The Rebels practiced on the practice fields for 2 1/2 hours today in the first of four practices this week. The weather was beautiful and the work was successful, according to Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron.
"We have been fortunate with the weather we are getting," said Orgeron after the workout. "It's getting very competitive out here. Guys are learning their stuff on both sides of hte ball and consequently they are playing faster. We have a lot of the offense and defense installed and it's getting excited.
"The thing I'm most pleased with at this time is them knowing how to practice and compete. We are organized and we know how to line up. Once you know how to line up within the system and get comfortable, you can start playing the game effectively. We have put the guys in as many game situations as we can and they have responded well to this point."
The Rebels worked on a lot of blitz situations today, similar to last Friday's scrimmage. Last Friday, the offense didn't handle the stunts and blitzes very well. Today, they did better, but the results still see-sawed back and forth between the offense and the defense.
"The offense did much better today against the blitz, but so did the defense. It went back and forth with the offense picking up a lot more than they did Friday, but the defense still getting to them some," Orgeron noted.
There were more personnel changes today, which we will discuss in detail in the notes section.
"We are going to keep on doing that until we find the best players on the team and have them in the right positions," Coach O stated. "We had Jamarca (Sanford) at linebacker last week, but we have moved him back to strong safety this week. He's very impressive and we need him on the field somewhere. We will see if he sticks at strong safety or not. We will evaluate it, but he's a football player and we need him on the field if we can find him the right home."
Orgeron gave a brief synopsis of his evaluations of Friday's scrimmage after watching the tape of the workout.
"What jumped out is that the defense came out ready to play, the offense got stung early and they never recovered fully. LBs Patrick Willis and Kelvin Robinson had great scrimmages, the defensive line was more active and our DBs were excellent. They are staying on top and not getting beat any more," he assessed. "Offensively, we had too many dropped balls, mistakes and penalties. We were better today. One thing that keeps surfacing, however, is that Micheal Spurlock can run. It's easy to see that."
* Several players missed practice today due to injuries. DT McKinley Boykin, OL Andrew Wicker and TB Brandon Jacobs are out for the entire spring. Andrew did not have to have his hurt foot operated on in North Carolina. The specialist he went to see opted to put the foot in a cast for eight weeks and let it heal on its own. Good news for Andrew. . . Injured players from spring who did not practice today: LB Keith Houston, FB Anthony Hobgood, WR Matt Pierce, QB Robert Lane (dresased out but could not throw), and DE Corvelli Haynes. None of their injuries appear serious.
* Notable personnel changes today included Sanford to strong safety from linebacker, which was an experiment last week that apparently did not work. Jamarca ran with the number one defense some today and did a nice job, registering a QB sack on a safety blitz during the scrimmage period. . . OL Coach George DeLeone also shuffled things around a bit on the offensive line. At times, he had Thomas Eckers at guard in place of Tony Bonds and Bonds working with the number two line at center. . . . LB Dontae Reed, based on his performance last Friday in the scrimmage, was moved to number one OLB in place of Garry Pack for today's practice. Reed was pleased to get a chance with the top unit. "I did well in Friday's scrimmage and I got rewarded for it. With these coaches, if you produce, you will play," said Reed. "It made me feel great. I'm here as a walkon trying as hard as I can to get some playing time. I will continue working as hard as I can and see if I can shake things up some. I believe my speed is a factor. I am on the small side for a linebacker and I came here as a safety, but I like playing OLB and think I have the speed to help this defense."
* FedEx CEO Fred Smith and his son Cannon, a QB at CBHS in Memphis, was on hand for the practice today. Also visiting practice was QB signee Billy Tapp from Florida. He is as big (6-5, 215) as advertised. In fact, he looks a little hevier than 215 right now. God-looking kid.
* A lot of people have asked if the guards and tackles on the offensive line are going to pull and trap in this blocking scheme. We haven't seen much of that in scrimmages yet, but in OL drills today they were working on those pulling and trapping schemes.
* A player who is catching our eye is young DE Reterio Brown. He got a chance to play with the number two defense today with veteran Corvelli Haynes out and once again he was very visible in the playmaking department. We will ask DL Coach Ryan Nielsen about his progress in the next couple of practices if Reterio continues to show up.
