are winning, I don't care if I ever catch a pass. The wins are all that matters, but having said that, I take just as much, if not more, pride in blocking than I do in catching a ball. Whatever helps us win is what I want to do.
"Any tight end who doesn't like to block and doesn't love the man-on-man challenge of blocking is really in the wrong business."
In the last three weeks, since senior David Traxler has been out with an ailing back, Gerald's leadership role on the team has increased, something he has had to adjust to.
"I looked up to David as my mentor because he is the senior and has done everything before," Harris stated. "I pushed him and he pushed me and to be honest I miss him not being out there. He made me better.
"But at the same time, I have had to step up my game and be more of a leader of the tight end group. Not having him has put a damper on things, but I'm trying to take up the slack more and more."
Harris was a big fan of the coaching move to switch Bradley Sowell from tackle to tight end in Traxler's absence.
"Bradley brings a lot to the table in the run game. To really assert ourselves like we want to in the run game, having another big, active blocker out there has really helped," he added. "He's done a great job picking things up and producing and I think that move has helped our run game a great deal."
Gerald is happy with his choice of being a Rebel. Very happy.
"Coach Nutt did not try to tell me and my family that I would be the next Kellen Winslow. He was so sincere with us when he was recruiting me and he looked my family in the eye and told them he would take care of me like I was his son," Gerald stated. "He's done exactly that. I knew instantly Ole Miss is where I needed to be and he was the coach I needed to be playing for. I have loved every minute of being here."
Harris' ultimate individual goal is to become a more complete tight end. That is on the horizon.
What is "now" is him doing whatever he can to help the team win out in the regular season, go to a bowl and bring home a victory.
And for now he's perfectly content with being a factor in the run game while his receiving skills develop.
Gerald Harris -
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