For junior cornerback Jeremy McGee, change is nothing new.
Since starting his Ole Miss career as a running back after a transfer from UCLA in 2006, McGee has been met with a new coaching staff and position switch.
With a shortage of depth in the secondary, the New Orleans, La. native was moved to cornerback during spring drills in 2007, with head coach Houston Nutt immediately casting McGee on the second team and in nickel situations.
"I've been a running back all my life and really hadn't played defense before last season," McGee said. "It was a big adjustment for me, because I was used to having the ball in my hands every play, instead of being the guy trying to tackle to the ball carrier. Now I'm that guy."
While green to the position, McGee performed admirably, appearing in all 13 games over a 9-4 season.
He finished the year ranked third on the team in pass break-ups (5), while totaling 20 tackles and one tackle for loss. Even better, McGee returned for his junior year in top shape, having added strength and quickness which is already paying dividends early this season.
"It's like night and day," McGee said of his improvement at cornerback in year two. "I'm not thinking so much. I was just so confused last year. As the season progressed, I started to get a little more comfortable each and every game. But as of now, I'm comfortable. I know there's room for me to improve, but I just feel much more comfortable. If I see a read, I'm on it like that, unlike last year where I'd hesitate."
In the Rebels' season opener against Memphis, McGee finished with five tackles and two sacks. It was a strong start to an already promising year for the 5-foot-10, 178 pounder, who is growing more comfortable in each passing game.
"That had never happened before," said McGee of his sack totals. "It was cool, because I set a lot of goals for myself before the season. Last year, moving to cornerback was an adjustment for me. I had to get accustomed to playing defense. Now that I've had spring and a summer camp, I feel like I've elevated my game. The sky's the limit for me. I'm much more comfortable now. I felt like I was supposed to do that. I wasn't shocked, because I felt I should've had a game like that.
"Our entire team has gotten better. If it wasn't for the defensive line getting that rush and the defensive backs and linebackers handling coverage, I would have never gotten those sacks. I've grown accustomed to our whole team coming together and making those kinds of plays. I just felt like I was supposed to do that."
And as McGee's confidence continues to grow, so does the trust of the coaching staff.
Having absorbed teaching and the techniques of a variety of positions in the Rebel secondary, McGee figures to see plenty of time in numerous roles as the season wears on.
"I know both sides. Actually, I know all four spots of corner and played all four against Memphis," he said. "I think I can play anywhere the coaches need me. It's all about translating what the coaches teach me onto the field. I feel as long as they teach me the assignment, I can get it done."
Now firmly entrenched as a reliable corner defensively, Ole Miss is reaping the benefits of a once-experiment paying off.
As for McGee, the move could end up taking him to sights unseen just two years ago.
"Having last year to get used to my position, I'm comfortable with it now. As a whole, it was the best thing that could have happened for my career," he said. "Transferring, coming here and sitting out that year, getting this coaching staff in and them taking a chance on me on defense – I feel like that was the best move for me. I'm really enjoying it now."
A New Path
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