Football improvement shows; baseball, too

The Ole Miss football team is showing signs of improvement, which is one of the obvious goals of spring practice. Meanwhile, the baseball Rebels are playing for a sweep of the Georgia Bulldogs today after having won the first two games in dramatic fashion.

The improvement on offense from scrimmage one to scrimmage three of spring practice is obvious. That was pretty much the assessment of most after Saturday's 122-play scrimmage in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

The defense played well, but the offense was crisp for the most part and moved the chains consistently. Brent Schaeffer, coming in this summer, is the quarterback of the future, but Seth Adams and Billy Tapp were improved on Saturday.

Adams: 11-for-23 for 150 yards and one interception. It seemed like he did even better than that as we watched. Rushing: Eleven carries, 20 yards, two touchdowns.

Tapp: Two rushes, 26 yards. 10-of-19 passing, 163 yards, one touchdown.

Marshay Green and Michael Hicks had seven and six receptions respectively with Hicks catching one for a touchdown.

Chuck asked Coach Orgeron if the Rebels would blitz more in the Grove Bowl than they have so far. Coach O said the Rebels were actually blitzing a lot but the offensive folks were picking them up.

Not watching practice on a daily or regular basis may not bring the benefit of knowing what happens at every moment in time. But what it does allow can be compared to a diet. When somebody you see everyday loses weight, you won't notice it as dramatically. When you don't see that person for a week or two or maybe a month, it's usually more noticeable.

That's what seems to be happening with Ole Miss football this spring. From scrimmage to scrimmage the progress is there.

Maybe even moreso on offense. Improvement. It's what we're seeing from the offense under new coaches Dan Werner and Art Kehoe as well as the other assistants who remained from last year.

A shovel pass here. A pass in the flat there. A handoff up the middle. Mixing it up. A fairly impressive day on offense for the Rebels.

Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis continues to be an impressive runner. Stats: 22 rushes, 118 yards, two touchdowns. It will be interesting to watch him in real games this fall.

Bruce Hall, with 14 carries, 42 yards, and a touchdown, continues to find a home in the Rebel backfield and not at quarterback.

I left scrimmage one not feeling too good at all about the Rebel offense. I left scrimmage three feeling much better.

It was quite apparent the head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels did as well.

"It was a good scrimmage," said Orgeron, often a man of few words after such workouts and certainly so on Saturday. But it was fairly obvious he was pleased with what he had seen. "Both sides competed hard. We had better work on special teams. It was a solid day up and down."

And obviously a step in the right direction from scrimmage one of just three weeks ago.

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Ole Miss goes for the sweep in Athens today. I'd watched a lot of Southeastern Conference baseball before he got here, but I've learned quite a bit from Mike Bianco about how baseball games are won in the SEC.

The Rebels won the first two games on the weekend just like Bianco has taught us - that many times the games won't be played perfectly, that there will often be a punch and a counter punch and more, that sometimes even the strongest team with the greatest talent and will to succeed won't do so, that every game will be tough and so teams have to be.

The Rebels have shown some fight in their 6-4 and 11-10 wins, maybe more in the last three games (including the 9-8 win over Southern Mississippi Tuesday night) than any all season. I saw it again, or heard it on radio in this case, Friday night.

Craig Rodriguez, the latest Friday night starter for UM, threw his first pitch toward the plate. Not over it. Not near it. Toward it. According to the broadcast, the ball bounced about four feet in front of the plate on the wrong side of the Georgia Bulldog batter; in other words, at least in my mind's eye, to his rear.

Rodriguez, they said on air, laughed it off, pointed to himself as in "that one's on me" and got ready for the next pitch. I thought right then this kid's composure in his first Division I college start was maybe what the Rebels had been missing.

He goes right back after that batter and strikes him out. The Rebels were on their way. The fight that seemingly had been missing before this week was there.

Often that starts with the guy on the mound. Rodriguez is a pitcher the Rebels had been counting on to step up since he arrived late last summer, and actually when he signed the school year before that. But his progress had been slow. He had come on as the preseason and season had progressed and was now ready for his shot to help get the Rebels that all-important Friday night win.

So after his laughable first pitch, he went to work and showed the toughness Bianco always talks about that it takes to win in the SEC. His team responded throughout, even after Rodriguez had given way to reliever Garrett White.

It carried over into Saturday's game, both on the mound and offensively. When the Rebels needed a home run, they got it, more than once. And they got the first two wins of an important series.

At 16-11 now and 3-5 league play, the Rebels can get right back in the thick of the race with a win today. Even if they lose, they've righted the ship and put themselves into position to make up even more ground on the leaders with Auburn coming to Oxford this weekend.

So far so good, obviously, in Athens in one of those tough SEC baseball weekends we see all the time.

Game three starts at 12 noon today - central time, daylight savings time, as the Rebels go for the sweep.

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