Random notes from today's Ole Miss scrimamge on Meet The Rebels Day.
* We're not sure big freshman Offensive Lineman John Jerry is ready to be a starter in the SEC, but from what we saw today, he's the best at the right guard position the Rebels have. Coach O believes Jerry is further along right now than Michael Oher was his freshman year last year - remember John had a year at Hargrave that Michael didn't. They are the same age. While we don't claim to know the ins and outs of OL play, and trust Art Kehoe to make the call, we do know a special talent when we see one. Jerry is special, as special as Oher is. In time, he could be the next great Ole Miss OL, as could Oher. Not a bad tandem to anchor each side of the OL.
* PK Will Moseley had his hand heavily bandaged today. He cut it in an accident recently, but he handled the kickoff duties effectively. The field goals and PATs, we are sad to say, were sporadic from both kickers - frosh Joshua Shene, who kicked with the first FG unit, and RS frosh Justin Sparks, who worked with the second FG unit. After early misses, they both settled down some as the practice wore on, but the needed consistency is still a work in progress. In their defense, a couple of snaps were low and the subsequent holds seemed to throw the timing off a little. We'll see soon enough. Walkon frosh Preston Powers nd Wesley Phillips handled the deep snapping today on the kicks we charted. In warmups, we watched them and both have good pop on punt snaps.
* Rebel commitments Chris Strong, Bradley Sowell and Johnny Brown were in attendance today.
* LEO Chris Bowers, OL David Traxler, DE Peria Jerry and WR Carlos Suggs did not practice today. No further info is available at this time.
* True frosh DE Marcus Tillman and DE Viciente DeLoach were on the first-team DL today with Jerry and Bowers out. While Tillman obviously has a lot of raw talent, and Viciente has improved, it's obvious those two are a step down from Bowers and Peria, who are projected as the starters. It's little wonder Coach Ed Orgeron does not think the DL is where it needs to be. It is a positive, however, that Tillman and DeLoach are getting the reps they are getting. True frosh Greg Hardy too.
* On the first possession of the scrimmage, QB Seth Adams drove the first offense the length of the field as starting QB Brent Schaeffer, who rested today, watched from the sidelines. Seth ran the offense with authority, made some excellent throws to the right receivers and didn't make any glaring mistakes. He has indeed improved since the start of last spring. On the drive, Burnell Wallace, Robert Lane and Shay Hodge all had big third-down catches, but the drive ended in a short field goal miss by Shene.
* TB BenJarvus Green-Ellis continues to impress us with his toughness, vision and ability to get the most out of the available operating room. He's not a likely home run hitter, but he'll get lots of singles and doubles and is just the kind of back Dan Werner and company are looking for. He's also excellent with ball security, he blocks well and he has good hands out of the backfield. He's not going to go 80 yards often, but he'll have a lot of 5-8 yarders. Coupled with the speed of Mico McSwain and the ruggedness of Cordera Eason, the Rebels should be very good at tailback.
* Besides moving John Jerry to the number one unit, OL Coach Art Kehoe mixed and matched along the offensive front some today. Corey Actis played some right guard and center, LG Reid Neely played some at right tackle, Maurice Miller, who has played mostly RG, played some LG today, and Frosh Daverin Geralds, who has been playing on the left side of the line, played some RG today as well. "We're looking for the best six or seven and trying to find out where they fit," Orgeron said. The starters today were LT Michael Oher, LG Andrew Wicker, C Thomas Eckers, RG John Jerry and RT Darryl Harris. They did a pretty good job as the number one offense ran the ball fairly effectively against the number one defense most of the day.
* TE Robert Lane is a hoss. He had several big catches in traffic today and showed excellent hands in all cases. He battles for the ball and seems to have a knack for finding the creases in the defense. Look for him - and the other tight ends - to be a big part of the Rebel offense this year. LBs will have problems staying with Lane.
