Cathedral grad hopes to make impact in Ole Miss secondary

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 12, 2001

OXFORD – A couple of things that you will hear repeated numerous times about the Ole Miss Rebels this season are the words – inexperience and youth.

Looking at it from a different perspective, it’s easy to see that Ole Miss will be looking to its younger players for support. They will have to mature on the run, and a number of those younger, inexperienced players will be given the chance to step up and show coaches and fans what they are made of.

One of those players finds himself in the thick of things in the Rebels defensive secondary. Natchez native Von Hutchins (5-foot-11, 180-pounds) showed up big in the spring, impressing coaches enough to merit the Jeff Hamm Memorial Award as the Most Improved Defensive Player in spring workouts. Talking to head coach David Cutcliffe, he and his staff expect more of the same this fall.

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&uot;Von had as good a spring as anyone out there on defense,&uot; Cutcliffe said at the recent Ole Miss Media Days last week. &uot;He’s a great leader, a smart football player and an outstanding athlete. What I like most about Von, though, is that he can hit you and play physical in the running game. He’s also a very athletic pass defender, but that ability to play physical is important in our new defensive scheme.&uot;

The new scheme Cutcliffe spoke of is getting a lot of ink in the press thanks to the defensive stylings of first-year defensive coordinator Don Lindsey. He replaces Art Kaufman from a year ago, who sometimes was criticized for having to conservative of a defensive style. By all accounts that won’t be the case for Lindsey.

&uot;He’s a very exciting coach to work for,&uot; Hutchins said. &uot;He likes to have fun and get physical. It’s always fun to play an up-tempo style of defense like he brings to the table.&uot;

In the secondary before the start of fall practices, Hutchins has been tabbed as a starter at the free safety position.

The Rebels will return seniors Syniker Taylor, who will be moved to the cornerback position, and Justin Coleman, also at cornerback, but the only other upperclassman in the bunch with significant playing time will be junior Desmon Johnson.

&uot;We’re going to move Syniker to the corner so that leaves us with some people at safety we think can help us,&uot; Cutcliffe said. &uot;Marcus Woodson, Kerry Johnson and Matt Grier all have chances to play. Obviously Von will be in that mix and perhaps a few others. The thing we’re going to do is open up some competition at safety and certainly create some competition at corner putting Syniker there.&uot;

&uot;Last in the West,&uot; has become a sort of battle cry for the Rebels in the early going. A label like that hanging over will always motivate a team it seems. Hutchins doesn’t ignore the obvious, however. He knows their plate is going to be full in the secondary, and when it comes to the SEC, they can expect the cream of the crop week in and week out.

&uot;As a whole we’re going to be young and inexperienced,&uot; Hutchins said. &uot;We’ve just got to come out, and be ready to play every week because of that. When you’re in this position you’ve got to like coming out and playing against competition like (there is in the SEC). The Alabama’s, the LSU’s and the Georgia’s, they’ve all got great receivers and you’ve got to be ready to respond to that.&uot;