No Cajoling Needed

After Saturday's rugged scrimmage, Coach Hugh Freeze thought he would have to "coax" an intense practice out of the Rebels Monday morning. Not so. The troops showed up with energy and enthusiasm on the practice fields.

"I really thought we were going to have to come out here and manufacture some spirit for the guys, but I was real pleased how they responded to a Monday morning workout after a physical Saturday scrimmage," Freeze said. "Overall, it was a good day."

After time to review Saturday's scrimmage tape, Freeze's impressions remained the same.

"The offense kind of dominated the day, exactly how I felt leaving there," he stated. "Friday, it was all defense. Saturday, the offense had the upper hand.

"There were some nice bright spots. The quarterbacks did better. It helped them when we made the live because they can both produce with their feet. I didn't think there was a lot of loafing on defense, they just didn't play quite as fundamentally sound as they did Friday."

The goals for the last week of spring training were outlined by Freeze.

"Offensively, we need to concentrate this week on eliminating the negative plays and staying on schedule. Even if we have an incomplete pass on first down, that's OK," he explained. "Just not a minus-yardage play or a turnover. I met with the offensive staff and told them no negative plays. That's the goal this week.It's difficult with everything the defense is doing and with the injuries we've had up front, but that's the goal.

"On defense, cut out the big plays and the penalties. We had too many penalties Saturday. They are running to the football, but sometimes we get bad with our eyes and give up some big plays. Our goal is to cut those out this week."

Random Notes:

* WR Vincent Sanders had to sit out the last part of practice with a "rolled ankle." Early word is that it is nothing serious.

* Freshman TE Christian Morgan had an MRI done on his knee this morning, but the results are not in yet. The early prognosis was meniscus damage. We'll keep you posted as we learn more.

Hugh Freeze
File Photo

* Freeze has been clamoring for more depth at most positions, including wide receiver. At the same time, with Donte Moncrief, Sanders and Ja-Mes Logan returning, he's not overly concerned there. "I think we will be fine," Freeze noted. "We have our top three, Cody Core is making a move, Korvic Neat has not played a lot this spring and we will be adding in Laquon Treadwell and Quincy (Adeboyejo). We just have to get them healthy and keep them healthy."

* One of the uncertainties of spring ball has been the development of depth on the offensive line. With Aaron Morris, D.J. Bailey and now Patrick Junen (toe) out, it's been difficult for OL Coach Matt Luke to get a real feel and any continuity up front. "I wish I could tell you where our depth stands on the OL," Freeze stated. "Too many injuries. I expect the signees coming in here to play, but it's really too early to tell on those. The good thing is that we got good looks this spring from Jared Duke, Ben Still, Robert Conyers and those guys. Austin (Douglas) has given us some good reps too."

* Hoops player Martavius Newby was not at practice today due to a class conflict, but Freeze doesn't know his status right now. "I am embarrassed to tell you that I don't know if he is with us or not. I have to find out. That one has gotten by me, to be honest. I'm usually up on personnel issues, but he's slipped through the cracks," said Freeze. "I have only seen him one practice and he had no clue what he's doing, but he's an athletic kid."

* A lot of eyes have been on the development of DE Channing Ward. "He's been up and down. I thought he had a good day today. We just have to get him to turn it loose and play with confidence," Freeze noted. "Some kids just pick things up quicker than others. I hope that's most of it."

* From Channing's viewpoint, he's in catch up mode. "I feel a lot better about understanding what to do now. I'm learning, but it's taking me some time," said Ward. "Coming in late last year was hard. I got behind and was thinking too much. You didn't want to miss an assignment or give up a big play. I have more to do, but as long as I play hard and keep learning, it will come. In high school, it was just find the ball and go get it. There wasn't much technique or learning plays. I had a lot to learn technique-wise, but I think I am closing the gap some. I am working to get to the point of turning it loose. I feel it's coming on now."

Channing Ward
File Photo

* Last year, the concern with PK Andrew Ritter was accuracy. His leg strength has never been in question. This spring, in limited team drills, he's reduced the accuracy concerns. In the last two days of practice that involved team field goal drills, he has only missed three of 15 kicks, one from 57 that was barely short, one that was blocked and a 52 yarder wide left by about a foot. Not bad at all.

* The offseason under S&C Coach Paul Jackson produced good results. The conditioning of the team is off the charts and they are playing more physical. The strength levels have improved, but when Jackson came on board, he said it would take two full years to get the strength levels to high SEC status and overall it was "below average." That is still a work in progress. Some of that is recruiting athletes who already have higher strength levels. Some of it is time. Now, Jackson feels the Rebs are "average" from a strength standpoint. That is a step forward, but know there is still work to be done in that area.

* Tight end was a concern coming into spring training. With Morgan out for the rest of spring, putting a crimp in his development, it's still a concern. The Rebs have a couple of guys (Justin Bigham and Charlie Scott) who handle the fullback role or blocking fairly well, and a couple who catch the ball OK - most notably RS frosh Matt Brown, but right now it's TE by committee, which is not a good thing for now.

* Husky Dehendret Collins sat out Saturday's scrimmage, but returned to practice Monday. . . DT Carlton Martin also sat out Saturday, but was back in the fold Monday. . . DT Issac Gross (groin), Moncrief (shoulder), Neat (knee) remain sidelined.

* John Youngblood, moved to DE from TE after the first week of spring training, is now getting number two reps at Bandit behind Carlos Thompson. Youngblood is showing some potential there. Recall, C.J. Johnson, who is the number one Bandit, is out for the spring, but nonetheless, Youngblood has done a nice job in transition.

* Transfer Safety Anthony Alford has applied to be eligible this fall. The verdict will not be known, most likely, until summer. He's optimistic his request will be granted based on the circumstances of his case. Time will tell.

* Nick Brassell alternated with Charles Sawyer today with the number one defense at CB, but he injured his lower back late in practice making a tackle. We'll get a diagnosis, most likely, when practice resumes Wednesday at 8 a.m., but it did not seem bad as he was walking off the field after practice.

* With the wet spring we've had in Oxford, this was only the second day the Rebels have been on the practice fields and only the fourth day they have been outside. Through 12 practices, eight have been in the IPF. It's been said a zillion times, but thank goodness for that building and the advantages it allows.

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