Real Football

The sound of the first pads popping in the Manning Center came at precisely 5:54 this morning with a rowdy Oklahoma drill. The third day of spring training brought about "real football," with a heavy dose of contact. After three days of spring, Coach Hugh Freeze has given his team props for the energy they have given him.

The first day of pads for the Ole Miss football team this morning - the third day of spring training - brought about the usual results.

The defense was ahead of the offense. . .

There was some obvious rust. . .

There were missed opportunities on both sides of the ball. . .

But what wasn't "normal," was the continued stream of high - almost unreal - energy Coach Hugh Freeze and his staff are getting from this 2014 Rebel team.

"The energy has been really good," said Freeze. "I couldn't be more pleased with that. We have asked for 15 days of high energy and so far we are 3-for-3. Now the kids go to spring break and they should come back fresh and ready to go 12 more.

"As is usually the case, the offense is behind the defense. They jumped in 'Bear" today and we haven't practiced that at all on offense. The defense kind of dominated the team scrimmage, but we had some decent runs at times."

The Rebel offense did have its moments, however, said Freeze.

"We looked real good throwing and catching the ball in the skelly perimeter period. We had some explosive plays," he noted. "Also, the offense took care of the ball better today and limited turnovers.

"There was good competition, but right now we expect the defense to be ahead."

The offensive line depth is one of the biggest keys the coaches are attacking this spring. So far?

Hugh Freeze
File Photo

"With Aaron Morris and Christian Morris out and Fahn Cooper not making it this spring, lack of depth there is just the hand we have been dealt," Freeze continued. "I thought Carlton Martin was coming on pretty good from a depth standpoint, but he hurt his knee today. I don't know the extent yet, but I'm hoping we get him back after spring break. The trainers said they didn't think it was major.

"They are working hard and will get better. (Coach) Matt (Luke) will get them competitive."

Channing Ward was moved from defensive end to tight end. Freeze's first impressions?

"He did better today. He looked real physical in one-on-one stuff. We just have to get him to repeat that over and over and over again and be consistent with it," Freeze stated.

One goal this spring is to find a backup quarterback. The competition is between Devante Kincade, Jeremy Liggins, Ryan Buchanan and Kendrick Doss.

"This was the first day we have had anything live coming at them. It's early, but DeVante made some plays with his feet, which was good to see, but overall they struggled a bit. Ryan made some good decisions, but his throws were a bit off," noted Freeze. "Nobody has separated themselves yet though, bugt we didn't expect them to."

This spring marks the return of DEs Carlos Thompson and C.J. Johnson after sitting out last year with injuries.

"Carlos has done very well. I am very proud of what he has shown since he has been back," Freeze said. "We haven't given C.J. much, just a few live plays today, but we know what he can do and he looks to be in good form.

"It helps our defense a lot to get their speed and experience back. We have a different look with them in there and I know Dave (Wommack) feels he can do more things with them in the lineup."

All-in-all, after just three days, Freeze gives the Rebs a thumbs up.

"Again, the energy has been terrific and if we can keep that up the remainder of spring training, we will be a better football team when all is said and done," he closed.

Random Notes:

* Deterrian Shackelford is a man on a mission. You know his story - two years out of action for repair of an ACL, playing at three-quarter speed and with little knowledge of a defense he had never played in. He finished last season strong at DE, but is now back at MLB. The first thing that is noticeable is that he is now comfortable taking a leadership role after staying in the background a little last year. The second thing is his movement - it appears the "old D.T." is back from that standpoint. Third, he now knows the defense and is able to direct traffic and make calls from the MLB spot. Right now, it looks as if he has a green light to take over for graduated Mike Marry. Man on a mission.

Laquon Treadwell
File Photo

* In Oklahoma drills, redshirt RB Jordan Wilkins showed a physical side to his play that the coaches have been loooking for. He absolutely dominated OLB Serderius Bryant in the rugged one-on-one drill.

* WR Cody Core returned to practice today, but was limited while he recovers from a hamstring injury. . . The only players out who are anticipated to participate this spring were CB Senquez Golson and WR Vincent Sanders, both nursing sore hamstrings and both expected back after spring break.

* One OL bright spot seems to be the quick development of Right Guard Daronte Bouldin. One of the strongest players on the team, he is getting a lot of praise from Luke early on and he looks very athletic and effective in the pulling game.

* In the skelly perimeter period Freeze talked about, QB Bo Wallace hit Slot Receiver Quincy Adeboyejo with a 50-yard bomb and then followed that up with a 55-yarder to WR Laquon Treadwell. On both plays, Bo threw the ball about 55 yards in the air, something he was not capable of for most of last year due to a weak arm. Obviously the offseason work he has done has strengthened his right wing.

* In the team scrimmage, pressure was the name of the game. Thompson and Johnson started out at the DE slots and showed their prowess immediately with one QB sack (Johnson) and two pressures (Thompson).

* Kincade moves better - in and out of the pocket - than any of the quarterbacks. He seems to have a feel for pressure and when to hang in the pocket and when to scramble. When he scrambles, he is showing pretty good speed as well.

* There is still a lot to sort out at running back, but one thing that was known heading into spring was there would be plenty of competition. RB Coach Derrick Nix has a lot to choose from and none of them have disappointed. Walton, Mathers, Wilkins, Dodson and Eugene Brazley have all had moments when they have shined. Good "problem" to have. Who will surface? Too close to call right now.

* A lot has already been written about Adeboyejo and Treadwell, but two other wideouts, in the absence of Core and Sanders, that are making some noise are Slot Receiver Q. Mireles and WR Collins Moore. Both are starting to make their presence known with good plays each day. It is imperative that more WRs jump to another level. So far, they are.

* The Rebs are now off for spring break and will resume practice March 16 with a closed practice.

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