Ole Miss QB/TE Jason Pellerin (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

The first practice back from spring break produced some observations

Overall, the Rebels looked like they had a spring break "hangover" for much of Tuesday's practice, but toward the end, they got it together and finished strong. Here are some random notes.

Random Notes

* Gary Wunderlich will be the placekicker next season and may do the kicking off as well and some punting with Will Gleeson, but where is the future in the Ole Miss kicking game. Wunderlich said to look no further than redshirt freshman Luke Logan for placements and kicking off and no further than strong-legged Mac Brown, also a redshirt freshman, for punting duties. Gary, a senior, said the Rebs' kicking game should be "in good hands" after he and Gleeson are gone.

* DT Breeland Speaks played last year at a surprisingly light 278 pounds. He is now back to 290 pounds and said he is stronger and feels better than he has since his freshman year. Hugh Freeze praised the spring big #9 is having thus far and that's good news for the Rebel defense and bad news for opposing offenses.

* Freshman Breon Dixon was signed as a linebacker but he has moved to the Star position, which was the Husky a year ago in the 4-2-5 scheme. He is making a positive impression so far and is pushing A.J. Moore for the starting spot. In the scrimmage prior to spring break, Dixon had an interception that had the coaches and players alike big-eyed. 

* Myles Hartsfield's move to corner looks like it may be a stroke of genius. It is early, obviously, but Myles' play thus far had one coach declaring "he may be our best defensive player before all is said and done." Pretty strong stuff.

* MLB Detric Bing-Dukes is also impressing in Wesley McGriff's system. "He's pretty good when we keep him in the box and let him play downhill, which is our plan," stated McGriff.

* It seems every practice TE Dawson Knox makes a big play or two. Today it was a catch and run of 40 yards when he broke a tackle and rumbled for 25 more yards.

Ole Miss TE Dawson Knox (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

* McGriff said the Rebel defense is giving up some big plays right now but he is not worried. "We have answers for those big plays, but right now, we are building our foundation and we are not going to make those calls to stop some of those plays until we know the base like the back of our hands," he explained. "We have to get the aggression and playing downhill back first before we worry about more scheme, but we will get there."

* Deontay Anderson and Zedrick Woods are currently the top safeties, Hartsfield and Jaylon Jones are the top corners, Bing-Dukes and Gates the top LBs and the first team DL is DEs Victor Evans, Marquis Haynes and DTs Benito Jones and Breeland Speaks. A.J. Moore is currently the top Star.

* TB Eric Swinney is looking better every day in terms of movement during his rehab, but there will be no contact for him this spring. He will be full speed in August however.

* It looks as if Garrald McDowell has moved from defensive end to taking some snaps inside at defensive tackle. He's nearly 270 now so the experiment is not that surprising. We'll keep you posted on his progress, but early signs are that he looks more natural inside than outside.

* In a 3-on-3 contact drill, Haynes, McDowell and Austrian Robinson stopped Jordan Sims, Greg Little and Alex Givens leading a tailback from scoring on three plays from 10 yards out and McDowell actually caused and recovered a fumble by Jordan Wilkins on third down.

* DT Josiah Coatney made some solid, physical plays in a 3-on-3 drill. He could be the anchor the Rebs will need in some situations next year and is quickly proving to be a reliable backup to Jones and Speaks.

Ole Miss OL Rod Taylor (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

* It appears that Rod Taylor is currently the number one right tackle in front of Alex Givens, but he is also the backup at LT  behind Little and Sims' backup at right guard. He will be a busy man next year. . . . 

* DE Qaadir Sheppard seems to be making a move up the depth chart. He is currently breathing down Evans' neck at strong DE and certainly looks the part. One coach said, "he's an NFL player in time. He has that kind of talent."

* Jason Pellerin may be a natural at tight end. Tuesday, he caught at least four passes and seemed very comfortable reading coverages, knowing how to get open and catching everything thrown at him. He played mostly in the slot.

* DL Coach Freddie Roach is not inventing the wheel with DL coaching, but his intensity makes it seem like he is. He has a plethora of catch phrases that he is constantly barking at the DL during drills. "Be sudden. Be explosive." "Explode from your hips." "Stay low." "Finish." "Be violent." "Control the block, find the ball." "We will be the most violent DL in the country." Strong messages constantly given. Cool to watch.

* WR Tre Nixon, like Knox, is another player that seems to make plays every practice. He's quick, shifty and he will catch the ball over the middle in traffic fearlessly. He will also, it looks like, be the punt returner next year and it says here he will be dangerous in that capacity.

* Jordan Wilkins, who is running harder than ever before, is the main man at tailback, but in the Red Zone, D'Vaughn "Blue" Pennamon may be the most powerful and the guy who can run through would-be tacklers.

* We detected no injuries in a fairly physical practice. So far, TE Jacob Mathis and CB Jalen Julius are the only spring casualties, knock on wood.

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