More Physical

Spring training is the time when coaches like to see who will and who won't get physical, but you can't jump right into it. Wednesday morning, Coach Hugh Freeze took the contact portion of practice up a notch.

Husky Brishen Mathews fire blitzed across the line of scrimmage, read the run play by the Rebel offense, slid down the LOS and sent RB Jaylen Walton sprawling with a hit that resonated throughout the IPF Wednesday morning.

Mathews' defense teammates mobbed him.

From that point forward, it was on.

Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze turned the ponies loose and called for more full contact. The players, on both sides of the ball, responded.

"We are building up to where full contact will be a big part of the remaining practices,k" said Freeze. "The way our schedule is falling with the Easter break. We were physical this morning and we will get after it in the morning with more scrimmaging.

"Then we will come back from the break with two four-day weeks and they will be physical. They will be a grind. Those two weeks will be a great lesson for our team in terms of maturing and in our process to become one of the better teams in the country. I liked the way they handled the added hitting today. Now, they just have to keep their focus for the rest of spring."

During the Red Ball period, the Rebel offense came to life, scoring three times in three possessions.

"I did that for you," Freeze joked. "I am tired of you writing how the offense is stinking it up every day. I wanted to give you something positive to write about.

"Our kids just feel better in tempo. Also, when we do a scripted deal we get a lot of different looks and junk from the defense. We don't get that in tempo as much and that's the whole premise behind the tempo game. Red Ball was real good. You still have to execute and we did that. Our offense also held its own in that second down competition. It was a better day for the offense overall."

Evan Swindall
File Photo

Of course, with offense, it starts up front with the grinders.

"We still have a long way to go in building depth and we don't have three bodies - Aaron Morris, D.J. Bailey and Chase Hughes (shoulder, out for spring) - that we needed in our rotations. We are real thin there right now, but the ones we have are getting a lot of reps and doing OK," he continued. "Evan Swindall is holding everything together up there with his experience and knowledge and toughness. They did some good things today. If not, the offense wouldn't have moved the ball."

Random Notes

* A D.T. Shackelford update from Freeze. "We really love the way he is moving around and his energy. He's still trying to catch up in the system, but there is no question when you watch him in one-on-ones and how physical he is that he will be a big asset to us," noted Freeze. "Sure you can see the rust, but it's coming back to him pretty quick." In one-on-one drills against the tight ends, who are admittedly young, D.T. owned them. Period. End of story.

* It's still early in spring, but DL Coach Chris Kiffin, when asked about his "most improved" players didn't hesitate in listing DT Woody Hamilton, DE Carlos Thompson and DT Carlton Martin. It's time for them to "grow up" and apparently they are doing so thus far in spring training.

* OL Chase Hughes will have surgery on his injured shoulder next week and is, obviously, out for the rest of spring training. . . WR Terrell Grant is sitting out practice right now with a hamstring issue.

* DT Issac Gross has been limited this spring with groin issues, but today he got more reps and even went some in team drills. Good to see him back.

* DE Jason Jones, whose eligibility ran out at the Compass Bowl, participated in a recent regional NFL combine in Atlanta and did well enough to be invited to next week's super regional combine in Dallas. Best of luck to Jason as he pursues a professional football career.

* When a pass play works like it is drawn up, there may not be anything "prettier" in football. Today, Slot Receiver Q. Mireles ran a post pattern and slid a half foot inside the safety where QB Maikhail Miller delivered a perfect thirty-yard strike for a TD. Drawn up and executed.

Issac Gross
File Photo

* RB I'tavius Mathers stole the show in the early part of Red Ball drills with a 40-yard outside run to the 1 and later with a nice 12-yard inside gain, but later in the day, walkon RB Darryan Ragsdale got the juices flowing with two very physical inside runs where he broke tackles and refused to go down until he had gained valuable turf. RB Coach Derrick Nix liked what he saw on those jaunts.

* When TB Jeff Scott gets the corner on you, it's lights out. He got the edge today on one run. Bye bye.

* WR Donte Moncrief was blessed with a great frame, speed, strength and great hands. He should be good, but what puts him on the cusp of greatness is his thirst to grind. Every rep, every drill, it's like it's his last and he's very serious about it. Grind to greatness.

* CB Louis Covington was knocked out an received a gash on his head when he ran into the crossbar of a low agility chute drill.

* S Chief Brown got in one of the better hits of the day on an WR Vincent Sanders, stopping him in his tracks and getting the obligatory mob scene from his teammates. Chief is having an excellent spring, as was reported Monday.

* Snoop Brassell has a bit of rattlesnake in him on the football field. Play after play, he does his job and then, out of nowhere, he strikes. Today, it was an interception on a deep pattern run by WR Cody Core. He can make things happen, as we all saw in 2011.

* RB Mark Dodson was not to be outdone by Mathers, Ragsdale, Scott and Walton. He also had a couple of nifty runs and is getting his college legs under him slowly but surely. Today, he made two nice inside runs where he came out of a pile on what looked like no-gainers by using good vision, showing good change of direction and exhibiting some acceleration in the hole. Nice day for all the backs and Dodson was not excluded from the action.

* The Rebs will have a scrimmage bright and early Thursday morning. 5:45 stretch. Set your alarm clocks - it's open to the public.

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