Ready to Roll
Preseason publications continue to roll in with lofty expectations for Ole Miss in 2009, but MLB Jonathan Cornell and his teammates refuse to get caught up in the hype.
As he pointed out Wednesday, these were the same publications that picked the Rebels to finish in the bottom-half of the SEC last season.
"I think we leave that stuff to the coaches," Cornell said. "We just come to work and that's about it. It's not hard to block it out. We take everything with a grain of salt. These are the same guys who didn't think we were going to do squat last year. I guess It shows how much they know. I don't think any of us take that stuff too seriously."
Even with the outside praise, Cornell said the team is focused on staying hungry and getting better each day this offseason.
The talented junior has bulked up to 237 and has noticed significant weight gains by every player under Strength and Conditioning coach Don Decker.
"The offseason is going pretty good. I'm just working out and going to school," he said. "As a team, we're squatting the house. Thank coach Decker for that. I've never seen this much weight on the bar. People are getting faster. Everything you want in the offseason, we're doing and doing it well.
"Our bodies are changing overnight. Guys are messing around and showing off their guns in the weight room. The whole team is just embracing the weight room and the work ethic that coach Decker has instilled in us. We're going to take that out to the field. Come fall, we'll be ready to show this work off. There won't be any more talking."
With a little over 50 days left before the season opener against Memphis, Cornell is beginning to get an itch for the field.
It's been far too long since Ole Miss' victory over Texas Tech in the 73rd Annual Cotton Bowl Classic, and Cornell said he's begun to lose sleep in anticipation for the season.
"I'd say anxiety is setting in. Nights of sleep become shorter. We're ready to strap on the pads and get after it," Cornell said. "Right now, you can only take it one day at a time."
Cornell said he hasn't begun to breakdown the schedule quite yet, but can sense live action just around the corner.
"Usually I like to let things develop. I can't look at the season until we come together as a team," he said. "After that, I'll look at it one game at a time like I do every year. I don't' think this year will be any different."
Behind Cornell and fellow starters Allen Walker and Patrick Trahan is little depth. Besides senior Lamar Brumfield, the unit offers a limited group of experienced contributors.
However, Cornell is seeing the transformation of two youngsters who will certainly play into the team's plans both this season and in the years to come.
"Jason (Jones) is going to be a monster and Lekenwic (Haynes) is going to be good too. They just have to get some of the little things down to become a really good football player," said Cornell. "It's going to be real scary when they finally get a feel for the game. They're two outstanding football players in the making."
Cornell said he often shares advice with the pair in their attempts to learn, but Walker and Trahan have also done their part as well.
"Jason will come to me for advice because we play the same position. Lekenwic and all those guys, they look to Pat (Trahan) and Allen (Walker) who are just as good too," he said. "There's really no drop-off. I feel like they can ask us any question and we'll probably have a good answer for them."
But it wasn't just the youngsters who have met a learning curve over the first two years under DC Tyrone Nix.
Early in 2008 was an adjustment period under their new linebacker coach, but now Cornell believes the players and coaches know what to expect from each other.
"I think going into last year, most people thought the linebackers sucked. He was real pensive and up our butts a little bit," said Cornell. "Now he knows what to expect from us and we know what to expect from him. As long as we give him everything we got, we'll have no problem. When you don't do what he expects, that's when you get those verbal lashings. Other than that, he's a cool guy."
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