After 14 days of "hard work," which culminated with today's full-pad, 2 1/2 hour practice, the Rebels are ready to have some "fun" Saturday in the 1 p.m. Grove Bowl.
"Fourteen days of good work and today's was really good. We split up the staffs for teh Grove Bowl," said Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron. "(RB) Coach Frank WIlson will be the head coach of the Blue Team, which will basically consist of the first team offense and second team defense, and (OL) Coach Art Kehoe will be the head coach of the Red Team, the first team defense and the second team offense."
Coach O said the Grove Bowl format will be ones against ones and twos against twos to make it competitive.
"We'll do some kicking before and after, but it won't be connected to the game other than the field goal kicking," he continued. "One reason I chose Frank and Art is that they are both energetic and fired up and they will get their teams ready to play. We want it to be just like a game with a game atmosphere from our players and fans."
Coach Orgeron said he didn't plan to coach much, but plans can change.
"I told the guys I wouldn't coach much, but I doubt if I can do that," he laughed. "I'll be on both sidelines and make sure things run smoothly. The two teams will dress in different locker rooms and enter on different sides of the field. It will be fun."
Orgeron was asked about the offensive side of the ball this spring.
"I'm really pleased with teh every day progression of the offense. I see the difference in the mentality of the offense, the organization and everything else," Coach O noted. "(OC) Dan (Werner) has taken complete control of that side of the ball and Art has done a tremendous job with the OL. Hugh Freeze has helped a lot with the tight ends and with his organizational skills. I see a new direction on that side of the ball and I am very happy about that."
Coach O has also seen a rise in the confidence of the players.
"I think they see that we have the ability to recruit good talent, which we needed to bring in here, and they saw us get four top-notch coaches to add to the staff. Since the last game, everything has been on a positive swing and they have noticed that and drawn from it," he said.
On defense, Coach O is equally as pleased.
"I saw improvement from DT Hayward Howard today and we moved Brandon Jenkins to Nose Tackle - he's done some good things lately and we need to find a place for him if he will continue playing like he did most of this spring," O stated. "DE Peria Jerry has been dominant all spring and the defensive backs have been very good. We miss Jamarca (Sanford) back there, but when we get him and Patrick Willis back in the lineup, I think we have a chance to be very, very good on defense.
"Patrick has been studying and watching and he weighs 241 pounds with more strength. He's more knowledgeable, mature and confident than he was last year as well."
Orgeron moved a few players around this spring and was asked if those moves were his ideas or the players' ideas.
"It's a combination. We suggest some moves and they suggest some moves. Peria asked to move to DE and we said 'hey, good idea.' Michael Oher was recruited to play left tackle. The reason we played him at guard his freshman year was we thought it would be simpler for him in his adjustment to college ball than being out on the island," he explained. "If an assistant coach suggests a change, we talk to the player. If he simply does not want to, we won't make him until he realizes that's the best position for him to get on the field or realize they aren't going to play where they are."
Coach O said this spring, particularly on offense, spring training has been "night and day" different from last spring.
"The OL is doing well because they are playing a style that fits them with more double teams, etc.," he evalauted. "Then we add in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and he adds a new dimension to us - a tough inside runner who is experienced and talented and mature. The way it's progressed has surprised me some a little bit, but I knew the first day of spring everything was different for the better.
"As the defensive coordinator, we had to pull out all stops to try and stop them and some days we just couldn't. That's a great feeling to have a team that is competitive on both sides of the ball. If you have a BenJarvus running the ball, it forces defenses to put eight in the box. If you don't, he creates problems. If you do, that opens up the passing game. If we can get a couple of more guys to throw to, we'll be in pretty good shape."
O said FB Jason Cook, Willis, Sanford and Mico McSwain will not play in the Grove Bowl. Cook is the only new one on the injured list.
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