As the days without football linger on, RebelGrove.com will break down Ole Miss' 15 most important players heading into 2012. A new spot will be revealed each weekday leading up to the first practice.
At times, we'll cheat and combine a couple names into one spot, but it's our list, so we'll do what we want. The list focuses just on the upcoming season - not future career performance.
We continue the countdown with a linebacker who needs to have a significant season for the Ole Miss defense.
Name: Mike Marry
Hometown: Clearwater, Fla.
Career Stats: 22 games, 103 tackles, three sacks
2011 Stats: 12 games, 81 tackles, two sacks
While most of this countdown has talked about a lack of depth at most positions, our next Rebel is at the deepest position on Ole Miss' roster. Junior linebacker Mike Marry has the top middle linebacker spot on the depth chart with Joel Kight likely the top reserve heading into fall camp. Marry has two letters, and Kight has three. Ralph Williams is also at that position, so middle linebacker isn't a bad spot for defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.
Marry is described as the team's defensive leader on his biography page on the official website, and he's the Rebels' most physical and active linebacker in the run game. While some other players at the position lack size, Marry is a prototypical Southeastern Conference linebacker and will need to have a productive season. Speed is the area he needs to improve, but he's healthy after struggling with injuries at times during his first two seasons.
Marry had more than two dozen Division I offers out of Largo High School, but his recruitment took a strange turn for the decorated prospect as the process moved along. Iowa State and Duke were early contenders until he officially visited Ole Miss in late January 2009 but didn't make a commitment until faxing his NLI to the Rebels on National Signing Day.
However, by that time, there was a condition: If other players were academically eligible, Marry would have to greyshirt. Bobby Massie and Tig Barksdale made it, and Marry didn't officially join Ole Miss until the following January. In another odd situation, Barksdale withdrew days after reporting due to a "medical issue," but his scholarship counted among the 25 newcomers.
Marry played in 10 games as a freshman and drew his first start about Louisiana Lafayette. Half of his 22 tackles that season were against the Ragin' Cajuns. In 2011, Marry played in 12 games with nine starts and upped his tackle total to a team-high 81 with three double-digit tackle games.
While Ole Miss has some experienced depth at linebacker, Marry needs to be the guy. He's increased his leadership, and his fellow players respond to his actions. With Marry and Kight, Ole Miss is in good position. While the greyshirt method receives a lot of criticism, Marry and starting center Evan Swindall are two examples of it working out positively.
Wommack wants to attack, and Marry is the ringleader to do that. His goal will be to stop the run and make big plays from the middle. If he stays healthy, Marry is a major force in the Ole Miss defense. With less experience up front and in the back four, Marry's steadiness is one of Ole Miss' best things entering fall camp.
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