Practice Report: Wednesday

The Rebels worked on the basics Wednesday and put in a little more of their Alabama gameplan in a rugged practice with full contact, but a quick whistle. Also, the "freshmen" had a short scrimmage at the end of the practice session. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt has held two rugged, full-contact practices this week.

Wednesday, he did have a quick whistle at the end of plays, but his reasons for the unusually tough practices were simple.

"We had some tackling and fumbling issues in the South Carolina game and the only way to correct those things is to feel it, experience it, and you have to hit to do that," he said. "We have put a lot of emphasis on ball security and getting down if you've already made a first down or a big play. They've worked hard because they care and that's what you love to see. Nobody hates the mistakes we have made worse than the guys who have made them and that's what you want to see out of your playmakers and leaders."

Nutt was pleased with the practice overall.

"We had another good day today. We got a lot done and got better fundamentally. We also didn't have a ball on the ground," he said. "We're proud of that. This has been a good week so far. We've gotten everyone a lot of good work, including the freshmen and guys who aren't playing well.

"We'll back off a little tomorrow, but we had to hit this week to get ready for a very physical Alabama team next Saturday. The kids have had a great attitude this week. I've been watching closely how they would respond in an open week and they've given us a good day's work."

Nutt said one player who had made excellent strides in the last two or three weeks is frosh TB Enrique Davis.

"It's a whole different deal with him now. He'll get more reps now because we aren't afraid to put him in due to the improvements he has made in his overall game," Houston stated. "I recruited him when most of the staff wasn't here yet and I have a great relationship with him. He's used to being a hero on Friday night and it hasn't worked that way for him on this level yet, but he's smart enough to understand why and he knows how much he's learned. He now knows protections and everything we need him to know for him to start getting more playing time."

Houston is also excited about his two redshirt TEs - E.J. Epperson and Ferbia Allen.

"They are special. E.J. and Ferbia have us set at tight end for a while," Nutt noted. "It's been tempting to play them this year, but this is the right thing to do by redshirting them. They've put on good weight and are doing great."

Houston has mentioned frosh WR Melvin Harris several times and continues his praise of the 6-7 freshman.

"He's very smooth and has great agility for someone that tall. He will be very valuable for us and a big weapon for us next year, I believe," he said. "Also, Andrew Harris is doing a fine job. He works so hard and is a tough wideout. He hustles and does a great job for us. He just needs to catch a couple of balls and get in a rhythm. We think he's going to be a very good one in the future too."

Random Notes:

* The media was allowed to watch the short freshman scrimmage Wednesday. Here are a few notes we took during the 25-play workout. . . TB Devin Thomas is a tougher runner inside than his stature might project. He's got a low base and has strong legs that he keeps moving until he's on the ground. . . TE E.J. Epperson had a long reception from QB Nathan Stanley, exhibiting excellent body control and good hands on the catch. . . The two frosh LBs - MLB Jason Jones and OLB Lakenwic Haynes - are very active and aggressive players who appear to like to mix it up and hit. . . DE Gerald Rivers needs to keep hitting the weight room, but his speed off the edge is impressive already. . . WR Melvin Harris not only caught a bomb from Stanley, he looked as fluid as any wideout on the team in running a 10-yard out for a catch. . . TB Enrique Davis broke loose on a long run and finally had an opportunity to show his speed in the open field. He can scoot. . . CB Demareo Marr was impressive on a couple of pass breakups and in making a tackle or two against the run. He obviously needs the redshirt, but don't be surprised if he doesn't help the CB cause next season. . . Today was our first extensive look at Stanley since August practice. Nathan has a live arm and is capable of making all the passes. He completed two long passes in the short workout and was on the money with a long out and a 30-yard crossing pattern he threw on a string. He throws a tight spiral and has plenty of arm. One time he was flushed from the pocket and took off around end, flashing adequate speed to get out of trouble. Nathan, we surmised, has a lot of upside based on our look today.

* Free Safety Kendrick Lewis, who had some dental work done Tuesday and missed Tuesday's workout, was back at practice today.

* FS Johnny Brown, who sustained a concussion in the South Carolina game, was still out. He probably could come back Thursday, but since it is the last day of practice this week before the Rebs take two full days off, he probably won't.

* Some of the coaches will head out tonight to go for a long recruiting weekend so practice will be manned tomorrow by a skeleton crew. OL Coach Mike Markuson is already on the road - he left before practice today. Nutt said by Friday the full allotment of seven coaches will be on the road.

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