Trucking Toward Saturday

The Rebels practiced in the Manning Center Wednesday due to heavy rains, resulting in muddy practice fields, in Oxford yesterday. It was a non-contact, soft pads practice working on the gameplan for Vanderbilt.

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze had his Rebels working on the Vanderbilt gameplan full bore at Wednesday's practice, held in the Manning Center in "soft" pads and helmets.

"We worked hard on Vandy today. The Vanderbilt defensive front gave us problems with their shifts and movement so I am sure Vandy will incorporate some of that into their scheme," he stated. "We have worked on that and the 3-4 front they use hard."

Freeze has been pleased with what he has seen from the offensive line this week after a sluggish three quarters against Boise State last Thursday.

"They've had a good week, correcting the things they did wrong and gaining some continuity. We aren't as deep as we'd like, but the ones we are counting on are working very hard."

Robert Conyers took over for starter Fahn Cooper in the opner at right tackle and did well, but Freeze said the start this week will go to Cooper because of Conyers' value as a three-position rotation player.

"Robert is so important to us because he is a three-position swing guy for us. He may suffer in terms of not starting, but he will play more snaps than most of them. He's very valuable to us," noted Freeze. "He's solid. He knows what he is doing, he doesn't make many MAs and he plays hard and tough.

"He was also getting off the ball quicker than some of the other guys against Boise. Some of our first-time players were hesitant."


Ole Miss OL Robert Conyers.

Freeze said the coaches have a similar situation as they did against Boise in that they don't exactly know how Vandy is going to attack offensively.

"We have a one-game sample, which is better than Boise, but with a new coaching staff, you have to go back and watch a lot of film from where some of those coaches were previously," he noted. "That can be tough, but it's part of it."

Random Notes:

* Look for redshirt freshman Running Back Jordan Wilkins to get more playing time this week against the Commodores. Backs who move the pile, which he did two or three times against Boise, get rewarded.

* RB Coach Derrick Nix had a little bit of a scare the last couple of days. As most are aware, he lost both kidneys in college as an RB for USM and had to have a transplant from an older brother. A couple of days ago, his foot started swelling and it was first feared he was having kidney issues, serious stuff for transplant patients, but after getting checked out at UAB this morning, it was concluded the kidney is functioning fine and Derrick was diagnosed with a severe case of gout, common for kidney transplant patients, we are told. Nix was at practice today, but was on crutches and has been told to stay on crutches for the next two days or until the gout clears up.

* Yesterday, OL Coach Matt Luke said freshman Rod Taylor would be in a three-man guard rotation versus Vandy Saturday. Today's practice bore that out as Taylor was getting reps at right guard with the first team along with starter Justin Bell. At tiems, when Taylor would come in, Bell would replace LG Aaron Morris, thus the rotation. "Rod will go in on the second series," declared Freeze.

* DT Issac Gross, who missed the last week or so of August practice and the Boise game with neck issues, has practiced all week without complications. He went through all contact drills on Tuesday with no after-effects. It looks as if he has the green light to make his 2014 debut Saturday versus the Dores. "He's had a good week. I look for him to help us from this point on," Freeze mentioned.


Ole Miss LB Denzel Nkemdiche.

* Another player who will make their 2014 debut is OLB Denzel Nkemdiche, who was suspended for the first game of the year. You can literally see the excitement level rising in him now that his suspension is behind him and he has earned a new lease on his football life. He is expected to split time with starter Serderius Bryant Saturday.

* Freshman CB Kendarius Webster seems to be gaining more and more trust of the coaches as the days click by. Right now, he is backing up Mike Hilton and is expected to play a few more snaps than he did in the opener against Boise. You'll recall he made a fine play on a long pass against the Broncos, making up ground to knock the ball away on a receiver who had actually gotten behind him. Closing speed is one big reason he has gotten him early playing time.

* There are always feel-good stories on every team. One on this year's squad is CB/S Cliff Coleman, a journeyman most of his career who has patiently worked his way up the depth chart and make a place for himself in the secondary and on special teams. Good kid rewarded for hard work.

* It's no surprise Luke told the press on Tuesday that LT Laremy Tunsil graded the highest of the OL versus Boise. Stud last year, stud this year.

* QB Bo Wallace threw with a glove on his throwing hand yesterday. Not so today. Guess the experiment didn't work for the Rebel gunslinger. . .

* Derrick Jones continued splitting time between the offense at wideout and the defense at corner on Wednesday. "He's such a good athlete and we need some more depth at wideout. He's very natural there. He can catch the ball. He was at wideout in high school. We hope to have him totally baptized at wideout by the open week," said Freeze. "He will still be valuable to us at corner in nickel, dime and Red Zone packages.

* DE Fadol Brown's ankle, injured in the Boise game, is fine. He has practiced at full speed, contact and all, this week.

* When Carlos Davis went down in late August to a torn ACL, there was some concern about the stability of catching punts. The coaches opted to go with two players - Anthony Alford and freshman Markell Pack - deep on punt returns against Boise to keep either from having to catch punts on the dead run and all punts were fielded cleanly. Pack even had a good return, but it was called back for penalty. Potential problem solved by a good coaching move.

* OL Daronte Bouldin was head and shoulders the strongest freshman from last year's heralded recruiting class. Who gets that title this year? DT Breeland Speaks and OG Rod Taylor, two Jackson Calloway products. They must be doing something right in the Calloway weight room.

* Who are the four best coverage guys on the team on kickoffs and punts? Special Teams Coordinator Tom Allen was reluctant to narrow it down to four, but when pressed he named DE Channing Ward, who had four tackles against Boise on six kickoffs, WR Cody Core, MLB Temario Strong and LB Keith Lewis. What do all four have in common? Speed and fearlessness.

* WR Collins Moore tried to come back from a knee injury last week, but he wasn't ready. "He just needs more time," Hugh noted. "We don't want to rush things, so we have put him back on the shelf until he is better. That is one reason we moved Derrick this week and are trying to work him into some of our WR packages."

* Practices the rest of the week are closed to the media and the public.


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