Revving Up

Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze put the Rebels through another full-pad, closed practice in the Manning Center Wednesday. Freeze is slowly building the team to a weekend peak in this crucial SEC matchup, again, on the road.



It is what it is, and it was known going into the season, but the Rebs will face their third, of three, SEC games on the road to open their conference schedule when they travel to Auburn Saturday.

Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze is slowly, but surely, trying to build momentum going into the weekend.

The process continued Wednesday with a two-hour, full-pad practice in the Manning Center in rain-threatened Oxford.

"It was a good day. We went a little longer than I typically do on Wednesday, but there are so many things you think about to go over," said Coach Hugh Freeze. "We want to make sure the defense and special teams have seen as much as we can. You can't cover it all and they will have some stuff prepared for us that we haven't seen, but we try to cover as much as we can and get a look at it live."

There is a forecast for rain Saturday. If it does rain, how much will that play into the effectiveness of each team?

"I got a text today that it might rain from Ken Cain, our equipment manager. I don't watch the weather, ever. My response was 'bring my rainsuit,'" said Freeze. "We'll have to play in it if it does rain, but both teams will have to deal with it.

"If it does get wet and sloppy, you have an internal battle of do you want a dry ball or do you want to go fast? Thursday, we will have a wet ball drill and if we feel we can go fast with a wet ball, that's what we will do in the game. If we are having trouble, we'll take the dry ball and slow down. It's a conflict, but you don't want to put the ball on the ground."


Hugh Freeze
Associated Press

In Freeze's mind, generally, what does Freeze think defensive coordinators see when scouting offenses like his and Gus Malzahn's?

"We have the ability to communicate to our kids in a quick fashion in order to snap the ball quickly and attack at a rapid pace. We present a lot of different looks and even those looks have some smoke and mirrors," he noted. "You can dress it up at times. The different picture out of different personnel groups at a rapid pace is the difficulty for defenses."

Random Notes:

* Statistically, Auburn's defense is 13th in total defense (439.5 YPG), but Freeze doesn't have a sense of relief headed into the contest. "I think they are a team, not just a defense, but a team, that is improving weekly," he said. "They are starting to put some things together as the season progresses, a lot like we did last year. What you have to look at is their scoring defense - 22 points a game is sixth in our league and pretty good in this day and age of high-powered offenses."

* One of the most-often asked questions is 'where is DE Channing Ward?' Channing has not played a lot, but he's gradually getting more reps as the season wears on. The light is starting to come on for the Aberdeen sophomore and he's starting to be rewarded for his advancement. Do not be surprised to see more of him gradually each week. He's graded well in his limited snaps and he's kept a good attitude - surefire ways to get more playing time. "He's still not the practice player I want him to be, but he's come a long way," Freeze noted. "He seems to turn it up a notch in games. Carlos (Thompson) is practicing hard and doing the right things on and off the field. He's still making some mistakes, but he definitely adds good depth for us."

* Freshman DL Robert Nkemdiche broke his finger against Alabama last Saturday. Which one? We didn't know yesterday when asked, so we looked today. Left hand, middle finger. He's practicing full speed with the broken finger in a splint. Hasn't slowed him down a bit.

* Freshman Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil is now a solid 308 pounds, a good weight for him as a rookie. His goal? He'd like to be 312-315 next year and 318-320 his junior year. Tunsil, R. Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Tony Conner - all five-star recruits - are all starters now. Tunsil still splits time with Emmanuel McCray, but is considered, in the coaches' minds, a "starter." There are instances when recruiting rankings can be wrong. That's certainly not the case with these four. Elite of the elite coming out in 2012, for sure.

* Backup QB Barry Brunetti appeared to be better Wednesday from a health standpoint. He's had a shoulder issue bothering him since the Texas game, but was more active in the early portion of practice Wednesday. "We are not banging on him, but he looked good today. He threw the ball well," said Freeze.


C.J. Johnson
Chuck Rounsaville

"He'll be ready to go. Bo is our guy, but we'll use Barry in situations like we have in the past."

* DE C.J. Johnson remained in a boot Wednesday and, obviously, did not practice. It appears as if Johnson's availability for the Auburn game will be a game time decision. As Freeze said Tuesday, it's all about rest and staying off the foot right now. How quickly can he heal? Everyone is different. Time will tell. "We are not going to do anything until tomorrow afternoon when we take a closer look at it. I told him to keep riding his scooter and stay in a boot and we will check it Thursday," noted Freeze.

* Sophomore TB I'tavius Mathers is starting to look more like himself in practice after struggling for several weeks with a bad ankle injury. His movement Wednesday was as good as it's been since he was injured.

* Conner, who plays the Husky position on the Rebel defense, was credited with six tackles by the statisticians in the booth at Alabama. After the coaches reviewed the film, he will be credited with 12 stops. Superb outing.

* DT Carlton Martin continued to practice Wednesday and will make the trip to Auburn Saturday, but Freeze said he only looked "so-so" in the two practices this week. "He's much better than last week, but not like he was at the first of the season," Freeze allowed.

* Some Rebel fans have the perception Auburn QB Nick Marshall "can't throw." While his stats through four games are not eye-popping, they do indicate that perception is off base a tad. Marshall is seventh in the league in passing average per game (202.2 YPG) and is completing right at 60% of his throws (60-103) for 809 yards.


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