Back To Work

Coming off a stunning upset of then number 6 LSU, the Rebels had a chance to bask in their glory for a couple of days, but it was back to work Tuesday as they prepare for their homecoming match with the Idaho Vandals. Hugh Freeze didn't seemed too enthused about the workout.

In Monday's press conference, Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze suggested it is difficult for teams to peak every week and after the gauntlet the Rebels just went through, he has been leery of a letdown this week with Idaho on the horizon.

Even though he qualified his statements a little bit because of his own pre-practice suspicions, the Rebs did not turn in the kind of practice he was hoping for Tuesday on a perfect day on the Ole Miss practice fields.

"I am wound a little tighter this week than last week, so everything is probably magnified in my mind a bit. I will be the first to confess that," said Freeze. "I thought the effort was good today, but we did some little things I did not like. We just weren't as sharp as I would like us to be on offense.

"Evan Swindall was not out here today due to pink eye - which we do not want the others to catch - and it's not the same without him. The snaps were a little off, the timing was a little off. Hopefully we will get him ready to go Saturday. If not, we have to get Robert Conyers or Ben Still to step up."

Even though the entire message in today's team meeting was about focus, Freeze felt there was a bit of a letdown at practice.

"Any team can beat you, but they are young kids and it's hard to go through what we have just been through and not have a bit of a letdown. But it's my job to get them ready," he stated. "I will be very guarded this week.

"I don't care who we are playing this week - Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU in a row takes its toll emotionally and I have never felt like it was a reasonable expectation for kids to have the same motivation every single week, regardless of who you are playing, after a stretch like that. But, again, it is our job as coaches to get this team to execute and perform regardless of their emotional state. That's our task."

The controversy over the new targeting rules and the enforcement of those was brought up to Freeze.

"At my request, the defensive staff spends one day a week, every week, and lowering the target is always talked about," he said. "We are addressing it constantly and, knock on wood, we have done pretty well with it so far.

Jeff Scott
File Photo

"There are quite a few issues with the rule. I understand the player safety issue, but it possibly creates other issues. After the season is over, hopefully we will all sit down and make sure we are doing what is best for the kids. I am sure it will be revisited."

Random Notes:

* Freeze complimented a somewhat unsung hero of the LSU game - Holder Chris Conly, who fielded a couple of high snaps and got them down in time for Andrew Ritter to complete the kicks successfully, including the game-winning field goal with two seconds on the clock. "He's an important part of that operation and he did a great job Saturday night," noted Freeze. "Chris was an important part of our win."

* TB Jeff Scott returned to practice Tuesday after missing, for all intents and purposes, the last two games. Jeff was in shoulder pads and helmet but no protective gear on his lower body, which indicates no contact yet for the speedster with a deep thigh bruise. He was fielding punts and he was going through non-contact drills, however. He is still questionable for the Idaho game, however.

* The coaches are throwing the proverbial kitchen sink at the punt return situation. A lot of players were given "tryouts" Tuesday to see who could field a punt and who struggled. Scott, Korvic Neat, Trae Elston, Jordan Holder, Collins Moore, Quincy Adeboyejo, Ja-Mes Logan and Trey Beldsoe were all given a shot. Scott is clearly the most comfortable, but from the brief period, it seemed like Logan might be next in line. We'll see, but one thing is for certain, no stone is being left unturned for this task. "If Jeff can't go, we will probably go with Ja-Mes or Jordan," Freeze declared.

* Freshman CB Derrick Jones, who saw extensive action against LSU, reported last June weighing 172 pounds. He's now up to 188 and has been as high as 192. His filling out is noticeable.

* We all see freshman Husky Tony Conner making plays and impacting the defense, but how is he actually grading out? How is he carrying out his assignments on every play? There's more to being a great football player than being a playmaker. Good news. Conner graded out in the high 80 percentile against LSU, meaning the coaches had very little to nitpick about his performance and that he was in the right places at the right times even when the play was going the other way. Word from the practice field is that he has graded a little higher each week since the start of the season, i.e., he has improved steadily every game, even with the little things. Upper 80s, by the way, is a really good grade, in case you were wondering. Very few hit the 90s.

* Bryon Bennett had his first action ever at defensive end against LSU and it appears his coach, Chris Kiffin, was pleased with the effort. Bryon is still outside. Of course, some of that is out of necessity because Cameron Whigham was not at practice Tuesday, Robert Nkemdiche and Carlos Thompson are still out and C.J. Johnson is lost for the year. However, Kiffin said in a recent interview that Bennett also graded well, all things considered, and he is quite comfortable with Bennett inside or outside.

* DT Lavon Hooks made some noise against the Tigers and it did not go unnoticed. Hooks was working with the number one DL today at times, which would indicate he is more involved in the DT rotation than previously.

* DT Issac Gross did not practice Tuesday for precautionary reasons. He played a little banged up against LSU, but now there is ample opportunity to rest him and get him healthy for the stretch run.

* LB Serderius Bryant practiced Tuesday for the first time since getting a concussion against Texas A&M nine days ago. We're not sure if he went through any contact work or not with the viewing limitations of practice the media has, but he was dressed out and going through early non-contact drills.

* Who will play tight end with Evan Engram out for the year? Four seem to be getting the most looks - Nick Parker, Jack Nuismer, Justin Bigham and redshirt freshman Matt Brown - at practice. How will it shake out? We'll have to wait and see.

* As was the case some last week, OG Justin Bell is doing some snapping work with the centers before practice cranks up. OL Coach Matt Luke said Bell will not play there this year, but is being considered for a move there in spring. May as well get a head start on the transition if it comes about.

* CB Mike Hilton (hamstring) is still sidelined. He did not practice Tuesday. He is listed as questionable for the Idaho game.

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