Practice Report: Countdown to Red-Blue

After Saturday's scrimmage, it was apparent to Ole Miss Football Coach Ed Orgeron and his staff that some corrections needed to be made in certain areas. That was the focus of today's 2-hour, 45-minute workout on the practice fields. The end result? Success, according to Coach O.

Ole Miss Football Coach Ed Orgeron was upbeat about today's practice as the Red-Blue Spring Game rapidly approaches and spring training winds down.

"The guys were intense and focused on the task at hand. We had a lot of things to correct from Saturday's scrimmage and I think we took care of most of that because of the effort by the players," Orgeron noted. "We ran some individual drills to help correct some things and then we worked on some other areas in team drills. I thought today was one of our more successful efforts from top to bottom.

"The period working on the running game was good for the offense. The ball security was much better after too many fumbles Saturday. We threw the ball very well today and this might have been the best day our receivers have had catching the ball. We also did some good things on defense with some QB sacks and some pass deflections. Overall, I feel good."

Ed was asked about several players who seem to be sticking out in practice. One is QB Micheal Spurlock, who was close to spectacular in 7-on-7 pass scale and in the 11-on-11 passing drills.

"Micheal is like night and day from the time spring began until now. His footwork is much better and he's seeing the field better. I like most of the decisions he's making," Ed continued. "I think the full speed, live work helped him in a couple of scrimmages. He's very talented and is getting better by the day. It also helped today that the receivers caught the ball like they are supposed to."

One of Micheal's premier targets is F-Back Larry Kendrick, who is being moved all over the field and is OC Noel Mazzone's utility back.

"Larry is a playmaker. We can play him at RB, WR, in the tight slot. He has the ability to make defenders miss. We are moving him around so defenses can't hone in on him. We can create some mismatches with him on linebackers if we move him around and put him in different positions. That excites me - Larry Kendrick on a linebacker," Orgeron smiled.

The running back tandem of Jamal Pittman and Vashon Pearson gets a thumbs up from Orgeron, to a point.

"I was not happy with the fumbles Saturday. That cannot happen. If we can eliminate the turnovers, we will be a good offense. If we don't, we won't be very good," he said. "Jamal and Vashon gives us an opportunity to have a solid 1-2 punch at running back, but they have to become more dependable. We know they are capable, but they have to understand the importance of ball security."

Once again, as has been the case most of spring training, DE CHris Bowers made more big plays - sacks, tackles for loss, tackles for small gains and rarely giving up any gap control.

"Chris has an innate ability to make plays. He's instinctive and is always in teh right place. He's quick, tough and just has a knack for the game," Ed stated. "He's been one of our top playmakers in spring. I'd say he and LB Patrick Willis have made more overall plays and more big plays than anyone else. Michael Bozeman would fit in there too."

One concern heading into spring was the depth on the defensive line. Ed said he's gained some confidence in the backups this spring.

"DT Brandon Jenkins and NG Jeremy Garrett have made big-time progress. For each scrimmage, we have a point system for plays made. Brandon was the points winner last Saturday. We are moving him around a little and trying to put him in better positions to make plays. He's responding," noted Ed. "We are considering working him some at DE in the fall too. If he continues to progress like he has this spring, he's got to be on the field.

"I was worried coming into spring about only having one noseguard - Bozeman. Jeremy Garrett has improved by leaps and bounds. That's really important because you have to have a dependable rotation and I think that is coming around thanks to the emergence of Jeremy. At DE, I've been impressed lately with Corvelli Haynes. He has made a lot of plays and was all over the field today with two or three QB sacks. I really believe if we continue working as hard as we have this spring, and make the progress we have this spring, that our defensive line will be very, very good next year. We have McKinley (Boykin) coming back and we also have some newcomers we will be adding to the mix that we think may be able to help us quickly. I feel good about our defensive front."

Ed is also pleased with the transition of OLB Kelvin Robinson during the spring from a SS to a LB.

"At first, Kelvin was playing laterally and really didn't understand the position. About two weeks ago, things started clicking for him and you could see him starting to play downhill. Kelvin has made a lot of big plays and has probably had more big hits than anyone on defense this spring as a result of playing downhill," he explained.


* Rebel signee DL Jada Brown was at practice today. He looks like a young Michael Bozeman, except he's probably two inches taller, more in the 6-2 to 6-3 range. Wide shoulders and thick lower body. . . Also on campus was the Hazelhurst football team, which has two LB prospects - Johnny Sanders and Kevin Holmes. They were nice-looking kids - about 6-2 or 6-3 and already mature looking physically. . . Also, Eupora WR Terrance Gary was at practice checking everything out. He is also considered a D-1 prospect.

* WR Matt Pierce dressed out today, but did not prctice much. . . RB Alan Abrams also dressed out today, but he could not go. . . LB Marquis McBeath was not able to hit last Saturday due to soreness in his shoulders, but he was back in contact work today. . . QB Robert Lane dressed out, but he was still unable to throw due to his throwing shoulder being sore. . . C/OG Tony Bonds and S Thad Rhodes missed practice today due to injury. . . WR Taye Biddle, WR Larry Kendrick, WR Mario Hill and S Bryant Thomas all missed Saturday's scrimmage to attend a class, but they were all back today. . . . Of course, RB Brandon Jacobs, OL Andrew Wicker and DT McKinley Boykin were out and are out for the whole spring.

* One of th more impressive combinations on the OL has been LG Darryl Harris and LT Bobby Harris. Right now, when the Rebs need the tough yards, it appears that is where they are going. And more times than not, they have been successful behind the Harris tandem. . . Today, the number one offensive line remained the same as most of last week: LT Bobby Harris, LG Darryl Harris, C Ben Boyce, RG Tre' Stallings and RT David Traxler.

