Practice Report: Scrimmage ends two-a-days

It's been a long fall camp for the Ole Miss football team, but it appears they passed the test. Today ended two-a-days with Meet The Rebels Day, but prior to getting their hands shaken and backs patted, Coach David Cutcliffe put the Rebs through a two-hour scrimmage in vaught-Hemingway Stadium that netted a lot of crowd-pleasing results.

"We didn't get as many snaps as I would have liked for our final scrimmage," said Cutcliffe, "but we are thin at defensive line and wide receivers right now, so we backed off a little today. We got most of the things we wanted to get done from the ones and twos, but our third team didn't get the amount of work we wanted them to.

"I think a lot of positives things came out of this work. I thought at times our offensive execution was better than it's been. I thought at times we threw and caught the ball a little better. I'm anxious to see if the effort, technique and execution was there after viewing the tapes of this work. I do think we were better than we were last Wednesday.

"We are tired, there's no doubt about that, but that's the name of the game in August - you fight through it and move on. We had some confusion in Wednesday's scrimmage that I thought got corrected, for the most part, today. The film will show that more clearly, but that's my first impression.

"I thought Micheal Spurlock was exciting today. He ran the ball very well and had some excellent throws. He took care of the football. He's going to be exciting, one way or the other, there's no doubt about that. On defense, I thought we tackled better today than we did Wednesday. We gave up a couple of big plays we don't want to give up, but the offense did a nice job on those.

"The veterans, who we expect to play well, are leadin the way and it appears we have some youngsters who are starting to pick up their lead."

QB Micheal Spurlock

* For his part, Spurlock was much better, statistically, than he was Wednesday, when he was 7-22 throwing the ball. Today, he was a crisp 8-15 with no interceptions good for 112 yards and one TD, a 15-yarder to Mario Hill, who has returned after missing a week with a hamstring pull. "You never want to go backwards from scrimmage to scrimmage, so today was a big day for me after Wednesday night," said Spurlock. "We did a better job of making plays and getting the ball in the end zone today. I think I made good choices today in certain situations and threw better on the run today. We did a good job of moving the pocket today and I executed better throwing the ball. I am pleased with my improvement from Wednesday until today, but there are still things to improve on - there always are."

* The injury list was significant today in terms of who did not dress out for the scrimmage, but Trainer Tim Mullins said he was relieved about the injury results of the scrimmage itself. As in - no new injuries. "We had four or five players get banged up, but nothing serious. A little treatment and they should be ready to go Monday.". . . Missing the scrimmage were: DE Cory Robinson - hamstring; WR Kerry Johnson - hamstring; FB Rick Razzano - concussion; DT Daniel Booth - pulled calf muscle; OG Doug Buckles - concussion; DT Andrew Wicker - toe spurs; DE Corey Mills - neck muscle pull; S Tavarus Horne - knee; WR Cameron Myers - tendonitis in knee. . . Booth said he feels "much better" today. He jogged some yesterday and said it was still hurting, but better. He hopes to be back next week. . . Johnson, Razzano, Buckles, Wicker and Mills are all expected back sometime next week. No word on Robinson.

* The Rebs worked punt coverage today at the start of the scrimmage. At this point, the number one punt team is comprised of: Mike Espy and Taye Biddle as the outside gunners, DS Sidney McLaurin, Personal Protector Rob Robertson, Punter Cody Ridgeway, Tight Wings Marvin Vaughan and Eric Oliver and Brian Lester, Kelvin Robinson, Patrick Willis and Lorenzo Townsend in the line.

* Dedrick Clark was the number one right defensive end in Robinson's absesnce. He and Corvelli Haynes alternated series with the ones while freshman Chris Bowers had some series with the twos and one series with the ones. Interesting. . . . With Booth out, McKinley Boykin and Michael Bozeman were the starting DTs. . . With Buckles out, Tony Bonds was the number one left guard. . . There were no other changes with the ones from the depth chart previously reported.

* Plays of note:

* Early in the scrimmage, SS Kelvin Robinson came on an outside stunt and nailed TB Vashon Pearson behind the line of scrimmage. The Rebs intend to be aggressive in their run-support calls this year and the SS slot will be a big part of that, very similar to last year.

* Pearson and backup TB Brandon Jacobs had a combined 61 yards on 15 carries, a 4.1 yards per carry clip. They were steady and effective most of the day behind the number one line, but Alan Abrams and Marvin Vaughan also had their moments toting the rock. Abrams got in the open field twice - once on a pass reception - and showed some solid moves. Vaughan broke two tackles along the sidelines on one run, levelin two DBs. The running game is in good hands.

