SEC: Kentrell Lockett

SEC lunch links

May, 1, 2012
5/01/12
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Linking our way around the SEC on a Tuesday:
Hugh Freeze enters his first spring at Ole Miss with a lot of questions surrounding his new football team.

The same team that won just two games last year, watched its head coach get shown the door and has lost 14 straight SEC games.

Talk about a project.

For starters, Ole Miss is breaking in a totally new spread offense for a team that isn't exactly built for it. Plus there are four scholarship quarterbacks competing this spring and the ones who played last year had a host of issues.

Don't be surprised if junior college transfer Bo Wallace turns some heads this spring at QB because he's more familiar with Freeze's offense. He spent 2010 with Freeze at Arkansas State before going the JUCO route. While he had a record-setting season at East Mississippi Community College in 2011, Wallace has zero experience at this level. He redshirted in 2010, so he has yet to take a snap at the FBS level.

The defense will also see quite a few changes, as defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has said he plans to move the Rebels all around the field. Ole Miss ran a 4-2-5 defense last year under Tyrone Nix, but will come out in multiple sets this time around. It's going to take some time for players to adjust. It also means the Rebels might have to rely more on its secondary again. The good thing for Ole Miss is that just about everyone from the secondary is back, including standouts Charles Sawyer and Wesley Pendleton.

Sawyer might have been Ole Miss' best defensive player last year, while Pendleton has a chance to be a very solid corner in the SEC next fall. Also, keep an eye on Aaron Garbutt, who transferred from the JUCO ranks last year and was sixth on the team in tackles. Getting more out of them this spring will go a long way to helping this defense adjust.

At linebacker, the Rebels return all four starters, but adjusting to the new defensive formations could be more of a chore for them. But having Mike Marry back will be big for the Rebels this spring, considering D.T. Shackelford won't go through the spring as he recovers from another surgery on his knee. Marry filled in nicely for Shackelford last season, leading the Rebels in tackles as just a sophomore.

Marry will be accompanied by rising sophomores Serderius Bryant and C.J. Johnson. Bryant was the better of the two former freshmen last season and was fourth on the team in tackles. For Johnson, the spring will be crucial for his maturation. He started to come on strong toward the end of the season, but he still needs to make strides in his game before the end of the summer. Johnson could also line up at defense end, a position that must replace former star Kentrell Lockett.

The defense has more positives, but there are still questions surrounding where guys will lineup and how they'll take to all the changes. Plus, this is practically the same group that ranked last in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense in the SEC last year.

On offense, finding a quarterback is priority No. 1, with improving an offensive line that took more than a few steps back in 2011 as a close second. Two starters are gone from the line and Freeze has said that the linemen he has weren't recruited for a "more power-type offense."

Freeze has a lot on his plate, but he knew that coming in. He understands that there were locker room issues in the past and the field issues are well documented. This won't be a quick fix by any means, but this spring will be really interesting for Freeze because even he'll have a lot of questions of his own to sort through when the Rebels start digging deep into spring practice.

Honoring the SEC's All-Interview team

January, 20, 2012
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The beat writers covering Auburn’s football program do a neat thing every season and honor one of the Tigers’ players with a “Good Guy” Award.

Quarterback Clint Moseley was the winner this season.

The award is meant to recognize a player who is consistently congenial and professional in his interactions with the media and gives interviews that are both candid and thoughtful.

Taking the Auburn beat guys’ lead, I want to pay tribute to the 10 players in the SEC this season who topped my list as being the best interviews and were always willing to fill your notebook up with compelling material.

Here goes:

Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette: The son of a prominent Little Rock attorney, it’s no surprise that Bequette was always a straight shooter. He speaks as well as he rushes the passer, and that’s saying something.

Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin: He had one of the quotes of the year after the Bulldogs rebounded from their 0-2 start. “After that South Carolina loss, people were throwing us out with the trash,” Boykin said.

Kentucky linebacker/safety Winston Guy: Just get him going, and there’s no telling where it may lead or how long it may last. One thing’s for sure: It won’t be boring.

