Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze

The final day of spring training, except a walk-through and Grove Bowl, brought about more notes

The Rebels wrapped up that last day of major contact of spring training, except for Saturday's 11 a.m. Grove Bowl, with an enthusiastic practice that included a competition to see which team - offense or defense - would get the home sideline for the Red-Blue game.

The competition for the right for the  home sideline in The Grove Bowl was tied 12-12 with the one play remaining. Winner take all.

This time, it was the offense, with Running Back Jordan Wilkins breaking through a hole created by the left side of the Rebel offensive line for a 50-yard touchdown. 

"It was a very close competition," said Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze. "Both sides of the ball did some good things. For it to be that close was pleasing to me. It meant both sides of the ball were tuned in and making plays, competing and giving all they had."

Wilkins was mobbed in the end zone by his offensive teammates, but it was LT Greg Little and LG Javon Patterson who deserved as much adulation - their blocks opened the gap and Wilkins only had to beat a safety to get to the promised land and score.

The play ended the day that had a scare in it as well.

WR Van Jefferson caught a TD pass in the corner of the end zone of the turf practice field, but his momentum and the momentum of CB Montrell Custis sent them crashing into the corner of the padded fence at full speed. Jefferson laid on the ground for a full minute before popping up and returning to action. Custis had to leave practice with a possible head injury. Scary for about 45 seconds until both moved their extremities and stood up, to the applause of concerned teammates and coaches.

All's well that ends well, thankfully.

Ole Miss WR Van Jefferson (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

Random Notes

* It's no secret the Rebel linebackers were a sticking point, to put it mildly, last season, but this spring there seems to be a good bit of revitalization of that unit under the direction of Bradley Dale Peveto. One part of the equation is Wesley McGriff's system of keeping the middle linebacker in the box for run support and not asking him to do things he is not capable of doing. That guy will be, it looks like, Detric Bing-Dukes who, we were told, is having a very good spring, the best of all the linebackers. DeMarquis Gates, who slumped a year ago and was limited at the beginning of spring training due to rehabbing from offseason knee surgery, has come on this spring and has regained much of the form he had at the end of 2015, when most predicted stardom for him in 2016 that didn't materialize. Also, JUCO transfer Brenden Williams, veteran Tayler Polk and vet Ray Ray Smith have also made some positive strides under Coach Pev. Donta Evans missed some time due to injury, but since he has come back, he has done some good things as well, we were told. Willie Hibbler was coming on as well until he injured his knee (meniscus). Overall, the common thought among the defensive staff is "the LBs have come a long way, and have progressed greatly, but there's still work to do." Improvement, however, is a positive sign.

* DT Ross Donnelly is backing up Breeland Speaks, who is having a monster spring, but Donnelly is also showing he can help this DL as well. He is now 314 pounds and his strength numbers are way up from a year ago, according to S&C Coach Paul Jackson. His running mate on the number two DL, Josiah Coatney, is also showing some ability this spring and has made some plays that have given DL Coach Freddie Roach some positive vibes.

*  OC Phil Longo has liked what he has seen from backup QB Jordan Ta'amu. "He has some of the same skills as Shea (Patterson) in the regard that we don't have to change much when he is in there from a system or play-calling standpoint," Longo stated. "Jordan has really good feet, much better than we anticipated, and a lot like Shea. And he has a very good arm. His impression and progress this spring is what has allowed us to move Jason Pellerin to the hybrid slot/TE position without hesitation. We like Jordan a lot."

* WR A.J. Brown played last year with two tears his right knee, which he played through and was kept pretty hush-hush, but it was apparent it hampered his effectiveness for those who knew him well. He got the knee fixed right after the season, rehabbed and now the "old" A.J. is back and in top form. His skill set is what everyone thought it was out of Starkville High - abundant - and with the combination of good friend D.K. Metcalf at the other wideout slot, who is a beast, the Rebs have a very dangerous 1-2 punch at the split end slots.

Eli Johnson (left) and Royce Newman (right)

* Myles Hartsfield injured his ankle today, but is expected to play in the Grove Bowl. Hartsfield, who played safety last year but was moved to corner this spring, is having a fantastic transition, competing with Metcalf every day and holding his own. 

* OL Coach Matt Luke is still looking for an eighth and ninth guy on the OL who are game ready. For now, the guess is two redshirt freshmen - OT Royce Newman and C Eli Johnson. Right now, however, they need more work, as do everyone on the offensive line outside of the top seven - Greg Little, Rod Taylor, Alex Givens, Javon Patterson, Jordan Sims, Daronte Bouldin and Sean Rawlings.

* Guess who is a load in the open field against safeties and corners? If you guessed TEs Dawson Knox and Octavious Cooley, you'd be correct, but also a mismatch for the "little guys" in the secondary is Pellerin. When he gets going, he has some freight train in him as well at 230 pounds.

* Former Rebel DT Jerrell Powe was at practice today and he's looking fit and ready to rumble. He has a tryout with the 49ers at the end of this month and is weighing in at 320 pounds. He is living part of the time in Waynesboro and part of the time in Houston, TX. 

* Slot receiver Markell Pack missed practice today with a migraine headache. . . . DaMarkus Lodge missed with a pulled hamstring. He is not expected to be available for the Grove Bowl.

* DE Qaadir Sheppard keeps making more and more plays, which gives the Rebs a great option at DE outside of Marquis Haynes and Victor Evans. He's strong enough to play the strong side nad quick enough to sub for Haynes. And Jackson said he is "a beast" in the weight room. Good find. Good development for the DL.

* When JUCO CB Javien Hamilton went down with a hamstring pull this wee, Cameron Ordway was moved back to corner from Star. Today, he made the most of his chance when Hartsfield twisted his ankle. Cam intercepted two passes while covering Metcalf. Prior to today, he had not been having the best of springs, but maybe this turned things around for him.

* True frosh DE Ryder Anderson made his presence known today as well with the number two defense against the two offense. Ryder had an interception and two QB sacks in the span of 10 plays.

* Friday, the Rebs will have a walk-through practice to prepare for the Grove Bowl. Saturday, it's the offense versus the defense in the annual Grove Bowl. It's free - come on out, and then go to the baseball stadium to see the Rebs take on Alabama. Big day.

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