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April 12, 2010
OXFORD, Miss. - When spring practices end on Saturday, Ole Miss is going to get back to heavy lifting in the weight room.
Alex Washington will do plenty of the same. But his offseason - and his role in the Rebels' starting lineup - will likely be determined on his ability to resist the urge to lift a light utensil to his mouth.
Washington has been working as Ole Miss' No. 1 left offensive guard this spring. But at 350 pounds, the rising junior from Monroe, La., doesn't have the endurance and quickness necessary to excel in the Southeastern Conference. He knows it, too.
"I think I need to lose about 20 pounds, and I think (Ole Miss strength and conditioning) Coach (Don) Decker is going to do a good job in the summer helping me lose the weight," Washington said. "I'll be able to move better and operate out of my stance a lot better and be able to last the whole game against good competition."
"To be a functional player, to play in heat, especially early, to stay on the field for 75 plays and 35 minutes, you have to be in great condition," Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Mike Markuson said. "You just do. We've got all summer and the rest of the spring. He wants to do it. He'll do right. He's going to do that."
"That's the only thing that's holding him back," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt added. "If he loses 20, 25 pounds, he'll be a different guy. With the weight on, Emmanuel McCray and Michael Brown are on his heels. He has it. He can do it."
If he does, Washington figures to play a big role in an Ole Miss offensive line that must replace three starters - John Jerry, Reid Neely and Daverin Geralds - from last year's 9-4 team.
"He's very strong," Markuson said. "There are certain plays and certain protections that we can use that help him facilitate what he can do," Markuson said. "That's the whole key. What can these guys do? Everything we have in our playbook, we might not use. We install it. We present it. Now what's our bread and butter? We've got a good idea, but there might be a few things we don't use based on who we have, backs and receivers included."
Part of that identity appears to be an emphasis on being physical. The Rebels' front, which features tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie, center A.J. Hawkins and guards Washington and Rishaw Johnson, is plenty athletic. The group has also seemed to develop a collective meanness in recent practices as well.
"I think it's just the reps against the good guys (on defense) is helping us," Washington said. "It comes from just knowing your assignment more and just having the will to just go out and do what we're supposed to do."