Week two of fall football practice began today with the Rebels in full pads and Coach Houston Nutt looking for something extraordinatry.
Did he get it? Yes and no, according to the head man.
"We had about 10 or 11 really good periods and then went into that sluggish, feel sorry for ourselves mode," said Nutt. "We have to get a little tougher and we have to finish. You can't play a quarter and a half, you have to play four. We have to do better.
"The first periods, we were getting execution and people were crisp on both sides of the ball. We were reaching our blocks and the defense was chasing the ball. We threw the ball and caught it well. Then we got a little tired and suddenly we weren't stepping the right way or bending the right way. We got sluggish. You can't have 7 or 8 doing things right on one play. It takes 11."
Nutt briefly talked about Saturday's scrimmage before getting into more detail on injuries, practice and personnel evals.
"We grade them on technique and effort. Do they know what to do, are they doing things correctly and are they giving it their all?" he said. "For the first scrimmage, it was alright. We have to do better, but it was OK for a first time. The freshmen still have their heads spinning, but they are listening and trying to get better."
The big news today, which melded into more injury questions for Houston, revolved around DE Greg Hardy's surgery. Nutt commented briefly on the situation.
"The stress fracture took us a little by surprise. He was looking like a million dollars for a few days and then he said his foot was sore. We thought it was a bruise until we got the X-ray back and it revealed a little crack in the bone on the side of his foot," Nutt stated. "He had snapped the other one in high school. This one is not that severe. Dr. (Ed) Field said the surgery went well. We don't know when he will be back for sure, but we need him back as soon as possible."
There has been some speculation Hardy's injury may make the coaches rethink their decision to move Marcus Tillman from DE to DT. Nutt said no to that notion - for now.
"Right now, we are keeping Marcus inside. We are going to be leaning on Lockett, Stephens, Bowers, Vaughn and Parnell at DE," said Houston. "I just wish we had Jermey a couple of years ago because this is a long process, but he still does things that catch your eye even witgh no experience. Physically, he's big, strong - he's got it. There is some basketball transition going on there and we've only had a few days with him. It's like teaching a first-grader how to write - it's not easy, but because of his body, his size and his quickness, there are some things he does very naturally. We still have more time, so we will see. We may put in a special package for him. We don't know yet."
DT Peria Jerry was moving around very well today, even though he was not dressed out.
"It was encouraging to see him moving around fairly well. I was also encouraged the way Allen Walker moved around a little and having Kendrick Lewis and Johnny Brown back will help us," Nutt stated. "We are probably going to get Allen back quicker than we thought - three or four days we hope, which is sooner than we expected. We hope it plays out that way anyway. We survived today without any further injuries except Chris Bowers bruised his knee during middle drill. It seems that defensive line has a bad bug. We need to get rid of it.
"Mike Wallace sat out today with a strained hamstring. I kidded him that he caught a long TD pass and went straight to the training room Saturday. I don't understand that. I kidded him that he shouldn't be hurt after a big play and that maybe he just wasn't used to getting in the end zone. Man, hurt during a long bomb?"
With Walker out, Nutt said some backup LBs will get some needed extra reps, including, and in particular, Patrick Trahan, Jason Jones, Lakenwic Haynes and Lamar Brumfield.
"Trahan is going to be alright pretty soon. He only has one problem - he didn't spend the summer with Coach Don Decker," Nutt assessed.
Nutt is still impressed with the young running backs and because of that he is going to increase their workload.
"Cordera Eason has to have a tooth taken out Wednesday, so we are going to double up on those young backs while he is out a day or two," Houston said. "We are going to put some pressure on them and see how they respond. We had a couple of them cough the ball up today when they got tired and we can't have that. I'll be excited to see how they will respond in the next two or three days as we put a little more on them."
* Starting today, the media is allowed to watch four periods of practice each day, which amounts to about 20 minutes. We have no problem with that because it is Houston Nutt's program and we want him to run it the way he feels necessary, just as we had no problem with the last coach closing practices. But, obviously, there's only so much we will be able to see in that time frame, so the practice reports will probably be a bit more sparse of solid info than the first week. We will get to see, as will the public, Saturday's entire scrimmage, which starts at 6 p.m. after Meet The Rebels Day, so we should be able to make up for some lost ground, but until then please tolerate our adjustment to the new schedule and the amount of info we can gather in 20 minutes.
* DT Peria Jerry, who sustained a minor knee injury last Friday, did not dress out today, but he did partake in stretch with the team and then ran some laps. He did not seem to be favoring the knee, but he was not cutting or pushing off the leg from a three or four-point stance. It is still anticipated he will be ready for the Memphis game.
* FS Johnny Brown missed most of last week with a hamstring pull, but he was back at practice today and went full speed during the drills we were able to watch. Meanwhile, running mate Kendrick Lewis, who had an ankle injury, was also practicing full speed. The return of those two will solve some ills in the secondary.
* Also, we saw 6-7 frosh WR Melvin Harris running some routes today and he appeared to be back to normal as well after missing most of the summer and the first full week of practice due to a broken foot he sustained his first week here in late May. Melvin, in all likelihood, will be a redshirt candidate. One, he can't be in real good shape. Two, the wide receiver corps is pretty stacked up. Three, he badly needs a year in the weight room with Don Decker and his staff.
* With WR Mike Wallace out a couple of days with a hamstring issue, Markeith Summers was taking his reps with the first team. Markeith had a very good scrimmage Saturday and it appears that effort raised his stock a bit.
* There was an internet rumor earlier today that WR Shay Hodge was also injured in the scrimmage. If he was, it did not last long. Shay was full speed at practice today.
Coach Houston Nutt told us today that he wishes he could bottle yesterday's practice in special teams. He said P/PK Justin Sparks was "outstanding" in kickoff duties, P Rob Park had another good day punting the ball and PK Josh Shene was nearly perfect in field goals, as he was Saturday in the scrimmage. Those three, if the season started tomorrow, would be the starters, but Nutt said he's holding his breath. "They have to keep building and I want to continue to see some consistency in all areas," he noted.
* The Rebs worked on some kickoff return sets today and the bevy of return men, even sans Wallace, the fastest player on the team, was very impressive. Enrique Davis, Cordera Eason, Lionel Breaux, Brandon Bolden and Devin Thomas were all given opportunities. In talking with Special Teams Coordinator James Shibest, it's obvious he wants speed back there, but he also likes bigger bodies, hence the Easons, Boldens and E. Davis' getting a look.
Practice Report: Monday
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