Practice Report: Tuesday

Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron put his team through a 2 1/2-hour "normal Tuesday practice" on the practice fields today under perfect football conditions. The Rebs are preparing for in-state rival Mississippi State. Read about it inside.

Tuesday for the Ole Miss Rebels means one thing.

It's full pads and full steam ahead in practice.

That was the case today as Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron marched his troops one day closer to Saturday's Egg Bowl showdown with a 2 1/2-hour, full pads workout on a beautiful, sunny, crisp day in Oxford.

"It was perfect football weather," O said post-practice. "We had a good, physical workout today."

First up, what does Orgeron see in this week's opponent - the Bulldogs?

"Mississippi State is a much-improved football team. They have gotten better throughout the season. Anthony Dixon is a good running back and Tony Burks is an excellent receiver," he assessed. "Their offensive line has improved too. They have a good defensive line and they get after you.

"They are a good football team. They do a good job with their schemes and play aggressively. Their linebacker, (Quentin) Culberson is a good player. He's physical and makes a lot of plays."

Coach O has three second-year coaches, on this level, on his staff - DL Coach Ryan Nielsen, RB Coach Frank Wilson and TE Coach Hugh Freeze, who was O's administrative assistant last year.

What kind of progress has he seen in them from their first year to their second year?

"It's good to have them. They understand the system. It's good to see assistant coaches take off and do what they need to do," he explained. "I don't have to focus on them this year. They know their positions and their players understand what type of coaching they are going to get on a daily basis.

"I've been able to turn them loose more this year. A guy like Hugh Freeze, who has been a head coach, you can turn loose. Same with Frank. As far as the DL coach, I don't know if I will ever turn him completely loose, but that's just me. Ryan is a young coach doing a great job. He's perfect for what I need for a DL coach, but I will always keep my hand in that."

Freeze has had a lot of leeway in designing "special" plays the Rebs have used some this year - fake punts, etc.

"He designs them. I say when we are going to use them, but he comes up with some excellent ideas that have worked, for the most part, this year," Orgeron added. "Frank did a great job with the kickoff return last week scheming some things that worked. We had everyone blocked and Marshay Green was on fire. He set up the returns with some great moves, but Frank's changes in the scheme worked and helped too."

Saturday will be the last game for Patrick Willis in a Rebel uniform. Coach O was asked if he has any favorite P-Willie moments.

"The tackle he had last year against Justin Vincent of LSU and the day he told me he was coming back for his senior season were my best moments with Patrick," Orgeron smiled. "He's an NFL linebacker and a guy with unusual skills.

"When I first got here, I had heard about him. I put him at Mike Linebacker and after two days, we said 'oh, boy, we've got one.' He really came along when I first got here."

O said he's pleased with what he has seen from his quarterbacks this week, but he stopped short of singling anyone out.

"It's going great. The guys are competing and doing what we ask them to do," he evaluated.

Orgeron has had his team on the cusp of winning several times. What will it take to get over the hump?

"You learn how to win when you win," Orgeron closed. "When you get good enough, you are coached well enough and you make plays, you win. You have to go through the process.

"If you look at our team and how far we've come, you realize it's not an over night deal. But that (winning) is obviously the next step."

The Rebs will get their next chance to cross over that threshold Saturday against the Bulldogs at 1 p.m. in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

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