It didn’t take long for Wesley Pendleton to realize he was no longer in the minor leagues.
Ole Miss’ junior cornerback spent his fall blanketing receivers in the junior college ranks. The former Copiah-Lincoln CC, Miss., standout didn’t have a problem getting through practices and games.
Life wasn’t easy, but it was a lot smoother than what he experienced in his first day of spring camp at an SEC school.
“The first day of workouts, I thought I was ready to go home,” Pendleton said.
“I thought it was going to be faster and harder, but not like this.”
He was ready to leave because his body wasn’t used to the fast pace nature of practice. He wasn’t used to running from drill to drill and going through play after play. His conditioning stank and it didn’t help that he didn’t know the defensive plays his new coaches were throwing at him. He didn’t feel up to going through the rest of practice let alone another day of it.
But Pendleton didn’t quit. His coaches wouldn’t let him and his buddies back at Copiah-Lincoln wouldn’t either. Some tough love from secondary coach Keith Burns helped him realize that if he wanted to advance his playing career, he had to get through the riggers of big school practice.
His old JUCO buddies told him to keep his head up and to think about how he made it to the SEC.
With some extra help from the trainers, who aided in maintaining a healthier standard of living and better workout habits, Pendleton trudged through the next few practices. There was no magical transformation, but Pendleton said things started to click shortly after the first week of practice.
At a position desperate for help, Pendleton has provided a recent spark for the defensive backfield and Burns, who had admits he had no real expectations of Pendleton before spring, said he’s been pleasantly surprised with his progress.
“Wesley is a guy that I heard nothing of good things about and he’s done nothing but impress me,” Burns said.
“A lot of corners can cover, but not a lot can come out of nowhere and make a play. There’s been times this spring where it looks like, ‘Oh, here were go. They’re going to hit the long ball on us,’ and he covers ground and makes a play from nowhere.”
With only three cornerbacks entering the spring with any real field experience with the Rebels -- one being senior Marcus Temple who was already out for the spring after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia -- Pendleton said he’s working that much harder to make sure he contributes this fall.
Strong pushes from sophomore Charles Sawyer, who started four games in 2010, and youngsters Cliff Coleman and Frank Crawford, are helping elevate his work habits.
There’s still growing to do for Pendleton, who bails out his raw coverage skills with keen instinct and athleticism. He knows he’s a work in progress and with the spring game looming Saturday, there’s more he can learn.
What he’s proud of is the progress he’s made since his first few stumbles with his new program. Pendleton said he feels comfortable enough that he's even giving his old JUCO friends pointers from what he's learned from spring.
Pendleton’s got the confidence now, and he intends for it to bleed over into summer and fall workouts.
“It’s my time to make plays,” he said, “and I think I’ve been doing it.”