Cotton Bowl Practice Report

The rains came to Dallas early this morning, but the Rebels practiced under bluebird skies at SMU's Ford Stadium. Read about the workout inside.

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.

That wish came true today in Dallas, and the Rebels got in a 2 hour and 15 minute workout under windy, but otherwise perfect, conditions at SMU.

"We are very excited to be here. The hospitality of the Cotton Bowl is wonderful and for this to be the first bowl for any of our players is an honor," said Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt. "You could tell today at practice that we haven't worked in several days. We still have a little turkey, Christmas and Momma going on.

"The guys moved around well and wanted to get it done, the effort was there, but you could tell there was a little bit of rust there and the wind was blowing pretty good, so it affected the skill players a little bit. We've got to do better tomorrow."

The Texas winds, following a rainstorm this morning, were swirling and they were definitely a factor in the passing game efficiency.

"We had some gusts that were 25-30 miles per hour. That's just part of it in Texas," Nut continued. "Hopefully it won't be like that during the game, but we have to learn to throw through it, cut through it. The kickers have a little tougher job adjusting, but they got better as the day progressed.

"It just takes an adjustment we'll make."

Nutt was asked about the chances of senior FB Jason Cook being available for the game. He was jogging and cutting - half-speed - during the early parts of practice and he said he "feels prety good."

"Jason ran around a little today, but we won't know anything until later in the week. He had a tough injury - a sprained ACL, but he has worked hard to get back," Nutt noted. "We know we won't be able to use him the whole game, but maybe by the end of the week he'll be able to play a little.

"I hope he can because he is such a leader for us and you love having him out there with your team. He's such a positive influence."

Houston is very aware of the magnitude of the task in front of his team against Texas Tech's vaunted passing game and the challenge his DBs face.

"That's a tough draw," he said. "That is the thing that concerns us the most. Graham Harrell has only been sacked eight times, I think. Their receivers are big and strong and they all understand the system Coach (Mike) Leach has put in.

"The timing of this offense is tough. You can watch them all year and see they know what they are doing. They execute to a high level and they can run the ball too. They have excellent weapons and they will be a tough chore for our DBs. It's a real tough assignment."

The Rebels will counter with an offense that features sophomore QB Jevan Snead at the helm and a bevy of weapons themselves, including one Dexer McCluster, who will play some tailback, some wide receiver and run the Wild Rebel formation.

"Dexter is small, but his heart is bigger than a stadium. He does it all. We let him operate the Wild Rebel because of his ball skills and all he can do with the ball," Nutt said. "He's a big play guy for us, but we have others like Mike Wallace and Cordera Eason and Shay Hodge and on and on."

Random Notes:

* The Rebels practiced around the noon hour but they were by no means just getting started. S&C Coach Don Decker put them through a "tough" weightlifting and conditioning routine this morning before practice. "We had to wake them up a little, but once they got started, they gave us everything they had," said Decker.

* Frosh TE E.J. Epperson dislocated his wrist last week and had to have it surgically repaired, but he is at the Coton Bowl in a cast. He is not practicing, obviously, but says he's ready for spring ball to get here. "I think I will be ready by then, at least I hope so. I'm going to work my tail off to be ready and make a mark in spring," said the 252-pounder.

* At the start of the punting portion of practice, senior Rob Park was booming the ball with a slight tailwind. Then the Texas winds shifted suddenly and the kicks, still solidly hit, were 15-20 yards shorter. Park was just shaking his head at the difference.

* Coach Nutt started practice with a short pep talk. "We want everyone to have a great time during the bowl week, but when you are out here practicing we need you to tune in and turn it on," he said. "You have to understand that the season is not over. There is still a lot of work to be done."

* There was some concern about the eligibility status of senior RG Maurice Miller, but he is with the team, meaning all is well. Mo was running with the first team offense today as was senior Darryl Harris at left guard. When Mo was out a couple of days, Reid Neely had taken over for Maurice, but the senior apparently will start against Texas Tech.

* Junior OLB Patrick Trahan is still running with the first team defense ahead of Ashlee Palmer, but they are expected to split time down the middle in the Cotton Bowl.

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