* FB Anthony Hobgood is steadily climbing in the hearts and minds of the coaches. Today, he had two catches out of the backfield for 33 yards and on one TD run by Vaughan he cleared a huge hole to allow Marvin to get to the end zone. He's becoming a load and that's encouraging considering Razzano will be suspended for the opening game. Look for Hobgood to be in the FB rotation with Townsend against Memphis.

* The three QBs combined were a fairly prolific 27-47 today. Robert Lande was 11-18, Ethan Flatt was 5-10, and freshman Paul Eck, who becomes more impressive with each workout, was 3-4. The Rebs signal-callers threw for 281 yards with spurlock leading the way with 112 yards, Lane accounting for 83, Flatt for 57 and Eck for 29. Eck also threw a TD to Mico McSwain good for 10 yards. . . All four seemed more comfortable, more in charge and more on target than Wednesday night.

* Two of Spurlock's runs were vintage Micheal. . . On the 29-yard TD, Micheal rolled left and put CB Trumaine McBride in a pickle. Trumaine had to stay with receiver Taye Biddle, who ran to the end zone, opening up a lane for Micheal and his exceptional speed to take it all the way for the score. . . On his other TD, a TB fumbled at the line of scrimmage, Micheal alertly scooped the ball up and went 20 yards for the score. . Expect a lot of that this year.

* The two backup linebackers - Marquis McBeath and Patrick Willis - were both sent on a blitz on an obvious passing situation and both got to Flatt for the QB sack. Excellent penetration by both.

* In goalline situations, the Rebs will sometimes go to three linebacker sets. The third backer? Willis.

* Backup Whip Safety Larry Kendrick, as he seems to have a propensity to do once a practice or scrimmage, had an interception on a tipped pass. It looked like he was going to take it all the way down the home sidelines, but Flatt, who threw the pass, stripped him of the ball. The defense covered it, but Larry was definitely disappointed he didn't take that one to the house for the score.

* Backup CB Nate Banks had a couple of big plays today as well. He blocked a field goal attempt and also had an inteception of a Robert Lane pass in the end zone on a leaping grab. Nice work.

* You want to see an imposing sight? Check out Big Marcus Johnson pulling. Unless you are an unsuspecting linebacker or safety, it's pretty awesome to see. When Marcus rounds the corner, he's hunting up someone to level. At full speed, there are few the 312-pounder can't pancake. Today he did it twice.

* Mico McSwain doesn't know a lot about the offense yet or the finer points of being a wide receiver - finding openings in the coverages, etc. But when you throw the ball his way, he has a knack for making plays and knowing what to do with the ball after he makes the catch. Today, he took a corssing route throw from Eck and turned the eight-yard throw into a 15-yard gain by shaking a defender in close quarters. Nice looking athlete.

* In the two-minute drill tha ended the scrimmage, Spurlock hit Vashon Pearson down the visitors sideline for a 50-yard gain. He then threaded the needle in the end zone on the 20-yard TD to Hill. Impressive series.

* For the twos, Willis had a sack that thwarted any offensive advancement.

* Offensive Coordinator John Latina allowed that the offense did a few things better today than Wednesday, but he did not heap praise on his troops. "I thought we were a little sluggish and a little lethargic today," said Latina. "The twos were more sluggish than the ones, but the ones were a little in that vein as well at times. I know they are tired and sore, but so is everyone in the country. We have to do a better job of fighting through our fatigue. I thought we did a better job of executing in some situations, but we still have to keep picking that up. We still had a few drops and still missed a couple of passes and still didn't execute the way I want us to up front at times, but we are getting there. Next week is huge for us. The kids should be fresher afte they rest tomorrow and we get into a one-practice-a-day routine. I'm not disappointed, but I thought we could have been better today."

* The receivers were more consistent today than Wednesday. Frank Clayton, Abrams and Carlos Suggs were the top pass-catchers today with three each. Hobgood, Hill, Taye Biddle, Dawan Woods and Matt Pierce had two catches each. . . "We ran a lot of players in and out in the wide receiver rotation. We have to get those rotations settled and this was a big test for a lot of them," said Lats. "As I said, we had a couple of drops, but nothing like Wednesday. They made progress today as a group."

* Jonathan Nichols was 5-7 in field goal attempts today while Matt Hinkle was 2-2 and hunter Bray was 2-4. Nichols' long was from 43 yards out.

* Leading tacklers were Willis with 7, including one for loss and a sack; Robertson and McBeath with six each, and LB Shawn Johnson with five. Crhis Herrin, Brian Lester, Nat Banks, Eric Oliver, Iroko Ayodele and B. Brown had four hits each. . . Garry Pack, Jeremy GarrettChris Bowers, Corvelli Haynes, Travis Johnson, Charles Clark and Keith White all had three stops. . . The various units produced six sacks on the day.

* The Rebs will take tomorrow off and then will return Monday afternoon. Classes start Monday.

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