No Motivation Needed

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze thought he might need some extra motivation to get his team going Thursday morning, but that wasn't the case. Read about it inside.

It happens most every August.

After a pair of grueling, hot practices on Thursday, the first real two-a-days of this fall camp, Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze was anticipating a bit of a letdown.

In fact, he had already planned out his motivation ploy.

As it turned out, he didn't need it. He can keep thatt "trick" in his hip pocket because his squad came out ready to rumble Thursday morning in a full-pad workout in the Indoor Practice Facility. (Heavy rain last night in Oxford last night left the practice fields too wet to work on.)

"I had my mind made up, after a very physical day yesterday, that the kids might come out feeling a little sorry for themselves. I had my mind made up to do some things to force them to have a good practice," he explained. "I didn't have to do that. They came out with good energy and competed. That's a step in the right direction."

That may seem like a small thing, but when you are rebuilding a squad that has lost the last two years and had a tendency to fold up their tents when things got tough, the team displaying that type of energy a day after expending so much effort, was a substantial hurdle cleared.

"We are starting to compete now. The first team period got us kick-started with some enthusiasm and it carried over to the whole practice," Freeze continued. "I was very pleased with the effort and attitude."

The past two days, the offense has made quite a few more plays. Granted, they are definitely still a work in progress, but making plays, even sporadically, is a sign that consistency is not far off.

"Bo (Wallace) and Barry (Brunetti) both made some real good throws today at times, but then they turned around and made some very poor ones. It's just a process, but the good thing is that they are getting better," he allowed. "They have taken steps in the right direction the past two days. We are still making some poor decisions at times, but they are coming along and getting better. They did make some really nice throws today.

Jaylen Walton
File Photo

"There really has not been enough separation in their performance to give one an edge yet. I have said before, I think we'll see both early on and let their performances separate them."

Another major factor in the recent improvement of the offense has been the offensive line stepping up some in pass protection.

"Our protection has gotten better from the O-line and our backs are protecting better. There's no doubt that has helped our quarterbacks and pass protection is one of the bigger improvements we've had in a short time," Freeze stated.

There has also been more production from the receiving corps, even with Donte Moncrief and Collins Moore out for now with injuries.

"Vince Sanders has really stepped up. I love him. He comes out here every day and competes. Ja-Mes (Logan) is doing a real good job as well, but we expected that from him. There are some others we have to get more out of, but we are doing better," said Freeze. "Cody Core keep is showing flashes too. He's swimming some and making mental mistakes, but I think he is going to be fine."

Freeze also assessed his running backs.

"I'm cautiously optimistic. Using Randall (Mackey) back there, teh two young ones (I'tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton) and Nick (Parker) and Devin (Thomas) have given me a better feeling than I had when we started," he said. "We are getting a feel for what they can do tohelp us and putting them in those positions."

While which freshmen will redshirt and which will play is still a long way from being decided, Freeze feels "6-8" true frosh may play this year.

"It's ahrd to say, but I can think of 6-8 who have a real chance, depending on injury to other players," Hugh allowed.

Random Notes:

* TB Jeff Scott, hit in the back of the head yesterday, sat out today's practice. "He's day-to-day. He didn't have any symptoms this morning, but we are going to be cautious," said Freeze. "He'll be back soon."

Issac Gross
File Photo

* Moncrief (leg bruise) and LG Aaron Morris (Achilles pull) were still sidelined today. Moncrief is "real close" to coming back full speed.

* The most consistent freshman? DT Issac Gross, said Freeze. "Every day he shows up," Freeze praised. Gross is getting quality reps with both the first and second teams in team drills and started with the first unit today along side Bryon Bennett at the other DT slot. While the speed of the game on this level is what usually "gets" most freshmen, the game appears to be already slowing down for Gross. He appears to be reacting more and thinking less already, way ahead of schedule.

* The word around camp on the three new corners is positive. Anthony Standifer is long, rangy, smart and "very smooth." Mike Hilton has shown the quick twitch and intensity CB Coach Wesley McGriff likes. And recent addition JUCO Louis Covington has exhibited some "grit and toughness," and he had his first interception as a Rebel today in practice.

* The coaches seem to be going for speed on the forward wall of the punt team and more beef on the back end with three personal protectors. Across the front, the main candidates for coverage appear to be Brishen Mathews, Aaron Garbutt, Joel Kight, Cody Prewitt and Dehendret Collins and Abdul Bangura on the outside. Ralph Williams, Mike Marry and Ferbia Allen are the personal protectors. Tyler Campbell is the punter and Will Denny is the deep snapper.

* OL Coach Matt Luke is working different combinations in practice to get a feel for what each player is capable of in different situations. Today, he worked A.J. Hawkins at center some and Evan Swindall, normally the center, at right guard. A.J. is the regular right guard.

* With Morris out, redshirt freshman Justin Bell, who was a teammate of Morris in high school, has moved up to number one for now. He must be doing a good job because the overall pass protection has improved since he has been in the lineup.

* DE Temario Strong got his first dose of pad work today and drew some pats on the back from his teammates in drills. He may not know what he is doing just yet, but he brings it on every snap.

* In various drills, some highlights included a Wallace to Korvic Neat TD pass for 50 yards, a Wallace to Logan 45-yard toss, a Brunetti to H.R. Greer short TD pass, QB sacks by Jason Jones and Collins, and interceptions by Cliff Coleman, Covington and Collins.

* The Rebs resume practice tomorrow with their second two-a-days.

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