Observations from Black Shirt scrimmage

The media got an hour and a half opportunity to watch the Black Shirt scrimmage held in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Wednesday afternoon. The following are some observations and highlights from all four members of The Spirit staff in attendance.

At yesterday's Black Shirt scrimmage, which featured most of the "non-starters" of the football team, The Ole Miss Spirit staff split up and took notes of the workout for your consumption.

Spirit Editor Jeff Roberson observed the quarterbacks - Jevan Snead and Michael Herrick.

Spirit Staff Writer Chase Parham took notes on the skill positions on both sides of the ball.

Spirit Recruiting boss Yancy Porter handled the offensive and defensive lines.

Here are their thoughts on the "fun" scrimamge, beginning with Jeff's view on the quarterbacks.

There's been a lot of Jevan Snead talk since the former Texas quarterback changed from burnt orange to red and blue almost a year ago. Rightfully so. The sophomore-to-be has talent - and presence.

There is an obvious fire and intensity very noticeable when you watch Snead play. He seems to approach every play like it could be the touchdown that will win the big game. His demeanor on the field sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.

We saw that quickly, but who's surprised? This was an opportunity for him to get as close to the big stage as he will get until the Red-Blue Spring Game and he wasn't going to waste it.

Snead is listed at 6-3, 215 pounds and there's no exaggeration in those figures. It's also no stretch to say he has the proverbial rifle arm. His passes were mostly accurate, both short and long, but what stood out more than anything is that they were also carefully conceived and not careless. If the receiver was not clearly open, he made no mistakes - he threw the ball where only the intended receiver could catch it.

Another aspect of his game is his mobility. Jevan has a knack for buying time in the pocket by feeling pressure and moving accordingly while still looking downfield. He is also very quick to react to pass rushers and he sidestepped a torried rush several times when a less mobile QB might have been sacked, and it appeared instinctive, again with his eyes focusing downfield.

When nobody was open, he was also not indecisive about tucking the ball and running and when he did so, he had a nice blend of speed, quickness and toughness - no sliding to safety for this guy. It was apparent Jevan likes to mix it up some and his phyiscality may have been the most surprising aspect of his game.

While Jevan's physical skills are as touted, what strikes you immediately is his competitiveness and desire to win, even - as we said - in a fun scrimmage. There is a fire and competitiveness inherent that all the great ones have. He wants to lead and he wants to win. That's why he's at Ole Miss.

Jevan's favorite target on the day was WR Lionel Breaux, who Coach Ed Orgeron named the Most Valuable Player of the scrimmage.

On one particular play, Breaux was lined up to the left side. Snead was flushed right, but he kept all receivers in his vision while on the run. He threw back across the field to Breaux, probably a 40-yard bullet, for a medium gain. Again, presence.

Jevan also hit Breaux in stride in the end zone on a 35-yard score with a pass that carried roughly 50 yards, somewhat effortlessly.

In short, he's quick-thinking, quick on his feet, has a fast release, mobile, can throw on the run or set up in the pocket, accurate, good vision and competitive. From what little we saw, the total package, as advertised.

We can only assume there are some rough spots to work out, but we didn't see many, if any at all.

Snead was not the only QB who did some good things. Herrick was impressive in his own right. The Rebels were running a lot of spread formations with the quarterback in the shotgun, which is right in the redshirt freshman's wheel house.

Michael, at 6-1, 185, does not have the physical prowess of Snead, but he's got a live, accurate arm, good escapability and the same level of field awareness and decision-making ability under duress as Jevan. Pressure did not seem to bother Herrick - he's a cool customer with bodies flying around him and he also has the ability to take a step or two in either direction while still watching the play develop downfield and making the right choices of who to throw the ball to.

On one play, a called rollout, Herrick found a streaking Markeith Summers - who was covered very well - in the end zone with a perfect pass that covered about 35 yards. Had the pass not been pinpoint perfect, it would have been batted down.

Michael also showed a side of him not known by us previously - he's a pretty good runner and fairly mobile with good toughness. The quarterbacks were "live" in the scrimmage and both took some good shots, but neither seemed to care.

From our brief view, and as expected, we think the quarterback position is in good hands for the future.

Chase Parham had more players to watch and take notes on, so his thoughts per player were more brief, starting with TB Cordera Eason.

Cordera appears to be a good mix between current seniors Bruce Hall and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. He had limited exposure in the scrimmage - nothing to prove really - but in his stint we were able to see the bullishness of BJGE and the explosiveness and quick starts of Hall. Objectively, there were not a lot of running lanes because the OL had not worked together much in the offense being used, but Eason made the most of what was there either by powering the ball or with a couple of scampers around end for double-digit gains. He has stated he has had some minor problems holding on to the ball in some other scrimmages, but we saw none of that yesterday, and the defense got some good shots on him in traffic. If we saw an area that needs work, it's in pass protection where rushers slid off initial contact sometimes too quickly - certainly correctable with hard work and technique refining.

