March 10, 2009

Scott and Laurent look to replace Jerry

He recorded 49 tackles, including 16 behind the line of scrimmage.

He added seven quarterback sacks, three hurries, one pass break-up, one fumble recovery returned 13 yards for a touchdown and two forced fumbles.

Yet the statistics don't tell the tale when it comes to the impact Peria Jerry made on Ole Miss' defense last season. Nor do they come close to showing just how difficult it is going to be to replace Jerry's contributions in 2009. Lawon Scott and Ted Laurent plan to try, but neither thinks it will be easy.

"We're going to have to work real hard to replace him," Scott said. "Those are some big shoes to fill. You see what he did in the Senior Bowl and what he's going to do at pro day. …He made plays that you didn't even see. If Kentrell (Lockett) makes a sack, it was 50 percent his sack, too, because he pushed the quarterback into Kentrell. Like Greg (Hardy)? He's helped Greg make a lot of sacks.

"It will take everybody to replace a little piece of him. He was a run-stopper, a great pass-rusher and a team leader. We're just going to have to come together to replace little parts of the game that he added."

Scott played in all 13 games last season, starting six. He recorded 21 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He played most of the season between 310 and 313 pounds, but he's focused this offseason on dropping weight. He said last week that he's down to 304 pounds with aspirations of losing another nine before the Rebels open the season at Memphis in September.

"Peria played at 285 to 290, and you see how he played and how he moved," Scott said.

Guys like Scott and Laurent can't go long without hearing about Jerry, the Rebels' emotional leader who seemingly willed Ole Miss to wins late in the season.

"It's big shoes to fill right there," said Laurent, who played in 13 games, starting seven, and recorded 24 tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery. "Peria Jerry was one of the most explosive guys in the SEC. We're just going to have to work hard to try to make sure that we did, we do it, too, but Peria was one of the best players I've ever seen."

Laurent is also trying to emulate Jerry physically. After playing last season at 310 pounds, Laurent is down to 301 and hoping to stay between 295 and 305 during the 2009 season.

"It will get me faster," Laurent said. "I won't carry as much weight on my back. …Now I'm trying to get more loose, because right now, I'm kind of tight. They're trying to get me looser and more explosive. The strength? It's up there. I just want to get faster, more flexible and more explosive."

Laurent missed most of fall camp last August due to a torn meniscus suffered in July. He said last week the nagging effects of the injury were with him all season and flared up during the build-up to the Rebels' AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic win over Texas Tech.

"It's close to 100 percent now," Laurent said. "I'm not up there yet, but it's close. During the season, it was all right. Then when we had two weeks off for the bowl, coming back for the bowl practices to start, it hurt me a little bit. I'm rehabbing it again, and hopefully when we go to Memphis, I should be 100 percent -- or 110."

Laurent's optimism spreads to the upcoming season. Scott shares it as well. Both players, while respectful of Jerry's talent and contributions, believe the Rebels' defense won't fall off.

"It's going to be real good," Scott said. "Ted was a starter last year, now he's going to be a starter this year. Really, the whole D-line is experienced coming back. Even (Jerrell) Powe and the freshman, Justin Smith. All of us have experience, so there shouldn't be a reason why we don't perform well this year.

"We're real comfortable. Now we're moving way faster because we know the defense like the back of our hands. He's probably putting in a few more plays, but it's basically the same as last year."

"I'm not going to say we're as talented as Peria, but with Peria being gone, it's not really going to hurt us because we've played, we saw what he did and we were there in crunch time with him," Laurent added. "With him being gone, we're just going to have to step it up.

"We're real confident. We have high expectations for this program coming into this season."

How high?

"No comment," Laurent said with a smile. "It's going to be a surprise."

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