July 21, 2008

Eason trying to hang onto ball, job

It's not that Cordera Eason isn't willing to confront his own flaws.

However, Ole Miss' junior tailback doesn't want to talk and think about his occasional problems with ball security so much that it becomes a mental bugaboo that ruins the season he's looked forward to for so long.

Still, Eason, whose Ole Miss career has been plagued _ mostly in practice _ by a tendency to fumble, hasn't run from the problem this offseason. Instead, he's tried to walk the fine line of working on his problems without letting them paralyze him.

"I've been doing some things, drills and stuff, in the offseason to help me keep the ball," Eason said during an interview with media last week. "They gave me a slippery ball to hold and sleep with at night and keep with me at all times. I walk around with a ball most of the time. I'm trying to help me improve holding onto the ball and helping me with my game.

"Coach (Derrick Nix) told me my running style is I think about it too much and when you think about it, that's when it happens. You have to make it second nature. The way I run the ball, I try to run aggressively and I try not to think about and sometimes I get carried away and move the ball away from my ball and that's why I have incidents with fumbles and things like that. I have to try not to think about it and make it second nature. It's the way I run. Sometimes I try to get too aggressive in the hole and the ball gets away from my body and that's when defenders come from behind you and know the ball loose and you lose control. Now I try not to think about it."

Fumbling hasn't been Eason's only problem since his much-ballyhooed arrival at Ole Miss from Meridian, Miss. Weight has been an issue as well. Eason met that challenge head-on this offseason, as well, and he looks strong and svelte as he gets ready to go into August drills as the Rebels' starting tailback.

"Last year, I came into season weighing about 240, 245," Eason said. "I just didn't feel good at that weight. I had to drop a couple of pounds. I've lost about 20, 25 pounds and gotten down to 220, 225 pounds, and as of now, I feel really good at this weight. I feel like I can do all the stuff I used to do. I'm just bringing back my old days back in junior high when I could just move real quick. I had to get back to my old ways and drop a couple of pounds and get back to how I was used to playing.

"I had a strict diet. I couldn't eat after 7 o'clock, stuff like that. It was a sacrifice and it was hard for me, but after awhile, I kind of got used to the routine and it became second nature. I went on it for five or six weeks and it helped me out a lot."

Eason said the diet actually made him stronger.

"My squat's been up a lot _ like 50 pounds _ and I guess I turned all that fat into lean muscle and with the help of some coaching around here, I dropped a couple of pounds and it helped me maintain my strength at the same time."

Eason knows he must have a strong August to go into the Aug. 30 opener against Memphis at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as the Rebels' go-to back. Ole Miss signed three standout running backs in February and two _ Enrique Davis and Brandon Bolden will likely get significant chances to unseat Eason if he falters at all. A third signee, Devin Thomas is coming back from an ankle injury and figures to be a redshirt candidate.

"May the best man win," Eason said. "It's a friendly competition between us. We all know we're competing for the same spot, but I'm competing to keep the No. 1 starting spot and they're competing to try to take it. In the offense we run, just one back isn't going to do it. There's going to be a rotation in the offense to get you in the groove. Whoever gets it, gets it, but I'm going to compete to keep it."

Eason is just happy to have a chance at significant playing time after playing primarily special teams in his first two years at Ole Miss. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Bruce Hall are gone now, meaning the job is his to lose and a spot in the rotation _ at the very least _ seems all but assured.

"I waited two years to get the opportunity and they put it in my hands," Eason said. "It's up to me to lose it and it's up to me to keep. I feel really excited going into the season. I just can't get too content. I have to continue to work hard and let everything fall into place."

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