It has taken more than two months and half the season, but opportunity has again found Charles Sawyer.
When practice was cranking up in August, there was concern that an injured Sawyer would not play in the opener at Vanderbilt and if he did whether he’d play effectively.
He made little impact against the Commodores, and his season sailed further south. Held out for healing purposes against Southeast Missouri, he was poised to return at Texas until his arrest on a DWI charge following that game presented a new and different hurdle for a player viewed as a team leader.
In the meantime, sophomore Mike Hilton, frisky and physical, adjusted quickly to a move to corner and latched onto the job.
However, one man’s bad hamstring – this week, Hilton is ailing – is another man’s chance, and fate has again opened a door for Sawyer.
Opportunity has a way finding guys who keep their wits about them and work hard when things aren’t going their way. Apparently Sawyer has done that. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze described Sawyer as humble and emotional in the conversation in which he confessed his arrest to his coach.
He was granted forgiveness but was not granted the status among his peers he’d previously held. He’ll earn that back if he can do his part in neutralizing two very talented LSU receivers this Saturday.
Hilton and freshman Derrick Jones were the starting corners against Texas A&M. Jones made his first start, because he’s a gifted 6-foot-3 athlete, and there were real concerns about A&M’s 6-foot-5 receiver Mike Evans.
Jones played sparingly, however, and it was often Sawyer in the game, making things difficult for Evans.
Here’s Freeze: “(Charles) had a pretty solid game. He gave up too much cushion a couple of times, but he did not get beat. He played extremely hard and sound.”
Sawyer has been an integral part of the team for most of his career. Last year he started three games at rover before moving to corner, and his nine passes defended in conference play were the fourth-most in the league.
In the Rebels’ dismal 2011 season he was a bright spot and represented Ole Miss as a finalist for the Conerly Trophy. He finished third in the SEC with 13 passes defended.
The pendulum has swung back Sawyer’s way now. The health concerns earlier this season were not his fault, the DWI was.
With little depth behind him against LSU, he can distance himself from both by going out and disrupting one of the league’s most efficient passing games.
An Ole Miss defense ravaged by injuries could certainly use that kind of performance from a senior who’s been around the block.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at insideolemisssports.com.