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March 27, 2012
OXFORD, Miss. -- Nick Parker admits that he often thought about quitting football last season.
His role was so miniscule that he didn't garner a single carry on a team that struggled to run the football with any consistency.
Parker was overweight and sluggish, seemingly lost on Ole Miss' depth chart.
"I thought about that real hard," Parker said. "I feel like if I had given it up, I'd be a quitter. I ain't no quitter. So I just kept fighting."
Months later, Parker is 20 pounds slimmer, lighter on his feet and in contention for a decent-sized role in the Rebels' spread offensive scheme.
"They just need me to play hard every down, every snap," Parker said Tuesday following the Rebels' 2 ?-hour full-pads practice, Ole Miss' fourth session of the spring. "The spot is open for anybody. I feel like I'm going to get a good chance. The spot is open. Whoever wants it is going to go grab it."
Parker, who is listed on the Ole Miss roster at 235 pounds, said he's hoping to lose another 10-15 pounds off his 5-foot-11 frame.
MATHEWS BACK, LITERALLY: Brishen Mathews doesn't want to talk about his back anymore. He's asked about the injury that cost him virtually all of last season, of course, but the junior defensive back is ready to move on.
"Right now, it's behind me, literally," Mathews said. "I'm not worrying about it, because as soon as it comes in your mind, I'm scared to come in. It's behind me. I'm leaving it there."
Mathews suffered a L5 injury covering a punt in Ole Miss' win over Southern Illinois last September.
"I got blindsided," Mathews said. "My torso was going the opposite way my lower half was going. That instant pressure crushed my L5."
The injury ended Mathews' season, setting the stage for a painful, frustrating fall. At 6 a.m. every day, Mathews received an hour of treatment. He had to make frequent trips to Memphis to receive shots in his upper abdomen.
"It was not fun stuff, but by far, the most uncomfortable situation was just not being out there on the field on Saturday," Mathews said. "It was still running through me. I was just freshly injured. I wanted to get back out there but I could barely get up the steps. It hurt at first, but later on, I just had to realize I had to get stronger and do what I can so I'll be ready for the spring, which is now. I'm as ready as can be."
Mathews worked at the starting husky spot Tuesday in a scheme that the Monticello, Ark., native said fits him perfectly.
"I'm trying to do everything right and everything to please the coaches," Mathews said. "I'm just trying to do my job and help the man next to me, the man behind me and play ball."
REBEL RUMBLINGS: Ole Miss wide receiver Nick Brassell did not practice yet again Tuesday. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels "had planned to have him out today a little bit, but we had a little setback. We just want to be consistent with what we say. If we say something, we mean it. We're going to be consistent right now. There's no gray areas. It's either black or white."
Aaron Morris moved inside to left guard Tuesday, opening a spot for junior Emmanuel McCray. Freeze said the Rebels are simply looking for the best five up front. Defensive tackle Bryon Bennett was wearing a protective boot on his foot Tuesday after suffering a high ankle sprain Sunday. Freeze said Bennett is day-to-day. Linebacker Mike Marry has a hamstring injury that limited his participation Tuesday. Jimel Judon moved from offensive line to defensive line on Tuesday, part of a plan to see where the former baseball standout best fits, Freeze said. Defensive end C.J. Johnson was wearing a club on his right hand Tuesday to protect him from a ligament/tendon injury suffered over the weekend.
Montgomery (Carver), Ala., quarterback Jeremy Johnson attended practice Tuesday. Johnson is a two-sport star who wants to play football and basketball at the collegiate level. He spent some time with Ole Miss forward Murphy Holloway during the Rebels' gridiron practice. Former Ole Miss stars/current NFL standouts Michael Oher (Ravens), Jerrell Powe (Chiefs) and Jamarca Sanford (Vikings) checked out the Rebels' practice Tuesday, as did former Ole Miss quarterback Romaro Miller and offensive lineman Reid Neely.
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