Spring Practice, Day VIII

The Rebels went through a 2 1/2 hour full-pad workout on the practice fields Thursday and when all was said and done, a Pink Floyd reference was the end result. Read about it inside.

With apologies to Roger Waters and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt described another day of spring practice - Thursday's workout - as "another brick in the wall."

"Each day, we just try to add another brick. Sometimes we look like we are running in mud, and are thinking a lot, but sometimes we look like we get it," said Nutt. "The defense played very fast today.

"D.T. Shackelford is doing such a good job of leading and is very vocal, but he backs it up by making plays behind it."

Nutt was pleased with the toughness of the practice and the play of the quarterbacks as a unit.

"This was a real physical day - a lot of hitting going on, but amidst it all, the quarterbacks got better today," he said. "I also thought (WR) Ja-Mes Logan did a good job catching the ball, he just needs to stay that consistent every day. (TE) Ferbia Allen had a good day. He's smart, he knows what to do and he has experience.

"From an overall offensive standpoint, though, we had too many mistakes. Too many false starts, too many balls on the ground."

The head man was asked about the development of the offensive line thus far in spring.

"They are seeing a lot. We are blitzing a lot and twisting and throwing a lot at them," he explained. "I know we have a chance to have a good OL, but we aren't there yet.

"Besides (LT) Bradley Sowell and (RT) Bobby Massie, we all have to realize the rest of the guys have not had a lot of snaps. They are still in the learning curve and have to come on some. I like that we have more bodies there because that has created competition. Jared Duke, Matt Hall, Emmanuel McCray, Patrick Junen, Evan Swindall - all those guys - are getting a lot of reps. They just need to keep coming and not get discouraged."

At cornerback, it's a little different. Well, a lot different.

"At corner, we don't have the numbers, so those guys are getting every rep. By the end of practice, their tongues are hanging out, but I have been proud of them because they are competing hard and that's all we can ask right now," he said.

Another "new" guy in the starting lineup, right now, is Middle Linebacker Mike Marry.

"Mike is a physical guy who is showing flashes that he can help us a lot," Houston assessed. "Then there has been a day or two where he looks like he is thinking too much and he gets caught up in there and gets blocked. He will do it. Physically he is what you are looking for. He'll get it."

Random Notes:

* OLB Joel Kight (knee), OL Josh Tatum (concussion) and SS Damien Jackson (shoulder stinger) missed today and two others - DT Carlton Martin (concussion) and DE Wayne Dorsey (concussion) - were injured Thursday. No word on how long they will be out yet.

* PK Bryson Rose, to our knowledge, has not missed a field goal attempt this spring in live situations. Over spring break, Bryson went to Arizona to spend some time with his kicking coach, Gary Zonner, to work on some little things - arm placement, follow through, etc - and he came back to spring practice about as automatic as it comes in that position. . . Bryson is also pleased with the new snapper/holder combo of Will Denny and Chris Conley.

* There has been very little work on kickoffs yet other than the kickers kicking on their own, but today, they put on a show. They had a slight tailwind, but they were booming the ball. Left-footed PK Dillon Short, a freshman out of Austin, TX, got things rolling by kicking 2 yards deep in the end zone. Then David Hankins kicked on to the back line of the end zone. Then Andrew Ritter topped them all, kicking it three yards past the end line. All three showed good hang time.

* Cornerback Cliff Coleman has shown improvement in press coverage and in run support, but he has to keep working on his zone coverage skills. He's physical when he can "butt up" a receiver at the line, but he's not as fluid in a deep drop. He's coming at a position that needs a lot of help.

* DTs Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett were elevated to first team at Tuesday's practice and apparently they did something right. Thursday, on DL Coach Terry Price's "very fluid" depth chart, they were still number one. Also, with Jackson out, Frank Crawford moved into the number one SS slot. Clarence Jackson continued to fill in for Joel Kight at OLB and, for the first time today, Cameron Whigham was with the ones ahead of Dorsey prior to Dorsey's injury.

* For the first time this spring, Derrick Nix's RBs and Tyrone Nix's LBs went man-on-man in an extended pass pro/pass rush drill. Brandon Bolden was the only one who could neutralize Shackelford. E.J. Epperson looked real good taking on Ralph Williams and Clarence Jackson and Jeff Scott, game and willing, was just overmatched by the much bigger Marry.

* Former Arkansas TE/OT/Kicker Coach Ken Turner was at practice Thursday. For some history, he is the coach who signed Houston Nutt out of Little Rock Central for the Hogs while working for Frank Broyles. "We were pretty happy about beating out Bear Bryant at Alabama for Houston," said Turner. "Bear and Houston's Dad were raised together in Fordyce, Arkansas, and were good friends. I think the home state appeal finally won Houston over. The problem was that I didn't sign him until three weeks after signing day. He was in the middle of basketball season and wouldn't sign until that was over. Houston's senior year, they won the state in football and basketball, then he signed with us.". . . The rest is history. Early in his career, Arkansas hired Lou Holtz, who ran the veer and Nutt, a dropback passer, opted to transfer to Oklahoma State.

* As serious and intense as practice can be, sometimes there is some humor involved. On one fade pattern in the end zone, the ref working the secondary threw a flag and called offensive interference. Secondary Coach Keith Burns fell out on the ground in disbelief. "I can't believe it! Offensive interference! You are the best official I have ever seen," Burns deadpanned. Funny stuff from the energetic Burns.

* DT Gilbert Pena, prior to Martin's head injury, got a few snaps with the number one defense. As Price said yesterday in his interview, Gilbert has the physical tools, it's just a matter of time. Maybe sooner rather than later? We'll see.

* Whigham took advantage of his opportunity with the ones, registering one sack in two-minute drills and pressuring the QB another time.

* CB Charles Sawyer is clearly physically gifted enough to excel on this level, but for some reason, he has not been finishing plays when he has been in position to as much as expected. In two-minute today, the offense faced a fourth-and-eight and Sawyer broke up a sure first-down pass from Randall Mackey to Terrell Grant on the defensive sidelines. He was mobbed by his teammates. Hopefully, more of that to come from the talented Sawyer.

* Mackey engineered the lone score by the offense in three two-minute scenarios, a 16-yard strike to WR Melvin Harris.

* CB Wesley Pendleton spoke briefly to the press after practice. "Getting all the reps is helping me a lot. It's getting me ready for game situations," said Pendleton. "I'm very tired after practice, but I know it's helping me. The hardest part is the tempo, going from one drill to the next for 2 1/2 hours, but it's getting me in better shape. I'm also learning a lot new stuff (techniques) from Coach Burns. Everything he's shown us has helped us perform on the field. I'm also doing better in run support. We work tackling drills a lot and that has helped."

* The Rebs will have another full-pad practice Friday and will follow up with a morning scrimmage Saturday. "We'll put the ball down for the scrimmage around 11. We are looking for improvement across the board from last Saturday, more consistency and not making the same mistakes," said Nutt. "We also need to be much better catching the ball and we need to improve our tackling from last week some."


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