Finally, It Begins

Finally. . . . after months of pre-practice preparations, the Ole Miss Rebels kicked things off Saturday afternoon for their first practice of August drills. Read about it inside.

It's been a long time - it seems - since April's Grove Bowl.

Since then, the Ole Miss Rebels have been working in the offseason strength & conditioning program in preparation for August practice.

Late Saturday afternoon, the wait was over. The 2011 football season officially began as August drills cranked up on the practice fields at Ole Miss but quickly moved inside due to lightning in the area.

Time for the grind.

According to Coach Houston Nutt, it was a "good start."

"We had a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Obviously, the key is to carry that on," said Nutt. "We got a lot done in shorts and we'll be in shorts tomorrow after church."

The much-ballyhooed freshmen and newcomers made an instant impact and an instant impression on Nutt.

"Whatever good has been written about them is true," Nutt continued. "You can see their athleticism. (WR) Donte Moncrief made a catch on a ball that I thought was going out of bounds that was beautiful. He flip his hip and made a move on the ball that was really good. (WR) Collins Moore made plays. Nick Brassell made plays on both sides of the ball, including a really nice interception. (TE) Jamal Mosley is going to make a difference. A big body with soft hands who can run well.

Nick Brassell
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"(CB) Senquez Golson, (S) Cody Prewitt, (S) Chief Brown, (S) Aaron Garbutt, then the linebackers Keith Lewis, C.J. Johnson and Sederius Bryant. I am excited, to say the least. The big OL also caught my eye - Justin Bell, Aaron Morris, Mitch Hall, Ethan Hutson. This is a really good group."

Nutt is not easing the newcomers in, apparently. They got what looked like equal reps with the vets today.

"I love them more today than I did on signing day, I'll tell you that and we are going to find out in a hurry what they can do," he said. "If they show us they are good enough, we are going to put them out there. And it seems to me they are motivating some of the older guys as well. They helped raise everyone's level today, for sure.

"I think some of those wide receivers know they better pick up their games because those freshmen are coming, and today all of them (the veteran wideouts) did well. Guys, we may be looking at 10 or so newcomers play."

On the defensive side of the ball, the Rebs lined up in a 4-3 defense, but at times Brishen Mathews was at one of the OLB slots.

"Brishen is a safety, but we will mix things up with him some and bring him down. He's very physical and he's playing the ball better - we are going to get him involved," said Nutt. "We are not going to get away from our base 4-3, but we're going to try some things. I like the way we are moving right now.

"I liked the way we kept everything underneath in our coverages and I liked that we were able to get some edge pressure on the quarterbacks with some blitzes. I also liked the energy (DTs) Uriah Grant and Gilbert Pena had today."

At quarterback, Nutt said they started slowly, but came on stronger at the end of practice.

"We were off early, but came on. They handled the 2-minute drill well at the end and Barry (Brunetti) threw a beautiful ball for a TD at the end that was good to see," he said.

Random Notes:

* It's rare that kickers are nicked up when practice begins but both PK Bryson Rose and David Hankins have minor ankle injuries. Rose hurt his plant (left) foot slightly during an offseason workout and Hankins hurt his kicking (right) foot in a running drill late during the offseason. Neither injury is major, but it may affect their kicking for a few days.

Collins Moore
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* Punter Tyler Campbell has been working hard on two areas of his game - getting more hang time on his punts to allow more time for the coverage people to get in place and doing a better job on pooch punts. He's adjusted his drops for both chores and in warmups he was getting better hang time than ever.

* The first freshman to hit the field in his first practice? Safety Chief Brown. Does that mean much? Probably not, but it does show a degree of enthusiasm and readiness that's good to see out of a young player.

* Top recruits Channing Ward and Jeremy Liggins attended practice today. Those are two large, physically mature young men. They'd look good draped in Red, Blue and Grey.

* DT Gilbert Pena is still a big man at 333 pounds, but he's lost 20 pounds since he stepped on campus in January. He was 353 then. He looks a lot more fit now than he did in spring ball.

* The Rebs appear to have a plethora of choices for the return game. Today, fielding punts, Jeff Scott, Philander Moore, Nick Brassell, Collins Moore, Tobias Singleton, Korvic Neat, Derrick Herman and Senquez Golson were all sharing those duties.

* Junior OL Josh Tatum has been moved to left tackle. He's been a guard most of his career at Ole Miss. That was the only position change of note.

* There will be a battle at left guard between Patrick Junen and Tank Washington, but today Junen started out at number one. That makes the current number one OL - LT Bradley Sowell, LG Junen, C A.J. Hawkins, RG Matt Hall, RT Bobby Massie. Lots of beef.

* DE Kentrell Lockett is wearing a brace on his left knee, but it's just a precaution. He looks like the same old number 40 the way he's moving around and he does not seem to be favoring that knee at all, despite the somewhat cumbersome brace for protection.

* There appears to be no lingering affects from CB Marcus Temple, DE Cameron Whigham, CB Kyle Horine, Lockett or any of the players who are now back after missing spring training. They all appear to be 100%.

* D.T. Shackelford can't play right now, but that doesn't mean he's not involved. He's leading from the sidelines and is encouraging his defense on every snap. What a special young man. D.T. will graduate in May and earn his masters degree before he leaves Ole Miss.

* Nutt just about said it all about the freshmen, but in an effort to be more descriptive, check this out for back-to-back-to-back-to-back plays. CB Wesley Pendleton had Tobias Singleton covered like a glove, but as a bullet from Randall Mackey approached both players, the bigger, strong Singleton gave Pendleton a hip as he jumped for the ball and in one motion plucked it out of mid-air. On the next play, Temple had Donte Moncrief locked up, but Moncrief gained separation with a hard body check and caught what looked like an uncatchable ball on the sidelines as he was falling out of bounds. Nick Brassell flipped over to cornerback and took on Philander Moore, trailing him by a half step on a deep pattern. At the last instant, Brassell looked back, jumped with outstretched arms and intercepted the pass as he tumbled to the ground. On the next play, CB Senquez Golson broke on an underneath route and swatted the pass away, his third pass break up of the day. In a nutshell, these guys ain't scared and they know how to make plays.

* If anyone has lingering doubts about Nutt's intentions and declarations to turn the offense over to OC David Lee, watching him in practice seals the deal to us. He spent as much, if not more, time with the defense as he did the offense today and he was not involved at all in the play-calling on offense.

* Coming out of spring, the depth at tight end was a question mark. With the addition of Mosley, fuhgetaboutit. Big, strong, smooth runner with really good hands. That's a bingo for the Rebels.

* Safety Damien Jackson also had a pick today on a long pass. Damien has gained some weight and looks as much like a linebacker now as he does a safety.

* While Moncrief and Singleton were using their size and strength to shed corners, RS freshman Vincent Sanders - who has gained about 10 pounds since spring - also showed a physical side today, catching several balls in traffic and with defenders hanging off him.

* It's hard to tell much about the trench work until they put on pads, but Carlton Martin, Uriah Grant, Pena and Bryon Bennett were all active and involved in plays today. Good sign.

* The Rebs will be in shorts and helmets again Sunday.

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