Wake Up Call

Despite the early (5:45 a.m.) start this morning, the Rebels had a physical, enthusiastic scrimmage on Day 7 of spring training. The number one defense shined, the number two offense had a couple of scoring drives. In all, "good day" said Coach Hugh Freeze.

After a two-hour practice that started at 5:45 this morning, Freeze had a good first impression of the first scrimmage of spring training.

"I loved our spirit. It was competitive and physical. The number one defense pretty much dominated the scrimmage. The two offense did some good things and scored a couple of times," he said. "The one offense had its moments with a couple of early drives, but we had way too many negative plays that got us behind the chains too much.

"We'll watch the film, figure out why and correct it, but I loved the competitiveness out there and the energy after a quick turnaround from yesterday. They did well."

From an offensive standpoint, Freeze was impressed with the running backs as a group.

"Jeff Scott, Nick Parker, Jaylen Walton, Mark Dodson, Darryan Ragsdale - all of them really - had nice runs," Freeze noted. "All of them are doing some good things at times.

"On defense, Anthony Alford stood out to me. He's getting better and better. I wish he could play next year."

Freeze said he was not surprised by the number two offense's production, but he was pleased.

"They were just more consistent. We expect our offense to score, so I wasn't surprised, but I was pleased with what they did as the day progressed," he noted.

Martavious Newby
Ben Garrett

The Rebels had a newcomer on board - Martavius Newby, who plays basketball for the Rebs and is considering playing both sports. Newby dressed out but didn't do much except observe during the scrimmage.

"He has to get acclimated. He hasn't been in a single meeting yet. He doesn't know where to line up yet," Freeze, who offered Newby a scholarship at Arkansas State when Hugh was there, assessed. "Hopefully we can get him in some contact drills and individual drills this spring and see what we think about him and go from there. He looks the part - we just have to see where his future lies.

"Martavius has made it clear since he's been here he'd like to play both. I spoke with Andy (Kennedy) about it and he is fine with it. We want to be straight with him and see where his future is."

If Newby did play football, he would have to count against an initial football scholarship and the 85 scholly limit.

"We carried over four from last year and he would be one of those if he stuck with us. He could still play hoops, but he would have to count against our scholarship numbers, both initial and the 85," Hugh explained.

Hugh likes what he has seen with morning practices in spring, but it's not something he is thinking about doing in the fall.

"No, we won't do this in the fall. The kids have responded well to the morning practices, but the jury is still out as to whether I will do this next spring. I don't feel like I see them as much. Maybe that's just me," he noted. "We'll see. Regardless, they have responded well to it."

One factor from the scrimmage that stood out was the physical nature of the workout. There was a lot of solid contact.

"We are getting more physical. Our weight program is helping a lot with that. Our coaches are demanding that. Guys like Woody Hamilton, who played really physical today, are surfacing as tough guys who like to mix it up," he closed. "There are others who will bring it too. We had a lot of real good collisions today and it's not just the defense that is delivering all the blows."

Barry Brunetti
Cain Madden

Random Notes:

* We will publish a "bonus" story in a bit, a pseudo play-by-play of the scrimmage. Give us a little time to compile/write it.

* Freeze discussed the stable of running backs a little bit after the scrimmage. A caveat is how RB Coach Derrick Nix feels about them, briefly, this spring. Jeff Scott: "doing real, real good." Jaylen Walton: "good and getting better daily." I'tavius Mathers: "ditto." Mark Doson: "learning fast, has skills." Nick Parker: "when he brings it, he's a load." Darryan Ragsdale: "my surprise of spring. Physical and makes it happen."

* A new name is emerging as a legitimate candidate at tight end - senior Jack Nuismer. He's a 6-3, 240-pounder who has been around a while and knows the system. He and Justin Bigham, a converted fullback, seem to be getting the most reps right now. Freshman Christian Morgan is also in the mix, but he tweaked his knee this morning and was held out of the scrimmage. Nothing major, we have been told.

* WR Donte Moncrief was also held out of the scrimmage and was walking around with an ice pack on his shoulder, but Freeze said he's fine. Just soreness and no need to take any risks.

* The Rebels started the workout with an Oklahoma drill. The usual suspects stood out - DT Bryon Bennett, DT Woody Hamilton,LB D.T. Shackelford, LB Denzel Nkemdiche, LB Mike Marry, Moncrief, WR Cody Core, Ragsdale (a physical inside runner), OT Pierce Burton, S Cody Prewitt, DE Cameron Whigham, OT Emmanuel McCray, OG Justin Bell, et al. . . OG Jared Duke got his nose bloodied, literally, in the drill, but scrimmaged.

* A player who keeps popping up on the "physical radar" is Safety Chief Brown. In every practice, he has had a least one mob scene hit, where he gets mobbed by his teammates after a big collision.

* Q. Mireles and Korvic Neat both had good days in the slot. Neat had a couple of nice runs on reverses and catch-and-run short passing plays and Q., after dropping one on a third-and-8 that would have been a first down, came back strong with three excellent catches over the middle and subsequent runs where he showed his elusiveness with the ball in his hands.

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