True freshman quarterback Nathan Dick stole the show in a Wednesday morning workout in Walker Pavilion that was extremely heavy in terms of the pass.
Nathan Dick was extremely accurate and produced some big plays with his passes as he got a heavy dose in the team session. Head coach Houston Nutt said Nathan Dick was pushing backup Nathan Emert.
"He's coming," Nutt said of Nathan Dick. "He's making (a push). He had a very good day. He was very accurate and he really made some nice throws."
Meanwhile, starting quarterback Casey Dick struggled with some of the same throws. He also threw two pass interceptions, both that probably would have been returned for touchdowns. On those two plays, Nutt said, "You can't make those throws. We won't accept it. You can't do it. It's very distressing. You have to throw those away. One of them he said he was trying to throw out of bounds, but he didn't get it far enough."
Back to his younger brother, Nutt said, "Nathan Dick is catching on. He's getting better. We've given him a lot and he's doing a good job with it. He's been very good."
Nathan Emert, listed at backup QB, made some nice throws, but he wasn't as consisten on some of his deeper throws as Nathan Dick.
Nutt also praised tight end/H-back D.J. Williams, another true freshman, for some outstanding catches and blocks.
"Thank goodness we've got him," Nutt said of Williams. "We really miss Ben Cleveland. D. J. made two beautiful catches and his blocking has been good."
Cleveland did not practice because of a "neck stinger." Peyton Hillis, bothered by a sore hamstring, also did not practice. Also on the sideline was punter/placekicker Jeremy Davis. The dual purpose kicker said his sore foot (nerve damage) was much better Wednesday. Starting cornerback Matterral Richardson didn't practice because of a sore wisdom tooth.
The practice was marked by a brief scuffle between strong safety Matt Hewitt and tight end Andrew Davie. Hewitt punched at Davie's helmet and face mask twice after a play had been blown dead. Hewitt had to run laps, but later returned the the scrimmage. Both Nutt and defensive coordinator Reggie Herring made a point to express their extreme disappointment in Hewitt afterwards.
Herring's remarks were the toughest. He said that Hewitt was "unselfish and damaging for the team. If it happened in a game, not only would that be a penalty, but (Hewitt) would be suspended from the next game. Really, we were having a fine practice until he decided he needed to fight."
Herring said he was extremely disappointed.
"But," Herring said, "if you are going to have something like this, it's kind of a good time really. You can make a big deal out of it and get it across that you can't do it. That's what we are doing right now.
"What you do in a situation like that if someone does something to you, you put your hands up and say, 'Look at this, ref.' To swing at someone serves no purpose. You get no points for it."
As Herring mentioned, the Hogs were having a "fine" practice except for the brief explosion by Hewitt, the starting safety. Herring said he likes the defensive front featuring Marcus Harrison at defensive end. Harrison, coming back from an ACL knee surgery, returned to practice yesterday and participated in a large chunk of team drills Wednesday. Harrison played defensive end as a freshman, but moved to tackle most of the last two seasons.
"That's a good front," he said. "I like Marcus coming off the edge. He's 310 and has a fast twitch. I think he likes it at end. I think he's right where he belongs. He may be right where he thinks he belongs. He's excited about end. He was asking for wrist bands today. I don't know about that.
"He's got some speed. He has ENOUGH speed to play there. And, the way Malcolm Sheppard is playing inside, I think Marcus is going to stay there."
The move of Harrison to end may have sparked some interest from last year's starter there, Antwain Robinson. Out most of fall camp with a sore knee, Robinson returned to workouts on Wednesday, although he worked as a backup behind Adrian Davis opposite Harrison. Chris Wade, the likely starter on that side, remains sidelined for precautionary reasons after taking a blow to the chin last week. Wade should return later this week.
"That would be a nice combination, Harrison on one side and Wade on the other," Herring said. "You want your best 11 out there. The way Sheppard is playing, we don't need Harrison inside. Sheppard is going to be something to watch inside. He's going to give people fits. He is so quick and aggressive. He only knows one speed."
Herring likes everything else he sees on defense, too. He said he was pleased with the return of Antwain Robinson in full pads.
"We won't know about the corners -- except Matterral Richardson, who's played -- until we have a game," Herring said. "Guys like Jerrell Norton, Shed Johnson, Brandon Barnett and Jamar Love are untested. Practice isn't like a game. You get 72,000 out there watching you and things change.
"Try writing a story with 72,000 looking over your shoulder and watching you type every word. It's not like going home and sitting down at your typewriter and taking your time and then getting up for a drink of water between paragraphs. It's different."
Herring said the defense has made major strides since he last visited with the media, two days after full pads were donned last Tuesday.
"We are working very well and have good intensity," he said. "We aren't there, but if we keep going at this pace, we are going to get there. Our backups are coming. I feel good about our backup linebackers, especially with Elston Forte now at will. He's going to push Ryan Powers and that's what you want, competition at every position. Forte at will linebacker was an early Christmas present. Because of his character and smarts, he is doing well. He pays attention in meetings and looks like he's played there before.
"We have had progress from our (second unit) in the last four or five days. Our first group is getting into playing shape. We've got a faster twitch about them.
"Chip Gregory, the backup at Sam, and Wendell Davis, the backup at mike, are doing well. Our backup linebackers are making good, solid progress. Our starters are doing well, too. Freddie Fairchild was a little rusty. He hasn't played in a year, but he's picking it up. We've had some middle drills and we've had some scrimmages. We are going to be good there if we just keep coming. I feel confident we are going to have some backups we can put in a game."
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