Tillman: Be Prepared

For Ole Miss senior defensive end Marcus Tillman, the winning formula for this season is simple. While a talented roster certainly helps, Tillman believes the catalyst for the Rebel defense is preparation. View the story and video inside.

Marcus Tillman has been around for a while now. Heading into the 2009 season, the defensive end from McCall Creek said last year proved something to the Rebels.

"It's all about preparation," said the 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior with three letters. "I know that's the main thing that makes our defense good."

That, and talent. Tillman, a Franklin County High alum, is surrounded by other quality players that make up a defense that is striving to pick up right where it left off last season.

Of course they are attempting to do that without Peria Jerry, now with the Atlanta Falcons, among the three starters lost from last season. But 22 who saw action on defense from the Cotton Bowl season are back, and that's much of what makes Ole Miss so strong on that side of the ball.

"It gives us an opportunity to have success," said Tillman, a part of a defense last season that gave up only 20 total points in its last four games of the regular season (Auburn, Louisiana-Monroe, LSU, and MSU). "We have the talent and we're prepared. So we have a chance to be good."

In reality, most championship teams have great defensive lines. It's basically a time-tested fact. It's hard to win and be a great team without one. Tillman agrees.

"It's a big part of any team's success," he said. "But our linebackers are also good, and our secondary is good. Our safeties, our corners. Everybody's stepping up."

Tillman is a leader not only of the defense but also the team as a whole. No. 92 was chosen to wear a "38" patch on his jersey this season as the recipient of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.

"It's another motivator to work harder and reach the goals that I have," Tillman said. "It's the highest honor I've received. I've had a lot of awards going back to high school, but this is at the top."

Ole Miss second-year head coach Houston Nutt said Tillman is a worthy recipient.

"Since day one, Marcus doesn't miss a class, he doesn't miss a tutor session, he doesn't miss a weight workout," Nutt said. "He does everything the right way, and he'll be a great representative of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award. I've been so proud of Marcus. He has been so consistent."

A three-year letterman, Tillman will enter his senior season with 89 total tackles, including 54 solo hits. He also has 15.5 tackles for losses, 3.0 sacks, two fumble recoveries and two pass break-ups.

During his three years with the Rebels, he has played in 37 games, starting 36. Tillman earned first-team Freshman All-America honors in 2006, when he finished tied for second on the team with 5.0 TFLs and third with 2.0 QB sacks.

Tillman said the team is hungry to build on last season's success and continue the current six-game Rebel win streak.

It all goes back to what Tillman always says.

"It just goes to show you the success you can have when you prepare," he said. "It was good last season, but this is another season. We've just got to push forward. It's a different year and a different team. We're working hard."

And preparing every day.

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