Hump Day

As is the case most Wednesdays during the season, there were extended periods of special teams work at practice. Then, when that dust cleared, it was business as usual.

Most coaches acknowledge the importance of special teams, but some give it lip service when it comes to actual time spent in practice on those critical aspects of football.

Not this Ole Miss staff.

Every day, there are at least three periods of special teams instruction, but on most Wednesdays, sometimes Thursdays, those periods are extended to teach and fine tune the special teams units.

"I haven't been on many college staffs, but I think we put enough emphasis on special teams. This is the pattern I got from (former ASU coach) Steve Roberts the year I worked for him," Hugh said. "He coordinated his own special teams and I liked the emphasis he put on it.

"We do something on special teams every day and today we put about 20 minutes on it. That's a good bit of intense work. We were pretty solid the other night except the last kickoff return by Vandy where we had a breakdown and a penalty."

As for the rest of Wednesday's workout, Freeze was happy with the outcome.

"It was a good day. We were much more productive and much more attentive," Freeze noted. "I liked the way we went about our work in meetings and out on the field today.

"Hopefully, the kids are getting an understanding of this is what you do, this is what it takes. Tuesday, we didn't do a good enough job of forcing them to pay attention to the little things and that's not good. This is what it takes to be successful, hopefully that is sinking in."

Freeze was asked about the progress of the Rebel run game.

"It's hard to tell after one game, and the numbers were skewed by Jeff Scott's 75-yarder. We did get some things going in the second half in the run game, which was encouraging," he said, "but overall, it's too early to tell."

Jeff Scott
USA TODAY images

The SEMO offense is going to be built around the option game, but what of the defense?

"They do a lot of movement up front - lots of twists," Hugh said. "They play coverage and try to create penetrate up front. They will make you look bad sometimes because of their scheme because you can miss some of their stunts and twists, but you can also gash them if you have the right play called at the right time.

"They remind me a lot of a couple of teams we played when I was at ASU - don't give up the big play, play coverage and try to create some stuff up front that hurts you."

Random Notes:

* As most of you are aware, freshman TB Kailo Moore is the grandson of "Fast" Freddie Williams, a TB/WR in the mid to late 70s for the Rebels, but Kailo says he gets his speed from both sides of his family. His uncles, he said, all all fast on his Mom's side and his Dad's side. BTW, Freddie will attend Saturday's game to see Kailo play. He is currently a police officer in his hometown of Rosedale and, as a bonus, it's his birthday Saturday as well.

* Freeze said WR Vincent Sanders appears to be ahead of schedule in his rehab of a broken collarbone and subsequent surgery, but he's not sure when he will play him. "I want to make sure he is completely well. He might be ready by Texas, but I don't know if I'd play him then," Freeze added.

* For most players, the transition from Husky to cornerback might be mentally challenging. While there are some similarities, it's a different position, but Mike Hilton, recently moved to CB, has things down pat already. "He's a high IQ player," noted Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack. "He was smart enough to learn what every position in the secondary does on every call while he was at Husky, so - mentally - he knows what to do at corner. That's pretty rare."

* There's also a big difference in outside linebacker responsibilities and middle linebacker responsibilities, but the coaches were smart last spring in the training of Keith Lewis. They worked him at Stinger - Denzel Nkemdiche's position - in spring "just in case." Well, unfortunately, that "just in cse" came true with Denzel's injury and Keith was moved from MLB to OLB. He was ready for the move. Also, he had worked some at Wolf LB in spring for when the Rebs go to a 4-3 set and Stinger and Wolf are very similar.

* Losing Denzel Nkemdiche has been a setback, no doubt. In spring training, Wommack stated the one player we could not afford to lose on defense was Denzel, but having said that, there is a lot of confidence in his backup, Serderius Bryant. "Serderius pushed Denzel hard in spring and in fall camp," said LB Coach Tom Allen. "I have faith Bird will come through. I think he is ready."

Dave Wommack
Chuck Rounsaville

* Sophomore TB I'tavius Mathers looks stronger and stronger each day as he recovers from a bad ankle sprain. The expectations are for him to play some against Southeast Missouri Saturday.

* MLB D.T. Shackelford did not have the kind of August - overall - he anticipated. His knee bothered him enough that he had to rest a few days during the month-long grind, but in the past week or so he has made steady strides to regain his "old" form. He played well enough - minus a couple of assignment busts - against Vanderbilt that LB Coach Tom Allen felt comfortable moving Lewis to OLB and making D.T. Mike Marry's main backup. D.T.. also played some defensive end in August, but for now he is exclusively at MLB, we were told.

* DT Carlton Martin, who, somewhat surprisingly, drew a start against Vanderbilt, missed Wednesday's practice with a sore hamstring. The extent of the injury is not known at this point.

* The musical chairs on the offensive line that OL Coach Matt Luke discussed in our article today, continued in practice. Luke is trying a lot of different combinations with 9-10 players. How it will shake out is not known right now, but even without Aaron Morris, everyone is hanging their hats on the availability of three returning starters from last year - RT Pierce Burton, LT Emmanuel McCray and Center Evan Swindall. . . Luke discussed the possibility of moving McCray inside and starting freshman Laremy Tunsil at left tackle. That was worked on Wednesday, along with several other combination options. "We are going to play all four guards Saturday and maybe even work E-Man in there some," Freeze closed. "We are going to try to rotate them and see how they grade out. Then we will make some final decisions on exactly how we are going to line them up and where."

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