Practice Report: Wednesday

With the recent return to the field of TE David Traxler, missing the past few weeks with a nagging back injury, and a couple of more players who have been hobbled, the Rebs should be - remarkably - at full strength against LSU. Read about Wednesday's practice inside.

LB Don Hargroder and DL LaMark Armour.

That's it - the extent of the Rebs' injury list through 10 games.

Armour has been out the whole season with a knee injury and Hargroder injured his knee in the opening game of the season.

While there have been other game-costing injuries, most notably DE Greg Hardy (stress fracture in his foot) and TE David Traxler (back injury), everyone is as close to healthy now as one could hope at this stage of the season.

FB Jason Cook (concussion) is back. Ditto WR Shay Hodge (bruised heel). S Kendrick Lewis, WR Mike Wallace, LB Allen Walker, S Johnny Brown, LG Darryl Harris, LG Reid Neely, and DT Ted Laurent have had mostly minor injuries during the year, but all are back in action now and most have been for most of the season.

"Knock on wood, we are as healthy as you could hope for right now," said Rebel Coach Houston Nutt. "I hope it stays that way for two more weeks, but we realize we have two more very physical rivalry games in the regular season."

The way Nutt has practiced the Rebels most of the season has gone a long way in preserving good health. Since the fifth game of the year, there has been very little full contact except on Saturdays.

Wednesday's practice was a prime example.

While there was full, upper body contact with the guys in the trenches, the rest of the team did light thud work in team drills.

"As I said yesterday, as long as the kids are giving us what we need in terms of concentration and intensity, we are not going to beat them up," Nutt stated.

So how did Wednesday's two-hour workout in helmets and shoulder pads on the practice fields in perfect football weather unfold to the head mentor?

"We had another good day of preparations. This week is flying by. I am pleased with what we have accomplished so far, but we have to have a good mental day tomorrow, especially in the kicking game," Nutt stated. "(LSU KR) Trendon Holliday is something. A lot of people squib it, sky kick it, do anything to throw him off stride, but sometimes that messes you up because he finds a way to get the ball in his hands and go. He's a problem. We have to do a real good job covering."

Nutt said Holliday is not the only "problem" you have to deal with when you face the Tigers.

"They have a lot of guys who have won a lot of games the last two or three years. You have to stop the run - there's no secret to that," Nutt continued. "They have big ole linemen and that big back (Charles Scott) and a 262-pound fullback leading the way. You also have to guard against them hitting the big play with their wideouts, who are very capable."

Then there is the matter of the Rebel offense dealing with the LSU defense.

"We have to keep the ball and win the time of possession battle against a very good defense. Big and athletic up front, fast and athletic on the perimeter," Houston said. "Their corners are very big and active and LSU has a lot of confidence in them because they play so much man coverage. They are not scared to get in anyone's face the entire game. They have a big front who creates pressure and their corners try to disrupt timing because they are big."

Nutt said he's also cautious about LSU QB Jarrett Lee, even though he's thrown a lot of interceptions this year.

"That kid brought them to a win in their biggest comeback in history last week against Troy, so you know he's got to be feeling better about himself," said Houston. "I'm sure they will go with Lee and then play the freshman a little bit. That's how we envision their attack."

Random Notes:

* Against Florida, the Rebels employed a silent snap count to counteract the crowd noise, but a couple of times, especially late in the first half, the Rebs got their signals crossed and players jumped too soon. Nutt said the Rebs have been working hard on correcting that and using the silent snap against the Tigers this weekend, but no final decision has been made on how much they will use it. "LSU's stadium is very loud, but it is no louder, to me, than it is at Alabama or in The Swamp when those places start rocking and the game is on the line," Houston noted. "I think we have fixed the issues with the silent snap if we have to use it against LSU, which I'm sure we will. We corrected some things at Florida at halftime with it and have not had any problems with a silent snap since. We've worked it hard this week."

* Traxler said he "felt no pain and really felt good" in Tuesday's practice. The Rebels are working him into the TE rotation, but they are also still working LT Bradley Sowell at TE in practice.

* We get asked frequently about the progress of the redshirt players and who seems to be making the most improvement. That is somewhat hard to figure out sometimes since a) the media doesn't get to stay for whole practices and b) scout teamers rarely "show out." Having said that, we can tell who seems to be maturing as athletes, to a certain extent. The names that quickly come to mind include DE Gerald Rivers, who has gained some quality weight; TEs E.J. Epperson, already a 250-pounder, and Ferbia Allen, who is now over 230 pounds on a sturdy looking 6-4 frame; WR Melvin Harris, who is now over 200 pounds at 6-6 after reporting at 185 pounds last summer and immediately breaking his foot; LB Jason Jones, who is over 230 pounds now; QB Nathan Stanley, who has not put on a lot of weight but has certainly gained strength and does not look as wide-eyed as in August; S Brandon Sanders; S Jared Mitchell, who has filled out some; and OL Josh Tatum, who has shifted his 300-plus weight around some and looks more solid than when he reported. Obviously, spring training, and the 20 extra bowl practices, will tell more of the tale about these guys, but those are the ones who have caught our eye thus far.

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