Lavon Hooks knew he might play some tight end along with being a defensive lineman. Right now, consider him both.
“He got some reps at each (Wednesday),” Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze said. “Unless something changes, this year I think he’ll be split – offense/defense. In the springtime we’ll have to make a call.”
Hooks, recruited as a defensive lineman, arrived at Ole Miss from Northeast Mississippi Community College. He said he let the coaches know he could play on either side of the ball.
“I had it on my resume’,” he said of the tight end position. “I played it back in high school. I’d played a little basketball, so they knew I had some decent hands and could move pretty well on my feet.”
Hooks said he’s continuing to learn all about tight end.
“It’s a huge learning curve,” he said. “But I’ve got coaches and a lot of the players who are helping me learn stuff real fast.”
Hooks said splitting time on each side of the ball is challenging and in a way some might not think. When you’re on one side of the ball, you aren’t on the other. Therefore, you are missing valuable reps.
“I’m losing reps on defense, and then I’m losing reps on offense,” Hooks said. “But I go in my spare time and learn the extra stuff that I’ve got to know.”
Freshman Evan Engram has stepped in and played a big role in a thin position. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder has 11 receptions, two of them for touchdowns, both tied for second on the team.
Obviously more used to playing on the defensive front, Hooks is trying to recall his tight end days and make things happen there. But it’s a work in progress, as you would imagine.
“I’d say right now the most difficult part is just getting the plays down completely,” the Atlanta native said. “I’m getting them, but it’s all new. I’m just now learning. I haven’t played offense in years.”
The 6-foot-4, 302 pound Hooks said wherever he’s needed he’ll play.
“If I’m able to excel at tight end, I’ll take it there,” he said. “I just want to help my team, really. I feel pretty confident about that.”
Hooks said out of high school, he drew some attention as a tight end.
“They first recruited me as (a tight end),” he said. “They saw me on the basketball court, too. They mentioned it to me. I told them I wouldn’t mind trying it out. I played receiver in high school.”
Freeze said Hooks is giving it a good shot, and he can help.
“He’s learning. Swimming a bit,” Freeze said. “You try to go fast. But we’ve kind of scaled back for this week. We’ve got one package for him. He gives us a different look now.”
Ole Miss co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Jason Jones was a two-year starter at defensive back for the Alabama Crimson Tide and was part of three bowl teams, an SEC West championship in 1996 and SEC championship in 1999. But the first-year Rebel assistant coach insists Saturday’s matchup is simply another contest.
“I’m going to be excited just because it’s a game,” he said. “I’m going to treat it like it’s just any other game. Go in there, line up, be sound, and try to come away with the win.”
Jones said the week off from a game was good for the Rebels.
“We were able to rest some guys,” he said “It’s always good to have more time to get extra time to work on your gameplan and things like that. Coach Freeze did a great job putting a schedule together. We were able to take advantage of that for this game.”
Charles Sawyer is back and ready to play. Jones said that helps the team a lot.
“Charles is doing good. He’s flying around and making plays in practice. He’s going to play on Saturday. We’re looking forward to having him back. It gives us that much more depth right there at that corner position.
“It helps you out quite a bit. In the Texas game we played Mike (Hilton) and Senquez (Golson) pretty much every snap. But with Charles in the game, at times we can rest Senquez or Mike and keep fresh guys on the field.”
Jones said the Alabama receivers his troops will face are a talented group.
“They have some really good wideouts,” he said. “All of them have good size, good speed. So they can stretch the field on you. That’s one of the things we’ve been stressing in practice. We’ve got to take away the big plays. That’s the one thing you see in every game you watch, their wide receivers have big play capabilities. We have to make sure we take that away if we want to come away with a win.”
Freshman Derrick Jones is one who his coach said can be a factor this season.
“D.J. has size and speed and that’s what you want at corner,” Coach Jones said. “We made the move a couple of weeks ago. The bye week we were able to give him a ton of reps. He’s coming along and doing a great job. I’m looking forward to seeing him out there.
“Derrick is still a freshman, and he hasn’t been in a college game yet. So we don’t know how he’s going to react. It’s just one of those things we’ll play by ear. See how it goes and try to get a feel for him and see how he is on game day and during the game and go from there.”
Hilton has caught the attention of Jones, and he likes what he sees.
“Mike’s been doing good. He’s a competitor. He’s smart,” Coach Jones said. “He’s played so many positions in the secondary that he understands exactly everything that’s going on. He’s making a lot of plays for us. That was a good move for us. Tony Connor has stepped up and that freed us up to move Mike. That allows us to get our best guys on the field. Mike is doing great. I’m glad we have him.”
But as for the meeting with the Crimson Tide being any more special than any other game, Jones still insists it’s not, despite what others may think.
“It’s just like any other game. Just want to go get the win,” he said. “It’s an important game, because it is the next game.”
–Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.comHERE!