Alabama offensive tackle Barrett Jones: The guy plays a violin, makes straight A’s and goes on mission trips to Haiti during his spring break. Even when you’re not talking football, he always has something interesting to say.

Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett: ESPN college football analyst Mark May had better beware, because the loquacious Lockett has made it known that he’s gunning for May’s job.

Vanderbilt linebacker Chris Marve: When Marve is finished snuffing out ball-carriers on the football field, he’ll be in a court room somewhere litigating cases.

LSU defensive end Sam Montgomery: Of all the players in the SEC, Montgomery was the most fearless when talking to the media. He’ll tell you precisely what’s on his mind and doesn’t hold anything back.

Alabama running back Trent Richardson: For a guy that was inundated with media attention, Richardson never changed. He was always willing to talk, always willing to provide insight and always pleasant despite being swamped by interview requests.

LSU receiver Russell Shepard: OK, he waffled there at the end on whether or not he was going to return to LSU next season, but Shepard’s a go-to guy after games. He’s smart, witty and always willing to speak his mind.

Alabama center William Vlachos: One of the toughest guys in the league and one of the funniest, Vlachos is a sports writer’s dream. A lot of times, he writes your story for you with the stories he tells.
When discussing his most memorable games against LSU as a head coach, Ole Miss’ Houston Nutt relayed the sad reality of life as an SEC coach.

Naturally, Nutt talked about his 2-0 start against the Tigers, but he also mentioned the thoughts of the fans back then. He reminisced about the emails he received praising him for winning the close games that had always gotten away from Ole Miss.

Life was good after back-to-back wins over LSU, back-to-back nine-win seasons and back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories.

“There were also some emails that I got that said I was going to be here as long as John Vaught during that time,” Nutt said. “That shows you how quickly our game changes. Those games are in the rear-view mirror.”

[+] EnlargeHouston Nutt
Don McPeak/US PresswireHouston Nutt on Saturday will coach his final home game at Ole Miss.
And so are Nutt’s successes at Ole Miss. After a promising start, Nutt is on his way out after back-to-back disastrous seasons.

Saturday, Nutt will coach his last game inside Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium as Ole Miss’ coach, just like the Rebels’ senior class will play its last game there. Those who came in with him will leave with him, but in a very unflattering manner.

Senior running back Brandon Bolden, who said Nutt was the final factor in his decision to pick Ole Miss over Alabama, said Saturday would be very bittersweet. He’s excited for senior day, but he’s sad to part ways with his team and his coach.

He described his first two years as great, but the last two as “a blow to the stomach,” and more specifically, this year, which currently has Ole Miss 2-8 and riding a 12-game conference losing streak dating back to last year, as a “slap in the face.”

“We just had bad on bad after we had two good years when he started with the program,” Bolden said. “It’s how the ball rolls sometimes. We came out real hot and then we got real cold.”

It’s time to find some fire again, Bolden said.

After Saturday’s dreadful homecoming loss to Louisiana Tech, Bolden said Ole Miss’ locker room was mostly silent with shocked stitched on the Rebels’ faces.

But it’s time for Ole Miss to get over the misery of Saturday -- and the season -- and step up against No. 1 LSU (10-0, 6-0), a team Nutt is 2-1 against as Ole Miss’ coach.

This isn’t just an SEC game. It’s a rivalry game that Bolden said the freshmen have been asking about since the summer and means more sometimes than a winning season.

“The older guys know what this game means, the freshmen know what this game means and it’s been reiterated over and over,” Bolden said. “Everybody will be mentally ready.”

Sixth-year senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who went through two rough Ed Orgeron years, said players have no excuse not to be ready. Mourning is over and Lockett said true competitors relish in the opportunity to rebound after crushing losses.

“It’s football, man. If you don’t get excited to play football, then you’re playing the wrong sport,” Lockett said. “You’re supposed to be doing it because you love it and you’re supposed to be competitive about it, but that loss is supposed to take something from you because you’re a competitor.”

Lockett said keeping the Rebels’ locker room hasn’t been an issue and that the team hasn’t quit.

