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Saturday, August 15, 2009
Checking in on Ole Miss

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

OXFORD, Miss. -- Coming to you live from The Square in downtown Oxford where something tells me they'll be screaming "Hotty Toddy" a few times this fall.

Took the long route from Starkville and came through Houston on Friday night. That would be Houston, Miss. Bad move on my part, although I got to see parts of Mississippi that I never thought I would.

The Rebels scrimmage Saturday afternoon, and I'll have a report. I also plan to sit down with Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt, who has some dizzying expectations swirling around this program entering his second season on the job.

I chatted with a couple of players Friday night after arriving (Dexter McCluster and Jerrell Powe), and they said all the preseason hype and exposure have only made practices that much more intense.

"The defense is flying around. The offense is making plays, so we're getting each other better," McCluster said. "We're going to stay grounded, because all these people who are giving us this publicity were telling us that we couldn't do it last year. At the end of the day, it's on us. We've got to go out and win games, and we've got the talent in place to do it."

The Rebels dined on eats catered in Friday night from nearby Taylor's Grocery, which is renowned for its catfish.

Powe took a few extra pieces home just in case he got the late-night munchies. OK, he took a whole box home. But no worries. He's down to 324 pounds (after tipping the scales at 380-plus at one point) and looks like a million dollars.

"I've got my weight down where I want it. I've got the rust off, and I'm playing the way I expect myself to play," Powe said. "It's time to take it to a whole different level."

How deep are the Rebels in the defensive line?

Get this: Powe's the third tackle in the rotation right now behind Ted Laurent and Lawon Scott, while Greg Hardy is the third end in the rotation behind Kentrell Lockett and Marcus Tillman.

The truth is that it doesn't really matter because defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix is going to rotate them in and out. Still, that's some serious talent up front where it counts.