Coach Ed Orgeron left no doubt that August practice would be a test of willpower with the first varsity practice held this morning on the practice fields at Ole Miss.
The three-hour workout was fast-paced in the 86-degree, 44% humidity. COnditions were sunny and not real hot for August in Mississippi.
"It was great to be out here again," Coach O told a throng of media about 12 strong. "We made a lot of mistakes today and got tired at the end. We need our conditioning to pick up a bit. I thought it was a nice, cool day."
When asked if this practice would be typical of practices to come, Orgeron replied it was a representative workout of what August will be like.
"We'll throw it all at them. We are going to test the players to the max," he noted. "We have a lot to accomplish. Players will be competing for playing time at every position and from the looks of today, there will be room for some younger guys to get a shot at starting.
"We're having split practices so the younger guys, and the varsity, can get more individual attention and more reps. Everyone needs reps. Our retention from spring was not as good as it should have been. We have work to do."
Random practice notes:
* While the practice schedule reads "varsity" and "freshmen" for the split practices, there will actually be some redshirt freshmen and vets in this afternoon's workout. It appeared to be about a 60-40 split of the squad, with around 65 players working in the varsity drills this morning. For instance, RS frosh DE Reterio Brown attended this morning's practice, but will workout this afternoon with the frosh.
* Junior Keith Houston remained at LB in the first practice after being moved there in spring. He's backing up Kelvin Robinson right now and he made several good plays today, including a diving interception of a Robert Lane pass that was deflected at the line.
* The number one defense had no changes from the end of spring at this early stage of August drills. It was: DE Chris Bowers, DT McKinley Boykin, DT Michael Bozeman, DE Jayme Mitchell, LBs Kelvin Robinson, Patrick Willis and Dontae Reed/Garry Pack, CBs Trumaine McBride and Travis Johnson, FS Charles Clark and SS Jamarca Sanford.
* On the offensive side of the ball, the ones on the OL were LT Bobby Harris, LG Tony Bonds, C Darryl Harris, RG Thomas Eckers and RT Tre' Stallings. Micheal Spurlock took a majority of number one snaps with Robert Lane getting in the mix probably 30% of the time with the ones - rough estimate. The RBs and WRs alternated frequently.
* With Darryl Harris being moved to center, the first thing you look for is snap exchange with the QBs. Today, it was excellent - no fumbled snaps.
* WR Taye Biddle attended practice today, but did not dress out or work out.
* Even though it was just the first day, it appears the value of RB/FB Brandon Jacobs is already known to the offensive coaches. He was heavily in the rotation at both TB and FB even though he missed all of spring training and these coaches have never seen him play.
* 2005 signee John Jerry, who will attend Hargrave Military this fall, was at practice. He's huge - about 6-6, about 340. . . Also attending practice was Pearl River CC DL Frank Harry. He's a specimen the Rebs are after hard.
* Early on, it appeared the Rebs' conditioning was going to hold up, but toward the last 30 minutes of the 3-hour workout, several players dropped out due to the heat and pace. That is to be expected as the players adjust to the temps and intensity of August workouts.
* TE Jimmy Brooks was a prominent figure in the passing game today, catching numerous short passes and taking two or three for significant gains in the 20-25-yard range. In this offense, the TE is definitely involved in the passing game. Brooks was married last week to Aisha Macon, who works in the UM Sports Information Department.
* All players - varsity and freshmen - will stay in Deaton Hall on campus through two-a-days. Even married players are staying there this fall camp.
* You try to listen for players who are getting a lot of compliments. Today, DT Michael Bozeman seemed to get the most "way to go" accolades. McKinely Boykin started off strongly, but sat out the end of practice.
* TB Jamal Pittman sat out a good portion of practice today. Coach O said he wasn't sure if it was an injury or not and would evaluate that after practice.
* Dontae Reed and Garry Pack are battling for one of the LB slots and it appears it's going to be a fight to the wire. They split snaps today with each getting one and two reps. Pack may have gotten a few more number one snaps today, but we doubt that is an indication of much of anything at this point.
* The number two OL and DL are as follows, right now: OL - LT David Traxler, LG Andrew Wicker, C Ben Boyce, RG Ryan Jones, RT Marcus Cohen. . . DL - RE Corvelli Haynes, DT Jeremy Garrett, DT Dedrick Clark, LE Brandon Jenkins. . . In one pass protection drill, Wicker showed excellent feet in twice neutralizing Boykin's rush effectively.
* The wide receivers looked to be in midseason form today, catching - if we didn't miss one somewhere - every catchable ball thrown by the QBs. Excellent outings by Larry Kendrick, Brooks, Lawrence Lilly - before he succumbed to the heat, Mike Espy and Mario Hill. Their consistency, which was a problem last spring, was a pleasant surprise.
* One thing is sure with Coach O - there are no "untouchables" on the squad. If someone messes up, they are immediately replaced. "Gimme another LB (or TE or whatever position)in here" was pretty common today. The message: perform or get out of the lineup. You will be held responsible to execute and the penalty is being replaced and doing up-downs. The message was loud and clear.
* In field goal work today, QBs Micheal Spurlock and Robert Lane took turns holding for placements. . . Will Moseley was 2-4, hitting from 20 and 30 yards, but missing from 20 and 35. . . Hunter Bray was 3-3, connecting from 25, 30 and 40 yards out.
* One disturbing happenstance today for the QBs was several passes being batted down at the line of scrimmage, no matter who the QB was. Not sure if the OL was collapsing too much or what the cause was, but at least five passes were swatted away by DL or stunting LBs today. Gotta correct that.
* SS Jamarca Sanford said he was going to be tested in deep coverage in August. Today, he passed the test, picking off a 50-yard aerial by Robert Lane on the sideline. Great play.
* We will have a report on the freshman workout when it is completed and after we get our interviews. Roughly 8 p.m., hopefully a little earlier.
Grid practice begins!
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