Week Three Begins

You knew it was bound to come. After all, it is Mississippi and it is barely September and we did have one of the mildest Augusts in recent memory. At Ole Miss' practice today, it was just plain, old, Mississippi hot, humidity and all, but the Rebels fought through in Tuesday's practice. Unfortunately, according to Coach Hugh Freeze, they didn't fight hard enough to suit him.

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze approached the podium in the team meeting room and it was instantly clear he wasn't overjoyed about something.

"We have to be more efficient at practice. Our coaches have to do a better job of explaining our expectations," Freeze began. "We just didn't have the effort today that I expect us to have. We have to bounce back tomorrow and get after it."

The Rebels were a little flat emotionally, he said, but that's not his concern.

"I really don't care if they are emotional in practice, but there has to be some leadership that says this is not acceptable if we want to go from good to great," he continued. "If we want to take the next step, we can't afford to waste days and there were some periods today that were wasted. That was frustrating. It wasn't the whole practice, but it was enough to frustrate me."

Did the intense heat factor in? Yes, but no excuses.

"Sure it did," he said about the heat. "We didn't experience a lot of that in camp, but we have to handle it better. I think we are still getting used to a regular routine. The first week, we had a Thursday night game. The second week, we had Labor day. This was the first time we have had a Tuesday with morning weights, class and then practice, which is a normal week. That takes some adjusting, but we have to get it done."

The offensive challenge this week is getting ready for the odd front defense ULL employs, very similar to Boise State's defensive scheme.

"I think everyone went to an odd front clinic last summer," he smiled. "They do a good job. They know what they are doing and their kids play hard within the scheme. We hope it is a benefit that we played against it against Boise. We will be better prepared for sure."

Random Notes:

* The Rebel defense had 58 gradable snaps against Vanderbilt. Fifty-one, we were told, were "pluses." Five of the seven minuses - or bad plays - were on the opening two series when the Rebels made some bad fits up front on a formation/blocking scheme they had not prepared for and Vandy had not shown previously. Once that was adjusted, it was domination for the thus-far salty Reb 'D'.

* Senior DE Carlos Thompson is coming off a two-game suspension this week. Even though the defensive end unit has played well so far, Carlos is one of the better pass rushers on the team and will be utilized in that role and as valuable backup to C.J. Johnson and Marquis Haynes, the other two pass rush specialists on the DL. Asked if Carlos will help, the answer by the coaches was a unanimous "definitely."

* Two veteran defenders made their 2014 debuts against Vandy. OLB Denzel Nkemdiche was coming off a one-game suspension and DT Issac Gross was coming off a neck injury. How did they grade? We were told one word, "excellent."

* The Vandy game served a multiple purpose in the secondary. One, it got backups a lot of exposure and experience. Two, it kept the starters fresh as the meat of the schedule rapidly approaches. FS Cody Prewitt only got 25 of the 58 reps, SS Trae Elston 22 and Husky Tony Conner 28. That left 33 plays for FS C.J. Hampton, 36 for SS Anthony Alford and 30 for Husky A.J. Moore, give or take one or two. Moore had the most eye-catching performance of the newcomers, breaking up a pass and delivering two big hits. . . Also, CBs Cliff Coleman and Kendarius Webster got substantial playing time in backup roles to Senquez Golson and Mike Hilton. All that bodes well as the season grinds forward.

* With TE Matt Brown, who was the number one backup in Evan Engram's role, down with a broken fibula, look for the Rebs to lean more on Jeremy Liggins and Taz Zettergren to take up the slack. Liggins, we were told, is "coming on strong" after a solid showing against Vandy. Zettergren has been around a while and, like Brown, knows everything about the offense. "Jeremy is doing OK," Freeze stated. "The game is going a little too fast for him at times, but as far as effort and being physical and wanting to do well, nobody wants to worse than him. It frustrates him when he doesn't make plays. He made some crucial yards for us on runs that weren't particularly well-blocked that we had to have. I'm anxious to see him catch a ball and see what he does with it afterwards. I am pleased. It's still new to him and we are throwing a lot at him, but he's doing well. He keeps getting b etter."

* As you are aware, OL Christian Morris was declared immediately eligible by the NCAA late last week. While it is unsure when and if Morris will help the OL cause, he passes the look test. Standing side by side with Laremy Tunsil, they have a similar look. Morris is probably 5-10 pounds heavier and an inch or so taller, but they are both long athletes. Christian also looks as if he is leaner than he was back in the summer by about 15-20 pounds. We have learned his strength levels are in the "good" range, but after overcoming an Achilles tear in the offseason, he needs to work his flexibility and bend some. He's got a lot to do, it says here, but there is hope he can add something to the OL somewhere down the line this season. "Christian has a ways to go. He's been with the scout team and has not worked the schemes we are running and his technique is rusty because he hasn't played in a while," Freeze noted. "I am glad we have him and we are going to bring him along as quickly as possible. He's got a chance to help us before the year is over. He's just very raw and hasn't been in the grind yet."

* C/RT/LT Robert Conyers was held out of practice today due to a minor hip issue. He is expected back tomorrow. "He has a hip flexor issue, but we expect him to go tomorrow and certainly expect him to play Saturday," said Freeze.

* What has been the key to WR Quincy Adeboyejo's resurgence? He says it's relaxation. His coach, grant Heard, says it's confidence. Whatever the reason, the Quincy we saw in spring training is reemerging. Good to see.

* After a couple of nifty runs against Vanderbilt, TB Eugene Brazley got a few more well-deserved reps in practice Tuesday. A closer look at what he brings to the table is warranted after his brief, but productive, game showing.

* True freshman RG Rod Taylor got his indoctrination to college football last Saturday and came out smelling like a rose in one area - he had zero assignment busts. That rarely happens for a first-time OL, especially a true freshman. He didn't always finish blocks, but he was where he was supposed to be every single time. That is 80% of the battle because with his effort and athleticism, the finishing will come.

* There's a lot of deserved praise being tossed toward Slot Receiver Cody Core, TE Evan Engram, WR Vincent Sanders and Adeboyejo, but let's not overlook what we will call the Quon factor. While they should take a lot of the credit for their success, Laquon Treadwell deserves some. He's drawing 1 1/2 or 2 defenders most of the time. That leaves gaps in the defense or, at the very least, man coverage, for the rest of the receivers. Getting open is easier for them and they are capitalizing on it. The Quon factor is valuable besides the fact he has caught 11 balls, tied at the top of the receiving chart with Engram. It's a special player who can not only keep catching balls at a rapid rate, but also makes it easier for his teammates to have success.

* Looking way forward, and off the top of our pointed head, the offense during spring training will look very much, from a personnel standpoint, like it does right now. Sanders will have to be replaced (enter Dayall Harris and Demore'ea Stringfellow); TE Nick Parker is in his last year (enter more Liggins); and backup Center Chase Hughes will be gone. The big question mark, obviously, will be replacing a three-year starter at QB in Bo Wallace. Someone will have big shoes to fill, but with a supporting cast that is losing one lightly-used OL, one backup TE and one WR, things look pretty bright moving forward on that side of the ball. (Pardon us if we missed anyone else.)


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