Commentary: Grove Bowl revisited

The 2007 version of the Grove Bowl was a time to analyze individuals more so than entire units. Read about one opinion inside.

My guess is most of us were all in the same boat.

Heading into the Grove Bowl, there were many areas to watch, but the lead question mark last Saturday was how the quarterbacks were going to fair. Injuries and academic issues sidelined many Rebs and left only a glimpse of what the starting group will look like come the fall.

However, all the signal callers were present and in uniform. Seth Adams' 16-20 day is by now well documented and rightfully so. The senior was at benefit by playing alongside the first-teamers, and Adams responded with an accurate afternoon where he stayed within himself.

I have been really impressed by his improvement and ability to understand his own talent level. During a brief discussion with him last week, Adams kept repeating the words consistency and quality. Both those things were demonstrated during the open scrimmage.

Adams definitely displayed a leg up over Brent Schaeffer, but I can't make him the clear-cut favorite off one day's work. Schaeffer was handling the second team and was also hampered by play calling. He attempted only five passes and never seemed to get in a rhythm. Schaeffer's play-making ability was showcased as he tucked the ball and ran for an important first down during a scoring drive.

Most reports say that both have been inconsistent, and I definitely believe that. Maybe Adams was having a better day Saturday, while Schaeffer was not. Either way, the Grove Bowl was an important day to perform, and Adams has an advantage heading into summer after doing so.

Freshman Michael Herrick and transfer Jevan Snead each had productive outings and should make for an interesting race next season as the frontrunners. Herrick remains in the mix for 2007 due to a good arm and what seemed to be nice pocket presence for a freshman, but it could require a flameout from Adams and Schaeffer for the California native to run with the first team.

Snead is currently serving as an Ole Miss fans' gift that that has to be looked at but can't be opened until Christmas. The Texas transfer features pocket savvy and a short memory which is so vital in the SEC. Snead is something to look forward to, but the present quarterback situation must be sorted before he is unveiled.

An improving group that was easily identifiable was the wide receivers. It wasn't a ton of spectacular highlights, but the group was not the liability that it was at times in 2006. Led by Shay Hodge, the receivers displayed good hands that are vital in a short passing attack and are athletic with quick moves that can break tackles. With a summer ahead to fine-tune timing, and the return of Dexter McCluster, the receiving corps may surprise soon enough.

Last season, I covered the spring game for The Daily Mississippian and this year for The Spirit. There was one noticeable difference that was evident Saturday: enthusiasm. The coaches did an incredible job of having the players excited for the event. Coach Kehoe has claimed the contest as head coach both of his seasons in Oxford. Hopefully, the spring energy will remain for the workouts and into next season. It wasn't the normal scrimmage of year's past. The players were flying around and attempting to make a statement.

Another statement is the rejuvenated Ole Miss running game that can be explained in separate parts. Returning 1,000-yard rusher BenJarvus Green-Ellis sat out the affair for understood reasons of trying to avoid injury, and rising sophomore Cordera Eason impressed in the process.

Eason topped the century mark and even said himself that he wasn't a freshman anymore. The Meridian product and steady back Bruce Hall give the Rebels a reason to be excited about the running game.

One improvement is the emergence of the offensive line. Coach Orgeron has discussed how proud he is of the physicality of the line and which was confirmed by my eyes at least. The entire group has added mass since last season, and center Corey Actis has taken on a leadership role in the middle. It's too early to say for sure, but as of right now, the offensive line is a definite positive.

Defensively, talent is evident, but depth is an entirely separate situation. Some of this will be cured with incoming players, but it will most likely be an issue all year to a varying extent. Avoiding defensive injuries will be paramount.

Although on different teams, ends Marcus Tillman and Greg Hardy were a click ahead of last season when they were still good enough to start as freshmen. Tillman received compliments from Orgeron all spring and for obviously good reason. The two along with Kentrell Lockett can be a rotation that causes havoc for opposing quarterbacks.

It is tough to get a true bead on the defense without key players and with vanilla schemes being used. Coordinator John Thompson will assuredly have more in store for Memphis than was witnessed Saturday. The base play was satisfactory but nothing to get excited about other than individual ability.

Special teams were an asset during last season and that should be the case again this fall. Josh Shene and Rob Park return at kicker and punter respectively with more experience, while talent infusions will boost special teams as much as other positions.

Speed and desire are important for special teams so expect a guy like Hiram White to be a major contributor. White's spring game tailback display was eye opening for the second straight year. It will be tough to crack playing time in the backfield, but there should be a role for that type of player. Several athletes may end up having a chance to return kicks. One spot to sure is the kickoff specialist. The loss of Will Moseley was noticed, but that is more contributed to how good Moseley was than it being a liability.

Overall, the Grove Bowl allowed spectators to get a grasp of individuals more so than the total unit. It is still a mystery as what the depth chart will hold in August, but a good number of players seemed capable on Saturday. Orgeron has increased team speed and structured an offensive line to help showcase a backfield that is the team's bread and butter.

It is guaranteed that some players looked better than usual and some worse than usual, but it was a look. And that is all we have for now.

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