Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Tyrone Nix does not hand out superlatives flippantly.
A player under his direction has to earn compliments.
Every time Nix was approached in spring training, he was quick to point out the top four linebackers were having an "excellent" spring session and one Patrick Trahan, his senior OLB, seemed to get the most kudos.
"Patrick did a terrific job all spring," Nix said. "He's fast, physical, in great shape and he knows the defense. I like the direction he's going in a lot.
"We need him to make this kind of jump. Patrick can make a big impact on this defense next year."
Trahan is starting to remind observers of another Patrick who played linebacker for the Rebels. Mr. Willis.
"I didn't have the pleasure of coaching Willis, but I coached against him. With his speed and being as physical as he is, Trahan has some of the same qualities as Willis," said Coach Houston Nutt.
Briefly recapping, Trahan's story since he has been at Ole Miss - just nine months - has been well-documented. He spent so much time the semester and summer before he arrived in Oxford trying to finish up his course work at Northwest CC to become academically eligible at Ole Miss that he didn't have enough time to get in proper condition prior to his arrival.
Consequently, Trahan spent a large portion of last season getting in shape and learning Nix's defensive system. He made steady progress to the point of earning an "even" status with then senior starter Ashlee Palmer.
He wanted more.
"I was just starting to hit my stride when last season ended. The Cotton Bowl practices helped me a lot," Patrick noted. "I was finally in better shape and I knew what to do at my position.
"In the offseason, I worked hard to get stronger and bigger and in top condition. I wanted everyone to see the real Patrick Trahan in spring training."
A glimpse of things to come took place late in the Cotton Bowl when Trahan checked his first assignment - coverage of the tight end - and then reacted with a delayed blitz which culminated in him tackling Red Raider QB Graham Harrell out of the back of the end zone for a safety. If there was any doubt at that point with the outcome of the game, it ended with play.
"Early in the year, I would not have blitzed. I would not have had the confidence in my read or my reaction time. I probably would have just stayed with the tight end," Patrick grinned, "but like I said the Cotton Bowl practices helped me a lot. They allowed me to play faster and have confidence I knew what I was doing."
The way he ended his first Rebel season motivated Trahan to step to the next level, as coaches tend to say, in spring.
"It all started there. The Cotton Bowl experience propelled me to step things up," he recalled. "From there, it was just a lot of hard work that paid off in spring training."
It also helped Trahan's cause that he is working with a group of linebackers who get along beautifully.
"We have great chemistry in our group. We are all very close and hang out together. We seem to know what the other one is thinking. That's when you know you are working on something special," Trahan added.
With the emergence of DT Jerrell Powe and the improvement of the secondary, some eyes were diverted from the expected job the linebackers did in spring.
In the end, Trahan, MLB Jonathan Cornell and OLB Allen Walker were the glue and chief playmakers of the defensive unit.
"I think we had a good spring. We can do better, but we feel we have made a good step forward," he said. "We aren't about to get satisfied because all we did was prove we can be a good unit. I don't think we have reached our potential yet.
"None of us think we have arrived. We will not get complacent. We know there's more we can accomplish. Besides, we proved we were good in practice, but we haven't proven anything in the games yet. We have to stay focused on that."
Trahan wants to take at least one more step in his evolution as a starter in the SEC.
"Going into my senior year, I want to become more of a leader. I think I do a good job in leading by example, but I am not a real vocal person naturally," he explained. "I want to get more vocal. I try to lead by example, but I will step up more in the future with my words."
Patrick has a goal for the summer.
"I'm in good shape right now, but when August practice comes around I want to be in the best shape of my life," he closed. "I'm not bragging, but I believe I can help my team by being on the field as much as possible. Last year, I couldn't go for a whole game without having to come out and get my wind back. Next year, I want to be able to stay out there and take everything to another level."
If spring was any indication of things to come, Trahan will rarely come off the field when the Rebel defense is out there.
When that happens, more comparisons of the "other" Patrick will pop up.
Patrick Trahan -
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