We are drawn to baseball because of its strategies and man versus man duals between pitcher and batter in a team sport.
But football makes our blood boil because it harkens our most basic primal instincts - who's the baddest dude on the field?
Hitting, contact, slobberknockers, brute force is what brings us back.
Sure, athletic attributes like speed, quickness, hand-eye coordination, balance and agility, along with mental tasks such as proper execution and strategy comes into play heavily, but be honest. Doesn't every football fan and every football player who loves the game wait in anticipation of that moment of contact that creates the sharp crack of a big hit?
Of course you do.
The first day of pads is always a benchmark in fall practice. It's where the men thrive and the boys wither.
Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt was anxious to see how the Rebs would respond.
Even though several injuries have popped up in the last two or three days, he was not disappointed.
"First of all, we got a break in the weather. It was very nice out there today. I was hoping for a little hotter weather, but I'm sure we'll get our share this month," he said. "We had a really good prctice the first day in pads. The guys bounced around and moved around well.
"I'm looking forward to tomorrow with a 45-minute practice on the practice fields at 11 and then moving into the stadium for a 100-play, full-contact scrimmage. We didn't do a lot of full tackling today because of the scrimmage tomorrow, but we'll find out then a little more about what we are made of."
Nutt said he would keep his coaches on the field for this scrimmage and then divide them up into press box and on the field in the last two scrimmages.
"I want them down on the field coaching and making sure everything is going smoothly before we put some of them in the press box," Nutt noted.
The injury bug has hit the Rebels in the past couple of days. The list grew a little today.
FS Kendrick Lewis hurt his ankle yesterday and was held out of today's practice. . . DTs Ted Laurent and LaMark Armour have been out with knee injuries. . . Add to that list DT Peria Jerry, who tweaked his knee as well today and had to come out after the first play of middle drills. . . DE Greg Hardy is still nursing a sore foot. . . LB Don hargroder sustained a concussion and is out for now. . . OG Reid Neely was still in a boot after straining his Achilles tendon Wednesday. . . Frosh LB Lakenwic Haynes is in Texas for a family funeal and will return Sunday. . . FS Johnny Brown dressed out today, but was very limited as he tries to get his hamstring healthy.
Two players who missed yesterday did return today: LB Lamar Brumfield and frosh OL Josh Tatum.
"We are running out of bodies a little on the DL. We've hit a little injury spurt. With Ted, Greg, Peria and LaMark out, we are getting a little thin there," Nutt stated. "On the good side, we were able to get more of a look at freshman DT Justin Smith, who ran with the ones today.
"I like that young man because he is intelligent, he's committed and he runs to the ball. He may line up wrong sometimes, but not very often, and he's a physical kid for a freshman. He jumps up there and is not afraid to mix it up with those big linemen. I'm proud of him."
OL Coach Mike Markuson stayed with the same offensive front as yesterday - LT Michael Oher, LG Darryl Harris, C Daverin Geralds, RG Mo Miller and RT John Jerry - and was just as pleased with the results.
"They did well. Our protection is getting better, the running game is getting better. That group has jumped up. John Jerry is really coming now. Michael Oher had his best day. Daverin and Maurice were solid. And Darryl has been our best guy from the start of August in regard to doing all the little things correctly," he said.
With the OL picking things up a bit, it allowed QB Jevan Snead an opportunity to get in more of a rhythm and show his stuff.
"Jevan had his best day. He was on target. He had good protection and the receivers caught some good balls," said Houston. "He showed us what he can do when he has time."
What does Houston want out of the scrimamge tomorrow?
"I want to see a very physical team. I want to see our secondary tackle and play the ball. I want to see some of the backup guards and tackles and see what they can do," he said. "I also want to see the young running backs perform in full contact with the helmets coming after them. They have done well so far so now let's see how they do with people in a bad mood coming after them."
Frosh RB Brandon Bolden ripped off a couple of nice runs today. Nutt is excited about him and the other two frosh RBs - Devin Thomas and Enrique Davis.
"They are talented and very, very good. They have raised the level of play of Cordera Eason and Derrick Davis and we are not afraid to give those youngsters the ball," he said. "We have that much confidence in them."
Back to Peria's injury. Nutt is hopeful things are OK, but every precaution will be taken.
"The preliminary exam didn't show much, but I'm sure we'll get an MRI to make sure he's OK. In the meantime, we will hold him out until he's right," Nutt explained. "Peria haas been our leader. We cannot afford to lose him. We're hoping and praying for the best."
* Nutt told me prior to practice that he wasn't going to grind the team today - he's saving that for tomorrow in the scrimmage. "I want them fresh for tomorrow," he said. He was true to his word. The Rebs did some full contact work and everything on the inside was full contact, but there was no full tackling to speak of.
* In pass scale, CB Dustin Mouzon continued his sparkling play that began three days ago and has him on the number one defense. Today, he had two excellent pass breakups and an interception and did not allow a completion in man coverage.
* Houston has done substantial "bragging" on his freshmen RBs, but a little more won't hurt. Today, it was Bolden's turn to show what he's got. Two times he make excellent inside cuts, bounced to daylight and was off to the races. The defense was in thud mode, but they wouldn't have tackled him had they been in full contact mode. Kid could be very special. Enrique also showed his speed once when he was bottled up behind the line of scrimmage and bounced outside for a big gain after getting the angle on the pursuing CB.
* With Peria out, the two DEs stepped up their play. Both Kentrell Lockett and Emmanuel Stephens registered QB sacks in team (11 on 11) drills.
* With both of the top free safeties out, freshman Jared Mitchell took over the number one duties and seemed to hold his own in pass cale drills. Good sign to have decent depth there.
* Backup LB Patrick Trahan seemed to get his second wind some today and moved around a lot better. He also seemed to have an idea where he was going for the first time since practice started. Those are good steps forward for Trahan, but he is still some distance behind the three starters at LB - Allen Walker, Jonathan Cornell and Ashlee Palmer. If the first game was played tomorrow, one would have to believe Lamar Brumfield would be the first OLB off the bench and Tony Fein would be the backup MLB.
* What Nutt did not say about Snead, but probably meant to, was that he not only performed well, but today it seemed more of the light went on. QB Coach Kent Austin was constantly congratulating him on his reads and throws, which will only build his confidence in future practices as the season nears.
* Both segments of tomorrow's practice are open to the public before practices are shut down next week. The first segment will be at 11 a.m. on the practice fields and the second segment will be the 100-play scrimmage in the stadium beginning around noon.
|Photos by Chuck Rounsaville|