SEC Opener Looms

It's time for the SEC part of the Rebel schedule, starting with Vanderbilt in Nashville Saturday morning. Ole Miss resumed their preparations Tuesday after Monday's mandatory day off. Read about the workout and a welcomed surprise inside.

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A semi-surprise greeted media onlookers at Tuesday's full-pad practice.

Number 34 - Tailback Brandon Bolden - was dressed out and running through drills with a heavily taped left foot.

We say "semi-surprise" because word had already leaked out that Bolden, who injured his foot in the opener against BYU and was expected to be out 3-4 weeks, had participated in Sunday's closed practice.

Verification of Brandon's return effort in Tuesday's practice, however, was a pleasant sight, and Bolden did not look to be favoring the foot too much. A little perhaps, but not overly obvious.

Brandon Bolden
File Photo

Coach Houston Nutt was glad to see Bolden return, but he's uncertain how much he can get out of him against Vanderbilt.

"He didn't go every play, but it was good to see him out here," Nutt noted. "I will know more Thursday or Friday if he can go this weekend. Right now, it's up in the air. Enrique (Davis) was in class early on and joined us late. He dressed out, but he's still slow going in regard to his return."

Nutt greeted the media with what's on everyone's mind.

"SEC week, SEC week. It's here and I felt it when I came out on the field," Nutt noted. "We did well the first seven or eight periods, but I want to finish our practices better. I want all 24 periods right.

"Our guys know we are playing a very good team that's on a high right now. They are 2-0 and playing extremely hard. We have to be ready to go."

Nutt stayed adamant about the quarterback situation.

"We'll go with (Zack) Stoudt and if he's scoring, we'll stay with him. If not, we will have no qualms in putting in (Randall) Mackey. We may even use both. Whatever it takes to move this team and for us to win, we'll do it," Houston stated.

Nutt said the offensive line made a bit of a statement Tuesday.

"They had a really good practice today," Nutt continued. "Coach (Mike) Markuson is the best in the country and he'll get it right."

If Bolden/Davis are out or limited this week, Nutt said he's got faith in Jeff Scott.

"He's been outstanding. He has taken over the role of number one TB and embraced it, whether it's blocking, running the ball, protecting or catching," said Nutt.

OC David Lee was definitely glad to see Bolden attempting a comeback.

"He does so much for this team. He can do it all at tailback. Brandon means a lot to us just being out here on the practice field," Lee added. "But if he can't go, we have been very pleased with Jeff. He makes things happen and he likes to have the ball in his hands."

Lee gave high praise to the Vandy defense.

"They look really good to me. Their front is aggressive and they aren't stationary. They slant and move. Their MLB is a heckuva player and their strong safety looks like a pro tight end back there," David noted. "They lead the league in interceptions with their aggressive secondary. They believe in themselves and are playing with confidence. We will get their best shot and we better be able to match it."

In Tuesday's practice, there were 81 offensive snaps. Stoudt got 50 and Mackey got 31.

"We have things we are running that are tailored for each of them," Lee added. "With the things we are doing, I think we can do things that feature both their talents that give us the best chance to win. That's why they are both playing - it gives us the best chance to win right now."

Random Notes:

* Tuesday's practice was moved up an hour because "five or six" Rebels have 6 p.m. classes and the coaches did not want a repeat of last week, when those players - which includes C A.J. Hawkins, Bolden and RT Bobby Massie - had to leave the workout early.

* Something that has slipped by without too much fanfare from the Southern Illinois game was the pooch punting effort of Punter Tyler Campbell, who nailed the Salukis inside the 15 four times on the night, including three times inside the 6. Tyler had some issues with pooch punting last year and has worked hard on that aspect of his game since last season. He's opted to go from his standard straight-ahead punting position and taking something off his punts that he tried last year to running laterally toward the sidelines and squib kicking the ball, low and end over end. Against SIU, it worked beautifully. Obviously, he has more distance control with that method. Here's hoping the early trend continues.

* Freshman WR Tobias Singleton got his first college action against SIU with some kickoff returns. He flashed some speed and moves and did a nice job. Now, he's working himself toward getting some reps in games at wideout. WR Coach Gunter Brewer has said repeatedly that Tobias and Collins Moore were "fair game" in terms of playing this year. Basically meaning he will not redshirt them if they continue to progress and can contribute in a meaningful way. Is this the week we'll see Tobias in the offense? How he practices this week will determine that, but it appears he's on the fast track to getting his shot.

Burns, Nix in hardhats
File Photo

* The defensive coaches all wore construction hard hats to practice Tuesday. It's a reminder to the players of the hard work necessary to win in the SEC, that preparation is one major key and in order to go to Atlanta they have to lay the foundation by getting off to a solid conference start.

* C.J. Johnson has been moved from middle linebacker to defensive end. It could be temporary, it could be permanent, depending on how he responds, but we can't say that came as a shock. C.J. is most likely going to continue to get bigger and it's not out of the question he will be 255-260 by next year. He has that type of frame. "He looked good down there. We could keep him at LB and he'd be OK, but I think DE gets him on the field quicker," Nutt assessed. "I believe he will help us this year at DE. He may have a role similar to what D.T. (Shackelford) did for us last year coming off that edge." We'll keep you posted on his progress.

* Most Rebs have been wondering if there is going to be any movement, as in personnel changes, on the offensive line. As of today, the first team of LT Bradley Sowell, LG Patrick Junen, Center A.J. Hawkins, RG Matt Hall and RT Bobby Massie remains the same, but OL Coach Mike Markuson appears to have switched around some backups. Tank Washington has been moved to right guard from right tackle, Jared Duke has been moved from right guard to left guard and freshman Aaron Morris has been moved from left guard to right tackle.

* Backup Cornerback Kyle Horine had the best hit of the night against Southern Illinois on Jeff Scott's punt return for a score. Horine plays on the punt return team. The call was a right return and led Scott in front of the Ole Miss bench. Horine honed in on an SIU pursuer and absolutely took him out. The defender never knew what hit him and Scott pranced into the end zone from 67 yards out. Big hit.

* Backup Spur Brishen Mathews sat out Tuesday's practice with a back issue. No word on when he will return. . . . MLB Mike Marry sat out today with a case of plantar fasciitis/strained arch, a painful foot ailment that feels a lot like, we are told, a real bad stone bruise. No word on his return either. Nutt said it did not look good for Marry to play Saturday against the Dores. In his absence, Ralph Williams manned the MLB slot and Joel Kight was at OLB. Freshmen Keith Lewis and Serderius Bryant also move up a notch. "I love Keith and Serderius. They are bright-eyed and enthusiastic. They are good players, they just don't know everything yet. They are going to be very good in time," Nutt said. . . WR Melvin Harris is still missing from practice with a back ailment.

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