Humble Powe

It was a promotion four years in the making, but after ascending to a starting spot along the Ole Miss defensive front, junior Jerrell Powe knows it's no time to relax.

As one of two depth chart changes Tuesday, Powe could be seen running alongside fellow defensive tackle Lawon Scott with the first team.

The move is certainly understandable, considering the 6-foot-2, 320 pounder amassed three tackles and two sacks over 40 snaps in the Rebels' season-opening 45-14 win over Memphis two weeks prior.

"It's a little promotion, but right now, we still don't have a true starter," said Powe. "We're all trying to earn that position. (Defensive line) coach (Terry) Price bumped me up to the ones, but it's definitely not something to get comfortable with. We don't really have any starters, so anybody can be promoted or demoted on any day.

"It's definitely a pride thing. My self-esteem's a little high, but I still have to go out there and attack practice every day like I was still on the twos. I can't get comfortable."

A former Parade All-American out of Wayne County, the journey of Powe has been well-documented.

Powe arrived on campus in the fall of 2008, but a two-year layoff had taken a toll, with the former five-star prospect weighing in over 380 pounds.

He appeared in 12 games as a sophomore, totaling eight tackles and 1.5 sacks. Powe also notched an interception against in-state rival Mississippi State to end the regular season.

But always unsatisfied and determined for more, Powe dedicated himself to the weight room and a diet plan in the offseason, dropping pounds and becoming more explosive in what could prove to be a breakout season.

"I definitely felt a lot faster (against Memphis). Right now, I'm probably around 80 percent, whereas last year, I was around 50 or 60 percent and still trying to knock the rust off," he said. "(Ole Miss head) coach (Houston) Nutt talks all the time about how there's nothing like a celebrated locker room and giving a deposit in summer workouts. It's kinda hard for us to believe that when we're running sprints in the summer, but it definitely makes you feel better when you're out there running on Saturdays. It pays off."

Though the numbers weren't mind-blowing, Powe's performance against the Tigers showed as evidence of a strenuous conditioning program paying off in the early stages of 2009.

"It was satisfying. I had 47 text messages after the game, but I'm not happy with where I'm at," said Powe. "I'll continue to work hard. But Memphis was definitely an improvement over last year and I'm proud of myself."

Along with Powe, junior cornerback Jeremy McGee also found himself running with the first teamers Tuesday, replacing senior Cassius Vaughn alongside Marshay Green.

"He sees things more clearly. He plays the ball better, like we talked about with Marshay (Green)," Nutt said. "Recognition. You're in a groove now. You're back-peddling, where offensively, the biggest thing is the head and the eyes. The eyes are trained better to play the ball better. Just awareness, and those type things."

Though Nutt was quick to downplay the pair of moves, the second-year head coach admitted each has made significant improvement.

"We're always mixing and matching a little bit during this time," he said. "There's nothing like having that ability to say you can be the first group. Powe's really working hard. We consider him a starter as many plays as he's getting. And McGee with nickels, dimes, everything we're doing, we've got to have everybody have that ability to say, hey, you're in and you don't flinch."


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