Defensive Line -

The defensive line was a strength for the Rebels in 2008. Even though DT Peria Jerry is now growing his bank account in the NFL, the DL - under the direction of Terry Price - should be strong again in 2009. Part VI of an 11-part series discussing spring football with the Ole Miss assistant coaches. Read about it inside.

New Rebel Defensive Line Coach Terry Price has stressed three major topics in spring training to the DL candidates – play hard, be physical and improve your techniques.

He's seen all three surface.

"Overall, they worked hard and tried to step up and do what I have asked them to do. They have tried to be physical and they have given good effort toward refining their run and pass rush techniques," Price allowed. "Coach (Houston) Nutt challenged all of us – players and coaches – to be a very physical team and the kids have accepted that challenge."

At defensive end, it's no surprise senior Marcus Tillman is the anchor.

"He's been a steady force. Marcus is everything I was told he is. He works hard, he's a technician and he's tough. He's not the best athlete we have up front, but he gets the job done through toughness and attention to detail," Price said.

Senior Emmanuel Stephens is right on Tillman's heels. Newcomer Craig Drummond is learning the ropes behind the two vets.

"He got better this spring because he took the challenge to become more assignment sound," Terry stated. "He's also been physical and played hard throughout spring. I liked his improvement. Craig is in the learning phase, but he's shown good effort. He has a lot of work to do because he's young, but he'll get there because he wants to and he has a very good upside."

Senior Garrett Ryan is pushing the pack.

"He's had to play some tackle this spring when we got shorthanded. Garrett is a try-hard kid who will stick his nose in there and give you all he's got," Price added.

At one tackle slot, junior Ted Laurent held on to the top spot, but he can feel the breath of junior Jerrell Powe breathing down his neck.

"Ted's very strong and physical. He's experienced and is strong at the point of attack. We want to see more pass rush from him in the fall, but he's been excellent against the run," said Price. "Jerrell is a young man who has improved himself a lot this spring. He's got excellent explosion and attacks the line of scrimmage. He plays the game hard, but he's still a work in progress with his technique. He's coming on, but better technique would make him a lot harder to handle. He's eager to get better and works hard on the little things. He's also showing some leadership out there. He's making a strong push."

Junior Rodney Steen is a transfer from Mississippi College who is undersized, but willing. Price is appreciative of his effort.

At the other DT slot, returning starter Lawon Scott, a junior, has been steady. Sophomore Justin Smith, who played some as a true frosh in 2008, backs him up.

"I've seen good improvement from him as well. He can improve his steps and hand placement and some little things, but I've been happy with his advancement. Lawon needs more consistency, but he'll get that because he wants to and has the ability to," said Terry. "Justin is working on his overall game. He needs more consistency. He's made plays this spring, but he's also struggled. That's just part of being a young player. He has power and strength, but he has to work his fundamentals to reach his potential."

Senior LaMark Armor, coming off a knee injury, has shown up as well, according to T.P.

"LaMark has been a pleasant surprise to me. He's tried to push at that position and it could pay off in his final season," Price added.

At bandit end, junior Kentrell Lockett remains the main man. Senior Antonio Turner is backing him because senior Greg Hardy did not dress out in spring while rehabbing from offseason foot surgery.

"Kentrell plays with a high motor and works hard. He's got good quickness and he plays hard all the time. I'd like to see him get a little stronger, but he's done a good job for us," noted Price. "Antonio is hard-working. He's got some range and athleticism, but he needs to be more physical at the point of attack."

RS freshman Gerald Rivers is next, for now, simply because he needs to continue to get bigger and stronger.

"Gerald plays with good effort, but he's still got to keep working on his body and his overall game. I think he has potential down the road and we'll see what the offseason brings for him," Price closed.

Overview: The emergence of Powe has been the buzz around spring camp. The absence of Hardy has been telling. The defensive linemen adjusted to Price quickly and had a solid spring. Once again, when you add Hardy to the mix in the fall, they should be one of the strengths of the team with talent and quality depth across the board. If Smith can gain a little more consistency, the two-deep will be complete and the DL will be difficult to deal with in 2009.


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