Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt approached the media after the opening full-scale practice of the 2008 football season with a broad smile on his face.
"There's nothing like getting on the field and getting after it," said Nutt. "I was really excited about their effort, about the way they listened and the skills they showed. We threw a lot at them today, but I saw a lot of carryover from the spring."
Nutt was particularly pleased with the newcomers and what they showed him in their first collegiate practice.
"Those guys don't look like freshmen. They are impressive. They are physically ahead of the game for their age and I'm proud of that," he continued. "Guys like Patrick Trahan - a guy with a ton of upside who is just behind right now because he's been in school all summer. Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and Devin Thomas - everything good you've heard about them is true and I agree with it all. WR Andrew Harris and all the DBs looked pretty good. It was just the first day, but a lot of those new kids left a good impression with me."
Houston was asked about a couple of personnel moves the coaches are looking at. Marcus Tillman was switched from DE to DT and swapping Daverin Geralds and Darryl Harris back and forth from center to RG on the number one OL.
"With Ted Laurent down, we didn't want to put everything on Jerrell Powe, Lawon Scott and Justin Sanders that quickly," Nutt explained. "Marcus is a character kid who is one of our leaders and is very dependable. We moved him inside for now and that allows us to get more reps for DEs Emmanuel Stephens, we moved Chris Bowers to DE, and Jermey Parnell. It puts our best on the field and I'm excited about that.
"Darryl has played center before and is a big body. It's good competition at the center slot and while we are waiting to get John Jerry to 100% we have Mo Miller at RT, so it all works out for now. I'm glad we have Darryl Harris for sure."
Speaking of John Jerry, Nutt said the big tackle is simply behind for having missed spring training.
"No practice in the spring threw him way behind, but we look for him to catch up soon," Houston assessed. "He's athletic, but he has some guys in front of him who are in shape and ahead of him right now. When you miss all spring, it's natural to be behind."
A lot of eyes are on QB Jevan Snead. Nutt's impressions were positive of the sophomore signal caller.
"He looked real sharp for the most part. He had a couple of interceptions but not all of them were his fault," Houston stated. "In individual one-on-one, his release looked quick and real good. He's a real winner, we just have to all get on the same page and help each other. He has a short memory after a mistake and that's what you have to have at QB.
"I tell you guys, Nathan Stanley, I think we've got us one there. Quick release, accurate with the deep ball, tall, athletic. He was spinning that ball today and when we put him in a 3rd-and-8 situation on the first day, he didn't blink. He handled things well. Billy Tapp is the backup, and we have confidence in him, but Nathan showed me a lot today as well."
The eyes not on Jevan were on Powe, making his first appearance as an academically cleared Rebel.
"For his first practice in a long, long time, he did a nice job. He's carrying 340 pounds and he made it. I was proud of him," said Nutt.
Earlier today, it was learned signee OL Kermit Tyler's football career is over due to a rare allergic condition.
"That's a shame because he worked really hard this summer, his teammates love him, he's a big body and a great person," said Nutt. "We hate it, but learning what was wrong may have saved his life. We can't clear him to play ever again, but Pete Boone did a great thing by honoring his education. His parents are very relieved and they will be ambassadors for Ole Miss for life."
Nutt said Parnell has "a chance."
"He has a big body and has a chance. He's just got to learn to turn it loose. We definitely want Jermey getting off the bus first," laughed Nutt.
Frosh WR Melvin Harris, who broke his foot earlier in the summer, was at practice but was limited.
"Melvin reminds me of Marcus Monk, only a bit faster out of high school. He is not cleared yet, but he's doing a few drills on that foot," Nutt noted. "We will try to redshirt him this year and see how he does with some more weight on that long frame."
CB Coach Chris Vaughn had a bevy of cornerbacks battling today. Nutt noticed the competition as well.
"Marshay Green brings spirited competition to that position. Dustin Mouzon has a lot of experience. Cassius Vaughn, Marcus Temple, Derrick Herman, Brandon Sanders are all competitive. Demareo Marr is a bit out of shape, but you love his height," said Nutt.
Houston also praised MLB Jonathan Cornell, who was very active today and had an interception late in team drills.
"Jonathan is very smart. He studies it and watches film on his own. He's been a real good leader for us," Nutt said.
FS Johnny Brown had to leave practice with an aggravated hamstring injured during the break just before practice started.
