Getting After It

This spring training has been about a lot of things, but one of the main objectives was the players "buying in." At Tuesday's practice, the Rebels were all in. Read about it inside.

Those who have attended all the spring practices have seen flashes of extreme intensity, 100% effort and infectious enthusiasm, but Coach Hugh Freeze has been waiting patiently to see those ingredients sustained throughout a practice.

His patience paid off Tuesday in the last day of pads - other than Saturday's Grove Bowl - of spring training.

Local rains drove the Rebels inside the Indoor Practice Facility but the wet weather did not dampen their efforts as the Rebels strutted their stuff for the whole practice.

Freeze was pleased.

"I loved the energy. Everybody was flying around and playing with great passion and that's what we have got to have to get where we want to go," said Freeze, allowing himself a half-smile. "I was real, real pleased with how competitive this practice was.

"The offense won the team run competition, the defense won the team pass competition by a landslide and then the offense won a close one in the first down competition to wrap the practice up. Great day."

Tuesday was intended to be a correction day from Saturday's scrimmage, but it ended up being much, much more.

"We cleaned up a lot of stuff today, but in that scrimmage, we had a lot to fix," he explained. "Offensively, we just did not have an awareness of staying on schedule. 2nd-and-3 become 3rd-and-6 because we don't understand or are aware of being in 2nd-and-3. We have to stay on schedule.

"I thought the offensive line was much better in the run game in the scrimmage, but the pass protection has got to improve. We saw some of that today as well when the defense had several sacks in the team pass competition.

Woodrow Hamilton
File Photo

"When we went to our tempo stuff on offense last Saturday, the defense got tired and got a little sloppy. Before that, they really did a good job."

The awareness part, Hugh theorizes, comes from being brain locked, at least part of it.

"I don't think we are playing freely yet. We are still thinking a lot. That will come, but we wish it would come a little faster," he noted. "In teh QB race Saturday, Barry Brunetti did some good things, but Bo Wallace kept us on schedule better. We had too many negative plays to keep the chains moving, which we cannot have in this offense, or any offense."

For the layman, Freeze explained being "on schedule" on offense.

"Playing in front of the chains, to state it simply," he said. "I can live with 3rd-and-7, but I can't live with 3rd-and-11 or 12. Obviously, 3rd-and-3 is better, but you get the picture. I can live with 2nd-and-10, but 2nd-and-12 is no good. Just stay in front of the chains and be aware of the down and distance."

Freeze was asked to analyze where the offensive line is through 13 spring practices.

"I had no preconceived notions of where they should start because of the losses of Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie and this spring losing Matt Hall," he noted. "Matt Luke has done a wonderful job. Our first unit has improved no doubt in the run game, but we still have a long way to go in pass protection, as you saw today.

"We really need the second team to improve in the offseason and all of them have to get in better shape for our tempo stuff during summer workouts."

Random Notes:

* On the injury front, Husky Ivan Nicholas has bruised ribs from the scrimmage and Slot Collins Moore has a sprained hip and knee. Both have a chance to play in the Grove Bowl. Nicholas went through all non-contact drills. . . Safety Charles Sawyer pulled his hamstring a little in Tuesday's practice and sat out the remainder of the workout. He is expected to be ready for Saturday's Grove Bowl. . . Slot Tyler Baker, who has been nursing a hurt foot, was dressed out Tuesday but was limited in his action.

C.J. Johson
File Photo

* Ole Miss signee Trae Elston was at practice Tuesday. Elston is a cornerback/safety prospect from Oxford, AL.

* New Athletics Director Ross Bjork was at practice Tuesday as well. He stayed for most of the workout.

* In the team run competition, TB Jeff Scott gashed the Rebel defense a couple of times and there were a couple of 4-5 yard runs until DE C.J. Johnson trapped Scott in the backfield for a 4-yard loss. . . The competition was tied going into the last play where TB Devin Thomas ripped off a 12-yard gain giving the offense the win for the period and the offensive players erupted, piling on Thomas as if he's won the Sugar Bowl. Good to see that type of enthusiasm.

* In the team pass competition, the QBs had a hard time getting a pass off. On the first eight plays, they were sacked four times. DT Woodrow Hamilton had two sacks, Johnson, MLB Mike Marry and DE Carlos Thompson had one each. CB Abdul Bangura, who seems to come up with a pick or two a week, had another Tuesday. . . The offense had their moments, including a 35-yard screen play to Scott, who ran all day like he was possessed, a 50-yard screen to TB Nick Parker and a 50-yard TD from Brunetti to Slot Korvic Neat, but the defense was the dominant force in the drill.

* While Freeze has already said it in so many words, Tuesday's practice was the stuff that makes teams better. The competition was fierce and the enthusiastic roars from whichever side of the ball had a big play rang throughout the IPF. The fun has returned to Ole Miss football on the practice fields.

* The Rebels will have a shorts and shoulder pads practice Thursday to get ready for Saturday's Grove Bowl.

OM Spirit Top Stories