Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt was looking for two good days in a row at practice and he got his wish.
"Two healthy days in a row, knock on wood, and we had a really good practice on top of that," said Nutt smiling. "We kept them out here a long time today and even had to use the lights on the practice fields. This was good work today. We did a lot of situational stuff – 3rd and 8, 3rd and 9, two-minute drills, etc. We wanted to put them in some game-like situations. For the most part, they executed well.
"We made a few too many mistakes on alignment and things like that, which we can't let happen, but overall it was a pretty good day today."
The Rebels worked hard on special teams early today and Nutt said the coaching staff is starting to identify some players other than starters who can help that cause.
"Guys like George Helow, Reggie Hicks, LaDerrick Vaughn, Rishaw Johnson and some guys like that are guys who jump out at you. We want speed and playmakers. If they can run and give a tremendous effort, they will be out there," said Nutt.
The Rebel special teams will be comprised of more starters than backups, but Nutt said it's good to be able to use some of the backups in order to rest the starters a little.
Nutt knew the team was going to be without the services of Tailback Cordera Eason today due to some dental issues. In his absence, how did the other backs respond?
"They did well. They started getting a little tired toward the end and blew a protection here or there, but overall, they are still doing very well and I am pleased with them and proud of them," he continued.
Despite the recent rash of injuries, Nutt said he has not changed his contact routine from years past for this time of year, but he also stated "it's not that much."
"We do live middle work, 7-on-7 in the run game, but then when we go to team drills (11-on-11) we do full speed thud work. We are hitting every play but it's not tackling to the ground where most injuries occur," he said. "The difference this year with the number of injuries we have had is that I have never had this many get hurt before we put pads on. Guys like Greg Hardy, Ted Laurent, Peria was hurt during the first play of pads, and Melvin Harris was back in the summer. The good news is we are going to get all those guys back except Greg will be out a while."
Nutt said recent developments with Reid Neely and his Achilles strain are making them optimistic on a quick return by the left guard.
"The MRI was negative and I think in four or five days, he will be back," Nutt noted.
Nutt was askled if Neely will get his job back when he returns.
"We have been pleased with the way the OL has come on since his injury, but you do not throw a starter out when he is injured and it's not his fault and he was going full speed when he got injured," explained Nutt, "but what it does do is create tremendous competition. Reid's behind and that group is gelling. He's smart and he knows that. They are looking good and he has to come back in a hurry and come back strong."
One question that has been asked several hundred times, minimum, by fans is who would be the 7th, 8th and 9th guys on the OL if the first game was tomorrow. That's knowing Oher, Miller, Geralds, D. Harris, J. Jerry and Neely are the top six.
"I would say Bradley Sowell, Brandon Green and Rishaw Johnson would be next in line and we think they are close to being ready," Nutt clarified.
If the Rebels played tonight, who would be the return specialists? Nutt offered no major surprises.
"Marshay Green and Dexter McCluster are our punt return guys. The top four kickoff return guys are Cordera, Mike Wallace, Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis," Nutt noted. "They say Mike will be back soon, by the way, from his hamstring pull.
"In field goals, Josh Shene is still the guy, but he's starting to get a little pressure from Bryson Rose, the freshman. In kickoffs, Justin Sparks is doing the best job and in punting it's between Justin and Rob Park. Both of them have had good days the past few days in punting so we have some good competition going there."
* The injury list grew by two today, one expected and one not expected. . . Junior RB Cordera Eason had a dentist appointment to extract a bad tooth, which was scheduled earlier in the week when he started experiencing some pain. Cordera was at practice today as an observer and is not expected to be out much longer. . . The unexpected was freshman S Brandon Sanders, who is having some shoulder issues. He said it's popping out of the socket when he is involved in contact. No word on how long he will be out.
* The rest of the injury list looks just like yesterday: Greg Hardy (foot), Reid Neely (Achilles strain), Bobby Peterson, Mike Wallace (hamstring), Allen Walker (knee), LaMark Armour (knee), Chris Bowers (knee), Ted Laurent (knee), Peria Jerry (knee), Dan Hoffman (knee). . . Neely, as was posted on the message board earlier today, was out of his walking boot and had on a light elastic wrap, but he said he expects to be back to practice early next week. Wallace said he also anticipates being back in a matter of days.
* Senior S Terrell Jackson returned to practice today after missing the first week and two days to clear up some academic issues. He was not dressed out in pads because he has to go through the required acclimation period of shorts and helmets. . . Also, LB Trey Tripp joined the team toiday as well. Trey is a redshirt frosh from Georgia.
* With Eason out, freshman RB Brandon Bolden and junior Derrick Davis were splitting time with the number one offese at tailback.
* The Rebs opened practice with four periods of special teams work. One area highlighted and emphasized was the field goal block team. The edge guys were Dustin Mouzon and Cassius Vaughn. Next to them on the inside were Kendrick Lewis and Jamarca Sanford. The interior people were Lamar Brumfield, Emmanuel Stephens, Justin Smith and Marcus Tillman. Kentrell Lockett was the middle blocker and Jonathan Cornell was the deep safety valve.
* The field goal team also got extra attention. On the wings, Jason Cook and Gerald Harris are the outside protectors. Then it's all big bodies on the front: Bradley Sowell, Rishaw Johnson, Michael Oher, DS Preston Powers, Maurice Miller, John Jerry and Darryl Harris. Rob Park is the holder and Josh Shene was the kicker with the first unit.
* On punt return, we could not identify all the interior personnel, but Dustin Mouzon was the outside rusher to block the kick, frosh Derrick Herman and Jeremy McGee were the outside gunners, Lewis and Sanford were second level blockers and Marshay Green was the number one returner.
* On the second team punt return, George Helow blocked a punt.
* On a sad personal note for Coach Nutt, his car dealer for "the last 10-12 years," and a good friend, Bill Gwatney, was killed in a shooting incident in the Arkansas Democratic Party headquarters. Mr. Gwatney was set to come to a couple of the Ole Miss games this year. Nutt sent his condolences to the Gwatney family and seemed very shook up after practice over the news.
Practice Report: Wednesday
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