Keep Grinding

There's only one way, in Mike Markuson's mind, for the Rebel offensive line to get better. Keep grinding. Read about it inside.

There's nothing fancy about it.

No frills, no potions or elixirs, no waving a wand and things will be magically delicious.

There's only one way, in Ole Miss Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson's mind to get better up front.


Along the way, do play-by-play intensity checks and fundamental reviews.

Then grind some more, and then even more.

After grinding, watch the film and come back out and, you guessed it, grind some more.

Repeat process over and over and over until they get it right.

Mike Markuson

"Football is football and the formula for success up front has been proven over and over and over," said Markuson. "It's fundamentals, it's technique, it's intensity, it's being assignment-sound, it's focus and it's grinding.

"You grind until you get it right and then you grind some more."

And with that mindset planted and fertilized daily, the hope is the end result will be a good forward wall, an SEC forward wall.

"I don't necessarily buy into excuse that we don't have any experience in the middle of our OL," said Markuson. "Rishaw Johnson started five games for us last year and probably would have started them all if he hadn't been suspended. Tank (Alex Washington) has played some for us and has been with us two years. They are very capable guys.

"And A.J. Hawkins is a very talented athlete. We saw that in spring. Now, game experience - that is an issue, but you have to start somewhere."

Markuson leans more toward the importance of practice with the hand he's been dealt.

"Look, I know game experience is important, but our guys this year are going against an excellent defensive line every day in practice," he explained. "If my guys will take it one play at a time, grind it out, don't get discouraged when things don't go their way, keep up with their fundamentals, we are going to get better.

"I'm going to stay on top of my guys, we're going to work hard every day and when the game rolls around, we are not going to get cute. We're going to keep things simple and allow our guys to play fast without cluttering up their minds."

The big issues, Markuson says, for any lineman is being able to instantly recognize what is happening around him, process that information and still play fast.

Bradley Sowell

"We've still got some guys figuring those things out. A couple are playing fast but not seeing what they are supposed to see. A couple are seeing it, but reacting too slowly to the info they recognize," he explained. "It will come around. They will get better daily as long as they grind, as long as they stay with their fundamentals."

So, it's not a physical issue Mike has.

"We've got talented guys. The areas we have to shore up are mental. We have to gel as a unit, recognize what's happening in the eye of the hurricane and play fast with that processed information," he noted. "I can't stress too much, though, how important it is to keep that base of fundamentals strong through the learning process.

"No matter what, you have to play with your hands, play with your pads down, play with a bend in your knees, all those things are critical."

The top five, for now, are pretty much set. LT Bradley Sowell, LG Washington, Center Hawkins, RG Johnson and RT Bobby Massie are the odds-on favorites to start.

"A.J. has donie some good things, but he's got a little bit of a shut-off switch we have to overcome. He's got to fight through things better," Mike noted. "Alex has gotten better. He has his limitations, but if he'll keep grinding, he'll be fine. That's an important part of his growing process though, one we have to see daily."

OK, so who are currently six, seven and eight?

"All I can give you right now are candidates," said Mike. "Emmanuel McCray, Logan Clair and Evan Swindall, in my mind, have to advance and get ready to play," he stated. "Michael Brown, Chris Gill and Josh Tatum are also in that mix. Freshman Jared Duke certainly has the size, but we'll see if he can get in the mix.

"Be fundamentally sound and be physical and we'll sort the rest out. That's what I preach over and over. I'm starting to see some of them come around little by little. Better fundamentals, being more physical."

Mike Markuson

His meeting room has suddenly gotten a lot "bigger."

Matt Hall, Duke, Terrell Brown and Patrick Junen are big, big bodies who have been added in the last six-eight months.

"They take up more space in the meeting room, that's for sure," Markuson chuckled. "Now, we just have to develop them. Get them in the weight room, get their bodies right, get them used to grinding on the practice field. It's a process, but it's good to have that kind of raw material to work with. You can't coach size."

Markuson has already mentioned Duke. Another newcomer is Terrence Hackney, a 6-4, 315-pounder and one of the smaller newcomers, if you can wrap your mind around that.

"With him and Duke, it's speed of the game issues right now," Mike added. "Duke is just ahead at this time because of his size (350 pounds) and the fact I don't think he can be knocked back once we get his fundamentals right. Terrence, though, has a good frame and seems to have good athleticism, so I feel good about him coming into this program."

The process.

You hear it constantly, but it's a reality, not the little boy crying wolf.

"I bark at all of them all day every day. Hustle, keep working, move on to the next play regardless of what happens, stay fundamental all the time. It's always a work in progress," said Markuson.

Keep grinding. . .

OM Spirit Top Stories