Transfer Jeremy McGee showed his abundant speed and quickness when he got an opening, but he was reduced to dancing on several carries due to a "nowhere to run and nowhere to hide syndrome." One positive was his lack of hesitation to mix it up in the contact department and to run the ball inside. He has excellent side-to-side quickness and can change directions better than any back on campus, but he also tries to get North and South as quickly as possible. The only drawback he exhibited was strength due to his size, which will be corrected after an offseason with S&C Coach Aaron Ausmus. While he's wiry, tough and seems strong for his size, he can't currently weigh more than 175-180 pounds. He needs to get in the 190 range to be a force in this league.

FB Andy Hartmann is a throwback football player. He doesn't just look for contact, he craves it. There seemed to be a couple of times in the scrimmage when he could have run around a defender, but he chose to just run over them. His toughness is his calling card.

Freshman WR Lionel Breaux was the star of the day on offense and showed why he is on the cusp of being in the regular WR rotation. He's got a good mix of size and speed and his hands are very reliable. He caught two TDs from Jevan Snead in the scrimmage and was open on two more that Snead overshot. Lionel seemed a constant to be behind the DB trying to check him and he also exhibited good moves after a short catch.

Markeith Summers is also on the verge of being a quality SEC receiver due to his physical nature. Last year at safety gave him a defensive mentality in terms of contact - he's fearless over the middle, he's an excellent blocker in the run game and corners, try as they may, could not jam him at the line of scrimamge. He caught one TD pass from Herrick with a defender all over him and showed that his hands are improving when he caught a ball thrown behind him over the middle by reaching back for it while in stride. Good, solid day for the Olive Branch product.

TB Derrick Davis has some of Eason's traits, but seems to rely on strength and quick lateral moves more than a burst of speed. He likes to mix it up and has the ability to get YAC yards as well.

Converted TE Reggie Hicks struggled catching the ball a couple of times, but he seems to be a physical player who is about 10 pounds away from being a presence there. If Hicks can get to 250-255, roughly, he may end up being a very competent tight end once he gets his hands more solid, which he will once he gets used to the position.

In the secondary, frosh SS Colby Arceneaux thrives on run suport and being physical. Don't let his small stature fool you - he had two of the bigger hits of the day in the scrimmage. Hits that made Jamarca Sanford, cheering from the sidelines, charge his understudy with congratulations.

CB Jamairey Atterberry has the speed and hip flexibility to be an excellent player in time, but he sorely needs to build his body strength under Ausmus and become more physical. Coverage is not an issue with the talented freshman, but run support is another matter that only more size and strength will cure.

S Jamison Hughes has a Johnny Brown type of presence from a size and movement standpoint. He's physical and seems to be in position to make plays on a regular basis. Having played corner in high school a lot, he also has some instinctive coverage skills. Early season injuries slowed his progress, but Coach Tony Hughes' son has a good future at one of the safety slots.

Yancy Porter had the following to report from the interior players on both sides of the ball.

Fans are always wanting to know what is in store for the future, especially the Ole Miss family, due to the lack of success that has taken place the last soon-to-be four years.

The good news is that by all indications from the scrimmage that was held in front of the media and family members on Wednesday, the light is at the end of the tunnel.

From these "untrained" eyes, the offensive line seems to be a little ahead of the defensive line at this point. But both lines of scrimmage have promising players.

On the offensive line, you had true freshman Bradley Sowell (6' 6", 330) playing left tackle, sophomore Mark Jean- Louis (6' 2", 355) at left guard, sophomore Daverin Geralds (6' 2", 305) at center, true freshman Rishaw Johnson (6' 3", 315) at right guard, and true freshman Alex Washington (6' 4", 348) coming in at right tackle.

As we all know, left tackle is usually the most "athletic" lineman and as we have been reporting since two-a-days started, the staff believes the sky is the limit for Sowell. The big man from Hernando has the frame, reach, and nastiness that you look. Right now he is playing left tackle so they can continue to work on his footwork. If that does not work out, look for Bradley to move over to right tackle or guard.

Another lineman that gets me excited is Geralds. People ask about the center position for next season. Right now both Daverin and Rishaw are working out at center, but Geralds just looks like a natural at that position. He is very intelligent, has great footwork and is a very good open field blocker. Everything you are looking for in a center.

