Signs Of Life

After an abysmal day in Tuesday's practice, the Ole Miss offense showed moments of improvement and even some "talking back" at Wednesday's morning practice in shells. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze dished out some criticism after Tuesday's practice and it was aimed squarely at the Rebel offense.

After Wednesday's a.m. workout, he gave them some praise for showing some improvement.

"It was a better day. We did some good things. We had a couple of touchdowns and we did some other good things in spurts in different periods," said Freeze. "We stayed on schedule better today at times.

"I thought the defense won the 1st-and-10 competition and the offense won the 3rd-and-short to medium competition. That's the way you want it, with some back-and-forth and real competition. There was definitely some improvement offensively."

Freeze said the difference Wednesday was simple.

"We didn't install anything new today and we got more reps of the things we had been installing," he noted. "We were also careful with how we scripted things today. We had been running some plays just to get the reps that were dead before they started. We scripted a little differently today."

The tempo of the offense is starting to pick up some, but there is still a lot of room for improvement in that area.

"Early on, we handled the tempo in our Red Ball drills real well, but later on in practice, we had several people wanting to tap out," he continued. "We will continue to condition them and get them ready, but it will take more time."

Justin Bell
File Photo

One reason the offense did better was the quarterbacks performed a bit better.

"Today, I would say B (Wallace) did a little better, but the race is still real tight. Both will still get their shot," said Freeze.

For the first time this camp, Randall Mackey was also lined up at quarterback. He ran the Wildcat sets.

"Randall will line up there some during the season. We'll play him in a lot of positions, including getting the snap at QB," Freeze explained.

Mikhail Miller has been getting the number three reps at QB.

"We have to get him more reps. He throws the ball well in one-on-one drills, but he's swimming right now. He's young - he'll get it," noted Freeze.

As was mentioned a couple of days ago, Ralph Williams has been moved from linebacker to defensive end when the Rebels are in the 4-2-5 set. "We are just trying to get more explosion on the end," said Freeze. "We need more athletic people out there overall. Coach (Chris) Kiffin praised him in the staff meeting this morning and thinks Ralph can help us there. When we are in a 4-3, Ralph will be the Wolf LB."

Random Notes:

* RG Aaron Morris (Achilles sprain) was in a boot today and is expected to miss a "couple of more days," according to Freeze. In his absence, Justin Bell took his place with the first unit. "Justin got better today," said Hugh. "I saw a couple of things he did that were a lot more physical. I feel better after today's practice about the OL, but we have to find some consistency and do it every day. We did get better this morning."

* Freshmen RBs I'tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton continue to impress Freeze. "Jaylen has been a pleasant surprise. We knew he was good when we recruited him, but you never know how freshmen backs are going to respond to the new arena. I'Tavius also shows he has the goods," noted Huh. "Both of those guys are doing well."

* Temario Strong was at practice this morning after being academically cleared yesterday. He could not dress in shells like the rest of the team but will be able to after Thursday. "We will throw him in the fire. I don't know any other way to do it," said Freeze. "He'll be in all the meetings. I know he is behind, but I know he loves playing ball and will spend whatever time is necessary to catch up." Temario tipped the scales at 237 pounds this morning and will start out at defensive end, but Freeze believes he can play some LB as well.

Louis Covington
File Photo

* A developing surprise is freshman DT Isaac Gross, who got some reps with the number one defense this morning. "He keeps showing up on film. We all say he needs to gain weight, but he's a ballplayer who keeps showing up and making plays," Freeze allowed.

* Right now, it appears the defensive End and Bandit slots will be played by committee with Cameron Whigham, Jason Jones and Williams on one side and C.J. Johnson, E.J. Epperson and Carlos Thompson on the other. Of that group, nobody has distanced themselves from the pack, but they have all been productive in one phase or another. Obviously, the wild card is Channing Ward. When he gets cleared by teh NCAA, he will be way behind, but the expectations are for him to add immediate pass rush capabilities and learn the rest on the fly. The quicker he can "get it," the quicker his playing time will increase.

* The Rebel defense has worked almost exclusively in the 4-2-5 to this point of fall camp. When will Wommack introduce the 4-3 to them? The ninth practice, we were told. When the Rebs go to a 4-3, look for the Stinger LB to be Keith Lewis, Mike Marry to be the MLB and Williams to take over Wolf LB.

* Wallace hooked up with Philander Moore for a 65-yard score in Red Ball drills, Jeff Scott ripped off a 15-yard TD run and Tobias Singleton started things off with a 60-yard catch-and-run TD early in the drill.

* Late arriving CB Louis Covington got some looks today in team drills and showed he has some wheels. Also in that active secondary, CB Wesley Pendleton had another interception, this one of the pick 6 variety. CB Senquez Golson also recorded a pick.

* The Rebels also worked a little on their power game with the quarterback under center. Freeze said the QB will be under center in games "roughly 8-10" snaps. In that set today, power backs Nick Parker and Devin Thomas were used more.

* You can pick up some info sometimes standing on the sidelines listening to player chatter. For instance, who does the defense "fear" the most on the Rebel offense? From the chatter, Mackey, Scott and Mathers, who they call "nasty."

* The Rebels were in shells this morning,b ut will be in full pads at this afternoon's 5:15 practice. It is open to the media and we will have another practice report following the workout.

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