Practice Report: Thursday

After a cooler than normal August, the Mississippi heat has returned. The Rebels wrapped up preparations for Saturday's game with Samford in "regular" September temperatures - hot. Read about it inside.

Usually, August practice is stifling from the heat and humidity prevalent in Mississippi in late summer.

This year, the football team got a break from that intense heat due to coastal hurricanes and unusually wet weather.

"Payback" can be hell.

Temperatures, though not unbearable, rose into the 90s in Oxford today, making practice a sweat-drenched affair.

The Rebs wrapped up full-speed preparations for the Samford game at 6 p.m. Saturday with a helmets, soft shells and shorts practice today.

"We had a good day today and, overall, bounced back pretty good this week after the loss. Now we have to take it to the field. I want to see us improve across the board and move the level of play up," Coach Houston Nutt said. "We'll see if the players bought into what we are preaching, that you have to be ready no matter who you are playing."

* Nutt's M.O. against lower division teams in the past has been to simplify gameplans and stress "perfect" execution. He will try to play a lot of players, but not at the expense of getting things corrected and smooth with the starters and second-teamers. The guess here is that the running game, a phase of the game that did not click as well as hoped against Wake Forest and was stressed hard all week in practice, will be tested and tested again, but also look for Nutt to throw in some new wrinkles to give Vandy and future opponents more to prepare for.

* Senior OLB Ashlee Palmer looked surprised when asked if the linebackers are playing as well as they should be. "I think we have improved a lot since last year and I think we improved a whole lot between the first and second games this season," said Palmer. "We are reading our keys so much better this year and we're more physical, as a unit, than we've been in the past. I think we have focused a lot this year on just doing our jobs within the scheme and not freelancing as much as we had in the past. We've made some mental mistakes in the new system, but we're getting it down more each day. When we get it embedded in our heads, I think we are going to be a great defense. It will also help the LBs to get Peria Jerry, Ted Laurent and Greg Hardy back on the DL. Peria is one of the best DTs in the country and is also a great leader to the younger guys and to the whole defense. He not only makes plays on his own, but he eats up blockers that allows us to make more plays too."

* Hardy jogged some today in his football cleats for the first time. When he ran through some half-speed bag drills earlier this week, he was in tennis shoes. He said he's experiencing no pain.

* Ohio State transfer CB James Scott was watching practice today, but he still has some paperwork to do in order to be able to practice. He said he will start working out with the team next week. He anticipates no paperwork problems. James, from Florida, also said he's glad to get back to the Southern region of the country. "I'm a Southern boy," he smiled.

* Lafayette County QB Montez Phillips attended practice today also.

* How important are the outside gunners on the punt team? Very. ST Coordinator James Shibest understands their value and mans those two coverage positions accordingly, with a pair of fifth-year seniors - Dustin Mouzon and Terrell Jackson. While it may not seem like much, a lot of skills are necessary to be the first line of attack against the speedy punt returners in college football. Speed, judgment, decision-making, containment and the ability to make plays before the return man can get up a head of steam are all vital to the task.

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