November 3, 2008

Overshadowed Lockett becoming a force

While Greg Hardy has gotten the bulk of the media attention, Kentrell Lockett has been emerging as one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the Southeastern Conference.

Lockett recorded seven tackles, including 2 behind the line of scrimmage, in Ole Miss' 17-7 win over Auburn Saturday.

"I kind of felt in the groove (against Auburn)," Lockett said. "I was just playing football, playing football like I know how to play football and I had fun on the field."

It's happened under the radar, so to speak, but Lockett has gained seven pounds during this season, increasing his playing weight to 247 pounds. The sophomore from Hahnville, La., now has 26 tackles and two sacks, numbers that don't really represent how much of a force he's become up front in recent weeks.

"I've been thinking about that," Lockett said. "That's been funny to me, too. I have always tried to put on weight and now it's just strange that I'm packing on pounds during the season. I've been getting with Coach (Don Decker) and doing extra workouts with them, doing four workouts a week and eating more and drinking shakes. It's just benefiting me.

"I'm not being thrown around anymore. I'm holding my own. I guess I'm throwing people out of the way."

Lockett, who now has 11 career starts under his belt, said Sunday night that he hasn't worried about the spotlight.

"I've just been unselfish and sitting there and when the time came, I stepped in and played football," Lockett said.

Instead, Lockett has concentrated on playing football. Always a strong pass rusher, Lockett's emergence against the run has helped Ole Miss improve dramatically in that category. On Saturday, Ole Miss held Auburn to 75 yards rushing on 25 carries.

"That was real big for us, holding a running team under 100 yards," Lockett said. "It just shows how our D-line works and how our defense works. We're executing everything Coach (Tyrone) Nix tells us what to do.

"I feel myself improving week to week and getting more confident. I've been in on more plays and making more plays. I'm just feeling better as the season goes on. I'm not afraid to throw my shoulder in there now. I'm not afraid to take a block head on. You're not going to beat me. I'm going to beat you."

Ole Miss (5-4 overall, 3-3 in the SEC) has the weekend off before returning to a final stretch that includes a Nov. 15 home date against Louisiana-Monroe, a Nov. 22 trip to LSU and a Nov. 28 home clash against Egg Bowl rival Mississippi State.

"I know a lot of guys on the two (Louisiana) teams," Lockett said, flashing a disarming smile. "We've been talking, jawing and sending e-mails and text messages and everything, but that just makes you play better and makes it a fun atmosphere."

Like the rest of his teammates, Lockett can smile these days. Ole Miss needs just one win to become bowl eligible for the first time since the 2003 season. Two wins down the stretch would likely give Ole Miss some bowl options and a 3-0 run in late November would likely have the Cotton Bowl and Capital One Bowl fighting for the Rebels.

"The whole atmosphere and everybody's attitudes have changed," Lockett said. "Now in November, we have something to play for. Last year in November, I can't recall what the record was but we're playing for something now."

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