Chris Vaughn -

It's safe to say all phases of the Rebel football team have shown marked improvement from the Memphis game to the MSU cakewalk, but none more than the cornerbacks under the tutelage of Coach Chris Vaughn. Now, they are about to face perhaps the ultimate test against pass-happy and pass-effctive Texas Tech. Read his thoughts inside.

Since last spring, Coach Houston Nutt and Cornerbacks Coach Chris Vaughn knew the corner positions were going to be a work in progress for most of the 2008 season.

While some positions on the team they inherited were stocked well, corner wasn't one of them. Hence, Vaughn was "given" a couple of projects - converted WR Marshay Green and converted TB Jeremy McGee.

Senior Dustin Mouzon, who started in 2007, took some extra time to adjust to the new style of play and Green was thrown into the fire along with first-year starter Cassius Vaughn. Mouzon eventually came around to allow Vaughn to have a rotation, but it took several games for that to surface.

Through the first half of the season, and a little beyond, corner play was sporadic, but each game Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix kept saying "they are getting better."

It may not have been as visible to the casual observer, but Vaughn was seeing some valuable coaching points take hold and, as a result, the corners started making a few more plays each game.

That culminated in very solid cornerback play the final four games of the season - all wins for the Rebels.

But now the corners face the ultimate test, taking on the high-octane passing attack of the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Cotton Bowl.

"It's ridiculous the passing numbers they have put up," is how Nutt described the Tech offense.

Vaughn "ain't" scared. . . .

"Congratulations to me, huh?" Vaughn laughed. "Texas Tech is very good at what they do. They obviously work on the passing game a lot because they make it look easy.

"But we are looking forward to the challenge. You have to go play fundamental football. It's not about scheming. It's about being physical, being in position, competing and making plays."

Chris realizes stopping Tech's passing juggernaut will not boil down to just the corners, but he also knows his guys will play an important part in that objective.

"It's going to come down to a lot of things - the rush, pressure, coverages - to slowing them down. It will take everybody," Chris continued. "It's unrealistic to expect to shut those guys down as good as they are. It will be like being in a fight. You can take a couple of jabs, but you can't take too many uppercuts.

"You have to be ready for a 12-rounder. We'll throw a coverage at them and expect our kids to stop what that coverage is designed to stop. If they hit something that coverage is not designed to stop, we'll mix it up and change coverages again."

Vaughn wants his guys to play relaxed and not worry about anything but the next play.

"We have to be calm and we have to keep them from making yards after the catch. They are going to catch the ball, but we have to tackle the catch quickly," Vaughn noted. "Michael Crabtree is big, fast, physical and he knows it. He's a real talented guy. When he catches the ball, we have to get him on the ground. It will take a huge group effort to slow him and all those guys down.

"If something happens early that's bad, we have to put it behind us. Don't look at the clock or the scoreboard, just play. We finally got to a point this season where we were not scoreboard watching, where we were just playing, each and every snap, and it started paying off. Just play. It's all about going out there and playing."

Tech's offensive schemes, Vaughn said, are not fancy. Their guys just recognize and execute.

"First, their quarterback knows where to go with the ball and it's coming out pretty quickly. Then, their receivers do a good job of knowing where to sit in zones. They are very well-coached. It's obvious they have a great chemistry. They are not complex, but they understand what they are doing," Chris added. "They try to stretch you horizontally and vertically. They'll throw some timing routes. When (Graham) Harrell has had time to throw, which he usually does, they are lethal.

"What we have to try to do is speed his clock up and make him throw before he wants to. We need to take him out of his comfort zone."

The Rebel defense has a formidable task facing them. The corners maybe more than anyone.

But if you know anything about Chris Vaughn and his group, this is the kind of game they hunger for.

"It's a massive challenge, but that's what we like," he closed. "I can't wait for the kickoff."

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