The open week accomplished several things for the 3-3 Rebels, but one item the Ole Miss coaches were anxious to see was the development of some of the younger players who are being redshirted.
Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin got a closer look at players like TEs E.J. Epperson and Ferbia Allen, WR Melvin Harris, FB H.R. Greer and QB Nathan Stanley. (He's already seen plenty of frosh TBs Brandon Bolden, Devin Thomas and Enrique Davis and WR Andrew Harris, who are all playing this year as greenhorns.)
"I like their look and the way they work," said Austin. "We have a good group of young guys who are competitive and athletic. They are coming along nicely."
Austin works directly with Stanley and is impressed with what he has seen to this point.
"Nathan is on schedule. He's very laid back - nothing much fazes him. He needs to get in the playbook a little tighter, but he has great talent and is certainly someone we are very excited about," Austin noted. "The understanding of the offense is his biggest hurdle, but that is to be expected. He needs a better grasp of what we do, but that will come with time.
"Calling the plays properly, understanding what each play is supposed to do and where to put his eyes in regard in respect to the different defenses we see are what he needs to work on."
Austin said that is more difficult to accomplish right now since Stanley is being asked to run the offenses of the opposing teams each week while he directs the scout team offense.
"To his credit, he's done a good job of staying as up to speed each week with our offense as he could. He's learning how to prepare at this level. I don't think he has had to prepare the way he has to now," Kent noted. "He still doesn't quite get it, but he's making progress. I think it would be easier on him is he didn't have to run the scout team, but he's getting a taste for it now and will make up a lot of ground in spring training."
Epperson also drew praise from Austin.
"E.J. is a great young man, smart and talented," Kent stated. "They are all at a different level right now and they are all learning how to manage their time correctly. There's a lot of things going on in their lives right now between school, tutors, study hall, football. It can be mind-boggling, but they are all doing pretty well with it.
"They are all getting an education right now in time management, but they are all handling it OK."
He also mentioned Enrique Davis and Andrew Harris.
"Enrique is working hard to become a complete back. He is making strides. There are a lot of responsibilities with that position and he's starting to get those down," said Kent. "I really like Andrew. He's competitive, he's big, he's strong and he's tough. I like tough receivers. I think he will be outstanding for us in time. I'm a big fan of his."
Kent had to shift his attention quickly to Alabama's defense. They are up next and they are formidable.
"I see a great challenge from them. They are like some defenses we have already played - athletic, big, fast, hard hitters, sound fundamentally, good tacklers. This is a big challenge for us," he explained. "They also run a 3-4, which is a little different in terms of preparation.
"Fortunately, it won't be totally foreign to us because our defense runs a 3-4 some in certain situations, so it's not like we have no experience against it," Austin noted.
Kent Austin -
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