Speaking of Johnson, he is the most aggressive lineman out of the bunch. Rishaw comes off the ball so hard and quick. All he needs to work on is his upper body strength. Once that goal is accomplished, the Rebels will have themselves a player for years to come.

Jean-Louis transferred to Ole Miss in the spring and came in out of shape and injured. He worked hard in the offseason to get his weight down in the 345 range. In the scrimmage yesterday, Mark looked to be a little quicker on his feet than he did during two-a-days. Jean-Louis had some good battles against Ted Laurent, Justin Sanders, and Lawon Scott. It looks like the light has been turned on for Mark. Conditioning will be a key for Jean-Louis' production next season.

When I look at Alex Washington, I swear I am looking at a young Maurice Miller. Both entered the Ole Miss program out of shape but had the tools to make it in the SEC. Alex is extremely strong and athletic for a guy who is his size and carrying a few extra lb's that are not needed. Alex came to Ole Miss in the 365 range and has lost 17 pounds since he enrolled in July. That shows you that he is dedicated to get in the condition he needs to be in to succeed on the SEC level. Washington went up against talented Chris Strong and both won their battles and neither ever backed down. What impressed me the most is that he was able to get back in his stance quick enough on each snap to stay in front of Strong's pass rush. To have that type of mobility at 350 pounds shows you the potential is there.

On the defensive side of the ball, you had true freshman Lawon Scott (6' 1", 305) playing nose tackle, true freshman Ted Laurent (6' 0", 300) playing defensive tackle, true freshman Justin Sanders (6' 4", 290) playing both nose tackle and defensive tackle, true freshman Chris Strong (6' 2", 270) playing some defensive tackle and mostly defensive end, and true freshman LaDerrick "D" Vaughn (6' 2", 210) playing defensive end.

When Coach Orgeron alluded to Strong's natural tools being on the same level with Peria Jerry, you have to get excited. Like Peria, they were both in the 6' 2", 280 range when they entered the program (Chris has since lost 10 pounds). Both are naturally strong with a bulldog mentality. And lastly, both possess that great first step that separates the men from the boys. That is why they are versatile enough to handle the defensive end or tackle positions. What a great combination to have. Chris showed up in the scrimmage all day despite just now learning the techniques a DL has to possess in modern college football.

Sanders had a big day during the scrimmage as he probably had the most tackles for losses out of the group. Justin is very physical and athletic. When he improves his footwork, Sanders will have a bright future.

Laurent still needs to work on his conditioning, but he is very strong and continues to improve as a player. Laurent missed a lot of the preseason camp due to the NCAA clearinghouse, so the spring camp will be vital for his production next fall. He needs to also work on his flexibility and hips, but his speed off the ball and strength are pluses.

The surprise of the class could be Scott. What is the difference in a nose tackle and a defensive tackle? Nose tackles go against guards and centers more while your defensive tackles go up against the offensive tackles. Lawon was moved from defensive tackle to nose tackle a few weeks back and has found a new home. Lawon has great quickness off the ball and is strong enough to shed blockers. In fact, Lawon could be further along than all of the "pups" on the defensive line.

One player who actually needs to gain, and not lose weight, is Vaughn. LaDerrick is very quick off the ball and is a good sideline to sideline pursuer, but the lack of size and strength hurts his ability to shed blocks.

At linebacker, freshman Scottie Williams showed his athleticism and tenacity is at a high level, but he tends to get pushed around a little when engaged with some of the offensive linemen and tight ends. He plays with a high motor, but seems to get too excited from an assignment standpoint sometimes. If he will reign in his emotions and keep plugging away at his techniques and strength, look for him to emerge next year as a reliable OLB.

Redshirt freshman Allen Walker, who recently has gotten into the regular rotation at LB, also had an active and productive scrimmage. The Walker we saw in spring has now gained more awareness and seems to be playing under better control. He's very good in coverage, but could stand to bulk up some to hold up in run support on a consistent basis. He's not shy of contact, but 10 more pounds would help his cause immensely.

Freshman Isaiah Smith needs a year with Ausmus, but it is obvious he is a very bright player who is assignment-sound and getting technique sound. Time is on his side.

JUCO transfer Lamar Brumfield is ahead of most of the younger guys, but he's supposed to be. He looks hesitant at times with his assignments which has hurt his aggressiveness some. He badly needs to absorb everything in spring training in order to make a mark next season.

Some players you might expect out there for a scrimmage like yesterday's did not participate for various reasons. Guys like TE David Traxler, S Fon Ingram, DE LaMark Armour, etc.

There you have it - The Spirit staff's view of the Black Shirt scrimamge. While we didn't have time to view and critique every player out there, we hope we hit the highlights for you and gave you a little more insight to what the future holds for Rebel football.

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