Rebels hold first scrimmage

Roughly 1,000 Rebel fans attended today's football scrimmage held on the top practice field.<P>Coach Ed Orgeron joined the press after the 2-hour and 15-minute, 85-play workout with a smile on his face.

"This concludes our first week and I have to say I am pleased overall," he noted. "All week long we played focused and with intensity. We laid the foundation for what we expect in practice and the guys gave us what we want and need in terms of effort and enthusiasm. This was four good days in those areas."

In terms of how the Rebs played, however, Orgeron had some ups and downs he mentioned.

"Today, in the scrimmage, I thought the offense moved the ball very well and had minimal mistakes. I was very pleased with Quarterback Micheal Spurlock, who made things happen and did a great job scrambling out of trouble. It was important to put the quarterbacks in live situations - they handled it well. I thought Jamal Pittman and Vashon Pearson ran the ball hard and ran it effectively most of the day. I was pleased with the play of the number two defensive line - I thought they put pressure on the quarterback and did a nice job most of the day. The first offensive line seemed to come together today as well. I thought the cornerbacks on defense did a nice job in coverage and DT Michael Bozeman was very good on the number one DL.

"I was not pleased with the production of the safeties, who have to do a better job supporting the run and in coverage. I didn't think first DL, as a unit, was very effective. But in defense of the number one defense, we did not stunt or blitz any today. We played base defense, so they were at a disadvantage, to some extent. What we are trying to impress on them, however, is that at times we will play base and our base has to be good enough to stop people. It was not today. After spring break, we will mix in more stunts and blitzes and movement and that will help them be more productive."

Orgeron was impressed with the fan support and says he hopes that continues.

"It's awesome to have that many fans here supporting our efforts. The kids love it. It motivates them. After spring break, we will work Monday, Wednesday and Good Friday. We will scrimmage on Good Friday and hope we have this kind of crowd again," he ended.

Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone was cautiously optimistic about the play of the Rebel offense.

"We made plays. Micheal was very impressive, but I also thought Robert Lane did some good things directing the number two offense," Mazzone noted. "I continue to be impressed with the progress of the offensive line and the main backs - Pittman and Pearson - are running hard and making plays too. Our receivers also had a productive day today with very few drops. I underrstand the defense was in base, but I was still very pleased with how we handled the system and executed for our first scrimmage in a new offense."


* Today was the first time in many years that the quarterbacks were "live" in scrimmages and not in a different color jersey signifying no contact. Spurlock said that will help him get better under pressure. "It was exciting. This is football. I don't think we can do that every day, but none of the quarterbacks on this team would mind that being the case during scrimmages," he said. "I know it helped me get into the flow of things and made me more aware of the pressure. When you know you aren't going to get hit, sometimes you get a little too comfortable in the pocket. Today, I was on my toes and alert the whole time and it helped my execution, I believe."

* Even though he can't play next season, TB BenJarvus Green-Ellis drew applause and appreciation from the fans in attendance. In team running drills before the scrimmage began, Green-Ellis ripped off two or three 20-plus yard runs where he showed excellent vision and moves in the open field. He has the strength to break through the line and once in the open he has the moves and speed to turn average runs into bigger plays. Nice showing today for Green-Ellis.

* Brandon Jenkins remains at DT. That move appears to be permanent. He worked with the number two defense today and had his moments, making two or three nifty plays while learning the slot. . . Dedrick Clark and Michael Bozeman are the number one DTs right now.

* WR Larry Kendrick was given a look today at tailback and did an admirable job. Mazzone said he's looking for different places to put the multi-talented player on the field. "He's a playmaker and you have to get your playmakers the ball. We are still trying to figure that out, but I thought he did OK at TB today and when he went in motion from that position to become a receiver in empty sets," Noel noted.

* In field goal practice, Will Moseley is getting the first kicks while Hunter Bray kicks second. Matt Hinkle is doing all the holding. In practice today, Moseley was good from 30 yards and 40 yards and made his only PAT. Bray was good from 40 yards, but missed from 40 and 50 in high, gusting winds.

