Day four of August practice for the Ole Miss Rebels was another full bore affair in shoulder pads and helmets with a lot of inside controlled contact along the line of scrimmage. (Due to rain in the area, the practice was moved inside.)
Tomorrow, it will be the real thing as the Rebs don the rest of their gear and get in some full contact in full pads.
Rebel Coach Houston Nutt has one major goal for August practice - for the Rebs to show progress every day.
Has he seen that?
"We had a very good practice today. Thank goodness for this indoor facility. It is so well-designed. To have our meetings rooms, coaches offices, training room, weight room, locker room and everything 20 feet from this field is a blessing," said Nutt. "It is one of the best indoor facilities in the country.
"We had a good practice today. We got better on offense. They responded from yesterday and picked up some blitzes. I was proud of that. Jevan Snead threw the ball well today, the receivers ran good routes and caught the ball and the OL did a much better job. We just have to keep working."
LG Reid Neely was injured yesterday - Achilles strain (not the one he hurt two years ago). That called for some musical chairs up front by OL Coach Mike Markuson.
Darryl Harris was moved from RG to LG in Neely's spot. Maurice Miller slid inside to RG and John Jerry was moved up to the first team at RT to go along with C Daverin Geralds and LT Michael Oher.
"Thank goodness for Darryl Harris," Nutt said. "To have someone as versatile as him is a blessing. We are able to move him around because he can handle it. We have John Jerry going in the right direction now. That's a pretty good five. We have to keep building some depth.
"I'm not sure how long Reid will be out. A strained Achilles can be hard to get well, but we are hoping for the best. I know he does not like watching from the sidelines with the five we had today practicing like they did. That was a good group today. Can they repeat it tomorrow?"
Yesterday, the OL got run over by the DL. Nutt says the DL was just that good on film. He says Marksuon said differently.
"I think the DL was just that good. Coach Markuson said it was all his fault with the OL having poor technique, poor bends, poor steps and not using their hands right, but when that DL has their motor running and their pad level right, like it was yesterday, they are hard to deal with," Nutt explained.
Besides Neely, DE Greg Hardy rode a stationary bike all day today and LB Lamar Brumfield also missed practice. LB Lakenwic Haynes is in Texas for a funeral and will return Sunday. SS Johnny Brown did some half-speed drills today but is not expected back until Monday. DTs Ted Laurent and LaMark Armour are both out with knee injuries and there is no update on when they may return. Frosh OL Josh Tatum also left practice due to dehydration.
"Greg has something wrong with his foot and we rested him as a precaution. Lamar got hit in the kidney yesterday and will be out a day or two," Nutt said. "We hope to get him back by the end of the weekend."
The Rebel running backs are, as a group, leaving a positive impression on Houston.
"Cordera Eason and Derrick Davis did a great job with Coach (Don) Decker this summer and came back stronger and quicker. They have upped their games, but they needed to with the competition they are getting from the three freshmen," Nutt assessed. "I'm ready to see them in full pads, all of them."
Freshman QB Nathan Stanley has also caught Nutt's eye, for a freshman.
"Nathan's going to be good. I am proud of him because we are putting him in some tough situations and he hasn't flinched. He has presence in the pocket and is throwing the ball well," Nutt noted.
The media has not asked about Jerrell Powe in a couple of days to give Nutt and DL Coach Tracy Rocker a chance to absorb what the big man is doing. We asked today.
"You can tell he's been away from football. He's been up and down, but he's learning. Once he feels comfortable with what he's doing, he's going to be fine," said Nutt. "We see glimpses of greatness from him. He has it. It's just a long process getting him ready. He's doing well though."
Nutt said one player emerging on offense as a leader is senior WR Mike Wallace.
"He has a swagger. His speed gives him that naturally, but he's had a really good camp and has been a leader for us," Houston stated. "He's also going to be more than a deep threat this year. He's good in the quick game, screens and as a possession guy."
Nutt has also kept a keen eye on the WR rotation in regard to Jacarious Lucas and freshman Andrew Harris.
