The Ole Miss Rebel football team is doing everything they can to get their minds off the knee injury of OLB D.T. Shackelford.
They even came out for practice Tuesday and turned in one of their best performances of the spring, but it was evident after the 2-hour session that the talented junior was still on their minds.
First, however, Coach Houston Nutt on Day 12 of practice.
"We had a really good today. Our guys had a lot of enthusiasm and zipped around. They practiced hard," said Nutt. "We got some good things done. I was very proud of LB Mike Marry, LB Clarence Jackson, LB Ralph Williams, LB Sam Noblin and LB Will Martin (in D.T.'s absence).
"Ja-Mes Logan caught the ball really well and TEs Ferbia Allen and Alex Williams had good days."
Although the defense is thin due to injury, Nutt was also proud of their effort as a unit.
"We told the guys coming into spring that it was going to be tough. It was going to be a hard spring. As a result, we are thin, thinner than I anticipated on defense," he noted. "D.T. has to get ACL surgery, Joel Kight had minor knee surgery today and I look over there and our entire first unit on the defensive line is out - Gerald Rivers, Wayne Dorsey, Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett (injured his ankle Monday).
"(DE) Jason Jones really stepped up today and tried to be a leader for us."
It didn't take long for the attention to turn back to Shackelford, the emotional leader of the team since January.
"D.T. is a tremendous leader, tremendous, and he will continue to be, I am sure. It's like I tell all these kids, you are a play away from having to play and start," Nutt noted. "We are at a point in our program, though, where it's hard to say 'next.' We knew that going into last season and feel that way about next year. It's a building process. We want to get where we can say 'next' and have a good player ready.
"Losses like D.T. mean some of these freshmen we had hoped to redshirt will have to play. There is no choice. It hurts a lot with D.T. because he is so good, he gets people to line up and gets them in line in many ways. He took over in January - took over the team. We need someone to step into that slot, but I can see he will continue to lead from the sidelines."
Nutt related his conversation with Shackelford last night after the bad news was revealed.
"It was hard. He was discouraged, but he has such a strong family with strong faith and one thing he knows - he will be back, and probably quicker than most people think," Nutt continued. "It will be really hard for him to come back for next season, but you never know. I had one experience with Thurman Thomas who came back in five months, but he's the only one I know. It's a difficult surgery and rehab. It's a long haul, but everyone heals differently."
Football Trainer Tim Mullins gave some insight into Kight and Shackelford's situation.
"Joel had a lateral meniscus tear which we knew about going into spring training. We did not want to get surgery until after spring training because you can play through that, but he suffered a contusion on his knee last week and wasn't able to get back," said Mullins. "Since he could not come back to practice this spring, we opted to go ahead and have the surgery and get his rehab going.
"We did an exam right when D.T.'s injury occurred and we knew it was an ACL. We called the hospital and had the MRI set up before practice was over. We got the results back last night. It was a tear. Surgery is set up for two weeks from now and then we have to just move forward with the rehab."
Mullins said the same thing Nutt did about the rehab.
"The normal rehab is 6-8 months, but every player recovers differently. We will rehab him and when he's ready, we'll turn him loose," Mullins added. "It's hard to put a time frame on it now, though, because as I said everyone recovers differently."
Mullins said D.T. also had a little meniscus tear, which is normal with an ACL tear. D.T. will be operated on in Jackson.
* Mike Marry was moved from MLB to D.T.'s slot at OLB. He has played there before. "Coach (Tyrone) Nix asked me to move outside and I will do whatever is asked of me for the team," said marry. "In the meetings, we always learn all the linebacker positions anyway because you never know when someone might get hurt and that's exactly what happened. OLB is mostly familiar to me but we have changed a couple of things up I will have to adjust to." Again, the talk turned to D.T. "We lost a big part of our team. He's our leader on and off the field. When we mess up, he's the one who gets us back on track, all of us," said Marry. "It's hard not having him with us, but we have to live up to what he does and keep the tempo the same. I talked to him last night and it was all about us. He said to keep working hard and stay positive. He told me to step up. I feel like I can be one of the leaders. I lead more by example, but if I have to be vocal I can be."
* As was mentioned, the injury list grew again. Not only did Shackelford go down, but DT Bryon Bennett, a redshirt freshman who had worked his way up to the number one spot, injured his ankle Monday and was held out of practice on Tuesday. No word on when he may return. . . Add him to the list of Brandon Bolden (ankle), Carlton martin (concussion), Kyle Horine (stress fracture), Wayne Dorsey (concussion), Josh Tatum (concussion), Joel Kight (knee), Gerald Rivers (knee) and also walkon DT Taurus Ward, who injured his knee Monday as well. The training room is starting to look like a hospital ward. One of those springs. . . .
* In Martin and Bennett's absence, JUCO transfer Gilbert Pena and senior Justin Smith got the bulk of the reps at the DT slots.
* One of the surprises of the spring has been the transition of Matt Hall from a tackle to a guard. As of today, he appears to have taken over the RG slot. At left guard, some keep waiting on Tank Washington to get beaten out by some of the more athletic younger guys. He keeps holding them off. Why? He doesn't make mistakes, he knows what to do, he's physical and he's using his experience to his advantage. In short, he gets everything out of the ability he's got.
* As of today, Ja-Mes Logan and Vincent Sanders are the number one wide receivers. They have moved ahead of Melvin Harris for the time being in two-WR sets. Ja-Mes has been the most consistent receiver of the lot and Vincent continues to show up and improve on a daily basis.
* The Rebs installed their speed sets today on offense. To the layman, it looks like the two-minute drill - a hurry-up offense. The offensive players seemed fairly comfortable, for the first time out, in receiving hand signals from the sidelines from WR Coach Gunter Brewer. All-in-all, a pretty smooth introduction to a faster-paced offense. Also, there were more shotgun formations in the speed sets, for those who are curious about that.
* The ongoing quarterback battle appears to be developing, for now, into a Randall Mackey- Zack Stoudt battle. They split reps with the number one offense Tuesday. Interesting.
* The Rebs will take off Wednesday and resume practice Thursday at 4 p.m.
Spring Practice, Day XII
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