Leaving a Mark

Entering the 2009 season, senior running back Cordera Eason found himself in unfamiliar territory. Read about it inside.

Despite having started 12-of-13 games for Ole Miss in 2008, Eason was moved to the second team, making way for standout sophomore Brandon Bolden in the team's season opener at Memphis.

However, with Bolden limited against the Tigers, Eason was relied upon heavily. Though the numbers read a meager line of 11 carries and 37 yards with no touchdowns, Eason made an impact in numerous areas, including as the main blocking back in passing situations.

"I think the huge difference is his confidence," RB coach Derrick Nix said of Eason's blocking abilities. "He feels like he can block any linebacker that we play and understands our blocking schemes. He knows who to get and arrives with a bad attitude most of the time. He knocks guys backwards."

Though not the flashiest, it's the bruising running style and willingness to mix it up with oncoming defenders that makes Eason a valuable member of the Rebel backfield.

As a junior, Eason ranked second on the team in rushing, totaling 647 yards on 140 carries. Better yet, he holds a career rushing average of 4.5 yards per carry, showing a knack for getting up field for tough yardage.

But throughout his years in Oxford, Eason has been hampered by a lack of flexibility and elite speed for his position. With the goal of improving in both areas during the offseason, Eason worked to drop some poundage, leading to better movement and quickness for his 5-foot-10, 224 pound frame.

"The main thing I did (in the offseason) was I started going to yoga," he said. "I was just trying to get more flexible. I also spent extra days working in cutting and speed drills. You can never be too fast. So I was steadily working on my speed over the summer and working to get more flexible.

"There were quite a few of us (doing yoga). But me and Shay Hodge were the first to start it. After we started it, then the whole team started trying to do it. Everybody had their own little pads in a room, but me and Shay would go to our own little place. We kept it going for awhile, but I couldn't do it as much as I wanted to because I pulled my hamstring over the summer. It limited me, so I just did it as much as I could."

And Eason could certainly see the improvement against Memphis.

"I could definitely tell a difference," said Eason. "It's just the little things I couldn't do last year – cutting and staying up. Things I wasn't able to do, I can do now because of the extra work I put in. It's paid off for me.

"I feel a whole lot faster. You spend any summer with (strength and conditioning) Coach (Don) Decker and you'll get faster. In his workout plan, he's going to run you and help you get better. That's pretty much what we did. He helped me out a lot. Hopefully that work will continue to pay off for the rest of the year."

The new additions to Eason's arsenal didn't go unnoticed by Nix, who believes the extra summer workouts and sessions of yoga has helped better the veteran's balance.

"Really, the yoga helped," Nix said. "The one thing about Cordera when we got here, he'd run hard, but lose his balance just like that. He'd tumble down. But so far, so good right now. He's had a lot better balance and his hip movement is a lot better. What he did with the yoga is paying off."

Over the team's bye-week, some 31 Rebels were sidelined due to flu-like symptoms. Eason, however, was able to avoid missing practice time, gaining valuable reps with numbers limited.

"We were a little bit sluggish when we first got back to practice, but we got back into a groove and got the offense back right," said Eason. "We've just got to pick it up a little bit. Everything is going good as of now.

"I guess I was one of the surviving members of the swine flu. I made it through and thank God for that. I was out here at practice the whole time trying to get better. I was never really worried about catching it. I really don't get sick too much. I just made sure to wash my hands, sanitize – little stuff like that. I've been doing it on the regular and have gotten used to it. I didn't do anything special. I ate regular and everything. I guess it's my immune system."

But with so many players out and only a skeleton crew to work with, Eason acknowledged the oddity of the week that was.

"It was definitely a strange week. It reminded me a lot of junior high or high school when people would regularly miss practice," he said. "When we were out here, every line was short, every stretch line was short. We didn't get as many breaks as we're used to. Luckily at running back, we only missed two, so we were able to keep a rotation. But it was odd. We just picked it up and everybody played a role."

Similarly to his added carries in a 45-14 win over Memphis, though, Eason did his best to impress when called upon.

"You always take advantage of it," said Eason of the increase in practice reps. "The more reps, the better. The more you go, the more chances you get to work on your craft. By those guys being out and you steady going, it helps you get better. I worked on my cuts and other things. It always can benefit you in a positive way."

For Eason, his final season in Red and Blue is all about opportunity.

A diligent worker who strives to get better daily, Eason's sole focus in on being a veteran presence for his younger teammates, as only 11 games remain to stamp his place.

"He's a lot more conscious," Nix said. "When you're a senior and start looking back at your career, you want to make sure you leave your mark. He's kind of honed in and has become a leader. He's tried to help some of the young kids and explain some things I might have missed. He helps coach a little bit. He's coming of age.

"He's grown up and realizes he has a great opportunity this year. He doesn't want to leave any stone unturned."

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