Plugging Up The Middle

Plugging Up The Middle

Though the defensive line is replacing several starters this season, Coach Johnson believes it will be one of the strengths of the team. One big reason has been the emergence of Rakeem Nunez, sophomore defensive lineman who has picked up his game and become an anchor for the defensive line. He talked about the match-up with Nebraska and practice today in this interview with GoldenEaglePride.com.

Rakeem Nunez is as nice of a guy as you'll meet off the field, but get him on that football field, and he is not one you want to take on if you are an offensive lineman.

Big, strong, fast, physical, and a little bit nasty is how his teammates have described him on the field. He has all the tools to become one of the great defensive linemen that Southern Miss has grown accustom to in years past.

He talked about practice today after the Eagles moved to a morning work-out because of Isaac moving in over the next 24 hours.

"Practice went real well today, we got after it and worked on our drills and just refined a few things," he said. "For Nebraska I see the D-line really wreaking havoc, running around, and getting into the backfield.

Coach Johnson said Nunez has become one of the most consistent players on the defense, and he is really anchoring the defensive line.

"The biggest thing is my Mom is there for me, and every day I wake up and want to work hard and do it for her," he said. "The defensive linemen have been pushing me as well.

"Khyri, Jamie, Khalid, we all go hard every day, so I don't think I stand-out. We are all working hard as a unit."

The big lineman feels the defensive line has improved in several areas from last season.

"We've been working on staying lateral because last season we did a lot of downhill movement," he said. "This year we are working on staying lateral and staying with our keys and that is going real good."

Nunez added some weight, mostly muscle, in a huge off-season work out.

"I had lost some weight after last season, but I gained it back after Coach Maples program, I have really put on some muscle," he added.

He'll need it, because the Nebraska line has a tradition of being big and physical.

"Yeah, we've watched a lot of film on them and they are really good," he said. "They play physical and like to cut, but we've got something for that."

The hostile enviornment is one Nunez said the Eagles know and expect.

"We love coming in as the underdog," he said. "We won't be rattled. We'll come in there cool, calm, and collected and do what we were coached to do.

"They are a great team, and we have to focus on every play. They are capeable of big things on offense, so we can't lose focus because on any play they can go the distance."

His experience from last year has given him an understanding of what he'll be facing this season.

"I know how the game tempo is so that helps me a lot," he said. "We practice so fast, that the game tempo is actually slower so I'm not nervous about that."

Practice time the rest of the week is still uncertain as the Eagles brace for Tropical Storm/ Hurricane Isaac to move on shore. They kick it off at 2:30 in Lincoln, Nebraska against the Cornhuskers in a game that can be seen on ESPN2 or ABC.

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