ARLINGTON, Texas – In front of every thousand-yard rusher, there’s a man clearing the path.
For Oklahoma State tailback Keith Toston, with 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns, that man is left tackle Russell Okung (6-5, 300).
“He’s a four-year starter, and he’s developed into one of the premier tackles in the country,” OSU coach Mike Gundy said. “And he’s as impressive off the field as he is on it.”
On the field, Okung was named to two different All-America teams, was an Outland Trophy finalist and the Big 12 offensive lineman of the year.
Oklahoma State led the Big 12 and finished 24th in the nation in rushing at 191.5 yards a game.
Ole Miss gave up 140.33 rushing yards a game, sliding to sixth in the SEC after giving up 317 rush yards to Mississippi State in the season finale.
Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett likes the idea of himself and his teammates facing Okung.
“I love that. It’s a great opportunity. If you play well against an All-American who is possibly going to be the first tackle taken in the draft … if you perform good against him, what does that say about you? It’s really a challenge to what type of competitor you are. We’ll go at it. We’ll compete for the whole game, and may the best man win.”
- The Rebels go into the Cotton Bowl with a good degree of health.
Linebacker Patrick Trahan missed the early bowl practice days with a lingering problem with a tendon in his right foot.
Trahan, though, rejoined the team for the last three workouts before the Christmas break and was in full gear Sunday.
The only hold out from practice was offensive lineman John Jerry, who was suffering from inflamed hemorrhoids. Jerry had a surgery related to this problem in the off-season.
“It’s a painful thing. I’m a little sore today, but I think I’ll be all right,” he said.
At this time the injury is not expected to keep Jerry out of game.
- Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead drew high praise from NFL draft analysts after the Rebels’ 47-34 Cotton Bowl win over Texas Tech last year. Some of them had him as the No. 1 overall pick after this, his junior season.
The yards and touchdowns have been there, but the turnovers have been too. Snead, a native of nearby Stephenville, Texas, has 20 touchdown passes but 17 interceptions.
When posed with the NFL question after the Rebels’ workout at Cowboys Stadium Sunday, their first of Cotton Bowl week, Snead didn’t count out an early college departure but didn’t talk like a man with an eye on the next league.
“There are too many other things I’m focused on and wrapping up the season. There a lot of things I can improve on. I don’t think anybody’s ever played a perfect game, and I don’t think anybody ever will,” he said.
Hodge: 15 more grabs?
Shay Hodge led the SEC in receptions with 63. He’d have had at least 15 more catches if his coach’s original plan had held true.
“He’d have probably had 15 more balls if we’d have had Dexter (McCluster) at wide receiver,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said.
That was in fact where McCluster began the season, but he wasn’t getting enough touches. After moving to running back in the second half of the season he ran Ole Miss to Dallas.
“We really thought Dexter would replace Mike Wallace, and he could have done that,” said Nutt, who early on hoped to use McCluster on screens and reverses.
“After the South Carolina game I said, ‘No more.’ He gives us the best chance to win.”
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal