Ole Miss Defensive Line Coach Tracy Rocker says a new world is opening up for a couple of his players in bowl practices.
"Most of the year, these guys have been playing off a card doing what the opponents do on defense. Now, all of a sudden, we are asking them to do what we do," Rocker explained. "Get off a block, make a tackle.
"We get to work on their fundamentals and we get to see who will compete. We see guys do something great, then they fall back a step, then they do something consistently, that is when you know they have a chance. There's a little frustration involved and a little satisfaction at times, but it's all part of growing up."
In his group, a couple of the young guys have caught his eye.
"Inside, Justin Smith has done some good things and outside Gerald Rivers has shown up. I have been challenging them every day," Rocker said. "There is no doubt they will be great players in time, but they are a work in progress.
"I am also challenging the Lawon Scotts, Ted Laurents and Kentrell Locketts out there because I have to create some leaders now that Peria Jerry is leaving. There is no need to wait until spring to start helping the leadership develop for next year. You have to start talking about it now. We are going to lose some guys and we need some others to step up."
The biggest question concerning next year's DL is the status of Greg Hardy. Will he stay or will he go pro? Rocker does not know.
"I have not talked to him about it. That is between him and Coach Nutt. I would love to have him back, but if not, I wish him all the luck in the world," Tracy stated. "Whatever he wants to do, I am supportive of him. No doubt, I'd like to have him, but he has to decide for himself.
"Greg is a guy I wish I had earlier in his career. Obviously, there is nothing I can do about that but daydream. He has great speed and can change a game quickly. Football is a game that has to burn deep down in your belly, especially when you play in that hole. When Greg is ready to do it, he does it. That's what you deal with in dealing with Greg. I challenged him a few weeks back in a conversation we had. He likes challenges.
"There is a misconception about Greg. He's a good person, contrary to what some people think. He's very respectful and a good kid. I've just had to go through the process of helping him grow up some. Does it wear on you? Yes, but I enjoy it and it's part of being a coach. That is what I was hired to do. I'm still learning about him and he's still learning about me. I hope to have him around longer."
Rocker sees a good future for the Rebel defensive front, but he's quick to point out that it will be hard to replace Peria.
"We have three starters coming back, and hopefully Greg, next year, plus we have Ted Laurent, who started early in the year," he assessed. "Those are guys who have now been through it and see what it takes to win.
"Losing Peria is tough, but this is college football and that happens. There are no long-term contracts on this level. You just roll with it, coach the ones you have up and hope you can develop or find another Peria Jerry along the way."
Tracy Rocker -
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