August 24, 2010 11:34:00 AM
SCOOBA -- Working hard wasn''t enough for Johnny Cockrell.
Entering his sophomore season with the East Mississippi Community College football team, Cockrell realized he needed to do something to move up the depth chart.
The former Columbus High School standout decided doing more was the answer.
"I wanted to be ahead of the game by the time the coaches got back (from recruiting)," Cockrell said.
In workouts as often as two to three times a day, Cockrell said he would do six more 110s after doing 15 after the initial set. He would add two more each day after that.
Instead of doing three sets of eight in the weight room, he would do three sets of 10, and then add on from there.
"I feel real prepared because last year I didn''t expect to get a lot of time," Cockrell said. "I had to focus on my work and getting my technique down. Since then, I feel myself getting better, and next week I should be ready for the game."
Cockrell said he has increased his bench press from 245 in high school. As a freshman at EMCC, he bench-pressed 275. This year, his maximum is up to 345. He has trimmed his best time in the 40-yard dash from high 4.5 to low 4.5.
That improvement has helped raise Cockrell''s confidence. He also feels he better understands the position thanks to all of the playing time he had on offense in high school. Now he is even more comfortable.
EMCC associate head coach/defensive coordinator William Jones said Cockrell has worked hard since the end of last season to put himself into position to play a bigger role. He said he has watched as Cockrell has done more and more in conditioning and in the weight room to prepare himself.
"Johnny is probably the most improved player from the end of last year to this year," Jones said. "He just understands how to play the position better."
Jones said the Lions moved Cockrell, who played primarily running back and safety in high school, to cornerback and he has benefited from the year of experience. Last year, Cockrell said playing time on defense and on special teams, but this year he figures to be one of the players at the head of the line.
"He has gotten himself in great shape," Jones said. "He is extremely competitive, and he has great receivers to practice against every day.
"He is an unbelievable competitor. He wants to be the best he can be in everything he does. He is a good student, he is a good kid, and he is an extremely good football player. His best football will come after he leaves us because he will continue to improve and get better playing his position. He is a Division I player with SEC potential if he plays well this season."Cockrell, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound cornerback, is expected to graduate in December, which could make him even more attractive to potential recruiters. His speed (4.5 or less in the 40-yard dash) and his understanding of what is expected of a corner back also add to his potential.
Cockrell said he would like to continue his football career at a four-year school. He said Mississippi State, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Alabama, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham are just some of the schools that interest him. He plans to do anything he can to pique their interest, even if means working twice as hard as everybody else.
"If they need me on offense, I will help any way I can," Cockrell said. "I really think all of this hard work will pay off at the end of the season."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.