Ole Miss Football Coach Ed Orgeron entered the interview room after today's scrimmage - the second full scrimmage of spring training - in a jovial mood.
Obviously, from his demeanor and his comments, he was pleased with the 2 1/2-hour practice session.
"We had a realy good scrimmage today. We treated it like a game day. The players were attentive in the meetings this morning and they paid attention to details," said Coach O.
One goal of today's scrimmage was to shore up some areas of concern on different special teams.
"Our special teams picked up today, especially with the first kickoff team versus the first kickoff return team. I was also pleased with the short-yardage work and the first-down period of the scrimmage," O continued. "The first team scrimmaged about 65 plays, roughly a full game.
"The defense started off fast, but then the offense kicked it in gear some. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a couple of big runs and we had a few nice throws/catches. It was a very efficient scrimmage with limited turnovers and penalties. Our guys treated it like a game and the result was a good day's work."
O mentioned yesterday after practice that he would test the deep ball against the secondary. How did that come out?
"The defense did well. We threw four or five deep passes and completed one. We defended them well - I was pleased to see that," he added. "I was also looking to see how the linebackers would step up, as I said yesterday.
"MLB Jonathan Cornell made some big plays and so did SLB Ashlee Palmer, who got in the backfield a couple of times today. WLB Jamie Phillips did a nice job as well. Jonathan made a couple of big plays on short yardage against BenJarvus. He's not as big as Patrick (Willis), but we think he will get bigger and he's a physical kid. We wanted to see if he could tackle BenJarvus in short yardage and he made a couple of stops on third-and-one. That was good to see."
For perhaps the first time this spring, Orgeron was complimentary of the passing game.
"Our short passing game was much better. We moved the chains with the passing game. The tight ends caught the ball very well - it was a lot better," he said. "We missed a couple of balls, but not as many as the days before. We were sharper there today.
"We think our passing game has grown some this spring. Our plays have a little more variety to them and we've been able to move the ball doing things we think we can do."
Orgeron has been fairly mum about the quarterbacks this spring, but he addressed the situation a little more today.
"Nobody really stood out today, but Brent Schaeffer had a big scramble for a first down and had a deep ball completion. Seth Adams moved the ball very well," he noted. "Michael Herrick had a good day and Jevan Snead threw a strike down the middle for a TD.
"The young QBs - Cliff Davis and Herrick - are doing a nice job. Michael is taking control out there and is a very smart player who understands the passing game. Cliff has a very strong arm. I feel good about them. This is the time for them to progress. Obviously, we will have to get down to some decision-making coming into fall camp where reps will be less plentiful, but we're not ready to do that yet."
O was asked who his "hitters" are now. Who makes the hair on the back of his neck stand up when solid contact is made?
"I'd say Cornell and Jamarca Sanford. On offense, BenJarvus and Cordera Eason are physical," O assessed. "I haven't mentioned Cordera much, but he had a great day today. He's a big back who's running the ball well. Bruce Hall also had a good day. The OL and the running backs are the strength of our team right now."
Are there enough footballs to go around with three backs like BJGE, Hall and Eason?
"We have to find a way to do it, but that's a good problem to have. We can spread it around to all three, yes," he answered.
Back to special teams. . .
"In our punting game, we were looking for better protection and we wanted to see our guys punt well enough to flip the field. It was better today. Our kickoff team was better as well - we had a big hit inside the 15-yardline. Our kickoff return game with Marshay Green continues to be a strength and PK Josh Shene was on the money today," he explained.
Is anyone stepping up to take over for KO Specialist Will Moseley, especially with kickoffs being from the 30 this year instead of the 35?
"Josh is doing them right now, but we still have a couple of other guys we are looking at who might come in. We'll see," he said. "If we get a guy who can kickoff into the end zone from the 30, that's what we will do. If not, we will have to do some research on how to approach the kickoffs from the 30. There will be more strategy and it will make a difference if you don't have a booming kicker. Where do you try to place the ball? We will research that and figure out the most strategic spot to place the kickoffs."
Yesterday, O said the number one goal was enthusiasm and effort in today's scrimmage. Did he get that?
"It was great. The best we have had all spring," he closed. "We got what we were looking for - we treated it like a game.
"We took the coaches off the field and put them on the sidelines and in the booth and we only had one substitution penalty, which ws really good. We want to look sharp in the spring game."
The Rebels will practice Monday and Wednesday and then hold the annual Grove Bowl at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 7.
Saturday scrimmage report
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