'A Step Up'

Going to the last possession of Saturday's first scrimmage of spring training in the stadium, the offense and the defense were tied at 14-all in their 2-hour competition. The ones went against the ones to decide the "winner" of the day, but the true victor was the team with marked advancement.

The decider would be if the offense could get two first downs, they won the day. If the defense could stop them, they had the overall edge.

QB Bo Wallace connected with Laquon Treadwell for one first down - halfway to their goal, but then the defense stiffened, forcing a 4th-and 12 situation.

Bo dropped back and appeared to have found WR Quincy Adeboyejo over the middle about 25 yards downfield. Adeboyejo went high in the air, plucked the ball and appeared to have the catch, but at the last instant Safety Trae Elston jarred it out of his hands and the defense claimed the victory.

But Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze felt everyone came out on top as he watched his team advance in several areas.

"I thought the energy and effort, once again, was good. It was a physical workout," said Freeze. "We had some execution issues because we played everyone and it's hard for all of them to have everything figured out with all the different looks we have on both sides of the ball, but I thought there were a lot of explosive plays, the defense took the ball away some and overall, they did a good job of stopping the run.

"In all, I thought there were a lot of good things, a lot of things we can build on. Now, to go with their attitude and effort, the rest of spring we need to add execution. That will be our goal, but I thought we got better today."

Robert Nkemdiche
Petre Thomas

Random Notes:

* WR Laquon Treadwell had a so-so day, for him, catching, but Freeze says he has been "phenomenal" this spring in his new role as an outside receiver after being in the slot his true freshman campaign. "He's going to be a special guy for us outside," Freeze evaluated. "Quon is a physical blocker and he's a big guy who can catch it in tight coverage. We expect him to have more explosive plays next year. He may not have as many catches as last year, but he will be more explosive."

* Rough receiving stats compiled by The Spirit's Jeff Roberson and NE Miss. Daily Journal's Parrish Alford show Evan Engram with 5 catches for 122 yards and a score, Collins Moore with 3-48, Treadwell 5-56 and a TD, Adeboyejo 2-45 and a TD and Cody Core with 2-23 and a TD.

* Freeze assessed, without the benefit of watching the scrimmage film, the play of the backup quarterbacks. "For their first scrimmage, I saw some decent things. I thought Devante Knicade and Ryan Buchanan made some nice throws, as did Jeremy Liggins and Kendrick Doss," he noted. "This was their first live action and I thought they handled it well. This live action weighs more in our decision-making about them. I won't name a number two at the end of spring - the competition will continue and that will be a fall decision, but these three Saturday scrimmage will weight heavily in our evaluation."

* Rough passing stats show Wallace was 15-27 for 240 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT; Kincade was 6-9, 69 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; Buchanan was 6-8, 40 yards and Liggins at 1-8 for 7 yards and a pick.

* As was known prior to spring training, the backfield is crowded, and as spring wears on, it gets more crowded with little separation among the RBs. "We're happy with all those guys. We know what Jaylen Walton, I'tavius Mathers and Mark Dodson can do, but now Jordan Wilkins and Eugene Brazley are showing some good things," he stated. "I would like to see Jordan finish his runs a little more physically, and he did a couple of times toward the end of practice today, and I would like to see Eugene get North and South quicker at times, but they both have made us take notice with the way they are practicing and producing."

* Rough rushing stats: Brazley 11-41, Mathers 3-9, Walton 3-37, Dodson 2-15, Wilkins 7-22, Kincade 9-18, Wallace 6-7.

* Lafayette OL Eli Johnson, a Rebel commitment, and Bruce DE Jay Johnson from Bruce, an MSU commit, were both at the scrimmage Saturday.

* DT Woody Hamilton's injury ended up being a broken bone on the outside of his right foot. He is in a cast now for three more weeks, but has to stay off the foot for six more weeks. He is expected to return to full action in July.

* WR Vincent Sanders (hamstring) and DT Lavon Hooks (ankle) did not participate Saturday.

* DE C.J. Johnson recorded a sack and showed he is already in top form coming back from a season-ending injury and surgery last year. "When we add him to our mix, it just makes us so much better," said DC Dave Wommack. "His speed, his experience, his knowledge of the defense, his leadership - he's stepping up big time."

* Kincade, guiding the two offense, hit Slot Q. Mireles for a 25 yard gain on a long out pattern. The throw was on a line and traveled about 35-40 yards. He has, arguably, the strongest arm on the team and made good throws Saturday, but he followed up that brilliant pass by trying to squeeze one in the middle and it was picked off by JUCO transfer MLB Christian Russell, who was dropping in a deep zone and returned the pick some 25 yards. Overall, Kincade had only one misfire on the day.

* Walton wasn't used much on the day, but he made the most of his brief appearance on the number one offense. On one tote, he burst up the middle, made a move on LB and scampered for 18 yards. On the very next play, he turned on the jets going outside and gained another 15 yards.

Channing Ward
Petre Thomas

* The very first play of the scrimmage, Wallace found Engram on a wheel route that completely fooled the defense and went for a 65-yard TD. Think the Rebs didn't miss Engram when he went down last year to injury? Saturday was proof positive it hurt.

* TE Channing Ward only had one catch on the day, but it was a highlight reception. Running a sharp out pattern, Buchanan threw about a yard behind him. Ward reached back and plucked the ball with one hand for a nice gain and a first down.

* The battle between Ben Still and Robert Conyers at center is heating up. They split time Saturday with the ones and both performed well. There were no snap issues and not much pressure on the day allowed up the middle.

* DT Robert Nkemdiche had one QB sack and made several more good plays, but he was not alone. DT Bryon Bennett, DE Carlos Thompson, Husky Chief Brown and Husky Tony Conner also registered QB sacks on the day. "We are showing more speed up front on defense this spring," Freeze said. "That's going to help our pressure game, no doubt. When you throw in a guy like Issac Gross, whose game is all about speed and quickness, it makes it even that much better."

* Collins Moore, after double shoulder separation surgery a year ago, had become somewhat of a forgotten man last year, but this spring he is making his mark, particularly since Sanders has not practiced. Saturday, he made a really nice catch between two DBs on a pass by Wallace that excited everyone in the stadium. That has been a daily thing this spring.

* On Treadwell's TD catch, a short fade pattern to the corner of the end zone, CB Mike Hilton had him covered perfectly, but Quon reached up with one hand while shielding Hilton off and made the one-handed catch effortlessly for the score.

* The number one goal of the coaches this year has been to build depth. They are getting there. The number two defense has several players they trust, Thompson, Anthony Alford, Chief Brown, Bennett and John Youngblood, to name a few, and MLB Russell, S C.J. Hampton, CB Carlos Davis and DE Marquis Haynes are quickly gaining trust as each practice ticks by.

* It looks as if, in some defensive sets, the coaches are experimenting with Gross coming off the edge at DE. Interesting.

* Practice will resume Monday. It will be closed to the public and media.

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