Practice Report: Rebs continue work on execution

The Rebels continued to work on, well, the Rebels today in a full pad, full contact practice. Coach David Cutcliffe was looking for improvement and believes he got it.

"I think we improved our ability to execute today. The contact work went well, on both sides of the ball. I talked in the Monday press conference about the offensive line needing to be more physical. Today, they were and the defense followed suit and did a nice job as well," Cutcliffe assessed. "The ones were real good today, but the twos struggled some. We have got to get better play from our backups because the backups in our system play a lot."

* We took the opportunity prior to practice to talk to some of the players to try to get a gauge of their mood. There are several things you can pick up when you have candid conversations with kids. They always shoot straight. On the mood of the team: "We're fine," said one, who asked not to be named. "The fans have to remember a couple of things about us. One, this is still a game to us. Two, we can't afford to replay the previous game, win or lose. We have to get over the last game in a hurry and start focusing on the next one. We hurt worse than anyone - we are the ones who have been working since last January in all kind of conditions before most people even get out of bed, but we don't have the luxury of thinking about games beyond Sunday night, then it's back to the drawing board. We have to be resilient. We have no other choice." . . . Another said: "The blame is on us. We were the ones who didn't execute. We were the ones who played, at times, like we had never seen a football. We are the ones who are responsible and we are the ones who will have to fix it, and we will. We have been here before and we know what to do." There's an old saying that youth is wasted on the young, but the players I spoke to showed a great deal of maturity and seem to have the resolve we all are hoping for to right the ship in a hurry.

* A little bird told me Cutcliffe had a "long talk" with QB Micheal Spurlock today and whatever was said showed today in practice. Micheal slowed down everything. His fakes, movement in the pocket, rollouts, throwing and mechanics were smooth, fluid and effective versus the 'warp speed' and herky-jerky play from Saturday night. He was allowing plays to develop and was "selling" plays with his fakes. He even took a little bit off the ball on some routes and was, consequently, more accurate and had more completions. Whatever Cut said to Spurlock had a drastic effect in one day in calming the Reb signal caller down. For the first time all fall, Micheal looked calm and comfortable throughout a practice. Hopefully it will carry over into the games. In short, he had glimpses of looking like a veteran who was in control of the situation. We shall see.

* Injury update: WR Kerry Johnson (hand surgery) did not practice today, but there is still - remarkably - hope he will play against Alabama. He is questionable, but has not been called doubtful yet. . . OT Bobby Harris (ankle sprain) did not practice today and is doubtful for the game against Alabama. . . DT Daniel Booth (pulled calf muscle) dressed in full pads today and said he is "much better." He said he's not ready yet, but for the first time in over two weeks, he's got some hope. He said he's "about 80%." Daniel was not allowed to go in contact work, but he did all other drills. . . Freshman OL Maurice Miller (chest conjestion) did not practice today. Maurice has chronic asthma and has come down with a chest cold. When that happens, he simply cannot breath well enough to exert himself physically. . . TB Jamal Pittman (hamstring pull) did not practice again today. He tried to go yesterday but his hamstring was still sore.

* The wind was whipping today on the practice fields during the first 3/4 of practice and it affected ball flight - throwing, kicking, etc. But you could tell the kickers, punters and quarterbacks were kicking and throwing the ball with good authority. Some of the passes and kicks got knocked down by gusts, but most everyone was "on" today.

* If Kerry Johnson cannot go, WR Coach T.D. Woods has a plan. "We will move Matt Pierce into the six-man rotation, move Mike Espy to the slot - where he practiced some in the spring, and move Frank Clayton up on the outside behind Taye Biddle in Mike's place," noted T.D. "We may or may not be one player short, but we've got capable people ready to fill in." . . . Woods said two more receivers are "close to being ready to play." "I believe Carlos Suggs is ready for some playing time. If things hadn't been quite so tight Saturday, I was going to give him a few snaps to get his feet wet," Woods continued. "He's done a good job and deserves a chance. Mico McSwain is still a couple of weeks off - he simply does not know the offense and can't read all coverages yet - but he's a great athlete who is catching on and will get his shot soon."

* Another player expected to get quality snaps this week is WS Larry Kendrick. Secondary Coach Jay Hopson said Larry is learning more each day and is ready for some base calls and some of the more complicated coverage and run calls. "He's a playmaker, he needs to be on the field as soon as possible. I think he'll get some snaps this week," Hopson noted.

* The Rebs used stereo speakers today to try and simulate crowd noise. There was a tape of the Alabama fight song, Sweet Home Alabama and other Bama cheers playing throughout practice. Cutcliffe felt the offense handled the simulated crowd noise well, but knows he can't duplicate Bryant-Denny Stadium's noise level real effectively. "We just wanted to give the kids a little taste of it to see how they would handle it. They were OK with their comunication, but we're all aware we can't match the noise level at practice of what we will face Saturday," he allowed.

* With Bobby Harris out, the OL remained the same as yesterday. RS freshman Darryl Harris is taking the number one snaps at LT in Bobby's absence, Tony Sanders has moved from backup RT to backup LT and Marcus Cohen has moved up to backup RT. Darryl believes he's ready for the challenge. "I'm looking forward to it. I know I've got a lot to learn in a short period of time, but I will prepare myself and will take the best shot Alabama has to offer," he said. "I play against Cory Robinson and Corvelli Haynes every day. And have blocked Jayme Mitchell and Brandon Jenkins and Corey Mills. I'll be ready."

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