Tempo, Tempo And More Tempo

Coach Hugh Freeze called for an up-tempo scrimmage Saturday and his players obliged, going fast and faster during the 1 1/2 hour workout held on the field in The Manning Center.

Due to a lot of injuries on the offensive side of the ball, Freeze was not able to go as long as he would have desired in Saturday's scrimmage, but he went every bit as fast as he wanted in the 1 1/2 hour affair.

"It was all about tempo today and I was pleased with the great effort our kids gave us, which has been the case all spring," noted Hugh. "Their attitude has been great, they are very coachable.

"I like what I see other than all the guys on the sidelines injured. I wish they were out there with us. Our theme this spring is 'Chasing Greatness.' We had a motivational film on that this morning that not only depicts what you have to do in football to be great, but in life as well and I see our guys responding and chasing greatness."

Freeze has been bemoaning, a little, the offensive production for much of the spring, but today he was a bit more pleased.

"I thought we took care of the football better than we have been - I can't remember a turnover. I think we were good on third downs and we were pretty efficient in the Red Zone when we got down there," he noted. "We scored four or five TDs in the scrimmage, which isn't bad against our defense."

When asked about the quarterback race, Freeze was non-committal in terms of naming a leader.

"All three did some good things," he said. "We missed a few reads in the run game, but all three had solid days."

(More from Ben Garrett later on the QB race.)

The Rebel defense has been the "star" of the spring and while the offense had their "best day" of spring, it's obvious the defense can be pretty special.

"We've got a chance to be more physical than any we have had. I thought the offense competed with them today fairly well, but there's no question, the scope of our spring, this defense has been very, very physical," Hugh said.

The defensive line seems to have a 12-man rotation. Marquis Haynes, John Youngblood and Victor Evans at one DE; Fadol Brown, Channing Ward and Garrard McDowell at the other DE; Robert Nkemdiche, Breeland Speaks and D.J. Jones at DT and Issac Gross, Woody Hamilton and Herbert Moore at Nose Tackle.

"That's pretty solid there, ad we will even see C.J. Johnson some at defensive end as well as linebacker. We are blessed on the DL," Freeze noted.

What about linebacker?

"We are fine at Stinger with Denzel (Nkemdiche), DeMarquis Gates, Ray Ray (Smith), Tayler Polk and Terry Caldwell. We are trying some new things at Mike with C.J. Some things are natural to him, so will take more time," Freeze explained. "Christian Russell and Temario Strong are also doing some good things. We just need more consistency there. We are pleased with the progress and Shawn Curtis, who we signed this year, is here on his official visit and he's a really good-looking kid."

At corner, Freeze likes how physical Tee Shepard and Tony Bridges are and he's also been impressed with Kailo Moore and Kendarius Webster.

"Sometimes Tony and Tee can be too aggressive, as we saw today on one deep ball that was caught for a TD, but they are very physical and are really still learning," noted Hugh. "I like where we are at corner."

On the offensive side of the ball, the run game had familiar rough going, but it wasn't a complete wash - the Rebs did make some short yardage first downs and pop three or four mid-range runs.

"We've put a lot of emphasis on the run game, despite having some of our key offensive linemen out, and I think we have made progress," Freeze stated. "We have a new term this year - dirty runs. I don't want any more negative yardage run plays. I don't care if we get one yard or two yards or what, just no -1 or -2 or what have you.

"We have challenged our line and our backs and they have responded in that regard. Akeem Judd is giving us some dirty runs. I think he can be an every-down back - he's a good pass protector. He runs hard. He's not going to give you the 80-yarder like Jaylen can, but he can do everything within our offense," said Hugh. "The redshirt helped him."

Random Notes:

* WR Laquon Treadwell isn't allowed in to participate in any contact work yet, but that's not hindering him from being a big part of practice. "He wants to be out there so badly," said Freeze with a smile. "He's dressing out in full gear hoping we will make a mistake and put him in I think. (laughs) We are not going to risk him this year, but even without him being out there playing, he's such a leader. He's constantly running out on the field when someone does something good and slapping them on the head and encouraging."

