Competitive people like challenges.
They cherish the opportunity to be in a situation where they match skills with someone and the winner takes all.
Ole Miss redshirt freshman Quarterback Raymond Cotton is competitive, so it comes as no surprise that he can't wait for his anticipated competition with sophomore QB Nathan Stanley for the quarterback job in 2010.
That quest has already started behind the scenes with offseason workouts, but it will start to unfold publicly when spring training begins on March 27th.
"I like to compete. Nate and I compete at everything and we both push each other," said Cotton, who reported last summer at 220 pounds and is now a 228-pounder on his 6-4 frame. "We both like to get after each other. We have different skill sets - I'm probably a little better runner than Nate, but we try to boost each other up and make each other better. We really get after it in the weight room, but I have the upper hand there (smiles)."
Cotton is not changing his approach, even though the early exit of Jevan Snead has opened the door widely for both him and Stanley.
"I just want to keep pushing. Spring is a fair shot for everyone. I was going to push hard even if Jevan was still here," Ray noted. "Nate and I will just battle it out. It should be a good spring, a lot of fun."
Some would think Cotton is starting quite a bit behind Stanley since Nate has been in the offensive system a year longer, but Cotton does not view it that way.
"There is a gap, but I don't think there's too much of a gap. Even though he's got a year on me, we have a new coach (Dave Rader) and he's starting us both from scratch, breaking things down for both of us to learn. The gap shouldn't be too big."
Granted, there has been limited exposure with Rader and the two QBs, but Cotton already has a high opinion of the new co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
"He's a real good coach. He's a fundamental coach who breaks everything down and teaches it to you in a way where you learn it and it's not just thrown out there. He's cool and laid back, I like that," Raymond assessed.
During last season, Raymond told the press a couple of times he needed work on his passing accuracy. He's been working that area of his game ever since.
"I've gotten a lot better. It is much better. When I first got here, I could throw the ball hard and hit somebody, but I wasn't putting it in a certain spot," he said. "Now I can throw it to right shoulder, left shoulder, the nose - where I want it.
"It's really been a simple adjustment. It was all about my footwork. Instead of taking 6-8 inch strides when I threw, now I take 4-5 inch strides. That has really helped, as small as that seems. I didn't realize how important accuracy was when I got here, but when you compete in the SEC, the DBs have such great breaking speed, if you don't throw it in a certain spot it is going the other way, picked off or knocked down. Ball placement is very important on this level."
Cotton's main goal from now until the end of the spring is more mental than physical.
"I have to pick up the rest of the offense. As long as I get the plays down, things will be OK for me," he stated.
Raymond is enthusiastic about the development of the offensive players around him as well.
"I like the competition between TBs Brandon Bolden and Rodney Scott, especially in drills and in the weight room. They compete hard in everything," Cotton, who set the Ole Miss record for quarterbacks in the bench press at 365 pounds, said. "Out wide, Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux are setting the pace, but Jesse Grandy, who is posting some of the best speed times right now, is doing very well and Ja'Mes Logan.
"Our offensive line is young, but those cats compete every day and seem like they are ready. That's good to see since they are the ones watching our backs."
Cotton is currently in some Wild Rebel packages and is considered a running threat.
"I can move a little bit and I can be a physical runner when I have to be. I'm not going to take on a 250-pound linebacker in the open field if I don't have to, I'm not stupid, but if I have to take on a big guy to get in the end zone, I'll do it," he explained. "I like to run the ball when the opportunity is there and it helps the team."
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