Like most spring practices, today's scrimmage in front of 450 parents, coaches and rising senior players, and about that many Rebel fans, was a back and forth affair highlighted by the scrimmage portion or the workout, which saw QBs Jevan Snead throw three TDs and Billy Tapp throw a pair of touchdowns, Dexter McCluster scoring on a 50-yard reverse and the defense stymie, for the most part, the Rebel rushing game.
"We're trying to get better. I saw a few bright spots, but we have a long way to go," said Houston Nutt after a (roughly) 60-play scrimmage that matched (mostly) the ones against the twos/threes. "We had too many missed assignments and we gave up too many big plays, but that's why you have spring practice and why you have to keep on practicing and working.
"I love their intensity though and I love their effort. The players have really been giving it to us. Yesterday was an outstanding practice. I really want to thank all the high school coaches who came out yesterday for our coaches' clinic and we had over 450 people here for Junior Day today. It's been a great weekend for Ole Miss football."
While the defense gave up some big plays, that means the offense was making big plays, if you are looking for a silver lining.
"We have outstanding wideouts and Jevan Snead continues to execute the offense, take care of the ball, throw it where he's supposed to throw it and run the team. That excites me," Nutt continued. "Our offensive line is doing a better job of protecting too. We couldn't protect against Greg Hardy and Emmanuel Stephens today at times, but besides them, we did better across the front.
"We also did not use DT Peria Jerry today. We wanted to see the rest of the DTs. All we are trying to do with Peria is keep him fundamentally tuned - he has nothing to prove, but it's different out there without him. The guys who took his place - Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott, Justin Sanders, LaMark Armour - are making improvement, but it's a different speed when Peria is out there than when he is not."
Nutt also commended backup QB Billy Tapp, saying he is "getting better."
"There are some things he can do better, but the last few practices he has come on strong and I have been proud of the way he's making plays," Houston stated.
The run game did not click today. One side of the coin is that it was defensed well. The other side is that the offense has not jelled in the run game yet.
"I'm not real concerned about it yet. We will put a lot of emphasis on that and get it right. We see glimpses of it being OK, but we've got work to do," he said. "I tell you, Dexter (McCluster) at tailback is interesting. Dexter gives you the quickness you want and with him and Cordera, that could be a nice 1-2 punch. He's a different type of back and we will continue to experiment with that."
Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix echoed Nutt's comments - good against the run, but gave up too many big plays.
"We were 50-50 today. We had some good and we had some bad," said Nix. "We gave up too many big plays. It's hard to be a successful defense giving up big plays, period. We saw some flashes where we think we will have a chance when we get all 11 on the same page, but we have to shore up the big play situation.
"We did do a decent job against the run. We gave up a big run against the reverse, which I think was a miscommunication between the safety and defensive end. If we can do a good job of stopping the run, I think we can pressure the QB with guys like Greg Hardy and Emmanuel Stephens. Our top goal will be able to stop the run and today we were happy with that."
Tyrone said not many individuals stuck out to him without having the benefit of seeing the film.
"Ashlee Palmer had some nice hits. We got some edge pressure from Kentrell Lockett, Hardy and Stephens, which was good. We also had a backup safety, Terrell Jackson, make a couple of surprising hits on the goalline. We had some guys showing some flashes, but I wouldn't say we have any stars right now. Our best player is Peria and he didn't play much today - we know what he can do.
"We got a good look at some DTs other than Peria - Lawon Scott and Justin Sanders - and that's what we wanted today, a rotation so we could see who can make plays and what we have to do to get them closer to Peria's level."
* RT John Jerry dressed out and tried to practice, but he ended up not being able to go and dressed in street clothes for the scrimamge. He did say, however, that he is getting better and hopes to be back next week.
* Jeremy McGee was used at CB yesterday. Today he was back at tailback. Where will he end up? Nutt said he has looked pretty good at both positions, which means a decision has not been made yet and the experiment continues.
* There appears to be a battle going on for the number two fullback slot with Andy Hartmann and Reggie Hicks locked in a shootout. Today, Hicks took number two reps behind senior Jason Cook.
* Every day since the first day of full pads, the defense has worked a long period of tackling drills. How do you get better at tackling? You tackle, but you can't do that too much without risking a lot of injuries, so Nix does the next best thing. It's full speed hitting bags coming from different angles with the emphasis on hitting low, driving the hips through and locking up, i.e., fundamentally sound form tackling. Missed tackles were not a major problem today.
* Without John Jerry in the lineup, the number one OL had LT Michael Oher, LG Reid Neely, C Daverin Geralds, RG Darryl Harris and RT Maurice Miller in the lineup. At times, Rishaw Johnson replaced Harris.
* The experiment with LaMark Armour at DT from DE must be working. He's still inside.
* The opening series of the one offense versus the two defense came up all defense as DE Greg Hardy nailed TB Cordera Eason for a 3-yard loss and stopped the chains from being moved. . . . The offense got even on the next series with QB Jevan Snead finding Shay Hodge for a 48-yard TD pass over CB Fon Ingram.
* The one defense, sans Peria Jerry, then stuffed the two offense on the next possseion behind a sack by DE Marcus Tillman and a stop for no gain on TB Derrick Davis by DE Kentrell Lockett on a third-and-long. (On that series, Kendrick Lewis was playing in front of Johnny Brown at the number one free safety slot.)
* The one offense struck quickly against a mixed bag of twos and threes on defense when McCluster took a reverse handoff from Snead and raced 50 yards for a score. . . With the same lineups on the field, the Reb 'O' got in the Wild Rebel set with McCluster at QB, who pitched to Snead split wide, who found Hodge all alone for a 40-yard score.
* The two offense followed suit against the one defense with Tapp connecting with Markeith Summers on a 66-yard strike, but a forced fumble by Lockett averted the score from the defense's 3 yard line.
* When the one offense came back on the field, their first series against the two defense was stopped by a pair of sacks, one by Stephens for a 9-yard looss and one by MLB Chris Bowers for a 6-yard loss, but then Snead drove the Rebs down the field for a score. The big plays were a 22-yard hookup with Cook and an 18-yard TD pass to Summers, who made a diving catch in the end zone.
* Tapp then executed a quick strike to Summers for 55 yards and another score when he rolled left out of the pocket under pressure and Markeith was alone downfield due to a busted coverage.
* With McCluster lined up at tailback from the defense's 25 in a ones versus ones matchup, Dex ripped off a 20-yard run to the 5, but Hardy stopped the offense from scoring by stopping Eason five yards deep in the backfield.
* The scrimmage ended with Eason scoring from the 3 on a play straight up the middle that was beautifully blocked by the OL and then, on the next set, Stephens broke up a pass play with pressure and a tipped pass on Tapp.
The Rebels will practice again Monday at 4 and then take Tuesday off. Nutt said he is uncertain of the schedule the remainder of the week, but there will be another Saturday scrimmage most likely.
Practice Report: Saturday
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