Rain, rain, go away. Come back, well, after spring training.
The unusual amount of rain in and around Oxford has been good for the lawns, but it has not been ideal for spring football, at least the last two practice sessions.
For the second practice in a row, Coach Houston Nutt took his troops inside as spring training resumed. Fortunately, the Rebs have an "inside" which does not limit what can be accomplished in the precious spring practices. Nutt had the Rebs in full pads and it was business as usual.
"We are trying to get them to strain their bodies on every play. Strain their bodies to win, strain their bodies to compete and then have a real short memory, thinking only about the next play," said Nutt. "Again, it's all about consistency. Missed assignments are what up-downs are for, but we are doing a few more up-downs than we'd like right now. So far, it's been a good spring, but we have to finish strong. We don't have that many practices left, so we have to continue to get better."
In the two scrimmages, Houston has not been bowled over by the running game. He says, however, it's getting better, little by little.
"If you took the film of the first practice and compared it to this practice, we are definitely getting better," he continued. "Are we there? No, but we are getting better. The kinks are that we aren't getting everybody – all 11 – in the right spots. Of five offensive linemen, we may have four who are doing it just right, but it takes all five for the play to work, and then all 11 on the unit. It's just a missed assignment here, an illegal procedure there, little things – can't have that."
Nutt said the door is open for the three freshmen running backs signed in February who will be here this summer – Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis, Devin Thomas, but he has been pleased with the RBs available in spring.
"We are certainly going to have opportunity for the freshmen to play, but I'm not taking anything from Cordera Eason, Jason Cook and Andy Hartmann, who have had good springs. Also Derrick Davis is coming on. Those guys have competed hard, but those three freshmen will get all they want come August," Nutt stated.
Houston has repeatedly talked about the "good spring" the wide receivers have had. Does that include their downfield blocking in the run game? Yes, it does.
"They have done an excellent job downfield. They are playing with great effort. Last Saturday, they were responsible for two long runs with what we call RBI blocks. They sprung the runner," he said.
Marshay Green and Jeremy McGee remained at cornerback today and their position was even changed on the roster handed out to media and fans daily.
"Those moves are permanent until the end of spring for sure," Nutt said. "We will evaluate it then. Marshay is such a competitor. He brings energy and emotion to the secondary. He lifts them up. In the secondary, Jamarca Sanford and Kendrick Lewis have had good springs and Cassius Vaughn has done better this week."
Green said he is willing to do whatever is best for the team.
"Coach Nutt came to me and told me he thought I could really help the team at cornerback. He said I could still play offense in certain packages, so I told him that was cool with me. I am rusty because I missed the first week of spring training, and I have never played defense in my whole career, but I'm willing," Marshay said. "Right now I'm learning technique, coverages and schemes, but I'll get it down.
"The biggest challenge is backpedaling and peeking in the backfield when I shouldn't be. I've been hurt by peeking when I shouldn't."
Green said he's anxious to work on run support and testing himself physically in the hitting department.
"I haven't had a chance to do that yet, but I'm looking forward to it. I'm ready for the challenge, but I know it will be different," he added. "I'm just trying to bring energy to the team right now and it came across my mind that this might be best for me long range. As competitive as I am, I think I can play corner in the SEC and who knows from there?"
On the first rep of one-on-one pass drills, Marshay intercepted a pass. Nice start.
Right Tackle John Jerry is still not practicing with the team. He's trying to overcome an infection he has had for a couple of weeks.
SS Jamarca Sanford pulled up lame midway through practice and appeared to have pulled his hamstring. In his absence, both Kendrick Lewis and Johnny Brown were at the safety slots. They have been competing at free safety, but Safety Coach Kim Dameron has indicated all safeties will have to learn both positions. Today, with Jamarca going down, illustrated why that is important. The third-best safety overall went in the lineup when Sanford could not go. The next guy? Terrell Jackson.
It appears there has been a change in the number two offensive line. Up until today, Mark Jean-Louis has been the number two left guard behind Reid Neely. Today, Don Mosley was getting those number two reps. We'll keep an eye on that development, but last week we reported that Don seems to have changed his body for the better. Maybe it's paying off.
The Rebels worked on kickoffs today with Justin Sparks and David Hankins getting most of the reps. The deepest kicks we saw were to the five. If you are wondering what "body type" the new coaches look for on kickoff coverage, some of the top guys we saw on the top unit today were Chris Bowers, Allen Walker, Jonathan Cornell, Ashlee Palmer, Emmanuel Stephens and Johnny Brown at some inside spots and Dustin Mouzon and Jamarca Sanford on the outside.
QB Jevan Snead, again, was throwing darts and hitting the bull's eye more often than not. Today, in pass scale, his favorite target was Lionel Breaux, who must have caught Snead's eye as the receiver getting open the most. That battery connected four or five times in that practice period and most of the completions were in the 15-20-yard range.
LB Allen Walker decoyed Snead on one pass play and stepped in front of the aerial for an interception, the lone pick of the day by the defense in pass scale drills.
The Rebel offensive coaches must have been feeling frisky today. They inserted some razzle-dazzle – trick plays - into their playcalling and also installed some of their screen package.
TB Cordera Eason broke one long gainer in team – 11 on 11 – drills and showed a burst of speed on the long run. When he gets going, Eason has a burst that is effective.
In the Wild Rebel package, Dexter McCluster broke yet another big run. It seems like he does that just about every practice out of that set, where he is the QB in the shotgun and Jevan Snead is split out wide. Very explosive player being put in a position to exploit that ability. Nice.
2007 starting QB Seth Adams was at practice today. We asked him what his observations of Snead are. "Jevan has very good poise and an excellent, live arm. He also has the kind of personality where guys want to be around him and rally around him," Seth noted. "He's got a great attitude and work ethic. He also has a very quick release. Defenders will have a hard time breaking on the ball because he gets it out so quickly. By the time they read where he is throwing the ball, it's already there.". . . . Interesting stuff, one QB about another.
The Rebels will resume practice Friday.
Practice Report: Wednesday
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