Practice Report: Tuesday

The Rebels were greeted to a biting cold wind as they took step one in their preparations for Saturday's SEC contest against LSU in Baton Rouge. Read about the workout inside.

As has been the case the past three weeks, the Rebels did not practice in full pads on Tuesday, which they did the first six games of the season.

Instead, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt ran the Rebs through their two-hour workout in shoulder pads and helmets with a lot of thud work.

"Like I told ya'll a few weeks ago - as long as the players will give me full-speed, intense work in practice, there is no need to go in full pads any more," said Nutt. "They continue to concentrate and focus and put everything on the line for us, so thud work is what we'll continue to do."

Nutt was pleased with the Rebel workout, but he'll be looking for more Wednesday.

"We had a good first day putting in the gameplan, but we need a better workout tomorrow," he said.

The Rebel defense has given up only 9 points a game the last three outings. Nutt was asked about their improvement.

"There's no question they have gotten better every week, really," Houston said. "When everyone is healthy and they get used to the terminology and Coach (Tyrone) Nix's system, it usually means you are going to play better," Nutt continued. "We are tackling better, knock on wood, we're playing the ball better, and we're getting to the passer.

"Good defense means stopping the run and getting to the passer on passing downs and we have gotten much better at both those phases lately."

Stopping the run entails several factors, according to the Rebel football boss.

"You have to be physical and good up front. That goes without saying. We are blessed with good defensive linemen and (Coach Tracy) Rocker has them playing with good fundamentals," Nutt stated. "And we have a bell cow like Peria (Jerry). Man, I wouldn't trade him for anybody. He's one of the best in the country, if not the best. He's our leader. Our linebackers have also improved and, as a result of the front getting better pressure on opposing quarterbacks, our corners and safeties are performing better."

Nutt also credited Nix for pulling back some after the South Carolina game and simplifying what the Rebels are doing defensively.

"That has allowed them to play faster. You want them to be able to play on automatic pilot. React and go make plays, and that's what we've been doing lately."

The task gets more difficult this week with LSU's run game staring the Rebs straight in the face, but Nutt is confident.

"LSU has some beautiful athletes, but we have done well against the run. It will be about being physical and focused, but I think our guys have that in them," he closed.

Random Notes:

* WR Shay Hodge had a bruised heel last week and was not expected to play much against UL-Monroe. He got some reps, but not a lot. There was some concern that the injury might carry over to this week, but as of Tuesday, Shay was dressed out and practicing full speed from the glances we were able to get. . . "Shay looked real good. He's full speed," Nutt noted.

* Against UL-Monroe, senior Cornerback Dustin Mouzon started in front of junior Cassius Vaughn at one corner slot. In Tuesday's practice, Mouzon was still ahead of Cassius in team drills. . . Vaughn isn't taking the demotion standing still - he intercepted a Warhawk pass late in the Rebs' 59-0 victory. We'll see how the battle to start against the Tigers plays out as this week rolls on. Right now, the edge goes to Mouzon.

* Senior Tight End David Traxler has missed the last few games with a back injury. He's attempting a comeback this week. He was dressed out and practicing Tuesday. Again, we'll keep you posted on those developments as the week progresses. . . "He's available. He's a little behind, but we are glad to see him out here and we'll see how he does this week," said Nutt.

* Senior Fullback Jason Cook was limited in his playing time against UL-Monroe due to a concussion against Auburn that lingered on a little longer than anticipated. Cook dressed and practice full speed Tuesday, taking back over the number one FB slot from Andy Hartmann, who filled in nobly in Cook's absence.

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