Notable Absence

Junior quarterback Zack Stoudt was absent from practice Friday and might miss Ole Miss' annual spring game tomorrow at 1 p.m. for an academic-related violation of team rules, head coach Houston Nutt announced to reporters this afternoon.

Stoudt has been competing this spring with junior Randall Mackey and sophomore Barry Brunetti for the starting nod under center following the graduation of Jeremiah Masoli. Nathan Stanley left the team earlier this week, and has decided to transfer.

"I made him go do some homework today," Nutt said of Stoudt, who enrolled at Ole Miss this spring. "Didn't take care of business (in the classroom). Not so much behind, as much as just kind of breaking some team rules as far as academically."

Nutt said he would "have to sleep on" the possibility of Stoudt returning to the practice field tomorrow. The Rebels conclude spring practices with the Grove Bowl, a full-contact scrimmage -- open to fans -- inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Nutt said the scrimmage is more for individual-player evaluation than a final determinate of the depth chart. He mentioned by name linebacker Ralph Williams, wide receiver Vincent Sanders and offensive lineman Emmanual McCray as a few of the players he will be keeping his eye on.

"Every practice is important, it's just (the Grove Bowl's) not the final deal," he said. "You like to have three real good (scrimmages). I think spring is just right."

Zack Stoudt
Bruce Newman
If Stoudt is unable to participate in the scrimmage, Mackey and Brunetti would likely take the bulk of the repetitions with the first team, with Evan Ingram the third quarterback.

"I'll let you know in the morning," Nutt said.

Ole Miss held a near two-hour practice in its indoor practice facility Friday, with numerous coaches from across the state looking on from the sidelines.

Nutt held a coaches clinic this morning. South Panola head coach Lance Pogue, Lafayette head coach Anthony Hart and Philadelphia (Miss.) head coach Teddy Dyess were the featured speakers.

The Rebels went about their normal practice routine despite the absence of Stoudt. Mackey led the team for the first half of scrimmage work, while Brunetti handled the remainder.

Nutt still won't say which of his three quarterbacks leads in the now three-man race to be the starter this fall. However, he admitted that if Ole Miss played tonight, Mackey would probably be the first quarterback to get the call.

"A couple of days he made me mad," Nutt said of Mackey. "But I've been proud of him, though. I've been proud of him for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, huddle etiquette, because we all know that was an issue. I don't think it's going to be an issue, so I'm excited about that."

Brunetti is awaiting a ruling on his appeal to play immediately. A transfer from West Virginia, Brunetti has filed for a hardship waiver with the NCAA. Nutt hopes to hear one way or another by the end of the month.

"Who knows? I haven't had any experience with it," he said.

Shackelford to have surgery Wednesday:

D.T. Shackelford knew something was wrong.

It was a routine drill, a drill he had done countless times before. However, this time, his knee didn't cooperate. He "felt something crackle," hitting the turf of the indoor practice facility in obvious pain.

His reaction was understandable. In frustration, Shackelford began slamming his helmet to the turf repeatedly. He immediately thought back to his freshman year, when he suffered an ankle injury. This, like then, was no ordinary injury.

D.T. Shackelford
Ole Miss
"I was just frustrated," Shackelford said, leaning on his crutches as he spoke to reporters Friday. "At that time, I was just like, man, I don't want to get hurt no more. But after it was all said and done, like I said, God has a plan. He's got a plan. It'll get better. My teammates, my coaches, my Ole Miss family, God, everybody, they helped me through this.

"I'm not really worried about it. They've kept me so positive, I don't have time to be negative. They're keeping me so positive."

Trainers confirmed a little while later Shackelford had torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Missing the season-opener against BYU quickly ran through his mind, as well as how he wouldn't be able to continue on with his teammates for the rest of the spring and on into fall.

Recovery from such an injury usually takes anywhere from six to eight months. Shackelford is scheduled for surgery Wednesday in Jackson.

"I hate watching from the sidelines on crutches," he said. "I like to be in there with them and talking. But I got to deal with it. That's football, it's a physical game. Although I didn't even get hurt with it being something real physical, that's the game. Hopefully we'll get over this.

"I'm just ready to get this surgery over. Then once the surgery's over, I can actually start working on it and getting it better. I will be very hungry to get back on the field."

Shackelford became the first ever junior to win the Chucky Mullins Award in its 22-year history last night. His acceptance speech was an emotional one. Tears rolled down his face as he attempted to address his teammates and coaches. He spoke of God's plan, of how these types of trials happen for a reason.

"A very big shock," Shackelford said of winning the award. "It was the first time a junior got the award, so I was really happy and just blessed to get the award. It's very prestigious. If anybody goes to Ole Miss, they know about that award. I think that it was a blessing just to get it.

"I don't usually cry, man, but I did. But everything I said, I meant it. My teammates, my family, God, I really meant it -- everything I said. Them guys really pulled me through. My day to day walk, they really helped me out."

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