He’s also a realist when it comes to Nutt’s situation. He said he and his teammates “love” Nutt, but Lockett understands that wins define coaches.

“This is the world we live in. People want W’s and want you to be productive,” he said. “The first two years were great years, but you knew it had to come to an end. Those guys had to graduate, the next guys had to graduate and you have to build and get younger guys. That’s where we are now. Because he wasn’t producing enough W’s, changes had to be made.

“It was unfortunate, but that’s the way life is.”

When Lockett thinks about going out with his head coach, you can hear dejection in his otherwise cheery voice. He knows this isn’t all on Nutt, and for that, it’s tough for the senior to come to grips with the fact that better play might have kept the Nutt honeymoon going.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” he said. “It’s your last year and you want to go out with a bang. You want to be known for something good, not known for something bad. You want to give the fans some wins, you want to do it for the community, knowing that they’ve watched you for four or five years growing up and growing into the player you are now.”

Tough road back for Ole Miss' Lockett

September, 28, 2011
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Ole Miss' Kentrell Lockett had long since proven himself as a football player in the SEC before this season ever began.

He was the league's active leader in career tackles for loss with 23.5 entering the season, but he was also coming off a torn ACL in his right knee. It's an injury that he's still not all the way back from, but Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt stressed Wednesday that nobody is writing off Lockett.

"He's getting better," Nutt said. "When you have four surgeries, and the last one was major, that's hard to come back from now. It's just a lot of work to get your total strength back, your quickness and that first step. He's working extremely hard to get it back, but it's just very difficult."

Lockett was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after injuring his knee against Fresno State last season. He also missed the 2006 season with a shoulder injury.

He's played in all four games for the Rebels this season, but clearly hasn't been his old productive self from his defensive end spot. He has just one solo tackle and five tackles overall and has yet to record a tackle for loss.

"He's getting better, and he will get more plays," Nutt said. "That's the thing about Kentrell. He has tremendous experience and a tremendous want-to, and I just think he'll be there for us."

Ole Miss' Superman lives

September, 9, 2011
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Tyrone Nix waited patiently for his fifth-year senior defensive end to regain his football legs.

[+] EnlargeKentrell Lockett
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireMississippi coordinator Tyrone Nix is happy to have defensive end Kentrell Lockett healthy.
Ole Miss’ defensive coordinator didn’t want to push him because he was less than a year removed from a major ACL injury. Nix expected a long recovery, so baby steps didn’t bother him.

However, that veteran was Kentrell Lockett, the self-proclaimed “Superman,” and his baby steps are sprints.

And he literally sprinted his way through Ole Miss’ first major scrimmage this preseason. Nix watched as the offense made play after play. His frustration was starting to build, until Lockett showed up.

With the offense feeling good about itself, Lockett jumped, batted down a pass, snatched the ball out of the air and then took it in for a touchdown. Nix could see Lockett’s confidence was back. His instincts were back at work, as he knew how to play the block, knew the situation and he didn’t panic.

“That’s what you expect from a leadership position. That’s what you expect from a guy that’s been through many battles,” Nix said.

“A guy like Kentrell, who’s been in many huddles, things like that don’t shake him up.”

Lockett, who was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, spent the spring rehabbing, though he assures he was fine once he dropped his crutches late last year and returned for preseason practice.

Lockett said this summer that he was excited to get back around his teammates and practice, but getting back into a game actually left the verbose Lockett speechless. Lockett finished Ole Miss’ opener with just two tackles and admitted that it took him some time to adjust to BYU’s tackles after facing his own guys in camp, but being out there was more than refreshing.

“It felt good to hit someone and actually hit them how you want to hit them instead of having to hold back and have the coaches say to stay up,” Lockett said. “I could actually play football.”

When Locket couldn’t play football, he met his own personal kryptonite. He couldn’t practice, couldn’t play and couldn’t celebrate with his teammates. So, why be around it? He distanced himself, only watching games from home, where he hid his pain.

“The days I did do that, I went home and cried to my wife about it -- just cried,” Lockett said. “Then, she was like, ‘Man, you gotta stop.’ It took her to get me out of that rut.”

