Defense's Day

After Friday's practice in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, controlled - sometimes dominated - by the Rebel defense, Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze was left wanting more energy from the offensive side of the ball. He's hoping that will surface in Saturday morning's scrimmage.

The Rebel offensive line is missing two-fifths of their projected 2013 starters - guards Aaron Morris and Patrick Junen.

The quarterbacks have been inconsistent throwing the ball for most of spring.

And the Rebel defense, sparked by good competition at just about every position, has improved.

Put all the factors in a bag, shake it up and pour it out and it comes up "defense" every time, especially Friday afternoon when Coach Hugh Freeze called for an extended two periods of live contact.

Obviously, Freeze wants more from his offense in Saturday morning's 10:30 scrimmage, also in the stadium.

"I hope the Red Team (offense) responds," he said bluntly. "This (the defense controlling the practice) happened to us a couple of times last year and the offense responded the next day. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

"I know they are shorthanded on the OL and there are other factors, but I didn't think the offensive guys fought today. The Blue Team (defense) had tremendous energy and they were very physical. They took the fight to the offense. Our coaches will make that message very clear tonight - what we had on offense was not good."

Freeze sees the defensive side of the ball getting more physical with each passing practice.

"We have guys like D.T. Shackelford, a great addition for us, and others who are physical players and they are showing that this spring. Woody Hamilton is physical and will be an excellent football player for us. Channing Ward is getting more physical and our secondary is more physical and our linebackers like to strike you," he noted. "We have a lot of guys back over there - we should be playing faster and getting more physical, and we are."

Sometimes all it takes is a spark to get a unit going, but Hugh said TB Nick Parker provided a spark when he ripped off a physical run of 25 yards in one of the full contact periods and the offense did not do anything with it.

"A spark would help, certainly, but we got one today from Parker and did nothing with it. We have to be more consistent, we have to have more energy and we have to compete," he added. "First, we have to start with a competitive spirit, which we didn't have today."

The scrimmage will be situational, according to Freeze.

"We are not just going to put it down and go crazy," he said. "We will have some tight Red Zone scrimmage, some Red Zone scrimmage and some coming out and then we will put the ball down at the end," he explained. "We are bound by rule how much live contact we can have, but tomorrow, we have one of those days when we can go live a lot and we will."

Denzel Nkemdiche
File Photo
* Some of the offensive woes can be chalked up to injury. As a reminder, WR Donte Moncrief (shoulder) is sitting out for now; QB Bo Wallace is out for the spring; G Aaron Morris is out for the spring; G Patrick Junen is out right now with a badly sprained toe and Korvic Neat has tweaked his knee and is not participating right now. It's a different offense with, or without, those players, obviously.

* Just when DT Issac Gross seemed to be coming back full speed from tweaking his groin early in spring, he tweaked it again Friday. How severely? We'll find out tomorrow.

* DT Carlton Martin (toe) also sat out Friday's practice. . . WR Terrell Grant, who has been sitting out with a hamstring injury, returned to practice Friday.

* Stinger LB Denzel Nkemdiche has not let his All-SEC status from 2012 go to his head. If anything, it has motivated him that much more. He played last year at 205, or below as the season wore on, and is now in the 212 pound range, but what separates him from the pack are his instincts. He sees the whole field, he sees what others don't as it is unfolding and he processes everything in front of him quicker than anyone else. With his intensity and instincts and fearlessness, the combination is an All-SEC player, and it shows every day in practice. P.S. - He had a QB sack and two tackles for loss today in limited action.

* A pleasant surprise in the last week has been the quick transition John Youngblood has made from TE to defensive end. John was signed as a DE, but played TE last year. He was moved to defense last week and has shown a good upside at that position. We were told he already understands the concepts of the defense and of the position. Good start.

* Hamilton's vast improvement has somewhat stolen the spotlight on the DL this spring, but a player who is making things happen is DT Bryon Bennett. From the cheap seat observation, he's not being cleanly blocked much. When called for, he's also getting a lot of penetration this spring and has been disruptive in the backfield when asked to penetrate.

* Husky Mike Hilton and CB Senquez Golson each had interceptions off tipped passes Friday.

* The Rebs closed the practice with a field goal session. Andrew Ritter kicked with the first unit and was 6-8, his misses coming from 50 and 55 yards. He was gold inside of 50 yards, 6-6. . . . Freshman Andy Pappanastos also had a good day kicking with the second team FG/PAT team, making all his kicks, but he did not try anything outside of 40 yards.

* Will Denny returns as the top deep snapper and Chris Conley returns for holding chores. Both were solid last year and, in limited action, have been this spring.

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