Morning Mojo

Rain in the Oxford area drove the Rebel football team inside for their 8 a.m. practice Monday. Coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebs are "about where I expected" after two spring practices.

The Rebels took to the comfortable confines of the Indoor Practice facility for Day 2 of spring training Monday morning.

It was the last of two required days in helmets and shorts and the workout left a good taste in Coach Hugh Freeze's mouth.

One of the main concerns for coaches at the start of spring training is retention factor.

How much will have to be re-taught from last season? How fast can the players compute new installations? How much did they retain?

"At some spots, our retention has been real good. At some spots, not as good. We are trying to get the young kids more reps and it shows at times," said Freeze. "On offense, guys like I'tavius Mathers, Jaylen Walton, Mark Dodson, Cody Core, Robert Conyers, Maikhail Miller and so on, didn't get a lot of reps last year and we are trying to catch them up. The tight ends are brand new. That makes plays look bad from time to time.

"On the offensive line and defensively, it looks like the retention is pretty good and we can move forward there quicker. Overall, the retention is about what I expected."

Freeze is getting a first-look-first-impression glimpse right now of all the mid-year guys. He was asked specifically about DT Lavon Hooks.

"He's very athletic, but he has no clue what's going on right now," he smiled. "No doubt he's got the tools. That's going to be the story for all the mid-year players. Like Dodson - he makes some good runs at times but then we call pass pro and he has no clue what he's doing. Hey, it's day two. We will get those young ones more reps and not as many reps for guys like Jeff Scott who know what to do, for example."

All eyes are on D.T. Shackelford in his comeback bid after sitting out two years with multiple knee surgeries.

"This is new to him. He's learning our system. This is a whole new world for him. No question he looks the part and we love having him out there, but he's got a lot to learn in our system. He'll get there. Again, day two," said Hugh.

Lavon Hooks
File Photo

Without Bo Wallace out for spring ball, the available quarterbacks - mainly Barry Brunetti and Miller - did not have the day Freeze was hoping for.

"After watching yesterday's film and being here today, I didn't think we showed much improvement there. We don't go through the progressions like we are supposed to some of the time and we are making easy throws look difficult due to poor footwork. We are also not involving all of the stuff they can in the run game that would really help us," he assessed. "They have to get better. We have a ways to go this spring.

"What was good was our Red Ball (tempo) stuff. They looked pretty decent in that stuff. We'll get better at it."

DT Issac Gross sat out today after aggravating the area that was surgically repaired during the offseason related to a sports hernia.

"That injury and that surgery has left a little scar tissue and it's going to take some time," said Hugh. "We expect him back next week. We believe he will be ok in time. Scar tissue with that surgery is natural and expected."

Random Notes:

* One thing that pops out after not having seen the team together since the Compass Bowl is the overall "look" of the squad. Not just physically, but mentally. Most positions now pass the look test. Guys are thicker, but still lean. Kudos to Paul Jackson and his staff. It really shows at safety with the likes of Cody Prewitt, Trae Elston, Q. Burdette, Chief Brown and Anthony Alford. They look like SEC safeties are supposed to look. Ditto on the defensive line. While they aren't as massive as some DLs in the SEC, they look athletic, in shape, toned and explosive. Mentally, there doesn't appear to be any hesitation in their movement this spring thus far. C.J. Johnson, Cam Whigham, Bryon Bennett, et al, seem to be playing faster and are more decisive in their movement from knowing what to do. DE Channing Ward also seems to be reaching a comfort level little by little that he did not have last fall. At linebacker, Mike Marry is the stalwart, but Serderius Bryant and Keith Lewis also seem to be more mature in their approach. The "awkwardness," for lack of a better word, appears to be dissipating. On offense, the wide receivers and OL also seem more mature and resolute in their actions and play. All good signs.

Q. Mireles
File Photo

* Slot receiver Korvic Neat was held out of today's practice with turf toe.

* As Freeze mentioned, Miller has a lot to learn and has to become more consistent, but when you watch him, he's not a guy you need to write off. He's leaned up some, he's very strong and has a cannon for an arm. The raw material is there. He just has to fine-tune it and grow in the offense.

* CB Q. Mireles, also one of the mid-year guys, has a double whammy going on. He is not only learning a new system, he's learning a totally new position. The early signs? He has good feet, good hips and he's fluid. He needs to work on his explosiveness and learning the position. Give him time. Again, raw ability is there. Time should prevail.

* A player to watch closely this spring is WR Cody Core. One more time - he's like some of the others who after a year under their belts has a chance to explode on the scene. His ball skills, movement and explosiveness are there. He has also filled out a little bit. This spring, there is not as much hesitation in his movement, which is allowing him to play faster. Keep your eye on Core.

* At the tight end spot, we hesitate to use the word "trouble," but the picture is not rosy due to the youth factor right now. TE Coach Maurice Harris has his work cut out for him. Talk about starting from scratch. TE at Ole Miss right now is definitely that.

* Redshirt freshman OT Robert Conyers has flown under the radar so far and rightfully so. He's still got some growing to do and he's still got to get stronger, but if he has a big offseason this summer, he will help the OL. He's a candidate to be the third tackle right now. Robert is tough, aggressive and he moves well, but he's got to grind in that weight room to be what he wants to be and what the Rebel OL needs.

* RB Nick Parker had a car accident around bowl time last fall and had to have eye socket surgery. He's back in the fold now, seemingly 100%.

* While Freeze has mentioned TB Jeff Scott will get limited reps this spring due to needing to get the younger backs more reps and the fact that Scott will miss some time due to morning classes, it is apparent he has grown up in his approach to football. He's all business on the field now and attacks every rep like a veteran should.

* Want a fun practice matchup? CB Senquez Golson on WR Donte Moncrief. Senquez has also matured in his approach to practice and he is one guy in the secondary who can hang with Moncrief. It's fun watching them battle this spring and spring has just started.

* The first impression of TB Mark Dodson on Sunday was so-so. The second impression was much better. The kid has good vision and good feet in traffic. He has a burst we did not see Sunday. Definitely an improvement from day 1 to day 2.

* Special teams ace Carlos Davis, a speedster, has been moved from running back to cornerback in an attempt to utilize his speed and find a home for him.

* The Rebs will take tomorrow off and resume with spring practice Wednesday morning at 8.

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