Not having Lockett around also hurt the team. The mental edge was gone and the locker room’s most trusted leader wasn’t there for encouragement.

“Guys of that type of character help you pull through times and forms of adversity,” Nix said of Lockett.

It wasn’t until Lockett finally threw the crutches down and could walk up the stairs to the practice field under his own power that he felt comfortable around the team.

Now, he has a new outlook on his football life, as he’s no longer taking anything for granted.

“I’ve grown so much mentally since last year, since the injury occurred,” he said.

“This one play could be your last. I’m having fun. I’m giving it 110 percent no matter what because it might be one play away. I don’t know what might happen, just like what happened last time.”

Lockett might look at football differently, but the same goofy, loud, talkative, happy Lockett who was beloved by his teammates is still there. He hasn’t changed his personality and he thinks that’s added some juice to this defense.

His encouragement has gone a long way so far and his message to his team is still the same even after a heartbreaking opening loss: play your game and things will fall into place.

“All we have to do is come out, execute, play ball and have fun,” he said. “If you said you had fun and you gave it 110 percent, you’re all right. You’re OK.”
Ole Miss has been here before.

The Rebels are feeling low after a heart-breaking 14-13 opening loss to BYU, but last year they were even lower after dropping a home game to Jacksonville State.

Now is the time for veterans to step up and coach Houston Nutt said Wednesday that he’s seen some of the key leaders of this team do just that since Saturday night's defeat.

Seniors Bradley Sowell and Kentrell Lockett are speaking and motivating. So is sophomore linebacker Mike Marry. Nutt said players have come out fired up and focused and Tuesday’s practice was classified as “excellent.”

How that will translate to the field Saturday against Southern Illinois is yet to be seen, but Nutt said preparation starts with the coaches and ends with the players.

“It’s up to us as coaches to get a good plan and get them started and then they carry it over,“ Nutt said. “You can tell in practice the enthusiasm level, the energy and that’s what you feel good about.”

Offensively, the Rebels will have to find some sort of spark. West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti started at quarterback, but was benched after just three passing attempts against BYU. Junior college transfer Zack Stoudt replaced him, passing for 140 yards on 13-of-25 passing.

The plan is to start Stoudt, but Brunetti and recently-suspended Randall Mackey are available. Nutt said Mackey is getting snaps in practice, but will be evaluated throughout the week.

For now, Stoudt is the guy.

“The thing about Zack, he’s a little older than Brunetti was and he gave us a lift,” Nutt said. “He has a very strong arm, he’s 6-foot-4 and can really get the ball down the field. I feel like [offensive coordinator] David Lee will take him to another level and he’ll keep getting better.”

They’ll need him to get better with top running backs Brandon Bolden (ankle) and Enrique Davis (knee) sidelined with injuries.
Ole Miss’ defense is getting back to the roots of it all.

Fundamentals, attitude, a blue-collar work ethic and trying to outwork others will be the foundation of a defense that was a disaster in 2010.

Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said his players took their talents and what those before them did for granted last season. Players strutted around thinking the red carpet was going to roll out for them each game.

It didn’t come close to working that way as the Rebels ranked last in the SEC in scoring defense (35.2 points per game) and 11th in total defense (399.2) and passing defense (246.3). Ole Miss also allowed opponents to score a league-high 95 percent of the time when they ventured into the red zone (27 touchdowns and eight field goals in 37 attempts).

[+] EnlargeJoel Kight
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireJoel Kight is part of an Ole Miss defense that expects to be improved this season.
That’s a far cry from the defenses Nix led at Ole Miss in the previous two seasons. Those defenses commanded respect and delivered results. Last year’s defense just struggled to keep its head above water.

This season, Ole Miss is dealing with a slew of younger players on defense. It has been both exciting and tiresome for Nix and his defensive staff, but with days until the Rebels’ tough season-opener against BYU, Nix says he’s happy with where his defense is.

“These kids have really worked hard and are trying to restore some of the respect that was lost last year,” Nix said. “We built this thing up in the first couple of years and earned a lot of respect defensively and we’re going to continue to work toward that.”

