In a year seemingly besieged in injury, the Rebels are +1 so far this week in available personnel as the game with Arkansas approaches.
While starting right guard Logan Clair stood on crutches on the sidelines watching practice with a broken foot that will sideline him for several weeks, RB Enrique Davis, out for a few weeks with a knee injury, and center/guard A.J. Hawkins, who missed the Alabama game with a stinger, both returned to the practice fields Tuesday.
"It's good to have them back. We think they are ready to go. Practices this week will tell the tale, but we feel good about them," said Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt. "We are going to slide A.J. into Clair's place at right guard and keep Evan Swindall as the starting center. I think that gives us the best chance right now.
"Enrique gives us another downhill runner who can move the pile. He was doing well before his injury. Coming back, he did a good job today. He didn't go the entire practice, but got a lot of reps. I think he's going to be all right. He'll be available this week."
Co-offensive Coordinator Dave Rader was asked about the Rebs using a no-huddle offense some against the Tide.
"We've practiced it for a long time. Jeremiah has a good feel for it now. The defense we were seeing lent itself to us being able to spread out and let him try and find some seams. We lined up, looked at the defense and made some calls. We executed fairly well for the first time we've done it. We've been doing it a while in practice. It was time to use it in games," said Rader.
"We've taken a new look at our offense and running plays we weren't running in the spring. I think Jeremiah's helped us expand our offense and do more in the running game and passing game. The expanse has been positive for us. We were disappointed in the amount of points we scored or didn't score last Saturday night. We hope and are practicing towards being a more efficient offense the rest of the year. He gives us the opportunity to do that."
* Last week, senior LaMark Armour was moved from backup defensive tackle to starting defensive end ahead of Wayne Dorsey, who had started the previous five games this season. The reasoning was simple - the coaches wanted more punch from that position and Armour is more of a physical presence than Dorsey. When the Rebs took the field Tuesday, that scenario - with Armour at end - remained. Dorsey was lined up as his backup. With Armour out of the mix at DT, junior Justin Smith, who has missed a good portion of his career battling foot injuries, is now planted behind starter Ted Laurent. At the other DT slot, Jerrell Powe and Lawon Scott hold down the fort.
* On the other defensive end position, Gerald Rivers remained number one but Jason Jones, who played a little more against Alabama than he had in previous games, was number two. True frosh Carlos Thompson and Delvin Jones were also in the picture at the speed end.
* As Nutt said, with Clair out, A.J. will move to right guard. A.J. played guard his first year at Ole Miss. In fact, he had never played center before last spring. He had always been a guard so the switch should not be that difficult for him. Apparently, the coaches were happy with Swindall's first start against the Tide and believe the combination with A.J. at guard will be the most productive OL five available. The lineup will look like this: LT Bradley Sowell, LG Patrick Junen, C Swindall, RG Hawkins, RT Bobby Massie. Nutt on Swindall: "He fought hard. That's a tough environment to start your career in. But not to have one bad snap and have very few missed assignments was impressive. You'd like to get settled (on the offensive line) for a couple of weeks in a row. That's what's been tough about this year. It's been a constant move game."
* OLB Mike Marry, who backs up Allen Walker on the strong side, got the most snaps he's ever gotten as a Rebel (20) against Bama. The true freshman, said DC Tyrone Nix, continues to improve and play faster, which has been his drawback thus far. If you will recall, Marry made a splash in spring training, but he missed most of August camp and the first game with a hamstring pull and then missed another week going home for the funeral of his grandmother.
He's just now getting his game up to speed, but that does not necessarily mean he will get more time against the Hogs. Alabama - with an offense that likes to work in the box - was a good match for Marry and his current skill/recognition set. It remains to be seen how he figures in against a team that predominantly passes the football. Suffice it to say, however, he's made strides and his situation is looking brighter.
* Terrell Grant has been kind of a forgotten man since he was moved from safety to wide receiver in August, but the redshirt freshman got a few snaps against Alabama. Are more game reps in his future? We'll see, but apparently, he has been doing something right in recent practice sessions.
* Punter Tyler Campbell got in a groove against Alabama, averaging 47.9 yards per kick on eight attempts. Watching him in practice Tuesday, he seemed to be in the same groove, hitting towering, booming punts during special teams/punt drills. It was obvious Campbell outkicked his coverage several times as Marquis Maze averaged 21 yards per punt return against the Rebs, but the special teams coaches put that on coverage and not on Campbell. "It doesn't matter how far Tyler kicks it, we have to leverage the ball better," said Special Teams Coordinator James Shibest. "We have to do a better job of playing our responsibilities and a better job of leverage."
* The Rebel defense had a more physical look to it against Alabama, with bodies flying and crisp contact for four quarters. MLB/DE D.T. Shackelford knew where that came from. "We finished. We had not been keeping up our intensity level for four quarters in some of the previous games and that's something we, as players, had to fix," said D.T. "We learned some tough lessons early in the year by not finishing games. Hopefully we learned our lessons, as painful as they were. We have to stay hungry and we have to keep the mindset that we can continue to improve. We played better against Alabama, but we can do a lot better. We'll be facing a different style of offense this week with Arkansas, but we have to keep our physical mentality and let it go."