Kight's Plight

Ole Miss sophomore outside linebacker Joel Kight has some big shoes to fill in taking over for Patrick Trahan, but he and defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix believe he's up to it. Read about it inside.

Joel Kight, Ole Miss' sophomore outside linebacker from Lithonia, GA, probably wonders when he's going to get past the inevitable question.

Despite getting valuable playing time as a true freshman in 2009. Despite earning the starting slot at Will Linebacker to take over for departed Patrick Trahan in spring. Despite maintaining that starting status throughout fall camp. Despite getting a stamp of approval from his position coach, defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix. Despite the same question being asked a year ago by the same reporters.

Despite all that, Kight is going to be asked about his height - 5-9 - in every interview.

He dutifully answers, but one can imagine he gets tired of "defending" what nature gave him.

Joel Kight

"Football is not about size," Kight repeats again and again. "It's about doing your job. There have been a lot of great linebackers who are my size."

Regardless of his stature, Kight is THE MAN at Will LB for the 2010 Rebels.

"Joel has earned the position. He's a mature young man who stays focused and has every-play intensity," noted Nix. "He's probably our fastest linebacker too. He competes hard, he studies hard, he practices hard and he'll play hard. I fully expect him to be excellent for us."

Joel caught on quickly last year that it's all about playing fast and playing smart.

"Coach Nix wants you to be right and he wants you to play fast. That's what he stresses," Kight stated. "I'm playing a lot faster now than I did when I first came in here."

Kight believes he's ready for his first start, which will be Saturday at 2:30 p.m. against Jacksonville State in the Rebs' season opener.

"I'm prepared. I watched Trahan for a year, got great coaching, listened to the older guys, learned, leaned on anyone who I cold and now I'm ready to help our defense," he explained.

Joel Kight

Kight's not looking to make a big splash, unless that opportunity comes his way. His goals are simple.

"I just want to do my job. If I'm only supposed to make two plays, I want to make them. If I'm in position to make 100 plays, I want to make them. It's about being in the right place at the right time and making the plays that present themselves," he stated. "I just want to play within the system and do what I am supposed to do."

He's finding out there is a distinct difference in being a backup and being a starter. Even though he hit the ground running as a true freshman, there is an extra gear required to be a starter.

"I felt I was focused last year, but looking back on it, I wasn't tuned in every single day, every single play. I have learned since spring that it requires total focus. You can't be spotty with your concentration," said Kight. "I got to play last year, and that's good, but as I reflect on last season, I made some mistakes due to a lack of focus. I have to clean that up to be where I want to be and that's been my goal this fall camp.

"I take the responsibility of being a starter very seriously. I'm different than I was last year. I'm more mature in my approach."

To help with that approach, he's become more studious.

"I'm studying and watching a lot more film than I was a year ago and that's helped me a great deal. When I get on the field, I'm more prepared. I have learned in the past year that this game is a lot more mental than I realized before and that's allowed me to make good, quick decisions," Joel said.

Kight is part of a new wave of young Ole Miss linebackers who have shown the early signs of stardom. D.T. Shackelford, who came in with Kight last year; Mike Marry, who joined the team in spring; and Clarence Jackson and Ralph Williams, a pair of promising true freshmen.

"D.T. sets an example for all of us," Kight closed. "He's all energy to go along with a great set of skills. Mike is real physical - he's a headhunter. Clarence is mature beyond his years and is catching on quickly. He pushes me every day. Ralph has also shown a lot of promise.

"I think we have a real good corps of LBs coming up who will do good things in the years to come, starting this year."

Kight will hit the field Saturday in his first collegiate start.

One can only guess that he's hoping when all is said and done, nobody will ask him about his height.

As the old saying goes, it's not the dog in the fight, it's the fight in the dog.

Kight's got teeth.

OM Spirit Top Stories