Spirit's Take

The interviews were done prior to practice Thursday, so the following is a practice report based solely on observations from The Spirit with zero input from coaches or players. . .i.e., Random Notes.

Random Notes. . .

* WR Markell Pack (mouth/teeth), WR Cody Core (toe), TB Eugene Brazley (concussion) and TB Jordan Wilkins (knee) returned to practice Thursday after sitting out varying lengths of time.

* DE Fadol Brown got a taste of the SEC last year and did yeoman's work in his first year on this level. This spring, he has taken off. Why? The game has slowed down for him and mentally he's got everything down pat. Consequently, he's playing faster. The end result is better production. Thursday, he made three tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including a QB sack.

* WR Laquon Treadwell is making his presence known even though he is not playing. He's leading the offensive charge from the sidelines and is definitely the vocal leader of the 'O.' For instance, a wideout dropped a sure TD pass and had to do 10 pushups when he came to the sidelines. Quon hugged him and dropped down and did the pushups with him. A natural leader.

* WR Quincy Adeboyejo is out with a bum ankle. He is expected to come back next week. Quincy played last year at 187 pounds. He's now 196 and says his speed has not been hampered with the extra weight.

* Hugh Freeze talked about WR Derrick Jones being "impactful" prior to practice, but he needs him to start making plays on the deep ball. He obliged Freeze today. He ran a go pattern on Tee Shepard, who had D.J. covered like a blanket, but Jones jumped high in the air for a ball thrown by QB Ryan Buchanan to wrestle the ball from Tee, who lost his balance in the contact and Jones walked into the end zone. Jones made several nice catches on the day and showed the consistency Freeze was referring to.

* OLB Denzel Nkemdiche and DT Robert Nkemdiche were absent from practice Thursday to take care of some personal business. Nothing wrong, we were told, just a minor family matter.

* Freeze is definitely speeding up his offense this year and the run game has definitely been tweaked to help that phase of the game out. Both moves are allowing the offense to move the ball on what is known to be a very stingy defense. The tempo has kept the defense from doing much "fancy," and the run game produced some nice runs by Wilkins, Akeem Judd and Jaylen Walton, who appears to have gained a half step of speed and a little quickness since last season. All three backs have soft hands and are threats out of the backfield.

* Chief Brown is filling in for the injured Mike Hilton at rover. Chief, you will recall, came back from injury during the season last year and never really regained his form. He seems to be back to his old self now and is doing a nice job in Hilton's absence.

* The Rebels have four defensive tackles in the 300 range - R. Nkemdiche, Breeland Speaks, Woody Hamilton and D.J. Jones. They are all any offensive lineman wants in the middle of the defense, but don't forget about Issac Gross and what he brings to the table at 250 pounds. He exhibited his other-worldly quickness several times Thursday with plays behind the LOS. He's so quick off the ball that OL cannot get a clean shot at him - they can only get a piece, and that's not enough.

* Sophomore RG Rod Taylor has matured a lot in his knowledge of OL play since last August. He's always been one of the more athletic OL on the team, but now he's playing with his head as well. A marked difference from last season.

* Justin Bell has lost 18 pounds and looks like a different player. When he pulls, he's getting to his spots quicker - on time. Big difference. He wants to lose 15 more pounds. If so, expect a good senior year from him.

* Converted LT Jeremy Liggins looks physical and athletic early in practices. As they wear on, he gets fatigued due to never having played the position before. Once he gets conditioned to the trenches, he will help the team at LT to give Laremy Tunsil some breathers and Freeze said today in his presser Jeremy will probably play some TE and QB as well in situations in 2015, as he did last year.

* Speaking of Speakes, the redshirt freshman DT seems to have a knack for knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. He got two more today and one coach told us that's pretty common with him - he has done that "a lot" this spring.

* CB Tony Bridges, as we have written before, is extremely physical, but it also appears he has some ball hawk in him too. He had the only interception of the day Thursday when he cut inside of a slant route for the pick and long return.

* MLB C.J. Johnson was limited today with a minor ankle issue, but on the few plays he was allowed to take part, he made a tackle behind the line of scrimmage in a goal line situation and two tackles at the LOS. It looks as if the MLB "experiment" with C.J. is working.

* Some folks were asking about the return game. It was not worked today so we have no info on punt returns or kickoff returns. Obviously, Walton will handle KOR. Carlos Davis and Markell Pack will most likely battle it out for punt return, but that will not be emphasized much until August.

* At quarterback - our opinion only with no backing from the coaches - Buchanan had the best practice on Thursday, moving the ball effectively and leading the Rebs to two or three scores. At this juncture, he just looks more in control, more aware of his surroundings and more comfortable in the offense. . . Devante Kincade had flashes, as did Chad Kelly, but both seemed a step behind Ryan mentally. Kelly seems to be pressing and hurrying things, trying to make things happen. The end result was a couple of fumbles and several errant passes. From our uneducated view, he needs to slow down and relax. The physical tool are obviously there. Again, our view only and it's a long time until September. . .

* Whoever turns out to be the QB, that player will have pleanty of weapons to work with. Quon, D.J., Core, Pack, Adeboyejo, Engram, Demore'ea Stringfellow all come to mind easily and with confidence. . . When Sammie Epps and Dayall Harris develop a little more, the receiving corps will be as deep and as talented as we can remember.

* Today was the last day the media will get to watch spring training until the April 11th Grove Bowl.

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