Practice Report: Cut gives Rebs thumbs up

Sometimes, after a particularly draining preseason scrimmage, football teams will follow up the next day with an off day. Not so with the Ole Miss Rebels today, according to Coach David Cutcliffe.

"We had really good work today - one of the better practices we've had this fall," Cutcliffe noted. "We backed off of them a little bit, cutting the practice from a little over two hours to about 1:50, and we didn't go in full pads as we had originally planned because we want to taper off a little this week before getting into game week, but the kids were extremely spirited and focused today. To put back-to-back excellent practices together as tired as they are is a good sign that they are honing in on the season and mentally preparing themselves in the right way.

"Yesterday's scrimmage, on tape, was as good as my first impressions of it were. Like I said yesterday, other than two fumbles, we were very good on offense and we flew around very well on defense. It was the best we had looked in a scrimmage all year."

Notes:

* Cutcliffe was asked about the special teams, in particular the return game. "I think we have a chance to be very good in the return game," he said. "All of our return duties have not been completely settled yet, but certainly Mike Espy will be a big part of it. We have a lot of weapons we can use and I hope we get a chance to use them all as the season progresses. Two newcomers really catch your eye in return drills - Mico McSwain and Larry Kendrick. Then we have Taye Biddle and B. Brown and some more."

* Yesterday, S Danny Bell played some wide receiver with the scout team. We thought there might be something to that in terms of a move. There was not, at this point. Danny practiced with the defense all day today.

* Defensive Coordinator Chuck Driesbach said yesterday's scrimmage was good, but he expected as much. "If we aren't good this close to the season, it's doubtful we are going to get good," he quipped. "The kids did a nice job. They moved around well and their assignment accuracy was better than the previous scrimmages, which is good sign. We had less busts yesterday than we have been having - we are getting close to where we need to be from that perspective. We also got some good work out of some guys we are watching closely, like CB Nate Banks, LB Garry Pack and WS Larry Kendrick and a couple of others. It was important for them to shine and they did. We are always looking for quality depth and feel pretty good about some kids after that scrimmage."

* We don't know how much this means in terms of newcomers who will play or dress out, but today CB Terrell Jackson worked with the varsity while fellow freshman CB Dustin Mouzon worked with the scout team. S Jamarca Sanford was also with the scout team. Might not mean a thing, but then again, it might.

* TB Jamal Pittman ran very well today for the scout team until he tweaked a hamstring. He appears to have his speed back to pre-knee injury form. Jamal has never been a "burner," but he's had enough speed. He appears to be as fast as he ever was right now.

* The Freshman Power Hour began today. That's a 6 a.m. weightlifting workout every Thursday and Friday for the scholarship true freshmen. It includes players who will dress out and those who will redshirt. "It not only helps them mature physically, it promotes a sense of unity with the guys they signed with," said S&C Coach Ruben Mendoza. "We've been successful with this in the past and will continue to be, I'm sure. This is a smallish group, but they are kids who want to get better and work hard."

* Yesterday, the passing game was on target. The quarterbacks were sharp and the receivers were focused and making catches. That trend continued today in pass scale drills and team drills. "It's good to see that coming around," said Cut. "We had a little drought in there for a week or so, but it appears we are getting that straight now."

* The injury situation was as follows: DT Andrew Wicker - toe injury, out but says he'll be back for the opener and is getting better; TB Brandon Jacobs - sprained knee, out but believes he'll be back for the opener; OT David Traxler - gall bladder problem, out; OG Maurice Miller - neck injury, in yellow jersey meaning no contact but went through all drills today; WR Cameron Myers - tendonitis in knee, out; FB Lorenzo Townsend - hamstring, out today, but expects to be back next week; WR Kerry Johnson - hamstring, dressed out and went through most drills, almost 100%; DT Daniel Booth - pulled calf muscle, dressed in yellow today and tried to practice, but could not go; TB Jamal Pittman - hamstring, slight pull.

* In Daniel Booth's absence, Michael Bozeman has been taking all the first team reps. While he doesn't want Daniel to be injured, the situation has helped him, he said. "The more looks you get in practice, the better you become," said Boze. "I'm more prepared for the opener than I've ever been. As a group, this is the best camp we've had. We came together as a family because we depended on each other to get us through the tough parts. I'm a much better player than I was this time last year - I'm more experienced, I'm more used to the speed of the game and I've got better technique. I'm also in much better shape than I was a year ago. I knocked my body fat down to 17%, but I'm actually a few pounds heavier at 285. I feel great."

* Cutcliffe said he will taper off the rest of this week to give the team a chance to get fully rested before game week starts Monday. Tomorrow will be a light workout and then Saturday morning the Rebs will go through the entire kicking game in shorts and helmets. "We are finished with the heavy lifting, so to speak. No more scrimmaging. We are getting into a mode of polishing and getting our legs back under us," he stated.

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