Spring Practice Has Sprung

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze authorized a somewhat abbreviated lidlifter for spring training, cutting the workout to less than two hours so the football team could join in the selection/celebration of the Reb hoops team into the NCAA Tournament field.

In one of the most exciting days in recent Ole Miss athletic history - with the basketball team cutting down nets in Nashville after capturing the SEC Tournament title and the baseball team taking the rubber match of their three-game set with Arkansas in Fayetteville in extra innings - the start of spring football 2013 was almost off the radar.

Almost, but not really. Football at Ole Miss is never off the radar.

"Our charge is for our staff to take every kid on this team this spring and get them better," said Coach Hugh Freeze, still in a suit after arriving toward the end of practice after having flown to Nashville to witness the hoops team win the SEC Tournament. "How much better? We'll see, but I am excited about the 15 practices because this spring our kids understand who we are and how we do things. We aren't starting from scratch.

"I hate to miss any time, but we all need to celebrate that great basketball achievement."

Freeze cited cornerback, tight end and a couple of individuals as areas he will look the hardest at this spring.

"I am anxious to see how Channing Ward comes along now that all of this is not new to him. He never really caught up last fall after getting a late start and I think this is his opportunity to catch up," noted Hugh. "Carlos Thompson. . . what will he do? I have never seen D.T. (Shackelford) play. I am excited to get him back out here to see where he is with his knee and what he brings to the table.

"I want to see who can help us at tight end, where we lost all the guys who played last year and I'm happy Maikhail Miller and Barry Brunetti will be getting a lot of reps this spring at quarterback. There are other things, like how Nick Brassell is going to perform, that we will be watching, but as I said, we just want everyone to get better."

The energy level at the opening practice was high and non-stop.

"From what Dave (Wommack) told me, the kids came to practice to work today and never stopped moving. That is what we ask and demand and apparently that is what they delivered," he concluded.

The Rebs, per NCAA spring training rules, were in shorts and helmets today and will be again tomorrow morning when practice resumes at 8.

Random Notes:

* As Freeze said, a lot of eyes will be on D.T. this spring. Today, in bag drills and individual drills, he looked very good. He was planting, putting pressure and cutting on his knee, in a brace. He participated in team drills and was active and vocal - same as always. The plan is for D.T. to split second team reps, we have been told, with Temario Strong at MLB behind starter Mike Marry. "That way, we can get Temario the reps he needs to get up to speed and not put too much on D.T. too early. D.T. already knows most of what we do, so that is not an issue and we don't want to take any risks with his knee. Nice and easy will be our motto," said Wommack. So far, so good. Maybe better than good. P.S. - D.T. has changed jersey numbers - he's #9 now.

Issac Gross
File Photo

* Mid-year Tight End Christian Morgan has the look coaches are looking for in a prototype tight end, but in maturity terms as it relates to football, he ain't shaving yet. It will be baby steps for a while for Christian - every drill is an adventure because of the newness, but patience and time will take care of those issues.

* DT Lavon Hooks appears to be a load. He's got a thick lower body and S&C Coach Paul Jackson said he is "bull strong." In watching his get-offs, he was coming off the ball as quickly as Woodrow Hamilton, the other number two DT at this time. Like Morgan, Hooks has the look and since he's a JUCO, he appears to have some maturity, for sure physically, as well.

* D.T. wasn't the only familiar face making a return. Nick Brassell was also practicing and was a welcomed sight. (Now donning the #5 jersey.) Snoop seems to be about 5-10 pounds heavier than his true freshman year here when he was a two-way stalwart. He's still wiry, but he has a more physical, and less frail, look to him now. He works all individual and group drills with the cornerbacks, but in team drills Snoop was playing both corner and safety.

* Sophomore CB Anthony Standifer, who had knee issues much of last season, has, for now, put those in his rear view mirror. He practiced full speed today and looked healthy.

* DT Carlton Martin and DT Issac Gross both underwent sports hernia operations in the offseason. Both dressed out and went full speed during individual drills today, but Gross seemed to have tweaked his groin in team drills. Hopefully, it was nothing serious. We'll keep you posted. . . . To start spring, Gross and Bryon Bennett are the top DTs ahead of Hooks and Hamilton. The fifth guy - DL Coach Chris Kiffin prefers using five - appears to be Martin for now.

* LG Aaron Morris, OL D.J. Bailey and QB Bo Wallace, as you are aware, are sidelined this spring, but it appears that Wallace might get some action in running the offense in the run game. Handing off will be his limit, however. No throwing.

* Freeze wants improvement from the secondary. Today they accounted for four interceptions in team drills. Was that secondary improvement or poor passing by the QBs? A little of both, seemed like.

Donte Moncrief
File Photo

* Another mid-year high schooler out for spring is RB Mark Dodson. First impressions? He's bigger than Jaylen Walton but not as big as I'tavius Mathers, if that helps any. He's got thick thighs and a good frame to build on. Like Morgan, a lot is being thrown at him and his head is spinning. Style-wise, he appears to be running too high right now and needs to learn to get some bend. It looks as if he is going to be a one-cut-and-go type of back. He does not have the "wiggle" of Jeff Scott or Walton, but that wasn't expected either.

* If the great coach in the sky were to draw the ideal wide receiver, it would be Donte Moncrief. If possible, he looks to be in even better shape than last year. What a physical specimen. He was standing next to four-star recruit Clifton Garrett today. Garrett is a big kid - thick, tall and broad-shoulders. Moncrief looked as big, if not bigger.

* WR Collins Moore, who had double shoulder dislocation surgery in the past six months, was running routes and catching passes, even throws too high, today. He will not be allowed to have contact this spring, but he looked good running routes and catching the ball.

* OL Coach Matt Luke will be trying to replace graduated A.J. Hawkins this spring and he's working without starting Left Guard Aaron Morris. It looks as if Patrick Junen is the frontrunner to take Hawk's place. Justin Bell and Jared Duke are working in Morris' place this spring. "Aaron being hurt is not a good thing, but on the bright side of it, Jared and Justin and some others will get more reps and we need that to figure out who is 6-7-8-and so on," said Luke. Bell and Duke split time with the number one offense at left guard. . . . Luke also mentioned JUCO transfer Center Austin Douglas as someone who caught his eye with the number two offense.

* Besides Garrett, MUS WR Devin Perry was at practice today.

* Who will be the top tight end? Today, it was redshirt freshman John Youngblood. Tomorrow? We'll see.

* One player who caught my eye in terms of being bigger than I thought was transfer Athlete Anthony Alford. Folks, that kid is thick. Anthony can't play next year, but he was soaking everything in mentally, right now at safety.

* New CB Jason Jones seems to be very similar in style to his predecessor, Wesley McGriff. High energy, animated and a detail coach. He blended right in with the staff seamlessly on the first day.

* Hopefully, we will have a decent depth chart, and some fresh pictures, after day three or four to post. The Spirit staff, with no regrets, has been spread thin this weekend, but it's all been worth the extra labor.

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