Early Bird Special

The Rebels were up before the sun was Monday morning. Coach Hugh Freeze called a 5:30 a.m. practice and the results were positive according to the first-year Ole Miss coach. Read about it inside.

If the early bird does indeed catch the worm, the Ole Miss football team has enough to go fishing for the rest of the summer.

Under the lights of the practice field, the Rebels went through a crisp, early-morning workout Monday with a good result, according to Coach Hugh Freeze.

"We were pretty crisp today on offense until the last period, then the defense kind of took over," said Freeze about the 2-hour, full-pad practice session. "Some of the things were weren't doing in the scrimmage Friday, we cleaned up some today.

"Our quarterbacks are starting to understand a little more. We slowed it down some. These early morning practices - which I do two or three in the spring - are for teaching and correcting. I thought we made strides today. I thought (QB) Barry Brunetti had a good day and receivers were on the same page with the QBs a little better. The offensive line faded at the end and the defensive line started dominating, but I thought we got a lot out of them."

Hugh Freeze
File Photo

Wide Receiver Nick Brassell went through his first practice of spring and showed why he has been missed with two or three Brassell-like plays.

"We love Nick. He's one of my favorite kids on this team, but he has to get his academics in order. There's no tutoring going on at 5:30 in the morning, so we got him out here to practice. We are doing everything we can to make sure he makes it," said Freeze. "He's a special player who would make us a lot better, but these kids have to understand they are here for an education first.

"There's no doubt he adds a different dimension to us. Today, he didn't know what he was doing but you can tell he's got it. Throw him in there, tell him to run a pattern and he scores a touchdown. You don't want to coach that too much."

The Rebs, it appears, are starting to get used to the pace demanded in Freeze's system.

"We didn't go real fast today, but in Friday's scrimmage, the pace was real good at the end. I can see them starting to get it," he continued. "I know Paul Jackson is going to have us ready when fall rolls around and I think we are starting to think faster and understand the demands of this offense."

Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke didn't look real happy after Friday's scrimmage, but he's being patient with the offensive line development.

"First scrimmages are never as bad as it seems or as good as it seems. You can always pull some good things out of the first scrimmage," said Luke. "We are just going through a learning curve, but they are learning to compete and learning to play with tempo. We are building a foundation right now and there is something to build on.

Matt Luke
File Photo

"The biggest thing about the new pace is for them to believe the tempo is a advantage for them. When you go on a drive and the defense has the hands on their hips, offenisve linemen get excited. They have to buy into that and keep working to get in shape."

Right now, the main combination is LT Emmanuel McCray, LG Aaron Morris, C Evan Swindall, RG A.J. Hawkins and RT Pierce Burton.

"I have a couple of other combinations in mind, but those are my top five right now," Luke added. "My initial goal is to find the best five and then some depth. Everything is still open, but those five are number ones right now. Justin Bell played really well in the scrimmage, so there is some competition going on."

Morris had a poor scrimmage Friday, but Luke said he will be fine when things become more natural to him.

"Confusion and a lack of motivation look exactly the same. He's swimming a bit, but he's motivated. When he gets it right, he looks unbelievable, but right now he's working on his consistency. The more reps he gets, the more familiar he gets with what we are doing, the better he will be. We know he has the physical tools," Luke stated. "Pierce is doing well. He's got football sense. I want to see him play lower, sometimes he plays too high, but he's pretty good at pass pro. He needs to work on his run blocking. This will be a big summer for him to get his lower body stronger, but overall he's doing good things.

"A.J. has been pretty good for most of spring. We need him to string five or six good plays together instead of one good and one bad. Evan is a smart kid. There's another level he can reach and I think he will. Evan's shotgun snaps have been pretty good, which is important."

Random Notes:

* The injury list shrunk some since Friday. WR Donte Moncrief missed the scrimmage with back spasms, but he returned to practice Monday morning. . . Husky Brishen Mathews was absent Friday with cramp issues, but returned Monday. . . MLB Mike Marry missed most of last week with a hamstring issue, but he participated in most of Monday's workout. . . LB Rudy Wilson injured his ankle Friday and missed today. . . DT Bryon Bennett is still out with an ankle issue. . . DE Gerald Rivers is at his Grandmother's funeral and missed Friday and Monday. . . WR Tyler Baker is out with a foot issue. . . . TB Jeff Scott missed Monday's practice due to a high fever.

* A new face has popped on the scene in the last two practices. RB Jimmy Potepa has walked on. He's a 5-8, 205-pounder from Bronx, NY, who appears to have some burst and a powerful lower body. Even though he did not participate in Friday's scrimmage, he did go through the Rebel Drill, which is a high-contact run drill, and he caught the eyes of the coaches. We'll keep you posted.

* Has the light come on for DE Carlos Thompson? He got good reviews for his relentlessness Friday and got more reps with the ones and twos Monday morning. Seems he's making a move for more playing time.

* Snoop, well, he's Snoop, and as we all know, he's special. On his first play with the ball, Brassell went in motion, took a handoff, went wide, froze a DB in his tracks with a quick move and picked up 12 yards. Then, he caught a bomb in pass skelly, outjumping a defender for the ball. Snoop is Snoop.

* Another player who made several big plays, three behind the line of scrimmage, was DE C.J. Johnson, despite wearing a club on his injured left hand.

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