OXFORD, Miss. -- Shawn Slocum hadn't been on the Ole Miss campus long when the Rebels new linebackers coach had a player approach him. ''Coach, I can play,'' the player said. ''Is that right?'' Slocum replied. Slocum had no idea who the player was, and understandably so. To this day the most loyal Rebel fan probably can't tell you who No. 46 is. But that may not be for long. Dontae Reed, a walk-on redshirt sophomore, has climbed his way from obscurity to No. 1 on the Ole Miss depth chart at outside linebacker. And the former Oakhaven player is doing everything he can to stay there. ''We started spring training and due to a lack of numbers, even though he's a nonscholarship player, he was on the second group,'' Slocum said. ''He just started making plays and listening to everything I said in the meetings. ''As a coach, if you're truly being objective, you're going to play that guy that make plays. Early on in spring training, he went out in one of the scrimmages and made some plays.'' Reed has taken advantage of what he calls a great opportunity. First-year coach Ed Orgeron and his staff went into spring practice with no preconceived notions about anyone. They opened up the competition at all positions, scholarship and nonscholarship players alike. Reed decided to make the most of his chance. Never mind that sophomore Garry Pack, a highly touted freshman last year who was expected to be an instant starter this year, was a more prominent player. ''The coaches didn't know anything about me or anybody,'' Reed said. ''They gave me a chance to do my thing and this is where I'm at.'' Reed has remained on the field because of his constant ability to make plays, whether it's throwing his body into a running back or coming up with a sack from his outside linebacker position. In fact, playing on the outside has also helped him become noticed. Reed walked on as a safety in 2003, but after redshirting he was moved to linebacker last season. But in Ole Miss's previous 4-2-5 scheme, the undersized Reed played inside at 6-2, 205. In Orgeron's 4-3 defense, Reed is on the outside, enabling him to use his speed. ''He's made plays,'' Orgeron said. ''He is doing it. He's taking advantage of the change. ''He's quick. He's a good pass rusher. He uses his hands well. He's tough. He's always in there studying and watching film. He's motivated. He's a pleasant surprise.'' Reed's emergence early during spring practice came at a time when Pack, who had 27 tackles in 11 games as a true freshman last year, struggled to pick up the system. Since being moved to second team, though, Pack has come on strong the last couple of weeks in an effort to win back his starting role. ''Garry's had some great last couple of weeks as well,'' Slocum said. ''We feel like we've got two first-team guys that are really trying hard and playing hard and starting to learn our scheme. That helps us. It gives us added depth.'' Although Orgeron and Slocum have been pleased with what Reed and Pack have brought to the table, they still must evaluate the talent of their incoming freshman linebackers before making a final decision on who plays. Because of that, Reed isn't content with his current success. ''I've just got to keep stepping my game up every time,'' Reed said. ''I have to be more focused and just try to stay consistent with what I'm doing.'' Don't be surprised if Reed is on the field at some point when the Rebels open the season at Memphis on Sept. 5. ''Based on what I see, I think Dontae and Gary both are going to be playing for us,'' Slocum said. ''(Reed's) a very bright young man. He plays with great effort. He's made a bunch of plays for us. We've rewarded him by putting him in a position to play. Hopefully he'll have a great summer and come back in the fall ready to contribute.''