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OXFORD, Miss. – Tony Conner is no stranger to being a vocal leader on the Ole Miss defense, and with five games left in the 2016 season the senior huskie is taking responsibility for making sure his teammates are in the right spots.
Defensively this season, Ole Miss has found itself in a few bad alignments that have led to explosive plays by Rebels’ opponents. The team has struggled at stopping the run, and Conner feels that stems largely from players being out of position as the play is unfolding. The Batesville, Mississippi native noted that he and some of the other veterans have been focusing on working with the less-experienced players on positioning before the snap of the football.
“Once we get the play call from the sideline, the linebackers have to get the plays for the secondary and the d-line set up. We’ve got to do more communication out there,” Conner explained.
Earlier this week, Conner stressed the importance of helping the younger players understand the alignments.
Tony Conner on defensive communication
With it being Conner’s final season in Oxford, he wants to make sure he helps leave a solid foundation for the young guys on defense who will be the future of the program. He is currently playing with many of them in the secondary.
Nickelback Montrell Custis, cornerbacks Jaylon Jones and Jalen Julius, free safety Zedrick Woods, and Myles Hartsfield and Deontay Anderson who play rover, will most likely anchor the secondary once Conner and the other four seniors (Tony Bridges, Carlos Davis, Derrick Jones and Kailo Moore) depart.
Before the 2017-18 season gets here, Conner wants to help prepare the young guys to face adversity and play with a sense of urgency—and this season is a perfect time to do so as Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) is under .500 for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
“At times you might face bad times. You might face good times,” the 6-foot, 213-pound Conner said. “I’ve had success here, but as of right now, I can’t say it’s been a bad year, but you live and learn from bad things. You’ve just got to move on as being a leader to the young guys.”
Sounding like an elder statesman of sorts, Conner explained what he and the veteran Landsharks are hoping to accomplish.
“We’ve seen what they can do (against Arkansas). As things go, this is the SEC West, so anything is possible, but this week we will be more focused and physical on the run.”
Ole Miss and Auburn will kick off at 6:15 p.m. (CT) in Oxford at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.