A Little Payback

A lot was going on in Tuesday's football practice after a four-day layoff, including Randall Mackey being moved from QB to WR/TB/QB, but in the end, it was a day for the Rebel defense. Read about it inside.

The Ole Miss defense had four days to seethe a little bit after the offense "won the day" in the last practice session last Thursday.

Tuesday, when practice resumed, they took out their frustrations on the Ole Miss offense.

"We took a step back offensively, which seems to be the case every time we try to install something new, but the defense played with a lot of energy and passion and got the best of the offense today," said Coach Hugh Freeze post-practice. "Our timing was off with bad snaps, we weren't physical up front and the quarterbacks didn't play well. All that adds up to a poor day.

"We are finished with installing this spring on offense. I told our coaches we have to get good at something before spring is up, and I'm sure we did something positive today. In fact, we were decent in the tempo period. I am just disappointed we didn't have more energy on offense today and the defense brought it. I want more days where both sides compete at a high level."

On the install, Freeze said he's got "maybe 50%" of the offense in now.

The offensive coaches did make one major move Tuesday, moving Randall Mackey around from QB to wide receiver, tailback and then some back at quarterback.

"We are just trying to make sure we use him somehow. He's too good an athlete not to help us somewhere," said Hugh.

Having said that, there was a caveat, and it wasn't good news. Freeze got into the academic issue that hangs over the team's head.

Randall Mackey
File Photo

"I've been very open and honest that we have some issues here. A lot of guys weren't here today because they are in the academic center. We have another one (WR Donte Moncrief) who is sick," Freeze explained. "Randall is one who has some academic issues. If we get those straight, we are going to find a place for him. We are going to experiment with him a little the rest of spring. We think he can line up at all three.

"He was very smooth catching the ball in the limited reps he got. He's swimming right now, learning how to line up properly, but he can catch the ball and we all know what he can do running with the ball in his hands."

With Mackey working some out wide and at tailback, it gives Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace more quarterback reps.

"We feel comfortable both of them will be with us in week one and they need all the reps they can get," he noted. "Before today, Barry was a little ahead of Bo, but today neither one of them set the woods on fire.

"The next two scrimmages are big for both of them. We'd like to know who is in the lead when we open up fall camp and those scrimmages will be a big indicator of that."

On defense, Freeze likes what he is seeing.

"I'm an offensive guy, but I spend a lot of time in the defensive meeting room. I love what Dave (Wommack) and his staff is doing over there," Freeze said. "A great defense is essential in this league. Last Thursday, they gave up too mahy big plays, but they seemed to correct a lot of that today.

"They disguise things very well and they come from a lot of different angles. Our O-line is struggling to pick it up right now," he noted.

Random Notes:

* CB Cliff Coleman, WR/CB Nick Brassell, LB Sederius Bryant, Slot Korvic Neat, Husky Brishen Mathews, DE Kameron Wood, LG Aaron Morris, Slot Philander Moore and TB Nick Parker were all held out of practice for academic s Tuesday. "We have 20 kids on academic probation based on their results from first semester and I'm worried about all of them," said Freeze. "I probably don't have to worry about that many, but one bombed test and you've got trouble."

Barry to Tobias
File Photo

* Knowing those facts, Hugh said it's looking like a large percentage of the true freshmen next year will have to play. "I'd guess 50-70% right now," he closed, "but it all depends on how we shore things up academically and how we look when we get a few injured players who are missing spring back out here. We signed 13 true freshmen and I'd say there is a probability eight or so of them could play next year."

* Besides worrying about the overall 2.0 GPA required to stay in school and off probation, there's a new NCAA rule that has Freeze worried as well. If a player does not pass a minimum of nine hours in the fall semester, he has to pass 27 hours in the spring semester and summer school combined. If he fails to do either, the NCAA imposes a four-game, the first four games, mandatory suspension next season. There were 13 players who did not pass nine hours first semester.

* DE C.J. Johnson did not have a cast on his hand Tuesday and was cleared to play after a concussion last week. "It's hard to play with one hand in the SEC," said C.J. "I felt great today. My head was clear and my hand is fine." C.J. says he finally feels at home at defensive end. "I'm learning new techniques and moves and feel I am progressing," he stated. "I have added more pass rush moves this spring. Derrick Burgess is helping me a lot." C.J. is currently playing at 238 pounds and wants to be around 248-250 next year. "I played at 248 last year, so that will be no problem, but I need to get stronger and I need my technique to be cleaner. I'm not as crisp as I should be," he closed. "That will come with time."

* Mackey had one shining moment at WR in pass skelly drills. He caught an out route leaping high in the air and managing to get one foot in bounds before falling out of bounds. There's no question he has the athletic skills to play receiver.

"DT Bryon Bennett (ankle) and OLB Rudy Wilson (ankle) were dressed out Tuesday but they were limited in practice as to what they could do.

* Safety Charles Sawyer has had a productive spring so far. Through 10 practices, Charles has seven interceptions. The goal? One pick a day.

* Sawyer, CB Wesley Pendleton, who was practicing despite being on the tail end of a virus, and CB Abdul Bangura all had picks in team competition.

* DT Uriah Grant was held out of the contact portion of practices today with an injured shoulder. No word on the extent of the injury yet.

* While Freeze didn't come out and point blank say it, and it isn't official yet, it's fairly obvious the quarterback battle is now a two-man race for all intents and purposes. Brunetti and Wallace. Who will it be? Stay tuned.

* The Rebs will practice again Thursday and then have a scrimmage Saturday morning. Saturday's scrimmage is open to the public.

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