There has been much made about the early season struggles the Rebels have faced at the cornerback position, but in the past two weeks, sophomore Mike Hilton has eased that pain a little.
It started in fall camp with starters junior Senquez Golson and senior Charles Sawyer not seeing much action due to lingering injuries. When the season rolled around, neither were in game shape enough to look like themselves.
Golson has since begun to look like his old self. Sawyer has since been suspended. So the cornerback position has been razor thin early in the season.
After the Vanderbilt game, Hilton, who was the starting huskie in the season opener, was moved over to cornerback. The emergence of freshman Tony Conner allowed the coaches to feel comfortable making the move that early in the year.
“It felt good to be back where I’m used to playing,” Hilton said of the move. “It wasn’t much action, but I got back into the rhythm and got a little more confident.”
Hilton wasn’t tested much against Southeast Missouri because they run an option offense, but he had plenty of opportunities in the Rebels’ 44-23 win at Texas this past weekend. In the matchup, Hilton struggled, as did the entire Rebel secondary, in the first half, but the Fayetteville, Ga., native played very well in the second half.
“We came out and played the second half better, and we came out with the win,” Hilton said.
On Monday, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze noted that Hilton was his guy at corner opposite of Golson and that it was “his spot.”
“It takes my confidence to another level because now it’s SEC ball from now on,” Hilton said. “So now, I feel a little bit more comfortable. I’m just coming into every game with more confidence.”
The next four games for the Rebels will be Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU. That means Hilton and the Rebel corners will be facing the likes of A.J. McCarron (Alabama), Zack Mettenberger (LSU) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M) at quarterback. Not to mention facing receivers like Amari Cooper (Alabama), Mike Evans (Texas A&M) and Odell Beckham, Jr. (LSU).
“We’re going to get some action now,” Hilton said. “Those guys like to throw it deep, and they have playmakers on the outside. It’s going to be fun, but we know we have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Now that Hilton is back in his natural position, he will be able to grow. He noted that he is used to being physical after his time playing huskie, but that he will have to improve his man coverage.
The faster he can get adjusted and play at a high level, the better off the Rebel defense will be. His improvement in that area is vital to the success of the Rebel secondary.
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