November 18, 2008

Lockett wants to talk with big plays, not texts

LSU hadn't finished expelling its collective sigh of relief Saturday night when Kentrell Lockett's cell phone started buzzing.

Literally minutes after LSU rallied from a four-touchdown deficit to beat Troy, 40-31, some of the Tigers were sending text messages to Lockett, Ole Miss' sophomore defensive end.

"Jai Eugene is supposed be doing this to Jevan (Snead) and our receivers," Lockett said. "Chad Jones is supposed to be doing this. Rahim Alim is supposed to be doing this. Charles Scott is supposed to be doing this to our D-line and Quinn Johnson is supposed to be splitting us when he comes down to block on powers and stuff. OK. Say it. That doesn't bother me."

Lockett's responses, he said, have been very simple. He's texted in responses such as "LOL," "Haha," "You're crazy," or "Whatever."

"I'm just laughing it off," Lockett said. "I didn't even know they had my number."

Lockett, a Hahnville, La., native, will be enjoying a homecoming of sorts when Ole Miss (6-4 overall, 3-3 in the Southeastern Conference) travels to No. 18 LSU (7-3, 3-3) Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

"It's big going home," Lockett said. "I've been getting a lot of text messages since after the game, (saying) somebody's going to get run over, somebody's going to get cleat prints on their chests and all types of things. I just laugh at it. It's just football. It's a rival game with people I know bad-mouthing. I look forward to it.

"It's pretty much like playing against my homeboys, playing against guys I've known for awhile. Coming up through pee-wee, we played basketball, baseball or some type of sport together. You know the guys and you know they're going to be mouthing off on the field. It's going to be a comfort zone, but at the same time, it's going to be a place to show out to show them how much your game has elevated from pee-wee to the college level."

How big is the game? For Ole Miss, second place in the SEC West and possibly a trip to the Cotton Bowl hangs in the balance. For Lockett, it's all that and more.

"It would be bragging rights for a year," Lockett said. "I'd be pretty much the big guy at home because in the neighborhood where I stay, the LSU fans are telling my mom and dad what they're going to do and all of this stuff. I'd get to talk now instead of them getting to talk."

Lockett, who has 27 tackles and half of a sack so far this season, was recruited by LSU coming out of high school, but he ultimately narrowed his choices to Ole Miss and Alabama before signing with the Rebels.

"It's just everything about it -- the swagger, the confidence, I just didn't like it at all," Lockett said. "I got tired of it. I've seen too much of purple and gold. I'm tired of purple and gold."

REBS START ON TIGERS: Ole Miss started outside but moved inside for the second half of its Tuesday practice, as the Rebels began installing the gameplan for LSU.

"We had a good first day," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "We need a better one tomorrow."

Tight end David Traxler, who hasn't played since the South Carolina game on Oct. 4, returned to practice Tuesday. Nutt said he's available, but he's a little behind.

Fullback Jason Cook and wide receiver Shay Hodge, both bothered by injuries last week, are back and working full-speed. Greg Hardy, who returned to the rotation last week, looked good Tuesday, Nutt said.

"Knock on wood," Nutt said. "We need him."

HOMECOMING FOR GERALDS: Ole Miss' center didn't even try to say Saturday's game at LSU is just another contest. He couldn't get the sentence out without laughing.

"I've been looking forward to this game all year," Geralds said with a big smile. "This is bragging rights for me. Growing up on LSU football and then living right down the street from the campus, it just means a lot to go back home and to play in front of that crowd and everything."

Like Lockett, Geralds has been talking smack this week with Jones, Scott and other Tigers. However, he's sensed more respect for the Rebels emanating out of Tigertown.

"I sense that they're taking us a lot more seriously this year," Geralds said. "They know what we're capable of. They know we've won a few games and we're doing a lot better this year. I know they're not going to take us lightly coming into their backyard. I think they're going to be on their toes."

Ole Miss has 15 Louisiana natives on its roster. None of them have ever beaten LSU, as the Rebels haven't defeated Louisiana's flagship school since 2001.

"It would just be so big for us to go down there and put on a show and come out victorious in front of our home crowd and where we're from and let them know that even though we did leave and decided to come to Ole Miss, we made a right decision," said Geralds, who was recruited by former LSU coach Nick Saban but not by Les Miles after the coaching change following the 2004 season. "It would just mean so much. I know I would just love to beat LSU in Baton Rouge. I could prove to them that I probably could've been a good player for them. I know Nick Saban thought so."

TWO ASSISTANTS HONORED: Ole Miss defensive line coach Tracy Rocker and special teams coordinator James Shibest are among the finalists for the new Muscle Milk and Coaches of the Year awards, which are given to 14 different position coaches in college football.

