August 27, 2008

Eason has new bedmate, new job

Cordera Eason is man enough to admit it.

He takes a security blanket to bed at night, though it's not really a blanket, at least not in the traditional sense. His new bedmate isn't a teddy bear or a stuffed animal, either.

Eason tucks in each evening with a football, complete with a slippery red cover. The practice started after Ole Miss' spring practice ended, and the running back from Meridian, Miss., has gotten quite attached.

"I carried it around everywhere I went," Eason said. "I slept with it. I still have it at home. I still sleep with it. I never get too content. I'm superstitious, so I feel like if I forget to sleep with it, something might happen. So I carry it around. I'll carry it on the road. Everywhere I go, it's going to be with me."

The ball, Eason said, doesn't have a name, but Eason's dedication to it is a sign of the maturity he's developed and the dedication he feels for his craft.

"In the summer, I was working hard on things I was messing up on, like holding onto the ball," Eason said. "I got more into my playbook and more into my practices. There are other things besides running the ball and I've got to do other things, like blocking and catching."

The hard work has paid off, as Eason will start Saturday's season-opener against Memphis at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

"It's an honor to have the spot, but at any given moment, it can be taken away," Eason said. "I don't want to get the big head with the situation."

It wasn't supposed to take this long for Eason to make an impact on the Rebels' program. However, he struggled with weight and with ball security and seemed to occupy a spot in former coach Ed Orgeron's doghouse. In 21 games as a Rebel, Eason has 10 carries for 21 yards.

"I just can't wait until the game," Eason said. "I've waited two years. It won't be my first experience coming out here and seeing 60,000 (fans). I saw 60,000 before, but this will be my first experience with coming out and seeing 60,000 and actually starting. That's a big difference when you have the starting role. I just have to play the game I know how to play and do my job."

Eason emerged for spring practice as the No. 1 tailback, but all he heard about in the ensuing months was the imminent arrival of three freshmen tailbacks -- Enrique Davis, Devin Thomas and Brandon Bolden.

"I know the media has to do their thing," Eason said, laughing. "So it's nothing personal, but the whole time, I just knew I was going to work hard and try to keep my spot and just do what I could do and do the things I could control, like holding onto the ball and stuff like that. So far, I've been doing pretty good with that and can take that into the game and throughout the season."

Even with all of the hype, Eason said the freshmen running backs surpassed his expectations.

"Enrique has been doing a good job but Brandon is the underrated one," Eason said. "He was under the radar. He came in with a chip on his shoulder and he's been picking up on everything quick. He comes to me for advice and he's really impressed me so far. He's physical but as a freshmen, there are things you have to learn like how to block, how to run behind your pads, don't get too high and things like that. I try to teach him the little things, things that (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) tried to teach me when he was here. I just try to carry that over and be a mentor myself."

It's another sign of that aforementioned maturity and a reason why the soft-spoken Eason has emerged as a leader on the Ole Miss team.

"I never lose confidence," Eason said. "I knew we had good freshmen coming in and I knew we had Derrick Davis behind me. I just never for once just thought, 'I'm guaranteed this spot,' so I was just working hard like I was the No. 5 tailback, working hard all the time and doing whatever the coaches wanted me to do."

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