Practice Report: Sparks fly

The Rebels practiced in full pads again today and got a thumbs up from Coach David Cutcliffe for their energy, enthusiasm and competitiveness in full contact drills. The injury situation is still uncertain, but those who were healthy practiced with an abandon that was good to see.

"We had a lot of energy out here today, back to the level it needs to be," said Cutcliffe. "I could sense today that the players are frustrated and sick of losing. I know the staff is. I was pleased to see better pad leverage, crisp contact in full contact drills and the competitiveness within the team return to a higher level."

"Thus far this week, we've had two good days of practice and I'm pleased, and relieved, to see it. Some of these same players went through this last year, so they know what it takes to get through tough times. Now we are just waiting on this kind of play to surface on Saturdays. That's the transformation we are working toward and expecting. I am a firm believer in players playing the way they practice. So far, we have practiced very well this week, but we need to continue along these lines."

* The injury list hasn't changed much, but more players were in yellow jerseys today due to it being a full contact day. Yesterday, there were full pads and some full contact, but not as much full hitting as today. Here's the injury situation: WR Bill Flowers (lacerated kidney) will try to run some tomorrow and make sure there's no blood in his urine. He will not play against A-State, but it appears he will be ready for the upcoming SEC schedule. . . DT Daniel Booth (pulled calf muscle) was in yellow today, but told Trainer Tim Mullins that this was the best he has felt since before his pulled his calf in late August. It was the first time we have seen Daniel smile in a few weeks. .. DT McKinley Boykin (sore knee) was held out of contact work today in order to get him some rest so he will be ready to go Saturday. That is the expectation. . . DT Chris Herring (pulled calf muscle) was in yellow today. His situation is day-to-day. . . CB Nate Banks (sprained knee) said he felt much better today, but he was held completely out of practice. He may return tomorrow. . . DT Jeremy Garrett (shoulder injury) was in yellow today, but he is expected to be available for Saturday's game. . . CB Travis Johnson (sprained knee) was dressed in a yellow jersey today, but he went through most drills, including some contact drills. . . WR Mario Hill (bruised ribs) was held out of contact drills, but is expected to play Saturday. . . OT Bobby Harris (sprained ankle) took back over his duties with the number one line at left tackle. With him back in the lineup, Marcus Johnson moved back inside to RG and Tre' Stallings moved from LT to RT.

With all the injuries to various defensive linemen, OL Terrance Houston, a RS freshman, was moved to defensive tackle today. We're not sure if that is stop-gap or permanent, but we'll keep an eye on his situation and let you know.

What sparked the emotional outburst by the team today? In team drills, LB Patrick Willis leveled TB Alan Abrams in one of the hardest hits of the season. He was mobbed by teammates, who began goading the offense. The offense responded by ripping off two nice runs and getting back in the defensive players' faces. It was all good-natured, but highly competitive and challenges were going back and forth. "That was good to see," said Marcus Johnson. "We've got talent. We are tired of losing. Personally, I can't stand it. We will bounce back and we will not give up. It was good to see the fire come back today. We have kind of been in shock for a while. We got some of our old strut back today and it was good to see and be a part of. Today was the Rebel team I'm used to. Now we just have to put it together in the games."

* Placekicker Jonathan Nichols celebrated his 23rd birthday today. Happy B'Day, Jonathan!

* WOmen's basketball Olympic gold meal winning coach Van Chancellor is in town and was at practice today. Van said his experience in the Olympics and in Greece was a "once in a lifetime" happening. More on that later.

* Yesterday, Patrick Willis was getting most of the number one snaps at one of the linebacker slots. Today, Willis and Brian Lester split snaps, but Willis doesn't appear to have taken the top job yet. He also worked with Garry Pack a lot with the number twos.

* Freshman DE Corey Mills and RS freshman Brandon Jenkins are splitting number two snaps at LDE. Mills has been out for a week with a pulled groin, but appears to be full speed now and has not lost his "status" as the backup behind Jayme Mitchell in his absence.

* S Larry Kendrick continued to get some snaps with the wide receivers. We've got to say that he appears to be a natural there. He's strong and uses his strength to separate from defenders during his routes. And, as we said last week, he's a natural at catching the ball. Put him in, coach!

* In charting the reps of the top three quarterbacks today, it is clear that Ethan Flatt is still considered number one, Micheal Spurlock number two and Robert Lane number three. . . In pass scale drills, with secondary people but no rush, the three split snaps fairly equally. . . In full team drills versus the scout team, Flatt got 14 reps, Spurlock got 10 and Lane got 6, mostly running with the twos. . . In varsity team drills, Lane got eight snaps while directing the number two offense against the number one defense; Flatt got five snaps running the number one offense against the number two defense; and Spurlock got four snaps running the number one offense versus the number one defense. (Those numbers may not be exact, but they are pretty close because we tried to chart every play today.) In a quick analysis, all three threw the ball fairly well. Nobody was on fire and nobody was way off target.

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