IRVING, Texas - Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Trahan was a highly decorated recruit when he signed with Auburn out of high school.
But upon leaving Auburn, enrolling in junior college and arriving at Ole Miss out of shape before the 2008 season, Trahan has basically had one season prove his worth to NFL scouts.
"I just pray about it and hope everything works out," he says.
He actually jump-started that one season with a solid game in last year's Cotton Bowl, his fourth-quarter sack of Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell for a safety one of the Rebels' more memorable plays in a 47-34 win.
Trahan says he feels better than he has felt at any time this month as he's battled through a problem with a tendon in his right foot.
Even with the injury he was huge down the stretch for the Ole Miss. Against LSU he had six tackles and three tackles for loss, one of them a solo shot on a screen pass that help thwart the Tigers' late comeback.
At Mississippi State Trahan had 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception.
He goes into the game as the Rebels' fourth-leading tackler with 65 stops. He's hoping to go out with a big game.
"This is a big stage. I think I can definitely get some good looks after this game. Everything I hear is mostly good, and at the combine I should be able to answer some questions that people have."
'Punisher' at free safety
Oklahoma State free safety Lucien Antoine remembers a peaceful childhood in Haiti.
He left the country for Florida a couple of years before the political unrest of 2004 that led to an overturn of government.
"It was way better when I was there. As a kid, you don't pay attention to things like that. It was rough, but not too rough like a lot of people think. I had fun going to school, and it was a fun environment for me."
Stillwater has been pretty good for Antoine too.
He only began football as a high school senior at the urging of family members who believed he'd fit the sport because of the physical nature he brought to the basketball court.
"I would foul out all the time," Antoine laughingly recalls, as he charms with his accent.
He walked on at a junior college and after a successful career there was offered a chance to play Oklahoma State.
At 6-1, 215, Antoine was injured in the season opener against Georgia and has played much of the season at less than full strength. Through it all he's totaled six tackles for loss, an interception, two sacks and three forced fumbles.
"He's just a fearless player," OSU defensive coordinator Bill Young said. "They call him the 'Punisher' and rightfully so. He just blows things up."
Nutt: 'Give me the backup'
It was interesting to note that when Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy were asked what players off the other team they might covet, Nutt went with a backup at tailback, not the starter.
"Their backs, boy that Kendall Hunter is a good-looking guy," Nutt said.
The OSU starter is senior Keith Toston, a first-team All-Big 12 selection at 6-foot, 214 pounds. Toston's role increased after an injury to Hunter, and he went on to rush for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Hunter rushed for 1,555 yards in 2008, and at 5-8, 197 pounds, is built much more like Nutt's starter, small and quick Dexter McCluster.
Hunter has appeared in seven games this season, rushing for 288 yards, third on the team.
The Cowboys' second-leading rusher is senior Beau Johnson (5-10, 216) with 304 yards and five touchdowns in 12 games.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal