Tuesday's full-pad practice consisted of some early polishing of fundamentals and things that had already been put in and some late introduction of some new packages on both sides of the ball.
"I thought the guys came out here and really tried to strain their bodies today," said Nutt. "We have been emphasizing that we know they are sore because of all the hitting we have been doing, but we have to work through it. They did that today.
"We worked hard on the two-minute drill because I think the last couple of years we have been bad in that area. We've had some games where we've had some opportunities to make some things happen late in the half or the game and we just have not gotten it done. We have to change that, starting with clock management. We worked more shotgun formations in the two-minute drill as well. I thought we had a good start today in that phase of the game."
In the early portion of the practice, the quarterbacks seemed "off," but they closed strongly in the two-minute drill.
"They missed some passes early on, but I thought they picked it up a lot in the two-minute drill. We are further ahead in our two-minute than we have been in a long time on the first day of working on it," Nutt continued.
The wide receivers are, according to WR Coach Gunter Brewer, making "baby steps," but are having more drops in practice than hoped for.
"I am concerned a little, but not overly concerned. I think they are getting better, but they have had a lot of offense thrown at them and they are having to think a lot right now," Nutt explained. "The guys we are counting on playing - Terrell Grant, Korvic Neat, Ja-Mes Logan, Melvin Harris and Vincent Sanders, there's not a lot of playing experience in that group.
"We want them to catch them all, so I have concerns, but I see them getting better under some extreme conditions. They will keep getting better than then this summer we have real competition on the way. They will all have to step up."
Nutt also complimented the effort of the defense, that seems to be coming together as a unit more and more each day.
"They ran well and blitzed well today. I have seen daily improvement from them," he said. "I thought (Safeties) Brishen Mathews and Damien Jackson showed up with interceptions and even though our corners are very thin, I am excited of the effort and the attitude they are playing with.
"Wesley Pendleton and Charles Sawyer are doing well and we have moved Vincent Moss there trying to find him a home. The two biggest surprises for me this spring are Vincent Moss and OT Terrell Brown. I really think both of them can help us."
Terrell, who has lost over 40 pounds since he stepped on campus last year, is quickly working himself into the status of "viable."
"When you are 6-11 and 360-370, he's going to get at least a tie in run blocking. We can use him at right tackle or tight end in our heavy sets," said Nutt. "He has to work on his pass protection, but I am really proud of him and his progress."
Nutt was also pleased with the early production of all the kickers and snapper Will Denny.
"Tyler Campbell punted the ball well, Andrew Ritter looked good and Bryson Rose was perfect in field goals. Will did a nice job snapping as well," he noted.
The Rebels had three "new" players miss practice today: DE Gerald Rivers (knee), OLB Joel Kight (knee) and OL Josh Tatum (concussion).
"We dodged a bullet with Gerald. His injury looked really bad on film, but the MRI showed it's a severely bruised bone. He'll miss the next week or so, but we won't scrimmage him when he comes back," said Houston. "Kight took a helmet to the knee and is bruised, but we hope he will be back Thursday."
* With Kight out, Clarence Jackson is getting an opportunity to work with the ones and he has impressed the head man with his efforts. "Clarence is another kid I am proud of with his effort. He's a physical presence who will really strike you," Nutt assessed. "He's behind in the learning curve because he missed some of last year, but he's done a good job and has potential. I also like what we have seen from Ralph Williams at this point in his career.". . . Jackson, who his teammates and coaches call "Jack," is arguably the best pure athlete of the linebacking corps.
* TE Alex Williams, a converted DE/OLB/WR, seems to have found a home, according to Nutt. "I knew he could run routes and catch the ball, but I wasn't sure about his blocking, but he has done pretty good in the few days he has been there," Nutt allowed. "I think he has found a place and has a real chance there to help and he'll only get bigger and better.". . . TE Coach James Shibest is also hopeful Williams can help shore up the TE position. The unexpected loss of Z. Mason, who was on the verge of making a contribution after two years of rugged training, stung hard. "Alex is having to learn on the fly. When he gets something, he's pretty good, but he's not instinctive to the position yet," Shibest stated. "It will take time, but I like his start."
* Wilder Fitness out of Pontotoc has helped spruce up the practice fields by donating some a couple of blocking sleds - a four man and three-man - and a five-man line chute to help linemen stay lower. OL Coach Mike Markuson was like a kid in a candy store when he saw the new equipment he had to work with. Thanks, Jimmy Wilder!
* Secondary Coach Keith Burns is sending a non-negotiable message to his athletes. It's all about finishing strong, being tougher and getting a "nasty" demeanor on the field. Do those things, he preaches, and the rest will come. Don't do them and it will be bench time. And, again, it's non-negotiable.
* We'll have an interview with DL Coach Terry Price tomorrow, but here's a little teaser. The defensive line, today, had a new depth chart: RS frosh Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett were the number one DTs and Wayne Dorsey and Jason Jones were the number one DEs. "I told these guys at the first of spring that the depth chart would be fluid. Whoever performed the best the day before would be at the the top of the depth chart the next day," he said. More from T.P. Wednesday.
* It appears Coach Brewer has the same philosophy. Today, in stretch, Vincent Sanders and Terrell Grant were lined up with the number ones and Ja-Mes Logan and Melvin Harris were number twos. It must have motivated both of them because they had much better days. Logan caught two TD passes in the two-minute drill and Harris hauled in a long pass on another two-minute possession. (Sanders also had a TD reception in two-minute).
* How's this for some beef? The field goal team, right now, consists of TE Matt Hall, RT Bobby Massie, RG Jared Duke, DS Will Denny, LG Alex Washington, RT Bradley Sowell and TE Patrick Junen. FB H.R. Greer and TE Ferbia Allen are the wings.
* On field goal block, it appears Charles Sawyer and Frank Crawford will be on the left side and Brishen Mathews and Wesley Pendleton on the right side in the outside rush positions.
* In team drills, prior to the two-minute drills, the Rebel coaches held a min-scrimmage. For about 20 plays, there wasn't much air in the secondary. Meaning, there wasn't a whole lot of uncovered ground and passes were hard to fit in to openings. Best showing, to the untrained eye, by the back seven thus far this spring. They were also aided by a pretty good blitz package that didn't allow for a lot of time to throw.
* In the two-minute drills, QB Zack Stoudt moved the offense roughly 40 yards to a Bryson Rose 32-yard field goal. . . . Then Stanley took the twos 45 yards to the 10 before stalling there. . . Then Mackey took the controls and promptly found Sanders for a 35-yard TD on a post pattern that was a rope and perfectly thrown. Until then, Mackey had not had a great day, but that was as pretty as any throw you will see.
* The Rebs will rest tomorrow and resume practice on Thursday. It will be the same schedule as last week - Thursday, Friday and then a Saturday scrimmage.