Practice Report: First day of shoulder pads

As the days tick off, the Rebels are getting closer and closer to "real football." Today, Ole Miss put on their shoulder pads and helmets for some light, controlled contact and made the most of the workout.

"I thought we had a good practice today," said Coach David Cutcliffe. "Two things stuck out. One, the defense is trying to be physical and is playing with a great motor and excellent attitude. Two, Micheal Spurlock continues to practice well. He's throwing the ball well, running the ball well and running the offense well. Certainly, we will know more Friday when we put on all the pads and have full contact, but this was a good start in that direction.

"I am also impressed, overall, with our newcomers. This is a difficult time for them because they are learning on the run and some of them are hesitant, but they are eager and there is a lot of athleticism in that group."


* TE/OL Coach Matt Luke and OL Coach John Latina have three "pups" they are working with. Maurice Miller, a 340-pound guard; David Traxler, a 285-pound tackle; and Tim Henderson, a 330-pound guard. Luke is pleased, at this point, with all three. "All three of them are extremely bright on the footbal field," said Luke. "That's important. Tim and Maurice need to keep working on their bodies, but they have surprising movement, real good feet. Maurice is a 340-pounder who had a 30-inch vertical. That's rare for a man that size to be able to elevate like that. It just shows his athleticism. And David doesn't have just good feet, he's got great feet. He's a big, rangy guy with outstanding feet. I didn't know his feet were as good as they are. I'm very happy with all three. Certainly, they have a lot of work to do, but we didn't have what you call a miss in that group."

* RB Coach Arlington Nunn has the usual suspects at the top of the tailback ladder - Vashon pearson, Brandon Jacobs and Alam Abrams, but his eye has also been caught by Marvin Vaughan. "I am impressed with Marvin when he has the ball in his hands. The question he'll have to answer is how he'll be once we go full speed and how he does in the other phases of the game," Nunn noted. "I'm keeping a close eye on him and like what I have seen so far."

* The team entrance to the stadium from the South End Zone has been bricked and "dressed up." There are three holes in the wall for the team to enter through. Each is about 8 feet wide. From that wall onto the field, there will be a path of concrete covered with field turf. Looks good.

* In field goal drills today, Groza Award Winner Jonathan Nichols was 4-4 with a long of 33 yards. Matt Hinkle was also perfect in four tries.

* This was the first day the punters kicked live and the coaches used the period for directional punting - basically working on penning up return men on either sideline and cutting the field in half. Cody Ridgeway placed the ball beautifully on most of his kicks and had punts of 40, 37, 46, 45 and 58 yards. Wesley Bryant was a little inconsistent with his placement early, but his final punt was a booming 65-yarder that landed a yard inside the sidelines. Perfect ball.

* Players who caught punts and look to be the return candidates at this point were Mike Espy, B. Brown and Matt Pierce. Larry Kendrick, who returned kicks in JUCO, was being tried as an outside gunner on punt coverage, but it is expected he will be fielding punts as well in future practices.

* The Winning Edge today - as it is every year when shoulder pads and helmets first go on - was about the safe way to tackle and block. "Never use your head as a weapon. Always lead with your shoulders and the head never goes down at impact," were the basic rules taught.

* Freshman FB Jason Cook got some attention in the coaches' meeting yesterday from his first two practices. "He's explosive off the ball," said Nunn. "Several coaches liked what they saw out of him his first two days on film and I liked it too. He can be an excellent fullback in the future if he plays behind his pads like he practiced in shorts."

* FB Anthony Hobgood had knee surgery in the offseason, but he has just about fully recovered. "My knee is somewhere between good and great. I'm very happy with where I am," he noted. Hobgood is currently the number three guy behind Lorenzo Townsend and Rick Razzano, but at this point - with Razz out for the Memphis game - look for Brandon Jacobs to play behind L.T.

* DE Corvelli Haynes aggravated his groin today, but he continued practicing.

* You probably couldn't get DT Coach Rick Petri to say this, but in our humble opinion, there are some reasons to be happy at his two slots. McKinley Boykin is getting healthier by the day and is estimated to be in the 85-90% recovery range. Daniel Booth will be a three-year starter. Andrew Wicker, who is playing number one right now in McKinley's partial absence, is ready to make an impact. Micheal Bozeman is considered a co-starter with Booth and, in fact, splits reps with the number one defense with Daniel. And Chris Herring is as good as some starters the Rebs have put on the field in the not so distant past. Again, our opinion only, Petri has five guys who could start and not drag the Rebel defense down.

* When Ken Bournes was dismissed from the team, senior Brian Lester, due to experience, was elevated to his number one slot at linebacker. Will he hold it with sophomore Patrick Willis breathing down his neck? He has thus far. Brian weighed in today at 252 pounds and has maintained his movement. He looks driven and composed with his new role. We shall see.

* The All-Hair Team was the fun part of the report yesterday. How about some "body" today? Try this on for size. Today, Willis tipped the scales at 237 pounds and had 4.6% body fat. Marcus Johnson weighed 313 pounds with 16% body fat. Bozeman weighed in at 285 with 17% body fat. Eric Oliver is 217 pounds and has 6% body fat. Vashon Pearson weighed 215 and had 5.5% body fat. . . . For the record, Chuck Rounsaville weighed in at 218 pounds with 34% body fat. Yikes!

* The strength & conditioning staff added a new GA today - Jeremy Holsopple. A nice young man who was very patiently spelling his name for us. He finally said, "just call me Hos and leave it at that." . . One of last year's S&C GAs - Anna Brewer - took a job Monday at the University of Arkansas as an assistant soccer coach. Anna played soccer at Ole Miss.

* LB Marquis McBeath is fitted with a pair of shoulder stabilizers under his shoulder pads. Marquis has had problems in the past with "loose" shoulders, where his shoulders would pop out of the joint. We asked him if he butted anyone today and he said he didn't get an opportunity to really hit anyone hard, but he was looking forward to it. That will be a big test for Marquis, who is currently the number two LB behind starter Rob Robertson.

* In the opportunity period for the newcomers today, S Edwin Gelin had a nice interception over the middle on a midrange pass of about 20 yards.

* In team drills, the defense "won" the first day. The offense "won" yesterday. Today? We'd have to give the defense the edge. Pearson knocked off a couple of 10-12 yard runs and Spurlock had a couple of nice completions, but basically the defense stole the shoe. Right now, by our count, it's 2-1 for the Rebel D.

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