Bradley Sowell -

Redshirt sophomore Bradley Sowell, the heir apparent to All-American Michael Oher at the left tackle slot, won the starting LT job in spring training. The way to keep it, he figures, is starting fast when fall camp comes around. Read about it inside.

For sophomore Left Tackle Bradley Sowell, the past two or three years has been a roller coaster ride.

Some of it has been the weight issue. Some of it has been about the wait journey.

To get everyone up to speed, a little backtracking and perspective, if you will.

When Bradley weighed in on his official visit to Ole Miss as a high school senior, bright-eyed and eager, he was taken aback by what the digital scales reflected back into his unbelieving eyes.

"364 pounds," he says now, still shaking his head. "I had no idea. The year before, I was 318. All of a sudden, I'm 364."

He knows how he got that way and it was a two-fold process.

"My junior year, I quit baseball and starting lifting and eating," Sowell noted. "My Mom is Italian and can really cook. And I am half Italian and I can really eat."

Bradley went on a well-documented and overly-discussed workout/diet regimen and reported to Ole Miss before his true freshman year in the 320-pound range on his 6-7 frame.

"I had not only lost the extra weight, I had lost my strength. I was weaker when I got here than I was in high school."

After his redshirt year, the coaching staff changed. Midway through the year, Sowell was asked to play some tight end to add some umph to the offensive line.

"I had continued to lose weight, down to 295, so I was willing. It was a great experience for me. I was getting in some games and making a difference in our run game. I even caught a TD pass against Mississippi State. That was special for me because I have always been a Rebel," he smiled.

With Oher finally gone to the NFL, Sowell was moved back to left tackle exclusively.

"Some of the coaches wanted me to keep playing some tight end, but I want to settle in at left tackle, which is where (OL) Coach (Mike) Markuson wanted me too," explained Bradley. "Left tackle is an important position and something I want to try after college as well, so that's home now."

He was asked to gain some weight, which was something completely foreign being directed at him from a coach, and to get stronger.

Sowell has worked on those things constantly since the request and it's starting to pay dividends.

"I'm at 307 now and Coach (Houston) Nutt has told me he wants me around 310 for the season. I am on target there," Sowell continued. "As far as my strength, I am gaining rapidly in the bench press - some days 10 pounds - and am now in the mid-300s with the bench. My goal is 400, which is the goal of all linemen.

"Upper body strength, I learned in spring, is where I need help the most and that is what I have targeted. I can feel myself getting stronger almost daily."

The other issue - the wait - has also been up and down for Sowell.

"Looking back on when I first got here, I knew nothing. I look at the freshmen now and think 'you don't have a clue what is ahead of you,' but I wouldn't change it for the world," stated Bradley. "You come in here a kid and start turning into a man.

"I had to adjust, work hard and wait my turn. There's always another challenge. You have to learn to be disciplined and you have to be strong mentally. You have to grow up."

Getting some action at tight end got Brad's juices flowing at a time when he could not see the light at the end of the tunnel except for the fact Oher was a senior.

But even the phrase "it's your turn" means more than one would suspect.

"It doesn't mean the job is guaranteed to you. It means you have an opportunity to earn it and you have to earn it every day," he noted. "I got demoted in spring and that drove the point home to me. You are only as good as your last snap in this league.

"That's a hard, but valuable, lesson to learn."

The weight is good and the wait is about over, but everyone has to remember what's going on with the Sowell situation.

One, he hasn't played much at LT on this level. Two, he's filling some big shoes. Three, he's still got some big tests to pass between now and the 2009 opener and then the tests get bigger and bigger.

"Bradley is doing all the right things," said Markuson. "He's very athletic and he has a lot of upside, he's working hard, but the journey is not over.

"For the next five weeks, Bradley has to continue to strain his body in the weight room and that will lead to more muscle mass and strength. Then, when camp rolls around, he has to take ownership of that position. Bradley has shown me he's a tough kid, but the test of any offensive lineman is being tough the next play after you've been whipped, which happens to everyone. He knows he can do it athletically, now let's get it done mentally every play."

More strength is Brad's top priority for summer, but running a close second is setting himself up for a quick start in August.

Sowell and Markuson agree on that point.

"Coach Markuson and I have talked about it a lot. I have to get off to a quick start. In the past, I have started slowly and eased into the flow of things. I can't do that now. I am the starter and I have to act like it," Bradley added.

As for the season, the burly LT feels the Rebels will be ready to do some special things, but they are taking nothing for granted.

"You can't help but hear where we are ranked in the preseason, but we are not letting that affect us," Bradley closed. "We are working hard not to be the letdown team, the team that has a good year one year and then flattens out the next.

"We know we have talent, but we also know there is more to it than that. We don't want to leave anything to chance. We are way ahead, as a team, of where we were last offseason. Way ahead."

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