The Rebs' 14th spring practice today - out of 15 allowed in spring training - was another workout Rebel Football Coach Ed Orgeron was pleased with as he prepared his team for Saturday's 1 p.m. Red-Blue Spring Game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
"We had a good practice today. We arranged our next-to-last practice so it wouldn't be so close to the spring game so we could get more out of it and the kids would be fresh for Saturday," Orgeron said. "We installed a couple of new things today so we could see how it looks and could study it over the summer.
"We also split up the teams today. The head coach of the Red Team will be DL Coach Ryan Nielsen and the head coach of the Blue Team will be defending Red-Blue champion OL Coach Art Kehoe. We are going to have some fun."
Orgeron was asked what he expects to get out of the Grove Bowl.
"Game time play. I want the guys to get out there in front of a crowd and get after it," he continued. "I want to get the plays in on time, look sharp and compete.
"We will go four twelve-minute quarters with a couple of scrimmage kicks in between, but not many."
How does he feel going into the last practice - the Grove Bowl?
"I feel great. The guys have given us everything they have and have done everything we have asked them to do. Our coaches have been working long and hard - longer than most spring staffs I have been around," he explained. "We were able to put a lot of things in and look at more things. I think we have some great cutups to look at in terms of our research and development of the team. We have enough material to be able to determine what we are able to do with the personnel we have."
Last year, the Rebs were putting in a new offense. This is year two in Dan Werner's offensive system. Has it been "easier?"
"We were able to do different things we couldn't do last year, but everything is based on personnel and the type of quarterback we have," he said. "Right now, in my opinion, everything centers around BenJarvus Green-Ellis. What can our QB do and what can our receivers do? We have to determine that and do it."
Asked if he feels a growing comfort level on the team, O balked at the suggestion.
"I don't think anyone can ever have a comfort level around here. Every day is popping. Every day we are competing. Every day we have new challenges. Comfort is not a good word for our program," he said.
O said transfer QB Jevan Snead will play in the game.
"Sure he will. We are going to try to get everyone in the game and let them play, Jevan included," he responded.
O was asked about some individual players - first, MLB Jonathan Cornell.
"He has stepped up this spring. We didn't know if we were going to play him outside or inside because of Tony Fein when he comes in, but we felt Jonathan needed to be inside right now. We are used to being pretty good at MLB and we looked a little weird on defense without a good one, so we put him back in the middle. He did well," O noted.
Others who stood out?
"I'm really pleased with LG Reid Neely. Obviously, Michael Oher, Corey Actis and John Jerry did well up front, but Reid really surprised us. Reid and DT Daverin Geralds were the two biggest surprises of spring - the most improved players on each side, no doubt. I'm glad they are linemen - we needed some linemen to step up," Coach O added.
There has been a lot of talk in post-practice interviews about DE Marcus Tillman. More thoughts on him?
"Marcus has solidified a spot, I think, of what an SEC DL ought to be," he stated. "He's a good pass rusher and he plays well against the run. He's quick, big, strong and agile. He's also smart and a great young man."
Who jumped out at him in the wide receiver positions? The usual suspects.
"Shay Hodge did well and Marshay Green did a good job. We haven't seen Dexter full speed in practice yet. Robert Hough and David Traxler made progress at tight end," he surmised.
It's somewhat "old news" but O was asked about Patrick Willis' showing at Pro Day a few weeks back.
"It was phenomenal. For me, Pro Day is a big deal. It reflects on the program, the strength coach, etc. I like it when the pro scouts come in here and our guys have energy and are doing the right things," Orgeron explained. "We want to compete and Patrick did. He put us on the national map with his workout. I have seen a lot of things at Pro Days - Warren Sapp running sticks out in my mind, but what Patrick did was unreal.
"He ran a 4.37 40 and then repeated it. Everyone was saying he would pack his bags and not run again with that number on the board, but he did. That shows what kind of young man he is and it shows how our program is evolving.
"I think Patrick will be the highest defensive draft pick ever from Ole Miss. That's a big deal for us, for our recruiting. It means a lot to us."
Interviews with all the assistant coaches will be available in a special issue of The Ole Miss Spirit at the Red-Blue Game at the entrances on the East and West sides of the stadium. All donations for the game program will go to the J.W. "Wobble" Davidson Scholarship Fund. Please donate generously to this worthy cause.
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