No Joke

Coach Houston Nutt continued with his "get tougher" theme Wednesday at practice and the Ole Miss players responded. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt was asked Tuesday after practice how, as a coach, do you make your team more physical, tougher?

He violently hit his fist into his open hand several times in succession.

"You hit and you hit some more," he said emphatically, hopping around enthusiastically.

He promised more of the same in Wednesday's workout, and delivered.

The Rebels were put through an emotionally-charged, leather-popping, extended period of one-on-one and Oklahoma drills to start Wednesday's workout.

Needless to say, the juices were flowing as tempers flared and players had to be separated before football turned into brawling.

"Football is a collision sport and we need to initiate more collisions," Nutt said before the session. "I like to see the fight and competitiveness. The heart and the desire to be aggressive - it's important. Go to the whistle, get after it. I would rather have a team I have to hold back a little than one I have to push all the time."

Mission accomplished.

"We had another good work day with a lot of good-on-good. I was proud of the way they competed," Nutt said. "We've had two good, physical days and we'll come back and do the same thing tomorrow."

Nutt knows what the Rebs are facing a week from Saturday in Alabama.

"They are as dominant as I have seen at this stage of the season in my years in this league," he noted. "Several good teams have not been able to run the ball at all. Florida, Penn State, Arkansas - a lot of offenisve minds have not gotten much. It will be a full day and we have to be at our best.

"It's speed, depth and strength. Pretty good recipe."

Random Notes:

* Wide Receiver Coach Gunter Brewer has been in a little bit of a flux this year. On one hand, he sees great potential in his receiving corps, which excites him to no end. On the other, getting them to reach that potential in a hurry requires vast amounts of patience. "I am finally starting to see them mature a little bit," said Brewer. "They are starting to make a few plays, but it's still a process. The kitchen is about to get hotter and we're doing our best to prepare them for that." Brewer says there's no question about the talent his young troops possess, but lack of experience raises its head daily.

"The issue is that they don't have enough snaps to relate back to something. Everything is new. Every time something different happens, it's their first time," he explained. "With a two or three year player, they can draw on past experiences and remember how to react instinctively. We are still formulating memories. The only way to get better is to play, make mistakes, correct and go back. Great talent does not equate to being a great player. Talented players still have to put in the reps and gain the experience to become great players." The freshman class of receivers were ballyhooed by everyone. Are they living up to that billing in their coach's mind? "Yes. This is a grind. They have school, football, tutors - it's tough to come in here and go from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, but this group has accepted that," Brewer stated. "They have done everything we have asked of them and haven't flinched. That's rare for true freshmen."

Donte Moncrief
File Photo

* One player who has progressed quicker than normal is starting WR Donte Moncrief, a true freshman. "Coming from a small school to this level, he's made excellent strides," noted Brewer. "He's is good game shape, he's got a big body, he's stayed healthy and he's mature. He studies tape and does a lot on his own. He comes to work every day. He is more focused and mature than some of the others I have had at that age. He wants to be a great player."

* Moncrief said he was determined to "take the bit" when he reported to Ole Miss. "I came in with my head on straight and listened to everything I was asked to do and then did it," said Moncrief. "The speed of the game was fast at first, but now I am comfortable with it.

"I'm way more comfortable now than the first game. I am stronger, faster and I am on the same page with the quarterbacks. It's all coming together now. I believe I can make plays and the QBs think I can make plays, so I'm ready." Donte realizes the next test - Alabama - is maybe the ultimate challenge in college football, but he does not seem to be intimidated. "They are great. Really good, but they put on pads just like we do," he said without hesitation. The next step for Donte? "I have to keep working on my routes and coming off the line more physically," he closed. A man who knows where he is, where he's going and what he has to do to get there.

* Wednesday practice was nearly two hours earlier than normal so the coaches can get a jump start on this week's opportunity to hit the road recruiting during an open week. With that, however, there were some absences at practice due to class conflicts. DE Kentrell Lockett, DT Justin Smith and DT Gilbert Pena were the most notable.

* MLB Mike Marry is resting his bad foot this week. He remains in a walking boot in an effort to allow it to heal completely prior to the next game.

* Freshman Aaron Morris remains number one at left guard on the offensive line.

* Corey Gaines, who has been playing on the defensive line, is being looked at on the offensive line this week. "I'm playing center now and I like it. I hope I stay there," said Gaines. "So far, it's going pretty good. I played there in high school and it was like riding a bicycle for me. I have a lot to learn as far as the plays and everything, but I like it."

* Also, TB Enrique Davis is getting a look on defense at the spur position. "It's a little experiment to see if we can get a little help from him at spur, but we will keep him at tailback," explained Nutt. "He won't be able to learn much, but maybe there are two or three things he can help us with at that position. We will need him back on offense as well, but who knows - he might be able to get some snaps on defense too. If we don't give him too much mentally, he'll be alright."

* Tobias Singleton has been getting some initial action as a kickoff return man. He thinks he is close to breaking one, as does Nutt. "We have been one block away from him taking one all the way a couple of times. Tobias hits it hard and he's fearless. He'll get one before it's all over," said Nutt. For his part, Singleton hopes it's against Alabama. "I've been dreaming about that. I have been real, real close," said Tobias. Singleton reported late to camp and had to work his way back into shape. Now he's there. "I had to get in shape and now I have to learn the wide receiver position," he noted. "I was in bad shape. I got here, got in the sand pit and almost fell out. I hung in there and now I am in game shape."

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