Practice Report: Thursday

After taking three days off for final exams, the Rebels picked back up their Cotton Bowl practices with a two-hour workout Thursday night in the IPF. Read about it inside.

Some of the Rebel football players still have one more final exam to take in the morning, but most are finished, so Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt had an evening practice in the IPF as Cotton Bowl preparations resumed.

The focus was a little more on Texas Tech and not quite as much on the younger players, even though they did have a couple of periods of the workout devoted exclusively to them as well.

Nutt was asked about Texas Tech's high-powered offense. To say the least, he is impressed.

"A couple of things really stand out when you watch their film," Nutt said. "Their spacing of their personnel is precise and very good. Coach (Mike) Leach and his staff know what they are doing in creating chemistry between their quarterback and receivers. You just look at the yards and the touchdowns and they have put up ridiculous numbers.

"They are going to catch some balls. We have to make sure we tackle them after the catch and prevent the big play. They communicate well against all looks and adjust well."

Tech hasn't given up many QB sacks this season. Nutt said it's difficult to get to QB Graham Harrell because they get rid of the ball quickly in their passing game.

"I think they have only given up eight sacks. We'll just have to try to mix up different pressure packages and do a good job of covering. This is one of their best offensive lines they have had," he commented. "They are very good up front.

"They also run the ball more effectively than they have in the past. This is their most physical OL and their backs run very hard. And when you are trying to defend the pass so much, then they hit you with a draw, a screen, the quick stuff inside - it's difficult. We all have to be good tacklers - all 11. We have to get them on the ground."

Nutt was pleased with the practice.

"Considering we still have about 35 of them that have to take their last test in the morning, they moved around real well," Nutt said. "There is a lot on their minds right now, but I was happy with the work we got."

Random Notes -

* The SEC All-Freshman team did not have a single Rebel included, but Nutt said he as not disappointed. "I think Brandon Bolden and Justin Smith should have been on there, but it doesn't bother me at all really," said Nutt. "We know their value to us. I'll take ours right where they are. I have also, in the past, had to fight with some freshmen who did make it that they thought they were good enough and didn't have to work hard anymore. I think we had a couple who were deserving, but I won't lose any sleep that they didn't make it."

* SS Jamarca Sanford is the leading career active tackler in the SEC. Why? ""He's fast, strong and he plays with passion," Houston stated. "He's got a great heart and a great team player. Jamarca also loves to hit folks."

* LT Michael Oher was at the Outland Trophy ceremony in Orlando today so that gave Bradley Sowell an opportunity to preview what next year may be like. "He did a very good job," said Nutt. "I was pleased with what I saw. This year's experience helped Bradley's confidence."

* As is the custom with every bowl game, the Rebels sent a Cotton Bowl advance group to Dallas yesterday to make sure everything was in order for the game. They were scheduled to fly into Jackson this afternoon on their return trip, but snow in the area closed down the airport and their return trip was delayed until tomorrow.

* James Shibest, who was named Special Teams Coach of the Year late last week, also had some trouble in the air today. He was set to take a flight out of Oxford for a recruiting trip, but shortly after takeoff their was some trouble with the airplane and the plane had to come back to Oxford.

* FB Jason Cook (knee) and CB Jeremy McGee (knee) missed practice today. Cook will probably not be back until the last week of practices for the Cotton Bowl. McGee was running and cutting today and is expected back in the next day or two.

* Nutt said TB Enrique Davis has benefited a great deal from the extra time the young players have gotten in the first bowl practices. "He's running with more authority now than he has at any time this year. I think Enrique is starting to get more and more comfortable with each rep he gets," Houston stated.

* Signee Aaron Hawkins is greyshirting this semester but seems anxious to get going in spring training. He said he is now at 316 pounds and will most likely be moved inside to offensive guard.

* QB Jevan Snead was throwing lasers today. We've never seen him throw it better or with more velocity and he was fitting it into some tight windows between defenders. You could almost hear the zip on the ball. So much for the shoulder injury. . . .

* Early in the year, when freshman DE Gerald Rivers would match up against TE Gerald Harris in one-on-one drills, the older and more mature Harris seemed to always win the battle. Now that Rivers has been around the block for a season and is bigger and stronger than when he reported, their battles are evening out. Today, it was a stalemate between the two in several reps.

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