For the fans, it's two weeks until kickoff, as if you didn't know, of the 2008 football season.
For the coaches and players, it's decision-making time.
The Meet The Rebels scrimmage late this afternoon proved that point.
Coach Houston Nutt and his staff did not use any of the frontline players more than a few snaps, devoting 90% of the workout in front of three or four thousand fans to the backups with the goal being to further solidify who can help the team's cause now and who might need to wait a while.
"We wanted to get a good look at the backups today and get them on film. We have to turn the corner now as we start honing in on Memphis. We have to go to work now," said Houston. "This is when we start narrowing down reps and get two groups ready to go.
"A lot of that will be determined from today's scrimmage. We had a good idea coming into this practice who we were going to go with in the backup roles, but we just needed to cement that some more and give some guys on the borderline another opportunity to shine."
Questions from the media were fired at Nutt randomly, starting with TB Cordera Eason, who missed a couple of days with dental issues, but ripped off two long runs in limited action in the scrimmage.
"Cordera took up right where he left off. I have admired his work ethic nd toughness. He knew those three freshmen coming in were very, very talented," Nutt noted. "I've been proud of the way he's been steady and consistent."
How does Nutt intend to use all the backs he has? That is still to be determined, but he knows what he would prefer.
"I like a stable of them. You just keep going 'next,' 'next,' and go with whoever's hot. I love the word stable," Nutt said. "I really liked the work Devin Thomas did today. He deserved a longer look. He has worked himself into the picture. I'm very proud with how far he has come.
"Ideally, I would like to redshirt one of those young RBs, but who would it be? I can't say right now if we are or aren't. We're just going to keep them all going and see how it works itself out."
Even though the ones did not play much (the one defense did not play at all), one player missing from the workout was WR Shay Hodge. FB Jason Cook was also in a walking boot, but it was just precation for a slightly turned ankle. He should return to practice Monday. Shay had to go to a funeral and will be back tomorrow. Another player - CB Jeremy McGee - suffered a concussion on a big collision with TE Gerald Harris. McGee got his bell rung loudly, but he forced a fumble on the play that the defense covered.
"Our tight ends made some beautiful catches, but twice they gave the ball up. We've got to correct that," Nutt noted. "Jeremy will be OK, but it will take a few days. Jason has been a great leader for us and will be back on the field in no time. He's a tough youngster and a big part of our team."
The starting wideouts of Hodge, Mike Wallace and Dexter McCluster are set, but what about a rotation, Houston was quizzed.
"Markeith Summers, Lionel Breaux, Andrew Harris and Jacarious Lucas are all in the mix. Markeith and Lionel have really come on strong the last few practices and I think Andrew will be a good one once his head stops spinning from the learning curve," Nutt said. "And I tell you, Lucas just makes plays. He just gets it done."
Nutt also got more excited about the future of freshman QB Nathan Stanley.
"Lot of potential there. If he can get the clock, the signals - if Kent Austin was in the huddle with him, he'd be great, but it doesn't work that way," Houston explained. "The game is just moving fast for him right now, but you can see he can spin the ball well, he's accurate and he has escapability. I'm awfully glad we've got him."
Nutt was also impressed with DT Lawon Scott and he thought he saw more out of LB Patrick Trahan.
"Lawon made a lot of plays today and helped his situation. I'll have to check the film on Trahan, but we've been seeing him pick things up this week now that he's getting in better shape," Nutt commented. "I was also pleased with the number of turnovers our defense generated with a few big hits."
Nutt said the full contact for the preseason is pretty much over.
"We'll still be physical this next week and do a lot of thud work, but we're done with full contact. We'll put them under some stress, but I hope we are finished with the injury bug and we can get everyone but a couple of players back healthy," he closed.
* Injury list: DE Greg Hardy (foot surgery), FB Jason Cook (ankle), DT Justin Sanders (ankle), DT LaMark Armour (knee), LG Reid Neely (Achilles strain), OL Bobby Peterson (ankle), DE Chris Bowers (knee), S Brandon Sanders (shoulder), FB Dan Hoffman (knee), WR Mike Wallace (hamstring), DT Ted Laurent (knee), OG Mark Jean-Louis (unknown injury), CB Jeremy McGee (concussion).
* Injury update: Bowers indicated he will return to practice Monday. Ditto on Wallace and Cook. Laurent actually dressed out today, but did not get any action. He must be getting close to making his comeback. Neely believes he will return sometime early next week. No word on the others.
* S Terrell Jackson and LB Trey Tripp got their first taste of full pads this August after joining the team last Wednesday.