In OL drills today, Coach DeLeone split up the ones and twos, running plays with the number one tackles and the number two center and guards and running plays with the number two tackles and the number one center and guards. OC Noel Mazzone said that was to get them familiar with playing with different personnel in case of injury down the line.
* In running game drills, it was a dogfight between the offense and defense. On one snap, TB Jamal Pittman broke a 20-yarder and on the next he was stopped for no gain by DE Chris Bowers. It went like that for the whole 10-minute period. Nice gain, no gain. Nice gain, no gain. During the period, LB Patrick Willis' shoulder pads were broken and Marquis McBeath took his place at MLB with the number one defense. McBeath and Reed both made solid plays. Of course, DT Michael Bozeman also showed his ability with a couple of tackles behind the line of scrimmage. During that same drill, with the twos on the field, LT David Traxler twice sprung TB Alan Abrams for good runs of 15 and 10 yards. Traxler is starting to show up in scrimmage work as well.
* In field goal work, it was not a good day for the kickers. The winds were high and gusty, but it appeared they just were not on their game today. Both Will Moseley and Hunter Bray went 1-3 in today's work.
* In the blitz drill, if our calculations are correct, the Rebs protected six times and the QB got sacked five times. DE Jayme Mitchell registered two of those sacks, while Willis, Robinson and Pack got the other three blitzing from the LB slots.
* In situational scrimmaging, with quite a bit of blitzing going on, it was the way Orgeron described it. The offense would hit a big play and the defense would respond with a sack or a big play against the run. Spurlock was flushed out of the pocket on one blitz play and found WR Mario Hill - who had an excellent day - with a 25-yard bullet on the run right on the sidelines. DT Brandon Jenkins followed that up with a tackle behind the line on TB Larry Kendrick for a four-yard loss. Spurlock then found Hill for 8 more yards and Mike Espy for 21 yards. He also had completions of 15 and 20 yards to Hill before fumble when hit from behind by Bowers, who also recovered the loose ball.
* With Lane out, Ethan Flatt got all the number two snaps and had his moments of success. In situational drills, he was 3-3 in one series with short completions to Abrams for 6, and Taye Biddle for 5 and 8 yards. He also hit Biddle on a hot route on a corner blitz good for 12 yards in the next series, but was then sacked by McBeath.
* During the scrimmage, the coaches approached things a bit differently, giving hand signals from the sidelines for the first time this spring. The following is a chart of the plays and drives.
* On the first series by the one offense versus the one defense, Spurlock opened things up with an 8-yard pass to Espy. Pittman then rumbled for 6 yards followed by a 14-yard completion to Hill. Then the defense stiffended with Pittman being stopped by Willis for no gain and by Bowers for a gain of 1. The drive ended when Sanford sacked Spurlock on a SS blitz that was not picked up.
The twos then took the field and marched down the field to the defense's 10 before stalling. Flatt hit Kendrick with a swing pass for 11 yards then found WR Carlos Suggs on a slant pattern for 10 yards to the defense's 44. Abrams gained 4 yards but then was stopped by McBeath for a 2-yard loss. Flatt found Espy for 7 yards before he was brought down by Pack. BenJarvus Green-Ellis then got a first down on a 4th-and-1 call behind Traxler good for 4 yards. Flatt connected with TE Robert Hough for 9 yards, but again the defense tightened up in the Red Zone. Pack stopped Green-Ellis for no gain and McBeath followed suit. Abrams gained 2 yards, but then Flatt was forced to throw the ball away under pressure. Abrams had a nice gain of 11 yards, but then the defense shut them down with SS Kareem Moore stopping Abrams on a 1-yard run and Espy getting only 3 yards from the 9 on a reverse that was thwarted by FS Edwin Gelin.
* The one defense then dominated. Espy caught a Spurlock aerial for 6 yards before being leveled by FS Charles Clark. Spurlock scrambled 7 yards for a first down, but that was it. Bozeman stopped Pittman 4 yards behind the line and Sanford allowed on a 4-yard gain back to the original line of scrimmage before the hit.
The scrimmage ended with Espy picking up 35 yards on a reverse for the number two offense, but that was followed by a QB sack by CB Joshua Braithwaite on a corner blitz.
The Rebs will practice again Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.
Practice Report: Rebs reach spring midway point
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