In order to do that, this group has had to shovel away its pride and start over. Nix said he’s seen players getting to meetings on time or earlier this time around. Players are holding each other accountable instead of assuming they’ll get it right on the next play.

There is fire and determination in practice, Nix said, and he sees that in his coaching staff as well. Nix said the addition of Keith Burns as the secondary coach has been a major boost for the defense and added that the coaches have become better teachers. They too took past talents for granted.

Senior linebacker Joel Kight agrees: This team thought the past would push it in 2010. He was also wrong, but he also sees a change.

Kight sees more togetherness and trust among players. Youngsters are being vocal, but they are also willing to listen to veterans. Kight is being looked at as a leader, but he’s made sure he hasn’t fallen off in practice or his words will mean zilch to players, especially the young ones -- and there are a lot who will see the field early.

Top-rated linebackers C.J. Johnson and Serderius Bryant are expected make major impacts. So are defensive backs Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson.

While Nix admits no true freshmen are ready to be regular starters, he thinks they’ll contribute a lot, starting with the opener.

Seasoned players will also guide this team. Senior end Kentrell Lockett is back after blowing out his knee last season, providing a tremendous presence in the pass rush. Wayne Dorsey will be assisting opposite, while Marcus Temple will lead a more athletic defensive backfield.

The hope, Kight said, is that everyone doesn't hold back this year.

“They say we have a lot of potential. I don’t really like the word potential,” he said. “I want to see us use that potential. We’re very talented and it’s up to us to be a good overall, all-around defense.”

But there will be plenty of hiccups. It’s hard for a unit to perform an instant 360, and Nix is fine with that. What he won’t tolerate is complacency. For the defense to shake last season’s setback, it will have to rediscover itself and get back to the foundation of football.

“You’re either at the top or at the bottom because everybody sitting in between is just a juggling act,” he said. “Right now, we’re at the bottom of it and we want to finish on top and all we can do is control the present and that’s play the best we can, play as a team and play fundamentally sound. If we do those things I think we’ll be happy with our season this year.”
SEC bloggers Chris Low and Edward Aschoff will periodically give their takes on burning questions affecting the league. Sometimes, we’ll agree. Other times, we won’t. We’ll let you decide who’s right … or whether we’re both wrong:

Today’s topic: Which SEC team will most likely exceed its expectations this season?

Take 1: Edward Aschoff

There is one team that I’ve considered a sleeper. It doesn’t have many stars and it’s young enough to field a high school team. I’m talking about Ole Miss. I’ll pause for the homer calls and wise cracks. … Good? Great. The Rebels aren’t getting much respect and rightfully so. Last year, offenses salivated over facing Ole Miss’ defense. The Rebels gave up a league worst 35.2 points per game and allowed their opponents to score 95 percent of the time inside the red zone. The offense was a little better, ranking sixth in the SEC in total offense, but the Rebels managed just four wins. But when Ole Miss is overlooked, the Rebels seem to step up in the right way (just look at 2008). The Rebels are breaking in a new, young quarterback in West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti, but he’s proving to be a true leader for this team and is both a strong runner and has a very accurate arm. Ole Miss’ veteran offensive line and a backfield featuring bruiser Brandon Bolden and home run threat Jeff Scott should take some pressure off Brunetti during his first go in the SEC. The defense is rebuilding, which could be a good thing. Tenacious defensive end Kentrell Lockett is back after missing 2010 with a knee injury and the secondary has a fresh, more athletic look, starting with juco transfer Wesley Pendleton, who has been a pleasant surprise and is primed to start. Linebacker Joel Kight is taking on more of a leadership role with D.T. Shackelford out, and he recently told me he’s seen a hungrier defense at practice. This group understands it significantly underperformed last year and took last year’s talent for granted. The team is ready to rebound. The schedule isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible for the Rebels to win seven games and go bowling. A win over BYU would provide great momentum and if Ole Miss is 4-1 heading into the Alabama game (that means winning across the country at Fresno State), I think the Rebels can get to seven wins.

