Keep Truckin'

Quoting Allen Iverson, "we talkin' about practice? Practice?" At Ole Miss, with the open week in full swing, yes, we are talking about practice. For Coach Hugh Freeze, the only way his 3-0, 10th-ranked Rebels can get better is to get after it at practice.

You might see more joking around than normal.

You might see the intensity level drop just a bit.

You might even see the starters, the top guys, taking a knee and enjoying a break or two.

But the open week is still a time to get things done and Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze takes full advantage of that opportunity.

"We've got a six-game stretch staring us in the face and we better be ready for it," said Freeze. "There are a lot of things we need to tighten up and now is our chance to do that. When next week rolls around, we will be installing gameplans. Correction and improvement periods become more scarce. During the open week, we can spend as much time as needed on those important things."

Wednesday was, according to Freeze, a good day.

"We got some good work done. We got the young kids some live reps and that was good. DeMore'ea Stringfellow, Sammie Epps, the young D-line all did well," he stated. "We did third-and-long with the ones and twos and that's like a root canal for an offensive coach. The defense dominated.

"In the two-minute drill, we moved the ball well but did not score in the Red Zone. The defense stiffened as they have thus far this season, but we have to do a better job of finishing those drives."

Random Notes:

* TB Jordan Wilkins, who had an MRI on a banged up knee and ankle earlier this week, returned to practice today after the tests showed nothing major going on physically. Wilkins didn't do a lot in the workout, he's being eased back in for precautionary reasons, but he is expected, if he hits no unexpected bumps in the road, to be ready for the Memphis game.

* MLB D.T. Shackelford has a banged up ankle, and while he hasn't practiced this week, he is expected to be ready for the Memphis game a week from Saturday.

* The players that Freeze is redshirting will stay in that mode unless there are injuries. "The only one up for debate is TB Akeem Judd, depending on whether or not I'Tavius Mathers and Jordan Wilkins are able to go. Both of them should be ready for Memphis, but Mathers may be a little iffy," Freeze commented. "I-Train's toe is sprained pretty good, but the trainers are optimistic. Physically,we have some other redshirts who are ready, but they have so much to learn. We hope they don't have to play."

* The Rebels, due to seeing three-down defensive fronts that morph into five-man fronts quickly and not having a traditional hand-on-the-ground tight end set, have struggled at times in the run game, but against ULL an interesting heavy set was introduced with Jeremy Liggins at quarterback and converted DT to OL Carlton Martin lining up with his hand on the ground at tight end and wearing jersey #48. That gave the Rebs the numbers, 6 on 5, and helped move defenders around more effectively. Expect more of that look, especially in short yardage situations. "I am really pleased with him. He packs a punch and is very athletic," Hugh stated.

* By being able to get the backups a lot of playing time in the last two games against Vanderbilt and ULL, there are several young players moving up the pecking order and gaining more and more trust of the coaches. Possibly number one is Husky A.J. Moore, one of the heralded freshman twins. Coaches tell us he is extremely smart, has excellent football instincts, and has a nasty streak. . .Another, despite a bruised thigh sustained in the ULL game, is freshman MLB DeMarquis Gates. While he's still got a lot to learn and the coaches only use him situationally and in packages he has mastered, he's a player on the way up. . . OL Rod Taylor, also a freshman, is also moving up the ladder. The word from the coaches is "aggressive and a quick study." To go along with his obvious athletic ability, that's a good combination for advancement. . . Freshman CB Kendarius Webster, S/CB C.J. Moore, DE Marquis Haynes, and FS C.J. Hampton are also on the fast track for newcomers.

* An upperclassman also making his mark as the games click by is S Anthony Alford. At the first of the season, he was not considered a co-starter, so to speak. After three games, he has gained that status. Look for more of him as Trae Elston and Cody Prewitt need breathers in the coming weeks.

* OL Aaron Morris, as has been reported the past two days, is sitting out of practice this week to rest sore, weary knees. You will recall Aaron is coming off a long rehab from an ACL tear early last season and he's still needing periodical rest. He needs to be ready for the gauntlet facing the Rebels in the next six weeks, thus the decision to rest him.

* The Memphis game is important to recruiting, obviously. "We consider Memphis home, and we recruit it hard. The talent there is good and we need to sign players from there. To do that, we have to show up well against their home town school. This game is important," Freeze stated. "They are a good football team. Coach (Justin) Fuentas has done a really good job. They are well-coached and have a lot of quality athletes. What he has done in a short period of time is remarkable. When I was the head coach at Arkansas State, frankly, we beat them pretty easily and that program was in bad shape. Coach Fuentas has done really well in reviving them quickly. His kids play physical and fast and he has great schemes."

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