By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The defensive line got stronger at Ole Miss on Thursday as Kentrell Lockett was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA.
Lockett was expected to be one of the Rebels’ biggest playmakers in 2010, but his season was cut short when he tore his anterior cruciate knee ligament (ACL) against Fresno State, his third game of the season
Lockett missed the Rebels’ 2010 season opener against Jacksonville State after having been tested for an irregular heartbeat.
“That’s been a real burden on his mind and our minds,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “Boy, I hate to think about not having him next year. That would have been unfair. I’m just glad they made, to me, the right decision.”
Because Lockett was seeking a sixth season, the Ole Miss compliance office had to show that he was unable to perform in 2006 – his redshirt season, when he had a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery – as well as in 2010.
“The uncertainty of it all was killing me. I cried many a night,” said Lockett, still on crutches, as he spoke with reporters after Thursday’s practice.
Lockett is expected to move off crutches in a couple of weeks.
“There’s no question what he’ll be doing much harder and better, and that’s rehabbing, school and getting better,” Nutt said.
Lockett was a 26-game starter over his sophomore and junior seasons and was a preseason All-SEC choice last year after posting 10 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2009.
This spring the Rebels are running junior Gerald Rivers and senior Wayne Dorsey, a junior college transfer last season, at the first-team end spots.
Thursday’s practice was the first in full gear for Ole Miss.
Nutt said his players seemed a little slower while getting used to the pads again, but he liked what he saw from some of his younger players, particularly linebackers Mike Marry, Clarence Jackson and Ralph Williams.
“They’re making some mistakes, but they’re playing with a lot of energy,” he said.
Nutt also singled out the play of redshirt freshman cornerback Cliff Coleman.
With returning starter Marcus Temple out for the spring after sports hernia surgery, the staff has had to shuffle some people to have enough cornerbacks to practice.
Coleman is a player who could have competed for playing time last year, but a foot injury kept him on the sideline.
Minus Temple, Coleman, junior college transfer Wesley Pendleton and sophomore Charles Sawyer are getting the most work at corner.
The Rebels will practice again today and will have their first major scrimmage of spring drills Saturday morning.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600