Practice Report: Rebs hold Good Friday scrimmage

The first few days of football practice, the Rebel offense has had its way - a majority of the time - with the Ole Miss defense. Not today. In a two-hour scrimmage attended by roughly 400 fans, the Rebel stoppers had their best showing of the spring and the offense had some problems coping with the added blitzes and stunts thrown at them.

Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron, who also doubles as the defensive coordinator, knew the day was coming when he was going to unleash more havoc on the Rebel offense. Show more stunts, move people around, blitz from a lot of different angles. That day was today and, predictably, the defense shined and the offense struggled, for the most part.

"We attacked more today and sent more players after the offense than we normally would," Orgeron noted. "We felt it was time for the offense to see different things and see how they responded. We also wanted the defense to taste our pressure packages.

"Overall I thought the movement helped the defensive line become more active. I thought our linebackers made progress today. We also played the deep ball well. We were pretty physical and we made more plays."

Coach O was not displeased with the offense. He got about what he expected with the "kitchen sink" being thrown at them.

"At times, the offense picked up our blitzes and were successful. The times that they didn't, though, the defense forced them into too many mistakes and too many penalties," he explained. "The running game is still doing some good things, but the defense disrupted a lot of the passing game today. (QB) Micheal (Spurlock) was impressive when he broke containment and scrambled a few times, but beyond that there was not much going on that was consistent on offense. I'm not surprised. The scrimmage served its purpose of exposing the offense to more looks on defense."

Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone echoed Orgeron's sentiments - he expected a lot of what he got in terms of offensive production.

"This is the first day the defense has brought everyone and tried to mix things up a lot. It was great work for all of us," Noel noted. "About the only thing I'm real disappointed in was that we had an opportunity to make some catches that we dropped. I am still pleased with the running game and feel we are ahead of where I thought we'd be in that area. We didn't do what I was hoping in the passing game today, but we probably did what I was expecting because of the added pressure being applied by the defense. We will learn a lot from today's work."


* One area of concern on the team is the backup linebackers. Today, Dontae Reed, Jamarca Sanford and Marquis McBeath made quite a few solid plays for the number two defense. Sanford has only been at linebacker for three practices, but he seems active and suited for the position. We asked LB Coach Shawn Slocum about the concerns in the backup LB roles.

"We are a work in progress. I have seen improvement, but these kids have a long way to go," he said. "I was impressed with Marquis today. He has some good LB instincts and has been making plays in the couple of practices. He is moving forward. Dontae also made a lot of excellent plays today, but he also has a lot to learn. Jamarca is green, but he's fast, aggressive and a quick study. We'll just have to wait and see how they progress between now and the first game. I'm not disappointed, but I know how much work is left to be done and there is no definitive answer right now on whether or not they are ready for SEC action."

* The most glaring difference in the offense in the past three practices has been the inclusion of Larry Kendrick into the package as the untility back. He's lining up at tailback, offset fullback, in the slot and at wide receiver and the coaches are getting him the ball out of each position. Kendrick, obviously, is elated.

"I'm having fun again," said the soft-spoken Kendrick. "Last year was kind of frustrating for me, but I knew it would make me stronge in the long run. I feel stronger now because I'm getting a real chance to show what I can do. It's not hard learning all the positions I'm playing because once you get the concept of the offense, all the positions kind of interact. It's not hard to learn. So far, I feel like I am having a good spring camp and I like the confidence the coaches are showing in me."

Kendrick is proving to be a playmaker and it appears one of Mazzone's favorites to get into the open field and in one-on-one situations. Exciting stuff.

* LB Keith Houston, FB Anthony Hobgood, TB Brandon Jacobs, OL Andrew Wicker and DT McKinley Boykin were out today with injuries. QB Robert Lane started the scrimmage as the number one quarterback, but came out after the second series due to injury. It didn't appear to be serious, but he had ice on his shoulder.

* In field goal work, Will Moseley was 2-2 hitting from 24 and 39 yards. Hunter Bray was 1-2, hitting from 34 yards and missing from 47 in gusting winds.

* As was the case in the first full scrimmage, the quarterbacks were "live," but Orgeron called for a quick whistle after Lane went out and Ethan Flatt had the wind knocked out of him. When Flatt came back into the rotation after sitting out a couple of series, the QBs went live again in the pocket, but had a quick whistle when they were headed downfield running the ball. "Our quarterbacks will have to play live, so we are going to have them live in several practices," said Orgeron. "QB is a position that takes toughness. You can't get tough by not having contact with the QBs. We make them do board drills too. The QBs are playing football too. Hitting is part of football."

