With a that's-what-it's-all-about grin on his face, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt was excited about Day II of bowl practices.
In what will be the routine for the first week of the extra practices given for bowl preparations, the coaches took advantage of the valuable time to get the younger players ready for spring and next season.
"I keep repeating it, but you just don't know how valuable it is for our younger guys to get a lot of attention right now," said Nutt. "We are letting them scrimmage, teaching them fundamentals, letting them get more of a taste of our systems and having fun.
"It was really good to see them scrimmage and get after each other and I liked seeing the older guys get involved and encourage them."
Nutt said the intensity of the workout was at an extremely high level.
"Sometimes early bowl preparations can be grueling and dull, there can be some dread in there, but these guys have never been to a bowl so everything is new and exciting and it's showing in the way they are practicing," Houston explained.
Houston said it didn't hurt to have the prospects on campus see them practice either.
"They see the position coach coach and then they see how the players respond. When they see the joy our players have at practice, that's a heckuva recruiting tool," Nutt noted.
The full-contact nature of the practice session took a minor toll, but nothing to worry about.
"Jeremy McGee twisted his ankle, but he'll be fine. Gerald Harris dislocated a finger, but we put it back in place and taped it up, and Devin Thomas had a back spasm after a hard hit by Jermey Parnell, but he'll be fine too," said Nutt. "They were passing some licks out there today - all of them. Leather popping is what the early part of bowl practices are all about, but we aren't going to expose our older guys much."
After yesterday's announcement that Nutt's contract was extended, Houston said there was a sense of relief in the IPF Saturday.
"It's good to get those things behind you so you can move forward. Nobody is worried about anything now and you can concentrate on the task at hand," Nutt said.
* Nutt was asked about MLB Tony Fein and DE Greg Hardy making a surge at the end of the season. "Greg got frustrated when he got hurt and kind of drifted away, but Greg is a good kid who has never been anything but respectful to me," Nutt said. "Once he got healthier, he has been tremendous, but he had to clear his mind and trust he was ready to go. Once Tony bought in, he just got better and better each week. It started about midway through the season when we could really see him coming on. He's been excellent ever since."
* Jason Cook (knee) and Jamarca Sanford (tooth pulled) did not practice yesterday, but Jamarca returned to practice Saturday. Jason will not get any work for another couple of weeks, it's projected, but he does anticipate playing in the bowl game.
* Freshman Derrick Herman is still working in practice at cornerback, but he covets a White jersey, signifying offense. "I want to show the coaches I can do both," said Herman. "I would love to play CB next year and mix in there with Dexter in the Wild Rebel. I think I can help on both sides of the ball. I keep bugging Coach Nutt about it - we'll see."
* A lot of people have been asking about transfer CB James Scott. The last two days, we've been able to get a closer look of him in action and we like what we see and have heard. Scott is very aggressive and has the physical tools - speed and agility - to play the position in the SEC. He needs work in the weight room, but that can, and will, be taken care of with time. As one coach told us, you can't teach aggressiveness and being competitive and Scott has that.
* We mentioned LB Lakenwic Haynes, LB Jason Jones, DE Gerald Rivers and DT Justin Smith yesterday as making a positive impression in middle (run) drills. They did again Saturday. "Those four jump out at you," said Nutt. "Lakenwic needs some body work, but he'll get that. He's real aggressive and smart. Jason is going to be special if he stays on the path he is on. Gerald is a lot like Lakenwic in that he needs body work, but you see a world of potential with him, and I think Justin is going to be a big time player - big time. He's smart and does not back down from any challenge."
* At practice, the recruits who stuck out like a sore thumb were OL Bobbie Massie, OL Emmanuel McCray, RB Kendrick Hardy, S Tig Barksdale and S Jamar Hornsby. . . Massie is massive, every bit 6-7 and probably 6-8. He looks like a young Todd Wade, maybe bigger. McCray, standing next to Massie, is not that much smaller than his running mate for this weekend. He's all of 6-5 and appeared "thick" under his letterman's jacket he wore. Hornsby is a true 6-3 and stout looking, he reminded us of an outside linebacker in body build. Hardy is the prototypical back - 6-0, wide shoulders, sturdy legs. And Tig is stocky and solid - we all know his capabilities on the field. Korvic Neat is on the smallish side, but films show he can flat out fly. Good looking group, for sure.
* We are asked all the time about the progress of the younger OL. Here's our take, helped by an opinion or two on the coaching staff. Bradley Sowell: Has blossomed since getting some playing time late this year at tight end. He needs to put on about 20 pounds and get to 315, but that will be no problem. Rishaw Johnson: There's no question about his physical ability, but the coaches are waiting on more consistency to show itself. Maybe the chance to start next season will motivate him to a higher level. Alex Washington: Everything is in place, but he lacks physicality and needs a "meaner" demeanor. When those things surface, he's a capable player. Bottom line? They have some growing up to do, in one way or another, but they have the time to do it.
* Tomorrow, when practice resumes at 2 p.m., we'll try to take a closer look at more of the skill players and include that in our report.