Candidates were nominated by their colleagues and evaluated by a panel of former coaches, who will utilize the fan vote on to determine the winners. Voting runs from now until Dec. 5, and the winning candidates will be announced on Dec. 7.

Finalists have been chosen for the awards from the following areas: Offensive Coordinator, Defensive Coordinator, Special Teams Coordinator, Strength & Conditioning Coach, Quarterbacks Coach, Running Backs Coach, Wide Receivers Coach, Offensive Line Coach, Defensive Line Coach, Linebackers Coach, Secondary Coach, Division 1-AA Coordinator, Division 2 Coordinator and Division 3 Coordinator of the Year.

Rocker's first Rebel defensive line has emerged as one of the nation's best and has helped the defense rank sixth in country in tackles for loss and 13th in rushing defense. Under his guidance, tackle Peria Jerry is an All-American candidate and is third in the SEC in forced fumbles and fifth in tackles for loss.

Also in his first year in Oxford, Shibest has directed an Ole Miss special teams unit that produced game-changing plays against Florida (blocked extra-point), Alabama (fake field goal for a touchdown), Vanderbilt and Samford (touchdown returns). In addition, kicker Joshua Shene and kickoff returner Mike Wallace have shattered school records and rank among the SEC's best.

REBS' SECONDARY IMPROVING: Ole Miss' embattled defensive secondary hasn't been toasted on a scoring pass since Alabama's John Parker Wilson connected with Marquise Maze and Mike McCoy in a 24-20 loss at Alabama on Oct. 18.

"I feel like the secondary is getting better," said Ole Miss free safety Kendrick Lewis, a New Orleans native. "We're not getting a lot of credit for it, but I believe that within our unit and from what I'm seeing on the field and the progress we're making, I believe we're getting better."

D-LINE DEEPER THAN EVER: Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy was back on the practice field Tuesday, a good sign that his oft-aggravated foot is still feeling good after his strong performance this past Saturday at Louisiana-Monroe.

"Greg's getting back," said Ole Miss defensive end Chris Bowers, a Shreveport, La., product. "We're all pretty much healthy. The D-line is probably the most experienced (unit) on the defensive side of the ball and I think we've been doing pretty good these last few games and with LSU supposedly having the best offensive line in the SEC, it ought to be a good match-up for us this week to see how we compare to an offense like that."

BOLDEN: RUNNING BACK ROTATION WORKING: About a month ago, it appeared that Baton Rouge, La., native Brandon Bolden was on the verge of emerging as the Rebels' starting tailback. Going into Saturday's game at LSU, Bolden ranks third behind Cordera Eason and Dexter McCluster on the Rebels' rushing charts. Bolden has 400 yards and two touchdowns rushing on 80 carries.

"I'm cool with basically everything we're doing," Bolden said. "Basically, Cordera goes in and wears defenses down and I go in and wear them out some more and then we give Dexter a shot. Then we start all over again. Enrique gets in there and does it, too. I like what we're doing."

As for playing in Tiger Stadium, Bolden said he's excited to finally get a chance to play in an environment he's experienced many times.

"I like the atmosphere," Bolden said. "It's going to be extremely loud and of course, they're going to hate us for coming in there. It just kind of fuels the fire for us."

TRACKING THE TIGERS: Last season, Arkansas rode Nutt's WildHog formation and Heisman Trophy runner-up Darren McFadden, a running back, to upset top-ranked LSU 50-48 in triple overtime.

"I thought it would catch on," LSU coach Les Miles told The (Baton Rouge) Advocate. "There's a piece to football where that factors in."

LSU has worked running back Richard Murphy in the "Wild Tiger" at times this season.

"The quarterback carry is certainly the best carry and one that we have an opportunity that if you play coverage on the remaining players, the numbers are best to run the football," Miles told the Baton Rouge paper. "There's plenty of deception. They bring the wide receiver in motion. They start the flow to one side and can come back across the grain. They have any number of reverses and perimeter issues. Then, they can attack you right straight up the gut with a quality ground game, so it's a very capable formation."

Of redshirt freshman Jarrett Lee's 15 interceptions, seven have been returned for touchdowns. That included Saturday, when linebacker Terence Moore returned a pick 22 yards for a score.

"It's uncanny," Miles said. "I think it's time for that to end. I think we've had enough."

Miles indicated that he has a better feel for how he will use Lee and Jefferson in these last two games. Jefferson played four series in the first half and selected snaps in the second half.

"I liked Jordan's energy," Miles said. "He scrambled pretty good. He enjoyed seeing some live action in the game. I'd like to see him have pieces of games. Jarrett is getting better. I don't know if the light is on in all of the rooms, but it's on in more rooms."

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