* The Rebs worked an extended period on individual drills to correct some individual mistakes from Saturday's scrimmage and from things that have been under Orgeron's skin. "We worked fumble drills, ball security, wide receiver blocking, precision on routes, different blocking combinations on the OL, bag work for the DL, steps for the LBs and catching the deep ball by the secondary. I saw improvement in those areas during the scrimmage portion of the practice," he noted.

* In Saturday's scrimmage, the number one LCB was Nate Banks. Today, it was senior Travis Johnson. There is quite a battle going on there right now for the top spot, and that's a good thing. "It's great to have two guys who you think you can win with," said DB Coach Chris Rippon. "Travis has the experience and plays with good technique, but Nate has the tremendous speed. Right now, they are battling it out for the top spot."

* In running game drills, several players stood out, on both sides of the ball. . . RB Jamal Pittman ripped off an 8-yard run to get the drill going, but from there the number one LBs took over. K-Rob stopped Pitt for no gain, Dontae Reed stopped Pearson for a 2-yard gain and Patrick Willis captured a scrambling Spurlock for a 2-yard loss. . . When the twos took the field, Garrett took over with two tackles at the line, but then RB Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis ripped off a 30-yard run through a big hole by left side of the line led by Ryan Jones, Tim Henderson and Marcus Cohen. . . When the ones took over, CB Trumaine McBride hemmed up Pearson wide for a 1-yard loss, Willis hit Pearson at the line, Pitt ripped off a 12-yarder behind the Harris duo and Willis stuffed Pitt at the line. . . When the twos took back over, RB Hiram White had runs of 4 and 5 yards and Ellis tacked on a 15-yard jaunt. Ethan Flatt also threw a screen to Kendrick for 15 yards. . . On the ones' turn, Pearson gained 6 and 3 yards, but Pitt was hit behind the line by Boze for a 2-yard loss and K-Rob finished off Pitt for a 1-yard gain. . . the next time the twos took over, White had runs of 3 and 7 yards and Ellis tacked on 10 more, but Jenkins crashed through the line and stopped Ellis for no gain.

* In 7-on-7 pass cale, Spurlock was 9-12 for 121 yards and two scores. WR Taye Biddle caught the ball as well as he has at any time in his career, snaggin three passes for 36 yards, including a 20-yard TD in traffic. . . . Flatt - directing the twos - was 8-12 for 62 yards and 2 short TDs. WR Mario Hill also had a good period, catching 4 passes for 46 yards, including a 20-yard score.

* In field goal work, in a stiff crosswind, the kickers were 4-5. Will Moseley was 3-3 with a long of 48 yards. Hunter Bray was 1-2, but his 48-yarder was tipped at the line when a defender jumped offsides.

* The Rebs then went through an extended period of situational work, mostly working on 1st-and-10 situations. The following is a recap, by unit. First the ones:

Spurlock got the ball rolling with an 8-yard completion to WR Carlos Suggs. He then found Suggs over the middle against a blitz for 10 more yards. Spurlock then got trapped by DT Dedrick Clark for a sack, but followed that by hitting Biddle for a 16-yard gain, again against a blitz. . . On the next one series, Spurlock ran for 8 yards on a QB draw, TE Jimmy Brooks dropped a short pass, Spurlock scrambled away from trouble and found Biddle for 12 yards, but the series ended when Bowers sacked Spurlock. . . The next time out, Spurlock found Kendrick for 12 yards, Biddle for 8 and 21 yards and Hill for 28 yards. . . On the next one series, Spurlock connected with WR Mike Espy for 5 yards, ran another draw for 10 more, was sacked by Bowers again and hit Hill for 6 more. . . On athe final one series, Spurlock ran for 8 yards on a draw, was tackled behind the line by Bowers, hit Espy for 9 yards and was sacked by Willis on a "kitchen-sink" blitz.

* The twos were directed by Flatt and by Will Ducey on one series. . . Flatt was sacked right off the bat by Jenkins, but was bailed out on a 7-yard completion by a spectacular one-handed snag by Hill. Flatt was then flushed by the rush and gained five yards before being tackled by CB Dustin Mouzon. . . On the next series, it didn't get much better for the offense. Haynes sacked Flatt twice in a row and Garrett broke up a wide screen when he dropped in flat coverage. Flatt did find TE Robert Hough for six yards, but that series definitely went to the defense. . . Ducey threw short to Suggs for 6 yards, was off on a swing pass to a back, kept for 5 yards and three incomplete deep, a pass that was batted down by FS Mico McSwain. . . On the final two series, Garrett registered another QB sack, Suggs dropped a strike over the middle, Hill gained 15 yards on a crossing route completion and Biddle gained 18 on a strike from Flatt.

* After that, the "real" scrimmage took place. No more situations - just drive the ball. The one defense dominated the one offense. . . On the first two possessions, the offense could not muster a first down. Reed and Bowers stopped the first drive with solid plays, while Willis, SS Jamarca Sanford and Bozeman, who forced a FBJason Cook fumble on fourth-and-one, thwarted the second drive.

* When the twos got their shot at a sustained drive, they marched right down the field, 60 yards, to end the practice session. . . Flatt hit Suggs for 7 yards on third-and-10, then found Hill for 16 yards on fourth-and-three to keep the drive going. An eight-yard completion to Hough and a four-yarder to Brooks moved the chains again. Then Biddle went to the 16 on an eight-yard gain on a reverse before Green-Ellis capped off the drive with a 16-yard TD run off left tackle.

The Rebs will practice in full pads for the last time Wednesday at 3:45. They will work out in shells Friday and then the full-scale Red-Blue game will be Saturday at 1 p.m.

OM Spirit Top Stories