Practice Report: First big scrimmage

Coach David Cutcliffe put the Rebels under the first microscope of a scrimmage today in a 2 1/2 hour workout. His first impressions were a mixed bag of positives and negatives.

"We worked some down-and-distance situations early and then got into a game-like scrimmage," said Cut. "I thought our operation from the sidelines, getting personnels and plays called on time, was pretty good for a first scrimmage. I thought all our kicking game work was positive, especially field goal kicking. I saw bright spots on both sides of the ball, but I will really be interested in watching this tape and evaluating the energy level of the team and the individual efforts and performances.

"I also saw negatives on both sides of the ball. I didn't think our defense was real physical today and, at times we tackled poorly. On offense, we are not executing as well as we can, but that's what these scrimmages are for. We had a couple of newcomers make some big plays - S Larry Kendrick and WR Mico McSwain - but we will have to grade them on consistency as well. They are definitely playmakers, but we have to make sure they are in the right places at the right times on a more consistent basis. Larry also had a bust that gave up a long TD pass, so right now it's a trade-off.

"I think our number two offensive line is getting better. The tackles have picked it up - Tony Sanders and Darryl Harris. I'm seeing progress there. QB Micheal Spurlock just needs to play and then play some more. He can make great plays and he's exciting - you never know what he's going to do, which makes him hard to defense, but he's searching for more consistency as well. I don't think he had a good passing percentage today, but we also had some drops that hurt that a little. He just needs to keep getting after it and he will be fine. Again, that's what these scrimmages are for.

"We had quite a few players out and that's hurting us. We had two of our top wideouts unavailable. That hurts a lot. We were also missing a starting DE, a top fullback, a starting DT and several other players. We need them back."

Notes:

* The injury situation stacks up like this: FB Rick Razzasno - concussion, out today; DE Cory Robinson - hamstring, out today; DT Daniel Booth - pulled calf muscle, out today, but he said he is much better today than he anticipated he'd be; WR Kerry Johnson - hamstring, out today, hopes to be back by Saturday; WR Mario Hill - hamstring, out today, hopes to be back Saturday; S Tavarus Horne - knee; CB Joshua Braithwaite - minor knee; WR Cameron Myers - tendonitis in knee that was surgically repaired last spring. . . Injured today: OG Doug Buckles - concussion; DT Andrew Wicker - toe injury.

* The Rebs had a mixed SEC and Sun Belt Conference crew officiating today. There were very few flags thrown throughout the scrimmage, which is a good sign. "We did a good job with limiting penalties, that's a bright spot," Cutcliffe noted. "Usually in the first scrimmage, the flags fly everywhere, but we showed some good discipline in that area today."

* We're not sure if this will be the norm when an injury occurs on the number one OL, but when Buckles went out, C/OG Tony Bonds took his place instead of James McCoy or Ryan Jones, the number two guards. Bonds is the number two center as well.

* With Robinson out, Corvelli Haynes was the number one RDE. . . With Booth out, Michael Bozeman and McKinley Boykin were the number one DTs. Bozeman took Booth's place, but is also considered a co-starter there. . . With Razzano out, Lorenzo Townsend took all the number one snaps instead of half of them with Razz, and Anthony Hobgood, who is having a good fall camp and is improving every day, was the number two FB.

* Trying to fill out the depth chart, the number threes today were: Offense: LT David Traxler, LG Tim Henderson, C Terrence Houston, RG Thomas Eckers, RT Slate Amos, QB Robert Lane, FB Jason Cook, TB Marvin Vaughan, and a host of wide receivers including Carlos Suggs, Frank Clayton, Kennedy Griffin, David Doris, etc. . . . Defense: LE Corey Mills, DTs Connmer Redfearn and Jeremy Garrett, LBs Garry Pack and Shawn Johnson, WS Edwin Gelin/Kareem Moore, SS Keith Houston/Keith White, FS Thad Rhodes/Jamarca Sanford and CBs Dustin Mouzon and Terrell Jackson.

* Lane and Ethan Flatt split time with the twos and threes and both were failry effective. Flatt was 11-18 for 159 yards and 2 TDs on the day. Lane was 3-10 for 72 yards with one score, a 61-yarder to Suggs on a busted coverage by the secondary. Both made some nice plays and both had spots of moving the offense. One of Flatt's TDs was a beautiful 46-yarder on a long flag route to McSwain. The other was a 21-yarder to Frank Clayton in the end zone after being flushed from the pocket. Both nice throws.

* McSwain has three nice grapbs for 94 yards. One was the 46-yard score. The other two were over the middle and on both catches he was hit hard from behind, but still held on to the ball. Good day for the freshman in terms of catching what was thrown his way. Real good day.

* While Flatt had excellent moments, he also got picked by Kendrick at the goalline. Kendrick was playing safety and crossed in front of a receiver to make a last-second one-handed snag and then return it 28 yards out of the end zone. The kid's got talent. "Larry just needs to get in his playbook. There is no question he can make plays. What we have to do is limit the plays he's giving up. It's a process and he's proceeding very well," said Defensive Coordinator Chuck Driesbach.

