OXFORD, Miss. -- D.T. Shackelford grew up in Alabama dreaming of playing for Tennessee.
He committed to Phillip Fulmer, the long-time coach of the Volunteers. He camped in Knoxville, visited Neyland Stadium and prepared to fulfill his dream.
Then everything changed. Fulmer was fired in November 2008 and replaced by then-Southern Cal assistant Lane Kiffin.
"I wished (Kiffin) well with the program but I just felt like my life was headed in a different direction in terms of programs and where I should be," Shackelford said. "I had to pick the right place to go over where I'd wanted to go all my life."
Ole Miss and Auburn engaged in a battle for Shackelford's signature while Kiffin worked to get Tennessee back into the linebacker's good graces.
"I spent many nights praying, asking God to guide me in the right way," Shackelford said. "I think ultimately He led me here and I couldn't have made a better decision. Sometimes you have to make the right decision over what you've been believing for so long. …I'm happy here at Ole Miss."
Shackelford is busy at Ole Miss as well. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder from Decatur, Ala., is working at every linebacker spot, essentially a starter in a rotation that includes Jonathan Cornell, Allen Walker, Joel Kight and Mike Marry. On Saturday, in Ole Miss' 43-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette, Shackelford started at defensive end. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt hinted Monday that Shackelford will have that same assignment this weekend when Ole Miss (4-5 overall, 1-4 in the Southeastern Conference) travels to Knoxville to face Tennessee (3-6, 0-5).
"It's going to be a very exciting game," Shackelford said. "I watched games there, took a visit there, a lot of different things I was able to do at Tennessee. I thought that was going to be my home but it ended up not being. I'm excited to go back up there and play."
Shackelford enters Saturday's 11 a.m. CST date with the Volunteers with 30 tackles, including 5 ½ for loss, three quarterback sacks, three hurries, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. He said the extra work he incurs to be proficient at the multitude of positions "is not exhausting."
"Right now, I actually think I'll be playing both all of my career," Shackelford said. "I've been doing this ever since high school. I'm used to it. I don't feel at a disadvantage at either. It's something I've been doing so long, I feel used to it.
"Once you get on the field, it all goes back to River City football. You see the ball, you go get it. …In college, you fit into a scheme and it's about you fit into stuff, but at the end of the day, it's about you going to make a play."
Practice is hectic. Shackelford starts the day with some work on his pass rush skills, then goes back to linebacker for pass skeleton drills before getting reps at all three linebacker spots and defensive end in team drills.
"Whatever you can do to help the team out, you do it, and you do it with all you've got and all the passion and energy you have," Shackelford said. "If it's anything to help win, then I'll do it."
REBS HOPEFUL REGARDING MASOLI: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said Ole Miss will run more tests on quarterback Jeremiah Masoli today and Tuesday before beginning to determine his status for Saturday's game at Tennessee. Masoli did not practice on Sunday.
Nutt said Masoli suffered a concussion on a touchdown run in the second quarter Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"I'd love for him to just dive over that last white line," Nutt said. "He's not built that way and he doesn't think that way, but right there as he crosses the goal line, it was helmet to helmet with that safety. It was a real good hit."
Nutt said Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dave Rader knew Masoli was hurt instantly.
"He said, 'You better go check him,'" Nutt said, "and sure enough, five minutes from that point, well, he didn't know he had scored. So that tells you. He didn't know where he was."
Nutt said Masoli was badgering him in the fourth quarter Saturday, telling the Rebels' coach he remembered he scored and remembered his birthday.
"He was ready to get back into the ballgame, but we couldn't do it," Nutt said.
CLEAR THE MECHANISM: In the 1999 film "For Love Of The Game," fictional Detroit Tigers pitcher Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) is able to "clear the mechanism" and tune out all noise and thought and focus on nothing but the catcher's mitt he's throwing to.
Ole Miss kicker Bryson Rose has a similar strategy when he takes the field.
"I just clear my mind," Rose said. "I don't think about anything. I just go out there and kick. If you're thinking about what you're doing or mechanics, you're going to think too much and something's going to go wrong. So the main thing is don't think and have no thoughts."
Rose, who made five field goals Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette, is 14-for-16 on field goal attempts this season, and he's made each of his 36 PATs.
REBEL RUMBLINGS: Linebacker Jonathan Cornell (hip) and defensive end Gerald Rivers (ankle) returned to practice on Sunday and should be able to play at Tennessee. …Ole Miss offensive tackle Bobby Massie was honored by the SEC earlier Monday as the league's offensive lineman of the week for his efforts against Louisiana-Lafayette. Nutt said he "saw this coming for the last three weeks. His practice habits have picked up. He's really intense, finishing blocks. He's our best lineman right now."