With college football recruiting for 2013 completed and 2014 well under way, it’s time to turn our attention to the next big event in the world of our Rebel Football Nation, and that is the beginning of spring training.
Spring practices for Ole Miss begin March 17that 3:00 pm. You’ll probably be hard pressed to find a place where college football fans and players, alike, are more excited than in Oxford, MS.
Following the collective euphoria over the Rebels’ signing day bonanza, it’s now time for Coach Freeze and the staff and players to get to work, and, man, is there a lot of talent with which to work. It looks as if the good times may really be rolling in Oxford this season!
Looking ahead, the Rebels have 8 returning starters on offense and 11 on defense, which means they only lost 3 starters from the entire team- all on the offensive side of the ball. (Running back Randall Mackey, tight end Ferbia Allen, and offensive guard A.J. Hawkins are the offensive players that must be replaced.)
Defensively, the Rebels return EVERYONE, and will be adding the likes of defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s number one recruit, and defensive tackle, Lavon Hooks. Hooks, the 247sports.com number one ranked junior college player, will start spring practices with the rest of the team, as he is already on campus.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Hooks today, and I left the conversation even more impressed with the young man than I was prior to our chat. When I asked him how he picked Ole Miss, given all the phenomenal schools who offered him scholarships, he didn’t hesitate to tell me he liked the family atmosphere at Ole Miss, as well as the fact that the Rebels are definitely “a program on the rise.” Hotty Toddy to that!
Hooks also pointed out how much his mom and dad love Ole Miss—and we all know how important family has been in this year’s recruiting class. Robert Nkemdiche and Laremy Tunsil both had mothers who hoped their sons would attend Ole Miss. (If you’re keeping score for this year’s class, that would be Moms – 3, Other Schools – 0!)
When asked who he who he turns to if he ever needs a little support, Hooks answer was a little interesting, and perhaps helps explain why Ole Miss is definitely a top consideration for many recruits. He says he turns to his parents for support, of course, but also adds: “I don’t think there is anyone at Ole Miss that I couldn’t turn to for support.”
It is precisely this current atmosphere of collegiality in Oxford that speaks volumes for Coach Freeze, his staff, and his players—who all comment on the importance of their unity as a family.
I also visited with Hooks about how his talent allows him to play in different positions on the defensive line. If he is playing the “3 technique,” he lines up on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard, meaning he is playing the position of defensive tackle. But, if he is playing the “6 technique”, he lines up eye to eye with the tight end, and is then playing the position of defensive end. When Ole Miss plays teams with bigger players, such as LSU and ‘Bama, they may have the 6’4, 290 lb. Hooks playing this “6 technique.”
If you’re confused about the “3 technique” and the “6 technique,” don’t worry. I had a former football player and coach explain it all to me. All you really need to know is for Hooks to have the combination of strength AND lateral speed needed to play BOTH of these positions, he must be REALLY good and REALLY versatile- which he is!
When I asked him if he had done anything in particular that enabled him to have the skills to play these different techniques, Hooks reminded me that he played basketball in high school and that “the skills sort of intertwined” when it came to applying his basketball skills to the lateral moves on the football field.
One other fact about Hooks that some may not realize is how much he admires Cam Newton and hopes to emulate his success. Newton, like Hooks, was a junior college player at Blinn Junior College in Texas. When you’re a junior college transfer, you’ve only got two years to prove yourself before your college eligibility is done. Cam Newton is a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL starting quarterback, and is certainly a fantastic JUCO transfer to emulate. If Hooks follows in Newton’s footsteps, the Rebels will definitely be rising!
Hooks also dispelled the rumor that he picked Ole Miss because he has a girlfriend there. “Not true,” says Hooks. “I tweeted one day that I was married, but no one noticed that underneath it I added, ‘to the game of football.’” Luckily for Rebel fans, he’s now “married” to Ole Miss football!
Hooks leaves no doubts as to why he chose Ole Miss: great coaching staff, family atmosphere, fantastic support from coaches and fans, and a program that is definitely on the rise.
Luckily for the Ole Miss football program, Lavon Hooks is already enrolled as a Business Management major, attending classes in Oxford, and getting ready for spring practices to begin this Sunday!
Hotty Toddy, Rebel Nation!