Thoughts, notes, opinions

After yesterday's whirlwind view of the Ole Miss Rebels in the first open practice of the year, here are some more notes and thoughts on the day. Reflection can be a good thing, sometimes. Read abou it inside.

After a few hours to sleep on and ponder what we viewed yesterday at the open scrimmage of the Ole Mis Rebel football team in Vaught-Hemngway Stadium, our thoughts were clearer - but maybe not any more "right" - on Sunday.

* We've got ourselves a very good quarterback, a missing ingredient the past two years. An offense without a productive, consistent trigger man is rudderless. It appears we have a rudder this year in Brent Schaeffer. Yesterday, in my first view of him and after just a week in OC Dan Werner's system, I saw him make all the throws necessary to be a good QB, run the offense effectively, exhibit leadership on the sidelines, scramble and buy time in the pocket, feel pressure while still watching his receivers, make good reads, hit the right person at the right time and generally run the offensive show with a lot of poise and moxie.

* The backfield folks are impressive, but the one thing I'd like to see a little more back there at times is speed. While our opinion of BenJarvus Green-Ellis is very high, and Cordera Eason will be an excellent back in the future or sooner, and Bruce Hall sneaks up on you, a home run hitter would be nice. Mico McSwain is the answer, but he didn't practice yesterday. . . P.S. - I like the look of both of our fullbacks - Jason Cook and Reggie Hicks, who appear to be clones. Strong and bullish - no problems there.

* I left the scrimmage with a hoping-for-more feeling about the wide receivers, but I've gotten a little softer on that stance since having some time to digest everything. One, Mike Wallace wasn't there. He's a 4.25 guy. Two, we haven't seen speed like Marshay Green and Dexter McCluster on the field at the same time in a long time. If those three are in the lineup at the same time, DBs will have problems once they get more polished. And if the coaches want to go "big" at WR, they can go with Hicks, Hodge, Lewis, Sumemrs, et al, who are all nice-sized, rangier younguns. Patience, Chuck, it's coming.

* In yesterday's report, it was pointed out to me that I didn't even mention the tight ends. I guess I take Robert Lane for granted sometimes. It's no excuse, but I guess I was looking more for areas of concern or areas I hadn't seen than the Lanes and Packs and Clarks and Sanfords and Ohers and McBrides that I know are going to produce. In looking back at my notes, Lane impressed me with his blocking improvement more than anything. We know he can catch the ball and is a playmaker and we saw yesterday that OC Dan Werner is going to use his tight ends. They were heavily involved in the offense, although not always to Lane. Keith Houston had a nice TD reception, as did Robert Hough. Lawrence Lilly dropped a pass that would have been close to a score. TE is in good hands, so to speak. Lane is definitely the playmaker of the bunch, but don't discount the others or the importance of the position to Werner.

* On defense, I reserve judgment until all the talent is on the field. How can you judge the Rebel run defense and not include Peria Jerry and All-American Patrick Willis, the two best run-stoppers on the team? Not to mention Hayward Howard, who won the number one DT slot in spring. You can't get a real gauge of the defense with them missing. Yesterday's number one DL consisted of two freshmen DEs - Marcus Tillman and undersized Kentrell Lockett and DTs Brandon Jenkins, who hasn't practiced much, and NT Jeremy Garrett. Garrett was the only DL on the field that is game-ready, for now. While I have a strong belief in the future of a lot of defensive players on this team, some of them simply aren't ready for prime time yet. They will be, but not yesterday.

* On the bright side of defense, Coach O didn't really attack the offense yesterday. They ran mostly base stuff, which puts them at a little disadvantage. There was little pass rush from the makeshift front four, which also put a lot of pressure on the secondary. It was all by design, a design very much called for while the coaches are trying to mold an effective offense. Again, my opinion of the defense is on hold because of that factor yesterday.

* Ole Miss Sports Information put out a revised roster yesterday with some walkons on it. We won't add them to our permanent roster on this site until we see they are going to "stick," but here are the "new names" on the roster given to us yesterday: Bryan Hendricks, DB, 5-11, 202, FR, Tallahassee, FL; Zac Craig, DB, 5-11, 171, FR, Collierville, TN; George Helow, DB, 5-9, 175, FR, Jacksonville, FL; Wallace McLaurin, TE, 6-2, 254, FR, Brandon, MS; Cole Buza, LB, 5-10, 170, FR, Houston, TX; Ryan Brunatti, FB, 5-9, 210, FR, Suwanee, GA; Mike Dzura, DB, 5-10, 180, FR, Colleyville, TX; Kelvin Rolack, WR, 6-0, 175, FR, Memphis, TN; Andy Hartman, FB, 5-10, 230, FR, Cooper City, FL; Sam Holcomb, LB, 6-0, 200, FR, Memphis, TN; Brett Hammac, DL, 6-0, 280, FR, Pensacola, FL; Haley McIngvale, OL, 6-2, 306, FR, Pontotoc, MS; Preston Powers, DS, 6-0, 236, FR, Collierville, TN; Wesley Phillips, LS, 5-11, 208, FR, Madison, MS; Joseph Maher, DL, 6-0, 252, SO, Pontotoc, MS; Garrett Ryan, DL, 6-3, 226, FR, Marietta, GA; Kyle Hill, WR, 5-10, 175, JR, Oviedo, FL; Ben Benedetto, DL, 6-1, 223, FR, Metarie, LA; Andy Johnson, TE, 6-2, 193, FR, Memphis, TN; David Desmore, DL, 6-1, 236, FR, Shalimar, FL.

* I took a different view than some fans who were there about the kicking game. From my view on the sidelines, it's going to be OK. Frosh Joshua Shene was real good on the short ones and the longer ones he missed were not that far off. He's got a strong enough leg and good trajectory. Remember, this was his first time to kick before an Ole Miss "crowd." I'm sure the kid was a little tight. Justin Sparks' misses were not like they were last year. They were close - he hit the crossbar twice, I recall - and he was pretty consistent on the chippies too, except he did miss a PAT. Give it a chance, folks. P.S. - Don't worry about kickoffs - Moseley will handle those.

* Impressed with: Schaeffer, parts and pieces of the OL - namely Oher and D. Harris, BJGE, Cordera Eason, McCluster and Green, the potential of the other young WRs, Hicks' "Prothro catch," the fullbacks, Robert Lane, Jeremy Garrett, Garry Pack, the potential of John Cornell, the whole starting secondary, Quentin Taylor's comfort level and improvement at LB, the future of the young DEs, the future of just about every freshman.

* Concerned about: OL molding by game time, DL depth, LB depth, FG consistency.

* First impression of this team: The talent Coach O and his staff brought in this year is a major step up. It's very visible. The question remains - how quickly can they be not only ready, but winners, on this level? In looking over the two-deep in the media guide the other day, it struck me we will have double-digit starters who are sophomores and we have, roughly, 12-15 freshmen who are currently on the two-deep. The argument is made all the time about "freshmen all over the country play and succeed." That's true, but most of the time it's two or three freshmen amongst a lot of juniors and seniors. A sprinkling of freshmen and sophomores is fine. Having half your two-deep composed of frosh and sophs is an iffy proposition. The coaches have their hands full coaching that many up. Talent-wise, not too many shortcomings. A big pat on the back to this staff for the influx of quality athletes. But their task now is getting them ready in a big, big hurry. Daunting, to say the least. This team has a great deal of potential - that was obvious to me yesterday - but it will require an awful lot of patience on our part. My two cents, for what it's worth.

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