Take 2: Chris Low

Not a bad choice, Edward. I also think the Rebels can surprise some people if they can beat BYU in the opener and get off to a good start. But the team I’m going with is Tennessee. Matter of fact, let’s just call it homer day. You grew up in Oxford and picked the Rebels. I live in Knoxville, graduated from Tennessee and am picking the Vols. Seriously, though, Tennessee will be a lot more equipped physically and mentally to win some of those games they couldn’t finish in the fourth quarter last season. I still want to see how Tyler Bray is going to play against some of the better defenses in the league, but the Vols should be able to run the ball better. They’re deeper at running back, and that young (and talented) offensive line is a year older. Losing junior safety Janzen Jackson was a blow, no doubt, and the Vols are dangerously thin at defensive tackle. But watch sophomore defensive end Jacques Smith take off this season, and true freshman linebacker Curt Maggitt is another star in the making. Ultimately, I think the Vols are going to have to outscore a lot of teams, which is never easy in this league. But their nonconference schedule is easier than it was a year ago with Cincinnati replacing Oregon, and Tennessee plays five of its first six games at home. Eight regular-season wins isn’t out of the question if the Vols can protect their home turf that first half of the season. They didn’t beat anybody that counts in Derek Dooley’s first season and won the games they were supposed to win. Look for that to change in Year 2. The Vols will find a way to win at least one of their games against Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

The middle finger and the Iron Bowl

August, 4, 2011
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Auburn defensive end Nosa Eguae is poised to have a breakout season in 2011 on the field.

Off the field, he's already running a close race with Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett as being the best interview in the SEC.

Eguae, a third-year sophomore, is extremely intelligent and equally witty. Ask him about anything, and he always has something interesting to say. He doesn't hold back, either, which is why nobody should have been surprised by his response earlier this week when asked what he remembered most about the bus ride through Alabama's campus to Bryant-Denny Stadium for the Iron Bowl last year.

Wearing a large grin, Eguae cracked, "Just some fingers that weren't supposed to be used by some very little kids and some old women."

It's a rivalry that never sleeps.

SEC bounce-back players: Ole Miss

July, 29, 2011
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Who's poised to bounce back at Ole Miss this season? Today, we take a look:

OFFENSE

Melvin Harris, WR, Jr.: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt couldn't wait to get the 6-6, 210-pound Harris on the field last season, especially after seeing Harris catch a 61-yard touchdown pass in the spring game and then follow that up with a strong preseason camp. Sure enough, Harris caught a 41-yard touchdown pass in the Rebels' opener last season ... but caught only two more touchdown passes the rest of the way. He was also suspended for the Mississippi State game to end the season after being cited and charged with DUI. The Rebels are searching for playmakers in their passing game, and Harris has the size and speed to be their go-to guy. He just needs to be more consistent, not to mention make better decisions off the field. He caught 30 passes last season and seemed to be coming into his own until the suspension. If he can stay healthy, which was a problem earlier in his career, he could easily be a 50-catch guy.

DEFENSE

Kentrell Lockett, DE, Sr.: The most important recruit Ole Miss picked up this offseason was senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after tearing his ACL last season. Lockett leads all returning SEC players in career tackles for loss with 23.5, and he's the kind of defender who can change the complexion of a game with one or two plays. The Rebels were never the same defensively a year ago after Lockett went down with his knee injury against Fresno State the fifth week of the season. He expects to be 100 percent in time for the 2011 opener against BYU, and being able to plug him back in Ole Miss will be huge for defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix. Not only will Lockett provide production from his end position, but he's also one of the Rebels' strongest leaders.
HOOVER, Ala. -- Superman lives.

Ole Miss senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett, or "Superman" to his fans, is back and ready to exact his revenge on skittish quarterbacks around the SEC.

[+] EnlargeMississippi's Kentrell Lockett
Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesKentrell Lockett suffered a knee injury last season, but coach Houston Nutt expects "him to be full go the first game."
Lockett, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after suffering an ACL injury early last season, says he's fully healthy and ready for his last romp through the SEC.

