Bama Time

Half of Tuesday's practice for the Ole Miss Rebels was held in the Manning Center due to rain in the Oxford area, but the second half was moved to the stadium. Regardless of indoors or out, all eyes were on the task at hand - the numero uno Crimson Tide of Alabama.

Despite the fact that Ole Miss will be facing the top-ranked team - Alabama - in America Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze wants the approach during preparations this week to be on an even keel.

"We try to prepare the same every week. I know it will feel different when we get there Saturday, I'm not naive, but I don't think you can be on a roller coaster ride from week to week in your approach," Freeze noted. "As you know, in this league, the minute you do that, the next team will beat you.

"Our focus is good. The kids want to go and compete. We just have to make sure we put in a good plan and execute the plan, like every week. We have to take care of the ball and do the little things it takes to win."

Alabama does a lot of things up front on defense. What is the key to handling that barrage?

"Well, theya re going to get you some. Hopefully we can limit what they do by staying in manageable down and distance," explained Freeze. "If we can, we have some hot throws and things that should be open. They can't guard down on everything. If you can stay in 3rd-and-five or less, you have a chance.

"Certainly, your QB has to know where they are weak in protection in certain situations and have his eyes on it."

A big key to the Rebs' success will hinge on Red Zone production against, historically, one of the better Red Zone defenses around.

"You have to have a great plan and you have to execute. It all boils down to those two things," Hugh explained. "I spend an enormous amount of time on Red Zone and tempo. Dan Werner and Matt Luke do short yardage and goalline. Maurice Harris and Derrick Nix do our checks. That way I can spend most of my time on Red Zone and tempo.

Denzel Nkemdiche
File Photo

"We were very good last year except the Vandy game and this year we corrected that. We had a better plan for it this year."

Random Notes:

* It was a sight for sore eyes to see #4 - OLB Denzel Nkemdiche - giving it a go at practice Tuesday. From a novice viewpoint, Denzel looked like he was moving pretty well. He was cutting, stopping, starting and bursting without too much hesitation. "He's close," said Freeze. "He has a slight little hitch when he tries to burst, but he's better than I thought he'd be. Tomorrow morning will be a big test - does it swell up? If things progress like they did today, he will make the trip as long as our staff is comfortable that he knows the plan and progresses through the week. There are still some tests to face this week."

* After a week (last week) of pink eye, WR Vincent Sanders returned in full form Tuesday. Another welcomed sight on the practice fields. Vincent has been declared full go after missing the first three games with a broken collarbone and he, too, seems to be in good form and ready to go. "He gives us more depth and fresh legs. He can be a deep threat and we feel comfortable going to him. He's been in these battles before," noted Freeze. "We welcome him back."

* For the first time all year, OG Patrick Junen looked like he has regained his old form after struggling with the rehab of toe and wrists offseason surgeries. Look for him to make a big contribution on the OL before this year is over. "He will help our guard rotation. At the end of last year, he was arguably playing as swell as anyone, so we are excited to get him back. We've been playing four guards and now we can play more if we need to," Freeze noted. "I think them being fresh has helped balance the loss of Aaron. They are probably not as good in man protection schemes as Aaron, but we are getting by, maybe even a little better than getting by, without Aaron. I still say the next four weeks will tell the real tale of our team though. Let's talk more about everything after those games."

* During the open week, Freeze talked of watching other tempo teams. "I watched Oregon mostly and picked up a couple of things. (Clemson OC) Chad Morris and I talk a lot and compare notes, but it's a little different this year because he's got bigger tight ends and we don't have that unless Levon (hooks) allows us to do some of those things," said Freeze.

* For our money, an unsung "hero" of this team is senior OG Jared Duke. Duke was not expected to contribute a lot this year, but when Aaron Morris went down for the year to a knee injury and Junen was later than anticipated making his comeback, Duke stepped in and has done an admirable job filling in a major hole on the OL.

Robert Nkemdiche
Chuck Rounsaville

* CB Q. Mireles, the JUCO transfer who has three years to play two, will take a redshirt this year. With seniors Ja-Mes Logan, Jordan Holder and Korvic Neat graduating from the receiving corps this year, do not be surprised to see Mireles back on offense in the slot next spring training.

* Freeze said he's pleased with the tempo of the offense. The only thing that can be improved, in his mind, is going faster for a longer period of time. "We can't snap it any faster. The only thing is if we are having success on first and second downs doing it for longer periods of time," he noted. "I am pleased with our pace."

* Cody Core has been playing both ways - safety and WR - of late, but it would not be a shock to see him settle at safety more prominently with Sanders back in the picture at wideout. Core, said DC Dave Wommack, is picking up safety quickly and there is a need for depth behind Cody Prewitt.

* Lavon Hooks was given a good look at TE last week. Tuesday, he was back with the defensive line, but it is anticipated he will work with the TEs some too. It's conceivable he will play both ways with a limited package on offense and be in the five-man DT rotation on defense.

* DT Carlton Martin has been struggling some with a nagging hamstring injury, but getting a lot of rest last week during the open week obviously helped him. He was full speed ahead Tuesday.

* He's been here almost five months now and we've seen him literally hundreds of times, but we still marvel over the sheer mass of DE Robert Nkemdiche. There are bigger guys on the team, but not with as much lean muscle mass. His arms, legs, thighs and butt are just massive. A 300-pounder with about 10% (wild guess) body fat. It's just unnatural for an 18-year old to be that big. Hell, it's unnatural for a senior to be that big. Glad he's on the Rebs' side.

* They sometimes get taken for granted, and we have to remind ourselves of this yearly, but it's pretty amazing what the scout team does for the overall team and how important they are to a team's success. They have to come to practice early, learn a new scheme each week, give the Rebels a quality look of that week's opponent and then start the process all over again the next week. Pretty heady stuff considering most of them don't have scholarships and are doing that simply for the love of their team and the game. Kudos, many kudos.

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