Spring football has begun!

Ole Miss Football Coach Houston Nutt was excited about the first spring training practice today in the stadium and one of the main reasons was the Rebs are good listeners and give good effort, but he cautioned everyone the Rebs have a long way to go. Read his comments and our thoughts inside.

Houston Nutt liked what he saw out of the Ole Miss Rebel football team today as they opened spring training in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on a sun-drenched day. Roughly 250 Rebel fans were on hand to see the first Nutt-led practice.

"It was a fun day today. There's nothing like spring football and getting on the field with the players," Nutt noted. "We have a long way to go, there is no doubt about it, but I liked the way they listened and tried to learn. There is a reason the Good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth and that's to listen twice as much as you talk. They listened, hustled and had an excellent attitude.

"Overall, it wasn't bad, not bad at all. They'll get a little sore tonight and we can see how they will react and come back tomorrow. There's no school tomorrow so we will have a good long meeting and then the same type of practice we had today - shorts and helmets. Then we will do the same thing Saturday in full pads. We'll play some real football Saturday."

Houston was pleased with the overall conditioning of the team.

"I was proud of them because they are coming off of spring break. It is obvious they did a little something over spring break because nobody just fell out," he smiled. "We had Marshay Green out with a staph infection and that hurt us. John Jerry was also ill. Marshay may be out a week or so." Nutt said a few players stood out to him in the first workout.

"I was really proud of the defensive line - they showed some quickness. The offensive line, as much as we threw at them the first day, with a run and pass mixture, it was like throwing a bucket of paint on the wall to see what will stick and I thought they performed well. Michael Oher, Reid Neely, Rishaw Johnson, Maurice Miller, and Bradley Sowell all did a good job," he continued. "Jason Cook also had a very good day and is a very good leader for us.

"I also thought Jevan (Snead) had some periods where he threw the ball extremely well and we had some wide receivers do a good job catching it, especially Mike Wallace. We just have to keep coming. The QBs have the toughest job because they have the most to learn, but I thought we had a stretch in there where Jevan was very sharp. He got the plays in, got us out of the huddle and executed very well. But again, we all have a long way to go, but that is what spring is for."

Our thoughts:

* The practice was very basic for about an hour and fifteen minutes with mostly individual, fundamental drills taking center stage. The last forty-five minutes or so, more team work was employed. There was a lot of teaching going on the entire day.

What jumped off the page, from a coaching standpoint, was the attention to detail and the instant feedback, for instance, with OC Kent Austin with the quarterbacks talking about footwork, eye alignment and throwing form immediately after a rep. OL Coach Mike Markuson was like that too - run a play and get instant feedback in detail.

* The Ole Miss football program, in this humble opinion, has been blessed with some solid offensive line coaches through the years. It didn't take long to realize Markuson is in the same echelon and mold as a Hugh Nall or Art Kehoe or John Latina. He's precise, intense and extremely analytical in regard to spotting what he wants and doesn't want instantly, as we said. The OL - from these untrained eyes - should be in good hands.

* We tried to take a real close look at Snead today, while also trying to keep an eye on everyone else as well. The initial observations on Snead were very positive. The things that stood out were a) a live arm - plenty of zip; b) capable of throwing all passes required of a college QB; c) quick feet; d) quick recognition of his reads; e) a very quick delivery once he makes up his mind where he is going with the ball. As Nutt said, there were periods where he was absolutely on the money.

* Backup QB Billy Tapp also had some good moments. Billy also has a strong arm and is a heady player. His release is not as quick as Snead's and he's not as quick on his feet, but he looked adequate today.

* In a brief punt return period, Dexter McCluster and Lionel Breaux were handling kicks. Marshay Green will be back there as well when he returns to practice. Both showed the type of explosiveness you look for in a punt return guy and they both did a clean job of fielding the punts.

* During offseason workouts, we had mentioned we thought TB Cordera Eason looked quicker and a little faster than he did a year ago. That was also apparent today. At 223 pounds, which is basically what he weighed last year, he looked leaner, and added flexibility and core strength have given him a 1/2 step or so gain in speed from point A to point B.

* The player who appears to have shown as much improvement as anyone since last year? From a scanning position, WR Markeith Summers stood out easily. He appears stronger, faster and he has obviously worked on his hands. He's a big target and he made several tough catches over the middle using his hands, not his body, more naturally than he showed last year.

* With John Jerry out today, Maurice Miller was manning right tackle and Rishaw Johnson was with the ones at right guard. Miller and Alex Washington are both playing guard and tackle. Both appear to have lost some weight since winter, but both are still in the 340-pound range. "Tank" (Washington) has changed his body a good bit, losing body fat and adding some lean muscle. Good to see.

* A lot of players were getting plenty of reps at the linebacker slots, but two guys who kept surfacing with the ones - for now - were Middle LB Chris Bowers, who looks healthier and stronger than he has been in three years, and OLB Allen Walker, who teamed up with Ashlee Palmer on the outside with the ones most of the time. Jonathan Cornell was taking some reps at practice, but we think the intention is to bring him back slowly, even though he's out there and is involved.

* We didn't get to see a lot out of him today, but JUCO transfer DE Emmanuel Stephens, when we watched, looked like he was shot out of a gun coming off the edge. He has some really good explosion and speed.

* For now, sophomore Chris Strong is playing at defensive end. LaMark Armour also got some serious reps today at DE, along with Marcus Tillman and Greg Hardy. But guess who was running with the top unit more than anyone with the exception of Tillman? Kentrell Lockett. Hmmm - has he made a move? We'll see.

* If you are looking for someone who looks totally different from last year, look no further than DT Ted Laurent. He has trimmed off a lot of body fat and added some good weight. He does not look 300 pounds but we are told he is 303. He has gained a lot of quickness and speed and explosiveness. The difference, from the look test, from last year to this year, is significantly better.

* At tight end, David Traxler is running with the ones and looks like he has helped himself movement-wise. JUCO Gerald Harris passes the look test, but he appeared to be caught in that shuffle of adjusting to the speed of the game on this level.

* The Rebels are looking for a fourth conerback. It appears the two candidates beyond Mouzon, Vaughn and Atterberry will be Hargrave transfer Julian Whitehead and sophomore Fon Ingram, who played safety last year. Both struggled a little bit today, but you can see they have the physical ability to contribute once they get the mental part right.

* Signees QB Nathan Stanley and WR Horatio Williams were at practice today. Stanley is going to skip baseball this year to put on some weight. He's at 202 now and is shooting for 215 before next August. The 6-5 signal caller can certainly hold the weight.

* Dexter McCluster worked at QB out of the shotgun some today. What will Nutt call that set here after naming it Wild Hog at Arky? We'll see.

* From the stalwarts-are-always-stalwarts department, DT Peria Jerry, SS Jamarca Sanford, CB Dustin Mouzon, Tillman, Oher, LG Reid Neely, WR Mike Wallace and McCluster stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb.

* Jerrell Powe observed practice today but he is not allowed to participate. He did appear to be getting some "mental reps," which he also needs.

* In the morning, we will work up a makeshift depth chart of what we witnessed today. We will post it on the message board around 9-ish.

* Tomorrow's practice is at 2:20 p.m. and will most likely be in The Vaught again.

OM Spirit Top Stories