Practice Report: Rebs open August practice

Ole Miss Coach David Cutcliffe welcomed his 2004 troops with a 2 1/2 hour workout on the plush practice fields tonight. The Rebs had perfect weather in th low 80s for the first workout of the year.

"The kids had a lot of energy and appear to be in good shape," said Cutcliffe. "Their attitude was very good - they were ready to go. Technically, we were a little rusty in some areas. We could have thrown and caught the ball better, but the returning veterans did a good job of executing. Overall, I was pleased, but there is only so much you can tell in shorts and helmets. This is all needed preliminary stuff, but football really begins Friday with the first day in pads."

Notes:

* The practice fields are in better shape than we've ever seen them in terms of being thick, lush and green. Kudos to the folks maintaining them. Last year there was a 30-yard strip of artificial turf on the top field, but it was an experiment that didn't work. Three weeks ago it was ripped up and sod laid in that spot. The sod is already in pretty good shape and blends in nicely with the rest of the field.

* Today's "Winning Edge" delivered by OC John Latina was about effort. "Effort is free," he said. "Every player out here - no matter your talent level - has one thing that nobody can be better than you at - effort. It's heart. It's a choice to have heart and give good effort. And if you give great effort, I promise you that you will get better and the team will get better." Nice message, well-received by the team.

* Junior DT McKinley Boykin, who had his knee scoped a couple of weeks ago, went through everything in practice today except 11-on-11 drills. He went through sled drills and all movement drills, but was limited in conjested areas where any contact to the knee was possible. He will be limited in his work this week, but he was moving very well today. Good start on the road to recovery.

* Freshmen Defensive Ends Chris Bowers and Cory Mills were a contrast in styles in sled drills. Bowers, who weighs about 230 pounds, was explosively quick coming out of his stance, hitting the sled and moving his feet. Mills, at about 260 pounds, was not as quick off the ball, but he was extremely explosive from a strength standpoint in attacking the sled. Two nice-looking youngsters. It will be fun to see them in real action. Mills said after practice "it was about what I expected. The tempo was what I was told it would be. I was prepared. I have a lot to learn and was a little overwhelmed mentally, but I was told to expect that too. I feel good and think I will catch on quickly. I'm in good shape, which will help my concentration as I learn, but I've got a long way to go. The older players were great - helping me every step of the way."

* Since 1996, Equipment Manager John "Possum" Ross said, the Rebels' workout shorts have been Navy Blue. Today, the Rebs broke out Red workout shorts and will go with those this year. They looked good, but how can you really "mess up" the two greatest colors on th planet?

* While at practice, we were told of a hero on our Strength & Conditioning staff. Brian Herzog, who works with the Lady Rebel hoopsters and the volleyball team, besides his football duties, saved a 14-year old boy's life in the swimming pool of his apratment complex. Brian heard a lady scream and rushed to the pool to see the boy on the bottom, unconscious. Herzog got him out of the pool. The youngster was not breathing, but Herzog administered CPR and by the time the ambulance got there the boy was breathing on his own. The paramedics said Brian saved the boy's life. The young man is still in the hospital recovering from the trauma, but is expected to go to school next week. Ironically, the strength staff had just taken a CPR refresher course the day before the incident. Way to go, Brian!

* Last year, walk-on S Dontae Reed was one of the most promising looking walkons on the squad. He worked hard in the offseason and put on some weight. Today, he was moved to linebacker. He's a little undersized, but with his movement, with 10 or 15 more pounds, he may have a good home on the field.

* Cutcliffe announced today that Mico McSwain, who was signed as a S/WR, will play wide receiver this year. We watched Mico closely tonight. He has excellent speed and pretty good hands. He's a very good athlete. All he needs is to learn the position - routes, blocking technique, takeoffs, etc. Cut said he feels Mico is too good an athlete not to find the playing field and he felt WR would be his quickest route to playing time. We'll be watching him closely the next few weeks and reporting on his progress.

* Freshman Jacon Cook, who played FB/LB in high school, is getting an early look at fullback. It was originally speculated that he would play LB, especially with the loss of Ken Bournes, but the coaches opted to put freshmen Garry Pack and Brandon Thomas on defense and put Cook on offense. All three are quality-looking athletes with a physical maturity rare in true frosh. Like Mico, we'll be watching all three closely for progress reports, but I don't think any of the three will disappoint.

* The freshmen offensive linemen have started their careers at these positions: David Traxler (OT), Maurice Miller (OG), Tim Henderson (OG). When Lance Lee is cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse, which we have been told is likely, he will play OT.

* Freshmen DBs Dustin Mouzon and Terrell Jackson have been placed at the corner slots and are everything advertised in terms of speed and quickness. They rival the veterans like Trumaine McBride and Nate Banks in those categories, if the naked eye is not deceiving. Real good feet. Both are in the 5-10 or 5-11 range. Terrell is more fully developed physically, with a cut physique. Dustin could stand 10-15 pounds of upper body growth, but he can motor. Both can.

* RS Frosh WR Kennedy Griffin has a cast on his right arm. He has a broken bone in his wrist area, but he was at practice today giving it a go.

* With Ken Bournes gone, LB Coach Chuck Driesbach began fall practice with seniors Rob Robertson and Brian Lester working with the number one defense. RS frosh Marquis McBeath is playing behind Robertson and sophomore Patrick Willis, who was behind Robertson at the end of spring, has been moved behind Lester. "Brian is a senior and has worked hard to get an opportunity to start. We'll see how it goes," said Driesbach.

* DE Jayme Mitchell has a new nickname. "Long Dollar." Of course, it's been shortened to "Dollar" by players and coaches. He's tall (long) and he's "money in the bank" at DE. OK, we'll buy into that.

* QB Micheal Spurlock did not have a real sharp day throwing the ball today, but man he's special when he tucks it to run. Two or three times today, he made defenders look silly with sharp, full-speed cuts. Simply "planted" them. Spurlock seems to have an excellent grasp of the offense, as well. His deal will be settling down in the passing game. By "off," we don't mean terrible, but he certainly was not as sharp as he was at the end of spring drills.

* PK Jonathan Nichols appears to have the inside track on kickoff duties at this early point. Jonathan was hitting his kicks at the end of practice to the goal with good hang time. With a little less hang time, he kicked a couple out of the corner of the end zone. Matt Hinkle was not far behind and has obviously picked up some valuable leg strength since spring. Hunter Bray, who arguably has the strongest leg on the team, but struggled with injury and consistency in spring, was hampered with a tight hamstring and did not kick.

* Freshman QB Paul Eck reminds us of a young Ethan Flatt, only about an inch or inch and a half shorter. He's a solid 6-4 to 6-4 1/2, maybe the advertised 6-5, but he's thin and needs weight room work. It is obvious from his footwork that he is green but athletic. His release is short and quick and his arm strength is on a par with the rest of the QBs. Good first impression from young Eck.

* The Rebs will practice in shorts again Tuesday at 6 p.m. Shoulder pads on Wednesday at 6 p.m. On Thursday, shoulder pads at 10 a.m. On Friday, the first practice in full pads at 10 a.m.

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