Practice Report: Rain forces Rebs inside

The Rebs held their final full-contact practice of spring today in the Indoor Practice Facility. It was a 2-hour, 30-minute workout that Coach Ed Orgeron called "excellent."

A tornado warning and heavy rains in the Oxford area did not put the lid on the final full-contact practice of spring football. Coach Ed Orgeron simply moved the workout inside and was extremely pleased with the results.

"We had a great practice. We are right where we need to be with a practice in shorts Friday and the Red-Blue Game Saturday," said Orgeron. "I was very happy with the 2-minute drill work we did at the end of practice - Michael Spurlock moved the team extremely well and got the ball in the end zone.

"I thought our coaches did a masterful job of planning practice and of covering all the things we needed to cover today. Friday we will have a shortened practice and work a lot on the kicking game."

Orgeron was asked to give an off-the-cuff assessment of spring practice to this point. He was very obliging.

"I think it's been fantastic. I am very proud of these coaches and players. We had a lot to do and everyone buckled down and got it done. We were teaching a different way of practicing and new systems on both sides of the ball," he explained. "The guys handled the heavy load very well. We have all of our offense and defense in now and that is surprising considering we put everything in at an accelerated pace. I'm not saying we are a finished product, but for this stage of the long season, I am very happy."

When asked about the Red-Blue Game, Orgeron said he couldn't wait.

"The games around here are always going to be more fun and easier than the practices," he said. "The game Saturday will be fun. It will be fast and it will be enjoyable. Kids are supposed to have fun in the games - maybe not in practice, but in the games for sure. We will compete and have fun."

Orgeron said he will keep things basic in the spring game.

"Spring games are not for coaches trying to outsmart each other. They are for players making plays. We'll be pretty basic in our calls," he continued. "We just want the players to go out there and compete, and as I said, have fun."

Orgeron assessed his first spring as well.

"It's been a learning experience for me. Being on the defensive side of the ball my whole career, it was exciting to learn our offense and see more of what goes on on that side of the ball. I learned a lot," he noted. "I also learned the value of having an indoor practice facility. It's been a real advantage to us. There have been four or five practices we would have had to cancel or postpone if not for this facility. We'd be behind the eight ball if not for this building. We'd rather practice outside whenever we can, but this facility has been great for us. The players like practicing in here too."

Notes:

* It looks as if some players are going to miss the Red-Blue Game, but nothing is definite. . . QB Robert Lane threw the ball some today, but said his shoulder is "real sore." He is questionable for the game. . . RB Alan Abrams did not practice today and will not play in the game. . . C/OG Tony Bonds did not practice and will not play. . . WR Matt Pierce is probably out as well. . . CB Joshua Braithwaite was sick today, but he expects to play Saturday. . . FS Thad Rhodes was out today and will not play Saturday. . . Three players who have missed all of spring - OL Andrew Wicker, DT McKinley Boykin and RB Brandon Jacobs - will not play either. . . . WR Taye Biddle was shaken up today and could not finish practice. We do not know his Saturday status.

* The Rebs worked a little in the return game today with the following players fielding punts and kicks: Mike Espy, Larry Kendrick, B. Brown, Mico McSwain, Mike Wallace, Taye Biddle and Vashon Pearson. It will be interesting to see who returns punts and kicks Saturday.

* Signee Jada Brown, a defensive lineman, was still here and will attend the spring game. He is on spring break. . . The Rebs had a prospect on campus as well - LB Montez Smith from Velma Jackson HS.

* The Rebs worked one period today on punt block and punt coverage, but being indoors they had to do it without actually punting the ball. It was more about downfield technique and rushing technique.

* Former Reb DE Derrick Burgess, who recently got married and signed a big NFL contract with the Oakland Raiders, was also at practice today.

* In running game drills, it appeared the defense was going to dominate the offense when the one defense stuffed the one offense on the first possession. On four downs, DE Jayme Mitchell, LB Kelvin Robinson, DE Chris Bowers and LB Dontae Reed held Pearson and RB Jamal Pittman to 8 net yards. . . . The two offense got things going with runs of 9 and 5 from RB Hiram White and 11 by RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. . . . From there, the one offense got fired up with FB Jason Cook gaining 5, Pearson ripping off 12 and 5. (On that series, RS frosh CB Dustin Mouzon took snaps in place of Trumaine McBride, who has a sore groin, but practiced anyway.) . . The two defense then had their turn to shine, with FS Mico McSwain, LB Marquis McBeath, DT Brandon Jenkins and SS B. Brown making stops after short gains by White. . . . The ones were held without a first down again, even though Pearson had two runs of 4 yards each to start the 4-play series. From there, CB Travis Johnson threw Pearson for a 1-yard loss and Robinson stopped Pittman on a 1-yard gain.

