Loose ends from the week. . .

With the Ole Miss-Alabama game a day off, we're cleaning off our desk again and tying up some loose ends from the week. The subject matter? Greg Hardy, the passing game and the punt block team. Read some Rebel tidbits inside.

* Ole Miss Defensive Line Coach Ryan Nielsen believes the main ingredient that sets the guys in the trenches apart from the "normal" is intensity and effort.

Freshman Defensive End Greg Hardy has that.

"Greg has a tremendous motor," said Nielsen of one of his prize pupils. "He gives it everything he has on every play, in games and in practice. That's impressive for a freshman. He's a tough kid who is not afraid to put his body on the line.

"Greg is physical. He likes to mix things up."

Nielsen said he saw signs of Hardy being "special" early on.

"About a week or a week and a half into August practice, we saw him starting to understand the tempo of things in practice. Once he got that, you could see his ability to make plays," said Ryan. "He's a long guy who runs well. Couple that with his tenacity and good things were bound to happen. He's continually developed since then."

Hardy is not considered a freshman anymore.

"Greg is smart and picks things up real quickly. We don't have to worry if he's going to be in the right place anymore because he will be," Nielsen continued. "We expect big things out of him on a daily basis.

"I'd like for him to gain some weight, but that will come with time. Other than that, he will just have to keep getting better with his hands to get off of blocks and the little things of technique, like getting his first step right. We'll keep coaching the little things, hammering those things home, and he will get them down pat."

Nielsen envisions Hardy in the 255-260-pound range. He's in the 240s now.

"In Coach (Aaron) Ausmus' weight program, he will get bigger and stronger and faster. That's a given. I look for him to gain 15 or so pounds of muscle and be ready to roll then," Nielsen closed. "I have no question about his toughness and desire. He fell down last week and hit his head pretty hard, but he played against Vanderbilt as if nothing had happened earlier in the week. He's so tough."

* While Nielsen was at the podium, so to speak, the subject of the emergence of DT Brandon Jenkins came into play.

What has turned on Brandon's light?

"His aattitude is so much better now than it was. His willingness to work hard every day, every play, has been impressive the last few weeks," Ryan stated. "That's all that ever separated him from being a productive player and he finally learned that and is starting to realize his vast potential."

* Sophomore Wide Receiver Mike Wallace knows in his heart the Rebels cannot remain one-dimensional on offense and rack up many more wins.

"We have to be able to pass the ball," he said. "What we have been doing the last couple of weeks in the passing game will not get it done. Defenses will start loading up the box on us and will stop us if we don't start producing in the passing game."

Wallace said the past few games have been frustrating from a quarterbacks/receivers/OL standpoint.

"We all know we have to play better in the passing game and it's been frustrating that we haven't been able to lately," he noted. "I think we need to mix things up in our passing game and keep defenses guessing, but I understand why the coaches have not called many pass plays. We haven't executed in the passing game and the running game is working pretty good, so why take that chance? We have to prove to Coach (Dan) Werner and the offensive coaches that we can get it done in the passing game and he will call more pass plays."

Wallace said everything looks pretty good in practice in the passing game, but it hasn't spilled over to the games.

"We all seem to do our jobs in practice and we go into the games with a lot of confidence, but we haven't been executing on Saturdays like we have been in practice," Mike noted. "We have to find the key to unlock the door to better game production."

With Alabama up next, Wallace expects the Tide to test the Rebel passing game.

"They are going to do everything they can to stop BenJarvus (Green-Ellis) and see if we can beat them in the passing game," he predicted. "If we don't get something going in the passing game, it could be a long day. We know that and are trying to fix it now.

"We think we are close to being OK. I think all we need is a little success here and there to help our confidence and then I think we will be off to the races, but we have to take that first step and make some things happen gradually."

While the passing game has been frustrating, one area that has been rewarding to him is being on the punt block (score) team.

"If you aren't on the score team, you want to be," he smiled. "I'm on it and do not want to be taken off. That's a lot of fun because we've got something going there and everyone wants to be a part of it. We have a lot of competition to see who can get the ball and who can get there the fastest.

"Everytime we go out there, we're having a lot of fun on the score team. If we could approach every aspect of the game like that, which is what we are trying to do, we'd be hard to deal with. The score team is a start. It's become a great weapon for us."

Wallace said the motivation the score team had came after the field goal team blocked a field goal attempt.

"We thought, man, that's a bunch of defensive linemen getting in there. If they can do it, I know we can get there with the speed we have. The field goal block we had kind of got us thinking more aggressively," he said. "Now we think we can block them all."

* Offensive Line Coach Art Kehoe said the Rebel OL is getting better, but the learning process is still ongoing.

"We are still a 'sometimes' unit. We need to be an 'all the time' unit and that's what we are working toward," Kehoe explained. "Sometimes teams don't win enough games. All the time teams win games.

"I like the positive steps we are making, but we are still a work in progress. I see little things every week that tell me we are making steps toward being an all the time unit, but we aren't there yet."

Kehoe says the heart and desire is there, but the results are not.

"We're getting after people, we are committed and we trust what we are teaching. I love what's going on here. You better be ready when you play us because we are going to be passionate and intense. We are going to attack," he continued, "but we're not there yet. If we can oil things up a little bit and protect the ball, we'll be on our way.

"If I'm watching a play on film and one or two guys are messing up, you've got a chance. If I look at a play and five or six guys are screwing up and it looks like a party at a frat house, then you've got problems. We've had a little bit of everything - some bangers where we were perfect, some plays where we've been a little bit off and we've had some parties. We are trying to eliminate the parties."

Kehoe said there have been fewer "parties" in the last couple of games.

"It's a good sign in the learning process when I look at film and don't see mass hysteria, which I haven't seen much of in the last few games," he stated. "I don't know what's going to happen this week in Tuscaloosa, but we are at a point in the process now where I can't wait to play. I can't wait for the next game to see how much progress we have made.

"Bring it on. I know Alabama is a daunting task, but we are preparing to play as hard as we can and we are ready to see what they've got."

Kehoe has not been slowed down by some injuries that have popped up on the OL, aka, David Harris and David Traxler.

"I look at it like we are building depth. You have to do what you have to do. I think I am blessed to have guys like Andrew Wicker, who is smart enough to move around, and Maurice Miller, who has waited on his shot and is producing while other guys are getting healthy," Kehoe said. "It would be easy to sit around and moan, but what's the point?

"It sends a message to the team and everyone invloved when you don't let up just because a few guys go down. The message is that we are going to get it done regardless and the next guy is going to come in there and produce when someone goes down.

"We got our butts kicked by Missouri and Wake Forest, but we learned from it and rebounded. That's a message that we aren't going to quit and aren't going to let setbacks stop us from what we are trying to accomplish."

Kehoe said the passing game woes have to be cured and his guys have to do their part.

"We are having problems everywhere with the passing game, but on my end, we have to protect better and have to hold up against blitz a lot better," he ended. "We just have to get better. I see some things in practice that look promising. We are doing things little by little better and better. We've just got to keep coaching better, playing better and narrowing the scope of our mistakes. It will come."

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