Practice Report: Friday

After four "tough" days of August drills this week, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt eased up on the troops today as they prepared for Saturday's Meet The Rebel Day scrimmage in the IPF amidst rainy weather in Oxford.

Last week, before the Rebs' first scrimmage of the year, Coach Houston Nutt slowed things down on Friday for a learning practice, preparing the team for the scrimmage.

This week, with the Meet The Rebels Day scrimmage looming, Nutt did the same thing. He ligthened up the workload and went with more of a mental workout today.

The Rebels practiced in the IPF for an hour-and-a-half, in helmets and soft shells, going over what they are going to work on in Saturday's scrimmage.

First things first. The Rebs got a scare yesterday when LT Michael Oher took a helmet on the arm and had to leave practice.

"He's fine. Full go. We are happy about that," Nutt said, getting that out of the way right off the bat. "Just a big bruise and that's great news for us."

Houston took it easy on the team to try to give them a little healing time.

"We got a lot of good work done, a lot of mental work too," he said, "but we are a little bruised up and we've got an important scrimmage tomorrow so I thought I would ease up a little today. It went really well.

"FB Jason Cook, DT Peria Jerry, LB Ashlee Palmer and Oher are giving us great leadership where we can have days like this and still get something meaningful done."

Nutt said he'll be looking for progress from the backups tomorrow and try to get some good film for personnel evaluations.

"We're looking to see how the running backs do and there's a real battle going on at free safety with Kendrick Lewis and Johnny Brown. Kendrick has had a great camp, but Johnny is fighting back from an injury and also looks good," Houston said. "We are also trying to nail down our different rotations, especially on the defensive front. We want to get 6-8 guys on the DL who we feel comfortable with and see how they do in game-like situations. We are going to take a closer look at guys like Gerald Rivers, who has a chance to play this year, Justin Smith and guys like that. Gerald is very athletic. We'd like to redshirt him, but we just don't know right now."

We've been asked repeatedly which coaches will be on the sidelines and which ones will be in the booth during games. Houston said they will work that arrangment tomorrow and gave us the breakdown.

"On offense, Kent Austin and GA Allen Hinsell will be in the booth and on defense Kim Dameron and GA Brad Villavaso," he said. "We are trying to decide on one more, but have not finalized that yet."

DT Ted Laurent got a little more work today and Houston is optimistic about what he's seeing.

"I don't know if he will be able to start the Memphis game, but it looks as if we might be able to get spot duty from him," Nutt stated. "We had another DL go down today. Justin Sanders turned over his ankle. Man, we've just got a bug there. We've got to get past that."

There is early rain in the forecast for tomorrow, but Meet The Rebels Day activities will be inside. The 6 p.m. scrimmage, however, is scheduled for the stadium and Houston said if the rain lingers he will still have it outside to get in a rain day practice "unless there is lightning in the area." In the case of lightning, the scrimmage will be held in the IPF.

Random Notes:

* Updated injury list: Greg Hardy (knee), Reid Neely (Achilles strain), Bobby Peterson (ankle), Mike Wallace (hamstring), Justin Sanders (ankle), Chris Bowers (knee, LaMark Armour (knee), Brandon Sanders (shoulder).

* Injury notes: As was stated, Oher was going full speed today. . . . TE E.J. Epperson, who had a little knee problem for two days, returned to practice today. . . TB Cordera Eason, out two days due to dental work, returned today as well. . . FB Dan Hoffman, who tweaked his knee and missed three days, also returned to work. . . WR Markeith Summers, who had bruised ribs, looked full speed today, but we're not sure how much he will participate in the scrimmage. . . We took the liberty of taking Laurent off the injury list today because he was doing more than before and actually had his helmet and soft shells on, but he won't scrimmage and it is unsure when he will come back full speed and in pads. . . Neely said he should be back Tuesday, maybe even as early as Monday.

* SS Terrell Jackson and LB Trey Tripp, who joined the team this week and have been going through acclimation, are expected to dress out in full pads tomorrow for the first time this camp.

