Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt took the Rebels out of full pads last Tuesday - normally a full contact…
Reid Neely -
The Rebel football team - now 4-4 - has an opportunity to accomplish something quite significant in November, but veteran Offensive Lineman Reid Neely feels it would be a huge mistake to look any further ahead than this Saturday when SEC foe Auburn invades Oxford for an 11:30 a.m. match he believes will be blood and guts trench warfare. "Every year we play them it's a guarantee they are going to be the biggest, most physical defense we face," Reid said. "They have those big, fast boulders up front, active hard-hitting linebackers and a tough secondary. "The veterans on this team know what's facing us. We aren't looking at their record, which is worse than it usually is when we play them, or home field advantage or anything like that. We know how tough they will be. We'll be ready to go - we better be." Neely's year has not been what he was hoping for to this point, but now things seem to be falling in place for him. Recapping, Reid won the starting left guard position in spring but in early August he felt something happening with the Achilles tendon in his left leg. It was frightening because, you will recall, Reid had torn the right Achilles tendon two years before and had to sit out a whole year. "It scared me when it happened because all I could think about was another whole year of rehab," Reid noted. "I didn't want to go through that again and I can still feel the affect, a little, of the torn one. Fortunately, it was just a strain this year. "But obviously I have a predisposition to being tight in that area so I do a lot of calf stretching and try to keep it loose." The only problem when he returned was that 6th-year senior Darryl Harris, who had taken Reid's place during Neely's injury, was doing a good job and Neely couldn't get much of an opening except starting the Florida game because RG Maurice Miller had missed a team meeting. "It's tough watching, but Darryl had earned the position. I missed a lot of work in camp and it was the right decision by the coaches for him to be starting," Reid says. "I just had to work hard and stay ready if anything happened and I needed to step in. I played a lot at Florida and then some at Alabama." During the Alabama game, Harris tore ligaments in his elbow and was not able to effectively play against Arkansas. Reid got another start and the OL - with him in the lineup - performed well, asserting themselves and having, perhaps, their best game of the season thus far. "The Florida game settled me down and got my feet wet for the year, so I was not jittery for Arkansas," Neely explained. "We had a good week of practice leading up to that game so we were confident. "As a whole, the OL stepped it up against Arkansas, but it was more than just the guys up front. The backs were really hitting the holes quickly and running hard. They were going downhill quickly. It was an emotional game - both teams played as good as either had played all year. It was a hard-fought battle that we are glad we won." The theme of the week for the Rebels has been the opportunity ahead of them to play meaningful games in November. "We have to take it step-by-step and not get ahead of ourselves, but there's a different feeling on this team right now than in past Novembers because at least this time we have a chance to finish with a winning season and go to a bowl," he added. "That's exciting to all of us and it has motivated us all. Knowing we have a chance should elevate our play and add something to our intensity level." Neely, however, knows Auburn, albeit a struggling Auburn, looms. "We know what is facing us and it's a tough road. We have to play well to keep this dream going," he closed. And Reid Neely will be in thick of things in the trenches, not watching from the sidelines.
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