Practice Report: Thursday

Almost all the hay is in the barn. The Rebels closed out full-speed practices for the opener with Memphis today. Tomorrow, a walk-through, with a little jogging, designed to make sure the Rebs have all their assignments correct. Read about today's workout inside.

The Rebels practiced in soft shells today in their final full-speed practice before Saturday's 2008 season opener against Memphis in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at 6 p.m.

While a majority of preseason camp has been unseasonably cool and wet, today the Rebels got some heat and humidity.

Frankly, we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel for anything to write at this juncture. It's time to play ball.

"We're ready to get a game under our belts," said Coach Houston Nutt, also at a loss for words and subject matter. "We had a good practice today. Our kids have paid attention and focused all week. I think we are ready. We were sharp today. The concentration level was good."

Nutt was asked if the captains for the opener or season have been selected. He said the permanent team captains were voted on by the team earlier in the week.

Drum roll, please. . .

"They are Jason Cook, Michael Oher, Jamarca Sanford and Peria Jerry," Nutt said. "Those are the permanent captains but since Peria is not dressing out this week, Ashlee Palmer will take his place this weekend.

"And each week another senior will go out for the coin toss with the four permanent captains and be a captain that week."

During preseason camp, there have been some injuries, but most are back in action except DE Greg Hardy, P. Jerry and DT LaMark Armour, who will most likely miss the entire year due to a knee injury he had in the offseason.

How ready are guys like LG Reid Neely, DT Ted Laurent, LB Allen Walker, RT John Jerry, et al?

"Everyone is ready to play. I don't know if they are 100%, but they are close enough to play," Nutt noted. "Peria is getting better. He is running in the aquacizer pool we have and is doing a lot better. He and Hardy both are doing well in rehab. I'll put my mind more to that next week because neither will play this week, but I know they are getting better."

Houston said he will call the plays Saturday against Memphis, but everyone on the offensive staff has had input and OC Kent Austin will be his eyes in the press box.

"We've put a lot of study into the gameplan. Every coach on the offensive side of the ball can tell you what the first choice will be on 3rd-and-8, for instance. It's been a collaboration on getting our gameplan together," he explained. "Sometimes it's overrated as to who actually calls the plays because we script a lot of what we are going to do and have different choices for different situations already planned."

As we said, our notes are slim pickings right now, but here are a few.

* An extremely important part of the punt team is the personal protector, the guy between the deep snapper and the punter, the last line of defense. Not only does he call the signals, he makes protection checks at the line based on what the defense is showing. It has to be someone who is trusted and level-headed. There can be no better choice than senior FB Jason Cook. Not only is he bright and seasoned, he's physical enough to take on and defeat anyone who might break through the first line of protection. Cookie does a lot of things for the team. Add one more very valuable duty to the list.

* We'd be stretching the truth if we said we were not surprised Sam LB Lamar Brumfield has held off Allen Walker for the starting slot at that position. Walker, you will recall, missed a few days with a knee injury, but when he came back he could not win his job back from Brumfield. Why? We asked DC Tyrone Nix and he gave a one-word answer. "Consistency," he said. Good enough for us.

* It was in doubt as to how much DT Ted Laurent would be available for the opener. You read Nutt's answer, but that is backed by the way he's working in practice now. There are no restrcitions as to what he is involved in, be it drills or inside contact work. As Nutt said, Ted may not be 100%, but he's close enough.

* Another important facet of the punt team is the outside gunner slots. Those are the coverage guys split wide who have to contain the punt returner and force the action inside, preferably making the tackle. They usually have to take on a double-team of defenders who are trying to knock them out of their lanes, if not off their feet. Speed and toughness are required. Who are the main gunners for Ole Miss? Cassius Vaughn, Lionel Breaux, Terrell Jackson and Dustin Mouzon.

* What is the main concern of the coaches about the opener? We haven't heard it out of their mouths other than some hints here and there, but it has to be the matchup of the Tigers' big, physical wideouts and the Rebs' secondary. How do you remedy that? Two ways. One, a solid pass rush which will not allow the QBs and WRs to get into a rhythm. Two, keep possession of the ball to keep their wideouts off the field as much as possible.

* The Rebs will hold a modified walk-through tomorrow and then head for Tupelo to spend the night before coming back to Oxford Saturday afternoon for the 3:40 Walk of Champions.

There will be no practice report tomorrow. Let's play ball!

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