* Markus Crockett has been playing RB, but today he was moved to cornerback to see if he could help there. Marcus also changed jersey numbers from 23 to 29, the same as frosh TB Devin Thomas.

* LB Allen Walker is back at practice after missing a few days with a knee injury, but today he was with the number two defense. Today's number two linebackers look like they could be a formidable group - Walker, Patrick Trahan and Tony Fein in the middle.

* Senior Defensive Tackle Peria Jerry returned to practice yesterday, but things aren't the same for him now. No, it has nothing to do with his health. It has to do with the way the coaches are going to treat him. They understand his value to the team and recognize he has nothing to prove. They want him healthy for games, so they are going to limit his contact work from this point on. Peria is living with that notion, but he's not a fan of it. "I want to be out there with my teammates. I understand what the coaches are doing and I'm going to do what they tell me to do," he said, "but I'd rather be out there practicing. Yesterday in goalline drills, man, it was hard to watch when I knew I could be helping." Big Peria usually gets his way on the football field. Not this time. He won't be risked more than is absolutely necessary in practice situations. Today, Peria was running with the number one defense, but don't look for him out there tomorrow.

* As we have stated before, we tend to overlook the players who are simply doing their jobs in practice in our daily reports, even though we try not to. One group that keeps ginning that hasn't gotten much practice report attention is the wide receivers. They deserve more. Dexter McCluster has been as dynamic and reliable as ever. He's also healthy and a few pounds heavier, which will help his endurance. Put an 'X' by his name in the excellent column. . . Shay Hodge has been the model of consistency. He's catching the ball as well as anyone on the team and his chemistry with QB Jevan Snead appears seamless. . . Mike Wallace has missed all week due to a hamstring pull, but his improvement since last season has been noticeable. Mike is bigger - about 190-195 pounds now, his hands are more sure than ever and he's now more of an all-around threat in the passing game rather than just a deep threat. . . Lionel Breaux and Markeith Summers made giant moves in spring and have picked up where they left off. Breaux has been consistent and picks up more and more nuances of the position daily. Summers started off slowly, but last week's scrimmage was a breakout performance for him. He has some bruised ribs right now, but he's still practicing and producing, sans contact. . . Jacarious Lucas isn't flashy, but he makes one or two nice catches a day and is the most physical of all the receivers in the run game, according to WR Coach Ron Dickerson. . . Freshman Andrew Harris has a lot to learn, but he certainly looks the part. Like most freshmen, he's struggling a bit with his hands because he appears to be thinking too much about reading coverages and running his routes precisely. Once that becomes second nature to him, look for his hands to improve. . . It was thought prior to the season the wide receiver slots would be a strength of the team. They have done nothing in August to this point to change that opinion.

* Another player who gets lost in the attention shuffle but is extremely important to the cause is Deep Snapper Preston Powers. The junior from Collierville, TN, has been almost perfect the past two years and is expected to be the same this year, maybe even better. He has Special Teams Coordinator James Shibest's stamp of approval. His times are good and his accuracy, if anything, has improved since last season. There is not much that can change a game quicker than a bad punt snap leading to a blocked punt. It's rare when Powers has one of those. Expect near perfection from him again.

* The Rebel staff got a wish granted today when AD Pete Boone purchased new headsets for the sidelines. The Tempest Systems headsets are state of the art and much needed. The Rebs have been using the same headsets since 1999 and until last year they were fine, but things have changed. The old headsets could only be set to one permanent frequency. Through the years, with cell phones and television, etc., making advancements and needing more frequencies, sometimes former coaches would get interference from other sources during games, especially road games. The new ones, also wireless, have adjustable frequency controls so the Reb coaches can always get a clear signal, at home and on the road. Also, the new ones have three separate lines of communication on each side of the ball, where the old ones were limited to two. "Pete came through for us in a big way and I appreciate it. He saw the need and took care of it," said Nutt. The new headsets cost roughly $90,000.

* Tomorrow's scrimmage begins at 6 p.m. in the stadaium.

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