* The following is a rundown of the scrimmage snaps, but today we are going to recap it differently. First we will list all the snaps by the number one offense, then all the snaps of the number two offense. The ones first:

With Lane at the helm, the first possession was dominated by teh defense. DE Chris Bowers pressured Lane into a bad pass, Bowers and DT Michael Bozeman stopped TB Jamal Pittman for a 2-yard gain and LB Patrick Willis nailed Pitt for another 2-yard gain. . . On the second possession, except for a Lane scramble for 12 yards, it was much of the same. DS Charles Clark sacked Lane on a safety blitz, Pittman was held to a one-yard gain on an open-field tackle by CB Travis Johnson and Pittman had a four-yard gain stopped by DT Dedrick Clark.

After some situational work, during which Lane was injured, Spurlock took over the one offense.

On the first drive, the offense went 60 yards in eight plays for a score. WR Taye Biddle got things going with a six-yard gain on a reverse. Pittman was held to one yard by LB Kelvin Robinson before Spurlock broke out of the pocket and scrambled 35 yards. Spurlock then found Kendrick for 30 yards after a holding call. From the 11, Pittman dove for three yards with Bozeman on the stop, Kendrick had a 4-yard catch over the middle and Spurlock found WR Mike Espy for a 4-yard TD on a bullet to the corner of the end zone.

On the next possession, a 60-yard march was halted by an interception by Charles Clark near the goalline. WR Mario Hill started the drive with a 4-yard gain on a reverse followed by TB Alan Abrams for 6 yards, Spurlock for 4 and Pittman up the gut for 18 yards. Pittman was stymied by LB Garry Pack for a 2-yard gain before the interception thwarted the drive.

The next time, the one offense did not get a first down. Bozeman sacked Spurlock, TB Vashon Pearson got 6 of those yards back, Spurlock threw an incompletion and LB Patrick Willis registered a sack on a linebacker stunt.

On the final possession of ones vs. ones, the defense again held. Pearson gained 4 yards before Robinson knocked him off his feet. TE Jimmy Brooks then caught an 11-yard aerial from Spurlock. Bozeman then nailed BenJarvus Green-Ellis for a 1-yard gain, Espy dropped a pass over the middle and Abrams was stopped cold by Willis after a gain of 1.

The twos did not score in six possessions, other than in situational work early in the scrimmage.

Spurlock started the first drive by finding WR Matt Pierce for 16 yards, but then Abrams was stopped by Reed for a 2-yard loss and by SS Kareem Moore after a one yard gain.

On the next possession by the twos, Flatt took over and was immediately sacked by DE Corvelli Haynes for a 6-yard loss. Abrams had a nifty run for 15 yards followed by a Flatt to Espy aerial for 15 yards and an Abrams run for 6, but then the defense stopped them cold on four tries on the ground - McBeath, Reed, DT Brandon Jenkins and Haynes making the plays.

On the next try, Abrams got the ball rolling with an 8-yard run, but Reed quickly followed that by hitting Abrams in the backfield for a 1-yard loss. Flatt found Brooks for 10, Abrams ripped off 8 more yards and Flatt hit Pierce for 16 yards, but then a Reed tackle for loss, an incompletion and a McBeath sack for a loss of six killed the march.

The next time out of the box, Flatt hit Espy for 4 and Kendrick for 28 yards, but Vashon Pearson was stopped hard in the backfield by DT Jeremy Garrett, Reed tackled Pearson after a 4-yard run and Pack broke up a pass to Pearson on a third-and-8 play.

The Rebel offense marched 59 yards to the defense's one, but could not score when Garrett rolled up Kendrick in the backfield. Ellis had gains of 2, 6, 6 and 2 before Flatt found Hill for 14 yards and Ellis ran for another 4. From the 7, Flatt connected with Kendrick to the 4, but on fourth-and-1 Garrett stopped the whole show by breaking through the two OL and making the stop of Kendrick.

Pearson started the final drive in good fashion, ripping off a 9-yard gain, but a hold on the OL wiped out a Pierce reception, Garrett followed that with a sack and a third-and-17 pass was incomplete.

Orgeron called the troops to the middle of the field and set up one final situation. Overtime, 7-7 score, ones against twos.

The one offense scored in six plays to make the score 14-7 after a Moseley PAT. Pittman gained 5, then 5 more. FB Jason Cook had a 4-yard reception, Pittman was stopped by Garrett for a 1-yard loss, Spurlock kept for 4 yards and Pittman finished off the drive with a one-yard smash over left tackle Bobby Harris.

The two offense could not respond despite getting to the 3 on a 16-yard pass from Flatt to WR Burnell Wallace. From first-and-goal, CB Travis Johnson broke up two passes, CB Trumaine McBride broke up another and Pearson could not score from three yards out when Willis met him in the backfield.

The ones won in OT, 14-7.

* The Rebels will practice next week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. There will be a coaches' clinic on Friday and Saturday. Former USC OC Norm Chow will be the featured speaker to the coaches in attendance. There will be a scrimmage Saturday, but the time has not been set yet. The guess is 11 a.m., the same time as today.

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