Ole Miss Defensive Line Coach Terry Price is what is referred to as a taskmaster in the coaching ranks. He doesn't coddle players, but he's even-handed and fair in their treatment of them.
T.P. is the same way in his evaluations of his crew. He means what he says and says what he means.
"Overall, we've got a good group of seniors who are providing good leadership with how they have played this spring," began Price, starting his second year at Ole Miss this time around. "Their work ethic has been good and they have tried to do things the right way. I'm proud of them.
"We also have a group of newcomers who have to step up now. I'm happy with the old guys and the young guys have to keep coming around. Hopefully, by August, the young guys will have learned the same intensity level the older players have now."
At the Bandit end, senior Kentrell Lockett is the leader followed by sophomore surprise Gerald Rivers, who has shown excellent improvement this spring.
"Kentrell has had a really good spring and is being a leader. He works hard and has had really good retention from fall. He has battled through a few minor injuries this spring and pushed through them. We need his leadership in the offseason and into the fall," said Terry.
"Rivers has been one of our most improved linemen, he really has. He's gotten bigger and stronger, he understands the defense a lot better, he's playing with more effort and he's trying to be more assignment sound. All that translates into a big jump for us."
Sophomore Lakenwic Haynes is next and is in the midst of transitioning form linebacker to defensive end.
"He still has a lot of work to do, but hopefully he can get that done this summer," Price noted.
The 3-technique, or tackle, is paced by senior Lawon Scott followed by 6th-year senior LaMark Armour.
"Lawon has done a good job and has had a good spring trying to be a more physical player. He's improved in that area. He's doing a better job with his hands and in attacking the line of scrimmage. He leads by example. I am happy with his spring and how hard he has worked," stated T.P. "LaMark has been banged up most of spring. He hasn't not gotten the reps we wanted him to get, but when he is in there he has shown good quickness and pass rush ability. We need for him to get better overall and more physical against the run, but he'll help us next year like he did last year."
RS frosh Nick Eley rounds out the position.
"Nick tries hard and is trying to learn the defense on the run. He's got some catching up to do," Price allowed.
At the nose tackle slot, seniors Jerrell Powe and Ted Laurent are two of the headliners on the entire defense.
"Jerrell has had a good spring and has worked hard. He's tried to improve his pad level and his hand placement and has been a good leader by example and vocally. He tries to get some excitement going in practices and has been mentor to our younger guys in the way things are supposed to be done," said Terry. "He has gotten better at pass rush, but he needs more work in that area. It's coming.
"I consider Ted a starter. My top three are interchangeable. They have all worked their tails off this spring. Ted is a physical, strong young man who has improved his game this spring. He's stronger at the point of attack and is a good pass rusher. He has also led by example."
RS freshman Corey Gaines is trying to make an impression as well.
"Corey is a young man who needs to continue to push himself harder in practice, but that can be said of a lot of first-year guys," Price added. "He has to learn a higher tempo required in the SEC. He needs to improve his conditioning this summer and that will help his tempo. He does have some ability, he just has to sustain it more consistently."
At defensive end, JUCO transfer Wayne Dorsey and freshman Cameron Whigham, both newcomers, have made positive impacts, but need to keep moving forward, according to Price.
"Wayne is learning the defense and the tempo with which we play, but he's very eager to learn and very eager to get better," Price said. "He has to get a little bigger and stronger and he has to continue to refine his technique. The best thing is that he wants to be a good football player and that's a big part of the battle. He's made a pretty good transition for a JUCO.
"The thing about Wayne is that he doesn't have the luxury to transition to this level at a normal pace. He has to do it now. We are looking at things through a different perspective. He's not shying away and he has courage, but he is learning different schemes, hand placement and he has to train his eyes to be in the right places. He'll be fine.
"Cameron is brand new. He has a physical presence about him, but he needs to be more assignment-sound and more technique-sound, which just comes with time. This is his first time around. He'll get better quickly, I think."
Mid-semester newcomer Mike Thomas is next in the pecking order.
"Mike has to become a more physical football player by working his techniques and his pad level correctly. Again, he's brand new to all of this," T.P. noted. "He also needs to build his upper body strength to battle the offensive lineman in this league."
The other DE candidate is converted LB Jason Jones, a sophomore. Jason was coming off knee surgery from last August but pulled a hamstring the first day of spring training. Price had no evaluation of him from spring training.
Analysis: The defensive line, as a whole, showed itself to be a strength of spring training. We suspect that will carry over to fall and throughout next season. The coaches are certainly hanging their hats on that and their assumption is warranted based on spring performance.