Thursday practice report

As was the case yesterday, the Rebels went heavy on repetitions, starting with extensive special teams work in final full speed preparations for the fourth-rated Auburn Tigers who invade Oxford at 6:45 p.m. on Saturday.

Ole Miss held a two-hour practice in shorts and helmets on the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium field. The focus was on repetition, execution and special teams play.

Knowing Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville's propensity for trick plays on special teams, the Rebels rehearsed what to do in every conceivable situation. After being victimized by both South Carolina and Tennessee on fake punts, the Rebs worked about one-fourth of their allotted practice time on special teams.

Offensive Coordinator John Latina said the Auburn defense is the fastest the Rebs have seen this year, but perhaps just as big a concern is that they lead the SEC in quarterback sacks and have done most of the damage with just a four-man rush.

"Their forte' is speed," said Lats. "Their front seven are faster than anyone we've seen or played this year and they do a good job of getting pressure, and sacks, with just their front four, which allows their linebackers to drop in pass coverage a lot."

Facing a speed defense, one would think opposing teams with power would be able to run straight at them and use their speed against them. Latina said others have tried that ploy and have failed. "Tennessee had something like nine yards on them at halftime," he said. "We probably won't know what will and won't work until the get in the flow of the game, but whatever it takes we will be prepared to do. They are real good, with a combination of speed and being physical, but we believe in ourselves and what we are doing."

The Rebel defense got some bad news today. Backup DT Andrew Wicker, who hobbled around earlier this week but didn't think much of it, was diagnosed with a torn lateral meniscus cartilage. He will be scoped tomorrow and will potentially be out four to five weeks. "The lateral cartilage takes longer to heal than the medial cartilage," said Football Trainer Tim Mullins. Wicker had been teamin with senior DT Daniel Booth in the number two tackle rotation and had been playing well. With Wicker out, Chris Herring will now team with Booth in the rotation. McKinley Boykin and Michael Bozeman are the starters at DT for the Rebs.

The only other injured Rebel who was in the playing rotation who won't be playing is CB Bryant Thomas, who is still hampered by a hamstring pull and missed all of this week's practice. He said he is real close and will definitely be back for the Arkansas game in two weeks.

The Rebels ended practice with their two-minute drill period. It appears - if practice snaps are an indication - that Ethan Flatt will start at QB for the Rebels and he and Robert Lane will get the bulk of the snaps, but look for Micheal Spurlock to play some as well.

Saturday may well be the 2004 debut of TB Jamal Pittman and look to see more of Alan Abrams as well. The running game gameplan will involve keeping fresh backs in the game at all times, so don't be surprised if you see four tailbacks - Pearson, Abrams, Pittman and Jacobs - play quite a bit each.

RT Tre' Stallings had been limping some on his bum ankle on Tuesday and Wednesday, but today he seemed pretty much full speed ahead.

Again, based on practice reps, expect to see more of LBs Garry Pack and Patrick Willis and more of WR Larry Kendrick. "We are gaining more and more confidence in them and they are gaining more and more confidence in what they are doing," said Coach David Cutcliffe.

There will be no practice report tomorrow as the Rebs will hold a 20-minute walk-through.

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