In Friday's football practice, the Ole Miss offense was crisp, sharp and having their way with the Rebel defense.
Obviously, that motivated the defense for Saturday's scrimmage - the biggest of spring training - because they definitely had their best showing of the spring thus far.
"They (the offense) roughed us up yesterday. It was our turn today," said OLB Ashlee Palmer. "We were more focused and we executed better and it showed."
Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt, who orchestrates the Reb offense with OC Kent Austin, saw the same things.
"After a very physical practice yesterday, I thought the guys came back and tried to throw their helmets around. We were sloppy at times, especially offensively with too many missed assignments, too many balls on the ground and too many illegal procedures - we have to clean those up," he said, "but on the other hand, the defense played extremely hard, made plays and got off the field on third down. They hadn't been doing that. They got better today."
Told what some of the defensive players were saying about redeeming themselves from the day before, Nutt smiled.
"You love to feel and hear about that competitive spirit. If you don't have that in this game, you've got a real problem. I love that attitude," he continued. "On the other side, we were slow getting out of the huddle, we had two illegal alignments, we had fumbles and so on. We did a lot of little things on offense that have to be eliminated that make a difference. Those things are important, they lose ballgames.
"We are a little tired, a little sore. They've been going 100 miles an hour all spring, I'll give them that. But when it's time to scrimmage, you want to go play. The defense did and the offense not so much. We had a couple of good drives and a couple of big plays, but overall the defense stood out."
What was the defense doing differently, in Nutt's mind?
"The guys in the box were getting off blocks very well. There were not many holes out there to run through today. You have to give them credit and that's a good feeling. If the defense is making it hard on the offense, that means you have a chance as a team," he noted. "I've been proud of them. They have been giving it to us, bringing the hat and that's a start."
Houston said after Friday's practice he wanted to check out the progress of players like Marshay Green, Justin Sanders, Lamar Brumfield and Jeremy McGee.
"I saw them getting better. Marshay and Jeremy play the ball well. They have receiver instincts. Marshay had a really nice play knocking a pass down in the end zone. I see improvement and that's what I want," Nutt said.
Chris Strong has been moved inside from defensive end to defensive tackle recently. Nutt was asked how he's doing.
"He has a lot of competition. He's behind a lot of good players. Chris just has to keep working because he's got a lot of ability," Nutt continued. "I've been very proud of his attitude the last seven or eight days. He'll be fine. If he keeps his nose to the grindstone, he'll be fine because we will need everybody and he'll be in the picture."
QB Jevan Snead was 10-22 today for 127 yards. He was not real pleased with his effort or the performance of the offense he directs.
"We struggled today. We did some good things and some bad things. We were mentally off today. We had too many penalties and bad exchanges and just poor play," Snead stated. "We have to get those things corrected."
Up until the scrimmage, Snead has been pleased with the offense.
"It's been going good. The chemistry with the receivers has been good up to this point. They make me look good," Jevan said. "I think our receivers have everything you need to be big time. The offensive line is giving me time to throw and the backs are running hard.
"We had a real good day yesterday, but the defense stepped things up today and we didn't respond like we should have."
RT John Jerry and walkon FB Dan Hoffman did not dress out today.
Scrimmage recap of "big" plays:
On the first series of ones versus ones, Snead found Shay Hodge to get things going with a 10-yard strike, but then DT Peria Jerry sacked Snead for a 5-yard loss and a 10-yard pass to WR Dexter McCluster was not enough to move the chains again. Chalk one up for the defense. Note: Kentrell Lockett was back with the first team D at DE ahead of Greg Hardy. Hardy was with the ones yesterday.
When the twos matched up, DE Emmanuel Stephens sacked QB Billy Tapp and FS Kendrick Lewis picked off a Tapp pass to highlight the series. Defense gets the nod again.
When the ones came back on the field, it was with more purpose from the offense. Snead hit WR Mike Wallace for gains of 5 and 14 yards and then connected with FB Jason Cook to keep the chains moving. The drive was capped with a 25-yard TD strike from Snead to Wallace and a Josh Shene PAT. Note: Johnny Brown was working with the number one defense ahead of Kendrick Lewis. They have been splitting time with the ones recently.
