'Today Was Better'

On one hand, Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze said Monday's practice was "better." On the other, he wants his team to "expect more of themselves," i.e., get tougher.

As is the case during most early fall camp practices, you will find the good, the bad and the ugly.

Monday's certainly had all three.

The good:

"We were better today. We started to get some different things in that helped us get some things accomplished on offense and it was good to see us get some things in in tempo that helped us put a couple of touchdowns on the board," noted Coach Hugh Freeze after Monday morning's workout. "We are still fighting the mental bug of needing to get tougher when things get tough.

"We have to fight back a little harder when things don't go your way. The defense did that most of the day, but they struggled some at the end when they got tired. We had to push them through it. We have a long way to go, but there were some positives today.

"Our running game was better. We got some gap scheme stuff installed which helped us some. There were some creases in there at times to run through. We stayed away from negative plays for the most part. We are picking things up pretty good too. We have made some mistakes, but that will happen when you are installing stuff. The walk thru practices at night have really helped us learn."

The bad:

If you come to an Ole Miss practice, it's not likely you will hear Freeze raise his voice too much, but today he felt he had to. The guys just were not giving him what he felt was an appropriate level of effort/concentration/intensity.

"We have to expect more of ourselves. Their desire to compete at a higher level has to change. They have gone through a couple of tough years and I know it is playing on their minds - I have inherited programs like this before," Freeze explained. "It's easy to say 'this is the same old deal,' but we have to start expecting more of ourselves."

Barry Brunetti
File Photo

"Like on the offensive line - we have to get more physical and we have to finish plays, finish blocks, better."

The ugly:

The injury bug struck yesterday with the results in today.

"(WR) Collins (Moore) has a torn labrum. We'll rehab him and see what happens. We're going to try to rehab him for three to four weeks and see where he is. I had a kid play with that last year, but it's not easy for a receiver," noted Freeze. "We'll have to decide by week three if he redshirts or not. We'll take the route of trying to get him ready, but it is a surgical injury either sooner or later depending on how his rehab goes.

"In his absence, Philander Moore, Korvic Neat and Tobias Singleton will get most of those reps, but we may move one of our backs out there some or do some more things with a tight end. It all depends on who steps up. We will miss Collins because he knew everything and he's a great leader. He's consistent on a team that needs consistency. He's also bigger than some of those smaller inside guys we have."

Rover Charles Sawyer also got bad news.

"He's got a torn quad and will be out four to six weeks. In his absence, we will use two freshmen - Trae Elston and Quintavius Burdette. We love them both. I'm not sure how good they will be early on as true freshmen, but we love them," said Freeze. "They will have to play and will be good ones in time."

Also, WR Donte Moncrief had a bruise around his knee and was held out of practice Monday, but he's expected back soon.

Random Notes:

* Nose Tackle Gilbert Pena caused a fumble Monday when he stripped frosh RB I'Taviius Mathers. He continues to show improvement, which the Rebel DL needs. "He keeps showing up," said Freeze. "He's quicker and coming off the ball better. That is what he needed. He's in better shape and has lost quite a bit of weight since last spring (30 pounds)."

Jaylen Walton
File Photo

* Freeze was asked preseason how he will balance the fine line between being physical in practice and trying to stay healthy. He was asked again Monday after the news of the two injuries was confirmed. "We go back and forth on that as a staff, but we have to set a tone out here. I don't think we can change the mentality unless we get after it," he noted. "We pray every day that God will take care of us and keep us healthy, but we know injuries are a part of football. It doesn't just happen at Ole Miss. I'm not a negative person, or someone who gets down easily, but when a Collins Moore or Charles Sawyer goes down, it really hurts. It makes you sick at your stomach and you don't sleep well at night, but at the same time you know this game is a physical game and if you aren't practicing that way, you won't play that way. We will practice and play physical."

* Sophomore LB Ralph Williams was moved to defensive end today to see if he could give that position a boost in pass rush and coming off the edge quicker. Ralph will still play the Wolf LB in 4-3 sets, but he might be able to add a little spark to DE. We'll keep you updated on his progress.

* Names that keep popping up in casual conversation early on for doing a good job on defense thus far - Stinger LB Aaron Garbutt, Husky Dehendret Collins, and CB Senquez Golson (still in catch up mode from having missed spring, but getting there quickly). The Rebel coaches are also handing out fairly liberal kudos on frosh DT Isaac Gross, frosh Rovers Burdette and Elston, and frosh CB Anthony Standifer, raw but full of potential.

* E.J. Epperson, after four years on offense, feels he has finally found his home at defensive end. He's athletic, mature and quick off the ball. Technique-wise, he has catching up to do, but at least he's excited about his new position, which he asked in the summer to be moved to from FB/TE. He is currently number two behind Cameron Whigham at the Bandit position.

* Speaking of Golson, in one of the team drills, the talented sophomore picked off a short Barry Brunetti pass and took it to the house, showing his unusual speed and quickness. Good sign for Senquez.

* On Gross, his first step is extremely explosive. He gets "on" offensive linemen before they can come out of their stance comfortably, which gives him an edge. Twenty more pounds and the word "special" has been used to project his potential.

* In Moncrief's absence, frosh WR Cody Core continues to make some plays and impress. If the early signs hold true, look for Core to be in the wideout rotation when the first game rolls around.

* The Rebels will practice in full pads for the first time tomorrow morning in a closed practice to the public.

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