Deontay Anderson (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

Rebs don shoulder pads and helmets for the first time this spring

It's not quite real football yet, but the Ole Miss Rebels went in shoulder pads and helmets for the first time Tuesday - the third day of spring training - and there was the sound of pads popping in the air.

"I like out intensity," said Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze. "It is hard to tell much during installs of new systems, but I like how the kids are flying around and taking coaching. We will install right up to spring break and then when we come back, we will start to fine-tune and concentrate more on scheme and the finer points."

Freeze likes the fact that on both sides of the ball the motto is to keep things simple so the players can play fast and not be bogged down.

"We kind of lost our edge of playing fast at the end of last year and I want to get that back," he stated. "So far, I have seen that. We are going to make mistakes during the installs and all spring, but the main thing is to make them full speed and to not make them twice."

There have been no significant injuries thus far and, even though the Rebels were not in full pads Tuesday, there was plenty of contact going on.

"I think they were all anxious to do some hitting," Freeze smiled. "We are going to have a competitive spring and a lot of that has to do with everyone having a clean slate with these new coaches."

Random Notes

* Linebacker was a trouble spot last year, but new LB coach Bradely Dale Peveto has like what he has seen so far, especially with senior DeMarquis Gates being cleared for full action prior to what everyone was expecting after offseason knee surgery. "DeMarquis is trying to take a leadership role and it helps that he has been medically cleared to go full speed," Peveto noted. "I'm excited about him and (Detric) Bing-Dukes and it looks like Willie Hibbler wants to play. He is twitchy and doing some good things. It's too early to tell on some of them, but overall I like our group and think we will be fine. One thing is that Crime (DC Wesley McGriff) wants to keep the LBs in the box more to stop the run and I think out guys are suited for that and I think it is a smart strategy."

Bradley Dale Peveto (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

* RT Alex Given played at 305 pounds last year and is currently 305, but he said it's a "different" 305. He said he has definitely changed his body with less body fat and more muscle and it shows. Givens is in a battle right now for hte number one right tackle slot with Rod Taylor, but no matter who wins that contest, both are expected to play a lot in 2017 because Rod will also back up right guard and left tackle to give those guys a breather.

* The third day of spring training produced a different look on the defensive line in terms of the first team. Now, it is DEs Marquis Haynes and Victor Evans and DTs Breeland Speaks, who is having a really good spring so far according to DL Coach Freddie Roach, and Benito Jones, who is also getting Roach praise. The difference is at DE - where Haynes and Garrald McDowell were the number ones, but now Evans has currently replaced McDowell with the first unit. It's a long way to September, but the early shaking out has those guys on top for now.

* Former Rebels Channing Ward, Laremy Tunsil and Fahn Cooper were at practice Tuesday along with the former "regulars" Donte Moncrief, Cody Core, Mike Hilton and Trae Elston.

* For now, Myles Hartsfield has taken over one of the number one corner spots along with Jaylen Jones at the other CB slot. Hartsfield was moved there just two practices ago and has already gained that much ground. He is a relentless cover man. JUCO CB Javien Hamilton is also making a positive impression.

* It looks like the early leader for the Star position, Husky in the old defense, is A.J. Moore, but newcomer Breon Dixon is catching on quickly and breathing down Moore's neck. That will be a battle to keep a close eye on.

* Sophomore Deontay Anderson, who had an interception in team drills Tuesday, is the number one free safety and junior Zedrick Woods is the number one strong safety. C.J. Moore and C.J. Hampton are backing them up, respectively.

* The backups to Speaks and Jones at DT right now? Josiah Coatney and Ross Donnelly. 

* The top six wide receivers are easy to spot - A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Van Jefferson, Markell Pack, who seems to be trying to take a leadership role in that group, DaMarkus Lodge and Tre' Nixon, but who are seven and eight? Right now, WR Coach Jacob Peeler, who said he wants to have eight in the rotation in this offense if possible, said it's totally "up in the air." Cale Luke? Alex Weber? Trey Bledsoe? Or will one or two of the incoming freshmen come in and take the last spots? Time will tell.

Octavious Cooley (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

* Evan Engram, fresh off a spectacular showing at the NFL combine, was at practice Tuesday. He said, "All of the Ole Miss guys killed it up there. We all made ourselves some money!"

* In a 3-3 contact drills, Gates stuck out as much as anyone, shucking blockers and making tackle after tackle against the tight ends, but in one session Dawson Knox, the heir apparent to Engram, got the best of Gates and the tight ends won a round also. Knox looks to be the leader in the clubhouse at TE due to his athletic ability and ability to catch on quickly to the system. Octavious Cooley will have to get in the playbook harder and more effectively to overtake him, but he certainly has the skill set to do so.

* Qaadir Sheppard appears to be making a move up the depth chart at defensive end. He is now a #2 behind Marquis Haynes.

* Speaking of wideouts, the Rebs are blessed, obviously, but one who continues to make a lot of plays and is showing some mad speed is Nixon. Most of the Reb receivers, as you know, are rangy and long striders. Trey is more the jitterbug type with instant acceleration and good moves after the catch. He gives the offense a different look and is quickly becoming a favorite target of the quartebacks due to his ability to get open quickly.

* In 3-on-3, Jordan Wilkins lowered his shoulder and absolutely ran over a defender. Later in the practice, he ripped off a 65-yard TD run, one of the few explosive plays the Rebel offense got all day off the revamped Reb defense. TB D'Vaughn "Blue" Pennamon also ripped off a long run and showed some power and a little speed as well in doing so. His jaunt was for 40 yards. P.S. - D.K. Buford is also getting a few more touches at TB and is doing well, as is Eugene Brazley, the speed back of the group.

* In one series of the ones-versus-ones, DE Marquis Haynes had a QB sack and recovered a fumble on the next play. He is as good as he wants to be.

* Wilkins may also end up being the kickoff return man. That duty is still up in the air, but Jordan seems a good fit there if the coaches opt to go that route.

* The one thing that sticks out to untrained eyes? Intensity. The first three days have been very intense, from a coaching standpoint and a player standpoint. There is a renewed excitement in the program and that is evident in practices.

* The media will have no more practice exposure until after next week's spring break.


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