August 5, 2008

Tillman willing to move to help Rebels win

Tracy Rocker has referred to Marcus Tillman as the "silent storm."

Ole Miss' standout defensive line hasn't heard that one from Rocker. Instead, Tillman said laughing, he's been called a different name by his new position coach.

"He calls me 'Cane,'" Tillman said. "I guess because the way I run sometimes, he said I look like an old man with a cane."

Tillman, a 6-foot-4, 260-pounder from McCall Creek (Franklin County), Miss., knows why his silence would be noticed. On the field and in the meeting rooms, Tillman said, he's too busy focusing on his assignments to expend any energy chatting.

"You always see guys that have all types of talent, but you can't trust them to put them on the field," Tillman said. "You're afraid they won't do something. They have talent in the world but you have to have something up there (pointing to his head)."

Tillman's knowledge of the game and his attention in the meeting room are two of the big reasons he's been moved from defensive end to defensive tackle in the first week of fall camp. Tillman, who has started 23 of his 24 games in an Ole Miss uniform, has been manning Ted Laurent's post as Laurent rehabilitates from arthroscopic knee surgery.

"I was told that it was temporary, but it just depends on how everything goes," Tillman said. "I feel like I can play it."

Tillman played some defensive tackle as a true freshman in 2006, recording 22 tackles and two sacks. Last season, Tillman failed to register a sack from his defensive end post, but he had 41 tackles.

"I think I'm more comfortable out there (at end) with my weight, and that's what I've always played," Tillman said.

Of course, he'll do what Rocker asks him to do. First, that's Tillman's nature. Secondly, he has too much respect _ and maybe a little fear _ for Rocker to put his own desires in front of those of his coaches.

"You can tell from the jump with coaches that have played, I don't know, there's just something about them, they seem mean," Tillman said. "You can just sense it about him, the way he talks when we're out there on the field practicing, you can tell he went through some stuff and he knows what he's talking about. It took everybody a little time to get used to him, but now everything is good and we know what he expects."

While Rocker rides his group hard, Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt admits its one of the deepest and most talented units on the Rebels' roster. Tillman agrees with Nutt, though he acknowledges that the Rebels can and should improve up front.

"I think the sky's the limit with this group," Tillman said. "We're all talented. Even the backups, even the twos, when they get put in there, I mean, they can start. I think we're very talented up front and the sky's the limit when we play as one.

"I guess we have grown together. We've been through a lot of things, a lot of coaches and a lot of stuff. We kind of know each other -- me and Greg (Hardy) and Peria (Jerry) and all of us, we've pretty much always known each other. We're going to each other's houses all the time and stuff like that."

Tillman hopes he and his defensive line mates can gather one day at one of their homes and celebrate a postseason berth, something that hasn't happened in Oxford since Eli Manning led Ole Miss to the Cotton Bowl in January 2004. Will it happen?

"It's kind of hard to say," Tillman said. "This is the second day of camp, but going off the summer workouts and stuff, I think it's starting to come together. We're getting there and by the end of this camp, I think we'll be able to answer that question."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!