The Rebel offense ran over, around and through the Rebel defense yesterday. They were having none of that today in a 2-hour, 40-minute practice in August heat.
Fueled by the liberal use of some more of the freshly installed blitz package, and a desire not to get pounded again, the Ole Miss defense had the kind of practice that will make a defensive coach like Head Coach Ed Orgeron smile.
"I challenged the defense this morning and they answered the bell," said Orgeron. "I thought the defense did an excellent job today. We now have about 70% of our defense installed, and we blitzed more today, but even in base defense we played with more intensity.
"It was good to have two of our young linebackers - Robert Russell and Quentin Taylor - back today off the injury list. They were rusty, but they were out there. What young players have to learn is to be alert and pay attention even while you are hurt or you fall behind in the process."
Orgeron will put the Rebels in full pads again this afternoon. What is he looking for in what promises to be another hot workout?
"To come back and compete," he said simply.
* The following players were held out of practice today: CB Josh Braithwaite, C Darryl Harris, OT Reid Neely, S Mico McSwain, CB Tyson Andrus, CB Dustin Mouzon, TB Brandon Jacobs, LB Rogers Loche. . . OG David Traxler, WR Milton Collins, OT Ryan Jones, TE Sam Garner and OT Bobby Harris did not make it through practice. Some of it was heat related. . . TB Jamal Pittman was limited yesterday, but took all number two reps today. DT McKinley Boykin and DE Corvelli Haynes were also limited yesterday, but they practiced full speed today. . . Frosh LBs Robert Russell and Quentin Taylor returned to practice after being on the injury list.
* Some of the more intriguing battles for starting roles continue. Garry Pack and Dontae Reed at OLB (Pack currently has the edge); Travis Johnson and Nate Banks at LCB (Banks had the edge going into today, but Travis was "on" in this morning's practice, breaking up several passes); Corvelli Haynes and Chris Bowers at LEO (Bowers held the edge today).
* Another interesting development has been the emergence of TE Robert Hough, who didn't even practice with the varsity the first couple of days. He is currently running with the number one offense ahead of Lawrence Lilly and Jimmy Brooks. Hough is like having a big wide receiver in the lineup, but he gives up 40 pounds in the blocking department. We'll keep you posted on how that develops.
* When David Traxler was pulled during practice, Andrew Wicker took his spot with the number one offense at left guard. We'll see if he remains there when Traxler returns. . . Maurice Miller was then elevated to number two LG. . . When Harris and Jones were out, Marcus Cohen, James McCoy and Paul Hurd handled tackle duties.
* In a brief full-team punting drill, freshman Rob Park had two kicks and averaged roughly 47.5 yards with a 50 and a 45-yard effort. . . Will Mosely averaged roughly 41 yards on three kicks.
* The defense started their day off right in the 9-on-7 drill. Boykin drilled Alan Abrams in the backfield for a three-yard los to set the tone of the period. . . Pittman did rip off one 20-yard run off left tackle with the twos, but that was about it for the offense. . . Haynes, DT Peria Jerry, LB Patrick Willis, FS B. Brown and LB Kelvin Robinson all turned in big plays after Boykin's tone-setter.
* The next period was much of the same. It was the third-down situational period with full teams. The defense, using the blitz often, controlled that period as well. CB Trumaine McBride broke up a Micheal Spurlock to Mario Hill pass and from that point on, the defense owned the offense in the drill. Bowers registered a sack, Willis added a sack, and a couple of completions were short of the first-down marker. The pressure on the QBs was very good, prompting a Rebel defender on the sideline to yell at the offense, "ya'll had your fun yesterday - it's our turn now!"
* In 7-on-7 pass drills, the offense gathered themselves and did better. Hough caught a Spurlock pass for a short TD and Spurlock found Matt Pierce along the sidelines for a 25-yard score. . . The only drawback was the wide receivers had more drops today than they have been having.
* In field goal work, PK Matt Hinkle was 3-3 with a long of 44 yards. . . Moseley was 1-2, hitting from 35 yards but missing from 46 out. . . P Rob Park held for both kickers.
* In the final period of the day, full team scrimmaging, there was a give-and-take with the two units. Here are some highlights:
* Spurlock to FB Jason Cook for 8.
* B. Brown QB sack of Spurlock.
* Spurlock to WR Mike Espy for 10.
* QB sack of Spurlock by DT Michael Bozeman.
* QB Ethan Flatt - with the twos - keeps for 8.
* Flatt to WR Burnell Wallace for 15.
* Spurlock to Hill for 20.
* Willis tackles Abrams for no gain.
* SS Kareem Moore picks off a pass off the hands of WR Carlos Suggs.
* Spurlock keeper for 15.
* Spurlock hits Cook with a screen pass that he turns into a 40-yard gain down the sideline.
* CB Travis Johnson with two nice pass breakups that probably should have been interceptions. On one, he had man coverage all over the field with the speed Wallace. He tracked Burnell all the way across the field and cut in front of the route for a sure pick, put he dropped it.
* Spurlock to Suggs for 12.
* Spurlock keeper for 10
* Abrams for 5.
* B. Brown pass breakup out of nickel back position.
* DE Viciente DeLoach stopping Abrams for a 1-yard gain.
* Bzoeman QB sack.
* Flatt under blitz pressure to Wallace for 10.
* LB Dontae Reed QB sack of Flatt.
* Flatt to Hill on blitz for 6 yards.
* Flatt to Suggs for 10.
* Flatt screen to Pittman for 15.
* Pittman 6 run.
It was somewhat fitting that the last four plays - a two-minute drill situation - belonged to the defense. CB Nate Banks broke up a pass over the middle; Spurlock hit Wallace for 8; and Willis picked off a Spurlock pass over the middle to give the defense the edge.
* QB Ethan Flatt, playing with the two offense, had his best day of camp, recognizing the blitz and throwing hot to the right receivers. . . Spurlock also had another solid day. As 'O' said yesterday, Micheal has not had a "bad" day. . . QB Robert Lane did not get as many reps today in an effort to give Flatt a better look, we assume.
* One thing noticeable about this coaching staff is their ability to create competition even when the team is starting to run out of steam and are dog tired. Today, and yesterday, when the defense started dragging a little late, the offense inserted a fresh challenge - TB BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The ultimate test for a defense is how they respond when tired to a fresh set of legs. Today, they did well after Green-Ellis ran through them yesterday. . . The psychology of that move by the coaches is what they are all about. They set up everything they do based on competition and challenging the players at all times. Good stuff.
Practice Report: Two-a-days begin!
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