August 19, 2009
Replacing Jerry a group effort for Rebels
Peria Jerry is an Atlanta Falcon now.
If you attended Ole Miss practices during Jerry's reign of terror in the Southeastern Conference, his absence is almost audible. Jerry was the heart and soul _ and when he was angry, the mouth _ of the Rebels last season.
However, his absence isn't quite as conspicuous on Ole Miss' defensive line as was feared. Ted Laurent and Lawon Scott are the starters at defensive tackle, with Jerrell Powe figuring in almost as a third starter. Converted defensive end LaMark Armour is backing up Scott, and he's had a strong camp as well.
"They're working very hard," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "With Powe, Ted Laurent, Lawon and LaMark, I like the four we have in there. I hate Justin Smith got hurt, but I like those four guys. It's just that experience (Jerry) brought, that intensity he brought every single day. That's what's hard. They're working, and that's what you go by."
"They're just as good, if not better," Ole Miss center Daverin Geralds said. "Those guys are fast. They hit their gaps and everything. They make it hard on us. They're making us work in practice."
Laurent said the improvement can be attributed to the work put in during the offseason. Laurent, Scott and Powe lost weight and focused on becoming quicker at the line of scrimmage.
"There's a big difference from last year," Laurent said. "I can tell I can move faster when I move from side to side. I feel shiftier, more elusive. My game is getting better. That was stopping me from being one of the best, and I believe that adding that to the game will make me one of the best linemen in the SEC.
"Lawon improved on his strength. Lawon also lost a little weight. He's always been quick and shifty. The only problem was his strength and the weight. All of that is good now. Now he'll be one of the best in the SEC."
New defensive line coach Terry Price, who spent the last decade at Auburn, was a big admirer of Jerry's, albeit from afar. He said it's unrealistic to expect any of the Rebels' quartet of defensive tackles, not individually or collectively _ to replace Jerry's production.
"Peria is as good as I've seen in this league in a long, long time," Price said. "He was a great defensive tackle, as good as I've seen in a long, long time. Until we get to the season and see these guys play, it's hard to say that. I don't know if we'll see a Peria Jerry anytime soon, but what that means is these young guys have to step up and improve their game and bring more to the table. That's the key.
"They're doing a better job striking with their hands. They're being more physical inside and I like their lateral move. When we slant, they're doing a better job of redirecting and changing their gaps and they're moving around in there better and being more disruptive."
Just don't talk about defensive line domination, at least not around Price. He'd rather focus on work and improvement.
"I wouldn't ever use the word 'dominate,'" Price said. "Our guys are working hard trying to get better every day. The excitement comes in seeing guys win their one-on-one match-ups. It's a group that has to work hard every day. If you start feeling good about yourself and talking about how dominating you are, you're going to get your butt kicked. We have to make sure we stay humble and keep working hard."
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