"They make a couple of plays a day that keeps them in the rotation. They give us depth. Jacarious is more confident now than he was in spring and Andrew just doesn't look like a freshman out there," Nutt stated.
Nutt was asked about the tight ends.
"I want them to be more consistent in the passing game, but they have been good and physical in the run game," Nutt noted.
* On the lighter side, CB Marshay Green, one of the most personable players on the team, informed us today he has a new nickname. Call him "Batman."
* With Hardy out, that allowed LaDerrick Vaughn more opportunity for quality reps today. LaDerrick responded with great speed off the edge. Even though smallish at 220 pounds for a DE, his quickness is an advantage and may allow him to see the field in pass rush situations.
* With Brumfield out, Don Hargroder moved up to number two SLB behind Allen Walker. Like LaDerrick, Hargroder is a bit undersized at 210 pounds, but he loves the contact part of football, which is half the battle.
* Frosh RB Devin Thomas, to our untrained eye, seems to be loosening up in regard to his ankle rehab and appears to be quicker and stronger than he was the first day of practice. We'll ask about him in the next couple of days to see if the coaches are seeing what we are.
* Another freshman who must be making an impression is DT Justin Smith, who reported to Ole Miss in June at 265 pounds and is now 280. Today, he took some reps with the number two DL and, according to Nutt, "has a lot of fight in him."
* We are asked a lot how much shotgun the Rebs are running on offense. Today, we tried to pay attention more to that. In pass scale, with no linemen in the drill, the QBs were in the shotgun formation roughly 30-40% of the time. We don't know if it will remain in that range during the season, but that's what it was today.
* In inside running drills, the OL seemed more physical against a DL that essentially dominated them yesterday. Is it the inclusion of John Jerry on the OL? Could be. Last year, the 340-pounder was one of the more physical players on the team. There might be some correlation there.
* Dustin Mouzon stayed a half-step ahead of Green in the battle for one of the cornerback spots. He was at number one yesterday and obviously did well enough to hold on to that status another day, but it is a heated competition that will go down to the wire.
* With Brown out at FS, freshman Jared Mitchell, who was here in spring, remains the number two FS behind Kendrick Lewis.
* With the musical chairs on the number one OL, the personnel on the two OL shifted around as well. Today, it was LT Bradley Sowell, LG Mark Jean-Louis, C Brandon Green, RG Rishaw Johnson and RT Alex Washington. The change was Jean-Louis moving up, Johnson from LG to RG and Washington from RG to RT.
* In team (11 on 11) drills, the offense jumped out of the blocks hard with Eason and D. Davis ripping off nice runs through big holes on the first two plays. The D stiffened some after that when they realized the O was serious after getting manhandled yesterday. Things evened up after that, but the offense did fire a warning shot.
* Today was the first time in August Nutt and OC Kent Austin called the Wild Rebel formation with Dexter McCluster at QB. He promptly ripped off a 10-yard gain. The formation was not called again.
* Also in team drills, Snead found Eason all alone down the sidelines for a long gainer. Good presence by Jevan to pick up the safety valve when the other receivers were covered and make a good throw after Eason had released down the sidelines.
* Sometimes, we take players for granted. Guys who just do the job every day sometimes don't get noticed. That's a mistake on our part. Here's a list of players we probably don't mention enough in our reports who are reliable day-in-and-day-out. There are more, but here's a few for startes. McCluster, Jason Cook, Ashlee Palmer, Peria Jerry, Marcus Tillman, Jamarca Sanford, Mike Wallace, Jonathan Cornell, and Josh Shene come to mind. When you don't worry about players, sometimes you don't notice them either and they don't get their due. We'll try to do a better job of that in the future.
* Tomorrow is the first day of full pads. The 5:30 practice is open to the public. Saturday, the Rebels will practice for an hour starting at 11 a.m. on the practice fields and then move to the stadium field at noon for an hour and a half scrimmage. Both segments of Saturday's practice are open to the public.
Practice Report: Thursday
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