Lockett skipped spring practice to recover more, but insists that he hasn't lost any quickness or mobility.

"It's a knee. A knee heals. Nothing happened to anything else," he said. "I still can tackle, still can run, still can jump, so I'm going to play ball."

Getting Lockett, who was a first-team All-SEC selection by the media, not only improves Ole Miss' defense, especially in the pass rush, but adds a crucial element in the leadership category -- an area that suffered a major blow this spring with the season-ending injury to linebacker D.T. Shackelford. Lockett's outgoing and charismatic personality instantly lifts his teammates up and having him on the field this fall will be even more beneficial for the Rebels.

"Means so much to get it back," coach Houston Nutt said. "He is a tremendous leader for us. He does so much with his teammates. He's a winner. I think he's just about there. According to our doctors, he's just about 100 percent, so we expect him to be full go the first game."

Lockett said he felt game-ready late last season when he shed this crutches, and with the season just around the corner, Lockett said his knee is better than it was before he suffered his injury.

"I've made tremendous strides," he said.

"I feel like I'm myself again. I feel like I can do anything now."

Chris Low talks with the defensive end at SEC media days in Hoover, Ala.

SEC Media Days lineup

July, 13, 2011
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It's almost here, folks. SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., are just a week away, which means the regular season is just around the corner.

You're ready for some football, and we're definitely ready for some football.

You can always find an interesting story or two at media days and there are always a few surprises here and there.

What will the coaches say about paying players? What will players say about paying players? What will be the reactions to the new rules on oversigning? Who will have the snazziest suit? Who will drop the best/funniest quotes of the week?

And of course, which fan base will have the most representation during the three-day event?

Each team will be bringing three players, along with the head coach. There are some good names on this year's list, including Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett. He's not only fun to talk with but has one of the more interesting stories to follow, considering his 2011 season was up in the air a few months ago.

Two youngsters that should get a lot of attention are South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Big things are expected from each one this fall, so it will be interesting to see how they deal with the media onslaught.

This will be Will Muschamp and James Franklin's first go-rounds at media days. Florida's new coach will also be bringing much-criticized quarterback John Brantley with him, but senior defensive tackle Jaye Howard won't make the trip. Too bad because he has a great personality and is fun to talk to.

Alabama coach Nick Saban, running back Trent Richardson, safety Mark Barron and linebacker Dont’a Hightower should get a few cameras and tape recorders in their faces next week. Alabama enters the fall as the likely favorite in the league and everyone will let Saban and his crew know that when they arrive Friday morning.

One disappointment is that South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia won't be around. The troubled athlete is looking to clean up his image in Columbia, but we won't have an opportunity to hear what he has to say as he attempts his transformation. Luckily, coach Steve Spurrier will be in town, meaning there should be some good laughs and great quotes. Plus, I'm interested to see if he's had more thoughts on compensating student-athletes.

I’m sure a few more personalities will come out next week, so it should be fun.

Here is a complete list of players and coaches for next week's event.

WEDNESDAY
First Rotation:
1 -- 3:50 p.m. ET

Arkansas
Coach Bobby Petrino
RB Knile Davis
WR Jarius Wright
DE Tenarius Wright

Florida
Coach Will Muschamp
QB John Brantley
DE William Green
WR Deonte Thompson

Second Rotation: 3:20 -- 6 p.m. ET

South Carolina
Coach Steve Spurrier
WR Alshon Jeffery
RB Marcus Lattimore
DT Travian Robertson

