Finishing Touches

The Rebel football team put - basically - the finishing touches on spring football Friday afternoon, other than Saturday's noon Grove Bowl, and a tough, physical finish it was.

Spring (football), for all intents and purposes, has sprung, except for Saturday's noon Grove Bowl in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Friday's full-pad, full-live practice marked the end of the grind portion of spring. Saturday, before what is expected to be a big crowd, is for fun.

"By rule, we had to have a non-contact practice Monday, so we went full bore today," said Coach Hugh Freeze. "I can say this from 14 practices this spring - our team has developed more toughness and we are definitely a competitive squad right now.

"I don't know yet how much better than means we are, but I know we are more physical and we run around better. I love the competitive spirit I see out here and I have no doubt we are a tougher team than we were last season."

Freeze said there was a reason the Rebs weren't as physical last year as he would like.

"We had too many injuries and had to be careful with them during practices. That could have taken away some of our edge," he continued. "We won't do this much hitting during the season all the time next year, but most great teams have very physical springs. We had one this year and were able to because of added depth."

I'Tavius Mathers
File Photo
The Grove Bowl will be a competition practice with points awarded for defensive or offensive performance in different situations, including third downs, Red Zone, coming out and regular drives.

"We expect it to be very competitive with the teams divided up offense versus defense," he closed.

Random Notes:

* TB Jaylen Walton (hamstring) will not participate in the spring game. He is the only player who has been through spring that has been injured to the point of not being able to return for tomorrow's Grove Bowl. . . WR Vincent Sanders, who has been out all spring, will not participate. . . WR Quincy Adeboyejo (groin) has missed the last week of practice but is expected to participate in the Grove Bowl.

* The physical Friday practice started off with an Oklahoma drill. Three blockers and a back in a confined space needing ten yards against three defenders. Man on man. WRs Laquon Treadwell, Cody Core and Collins Moore took on S Cody Prewitt, S Anthony Alford and Husky Tony Conner. Guess the winner? You'd be wrong if you guessed defense. Quon and company blew them out. Surprising, but it happened.

* Based on the order of the way the kickers and punters took live reps Friday, the leader in the race for the punting duties is RS frosh Will Gleeson and the leader for the placement duties is freshman Andy Pappanastos. As of right now. . .

Fadol Brown
File Photo
* Speaking of Treadwell, the transition to the outside receiver in Donte Moncrief's place has been just what the doctor ordered for him. At times, he has dominated practices. He's too big, strong and deceptively quick and fast for man coverage and his precise routes have become football poetry in motion. Great things are in store for #1.

* On the first scrimmage play, the Reb offense tried a screen pass. DE Fadol Brown had other ideas. He went high in the air to pick off the pass and raced 65 yards for a score. Fadol and Carlos Thompson have been going back and forth for the number one DE slot opposite of C.J. Johnson. Fadol seems better against the run, Carlos a bit quicker off the edge. A good problem to have.

* Freshman Safety C.J. Hampton is not going to beat out All-American Cody Prewitt, but look for him to be a factor and definitely is the heir apparent to Prewitt after next year. Hampton seems to have a knack for being around the ball. He's smooth and physical. Friday, he caused a fumble and covered it. He has done things like that daily.

* Two of our surprise players this spring have been WR Collins Moore and CB Cliff Coleman. Collins, who had double dislocated shoulders a year ago, is healthy now and has been a sure-handed, reliable receiver all spring. He's earned substantial playing time for next year. . . Cliff may not start next season, but the wily veteran will play quite a bit and is trusted in every situation by the coaches. Good springs for both.

* TB I'Tavius Mathers had, perhaps, the run of the spring Friday. He took a handoff up the middle, found a crease, cut right to get away from a linebacker, got in the open field and left Prewitt grabbing for air. 60-yard TD that made the offensive side of the field erupt to celebrate the run. P.S. - He got a really good downfield block from none other than RS freshman right guard Daronte Bouldin.

* On the day, the competition was tied. Freeze called for the two offense to take on the two defense from 25 yards out. If the offense scored, they won the day. If the defense stopped them, they won the day. Enter QB Jeremy Liggins. On first down, he ran over three defenders and rambled for 15 yards like a freight train. All the momentum shifted to the offense and you could see what was coming next. An 8-yard run by Jordan Wilkins and a scoring run by Wilkins on the next play and the offense took home Friday's "trophy."

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