The much-anticipated start of spring football practice today in the Indoor Practice Facility produced a 2-hour, 45-minute workout that pleased Coach Houston Nutt.
"It was a good first day with a lot of enthusiasm. A lot of guys jumped out strong today. The key is to have that same enthusiasm for 15 practice days," Nutt said. "Even though we didn't have pads on, we were moving around and the retention was good.
"There's a huge difference between this time last year and today. Of course, we have an experienced quarterback who has been there. We have eight guys on defense back who played a lot of ball last year. Now we just have to keep improving."
Houston has certain things he looks for in any practice, but his key today was seeing how some of the redshirts from 2008 looked.
"I wanted to see where our redshirts are - Jason Jones, Gerald Rivers, Lakenwic Haynes, Derrick Herman - and I was not disappointed," he continued. "They all flew around and looked very good. You can't help but look at a Craig Drummond either. Drummond is very athletic. He gets in a beautiful stance and can run and move. It will pay off him being here this spring. Rivers is another one who showed me progress. All those guys were impressive. They still have a way to go, but they are impressive. We want to see how they will do in pads now."
The defensive side of the ball caught his eye the most in the initial spring workout.
"Those defensive guys are fast and they play fast. Kentrell Lockett, Kendrick Lewis, Marshay Green, Lawon Scott, Patrick Trahan, Jonathan Cornell, Emmanuel Stephens stood out and caught my attention," Nutt noted. "They are into every play, they encourage their teammates and they are leaders.
"Offensively, Jevan Snead started out real strong. It matters when you have an experienced QB. Shay Hodge, Daverin Geralds, John Jerry and Reid Neely had good days. We just have to keep bringing on Rishaw Johnson and Bradley Sowell."
One of the players that has to step up this year is sophomore Left Guard Rishaw Johnson.
"I felt real good today. The offseason work I did has paid off. I did not get tired at all today," said Johnson. "Coach (Mike) Markuson is pushing Brad and I because we are the guys he has to get ready.
"I had a lot more reps that I normally get so it is important that I stay focused and limit my mental mistakes. I was able to focus today pretty good. I didn't mess up any assignments or jump offsides at all, so I had a good start. I'm eager to get in pads. I can't wait. I have a lot to prove to everybody and I have a little chip on my shoulder."
* Derrick Herman is working at strong safety now instead of corner and he is also in the punt return rotation with Marshay Green and Dexter McCluster.
* Freshman DE Craig Drummond is every bit the 6-5, 260 he's listed on the official roster. In fact, a coach told us today he thinks Craig is pushing 280 pounds now.
* Junior Derrick Davis has moved to fullback from tailback and to do so he has put on 11 pounds from 224 last year to 235 this year. In today's workout, he looked as if he is holding the weight well and has not lost any speed because of the extra pounds.
* Offensive Line signee Bobbie Massie was in town for practice today and will be here through Sunday's practice. Folks, he is massive. He towers over everyone but Sowell and Jerry and is at last 340 pounds.
* All the top three backs - Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and Cordera Eason - have trimmed off a few pounds and look quicker because of it. Eason trimmed off the most - 10 pounds - and it is apparent in his movement. Eason is now 211 pounds. Bolden and Davis are slightly larger at 217 each.
* LB Don Hargroder was at practice today and said he will return from his season-ending knee injury in the summer. He expects to be ready for August drills.
* DE Greg Hardy, who is now around 275 pounds and bench pressed four times what his max was a little over a year ago, is sitting out spring to rehab his foot. WR Melvin Harris and Hargroder will also miss spring. DT Jerrell Powe and TE E.J. Epperson have protection on their wrists, which are being rehabbed.
* Special teams ace and backup safety George Helow had to leave practice with a pulled hamstring. He said he may be out for a week or more.
* Speaking of Powe, Jerrell is hovering around 335-340 pounds now and you can tell the weight loss has helped his movement. He no longer "waddles," he runs now. At 335 pounds, that would be a weight loss of 51 pounds since last year at roughly this time.
* Redshirt freshmen Brandon Sanders and Rudy Wilson, who both played with the safeties last year, have been moved to outside linebacker.
* Sophomore Marcus Temple, who played some safety and nickel back last season, has been moved to cornerback.
* DE Gerald Rivers is still thin, but he has gained 15 pounds since he reported last summer at 222 pounds. He is now 237 and can throw his weight around a little better.
* A lot of people have asked about redshirt junior CB Demareo Marr. He made some good plays today, but he seems to get down on himself quickly when he gives up a play. Cornerbacks have to be able to forget quickly. He's learning that trait now.
* Transfer Tailback Andre Sterling was suspended for a few weeks for off-the-field issues, but he has been allowed back on the team for spring training in a second-chance measure by Nutt. Andre caught two or three flare passes in team work with the third team and showed impressive hands.
* DeShea Townsend, a 12-year veteran of the NFL who recently picked up his second Super Bowl ring with the Steelers, attended practice today.
* It was asked recently why it seems the number of foot injuries in college football has increased. It seems a lot of trainers have been consulting each other lately and the culprit may be the lighter, more aerodynamic shows kids prefer and are wearing now. They are built for speed and not support. Trainers are studying that theory now.
* Snead was Snead today and Dexter was Dexter. Snead was throwing 10-yard outs, which are a 35-yard throw from the middle of the field, on a rope and accurate. He looks very confident in what he is doing. The confusion from last spring is long gone. . . Dexter? Dynamic. He's practicing almost exclusively at wideout with a little bit of Wild Rebel mixed in but we did not see him in a single set at straight tailback behind the QB.
* Enrique Davis has been working extra hard on his hands in the offseason. It appears to be paying off. He made two or three nice catches out of the backfield in the spring opener.
* One wideout who made at least a half dozen nice snags today was sophomore Andrew Harris. He looks a bit sleeker now and his hands have definitely improved as he has become more comfortable in the system. In fact, he made a one-handed grab on a long pass from QB Nathan Stanley today that was about as pretty as you will ever see.
* Tyrone Nix is looking for a fifth and sixth linebacker. Can Jason Jones in the middle and Lakenwic fill those slots? Nix is going to find out this spring as both are getting a lot of attention in drills and in team work. . . Ditto with TE Ferbia Allen. He's getting a lot of reps and made a couple of short receptions today.
* Replacing Jamarca Sanford is an area that will be watched closely this spring. Today Johnny Brown, the heir apparent, had an interception to help his cause of being that man.
* DT Lawon Scott, yes DT Lawon Scott, had a pick today after a Snead pass deflected off DT Ted Laurent. Backup CB Zane Allcorn, Marshay Green and S Fon Ingram also had picks in team drills.
* J.D. Lawhorn, who has rejoined the team after sitting out a couple of seasons, caught a long TD pass from QB Billy Tapp today. Good to see J.D. back out there and his love of the game restored.
* In the two-minute drill to end practice, who else but the battery of Snead to McCluster ended the practice with a 30-yard TD toss and catch. Not surprising.
The Rebels will practice tomorrow morning at 10 in the IPF. They will be in shorts and helmets again.
Friday spring practice report
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