The Rebs got some chill in the air Wednesday and worked out on the practice fields as they reached hump day in their preparations for Saturday morning's match with Troy.
"I loved the weather today. It was a beautiful day to get outside and I thought we got some good work in," said Coach Hugh Freeze.
The Rebels did not tackle particularly well against Arkansas, but it's difficult to work on tackling this time of the year when the risk of injury is great. So how do you fix that?
"We've got to get more solid at that. We had two periods yesterday and today on tackling and hopefully that will help," said Hugh. "These last few games, we are going to have to be real good tacklers or we will get hurt because the teams we are playing can run the ball, all of them."
The Rebels have been stressing third-down production on offense and have recently been doing a better job. Why?
"We have improved. The main thing is to stay in third-and-manageable, but we've even done better with third-and-long lately," said Freeze. "I give a lot of credit to Dan Werner. He does most of our third down planning and he is on the same page with Bo (Wallace).
"About four weeks ago, we have honed down a lot of things and only go into games with things I know Bo feels good about. I will add some tags to it, but put it in the structure he is comfortable with. We have changed some of our passing combos that have helped him in reading his progressions. We also go over all of that Friday nights at the hotel to list the ones he feels real good about and we go from there."
Senior TB Jeff Scott had another good day in practice as he tries to come off injury.
* After this season, all four of the top punt returners - Jeff Scott, Jordan Holder, Korvic Neat and Ja-Mes Logan - graduate. Safety Trae Elston has been fielding punts in practice most of the year as well, but what about a challenger for the job to Elston or a backup for next year? Today, CB Carlos Davis spent some extra time with the kickers prior to practice fielding punts. He might be the guy into the future. He's got speed to burn and he's a former running back who knows what to do in the open field. From a distance, he looked fairly comfortable catching punts. We'll keep you posted on whether or not he keeps putting in the extra time, but Carlos seems like a viable option for down the road.
* With John Youngblood (concussion), C.J. Johnson (out for the season) and Carlos Thompson (shoulder issue) out for Troy, and Robert Nkemdiche being moved inside to DT, the DE duties will fall in the laps of Bryon Bennett and Cameron Whigham and their backups - Channing Ward, D.T. Shackelford and Temario Strong. In truth, that's only two - Ward and Whigham - true DEs, but when push comes to shove, somebody has to step up. "I like DE," said Shackelford. "I have played there before and like coming off the edge. I have no problems with it.". . . Bennett will be starting his fourth game at DE.
* Transfer Safety Anthony Alford has had a cast on his left arm for the past two weeks, but it came off today. He's got a wrist issue that was being resolved by stabilization. He is still waring a smaller brace, but is expected to be fine with some more rest.
* Former Super Bowl Indianapolis Colts Coach Tony Dungy spoke to the Rebels prior to practice Wednesday. His message? Take the narrow, and right, road. It's not always the easiest path, but it pays the biggest rewards. Also, be a good big brother in guiding the younger players to stay on the narrow road as well. "He's one of my heroes. He spent about an hour with me in my office and then spoke to our team," said Freeze. "It was an honor to have a man here who stands what he stands for and has done this on the highest level. Hopefully he will inspire us to finish strong."
* TB Kailo Moore, who bruised his thigh last Thursday, dressed out again today and seemed to be moving a little better than Tuesday. While he still seems to be favoring the leg a little, he stretched out more Wednesday and is expected to be ready for the Troy game.
* CB Charles Sawyer (quad pull) did not practice Wednesday and will miss the Troy game. It is anticipated he will be back for Missouri.
* We've been asked several times about the status of Thompson. Although not definitive, the word we are getting is that he is likely out for the year. We've also been asked if he can get a medical hardship sixth year after next season, his senior and fifth season. Freeze said he has not investigated that yet. Carlos, who took his "normal" redshirt last year, will not be able to apply for a medical until after next season, so Freeze said he has put that possibility on the back burner for now. Apparently, Thompson is borderline on being able to apply and have a valid case. We'll just have to wait and see.
* S&C Coach Paul Jackson and his staff are working some magic with some of the guys who are not playing this year, and one who is. . . . OL Robert Conyers reported last year at 270 pounds. He's now 291. . . LB Ray Ray Smith was 195 when he reported back in June. He's now 215. . . OL Davion Johnson was 336 pounds when he reported in June. He's now down to 315, which is where OL Coach Matt Luke wants him. . . TB Jordan Wilkins was 208 when he reported and is now at 213. The target is 215. . . DE Fadol Brown reported at 270 and is now 280. The coaches want him to back off to 275 by next fall, which should be easy for him to accomplish. . . OL Daronte Bouldin reported at 336 and is now down to 328. He's shooting for 320. . . And freshman OL Austin Golson, who is playing a lot this year, reported at 285 in June and is now up to 307. 310 is his ultimate target.