All the Ole Miss defensive linemen know what to expect when they sit down the with the media this spring.
The first question is always about moving on without All-American DT Peria Jerry, now lined up to make millions in the National Football League.
It's a daunting task the Rebel defense faces.
For junior Defensive Tackle Lawon Scott, that question may be even more pertinent because no player on the team benefited more from Peria's presence.
Playing next to an All-American can only help.
"We will have to work very hard to replace Peria. Those are some very big shoes to fill," said Lawon, who started the second half of the season on a steadily-improving defense. "You saw in the Senior Bowl how good he is.
"Playing next to him showed me a lot. He showed me what it takes to win and to get to where he got to. The effort it takes and the determination it takes."
Scott marveled at Jerry's play during the 2008 season.
"He made plays that you didn't even see or he didn't even get credit for. If someone got a sack, it was probably because Peria was occupying his blocker and their blocker or caving in the line or creating an rush lane or running the quarterback into the free defender," Lawon noted. "And then there were the numerous plays he made on his own. He was special for us."
So, where does that leave the Rebels of the future? Peria is no longer leading the charge.
"It will take everyone working together to try to replace a little piece of him each," Scott noted. "He was a run stopper, a pass rusher and the team leader. We will all have to come together to take up the slack."
When Lawon became the starter next to Peria, he knew he would have to step up his game.
"I had to step it up a lot because I didn't want him outperforming me too badly," he smiled. "I did not want to be the weak link or a liability."
For his part in attempting to take up the slack, Lawon is working hard in the offseason on his body.
"I weigh 304 right now and want to get to 295," he said. "And I want to get stronger. I played last year at 310-312. Peria played at 290 most of last year and you saw what he did."
Scott is trying to lose the weight so he can help his movement.
"Peria was a great player because of his quickness and explosiveness. That's what I am trying to improve," he added. "I'm pretty happy with my strength levels right now in the squat and the clean. I think losing some more weight is going to help elevate my game in being able to move better."
Lawon is very enthused about the prospects of the Rebel defense for 2009.
"We have a lot of experienced players coming back. Even the guys who did not start much got a lot of valuable playing time and will only be better in 2009," he explained. "Ted (Laurent) started early on, (Jerrell) Powe got better and better, the freshman, Justin Smith, got good snaps and will come on stronger and stronger.
"Then, on the ends, we have Kentrell Lockett, Marcus Tillman, Greg Hardy, Emmanuel Stephens - we are looking good there too. We should be strong up front. We should be real good."
Another factor that makes Scott optimistic is the knowledge all the defensive players have with Coach Tyrone Nix's system now.
"We struggled with the system early in the year, but as the season went on we got more and more comfortable with it and it showed by the end of the year. We all know the defense now like the back of our hand. We won't change too much, so this year we can work on fine-tuning everything," Scott stated.
Lawon does not believe changing DL coaches - from Tracy Rocker to Terry Price - is going to change or affect anything.
"He's already blended right in. Coach Price is a lot like Coach Rocker. I really can't tell any difference," Lawon closed. "Everything points to us being effective again."
Peria Jerry will be missed on the Rebel defense. All-Americans are not a dime a dozen.
But Lawon Scott and the rest of the Rebel defense seem determined to make his absence minimal.
Lawon Scott -
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