Terrance Lee thought he would be suiting up at safety for Mississippi this season.
Then again, UNLV thought Shane Horton would stay with the Rebels at safety, rather than transfer to Southern California in January for the glory of special teams work on a college football powerhouse.
But the lure of playing with his brother, Wes, at USC was too difficult for Horton to pass up, making safety an especially big concern for Rebels coaches. At about that time, Mississippi changed head coaches, and Lee found out he wasn't part of Houston Nutt's plans.
Lee, who played at Arizona Western College, needed a new school, and UNLV needed a safety.
They were late in coming together -- Lee didn't send in his letter of intent until after signing day -- but it's an important union for both.
Lee is at a school where he is expected to be a crucial part of this year's defense, and UNLV took a major step in addressing an area of concern -- depth in the defensive backfield. The Rebels took another step Monday by moving quarterback Travis Dixon to that unit.
"Athletically, (Lee's) everything we hoped he would be," safeties coach Vic Shealy said. "It's really encouraging ... Sometimes (junior college) guys aren't always what you hope them to be."
UNLV went away from signing junior college players this year, so picking up Lee sent a major signal about its concerns at safety.
The Rebels, in fact, listed the 6-foot, 175-pound transfer at No. 1 on the depth chart before he even stepped onto Rebel Park -- a testament to the coaches' belief Lee can settle their worries.
"He's been well-coached in junior college," Shealy said. "He has good instincts for the game. And he's actually much brighter as a football guy than most junior college guys. And so that's encouraging that we'll be able to get him ready to play."
Even though Lee didn't join his new teammates until this week -- he missed offseason conditioning to finish class work -- he entered camp in shape.
Lee stayed in condition despite the temptation to stay indoors and watch ESPN during triple-digit July heat in Southwestern Arizona.
"I knew I had to get it done, so I had to do it," Lee said.
Coming out of New Britain (Conn.) High School in 2006, Lee was supposed to begin his college career at Maryland, but his failure to qualify academically forced him to go the junior college route.
He led Arizona Western with three interceptions as a freshman despite starting only four games. Lee started all 10 last season and had 64 tackles and an interception.
His play was enough to attract the attention of a Southeastern Conference school, but that was before Mississippi fired coach Ed Orgeron and replaced him with Nutt. Lee wasn't part of Nutt's plans, not unusual during a coaching change.
Lee talked to Boise State, Southern Mississippi and Minnesota, but none offered the immediate playing opportunity UNLV presented.
So Lee became a Rebel, after all. Just not an Ole Miss Rebel.
"I know they expect me to come in and be an impact on defense right away, and that's all I want to do," Lee said.
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.