Practice Report: First heat draws mixed review

The Rebel football team tasted their first dose of August Mississippi heat and passed the test, but Coach David Cutcliffe was hoping for a little more production.

The Rebs faced temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s today - at least it felt that hot - but it was tempered a little with a light breeze across the practice fields. Cut put the Rebs through a fairly strenuous 2 1/2 hour workout that drew a mixture of praise and light criticism.

"The kids worked hard and gave a good effort, but I was hoping for a higher energy level today," he noted. "It wasn't a bad practice, but it wasn't a great practice either. We need great practices at this point. Hopefully we'll get one with tomorrow afternoon's live scrimmage. It will be full contact, except the quarterbacks, who will not hit or be hit. We should learn a lot more about our team then. The morning workout will be like a walk-through, mostly mental preparing for the scrimmage. This is a critical test for us and I'm looking forward to see how the team responds."


* Today's practice also focused on preparing for the scrimmage. "We did a lot of things we will do tomorrow - worked on just about every phase of the game," said Cut. "Only tomorrow we will go live. Today was like a controlled contact preview. We went over a lot of sets and formations. We'll turn them loose tomorrow."

* In special teams work, the early focus was on field goals. Right now, the number one field goal unit, from the left side, is Left Wing Lorenzo Townsend, Left End Lawrence Lilly, Left Tackle Tre' Stallings, Left Guard Bobby Harris, Deep Snapper Sidney McLaurin, Right Guard Marcus Johnson, Right Tackle Doug Buckles, Right End Jimmy Brooks and Right Wing Brandon Jacobs. Cody Ridgeway is the holder and, of course, Jonathan Nichols is the kicker. Today, Townsend was injured and FB Anthony Hobgood took his place at left wing. Nichols was perfect in the drill on about 5 kicks from mid range. The field goal operational, at this stage of August, looks crisp and effective.

* The Rebs also worked on the punting game, but it was more of a protection drill against block attempts than anything. Ridgeway was as good as we've ever seen him today, with excellent hang time, distance and direction on virtually all his punts. The protection was also good. Nobody came close to blocking a punt in the drill.

* The injury list mounted a little today. Here's a rundown. FB Rick Razzano - out with a mild concussion, no status on tomorrow's scrimmage. . . FB Lorenzo Townsend - mild concussion, was dressed out but in yellow signifying injured. He went through non-contact drills but was held out of contact. No word on his scrimmage involvement tomorrow. . . WR Mario Hill - hamstring, still out, but said he's getting better. . WR Kerry Johnson - hamstring - ditto on Hill. . . WR Cameron Myers - tendonitis in the knee he had operated on last fall. May come back tomorrow. . . DE Cory Robinson - still out with a hamstring pull. Uncertain about tomorrow. . . DT Daniel Booth was out with a pulled calf muscle. He is doubtful for tomorrow's scrimmage. No time frame right now on his return.

* In Townsend and Razzano absences, TB Brandon Jacobs took the number one FB snaps, but Hobgood, Craig Holcomb and frosh Jason Cook filled in the blanks in reps. Hobgood appeared to have a good day with the number twos, making a couple of stinging blocks and catching a short pass in the flat in the last period of the day when the rebs were working overtime situations.

* In Robinson's absence, Corvelli Haynes, who has been limited with a groin pull, took most of the number one snaps. He appears to still be sturggling a bit, but is trying to play through it. Viciente DeLoach was with the number twos, but freshmen Chris Bowers and Corey Mills also got quality snaps today due to the numbers situation. Both made a couple of plays in 9-on-8 running game drills.

* In Booth's absence, Chris Herring is making his presence known with the twos and is making plays. His quickness is hard to deal with. He appears to have a knack for breaking through the OL and making plays in the backfield because of that quickness and explosiveness. Good signs from Chris. McKinley Boykin took more reps today at number one DT and appears to be heading toward 100% recovery of his knee that was scoped a couple of weeks ago. That is also good news for the Rebel DL, especially in light of temporarily losing Booth. * Chancellor Robert Khayat addressed the team today prior to the beginning of practice. "The 2003 season brought so much energy to this campus that it is hard to measure. Whether you know it or not, you are the most visible people on this campus. You have brought distinction to The University of Mississippi. We recognize and appreciate your success. My hope for you is that you do well as citizens, as students and out here on the field. I hope you distinguish yourselves as individuals and as a team. If you do, you will remember it your whole life and Ole Miss will remember you forever. Have a great year."

* The Winning Edge today focused on the critical component of personnel changes during the game. "You have to listen and communicate from the time you get on that sideline until the game is over. You never know when someone will get hurt and your number will be called. You have to pay attention and be alert at all times. Quick, accurate, decisive personnel adjustments are critical to our success," said QB Coach Kurt Roper. "We will do some down-and-distance situations at the end of practice and will be calling a lot of names out. Pay attention, listen and communicate."

* RB Coach Arlington Nunn is a Jason Cook fan. The freshman fullback, Nunn said, is going to be a "heckuva player, in time." Nunn loves Jason's attitude and from talking to him after practice it's easy to see why. "One word sums up the difference in college and high school - intensity," said Cook. "I thought I prepared myself for the worst, so to speak, this summer, but it is even more intense than I realized. The guys out here bust their butts on every single play. You don't take a play off on this level. If you do, you lose. It's that simple. I have learned a lot and am pleased with my progress, but I realize I'm just a beginner and I still have a lot to learn. I'm pleased, but not satisfied. The two seniors (Razz and L.T.) have been great to me. They answer all questions and know their business. I watch their commitment to winning and to the team and it motivates me to want to be a great player. When the coaches told me I was going to play fullback instead of linebacker, I didn't care at all. I told them I'd play tackle if it would help the team. I'm more than happy to be a fullback on this team. I just want to help any way I can." Good start for th rookie, who is quickly becoming a team and coach favorite.

* In Oklahoma drills today, some of the youngsters kind of strutted their stuff a little. LB Brandon Thomas, LB Garry Pack, Mills and Bowers made good plays on the defensive side and OL Tim Henderson held his own going against Boykin on his turn in what was billed as a mismatch but was anything but that.

* In 9-on-8 running drills, the DL did a nice job for the most part. DE Jayme Mitchell had a jarring hit on Jacobs on one play, forcing a fumble. Jayme is becoming particularly adept at pinching to the inside and making plays near the middle of the line. He has the lateral quickness and length to make that happen and is doing so more frequently with every practice.

* In the overtime drill, the ones went against the twos and, lo and behold, the twos won 3-0. FS B. Brown thwarted the ones drive with a pick of a Micheal Spurlock pass and 2 QB Ethan Flatt drove the 2 offense to the winning field goal from short range.

* Part of the energy level Cutcliffe may have been referring to comes from the wide receivers. They are thin right now but nobody is backing off in practice reps. Meaning the reps are divided by less players and by the end of the day fatigue is bound to come into play. Today, Hill, Johnson and Myers were watching and Taye Biddle missed a couple of periods with migraine headaches. The WRs are running patterns and moving from the opening whistle of practice until the end and when you slice up the reps with fewer people, that's what happens.

* The walk-through will be tomorrow morning at 9:25 and will last about an hour. We will not file a report on that. The scrimmage will be at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. We will file a big report on that.

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