Deep Defenders

Tyrone Nix has a lot of quality players on his defense. There's depth, too, and with a couple of key players out, he's relying on some others to step up.

"We know we have depth, but with a couple of injuries here and there, you go down a little," said the Rebels' defensive coordinator.

Key injuries in August camp have been to safety Fon Ingram, out following a knee scope and expected back sometime later this month, and to Kentrell Lockett. The defensive end continues to have tests run at the Cleveland Clinic on a heart rate situation, after he experienced a rapid heart rate or fluttering last Saturday at practice.

Both are seniors and both are leaders. Lockett is one of the team's captains. Nix says there are veterans still around and they are indeed stepping up.

Kentrell Lockett

"I still feel we have some quality leaders on this defense," he said. "There's no doubt (the players) will be missed. But it talks a little bit about our character, the character of the young men that are in the huddle. We tell them all the time ‘You're one injury away from being in the lineup.' In this case it's unfortunate but it's true."

Most observers have said all along it's the Rebel defense that is the strength of the team this season. While that may be the case, Nix feels confident in all aspects of this team.

"I don't feel like we have to do any carrying (this team) at all," he said of his defenders. "What we do is go out and play to the best of our ability. We try to play with fundamentals. We try to be a physical presence."

Head coach Houston Nutt says he senses guys stepping up and filling in for those who won't play Saturday.

"That's why I felt good about today's practice," he said Wednesday. "I really thought they went to another level."

Still, losing players, any players, is a difficult situation. While they remain hopeful that Lockett returns soon, Nutt said he is indeed missed.

"That guy was voted our first captain," Nutt said. "He's an outstanding guy. But that's where you appreciate Jonathan Cornell, and you appreciate Johnny Brown and Lionel Breaux (and Jerrell Powe). Those guys have taken over a big role."

Those "guys" are the team captains for 2010. One of them, senior linebacker Cornell, says he's expecting the younger Rebels to come through Saturday and beyond. But he warns things will be different for them.

Jonathan Cornell

"We'll see," he said. "It's one thing to practice but when you get out there in the game, it's a totally different animal."

Cornell doesn't necessarily want them to slow their motors down. He wants them to be revved up and doing what they are supposed to do.

"Not really calm down," he said, "just tell them to hold on. Hold on and just follow the lead, really."

Cornell admits he's trying to dwell on other things than the season opener being just a couple of days away. He's been through it all before, and he understands how to better handle all aspects.

"Pretty excited," he said of the 2:30 p.m. kickoff of the season Saturday against Jacksonville State. "I'm trying not to think about it. I won't be able to sleep."

Cornell isn't too happy with his performance in preseason camp. At least that's the way he views the past three-plus weeks for himself.

"I'm one of those guys that always feel I can do better, so I'm not that satisfied with my camp," he said. "If you ask me, it was not that good."

Come Saturday, however, Cornell will likely pick it up a notch and play his best. That's what seniors do.

They've also just about seen it all, too, as Cornell admits when talking about the Jacksonville State offense.

"They look like they're a pretty good run team," he said. "They run the option, the triple option. Nothing I haven't seen before though."

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