Powe Knows Best

As senior defensive tackle Jerrell Powe lumbered around the Ole Miss weight room, buried in the bowels of the indoor practice facility, Thursday, he couldn't help but break a smile.

Up early in the morning, the Rebels were entering only the third day of their offseason strength and conditioning program.

Numerous newcomers, from junior college All-American Randall Mackey to four-star defensive end Carlos Thompson, were receiving their first look at the demands of college football.

"It's a big transition from high school to college, especially when you used to be the man (in high school)," Powe said. "Now you come in and there's five or six more people knowing way more than you did in high school. You wonder where you fit in. It's a big transition."

Jerrell Powe

Powe, now a veteran leader on a rebuilding team, remembers those days all too well. The Waynesboro native weighed in over 380 pounds and was battling rust when arrived in the fall of 2008. He hadn't played organized football for the better part of three years due to a long fight with the NCAA for his eligibility.

"When I first got here, I hugged that water cooler," he said.

Now he's playing the part of his mentor, Peria Jerry, who was a team leader and later became a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons.

These days, Powe's the player those freshmen and transfers look up to, considering his All-SEC second team status and rising profile as a one of the Southeastern Conference's most prolific defenders.

"I just try showing them and lead by example," Powe said. "You have to set a good example, and I try to do the things I know the coaches want me to do for them – just leading them in a positive way, down the right path. That's the best thing you can give a young kid coming in to a four-year university like this.

"They're big-eyed. We'll have to see. These summer workouts are going to make them or break them."

Powe, along with fellow senior Kentrell Lockett, anchors a talented defensive line that helped lead the Rebel defense atop the SEC and rank 11th nationally in tackles for loss (7.38) and 14th in sacks (2.77) last season. As a junior, he appeared in all 13 games, 10 of them starts at nose tackle, while recording 34 tackles.

But more than his numbers, Powe has tried to become a stabilizing voice for a depleted Ole Miss roster. He and Lockett will begin hosting a defensive line meeting every Wednesday, all in an effort to help the newcomers along.

"That's fine about them picking us last," he said. "It's good to be the underdogs. Look at (Mississippi) State last year when we played them. They were the underdog, but ended up being the better team that day.

Jerrell Powe

"I know we've got to prove ourselves, but the spring showed where we are. We know what the talent is around the SEC, but we're confident. We're motivated to get better. We'll carry that same attitude over into two-a-days and get better."

Outside of the tackles, the defensive line lacks depth at defensive end following the losses of seniors Marcus Tillman, Emmanuel Stephens and Greg Hardy to graduation.

Gerald Rivers, who is entering his third season, is expected to contribute, as are other reserves, such as redshirt freshman Corey Gaines. Wayne Dorsey, a highly-touted prospect out of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, arrived in the spring, and was immediately cast as the starting defensive end opposite Lockett.

"Wayne did a helluva job in the spring," Powe said. "We did a good job of marinating him in the system. He pretty much knows how it is and how to handle it. But there are still some things he needs to learn. We came together as a defensive line in the spring.

"We're going to definitely get to work on it this summer, especially with some of these young guys like Corey Gaines and Gerald Rivers. And all the freshmen, we're going to work them in on how things are done around here."

As for Powe, his personal goals this offseason are to drop 10 more pounds (his weight goal is 315) and continue rehabbing his once-injured wrist. In the meantime, he'll continue to make his rounds and help guide those wide-eyed freshmen and transfers.

"There's a lot of confidence. It always starts up front," he said. "Like Coach (Tyrone) Nix and Coach (Terry) Price always say, when those guys behind us see us eat, it makes them want to eat. It's definitely a big confidence up front that we're going to be pretty good. You always have to have that kind of attitude as a defensive lineman."

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