The Rebels marched past the halfway "hump" of spring training today (Monday) with a 2-hour practice in the Indoor Practice Facility in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads.
Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt said it was a day for some personnel experimentation to try to get some options at some positions and to correct what went wrong in Saturday's scrimmage.
"We are trying to put one foot in front of the other to get better," said Nutt. "We asked Marshay Green to work some at cornerback and, without watching the film, he did a nice job for his first day there. He brings energy and passion to the field. He's a fighter and a competitor. We are experimenting a little bit and trying to keep our best (22) guys on the field."
The coaching staff also put Jeremy McGee, who ran some corner and running back last week, at the corner slot.
"Same thing as Marshay. We are trying to build some depth, see who will compete and see who can handle things one-on-one. Can he play man? Things like that," Houston stated.
The coaches graded Saturday's scrimmage over the weekend. What did Houston see on film? A hodge podge.
"There were some plays and series where we executed and scored and had 11 people doing things right, but we also had three or four series where we had about six guys doing the right things and four or five messing up," he continued. "We stressed today with the guys when we were watching film that there is no way to win in this league with that kind of popcorn affect. You have to get 11 consistently doing their assignments the right way and that did not surface often enough in that scrimmage.
"The defense was the same way. That is why they are doing up-downs right now. They had too many missed assignments, to many missed alignments and a couple of loafs. They are paying the price today. We are just trying to teach these kids that you have to compete and play hard every snap, every day."
Going back to Green, Nutt said he feels comfortable trying Marshay at CB because of the emergence of Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux, among others, at wide receiver.
"Shay Hodge, Mike Wallace and Dexter McCluster – you know what you have there," he explained. "Markeith continues to make strides, Michael Hicks has improved and hopefully Lionel Breaux can keep coming."
Another experiment involves Reggie Hicks, who worked at tight end today after the first practices at fullback.
"Again, we are taking hard looks at guys at positions looking at developing and creating some depth. Reggie may or may not stay at tight end – we'll see," he noted.
McCluster continues to impress Nutt. So much so that he's got Dex playing some straight tailback behind the QB, running the Wild Rebel set as a shotgun QB, playing WR and returning punts. Is he becoming Nutt's Felix Jones at Ole Miss?
"I hope he is, I really do. He looks like him and we are using him a lot in the same ways," Nutt noted. "He can go. He can do it. He's exciting. We just have to keep him healthy. He's been a little frail in his career. He's got to keep eating. I don't think he weighs much more than 158 and the things we've got him doing, he's going to take a blow every now and then. But he's a tough kid and we recognize his talents. He's so quick and so tough – we have to put the ball in his hands."
With Green and McGee at corner, that presents a challenge to Cassius Vaughn and Dustin Mouzon, who were the incumbents heading into spring. With Jamariey Atterberry, Fon Ingram and Julian Whitehead also vying for some playing time at corner, those two positions are getting crowded. So why the moves, whether temporary or permanent? It seems fairly obvious the staff is not blown away by the performance of the "old" corners at the moment. Will be interesting to watch develop. . . On Marshay's first "live" one-on-one snap, he knocked down a pass to Breaux with perfect coverage and CB Coach Chris Vaughn went ballistic, mauling Green with congratulations.
RT John Jerry is still battling an illness. He was at practice, but not participating and he is walking gingerly. He says he's getting better, but "better" is not getting him on the practice field – yet.
In a somewhat surprising development, based on how last season ended, Kendrick Lewis has crept ahead of Johnny Brown on the depth chart as the number one free safety. . . Jamarca Sanford and Terrell Jackson, who had a nifty interception of a Jevan Snead pass today, man the strong safety slot.
There has been no change at the linebacker slots, with Jonathan Cornell handling MLB and Ashlee Palmer and Allen Walker on the outside, but today both Chris Bowers and Tony Fein got several reps with the number one defense at MLB. . . It appears Scottie Williams and Lamar Brumfield are the top two backup candidates at OLB.
Michael Hicks had been a little on the outside as far as being in the wide receiver rotation in the first few practices, but lately he's been getting more reps in the rotation and has produced some very good catches using his big body and good hands to manhandle DBs and bring the ball in. We were wondering where Hicks had been. . . .
Another pleasant surprise, to us, has been the development in the receiving game by senior Tight End David Traxler. He's turning into a threat, a reliable receiver who has shown sure hands and an ability to find openings in the defense for short to intermediate routes. With both top TEs graduating, that is a welcome sight.
At the defensive end slots, everything has held firm through the first half of spring. On one side, Kentrell Lockett and Emmanuel Stephens are neck-and-neck for playing time and on the other side Marcus Tillman and Greg Hardy are battling. Hardy, after a slow start, has picked up his play the last two or three workouts.
QB Jevan Snead, from our untrained eyes, had his best practice as a Rebel this spring today. He was throwing the ball all over the field, accurately and on time. He was also making good decisions and avoiding pressure. Jevan also avoided pressure by tucking the ball and running effectively twice for good gains. It didn't matter what the throw was, he made it today, including long outs, long fly patterns, rolling out and throwing on the run (both ways) and throwing the ball on the line over the middle from the pocket. Good day, real good day.
On the last series of today's practice, Nutt put the ball on the offense's 35 and told everyone the defense had a two-point lead with one minute to go. Play ball. . . Snead his Breaux for 8 yards, then Summers for 20. Cordera than gained 4 on the ground and Snead found Breaux for 3 more. With time running out, a 47-yard field goal attempt by Josh Shene was wide left. Defense wins.
The Rebs will practice this week on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Not times have been set yet.
Practice Report: Monday
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