* Who is the hardest wide receiver to cover? We asked several DBs at Meet The Rebel Day today. The consensus was Burnell Wallace. "Dexter (McCLuster) is good. Several of them are hard to cover, but Burnell is so fast he's hard to keep up with," senior CB Trumaine McBride said. "He's a 4.2 guy. There is no substitute for that." And Burnell made his presence known today with several good catches for good gains. While Coach O wasn't enthralled with the play of the WRs today, Burnell was definitely the highlight of that unit. "He has to come up big for us," O noted. "I think he can, but we need more consistency from all of them. They are learning - they will get better, but we need Burnell to emerge as a big time guy."
* True frosh Derrick Davis ran some third-team fullback today behind starter Jason Cook and backup Reggie Hicks, also a freshman. Will Derrick stay there? Not sure, but he was there today after being tried at tailback earlier in camp. The coaches have four good TBs in front of Derrick and are needing a third FB. He's big enough and tough enough and fits the description.
* Frosh QB Michael Herrick showed us some poise today on several throws. He's a very accurate passer and seems very comfortable in the pocket or on the move. On one play, he rolled right, avoided pressure when he reversed field and threw a 40-yarder to WR Marshay Green, who made an excellent leaping catch in tight man coverage. Herrick's awareness and field vision is very good, freshman or not.
* Dexter McCluster did not have a big day receiving, but once again he had a big kickoff return. The kid just seems to have a knack and the quickness to avoid would-be tacklers. Once he gets past the first line of defense and gets in the open field, it's katie-bar-the-door. Man, he's exciting in the open field! We asked some players who he reminds them of. The older guys said "Jason Armstead." We'd have to agree from what we have seen.
* You know a player is good when he does something beyond the ordinary and you expect it. Enter MLB Patrick Willis. Like you need me to tell you - he's the best LB who ever played at Ole Miss in the 25 years we've been publishing The Ole Miss Spirit. Period. Amazing athlete/LB/person. I pray for that kid's health to be good this year - he deserves a full-speed year.
* A LB who has caught my eye some in the three practices I have seen is transfer Don Hargroder. He's 100% all the time and seems to have a knack for the LB position. He will sit out this year due to transfer rules, but he looks like a kid who can help the Rebs in the future at OLB.
* Speaking of Burnell, he seemed to have CB Nate Banks beat deep on one play today. He was by Nate and the ball was on the way. Usually, that's six with Burnell's speed, but Nate recovered and picked off the slightly underthrown pass in a wrestling match for the ball with Wallace. Great play. Nate is much improved and has become a CB who can be trusted after a year of holding our breath last season whenever he was in the game.
* Frosh DE Kentrell Lockett was not at practice today. He had to attend the funeral of a family member, Coach O said.
* When frosh TB Cordera Eason was given a few reps with the number one offense late in the scrimmage, he capitalized, hitting a hole behind Jerry, breaking into the open and rambling 34 yards. The kid is very physical and he has decent speed when he gets up a head of steam.
* It was good to see senior TE Lawrence Lilly have a better scrimmage than he had the last time we watched the team a week ago. Lawrence caught everything catchable today and had two or three snags that moved the chains and kept drives going.
* Coach O pulled no punches after the scrimmage when he said the wide receivers are not where they need to be. He's not talking about their physical ability. Several times today, the young receivers zigged when they should have zagged, so to speak, and the QBs threw to where they were supposed to be. It's not an ability thing. It's an experience thing. Give them time and they will be fine, but they need to come on in a hurry. We are two weeks away from the season opener.
* Overall, we got a rush from the tight end play, the running game was fairly solid and consistent, the protection of the QBs was OK except for two or three blitzes that got through for sacks, the linebackers were active and the secondary was in good position most of the day. On the flip side, the DL was sporadic, the wide receivers were good when they were on the same page with the QB but sometimes were not, and the placement operation was suspect.
* The Rebs miss Peria Jerry and Chris Bowers and need Rory Johnson to get to practice ASAP. Jerrell Powe's presence would be a big positive as well. (Stating the obvious.)
* Freshmen who caught our eye today: WR Shay Hodge, RG John Jerry, TB Cordera Eason, SS Jamal Harvey, WR Dexter McCluster, DE Marcus Tillman, LB John Cornell, QB Michael Herrick and CB Cassius Vaughn. WR Kendrick Lewis also had a couple of nice catches during the day.
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