JJ Pegues and JJ Henry impressing Coach Kiffin in fall camp
OXFORD, Miss. – In the 1970’s, one of the most popular television shows was “Good Times,” and it featured a character named “J.J.” The role played by comedian Jimmie Walker had a signature line in each episode, “Dyno-mite!”
This season, Ole Miss has a pair of JJs on the roster and during fall camp, each has proven to be as explosive as Walker’s catchphrase. Defensive lineman JJ Pegues and wide receiver JJ Henry have stood out in practice and during Saturday’s first scrimmage of the fall.
JJ Pegues has chance to be ‘really big-time D-tackle’
“JJ (Pegues) has stood out the entire camp, he did a good job in the spring, but he’s really improved,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said after Saturday’s scrimmage.
“And in my opinion, he’s got a chance to be a really big-time d-tackle in this league (SEC) that’s had a million of them and better than any conference, so he’s got a chance to do that.”
Coach Lane Kiffin on JJ Pegues
Pegues is an Oxford native but played his first two seasons at Auburn. Last year, he appeared in all 13 games for the Tigers and recorded 17 tackles, two of them resulting in a loss of yardage.
The Oxford High graduate had signed with Auburn just prior to Kiffin’s arrival at Ole Miss, so it was too late to recruit him. Kiffin is certainly happy to get another chance to coach him.
“Sometimes it’s better the second time around,” the Rebels’ head coach said. “So we lost him the first time and got him back now, (Auburn) coached him up and we get him back.”
Saturday was Pegues’ first time this fall he was able to play in a contact scrimmage in front of his friends and family. Besides performing for the home folks, Pegues was looking to improve his game in the scrimmage.
“It felt really good, you know like there’s a lot of emotions going on with me just being back home, my first scrimmage back here.“
“(I’m) just trying to get the defense down and being able to work on myself, the period of me coming here and not knowing what to expect and the coaches just giving me goals and they really just put it on me to take it and have how I use it to get better or get worse,” Pegues added.
Pegues also played tight end at Auburn, which was his natural position before being converted to the other side of the ball. Being new to the program and new to the defensive line has given him a clean slate to start his Ole Miss career.
“I feel like it is just me coming back home and just being in a new system and like I said it’s like my first year playing d-line and me playing offense my whole life, I feel like everything’s a fresh start,” Pegues said.
“Which is why I like to learn a lot and not be one of the type guys already think they know because I feel like if you think you know everything, you’ll never get better but if you want to know more than what you already know, you’ll become great.”
JJ Henry taking it ‘to another level’
Greatness is what JJ Henry is striving to achieve also. After appearing in four games last season and touching the ball once – a four-yard run – he is using his limited experience to his advantage.
“I just want to stand out,” Henry said earlier in the week. “Not playing a lot last year and now I’m coming back having a year under my belt. I know the offense, and I am able to go 100 percent, knowing what I have to do.”
Henry’s patience waiting to earn playing time has impressed Kiffin.
“JJ (Henry) has really done a great job and taken it to another level,” Kiffin said.
“So, I like that because it’s an example of a guy that stays, doesn’t play as much as he’d like…. and doesn’t just take his ball and go home. You know he stayed and worked through some challenges and now performed really well.”
Coach Kiffin on JJ Henry
While biding his time, Henry said he learned from the example of some former Ole Miss receivers like Braylon Sanders and Dontario Drummond.
“At practice, I learned off those guys,” Henry said. “They would tell me tips and how to maneuver in the offense, and I’d take those tips and put them out there on the field, and it shows. I take a lot from those guys.”
Now both JJs are looking to translate their camp performances into the regular season that starts in three weeks against Troy.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.