Lighter Powe making big move for Rebels

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

One of the biggest questions about one of the biggest players at Ole Miss has been answered this spring with promising results.

Defensive tackle Jerrell Powe appears to be in some of the best physical shape of his career. He said he's lost more than 20 pounds from where he was at the Cotton Bowl last season and hopes to keep losing. He said he's down to 321 and has a target weight of 310 by the fall.

"I don't think [the weight] is hard to get off, but it's hard to turn down a meal after practice," joked Powe, a highly rated prospect coming out of high school who had to sit out two years for academic reasons.

He admits that the layoff hurt him more than he thought it would, but that everything is starting to come back more naturally this spring.

"I'm a lot quicker, but I'm still getting the rust off," Powe said.

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has noticed a big difference.

"He's a lot harder to block in these scrimmages," Nutt said. "He's penetrating and doing what we need him to do. He has a lot more confidence. [Last year], he just wasn't ready after being away from the game.

"Now, after a year in the offseason weight room with coach [Don] Decker, the weight loss and more knowledge of what we want done, it makes it a lot easier."

If Powe does indeed emerge as a solid contributor next season, the Rebels should be as good and as deep as anybody in the country on the defensive line.

Tackles Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott and Justin Smith return along with both starting ends from last season, Kentrell Lockett and Marcus Tillman.

And that's not even counting end Greg Hardy, who had a team-high 8.5 sacks in nine games last season. He's been sidelined this spring while recovering from foot surgery, but should be out of the walking boot later this month and running again.