Practice Report: Thursday

With the concentration being on the running game and pass protection, Coach Ed Orgeron saw improvement today from his team, despite seven assistant coaches being on the road recruiting. read about it inside.

The objectives were simple when the Rebels took the field for practice today.

One, run the ball better. Two, run the ball better. Three, run the ball better.

According to Coach Ed Orgeron, he saw some of that happening.

"We addressed the whole running game issue in our staff meeting today," said Coach O. "We really broke it down and took hard looks at everything involved in rushing the football. I think it paid off some today. I saw some improvement in the running game."

It wasn't like the offensive line was opening up huge holes or the backs were making dazzling runs, but there were consistent positive gains throughout most of practice.

"I thought our line got better today and our backs did a better job. We need to keep heading in that direction, but it was good to see some of that surface," Orgeron continued. "We will continue working hard on it."

The Rebels also spent "extra" time on field goal kicking and Orgeron gave it mixed reviews.

"I don't know how much it helped, but we got in two periods of field goal kicking and we are going to continue to work hard on that phase of the game," he allowed.

The Rebel staff was "short" today because seven of the assistants were out recruiting. Only Orgeron, OC Noel Mazzone and OL Coach George DeLeone - and the GAs - were at practice today, but that didn't slow down Orgeron's schedule.

"We hit the field running and the team responded. We didn't have as much individual drills, but we ran a lot of plays. We worked a lot on our stuff and some on Vanderbilt's packages. It was good for us and I was pleased with the way the team attacked the practice," he stated.

The Rebels will take tomorrow and Saturday off and will hold a 6:30 p.m. practice in full pads Sunday night on the practice fields. They will then take Monday off and get into their regular game week routine.

"We will have an extra day for game preparations and we want to take advantage of that Sunday night," Orgeron closed.

Random Notes:

* The following players did not practice today: OT Reid Neely, WR Milton Collins, OG Andrew Wicker, WR Mario Hill, C Darryl Harris, OL Ryan Jones, TB Brandon Jacobs, LEO Corvelli Haynes, and DT Peria Jerry. . . It appears some of those absences are precautionary in nature. If there was a game this weekend, some of them would probably play, but the coaches wanted to use the open week to try to get some of the walking wounded completely healthy. During stretch, 'O' was pickin at the injured a bit, chanting "You can't make the club laying in the tub."

* The following players were in a Blue jersey signifying no contact: MLB Patrick Willis, WLB Kelvin Robinson, and WR Matt Pierce.

* The depth chart bounced a little today on the offensive line when true freshman Michael Oher took all number one snaps ahead of Thomas Eckers at right guard. At this point, it seems more an experiment by the coaches than a permanent move, but time will tell and we'll see if he stays with the ones Sunday.

* On defense, Chris Bowers took Haynes' place at LEO, Jeremy Garrett remained number one at DT in front of McKinley Boykin and frosh LBs Quentin Taylor and Robert Russell took over the nubmer one spots for Robinson and Willis during controlled contact work.

* In the first session of field goal kicking, freshman Justin Sparks was 4-5 on PAT-length kicks, but when he missed a 24-yarder, Coach O called for another kicker. Matt Hinkle came in and made a 27-yarder, but missed from 32 and was replaced by Will Moseley, who connected from 34 and 36, but missed from 40. . . Orgeron was letting them kick until they missed and then they would be replaced by the next placekicker.

* There were two extended scout team periods with the defense working on Vandy's bread-and-butter plays, particularly the option, and the offense taking advantage of one period to work on the timing in their passing game and one period to work on running the ball.

* On one series, Boykin and Garrett were in the lineup at the same time with Michael Bozeman sitting out. We were wondering if that meant the coaches are looking at a three-man rotation at the two tackle slots. Maybe, maybe not, but they have never been in the lineup at the same time before.

* In running game drills, Oher was at right guard, Tony Bonds was at center and Alan Abrams was the tailbacks with the number one offense. As we said earlier, there were no huge gains, but Abrams did have three or four nice runs with the top unit. (To be fair, however, remember K-Rob and Willis were out of the defensive lineup. Big difference.) . . . On the two offense, Mico McSwain and Jamal Pittman split reps. McSwain worked hard on his inside running and also had a couple of four-five yard gains. Pittman, on one burst, flat out ran over Robert Russell.

* In team passing drills, the offense was crisp, throwing, catching and protecting, for the most part. Here's a breakdown: (Ones) Spurlock to Kendrick 6. . . Spurlock to Biddle 75 TD. . . Incomplete. . . Trumaine McBride knocked down pass. . . (Twos) Lane to Espy 10. . . Lane to Biddle 12. . . Lane to Wallace 8. . . Lane keep 6. . . (Ones) Spurlock to Pierce 12. . . Spurlock keeper for 8. . . Spurlock to Espy 15. . . Spurlock to Kendrick 12. . . (Twos) QB sack Jenkins. . . Lane to Pierce 18. . . Lane to Wallace 9. . . Interception Dustin Mouzon (with one arm and hand in a cast). . . Lane to Wallace 8.

* In the passing game drills, it was good to see Kendrick getting some balls thrown his way and it was a positive to have Burnell Wallace back at full speed. He had been struggling with an ankle injury and took advantage of Hill's absence today, as did Kendrick. It was also a positive that only one sack was registered, but the defense did not send many blitzes during the drill.

* In the second go-around in field goal kicking, Hinkle, with the number one unit and with Spurlock holding, was 5-7 hitting from 20, 23, 26, 32, 44 and missing from 39 and 32. . . Moseley was 4-5 connecting from 35, 40, 44 and 32 but missing from 40. . . Sparks was 1-2, hitting from 44 and missing from 32.

* In team drills, here was the breakdown. (Ones) Incomplete. . . Spurlock to Biddle 7 (blitz picked up). . . Spurlock keep 5. . . Spurlock to Biddle 10. . . (Twos) Lane to Wallace 7. . . Boykin tipped pass at LOS. . . Lane to Carlos Suggs for 70-yard catch-and-run TD. . . Lane to Pierce 6. . . (Ones) Abrams 2 run (Jayme Mitchell). . . Travis Johnson pick on tipped ball that should have been caught by WR. . . Spurlock to Biddle 8. . . Abrams run 4 (Bozeman). . . (Twos) Viciente DeLoach sacked Lane. . . Pittman 5 run (B. Brown). . . Pittman 4 run (Rogers Loche). . . Pittman 1 run (Loche). . . (Ones) Spurlock to Suggs 20. . . Spurlock to Suggs 14. . . McBride pass reakup. . . Abrams run 7. . . (Twos) Lane to Pittman 7. . . Screen to Pittman 8. . . Pittman run 15. . . Lane to Pierce 18. . . (Ones) Abrams 6 run. . . Spurlock to Kendrick 6. . . Abrams -1 run (Bozeman). . . Abrams 2 run (Bozeman). . . (Twos) Pittman 2 (Brandon Jenkins). . . Lane to Hough 2 (Gary Riggs). . . Pittman 1 run (Loche). . . Lane to Pierce 9.

* In the team drills, Carlos Suggs, Matt Pierce, Abrams, Pittman and both QBs had good efforts on offense - with the help of decent line play. On defense, Bozeman, Mitchell, Loche, Jenkins, T. Johnson and McBride shined. . . . C Ben Boyce left practice in the team drill due to injury, but it didn't appear serious.

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