Wednesday Practice Report

The Ole Miss Rebels understand they are closing in on their toughest challenge of the year - Alabama in Tuscaloosa this Saturday. Preparations for that encounter continued Wednesday. Read about it inside.

The Ole Miss Rebels practiced in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads on the practice fields Wednesday after being driven inside by rain on Tuesday.

Their body language and demeanor indicated an air of confidence after two straight wins and time to heal and get recharged during last week's open date.

"We got some good things done today. It's good to have some of the guys who have been injured back. We need every capable body on board against a team like Alabama," Coach Houston Nutt stated. "I am seeing a different look in these guys now after a couple of wins. It's a lot different than it was the first three weeks of the season.

Houston Nutt

"We need that. Their attitude is good. They are moving around and playing with passion. That's all we can ask."

One of the main things to watch in the game will be the match between freshman Center Evan Swindall, taking over for injured A.J. Hawkins, and the powerful Bama defensive line.

"Evan had a really good day today. He's had a crash course on everything and has been competing hard," Nutt said. "He'll see one of the best defensive lines in the country. He's going to do fine. Will he win every battle? Probably not, but he'll win his share and get some ties and we'll be fine."

Nutt said there is still slight hope Hawkins could be available for spot duty.

"A.J. won't start, but maybe, maybe, we can get some relief duty from him. I'm hoping that, but I don't know yet," Houston wished. "If not, Chris Gill is the next guy in unless we go with Bradley (Sowell). We think A.J. could help us some if he's able without having practiced."

The key to the game?

"We have to get off to a good start. They will frenzy on you if you don't," Houston assessed. "We need good things to happen for us early and go from there."

Swindall does not sound intimidated by the challenge of Alabama in his first collegiate start.

"I'm excited. It's what you dream of doing," said Evan. "They are big, strong, hard guys who try to sit in the hole, read you, separate and go make a play.

"Physically matching up is the hardest part. I'm giving up some weight to them, so I have to play lower than them and play with good leverage."

Random Notes:

* Mostly, we've just got a recap of yesterday's tidbits: SS Johnny Brown returned to practice Tuesday after missing time with a knee/hamstring injury and Wednesday he was getting more of his pre-injury form back; C A.J. Hawkins remains sidelined with a shoulder stinger and quetionable, but hopeful, for some spot duty; TB Enrique Davis is still rehabbing from knee surgery with a chance of returning next week for the Arkansas game; LT Bradley Sowell worked a little more at center - just in case freshman Evan Swindall, taking over for Hawkins, does not hold up against the Tide; Emmanuel McCray will slide up to first team LT if Sowell goes to center; DT LaMark Armour continues to work some at defensive end to give the defensive line more punch; and the three players who came back from concussions Sunday - CB Marcus Temple, CB Charles Sawyer and S Brishen Mathews - are all on go for the game Saturday.

* Obviously, this season has not gone according to plan for JUCO transfer DE Wayne Dorsey. He simply has not made the plays that was anticipated of him in his first year of Division I football. As a consequence, the coaches have looked more toward D.T. Shackelford and Armour to bolster his position, but nobody is giving up on Dorsey, a five-star recruit out of Gulf Coast CC. "The adjustment period from junior college has taken him longer than we had hoped," said DC Tyrone Nix, "but we know there is some good football in there waiting to emerge. We believe in Wayne and so do his teammates. We feel it's just a matter of time before he puts it all together."

* South Carolina had a tall receiver who exploited the Tide's secondary in the Cocks' upset win. Will 6-6 Rebel WR Melvin Harris be able to do the same? He's been pointing to this game for quite some time. "Ever since this summer, I have been targeting this game," he said. "I don't have anything against Alabama, but it's just the opportunity to play the defending national champs. I hope I get a lot of chances against them to test my skills." Harris may well get his chance. There's a strong chance the Tide, knowing the Rebs' new-found prowess in the run game, will overload the line of scrimmage, leaving their corners on an island in man coverage and daring the Rebs to throw. If that comes to pass, it's a dare Harris hopes the Rebels take. "We've worked hard on our passing game. We know we are eventually going to have to throw the ball more often. We'll have to step up," he said. Up to the task? We'll see soon enough.

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