Flipping The Switch

The Rebels will hold the last major scrimmage of August practice tonight in a closed session. After that, it's "flipping the switch" and turning all attention toward the season opener with Boise State.

The last major scrimmage of August camp will be tonight in a session closed to the media and fans.

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze will be looking for two main things - execution on both sides of the ball - an obvious goal, and to get out of the scrimmage injury-free.

"After this, we will start turning out attention toward Boise State preparations," he surmised. "We'll still be working on ourselves a lot, but we will start looking toward Boise more and more each day.

"We are having the scrimmage tonight because this is the time we could get a full SEC officiating crew in here and we want to make sure we are operating correctly. We have them again next Thursday for a mock game, but tonight having them here is important."

On offense, Freeze will be looking for the absence of negative plays in his "better execution" formula.

"We need to take care of the ball, avoid negative plays and play with passion," he continued. "On defense, we have to continue to play with passion, pursue the football and force some takeaways."

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze.

Freeze's reasoning for backing off the contact now is simple - keep them healthy.

"We feel we have enough kids returning who we know what they can do that we can back off the full contact some now," he explained. "All coaches are dealing with this right now. We take the chance that we may not be as crisp in the opener, like in tackling, but we need kids healthy for the first game above all.

"There is a sick feeling in my stomach every time a kid goes down to an injury and it seems like there are more and more every year, so we try to teach our kids to practice safely and yet go hard. It's a fine line."

Freeze also feels comfortable cutting contact back because the depth chart is almost solidified.

"We've worked a lot of combinations, especially on the offensive line. We have a good grasp of what each kid brings to the table and who can help us where," Freeze ended.

Freeze believes the offense will show more tonight.

"We will be making checks and getting out of bad looks tonight versus the way we did the first scrimmage - with no checks and just running what was scripted," he stated. "That should make a difference."

Random Notes:

* Even though the medical team is still waiting on another consultant to pass down his final conclusions on the toe injury to CB Tee Shepard, Freeze did not sound optimistic about getting Tee back this year. "We are getting different opinions, but it doesn't look favorable," said Freeze. "It's a rare injury that he could possibly try to push through and get fixed after the season, but you risk the chance of scar tissue developing and then not being able to heal properly long-term.

Ole Miss cornerback Tee Shepard.

"The final decision has not been made, but right now it does not look promising. It is not completely torn. I will lean on the doctors on this one.". . . If Shepard cannot play this year, he would then have two years to play two. He has already had his "regular" redshirt year, but after those two years are completed, he could file an appeal for a hardship extra year if he so desires.

* DT Issac Gross missed all of last week with a minor neck injury. He returned to practice yesterday and Freeze said he looked "like his old self."

* Again, if Shepard is out, the cornerback duties will be left to Mike Hilton, Senquez Golson, Derrick Jones, Carlos Davis, Cliff Coleman and freshman Kendarius Webster. "We hate not to have Tee, if it comes to that, but we are better off there now than we were the last two years," Freeze said, looking for the silver lining. "We think Hilton can play corner and Husky and we are going to try to accelerate the process of getting freshman A.J. Moore ready at Husky. Mike has great football knowledge and savvy, so he can do both."

* Freshman D.K. Buford is also playing Husky and doing well, but Freeze mentioned he would like to redshirt the Lafayette County product if at all possible.

* Earlier this week, OL Coach Matt Luke used freshman OL Rod Taylor at right tackle. Since then, they have moved Taylor back inside to right guard and moved Daronte Bouldin out to right tackle. "We are also looking at Robert Conyers at left tackle along with right tackle and center," Freeze said.

* In tonight's scrimmage, Freeze said he will limit the snaps of some of the more proven players, not only to protect them but to get a bigger picture look at some relevant backups. "For instance, we will only let Bo (Wallace) go one series tonight. Tonight will be about Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade and Anthony Alford and Jeremy Liggins at QB," he said. "We will do the same at several positions."

OM Spirit Top Stories