October 28, 2008

Rebels' Jerry leading by example

Peria Jerry was polite about it, but he wasn't in the mood to visit.

It's a standard sight at Ole Miss practices. When players make their way to the practice field, seniors are often greeted by observing NFL scouts. Assistant athletics director for community relations Clifton Ealy usually calls a senior over, and that player shakes hands and says hello with the NFL representatives before reporting to his work station to begin practice.

Last Tuesday, in the aftermath of yet another close call and in the days leading up to a crucial trip to Arkansas, Jerry was too focused on getting to work to stop and chitchat. Sure, he shook hands and made a little eye contact, but the Rebels' senior defensive tackle apparently had other things on his mind.

On Saturday, in the Rebels' 23-21 win over the Razorbacks, Arkansas found out first-hand. Jerry had five tackles and a pair of quarterback sacks in Fayetteville, but those numbers don't begin to tell the story of his domination. Jerry, as Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said, is a "disrupter." And against the Hogs, Jerry disrupted everything.

"He has excellent quickness," Nutt said. "That offensive lineman has to get out of his stance in a hurry or he'll beat you to the punch. Whether it is inside or outside, he has great moves. The other thing is that he has great perseverance. He doesn't ever get discouraged. If somebody knocks him down, which doesn't happen very much, he's back up in a hurry. He's relentless. He's constantly moving and is very strong. When you're that quick and that strong, you're a handful. A lot of teams will put four hands on him to make sure they cover him up and keep him occupied. If you don't, something negative is going to happen."

Jerry is also a leader. On Saturday night, as he conducted interviews in the bowels of Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Jerry fumbled with chain, one that contained 11 links. It was symbolic, he said, of the Rebel defense's determination to have 11 strong links and no weak ones.

"I just do what's in the scheme of the defense, and I feel like I can do my part," Jerry said. "It takes 11 to make the defense complete and I feel I can hold my gap. We play a one-gap defense and I feel like I can hold my gap the whole game."

That, according to Ole Miss coaches, is humble modesty. Through eight games, Jerry has 29 tackles and 3 sacks. His work up front has allowed linebackers Ashlee Palmer, Tony Fein and Jonathan Cornell, along with safeties Jamarca Sanford and Kendrick Lewis _ all above him on the Rebels' tackling totals _ to get to the ball-carrier with less resistance. Jerry's work ethic has become infectious, and his leadership visible.

"Peria's a ballplayer," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. "He comes to work every day. He has the right mentality. He's one of our leaders. I'm happy to have Peria. Man, he's playing really well."

"You have to practice with a lot of energy," Jerry said. "You practice how you play. I try to get everybody to practice hard, and that's just going to carry over to the game."

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