* There was some shifting on the number one OL today. Ben Boyce moved in at center, Tony Bonds moved from center to right guard and Ryan Jones was dropped to number two left guard for most of the scrimmage. We will keep you posted on that situation.

* TB Brandon Jacobs, OL Andrew Wicker and DT McKinley Boykin did not practice today. They are out with injuries. They will be out all spring.

* RS frosh DE Reterio Brown must be catching on to the defensive end slot pretty quickly. Today, he played most of the day with the number two unit and had one QB sack and two tackles behind the line of scrimmage, according to our "rough" stats. Chris Bowers, who played with the number two defense at the other end, had three QB sacks on the day, according to our charts.

* There was little question who the most active defender was today - MLB Patrick Willis. I don't know how many tackles he had overall, but he was in on a lot of plays, several behind the line of scrimmage. Orgeron commented on his play as well. "Patrick is doing an excellent job and is making a lot of plays. I'm pleased with his progress. He had a big scrimmage today. He and Bozeman stuck out on the defensive side of the ball," said Coach O.

The following is a recap of the big plays of the scrimmage.

* The first possession by the number one offense was a three-and-out affair when CB Trumaine McBride knocked down a Spurlock pass on thrid-and-six. Ditto on the second possession when Bozeman stopped Pittman on a one-yard gain on third-and-three. From there, the top offense rolled more often than not.

On the next series, Pittman ripped off powerful runs of 20, 14 and 6 yards setting up an 8-yard Spurlock to Espy completion and a 17-yard TD run by Green-Ellis.

The number two offense, with Robert Lane at the helm, then took the field. Lane immediately hit WR Matt Pierce for 23 yards and again for 12 yards. Then Mazzone called a reverse to WR Mico McSwain and he went 26 yards for a score untouched by the two defense.

The two defense then returned the favor, with DE Corvelli Haynes getting a QB sack and Bowers following with another sack. Jenkins and LB Marquis McBeath stopped Pearson for no gain to end the drive on a 3rd-and-five run call.

The ones took their turn and scored twice with relative ease. On the opening drive, they went 60 yards in four plays. After Willis stopped Pittman for no gain, Spurlock hit Taye Biddle for 13 yards and Pittman for 11 more. A reverse to Pierce netted a 34-yard TD run. On the next drive, Spurlock avoided a sure sack by DE Jayme Mitchell and threw a strike to TE Jimmy Brooks 31 yards. Facing a fourth and two from the 23 of the defense, Spurlock again avoided trouble and found WR Carlos Suggs with a strike for a TD.

When the twos took the field for their pair of possessions, the two defense rose up and stopped them twice. They were led by LB Dontae Reed, who had three nice tackles in a row for short gains and Bowers, who knocked down a 3rd-and-5 Lane pass at the line.

The one offense came back on the field and again marched 40 yards for a score behind the direction of Spurlock, who by then was on fire. Micheal scrambled for nine yards, then hit Suggs for 19 yards and complete with drive with an 11-yard thread-the-needle strike to WR Mike Espy in the end zone.

The number one defense stopped the one offense on the next try with Willis and FS Charles Clark making key tackles. Pittman ripped off a nice 12-yard run on a draw after a procedure penalty, but it was too little too late.

The threes then got their turn and it was all defense with that unit. Bowers had two sacks and Reterio Brown one in thwarting two offensive possessions engineered by QB Ethan Flatt, who never could get anything going under extreme pressure by the two young DEs.

Spurlock again guided the one offense down the field, but this time the offense had to settle for a 29-yard field goal by Moseley that split the uprights in a strong wind.

Lane had one of his better moments when the twos took the field. After a reverse to Pierce netted 23 yards, Robert scrambled for four yards and then hit Pierce at the four. Lane then capped off the drive with a patented bullish run around left end.

With Paul Eck at the helm, the three offense was again stymied by a Bowers sack and a Brandon Jenkins tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

On the final possession of the day, walkon QB Will Ducey connected with Kendrick on a swing pass out of the backfield. L.K. broke a tackle and went 60 yards down the sideline for a score.

The Rebs will have the next eight days off for spring break and will return to the pracice field a week from Monday at 3:45 p.m.

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