'Better effort today'

After a dismal showing in Tuesday morning's practice, the Rebels showed more fire and energy in Wednesday morning's practice. Read about it inside.

The Rebels didn't show much enthusiasm Tuesday morning and had their worst practice of fall camp.

Wednesday morning, they got back in the good rhythm they had been in for 11 days prior to Tuesday.

"We got a lot of good work done this morning. I thought the defense went a little flat from pass skelly on, but we had two real good physical periods in team run. It was really good for the defense because we don't run a lot of power stuff in our offense, but it was good for our defense to get a dose of that," Coach Hugh Freeze said. "It was good, physical football for both sides.

"We also had a live overtime period and it was OK. The offense scored on the first play with ones on ones. The two offense got it down there to 4th-and-goal from teh two, but had a penalty and then Denzel Nkemdiche made a tackle in the backfield. That's a game-changing play."

The battle at running back continues to be tight.

"It's tight. Randall Mackey, Jaylen Walton and I'tavius Mathers are tough and have been through every practice. I respect that. Jeff (Scott) had a little setback with his lower back, but came back today and practiced well. We have some battles going on there for playing time," Hugh said.

The Rebels are going with Aaron Garbutt at outside linebacker and Dehendret Collins/Brishen Mathews at the Husky, a position that requires a lot of run support. Does Freeze worry about their lack of size that close to the line of scrimmage?

"We can't sit them still," he smiled. "We have to keep them moving. We are undersized there, but hopefully what Dave (Wommack) and our defensive staff does, it will negate some of that," Freeze explained. "We do have some bigger guys we can turn to - Mike Marry, Keith Lewis, Ralph (Williams) and Serderius (Bryant) has a low center of gravity, as does Joel Kight. We can go bigger if we see we need to. That's why we have worked some 4-3 this week."

QB Bo Wallace, who did not throw Tuesday due to a bad blister on the end of his index finger of his throwing (right) hand, threw with a glove on Wednesday and did fine.

Gloved Bo Wallace
File Photo

"Bo did a nice job in skelly, driving us down to two touchdowns. It didn't seem to affect his throwing much to wear the glove," Hugh noted. "He didn't like wearing the glove, but we need that thing to heal up or it might linger on all season."

Someone currently getting rewarded for "super effort" is DE E.J. Epperson, who moved from tight end/fullback in the spring to defensive end this fall. Today, he worked with the number one defense opposite of C.J. Johnson on the other end.

"E.J. has been a super effort kid all camp," said Freeze. "He's a great kid and great for this team and we try to honor that kind of buy-in and effort. He's new there and has some disadvantages because of that, but his effort is unquestionable. When you put the film on every day, his effort is top shelf."

As of the end of morning practice, there was still no word on the eligibility of frosh DE Channing Ward.

] "I will check as soon as I get in," Freeze noted. "Channing has done everything the right way to become eligible. We can't wait for him to get here."

Freeze was asked for an offensive line update.

"They continue to improve little by little. We still need the eighth and ninth guy to step up and give us some more depth, but I am pleased with their progress to this point," Hugh allowed. "Aaron Morris had his first live reps today. It was good to see him back. Justin Bell is definitely in the top seven. He has earned it and gotten a lot better while Aaron has been out."

Random Notes: * The Rebels have had their first defection of fall camp. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Mitch Hall has quit the team and has been released to transfer. Mitch was running number two left tackle in early fall camp drills, but recently had been moved out by true freshman Robert Conyers, who is now the number two LT and has shown a lot of promise for the future.

E.J. Epperson
File Photo

* You don't hear the word "awesome" much in camp right now, but one player who deserves that designation right now by the coaches, and is getting it, on the defensive side of the ball is sophomore DE C.J.Johnson. C.J. has matured as a football player and has made play after play after play in fall camp. Awesome.

* It is likely that freshman Cornerback Anthony Standifer will redshirt this year, barring major injuries, but don't take that to mean the coaches don't think he's going to be a player. In their words "he's what you want - he's an SEC corner." Anthony is tall, rangy and has good hip flexibility. He also runs well. A year in the weight room and then you have something, something special maybe.

* OL D.J. Bailey and CB Wesley Pendelton, both with minor knee issues, continue to be sidelined. . . Husky Dehendret Collins, who injured his shoulder Monday, returned to full contact drills today. . . TB Jeff Scott also returned full speed from a minor back injury and a concussion last week.

* Guess who may take over kickoff return duties? While it has not been decided yet, it is under heavy consideration for frosh TB Jaylen Walton to handle those chores. In the open field, Walton is very dangerous and he seems fearless.

* As we mentioned last week, Special Teams Coordinator Tom Allen is going for speed on the punt team. Across the front, right to left, are Cody Prewitt, Joel Kight, DS Will Denny, Aaron Garbutt and Brishen Mathews. It appears the main candidates for the gunner positions are Pendelton, Collins and Abdul Bangura, all corner types. In personal protection for P Tyler Campbell, about eight yards deep, are Ralph Williams, Marry and Ferbia Allen.

* Once again, as has happened in almost every practice, the freshmen RBs broke nice runs. Mathers ripped off a 40-yarder and Walton had one for about 25.

* Of the running backs, who is the best in pass protection? According to Freeze, senior Devin Thomas. He will be used in that capacity, we are told.

* In the LIVE overtime period, Wallace hit Donte Moncrief on a short sideline pass, he turned it up and broke three tackles to the end zone. Sloppy tackling or Donte being Donte? A little of both, it seemed.

* The Rebels will complete their last true two-a-days late this afternoon.

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