Getting Better

Sure, Ole Miss football is only in its fourth day, but Coach Hugh Freeze called Monday morning's workout "our best day yet." Why? The competition periods, where a one-point scoring system per play is used, had the offense winning one and the defense winning one.

"It was our best day yet," said Freeze after Monday's 2-hour A.M. practice. "The competition periods were really good, as well as all full team segments of the practice.

"I'm not sure we finished as well as I would like, but it was a productive day overall."

There was a little bit of a minor surprise during practice. Freshman Defensive End Robert Nkemdiche was running with the first team defense.

"Robert is doing real well. It does not shock me. Carlos (Thompson) took a hit to the head yesterday that slowed him down some and Robert got the call," said Freeze. "Channing (Ward) is also doing real well at defensive end. He is really, really coming on. Coming in late last year, he was swimming all year, Now, he's much more confident and is having a much better camp. He's matured and is comfortable now."

There was also a little more good news at practice concerning the defensive end slot. C.J. Johnson donned his shoulder pads for some indo (individual) work, which is the most he's done so far.

"I think he's going to come back strong real soon and will be ready," Hugh suggested. "It was good to see him out there doing some things, but we are still going to limit him until he is 100%."

In the competition drills, it's basically put the ball down and the side of the ball who wins a play, gets a point.

Devante Kincade
Chuck Rounsaville

The defense won the first one 11-9. The offense won the practice-ender by the identical score. The last one was tied 9-9 until Donte Moncrief put a move on CB Q. Burdette that left him grasping for air and QB Bo Wallace picked up a blitz and completed a pass to TE Evan Engram on a hot read. In the opener, the key plays for the defense were a QB sack for Tony Connor and a QB sack for Denzel Nkemdiche.

"These coaches are really good at creating competition," said DT Woodrow Hamilton. "One, they have brought in great players. I know there is someone behind me just as good as I am. Two, they want to win at everything and that makes you want to win too."

Random Notes:

* Punter Tyler Campbell and PK Andrew Ritter got extensive work today in team drills. "Tyler can be one of the best punters in the country and should be a great weapon for us. Even when he misses, it's a 45-yard punt. H elooks more comfortable in the pocket," Freeze assessed. "Ritter has to get more consistent with his FG stuff, but kickoffs should be set."

* Freeze is pleased with the progress of the offensive line. "Considering how many looks they get from Dave (Wommack) on defense, I think they are doing a pretty good job," Hugh noted. "Once we get Patrick Junen back, get Aaron Morris in better shape and get Pierce (Burton) completely healthy, I think we will be OK. Justin Bell and Jared Duke are doing a nice job for us and two of our youngsters, Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson, will help us this year, I believe."

* An early QB evaluation. "It's sort of like last year early on. With his arm issues, Bo has not been real consistent yet, Barry (Brunetti) has also had some consistency issues," Freeze evaluated. "Devante Kincade can be real good. Ryan Buchanan has a chance too once he gets everything down pat. We just have to manage things as coaches to help them limit their mistakes. We'll get there."

* Freeze was asked about Johnny Manziel's latest problems with signing autographs/jerseys for money and had no comment, but he did put his two cents worth in the hat. "I feel players in our conferences should get an additional stipend so they can have a little money in their pockets," he said, intimating that may stop some of the temptation to sell items. "Our conference makes enough money to do that and they deserve it. All the coaches feel that way."

Quincy Adeboyejo
Chuck Rounsaville

* One player who has made a strong impression on Hugh is Hamilton. "He's had a great camp. He should be really good. He is quick twitched, strong and physical. I couldn't be more pleased with what he is doing now," noted Freeze.

* Freshman Husky Tony Connor had two QB sacks in team setting Tuesday. The Husky blitz with him looks like a real good option int he early going.

* What is putting Kincade ahead of Buchanan right now? Mainly, the offenses they ran in high school. Kincade ran a similar spread to what the Rebels employ in high school. He just looks more natural right now. Ryan, we were told though, is a quick study and should catch up soon. The same probably holds true for Quincy Adeboyjo being a little more advanced and polished than Laquon Treadwell. Texas high school football, on the level they played, is the real deal and prepares them for the next level.

* Former Arkansas State QB Ryan Appling is now working as a GA on the Ole Miss staff. Appling was Freeze's QB the lone year Hugh was the head coach at ASU and he knows the offense like the back of his hand. Good addition to the QB room.

* Jeff Scott, Jaylen Waltona nd Korvic Neat appear to be the main deep options on punt return. Scott, obviously, will have the inside edge due to his experience and past productivity. It all depends on how much the coaches decide to rest him for his TB duties. With more capable tailbacks on the roster, Jeff will probably get the PR nod.

* Right now, the two-deep on the OL is LT - Emmanuel McCray, Laremy Tunsil; LG - Aaron Morris, Jared Duke; C - Evan Swindall, Austin Douglas; RG - Justin Bell, Austin Golson; RT - Pierce Burton, Robert Conyers. (Junen is out for now with injury.)

* On punt coverage, the Rebs are looking for speed, with some bulk. Along the forward wall, excluding the gunners, is Q. Burdette, Cody Core, Serderius Bryant, Keith Lewis and Cody Prewitt. . . The personal protectors are D.T. Shackelford, Mike Marry and Robert Nkemdiche.

* Burton is sitting out most of the full team drills due to a sore back. Freeze said Burton could go if the Vandy game was tomorrow, but he wants him 100% before the long season starts and is giving him plenty of rest of to get healthy.

* We've been keeping our eye on the progression of the newcomers and guys trying to climb the depth chart thus far, but don't take that to mean the stalwarts like Moncrief, Denzel Nkemdiche, Mike Marry, Prewitt, Trae Elston, Ja-Mes Logan, Scott, et al, are not producing in practice. On the contrary, they are considered stalwarts for a reason. They make plays and have done so in preseason camp regularly.

* Right now, the number two DL, which is DEs Channing Ward and Carlos Thompson or Robert Nkemdiche and DTs Carlton Martin and Lavon Hooks, is ahead of the number two OL, but that's probably a good thing from a team perspective. OL don't rotate, normally, as much and DL Coach Chris Kiffin likes to rotate 10 guys across the defensive front.

* With CBs Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson sidelined for now, the current number two CBs - Bobby Hill and Q. Mireles - are getting valuable reps and are growing up quickly. Mireles had a pick for a TD in competition drills today.

* Freshman LT Laremy Tunsil has outstanding feet. Witness a bubble screen play in competition drills. He blocked the DE and then motored to the flat where he took out a safety in pursuit of the wideout. Needless to day, OL Coach Matt Luke swarmed him with bear hugs. Kid can move.

* Moncrief said he feels he is a better player now than he was at the end of last year. "I worked hard on doing the little things and honing my craft," said #12. "I come out of my breaks better and I can feel what defenses are doing better. I worked hard on getting bigger, faster and stronger and I can tell the difference." Moncrief's thoughts on Adeboyjo and Treadwell. "They are ready to play right now, physically. They just have to learn their plays and they will be ready," he closed. Good endorsement.

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