It Begins. . .

The Rebels held their first practice of the 2014 season on the practice fields today. Coach Hugh Freeze was pleased with the way the lidlifter panned out.

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"We got the young group out early for about 30-40 minutes and worked with them and I thought that was good for them," said Freeze. "We finally have enough kids that when we go two-deep, the rest are not getting enough reps, so we split practice this morning and worked with the young guys to give them some confidence and not leave them behind in the learning curve.

"We will do about three days of that. Then, when we start going faster, they won't be so confused, hopefully."

Freeze is excited about the look of the newcomers on the squad.

"Our challenge is getting them up to par on the mental side of the game - what to do," he stated. "If we do, I think we have some guys who can perform in this class. We just don't want them to get too far behind, that's the reason for the split practices."

In yesterday's press conference, Freeze mentioned several specific things he'd be looking for, starting with how the punters and kickers did in "live" conditions.

There was no rush in the field goal and punt drills today, but there was full-team action and it was timed.

"I was pleased with (punter Wil) Gleeson. I thought he hit it well today," Hugh continued. "Based on just one day, I thought Andy Pappanastos had the best day in field goals. Gary (Wunderlich) hit some nice balls from the left hash but struggled some from the right hash. Gary also hit some good punts - I feel we have two quality punters based on the first look today. There will be a battle for the field goal job, it looks like."

And his impressions of some of the newcomers?

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.

"Dayall Harris looked phenomenal. Rod Taylor is going to be good, but we knew that. He cramped up today and didn't get in all his reps, but I see a great future for him," said Freeze. "The twins from Bassfield give us a lot of speed and are very athletic.

"Tee (Shepard) looked good, as did Kendarius Webster, who I think will be a fine corner in this league in time. Damore'ea Stringfellow is what we are looking for in this offense. He's a beast. Sammie Epps and Jeremy Liggins looked really solid at tight end. Those are just off the top of my head. Like I said, I really like this class from top to bottom, so to speak."

Because of NCAA rules, today was the first day Freeze was able to see the "new and improved" Bo Wallace throw the ball.

"He overthrew two streak routes. That rarely happened in the past," Hugh joked. "His arm is definitely stronger. We just have to see if he can sustain that arm strength through the course of a year."

Random Notes:

* For the record, RB Eugene Brazley was the first player to hit the field dressed and ready to go, and it is a different Brazley than we saw in spring training. He was 178 pounds in spring. He is now a solid 190 and the word is he's even faster than he was 12 pounds lighter.

* Freshman LB DeMarquis Gates has "the look." 6-2, 215, long, rangy and athletic. As LB Coach Tom Allen said at media days, he's what you are looking for in a frosh linebacker. He can start at Stinger and grow into a Mike with his frame. After one day of practice, Allen also gave a thumbs-up to Gates' movement.

* DE Victor Evans is a carbon copy of a young Kentrell Lockett. Tall and thin, but athletic looking. He also has that eager-to-learn attitude that Lockett came to Ole Miss with. Time and some more beef is all he needs.

* DT Breeland Speaks is getting extra attention from DL Coach Chris Kiffin, and it's easy to see why. At 6-4, 310 pounds, the talk behind the scenes is that Breeland, if he can get up to speed with the technical parts of DT, is expected to help the cause quickly. He certainly looks the part.

* Three newcomers - Shepard, Webster and C.J. Moore - were at cornerback today and all three look to be a "step up," size-wise, from what we are used to at CB here. Tee and Webster are both 6-footers and long-limbed. Moore is almost as tall and a little thicker, but he can motor. Certainly a good look for those three and an upgrade in size from past young corners, not counting Derrick Jones, who is also in that mold.

* Taylor, who is now at RG, is not the only OL who looks the part of the newcomers. RT Fahn Cooper is massive (6-5, 312, at least). LT Christian Morris (6-6, 335) is also a jumbo package. LG Jordan Sims, at 6-4, 370, is the biggest of them all. Time will tell on their effectiveness, but they will certainly look intimidating getting off the bus.

* Jeremy Liggins, recently moved to TE, looks like a totally different player than he did in spring when he was well over 300 pounds and not in very good shape. He's now in the 280 range with little body fat and it shows in his movement. And, no surprise, Liggins can catch the ball. He's an athlete. He will play this year, my money says.

* Stringfellow is a bigger version of Donte Moncrief. They are about the same height, but String is probably 10 pounds heavier and just as physical off the line of scrimmage. He roughs up corners and looked to be a man among boys for much of the day.

Ole Miss wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow.

* Freshman Recevier Markell Pack is being looked at in the slot. He reminds one of Quincy Adeboyejo in his build and his movement. Harris is out wide. He needs to fill out some, but he made a very good first impression today.

* Right now, it appears Daronte Bouldin has moved from RG to left guard behind Aaron Morris and Justin Bell has moved to right guard and is currently number one there. Chris Frigo, a JUCO who participated in spring training, was behind Bell.

* Denzel Nkemdiche was on the verge of being the forgotten man, but no longer. He was front and center at practice today and it was easy to tell he was grateful and excited to be back in the fold. His enthusiasm is infectious. It as good to see the "old Denzel" back.

* Freeze mentioned yesterday that DT Woodrow Hamilton may not go through everything at practices for a little while. Woody had his ankle surgically repaired last spring and while it's basically healed, there is some irritation around a screw in his ankle right now. The doctors do not expect that to linger much longer, but erring on the side of caution, he will be held out of team contact work for "a while." He participated in all individual drills today and appeared to be moving well.

* As was mentioned yesterday, Channing Ward has moved back to defensive end.

* The media was limited to 16 periods - a little over a half of the practice - today, so we were not able to get a good look at all the freshmen and newcomers for any extended period of time. That will be upcoming in the next days. . .

* As required by rule, the Rebs were in shorts and helmets today and will be again tomorrow.

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