Ole Miss junior Center Daverin Geralds has been through several transitions in less than a year's time frame.
Back in spring training, when Rebel Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson moved him permanently to the center position, it was all Geralds could do to learn how to snap and step smoothly and effectively.
During the offseason, he snapped and stepped "thousands of times" to perfect that all-important element of being a competent snapper.
With that transition behind him, August practice and the task of learning his assignments better loomed. Daverin, a highly-intelligent young man, tackled that chore head on and got a grasp on calling the OL calls at the line of scrimmage to adjust the blocking schemes with the defensive fronts he was seeing.
Then, week after week, game after game, the transition, if you will, was about getting in total sync with the other offensive linemen and being as close to perfect with his own assignments as possible.
Geralds calls that phase of his development the "night and day" part.
"I'm so much better than I was the first game of the year. It's like night and day," Geralds stated. "I'm so much more comfortable than I was the first game and it's been a game-to-game progression. I can always get better, I can go a lot further, but my comfort level now is, like I said, night and day to what it was.
"I owe it all to Coach Markuson being patient with my development and to my teammates. With four guys around me who had a lot of experience on the OL, it's really been a benefit to me. For a few games, they could cover up some things for me. Now, they don't have to."
Geralds and the Rebels will now head to his hometown - Baton Rouge - to take on the LSU Tigers, always a formidable foe.
"There's nothing like it - 93,000 folks screaming and hollering for 60 minutes," he said. "We try to give every game the same status, but it will be hard for me not to be a little more fired up this week playing in that stadium and in my backyard.
"We know we have our work cut out for us, but that's what playing in the SEC is all about. LSU's defensive line is a very good group. They have nice size and athleticism. They have also come up with what they call their Express Package where they put in four defensive ends on passing downs and that will be a challenge. You have to be on your toes with your head up all the time with them because they will blitz from a lot of different angles and they are athletic enough to blow by you in a hurry if you aren't focused and concentrating."
While the LSU DL is stout, the Rebel running game has come into its own in the past three or four games. They have given meaning to the term "taking it to another level."
"As we have become more familiar with each other, we have paid more attention to the small details that make a run game work," Geralds expanded. "We've played better up front in regard to better pad level and doing the little things that spring a run game.
"But we can't take all the credit. The running backs have done an awesome job of improving as well. Cordera (Eason), Brandon (Bolden), Dexter (McCluster) and all those guys have exploded. It makes it so much easier for us to create running lanes when we know our backs are going to hit the creases going downhill. It's been all of us - including the tight ends and the wide receivers, who have taken more pride and gained confidence in the run game."
The light switch, from dark to daylight, didn't happen with a flick. It took time and effort.
"Coach Markuson told us way back in spring that it would be a work in progress but if we would do what he asked us to do we would gradually get better," Geralds noted. "He never changed anything. He believes in what he's teaching us and he believed in us. How could you not play hard for someone like that?
"It's all starts with being physical and playing with low pad level and doing things correctly. Then, as your recognition of the defensive looks you get becomes second nature to you, it all fits together just the way he said it would."
Having said all that, Daverin knows the Rebs have their hands full Saturday. But, hey, been there and done that.
"LSU will have one of the best defenses we have played, but we have faced and been somewhat successful against Alabama, Florida, Arkanssa, Auburn and everyone else we have played," he closed. "We just have to keep doing what got us here. If we execute the way we know we can, we will be fine and there's no reason to think, at this point in the season that we won't. Night and day."
Daverin Geralds -
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