The Sound Of Pads

The Rebels drew closer to "real" football Wednesday morning in the IPF with a spirited practice in shells. One injury put a damper on an otherwise solid workout.

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze approached the bad news philosophically after Day 3 of spring training, the first for the Rebels in shells (shoulder pads and helmets).

Junior DE C.J. Johnson fractured his fibula (lower leg)and will find out later today what will be required to fix it (surgery, plate, screws?) He will be out for the rest of spring, but the early prognosis is that he will be fine for fall camp.

"Injuries are a part of this game," said Freeze. "We had it for the kids, but they happen and everyone has to move forward. Get it fixed and keep rolling.

"C.J. fractured his leg. I hate it, but we'll get it fixed this week and get him back on the way to recovery. He'll be fine for fall."

Other than that, the practice left Freeze with a good taste in his mouth.

"The defense looked good. Their fits were really good today. Our young backs broke a couple of nice runs and I continue to be impressed with them," Freeze evaluated. "We are still struggling with our consistency at quarterback and with our pass pro, but it's just day three and still early.

"Overall, it was pretty good. A pretty good day."

Hugh expanded a little on his QB statement.

"Our defense throws a lot at you and if you are not protecting real well, it's not a comfortable position to be playing," he noted. "The QBs did some really good things in pass skelly, but when we went to the live stuff, we struggled to be consistent and it wasn't all on the QBs.

"We'll stay with it. It's early. This exposure and all these reps are good for them."

Freeze maintains his stance the Rebels are still a relatively thin team, but he is starting to see some depth develop in certaan areas, as he explains.

"We certainly need more depth than what we have for this league. We are thin on the DL a little. We have some depth at linebacker. We are starting to develop a little bit of depth in the secondary," he stated. "We are still a little thin on the OL and at receiver, but we are developing some depth at RB.

"At certain positions we are starting to see some depth come around, but we need more in other areas."

Freeze was asked who has popped out in his mind as players who are showing improvement thus far.

C.J. Johnson
File Photo

"Woody Hamilton has a chance to be really talented. He has improved. Q. (Mireles) was impressive today. He does not know what he's doing yet, but he is what we thought he would be when we signed him," Hugh assessed. "Carlos Thompson has done some better things. That year he redshirted has really helped him."

Random Notes:

* Freshman TE Christian Morgan turned some heads with two really nice catches in one-on-one drills. "We obviously think he is going to be a good player, but this is just day three in the college game. He's still really a high school senior and this is all brand new to him," said Freeze. "He's having to think so much that it's slowing him down, but in one-on-one, when you don't have to think much, he has looked good. He has good hands."

* JUCO transfer Q. Mireles started out at cornerback the first two days of spring training, but was moved to slot today. "Q. looked really good in one-on-ones at slot today. I think he can help us there and he looks natural catching the ball," said Freeze.

* Two players who keep showing up more and more are LBs Serderius Bryant and Keith Lewis, who both started coming on strong at the end of last year. They are excellent examples of what being in the system a year will do. "Bird" is currently backing Denzel Nkemdiche at one LB slot and Lewis is behind Mike Marry at MLB. Lewis is likely to be the third-down specialist at LB next fall. Look for them to be strongly in the mix in 2013.

* With Aaron Morris rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, Jared Duke and Justin Bell are getting more reps and are trying to earn their stripes to get more playing time in 2013. They are splitting time at left guard this spring with the number one unit. So far, OL Coach Matt Luke seems pleased with their progress.

* With Korvic Neat out (turf toe) for a while, the move of Mireles to slot was necessitated. Q. did not disappoint. He showed today that receiver is his natural position.

* Another intriguing battle is being waged on the OL for the backup center slot. Ben Still and JUCO transfer Austin Douglas are both getting a shot to be the guy if something happens to starter Evan Swindall. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top by the end of spring. Douglas, who is a year older than Still, is a little short, but he's wide and strong and appears to have good movement and snapping skills.

Woody Hamilton
File Photo

* JUCO DT Lavon Hooks is starting to blend in more and more to where you can't tell as much that the drills DL Chris Kiffin runs are new to him. The big man has some "get off" and is a load in the middle. It will be fun to watch him continue to grow in the system. The raw talent is definitely there.

* Two other DL who seem to get more and more comfortable and are making progress daily are DE Channing Ward and DT Woodrow Hamilton. Another pair worth keeping a close eye on as spring unfolds.

* The middle linebacker position is also intriguing and could line up perfectly for next year and the future. If things work out well, Marry and D.T. Shackelford can be the run-stopping force in the middle, Lewis can be the third down guy and Temario Strong can continue to groom, play special teams and be ready to step in for Marry in 2014. This could time out perfectly if all goes well.

* Early Offensive Line Two-Deep: LT - Emmanuel McCray, Robert Conyers; LG - Justin Bell/Jared Duke; C - Evan Swindall, Ben Still/Austin Douglas; RG - Patrick Junen, Ethan Hutson; RT - Pierce Burton, Chase Hughes.

* Early Defensive Two-Deep: DE - Cameron Whigham, Channing Ward; DT - Woodrow Hamilton, Lavon Hooks; DT - Bryon Bennett, Carlton Martin (Issac Gross out); DE - C.J. Johnson (out); Carlos Thomspon, Kameron Wood; LB - Denzel Nkemdiche, Serderius Bryant; MLB - Mike Marry, Keith Lewis/D.T. Shackelford; Husky - Mike Hilton/Dehendret Collins/Brishen Matthews; CB - Senquez Golson, Anthony Standifer; CB - Charles Sawyer, Nick Brassell; S - Cody Prewitt, Chief Brown; S - Trae Elston, Quintavius Burdette.

* Practice will resume Friday at 8 a.m.

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