"He went home and tried to race somebody and popped a hamstring. He thought he could go today, but he aggravated it. We will have to watch him closely," Nutt closed.
Our notes from the first practice:
* Today was a fundamental and basics day, with a lot of emphasis on picking up where they left off in spring with individual techniques and assignments. Toward the end of practice, there was significant team work with the best going against the best and twos against twos and so on. Overall, the conditioning of the team held up in hot, humid conditions. Other than Brown, we did not see a player who didn't finish the practice upright.
* MLB Jonathan Cornell has changed jersey numbers again. He is now #51.
* Freshman Lakenwic Haynes was expected to see some time at safety, but he played linebacker all day today. He looked fairly comfortable, all things considered, but he obviously needs some time in the weight room to fill out his long frame.
* The one OL, most of the day, was LT Michael Oher, LG Reid Neely, C Darryl Harris/Daverin Geralds, RG Harris/Geralds, RT Maurice Miller. The two OL was LT Bradley Sowell, LG Alex Washington, who looks slimmed up substantially to us, C Brandon Green, RG Rishaw Johnson and RT John Jerry.
* DT Ted Laurent, who had knee surgery early this week, was at practice in a knee bandage, but he was not on crtuches or in a hard brace. Obviously, he did not participate in any drills.
* WR Melvin Harris, who broke his foot early in the summer, was able to do a few drills, but the 6-6 frosh was limited and has not been medically cleared.
* In one-on-one pass drills early in the practice, the wide receivers seemed to be having some problems hanging on to the ball, but as practice wore on, they made more catches. Their routes were clean and the passes were fairly sharp, but until they settled in a bit, they dropped a few aerials they didn't drop in spring.
* The secondary is being closely watched. Here was today's rotation. CB Cassius Vaughn, Dustin Mouzon; CB Marshay Green, Jeremy McGee. Marr, Herman and Sanders also got their share of reps. FS was Kendrick Lewis, with Brown out, and Jared Mitchell. SS Jamarca Sanford was backed by Fon Ingram, who had an impressive pick midway through the workout.
* JUCO LB Patrick Trahan was backing up Allen Walker at Sam LB today and it's apparent Allen will have his hands full holding off Trahan for the top spot even though Patrick is not in very good shape yet. He has obvious speed and quick movement and as we saw clearly in coverage drills against the TEs, he's extremely competitive and good in that coverage matchup.
* The three freshmen running backs have the "it" factor. Whatever "it" is, they have it. They do not look like freshmen. Enrique is quick and fast and has a darting style, quickly weaving through traffic with good vision. Bolden is more of slasher and Devin Thomas, even not at 100%, hits the holes quickly, low and with authority. It's apparent Thomas' ankle is not right yet because he's running with kind of a shuffling gait and a bit stiffly right now, but he looks like he's got what it takes once he gets to be 100%.
* Cornell, Ingram and CB Jeremy McGee all had interceptions today. McGee played a fade pattern perfectly and showed a good vertical leap in stealing a Snead pass intended for Mike Wallace.
* Powe got most of his reps with the number three defense and it looks like DL Coach Tracy Rocker is going to bring him along slowly, but Jerrell showed flashes of a dynamic, quick first step and extremely fast hands with a powerful swim move to part two OL and get in the backfield quickly a couple of times.
* Snead had one pass today that seemed so effortless it almost went unnoticed, but it was special. Rolling left under pressure, Jevan threw a tight line drive about 15 yards across his body to TE Gerald Harris. Right on the money, being harrassed, against the grain. Sweet.
* It is interesting to watch the new staff work. After every rep, to a man, each had critiquing to do. The coaching never slows down or stops. Every rep is met with some instruction. The consistency of that teaching is good to see.
* Speaking of coaching, Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix was not bashful with his calls today. He sent extra people often on pass plays and mixed things up a lot. It was a Nix kind of day, attacking the offense from a lot of different angles to create pressure in a lot of different ways. Needless to say, the players responded to those tactics.
* Offensively, OC Kent Austin seemed to keep things fairly simple today and did not appear to care too much on the first day about stretching the field much with many vertical passes over 15-20 yards. It was more like a we'll-take-what-they-give-us approach today.
* We will put up a picture gallery of the newcomers we were able to snap tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow is Media Day and practice is at 5:30 p.m. again. It is open to the public. About 300 fans braved the weather today.
Football practice begins!
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