Mississippi State
Coach Dan Mullen
RB Vick Ballard
DT Fletcher Cox
QB Chris Relf

THURSDAY
First Rotation:
8:30 -- 11:20 a.m. ET

Kentucky
Coach Joker Phillips
OG Stuart Hines
CB Anthony Mosley
QB Morgan Newton

Georgia
Coach Mark Richt
CB Brandon Boykin
C Ben Jones
QB Aaron Murray

Second Rotation: 10:50 a.m. -- 1:30 p.m. ET

Auburn
Coach Gene Chizik
WR Emory Blake
DT Nosa Equae
TE Phillip Lutzenkirchen

Tennessee
Coach Derek Dooley
DL Malik Jackson
RB Tauren Poole
OL Dallas Thomas

FRIDAY
First Rotation:
8:30 -- 11:20 a.m. ET

Alabama
Coach Nick Saban
S Mark Barron
LB Dont'a Hightower
RB Trent Richardson

Vanderbilt
Coach James Franklin
CB Casey Hayward
LB Chris Marve
QB Larry Smith

Second Rotation: 10:50 a.m. -- 1:30 p.m. ET

Ole Miss
Coach Houston Nutt
RB Brandon Bolden
DE Kentrell Lockett
OT Bradley Sowell

LSU
Coach Les Miles
LB Ryan Baker
QB Jordan Jefferson
WR Russell Shepard

Chris' SEC all-star ballot

July, 6, 2011
7/06/11
12:05
PM ET
We’ve already had a look at Edward’s all-star ballot, and I agree with most of his selections.

Unlike baseball, we don't have half a season to use as a gauge, so there's a lot of projecting and taking into account what the players did a year ago.

I'm big on intangibles and how a player impacts his teammates. So wherever it was close, I went with the guy who was a leader and the guy I believe will help elevate the level of play of the players around him. Speed and versatility were also big factors.

Anyway, here's my ballot:

EAST

OFFENSE

QB -- Aaron Murray, Georgia. So.
RB -- Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina, So.
RB -- Chris Rainey, Florida, Sr.
WR -- Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina, Jr.
WR -- Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee, So.
TE -- Orson Charles, Georgia, Jr.
C -- T.J. Johnson, South Carolina, Jr.
OL -- Cordy Glenn, Georgia, Sr.
OL -- Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee, So.
OL -- Larry Warford, Kentucky, Jr.
OL -- Stuart Hines, Kentucky, Sr.

DEFENSE

DE -- Devin Taylor, South Carolina, Jr.
DE -- Melvin Ingram, South Carolina, Sr.
DT -- Jaye Howard, Florida, Sr.
DT -- Malik Jackson, Tennessee, Sr.
LB -- Danny Trevathan, Kentucky, Sr.
LB -- Chris Marve, Vanderbilt, Sr.
LB -- Jelani Jenkins, Florida, So.
CB -- Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt, Sr.
CB -- Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina, Jr.
S -- Prentiss Waggner, Tennessee, Jr.
S -- Winston Guy, Kentucky, Sr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K -- Blair Walsh, Georgia, Sr.
P -- Drew Butler, Georgia, Sr.
RET ---- Brandon Boykin, Georgia, Sr.

WEST

OFFENSE

QB -- Chris Relf, Mississippi State, Sr.
RB -- Trent Richardson, Alabama, Jr.
RB -- Knile Davis, Arkansas, Jr.
WR -- Greg Childs, Arkansas, Sr.
WR -- Jarius Wright, Arkansas, Sr.
TE -- Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn, Jr.
C -- William Vlachos, Alabama, Sr.
OL -- Barrett Jones, Alabama, Jr.
OL -- Bradley Sowell, Ole Miss, Sr.
OL -- Alvin Bailey, Arkansas, So.
OL -- Bobby Massie, Ole Miss, Jr.

DEFENSE

DE -- Kentrell Lockett, Ole Miss, Sr.
DE -- Jake Bequette, Arkansas, Sr.
DT -- Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State, Jr.
DT -- Josh Boyd, Mississippi State, Jr.
LB -- Courtney Upshaw, Alabama, Sr.
LB -- Dont'a Hightower, Alabama, Jr.
LB -- Jerry Franklin, Arkansas, Sr.
CB -- Morris Claiborne, LSU, Jr.
CB -- DeQuan Menzie, Alabama, Sr.
S -- Mark Barron, Alabama, Sr.
S -- Tyrann Mathieu, LSU, So. (We'll play him as a nickel back and let him roam)

SPECIAL TEAMS

K -- Zach Hocker, Arkansas, So.
P -- Tyler Campbell, Ole Miss, Jr.
RET -- Joe Adams, Arkansas, Sr.

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