Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt calls it "the grind."
Anyone around football for any appreciable time frame, whether participant or observer, knows what he's talking about.
The grind is when the football team adds the extra weight of padding and things get more physical and tougher.
Phase I of the grind started today when the Rebs took the practice fields with shoulder pads and helmets and the contact work on the interior, in particular, heated up.
While there is no full tackling with just shoulder pads and helmets on, there is plenty of controlled contact, expecially with the interior people on both lines.
What were Nutt's impressions of the first contact work of August drills?
"We started out pretty good today and then we didn't finish the right way," said Nutt. "I thought the defense had more energy than the offense. We have to learn to finish. That's been our theme all summer, but when you hit that third day with the heat on top on you and with all the stuff we are throwing at them, it's easy to make mental mistakes and busts, but what we want is for them to work through those and finish. Give us effort and have a short memory if you make a mistake."
The defensive line had a very good day, with Peria Jerry, Marcus Tillman, Greg Hardy, who got some number one snaps, and Emmanuel Stephens showing the brightest. Will Tillman stay at tackle? Nutt likes him there.
"I like Marcus anywhere, but with him inside it allows us to have the best 11 on the field. He's hard-nosed, intelligent and he works hard. With Ted Laurent out, this also gives us a chance to get more DEs some reps, guys like Chris Bowers, LaDerrick Vaughn and Emmanuel getting all he needs," said Houston. "If that DL will keep coming, we have a real chance there.
"Greg has been giving us a lot of effort and is very hard to block. If we were gameplanning him, we would be getting four hands on him. He's so quick, has such a quick first step, great moves and he can run all day. He and Peria have been disrupting everything."
Nutt said he also gets more excited every day about his running backs, young and old.
"They continue to work hard, they continue to learn and they are learning how to practice. The younger ones are making the older ones better," he said. "We will go a week, and get the Saturday noon - we want the heat, hot as we can get it - scrimmage on film and then we will start defining each backs' role."
Today, Dustin Mouzon was moved to number one CB ahead of Marshay Green and the battle was on.
"That competition is good for both of them. They both made plays today. Marshay just has to get more consistent. Dustin had an excellent day yesterday. We love the competition and that only makes us better as a team," said Houston. "I love the spirit both of them have."
Early in practice, the punters - Justin Sparks and Rob Park - picked things up substantially from previous days. Both averaged over 40 yards per punt and seemed more relaxed.
"That was good to see, but that's just one day. They need to stay consistent and keep having days like today," Houston assessed.
While it's still early, Nutt says he feels good about the team overall.
"I like the direction we are going in. It's still early and we still have plenty to do, but if we'll stay together and stay focused. . . . " his voice trailed off.
Nutt also likes the progress he's seeing out of QB Jevan Snead.
"He's getting better. Remember we are throwing a lot at him, and the defense is throwing the kitchen sink at us, but he's still making good decision and throwing the ball well. I like him in the huddle," Nutt noted.
Nutt also likes the progress of the linebackers.
"I like the six we have working there - Jonathan Cornell, Allen Walker, Ashlee Palmer, Lamar Brumfield, Tony Fein and Patrick Trahan," he added. "We are getting some competition and depth going there."
At the end of practice, in the team huddle, after a rigorous overtime running period, Peria Jerry had a colorful pep talk for the team that could be heard from afar.
"I like that," said Nutt. "It shows he cares. It shows the young kids that the seniors care and want to win. The young guys are just trying to find their locker and wondering whether we'll have ice cream tonight, but when they see a senior - who knows this is it for them - care, it means a lot.
"As coaches, we can only do so much. Tracy Rocker can't play DT. Tyrone Nix can't play middle linebacker. We can show them and put them in position to do it, but ultimately they have to go execute and do it. Players who care get it done."
* Freshman Linebacker Lakenwic Haynes had to go back home to Texas after a death in his family. He is expected to return Sunday.
* DT LaMark Armour, Nutt said, is probably going to have to have surgery on his injured knee. It was hurt in the offseason, but the trainers and doctors felt they may be able to brace it up in fall and be OK. It did not hold up and surgery will be required soon.
* SS Johnny Brown, who has a pulled hamstring, is expected to be back Monday. Nutt said he will not rush Brown back because he does not want him to keep aggravating the injury.
* Junior WR Shay Hodge also drew praise from Nutt. "He's our most physical receiver and he makes a nice, big target out there," Nutt said.
* Early in practice, after stretch, Nutt gathered the team around in a circle and the hitting began with some one-on-one blocking drills. Got the football juices flowing.
* SS Johnny Brown, DT Ted Laurent, DT LaMark Armour and WR Melvin Harris remained on the injured list.
* As Nutt said, Dustin Mouzon worked a lot with the first defense at number one LCB ahead of Marshay Green. Cassius Vaughn and Jeremy McGee handled the right side. Mouzon had an interception of a long pass in pass scale and Green kept the competition going with a pick of his own and two knocked down passes in team (11 on 11) drills. LCB is shaping up to be a real battle to see who wins the job.
* On field goal work today, Josh Shene was 4-4 from 30-35 yards out. Bryson Rose was 1-1.
* In field goal block situations, Kentrell Lockett, not Jermey Parnell, is the middle kick blocker for now.
* Some members of the field goal protection unit include the big guys, like Michael Oher, Darryl Harris, Mo Miller, Reid Neely, Bradley Sowell, and Gerald Harris and Jason Cook on the wings.
* In one-on-one inside drills, pitting the OL versus the DL, there were some good battles. Peria Jerry and Darryl Harris fought to a stalemate as did Daverin Geralds and Jerrell Powe. About the only one-sided battle was Hardy on Miller. Hardy is simply too quick for one person to block.
* In the inside running drills, all four tailbacks had good runs - Eason, D. Davis, E. Davis and Bolden. All seem to be able to pick their way through traffic and the two young ones showed good speed on toss sweeps.
* In pass scale today, with the DBs/LBs concentrating mostly on zone coverage, Snead was 6-7, read every crease and drilled every pass perfectly, but in team drills, the DL was too disruptive for him to have much time to throw. They did muster some offense on the ground, with Enrique, Cook, Eason, Derrick and Bolden all having decent runs at one point in the period, but overall the defense got the better of the offense today, from our perspective.
* Snead was "sacked" several times in team drills. Hardy, Jerry, Stephens and Palmer all got to him at least once each.
The Rebs will be in helmets and shoulder pads again tomorrow. Friday will be the first day of pads. Saturday will be a noon scrimmage.