Ready to Rumble

Jerrell Powe says don't worry about last year. The defense was good, but this year he sees even better things.

"A couple of teams did have a successful running game on us," said the senior defensive tackle. "We finished in the top in third-down percentage, getting off the field. So that's all that matters. It doesn't matter how many yards a team gets on us. It's all about getting off the field on third down."

He said last season's Rebel defense had what it took to succeed. But this year he thinks so even more.

"Last year the D-line was really good," Powe said. "I think we were really strong in the middle. The line this year is similar to last year. The D-line this year brings a lot of energy to the team. And I think we're the hosses up front. We're looking forward to it. We're looking forward to the competition. And we're looking forward to showing everybody how great we are up front."

The option by a couple of teams, like Auburn and Mississippi State, got to the Rebel defense last year. Ole Miss lost both those games. Powe believes they are better equipped to handle it this year.

Jerrell Powe

"I think we're definitely better in that area. We really didn't see it that much last year. Definitely this year we've had a lot of repetition against the option, and I think we've done pretty good with it."

Powe said defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix has been preparing his troops for the option in preseason camp.

"Most definitely. We've noticed how he's been emphasizing the option ever since camp started and the defense to run against the option."

Powe gets a chance every day to get up close and personal with the Ole Miss offense. He likes what he see from that side of the ball.

"I definitely think we're going to be a fast-paced offense. We've got good quarterbacks in Jeremiah Masoli, Nathan Stanley, Randall Mackey, guys who do a great job in running the tempo. I think we're definitely going to have a great offense. We're going to surprise a lot of people. This is the first year for them to really play (together at Ole Miss). By the third game, I think they should be hitting on all cylinders. They're doing a great job. They've come a long way. I remember times in the spring they couldn't get a snap off on us."

Of course only one of them was here back then. The quarterback position is two-thirds new faces.

One of those new signal-callers, Masoli, can take a lesson or two from Powe on patience with being able to actually play in a game for the Rebs. Powe had to wait a long, long time to play, but it's paid off for him as he enters his final season. Masoli is listening, according to Powe.

"I definitely tell him to keep his head up. But that's one guy that remains calm. He doesn't seem to get rattled about nothing. I tell him the main thing is to stay focused and don't worry about everything, just put all his trust in God and Coach Nutt will handle it."

The Specialists

Special teams coach James Shibest said he can tell folks are getting ansty about gametime. It's still a week away, and it's hard not to think about it much of the time.

"This is like the third week of spring ball," he admitted of the grueling camp of August. "It's tough this week."

Tyler Campbell

But only eight days remain before the opener with Jacksonville State. When the Rebels and Gamecocks meet, Shibest feels his special teams will be ready.

For starters, he returns one of the SEC's best punters, and really one of the country's best as a freshman last year, in Tyler Campbell.

"He's gotten better at a lot of fundamentals," Shibest said. "He was very fidgety (last year). I really didn't think he had a great year. Now his average and all that was good. Just fundamentally he's so much better this year. We've just got to keep working with his hangtime. Sometimes he hits it too far and outkicks our coverage. We have to get height with that. Don't get me wrong, I like those long kicks. But we need a little height up there, too. Good to have those 45-yarders with a lot of height. That's what he's working on the most, his hangtime. He's got a great leg and I think his potential is unlimited."

Shibest says having good special teams is so important to a team's overall success.

"It's very, very huge. We're young on offense. We've got to take that into account. There's got to be situations in play-calling where we've got to say hey, we have to trust that punt team and play the field position game and not take many risks. Turnovers and what we do offensively are going to be critical. If you've got a good punt team and a good punter, then that helps your play-calling a little bit."

He likes where is placekicking is at this point, as Bryson Rose has been the clear-cut leader all through camp.

"Bryson has been unbelievable. We've just got to take it to game time. Snapping, we may still be a little off there, which is expected because they're young. The holder's been good.

Bryson Rose

"Really the execution has been good for all of them being new. So we've been very pleased. But we have to take it to game time, as I said."

Wesley Phillips, the heir apparent at long-snapper to Preston Powers, has returned after injury. Shibest is anxious to see him live.

"Tomorrow is his first day with contact, so we'll know more," he said of Phillips. "I've been proud of the other two guys, Will Denny and Jacob Hickman. We've put a lot of stress on them. What we do punt-wise is tougher than what most people do because those guys have to protect, like the NFL guys. We're proud of them, and it's good to have Wes back out there."

Shibest said he believes the personnel is in place to have a positive effect on the game as far as special teams. Youth is a factor, however.

"I think we've got a chance to be pretty good on those coverage teams. We've got good personnel there. Last year we did a great job. Our kicker was good, but our personnel wasn't as good as it is right now. Some of them are young and have got to grow up quick. I think the coverage team's going to be good for us."

He says getting the young guys to buy into being on special teams can often be challenging.

"Initially sometimes," Shibest said. "It really starts with the head coach. Then it really goes to the defensive coordinator. Tyrone (Nix) does a great job of talking about it in his meetings. For a lot of these guys, the way to get on the bus and go is to be that special team guy. We like to pick out four or five guys and that's almost all they do and that is their role. But we talk about it all the time; it all starts with the head coach. We've got a lot of people coaching it. It's not just me. And I think that makes a difference."

OM Spirit Top Stories