* We were told today sophomore LB Scottie Williams quit the team. Scottie was running third team this fall camp after working up to a number two position in spring.
* Looking for something positive in the kicking game? Justin Sparks got a couple of nice ovations for a pair of kickoffs that made it to the goalline and the duo of PKs Josh Shene and Bryson Rose only missed one placement, a 45-yarder by Rose that barely missed to the right. Other than that, both PKs were perfect out of roughly 12 kicks from varying lengths.
* Who makes up the kickoff return team? Today it was a frontline of Markeith Summers, Lamar Brumfield, Gerald Harris, LaDerrick Vaughn and George Helow, the middle line (wedge blockers) of Derrick Davis, Ben Benedetto, David Traxler and Andy Hartmann and the return duo of Cordero Eason and Brandon Bolden. Most likely, Mike Wallace will take Bolden's place when he comes back from injury.
* The number two defense today was DEs Garrett Ryan and LaDerrick Vaughn, DTs Lawon Scott and Justin Smith, LBs Patrick Trahan, Tony Fein and Allen Walker, safeties Johnny Brown and Fon Ingram and cornerbacks Jeremy McGee and Marshay Green.
* Number one punt team? Across the front, Jamarca Sanford on the left wing, Ashlee Palmer, Reggie Hicks, DS Preston Powers, Kentrell Lockett, Lamar Brumfield, right win Kendrick Lewis, outside gunners Terrell Jackson and Cassius Vaughn, Personal Protector Andy Hartmann and Punter Rob Park.
* The play of the day was turned in by none other than S George Helow. QB Nathan Stanely found TE Ferbia Allen alone running down the middle of the field and threw a 30-yard strike that Allen caught. But as soon as he turned upfield, Helow clocked him, jarring the ball into the air where FS Jared Mitchell gathered it in for an interception. (That probably would have been ruled a fumble, but the ball never hit the ground, so we're calling it a pick for now.)
* To add to Nutt's praise of Stanley - from our cheap seat, he's got the goods. Good pocket presence while keeping his eyes downfield. He feels pressure and moves just enough to give himself a passing lane and he's got good feet when he does get flushed. He also throws good, crisp, accurate passes when given time. Could be the real deal in time, but give him time.
* Another tough decision the Rebel coachea are going to have to make about a freshman is DE Gerald Rivers. He's pure athlete. What does he need? A year in the weight room with Don Decker, but he may be pressed into duty this year and he would not be a weakness. Again, from our viewpoint.
* Last scrimmage, RB Brandon Bolden woke up the crowd. Today, Devin Thomas took his turn to perk up the folks in attendance. He is quickly making himself viable for PT this year.
* SS Johnny Brown had an interception playing deep right field on a Stanley overthrow. It's a luxury to have someone of his ability waiting in the wings.
* RB Markus Crockett was moved to CB yesterday and was in jersey number 46 today. He didn't take long to make a play at his new post, breaking up a long pass in his first action.
* Defensively, the stats from today's scrimmage were spread out, but here's what Spirit Staffer Chase Parham came up with. S Fon Ingram paced the unit with 6 tackles, followed by MLB Jason Jones with 5, LB Don Hargroder with 4, S Terrell Jackson with 4, LB Patrick Trahan with 3 and DT Lawon Scott with 3. . . . Jones also recovered a fumble. . . SS Johnny Brown had an interception, as did FS Jared Mitchell. . . . Mitchell, Hargroder and Marshay Green also recorded pass breakups.
Offensively, Spirit Editor Jeff Roberson was a busy bee. Passing: Jevan Snead: 6-7 for 48 yards , Billy Tapp: 2-5 for 52 yards, Nathan Stanley: 11-16 for 141 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
Receiving: Lionel Breaux: 2 for 19 yards, David Traxler: 1 for 7, Andy Hartmann: 1 for 5, Melvin Harris: 2 for 38, Devin Thomas: 1 for 31, Jacarious Lucas: 1 for 24, Ferbia Allen: 2 for 15, Gerald Harris: 1 for 6, E.J. Epperson: 4 for 55 and one touchdown, Brandon Bolden: 1 for 7, Andrew Harris: 2 for 18, Ben Benedetto: 1 for 6.
Rushing: Cordera Eason: 3 for 56 and one touchdown, Devin Thomas: 10 for 54 and one touchdown, Enrique Davis: 7 for 41, Derrick Davis: 6 for 16 and one touchdown, Brandon Bolden: 2 for 14.
* The Rebels will hold a light walk-through, special teams workout tomorrow with no media opportunity.
MTR Day scrimmage report
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