Thursday's full-contact football practice was the last one before spring break

Coach Hugh Freeze allowed the media to observe the final spring practice prior to spring break Thursday afternoon and even though there were no interviews afterwards, or videos or pictures allowed during, there were plenty of interesting developments for us to chew on in our "Random Notes" section.

Random Notes:

* Defensive Tackle Herbert Moore, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury the first day of August practice of 2015, is not participating in spring training, but the word is that he should be full go in lat April or early May. Moore was 335 pounds when the injury occurred. He is now a more svelte 315 with an August goal of 305.

* During part of the team's practice on the Manning Center Field, DT Issac Gross is the number one "cheerleader," but when the individual drills are going on, he's in beast mode in the weight room. After a disc fusion operation in September, Gross has been inching his way back, as documented in a feature story on The Spirit last week. He's now 260 pounds, as was reported, but what is fun to watch is his weight room workouts during practice where the emphasis is on strengthening the shoulders and neck muscles. He's doing a lot of reps with some big weights, leaving nothing to chance for when he is cleared to resume football.

* PK/P Gary Wunderlich has been "pretty good" his first two years as a Rebel, but pretty good isn't good enough for the Memphis product. He has not been satisfied with his consistency, especially on field goals beyond 40 yards.Consistency in his leg swing and extra strength have been the areas he's been working on and insiders say it is paying dividends in both areas. He has more range and he's hitting a higher percentage off his field goals from long distance.

* As we have documented a couple of times this spring, the free safety, Rover and Husky slots are young, young, young and inexperienced outside of FS C.J. Hampton. Right now, the pecking order, without Husky Tony Conner being available in spring, is Hampton, A.J. Moore and Armani Linton at free; C.J. Moore/Zedrick Woods at Rover; and Montrell Custis/Myles Hartsfield/Greg Eisworth at Husky. Basically, the only one who has remotely separated himself is Hampton so far, but the good news is that the coaches like the available talent.

* RG Jordan Sims lost down from 380 pounds to around 335 last year and emerged as, arguably, the most improved OL on the team, helping the cause immensely down the stretch. Jordan has lost 5 more pounds and is at 330, but he's not done yet - the ultimate goal is 320. Don't bet against him.

* Right now, the order at tailback is Jordan Wilkins/ Akeem Judd, Eugene Brazley and redshirt freshman Eric Swinney. But it looks like Swinney is not going to be content to be fourth much longer. He has now been cleared for three days in pads and every day he has "trucked" a defender. "Trucked" meaning run slap over. Thursday, it was freshman Eisworth. Greg got Swinney on the ground, but Eric got the better of the collision and according to one sideline observer, he does that daily. He is aid to run "heavy." Trust us when we say RB Derrick Nix will take notice of that type of physical running if Swinney continues on that path. P.S. - Last Monday, Wilkins had a 70-yard TD run as did Judd, so they are not rolling over and giving Swinney the job.

*  MLB DeMarquis Gates and DT D.J. Jones, who both missed Monday's practice with minor injuries, were back in full swing Thursday. . . . QB Chad Kelly, though, who has been nursing a sore groin, did not dress out Thursday. . . During Thursday's practice, Center Sean Rawlings injured his ankle but the extent of the injury is unknown at this time. It will be after spring break before any of that info is uncovered, most likely.

* Redshirt freshman Willie Hibbler has cut his jersey number in half, from 80 to 40, due to his move to linebacker. Despite having his hand, which he broke two weeks ago in 7-on-7 in a Patrick Willis-ish club cast, Willie looks the part of a MLB. 6-3, 240, minimal body fat, athletic, runs well and is physical. He's going to be a good one in time. What is the holdup? Reps, reps, reps, but we are told he learns quickly and retains information well.

* Center/OT Robert Conyers will be like Herbert Moore - he will be released to resume full bore football in early summer.

* DE Marquis Haynes donned the #10 jersey Thursday instead of his normal #27. We are told he wants that to be permanent and has never really cared for #27. It would be fitting. He and C.J. Johnson, last year's defensive #10, are both sackmasters.

* We are trying to decide who true freshman DE Charles Wiley, at 6-2, 240 chiseled pounds looks like - a young Tony Bennett or a bigger Haynes. Either way, he has a freakish body and is said to be a freakish athlete capable of a 4.5 40. 

* In pass pro drills, it was interesting to see Haynes and RT Jeremy Liggins lock horns today. Liggins held his own. Haynes did not get a sack on the day in five tries of one-on-one. Monday, Liggins was at left tackle, but today he was at right and Alex Givens was at left. Givens also did well against John Youngblood in pass pro. The inside people, however, had problems with Breeland Speaks and D.J. Jones.

* There were quite a few periods of scrimmaging Thursday, but they were split up into three separate 15-20-minute sessions. Apparently the defense was perturbed in the first scrimmage session because the Kelly-led offense had lit them up Monday in a tempo scrimmage - to the tune of 700 yards, we were told. Thursday, the offense, without Kelly, could not pee a drop, pardon the expression. The defense dominated - giving up nothing on the ground, batting away passes of Sean Patterson and Jason Pellerin while picking two. Tony Bridges picked off Patterson and Pellerin was intercepted as well, but we couldn't pick up a number.

* In he second scrimmage session, however, things were more even. The run game got going some and Patterson and TE Evan Engram connected a couple of times. Then, it was time for DaMarkus Lodge, who made a circus catch Monday, to make two more Thursday to spark the offense. They were not as "sick" as the one Monday, but they were special for sure. The first one was a dart from Pellerin over the middle that Lodge had to go airborne and horizontal to snatch out of the air. The second was a double tipped ball in the end zone for a score while being covered like a blanket by Bridges. (Derrick Jones also made a TD catch in tight coverage that was pretty special as well.) In the end, the offense did not get the better of the defense, but it was certainly an even portion of scrimmaging, unlike the first one.

* It is obvious Patterson and Pellerin are going to be quality SEC QBs, probably even better than quality - maybe exceptional. Both have all the physical tools and mental capacity to make it big at Ole Miss, but they are young and the difference between them and Kelly is, well, night and day at this juncture in their careers. Kelly's knowledge of the system, experience, maturity and leadership are light years ahead of the youngsters right now.

* Spring practice will resume after next week's spring break. Stay tuned!


OM Spirit Top Stories