Countdown Continues

The Ole Miss football team took the practice fields in late afternoon and practiced until dusk on Tuesday. It was another workout in the books and leaves a week of practice remaining before the opener against Vanderbilt a week from Thursday.

"It was a good day today, from the meetings to practice," said Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze. "I thought the things we talked to the players about in the various meetings were carried over to the practice field tonight. I was pretty pleased."

Of late, Hugh has been satisfied with the progress of the offensive line, to a point.

"I think they have done well, but I want to see them in a game - that will be the real indicator," he allowed. "Certainly I feel better this year than I did at this time last year. We are a little deeper - not as deep as I would like, but deeper. I also think the guys who have played in our system for two years now understand things better.

"I think it is very valuable that we can look out there and see a pair of seniors who are 22-23 years old at the tackle slots, but that can be said for any position. I think you have finally arrived in depth when you have more of those types on your depth chart. Those guys have been through the battles, understand how to work, understand how to prepare and hopefully they can help train some of the younger guys in those areas." Freeze was also crossing his finers a bit on how the special teams are shaping up.

"We certainly hope that the influx of new players we have will help shore that up, but again, we want to see them in game action," he said. "We believe the addition of the guys we redshirted last year - PK Andrew Ritter and P Tyler Campbell - will make us better, but we certainly have to improve our coverage units from last year. Hopefully, some of our younger kids can perform well enough to do that."

The Rebs went through five periods today of working on Vanderbilt.

D.T. Shackelford
Chuck Rounsaville

"Now that we are starting to introduce our gameplan, I think it will make things simpler for the players because we don't carry everything we have into a gameplan," said Hugh. "We hope we are giving them enough reps in what we are going to carry that they are comfortable in what they are doing."

As the opening game jets toward the Rebs, are Freeze and his staff comfortable yet in the personnel rotations at each position?

"I think it will probably be two or three games before we fully understand what our rotations will be. We are certainly closer, but we want to give all these kids a look under the lights, playing against someone besides us," he explained. "That's the negative thing about opening with a conference game - the travel squad is limited to 70 players. I wish we could take a few more than we can take."

Random Notes:

* Some have fretted, needlessly, about the issue of duplicate numbers. It will be taken care of and is already in the process of being handled. Yesterday, Slot Receiver Jordan Holder, who was wearing the same number (7) as freshman RB Mark Dodson, was switched to #21. (CB Senquez Golson is also #21.) You'll recall, duplicate numbers on a roster are within the rules, but players with the same number cannot be on the field at the same time. . . Another issue that will probably be resolved soon is the conflict of TE Nick Parker and freshman TB Kailo Moore wearing #4. If both are factored in to play - which looks likely at this point - one of them will change jersey numbers. As you know, OLB Denzel Nkemdiche also wears #4, but he's on defense, so that's fine. Holder/Dodson and Parker/Moore seem to be the only ones who will have to change numbers as it stands right now.

* RG Justin Bell was held out of some of the practice today due to an undisclosed injury (Freeze didn't know what it was after practice) and in his place was none other than Patrick Junen, who has just returned to full-speed practice after missing most of August rehabbing from two surgeries - toe and wrist. His wrist is heavily bandaged, but he was engaging in contact Tuesday.

* Who will be the backup center now that Austin Douglas has opted to transfer? As has been discussed here before, the top candidates are sophomore Ben Still and RS freshman Robert Conyers. Today, in team drills, Still took reps with the number two offense and Conyers, who is still working some at right tackle, was taking his reps with the number two offense at RT. Conyers, you will recall, was just recently moved to center when Douglas left the team. Does Still have the edge due to having played that position before? It appears so.

* We get asked, at least once a day, if freshman DE Robert Nkemdiche will "start" against Vanderbilt. The pat answer we have given for weeks now is that Rob is definitely in the DE rotation, however, the last two practices, he has been working with the first DL in front of senior Cameron Whigham, last year's starter. The bottom line, though, is that both will play extensively, regardless of who "starts," but as of today, we'd have to change our opinion and make a guess Nkemdiche will start his first collegiate game if the last two practices are a true indication. Needless to say, with Robert and Cameron, it's a healthy situation at that position, and Channing Ward should be in the mix as well. At times, D.T. Shackelford could pop up there also. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out, but it's cool - for once - the Rebs seem to have viable options that should produce effectively.

* Some more defensive positions where the Reb coaches feel they have co-starters, so to speak, are both safety slots with Chief Brown backing both Cody Prewitt and Trae Elston, if he does not start; Issac Gross backing Woodrow Hamilton at DT; Tony Connor backing Mike Hilton at Husky; and Keith Lewis backing Mike Marry at MLB. The coaches also have great confidence in Serderius Bryant behind Denzel Nkemdiche at OLB.

Kailo Moore
Chuck Rounsaville

* TB I'Tavius Mathers remained sidelined Tuesday with a bum ankle. The hope is that Mathers will be able to start doing some light running tomorrow and progress from there. "He did some running in our therapy pool today so I think he is on his way back," Freeze added. "We expect him to be ready to go next week."

* The injury list looked like a mash unit a little over a week ago. Right now - knock on wood - only Mathers, Golson and WR Vincent Sanders are out and a return to form is expected any time for Mathers and Golson.

* In the past week, QB Bo Wallace's improvement, from a lot of angles, has been obvious even to the novice eye. One, his arm strength is returning more and more daily. His passes have way more authority than in the early going of August. We have also heard of no complaints of arm soreness as was the case early in camp. Two, he has been more vocal in directing traffic and seems to have knocked the rust off from not having practiced since the week of the Compass Bowl prior to August. Three, his decision-making has gotten better and it seems he is now on the same page with his receivers. In short, he's taking care of the ball, the number one area OC/QB Coach Dan Werner wanted to see improvement this fall camp. Obviously, Bo is a key to this season. It's good to see him responding now after a shaky August start.

* Feeling old. On the field stereo this afternoon, Jimi Hendrix "All Along The Watchtower" was playing when some of the players came on the field. Freshman TB Kailo Moore knew who the greatest ax man who ever lived was, but the other frosh TBs - Jordan Wilkins and Mark Dodson - didn't have a clue. Why should they? Hendrix died in 1970, probably about the time their fathers were born.

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