* In pass scale drills (7-on-7), Spurlock was 4-8 for 30 yards, QB Ethan Flatt was 5-8 for 52 yards, including one series with the one offense, and QB Paul Eck, directing the twos, was 4-8 for 62 yards. . . In receiving, Kendrick had a nice 18-yard reception and Biddle caught a pass from Eck for 30 yards. WR Carlos Suggs also snagged an 18-yarder from Flatt with the one offense. The rest of the completions were short, ball-control passes.

* In field goal practice, Will Moseley was 2-3, hitting from 20 and 39 yards, but missing from 48. Hunter Bray was 1-2, hitting from 34 yards out, but also missing from 48.

* In team passing drills, there was a good tug-of-war going on between the offense and defense. On the first one series, Spurlock hit Espy for 5 yards and Kendrick for 20, but was then sacked by Robinson on a LB blitz. . . On the next one series, Spurlock found Hill for 16 yards, but was then sacked by Mitchell. On that same series, Bowers showed his outstanding athleticism in a capsule. On an outside rush, he was cut by OT Bobby Harris. Spurlock threw a screen to Pearson to the spot Bowers vacated. Bowers got up and ran Pearson down for a 3-yard gain. Outstanding play that won't show up in the stat sheets as spectacular as it actually was. Pearson had an open field in front of him if Bowers had not run him down from behind. . . On the next one series, Reed broke up a crossing route, Spurlock hit Espy for a 30-yard gain and Hill for 8 more. . . On the next one try, Mitchell got another sack, DT Dedrick Clark forced an errant pass with a pressure and Willis sacked Spurlock again.

For the twos on the team passing drills, Flatt connected with TE Robert Hough for 12 yards, Biddle for 5, scrambled for 4 more and closed the first series with an 8-yard strike to Biddle. On the play, Biddle was shaken up by CB Terrell Jackson on a vicious tackle, slamming him to the turf and leaving him motionless for nearly three minutes. . . On the next two series, Jackson broke up a deep pass, then tackled Hough after a 7-yard gain. Then Flass found WR Carlos Suggs on a crossing route that turned into a 25-yard gain and hit Green-Ellis for another 25-yard catch-and-run. . . The next series was all defense. An incompletion was followed by QB sacks by McBeath, Haynes and CB Nate Banks on a corner blitz. . . Flatt got even on the next series, finding Hough for gains of 6 and 18 yards and Suggs for 10 before DE Viciente DeLoach registered yet another QB sack.

* The Rebs ran two series of third-and-one situational work. The first unit make first downs on 3-4 of cracks at short yardage while the twos were 2-4. Bowers, again, came up big on one play, stopping Pittman for no gain on the only play the offense failed to move the chains.

* The practice then shifted to two-minute drill work. The ones got three series, the twos got two. The following is a recap:

Ones: Starting at their own 40, the offense marched down the field to the 10, but ran out of time. Spurlock found Espy for 20, 9 and 3 on consecutive plays and then connected with Kendrick for 16 yards. Spurlock was run out of bounds for a loss of 1, and then hit Espy for 8 yards to the 10 when time expired. . . On the next one series, Spurlock showed incredible speed on a 21-yard run, threw a 28-yard strike to Kendrick under pressure and then hit Suggs in the end zone for an 11-yard score with time to spare. . . On the final one series, from the defense's 35, Spurlock hit Hill for 15 then intentionally set up the field goal - per the coaches' directions - by getting tackled in the middle of the field.

Two: On athe first series, Flatt drove the ofense 60 yards for a score. On third-and-10, he hit Espy for 15 yards, then found Hill for 8 more. Kendrick then took a swing pass to the defense's 28 and Hill caught another to the 16. Espy had two short receptions setting up an 8-yard scoring strike to Hill. . . . On the second possession, Flatt was picked off on a deep pass by CB Terrell Jackson after a first-down incompletion. Jackson returned the pick 65 yards for a score.

* Practice then concluded with a short goalline series. On first down from the 5, Spurlock scrambled to the 1. Pittman then banged in from there. . . On the second series, Pittman was nailed for no gain by Robinson on an option pitch and then was hit 3 yards deep in the backfield by DT Michael Bozeman. But Spurlock was magical again, threading the needle to Espy, who was tightly covered by Mouzon, for a score just across the goalline.

* Friday's practice will be in shorts and will concentrate mostly on the kicking game and fine-tuning plays. We will not have a practice report from that workout.

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