When the threes lined up, Chris Strong was at DT and Tony Fein was at MLB. Both made tackles for no gain and the only offensive play worth mentioning was an acrobatic catch on a Tapp to TE Reggie Hicks catch for 13 yards.
The coaches then worked a few reps of punt team. Right now, it appears some of the main participants on the punt team are going to be Dustin Mouzon and Cassius Vaughn as the outside gunners, Jason Cook as the personal practice and a line of Kendrick Lewis, Lamar Brumfield, Chris Bowers, David Traxler, Ashlee Palmer, and Jamarca Sanford. Preston Powers is the top deep snapper and Justin Sparks was punting with the first unit. . . . Marshay Green, Dexter McCluster and Lionel Breaux were fielding all punts.
When the ones came back to resume the scrimmage, Snead hooked up with Hodge for a 12-yard gain, but that's all the offense could muster when new CB Marshay Green knocked down a Snead pass intended for Hodge in the end zone. Note: The wide receivers work with a rotation, so starting is not that big a deal, but when the coaches call for the number one offense, Hodge, Wallace and McCluster take the field first at the WR slots.
The two offense scored on their next possession and a lot of it centered on WR Jacarious Lucas. First, Lucas put Mouzon out of the practice with a vicious crack-back block and then he caught a 38-yard pass from Tapp to the defense's one-yard line. Cook finished things off with a dive for the score.
The one defense then forced a three-and-out on two incompletions due to pressure from DT Ted Laurent and MLB Jonathan Cornell and then Snead was flushed from the pocked for just a 3-yard gain.
The ones stayed on the field and started a new series, but it didn't last long. TB Cordera Eason was smacked in the backfield by Peria Jerry and Emmanuel Stephens, taking some reps with the ones, covered the loose ball.
When the threes cranked up, walkon TB Markus Crockett ripped off a 40-yard TD run.
The coaches then took another special teams opportunity working on kickoffs. Sparks had two kicks - one to the 5, one to the 10. Mike Wallace and Cordera Eason were the deep return men. . . The one kickoff team consisted of Cassius Vaughn, George Helow, Kendrick Lewis, Jonathan Cornell, Chris Bowers, Emmanuel Stephens, Allen Walker, Jamarca Sanford, Terrell Jackson and Jeremy McGee, from left to right.
The one running game cranked up a little with runs of 14 and 11 yards by Eason but then Lockett tackled McCluster for a six-yard loss, Lewis broke up a pass intended for TE David Traxler and Greg Hardy came up with a QB sack to end the series.
The three offense was met with a -6 carry by Crockett courtesy of a Fein hit in the backfield and a Zane Allcorn interception and 40-yard return. Allcorn was playing CB.
The end of the scrimmage involved the ones with the offense working with a short field from the D's 20. The final tally was one to one. The defense stopped the offense on one series, but the offense scored on a Snead to Hodge pass completion for a TD on 4th and 3 on the next series.
It was apparent from the start the defense came to play, especially the front seven, who seemed to control the line of scrimmage most of the day. Peria Jerry, Marcus Tillman, Ted Laurent, Kentrell Lockett, and LBs Cornell, Palmer and Walker were extremely active all day and they applied some big hits along the way. What was encouraging, from a defensive standpoint, was that it appeared several times there was a good hole for the RBs to run through, but the DL and LBs closed them in a hurry for no gains or short gains. Excellent pursuit by those guys.
Peria Jerry did not play in the last scrimmage and the defense simply was not as stout without him. Today, he showed his value, eating up blockers and making plays with penetration and disruption. Few will argue he's the best defensive player on the team.
Marshay Green has all the tools you look for in a cornerback. Quick, fast, competitive and a guy who hates to lose. He's also already showing some leadership skills. That could be a very good move for the team.
Best position battles? Johnny Brown and Kendrick Lewis at free safety; Kentrell Lockett and Greg Hardy at DE; David Traxler and Gerald Harris at tight end; Emmanuel Stephens trying to find an opening at either DE slot; Marshay Green and Dustin Mouzon at CB.
While Darryl Harris and Maurice Miller are doing a nice job on the right side of the offensive line, it is apparent not having John Jerry in the lineup creates a drop off in performance from the OL. That is not a knock on the ones in there - it's a compliment to Baby J. The OL needs him back to be as good as they can be.
Practice Report: Saturday
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