Spring break left the Rebels a little "rusty" to start today's spring football practice session, but Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron said they "perked up" as the workout wore on.
"We came out a little rusty from spring break. We had a couple of bad exchanges and things like that, but we picked it up as the practice progressed. We had to wake them up a little bit," Coach O smiled. "Overall, it was a pretty good full-pad practice, but at first we were a little shaky."
Orgeron was asked about the team's conditioning and he gave it an affirmative answer.
"We're not in the kind of shape we will be in during the season, but for spring, we are in pretty good shape. I know we are bigger and stronger, but our depth issues still limit us in spring," he explained. "The depth on the lines is an issue for now - we need all our freshmen to come in and really contribute to our depth next fall.
"When you don't have good depth, you can't scrimmage all the time. We have to pick and choose when we can go full speed tackling and blocking. We are slowing things down some and doing more teaching."
In the pre-spring, and obvious to all who follow Rebel football, Coach O mentioned concerns about the linebacker positions. How is that coming along?
"I think the guys are making progress. (LB Coach) Dave (Corrao) is doing a fantastic job, but we are still mixing and matching some guys. Some guys are starting to show up some, but we still don't have the talent that we had there last year, obviously," he noted. "With the guys we signed, we should have a pretty good unit, but right now we are a work in progress.
"It's an experience thing as well because we have three guys there who have never played. Jonathan Cornell has played some, and he's learning the Mike LB well, but nobody has really stepped up and grabbed any of those positions yet."
O said he can tell the wide receivers have a year under their belts, but he wants more production from them.
"We are catching the ball better and making some plays. They are running their routes better, but we have a ways to go in the passing game. Our quarterbacks have not done anything real special either. I'm not going to say anything about them until they do something special and they haven't yet," he said.
Left guard is also an area that has to be shored up. O said one guy is stepping it up there.
"Reid Neely has really done a good job there. He's starting there right now and he may end up keeping that position. That's positive for us. Art (Kehoe) is doing a great job coaching him and the weight room has helped him," Orgeron noted. "Reid is healthy, he's improved his flexibility, he's very smart, he can run and he's gotten a lot stronger. Reid's a pleasant surprise for us right now."
One position that isn't clearing up - yet - is free safety.
"Nobody has stepped up yet. We feel fairly athletic there, but we have a lot of work to do there. We ask them to come up and support the run, drop in coverage, play man, play zone - there are a lot of responsibilities at that position and our guys don't know the position well yet, but I think they will," he allowed.
The Rebels got a surprise visit today from Patrick Willis, who spoke to the team before practice. Pro Day is tomorrow and Willis will be participating.
"Our seniors are really excited about it. To get to see a first-rounder work out will be a motivational tool for our whole team. It's a big day for our program," Orgeron stated. "We have other players who will one day be in that position and we want them to see what it takes to get there."
Pro Day is closed to the media, so we will have no first-hand report of that workout. The Rebs resume practice Wednesday.
Practice Report -
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