Better Than Last Week

The goal this fall camp has been to show improvement on a daily basis. From last Saturday's scrimmage until today's game-like scrimmage held in the stadium, that was accomplished, according to Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze. Read about it inside.

Hugh Freeze has been very direct in his requirements for fall camp, which ended today in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with a scrimmage under game conditions.

Play hard, play with energy and try to improve every day.

"It was not bad at all today," said Freeze. "After what we have put them through in fall camp, I thought we were fairly sound. We had a few penalties, but I told the SEC crew that was here to call it hard - if it was close, call it, and they did.

"I thought we had some good lanes for quarterback runs. Those were being blown dead to protect the QBs, but I thought several of them would have been good gainers in a real game. I continue to be impressed with our running backs and Donte Moncrief made a great catch for us in the Red Zone that was big."

With all eyes on the quarterbacks, Freeze said they were better than they were a week ago in the first full scrimmage.

"The QBs were OK. There were some things I wasn't happy with, but they were more consistent today," he said. "They have improved, which is what we ask of them."

Possibly the best part of the day, from an offensive standpoint, was the Rebel running game.

"We had some good creases to run through," he explained. "We had a script we were following on play calls. I really got the feeling that if we were in a real game, I would have called some different things that would have really worked. Our backs are continuing to run hard and I feel our offensive line has improved a lot. I've said this before - Matt Luke has done an excellent job getting them ready.

Hugh Freeze
File Photo

"Aaron Morris had some pancake blocks on the edge that showed what he can be and what we think he will be."

Freeze held out Randall Mackey after one series, and Jeff Scott is banged up and did not participate. Door opened for I'tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, who had very productive days.

"I cam crazy about both of them. They are phenomenal kids, they are competitors and they have not missed a snap of fall camp," Freeze continued. "They have been beaten on and hit and they bounce right back up and go again. I know they are beat up and sore, but they keep going full speed. I am very proud of them."

(Freeze indicated, for the record, that both Mathers and Walton will play this year. No redshirt anticipated. "I wish we could hold one, but we are probably going to turn them loose," he smiled.)

For the most part this fall camp, the defense has held an edge. Today was a sign the offense is catching up with them.

"They are starting to understand the offense more and more and the biggest thing is the offensive line becoming more cohesive at the pace we ask them to go," he noted. "It's not like a conventional offense where you identify fronts - we don't have time to do that. We go. The OL is always the last to get it because they get a lot of different pictures up there, particularly from Dave (Wommack) and his defense. It's been a process and they are getting better."

On the defensive side of the ball, Wommack went a little more vanilla Saturday. He wanted to see how the Reb defense responded in more base packages and with less blitzing.

For Freeze, it left him wanting a little more in the execution of tackling.

"We can tackle better than we did today," Freeze stated. "We can play more solidly than we did today. It's really hard to tell because we have some guys out - Charles Sawyer, Wesley Pendleton, Uriah Grant and Cliff Coleman, four guys we are counting on - but this was not one of our better days on defense. Hopefully, three of those will be back next week and Charles the week after that, we hope. We are thin on the back end right now. We need those guys back and when they come back, I think you will see a difference.

"I think the front is playing really hard. Now, we can add Channing Ward to that mix and try to get him going on a third-down package at first to see how much he can contribute. We have given up too many big plays here recently and we can't do that. I'm hoping that's because the offense has gotten that much better."

Channing Ward and D.T.
File Photo

Which brings us to the "rub" of a scrimmage. One side looking good makes the other look bad, which is hard to decipher for the big picture.

"I never know, Last year at Arkansas State last year, I told my wife in preseason that I didn't know if we would win a game. We won double digits," he laughed. "All we have done here since I have been at Ole Miss is go against each other.

"I don't know how any new coach who hasn't played a game with them knows exactly what you have. If you are in your second or third year, you have something to go by from what your kids did last year and what your competition was like. All I know is that I look forward to finding out to where we are when we are playing against other teams and not just beating on ourselves."

Random Notes:

* Freeze has indicated repeatedly that a depth chart doesn't mean much to him. He just wants his coaches to tell him who can play and help win games. But for the benefit of the fans who like to keep a two-deep depth chart, here's something to chew on based on notes we have taken. Don't take it to the bank, but it's pretty close.

Offense: WR: Vincent Sanders, Jordan Holder; Slot: Korvic Neat, Philander Moore; WR: Donte Moncrief, Cody Core; WR: Ja-Mes Logan, Terrell Grant. (Wideouts are interchangeable and dependent on the number of WRs used in a formation.) LT: Emmanuel McCray, Robert Conyers; LG: Justin Bell/Aaron Morris; C: Evan Swindall, Chase Hughes; RG: A.J. Hawkins, Corey Gaines; RT: Pierce Burton, Patrick Junen; TE: Jamal Mosley/Ferbia Allen; QB: Bo Wallace/Barry Brunetti; TB: Randall Mackey, Jeff Scott, Jaylen Walton/I'Tavius Mathers, Nick Parker, Devin Thomas (all could end up playing); FB: H.R. Greer, Justin Bigham.

Defense: (4-2-5) DE: E.J. Epperson, Jason Jones; NT: Issac Gross, Gilbert Pena; DT: Carlton Martin, Bryon Benentt; Bandit: C.J. Johnson, Cameron Whigham; Stinger LB: Aaron Garbutt, Denzel Nkemdiche; MLB: Mike Marry, Keith Lewis/Joel Kight; Husky: Dehendret Collins, Brishen Mathews; CB: Louis Covington, Mike Hilton; Rover: Chief Brown, Trae Elston; FS: Cody Prewitt, Tanner Burns; CB: Senquez Golson, Anthony Standifer/Abdul Bangura. Note: Uriah Grant, Charles Sawyer, Wesley Pendleton, Ivan Nicholas and Cliff Coleman are all out for now.)

* Also a little note for those who keep up with this kind of thing: The coach in the press box on defense will be DC Dave Wommack and on offense OC Dan Werner and TE Coach Maurice Harris. Meaning WR Coach Grant Heard, OL Coach Matt Luke, RB Coach Derrick Nix, DL Coach Chris Kiffin, LB Coach Tom Allen and CB Coach Wesley McGriff, along with Freeze, will be on the sidelines during games. At least that was the configuration in Saturday's scrimmage.

* Channing Ward was dressed out today, but had no pads on. He said he has stayed in shape during his absence and is looking forward to Tuesday when he can practice in full pads. Channing said he is 268 pounds now.

* Last week, the Rebel offense committed six turnovers. Today, one, an interception by Prewitt when the intended receiver fell down during his route. Protecting the ball is goal number one in this offense - mission accomplished today after a dismal first showing last week.

* Last night, in what Freeze calls a "commitment service" team meeting, five players were awarded scholarships: Terrell Brown, Kyle Horine, Will Denny, Robert Ratliff and Jack Nuismer. It was an emotional meeting with tears and cheers. Welldone, Freeze. Well done, you five. You deserve it for your efforts.

* The Rebels will have a light workout on Sunday and will take Monday off. They will resume full practices Tuesday. That will be the routine during the season as well.

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