*Spurlock was only 7-22 in the passing department for 73 yards, but he has Driesbach raving. "If you defend the pass, he tucks it and runs. If you defend the run, he passes. He's a nightmare to defend," Chuck continued. "He's scary. You don't know what to call with him. I don't envy the defensive coordinators in the league trying to stop that guy. But on the other hand, we can learn great discipline from trying to defend him and become a better defense than we were last year. If we learn to stay at home and do our jobs in trying to stop him, it will make us better. Overall, I sensed we weren't as physical as I hoped we'd be. We had several players out, but I thought we'd have more big hits. We also did not tackle as well as I thought we would. We have lots and lots of work to do, but this tape will give us a good starting point on what to correct. I noticed some spots where we need to come on from a depth standpoint, but we'll get there if we can get some people healthy."

* Spurlock, as always, was fairly upbeat about his performance. "I didn't throw the ball well on the run today. I had several overthrows when I was scrambling that hurt us, but that will just give me something to work on," he noted. "I thought I ran the offense well and did a decent job of taking care of the ball. I thought I recognized the defenses well and ran well. Ineed all of the game conditions I can get. This was a good start, but I can do better." Spurlock had 56 yards on nine carries and was extremely elusive. If he had been "live" and would have had to be tackled, that 56 yards would have been more like 80 yards, in all likelihood.

* To add to the passing game woes of the first team, the receivers had a few drops, something that seems to be developing into the norm rather than the exception. "We have to get that shored up," said WR Coach T.D. Woods. "Our main job is to catch the ball and we're not doing that well right now. Kerry and Mario are out, but that's not an excuse. The guys available can catch better than we have this fall and we will get that taken care of."

* Individual plays and players who stood out:

* PK Jonathan Nichols missed his first field goal attempt of the day and then hit his next seven, including a 46-yarder. . . Matt Hinkle had his first attempt blocked (tipped at the line) but then hit 5-6 the rest of the way in. . . Hunter Bray was 5-6 on the day as well.

* Even though he was playing with the number two defense, LB Patrick Willis led the team in tackles with eight and was pretty active the whole day. . . Number one LBs Brian Lester and Rob Robertson had six stops apiece. Lester also had a tackle for a loss. . . CB Trumaine McBride, playing with the ones, had five hits and a QB sack on a corner blitz. . . S Larry Kendrick had four tackles and an interception. . . Rebel DBs broke up five passes on the day, a good sign, but there were 55 total attempts.

* In receiving, McSwain, TE Eric Rice and WR Bill Flowers each had three catches on the day. Suggs, Clayton, Mike Espy and TB Alan Abrams caught two passes each. Espy made one acrobatic catch on a ball thrown a little high by Spurlock for a 20-yard gain.

* The leading rusher was Spurlock with 56 yards. Marvin Vaughan - playing with the threes - had 39 yards on five carries and showed some good moves and power. . . Abrams, playing mostly with the twos, but some with the ones, had 33 yards on eight carries and ran over WS Charles Clark on one run. . . Starter Vashon Pearson only had three carries good for 18 yards. The coaches wanted to see what the other backs could do. Brandon Jacobs had six carries for 22 yards and did a nice job in his limited work as well. In one of his few series, Jake ran for 9 yards, 5 yards and caught an 8-yard pass.

* Punter Cody Ridgeway averaged 43.7 yards on seven punts. Bacmup Wesley Bryan averaged 45.2 yards per kick on six tries.

* CB Nate Banks flew in on a corner blitz, but Lane picked it up and threw to the hot receiver. Banks was athletic enough to leap high in the air and bat the pass down in a pretty unbelievable full speed adjustment.

* Bill Flowers went high in the air for an apparent catch of a Spurlock pass, but WS Charles Clark clocked him, jarring the ball loose. Clark made two or three more nice plays in run support and did a solid job other than the Abrams freight train run.

* Even though the offense had 213 yards ruhsing on 45 attempts for a 4.6 yard average, the run defense of the ones - except for a couple of times Spurlock got loose - was very good. Hardly any runs more than three or four yards and lots of stops at the line of scrimmage. Boykin, Lester and Robertson were very effective versus the runs up the middle. Active and in good position. On the flip side, the pass protection by the number one line was excellent - they gave up no sacks and the defensive coaches were blitzing and stunting extra people for the first time this fall.

* Kendrick showed his athleticism on the interception and he showed his toughness in tackling. FB Anthony Hobgood broke beyond the LBs one time and Kendrick stopped him cold with a solid hit. Tough kid who appears to like to mix it up - Hobgood is a load. Not many safeties will stop him in his tracks. But then Kendrick turned right around and didn't pick up the signal for a corner blitz, where he drops back to take the WR, and Lane found Suggs all alone for the 65-yarder.

* These coaches will be in the press box during games this year: Driesbach, DT Coach Rick Petri, QB Coach Kurt Roper and TE Coach Matt Luke. . . These will be on the sidelines: Cut, DE Coach marion Hobby, DB Coach Jay Hopson, RB Coach Arlington Nunn, OL Coach John Latina and WR Coach T.D. Woods.

* Freshman QB Paul Eck got one series and made a pretty good impression. He hit TE Robert Hough for 12 yards and WR David Doris for 10. He's got a smooth release, good delivery of a tight spiral, he seems to look at the whole field and he has good poise. Pretty impressive for a rookie under the gun for the first time. Like all rookies, he did have one lean moment, fumbling his first scrimmage snap.

* The Rebs will practice tomorrow at 3:45. . . The Saturday scrimmage at Meet The Rebels Day will be about 9:30 with 9:15 flex.

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