* RB Eugene Brazley has a concussion is going through head trauma protocol; TB Jordan Wilkins has a sprained MCL and should be fine soon; and Rover Mike Hilton broke his thumb that had to be surgically repaired and is out for the rest of spring.

* Even without Treadwell, Cody Core and Markell Pack, the wideouts had some sterling moments Saturday. Demore'ea Stringfellow had several catches in traffic, Derrick Jones has become a playmaker now that he is comfortable at WR and the coaches have declared he will be left there permanently and Dayall Harris shows playmaking ability. "String is a lot like Laquon. He uses his body to get position and he can go up and get the ball. He's also hard to bring down once he catches it because he is so strong," Freeze added. "Dayall has some explosiveness and Derrick is having a really good spring. He's making a lot of good plays - he just needs to be more consistent."

* D.J. Jones and Breeland Speaks are expected to take up the slack for graduated Bryon Bennett and Lavon Hooks. So far, so good. "D.J. is quick-twitch and very strong. Breeland is long and athletic. He has knocked down a bunch of passes at the line of scrimmage this spring. Both of them will play a lot next year," Hugh said.

* In the offseason, Freeze said the staff identified 12 players who needed to change their eating habits and lose weight. Jordan Sims has lost 60 pounds and "is becoming a football player." Speaks has taken off weight as well. "Herbert Moore is also shedding pounds," Hugh said. "Our nutritional program is working. I can see it in the way they look and the way they are starting to perform."

* CB Carlos Davis is dressing out after coming off a knee injury, but he's got on a green jersey for no contact and his knee is braced heavily. He's going through some individual drills and appears to be moving well. He is expected to be back for August practice at full speed. Punt returner for 2015? Big possibility.

* Tee and Tony, the two "new" corners, are as physical as any who have been here since Stevon Moore. Literally, they will light you up. Brazley's concussion was from a hit from Shepard. Knocked him cold as a wedge. P.S. - The Rebs' corners are now bigger than the Reb safeties.

* Ken Webster played last year at 170 pounds. He's 185 now and the added weight/strength is showing in his play. He and Kailo will also bring the leather.

* The number one OL today was LT Jeremy Liggins, LG Justin Bell, C Ben Still, RG Rod Taylor, RT Fahn Cooper. It was the media's first look at spring ball Saturday and while the DL got the best of the OL overall, there was more "holding their own" on the OL than we were led to believe in earlier spring practices.

* With Hilton out, Chief Brown and C.J. Moore are handling Rover duties and C.J. Hampton is backing up Elston at free safety.. "C.J. Hampton is very physical and has improved a lot, as much as anyone this spring," Freeze said. "Chief is a veteran who knows what to do and Moore is learning quickly."

* Signee Shawn Curtis is extremely impressive physically in person. He's here on his official visit. When we first saw him our first impression was "who is that defensive tackle." Big, thick young man.

* First impressions of the quarterbacks. Chad Kelly has a very live arm and will try any throw. All his throws are tight spirals with mustard. He threw two deep balls that were 60-yard-plus in the scrimmage. Kelly found Quincy Adeboyejo, who had a terrific day, for a 70-yard score. . Ryan Buchanan is currently running the offense the way you would expect a third-year player to and was probably the most efficient of the three Saturday from our view in the cheap seats. Ryan directed two scoring drives Saturday and capped one with a 17-yard bullet to Derrick Jones. . Devante Kincade did not wear a green jersey - he was live for contact - and his production, while not as consistent as Buchanan's, was efficient at times. From our view, tough call right now. Kincade ran for two short TDs today

* Captain Obvious, here. Evan Engram is a stud and he's now five pounds heavier than last year at 230 with a goal of 240 for fall camp. . . . RS frosh Sammie Epps also has the gift. Much like Evan two years ago, he's long and lean and can stretch the field. He's now 225 pounds and growing. The TE position looks not only solid, but dangerous.

* The media will get another shot at more spring football info next Thursday we've been told.

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