Saturday football practice report -

Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt held a marathon practice in the IPF today with the Rebels in shorts and helmets again. Read about it inside.

After Friday's opening practice of spring football, the Rebels followed up with a three-hour workout today Coach Houston Nutt was satisfied with.

The Rebs worked in helmets and shorts today for nearly three hours.

"The kids were a little sore today, but they worked through it well," said Nutt. "We stayed out there a long time because I have to get a bunch of the backups some quality reps so they can make progress. I have to see them in action. We have to develop some of those guys and the only way to do that is reps.

"We ended up having another good practice. I thought the offensive line did a better job of picking up blitzes and protected the quarterback better. We limited our turnovers today after giving up several yesterday."

Nutt has been impressed with the defensive play thus far, two days into the spring session.

"They are very fast and when they know where to go and what to do, they present a lot of problems. They give our quarterbacks a lot of different looks and disguise things well. Our linebackers - Patrick Trahan, Allen Walker and Jonathan Cornell - really stepped up today. You can tell they have been there," he added. "On offense, our receivers did a nice job today. Shay Hodge, Dexter, Andrew Harris, Lionel (Breaux) and Markeith Summers are all getting better. TE Gerald Harris had a good day and Ferbia Allen is making some plays in the passing game."

Nutt has also been pleased with the progress of the young running backs - Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and Devin Thomas.

"They are running better because their weight is right. They are not as heavy as they were last year and it's showing in their movement. They also understand the schemes better," Nutt said.

Houston is anxious to see some players in shoulder pads tomorrow and then in full pads starting Monday, particularly LT Bradley Sowell.

"Bradley is competing hard and is focusing very well. I want to see him in pads," said Houston.

The offensive coaches want to put players like QB Nathan Stanley in a lot of different situations to see how they respond under fire.

"We are asking Nathan to start recognizing things and get us in better plays some. Both days he has recognized, in the heat of the battle, an eight-man box and he has checked to max protect and a fade route. Those are things he cannot do without the reps he's getting," Nutt stated. "That is what we are looking for."

Thus far, Sowell has been pleased with his progress at the all-important left tackle slot.

"It's been two long practices so far, but it's been good. I'm pretty comfortable with my plays and my concentration so far," he noted. "My focus is on pass blocking and just fine-tuning my craft.

"It's a little different having Rishaw (Johnson) next to me instead of Reid, but the stuff we are doing is the same and we will get used to each other. Jevan also has more freedom this year to check into different plays, so we are having more line checks than before, but we are getting them down."

OL signee Bobbie Massie, who is expected to compete for the left tackle slot when he gets to Ole Miss in the summer, has been at both practices thus far. Does Sowell feel his presence?

"To be honest, I can't worry about that. I hope Bobbie is real good. We need offensive linemen to come in here and produce, but as far as the competition between the two of us, it will be good for everyone," Sowell explained.

Random Notes:

* How fired up are the Rebs? One long time staffer told us he has never been around a team that didn't have a little dread about the grind of spring practice until this one. He said he has not heard one single grumble about spring training being here. And you can see that in practice. Lots of enthusiasm on this team, even when they know they are facing three-hour practices.

* We will be peppering you with different players' weights as we figure out updated weights. Here's two that are impressive based on last year. Senior DE Emmanuel Stephens played last year at 238 pounds. He's now 250 and says he feels just as fast and quick if not more so. RS frosh DE Gerald Rivers was 224 last year and 238 this spring. Good, needed, gain.

* Along those lines, RS frosh S Jared Mitchell has tacked on 12 pounds to his frame and is now 190 pounds. He also improved his vertical jump by four inches, which indicates a rise in explosiveness. Now, he's got to apply that to his on-the-field efforts. His projection? 200-pounds plus in another year.

* What is Nutt referring to when he talks about the urgency of more reps for the young players? It's apparent in the different position drills. DE Kentrell Lockett is smooth, quick and certain of his steps. Rookie Craig Drummond, who it is obvious has a lot of raw ability, has an unfamiliar look to him. Even bag drills can be somewhat clumsy for him. What does that mean? Work and patience. Lockett was once "clumsy" too.

* If you ever wonder what difference one year makes, look no further than OLB Patrick Trahan. Last year he was unsure of his assignments, out of shape and hesitatnt. This year, he exudes confidence. He's sure of his steps and in good condition. The end result is that he is a totally different and better player than we saw most of last year. Pieces of the real Trahan started surfacing at the end of the season, but the whole package will be evident next year and you will like it. . . Ditto on OLB Allen Walker, who is now 225 pounds with his target weight of 230 by the time 2009 rolls around.

* Another evident example is C Daverin Geralds. One year ago a direct snap to the QB was iffy. Now, his snaps are sure, his steps are much better and his knowledge of the line calls is spot on. Never underestimate experience.

* Competition is heating up at wide receiver. Shay and Dex are givens, but who's next in the rotation? Breaux and Summers seem the likely candidates, but Drew Harris and Jacarious Lucas are also making plays regularly. And Melvin Harris is not even out there. Competition there will be fun to watch for the next few months.

* Guilty as charged. We don't talk about senior DE Marcus Tillman enough. Why? He's quiet and dependable and not flashy, but he's definitely one of the best players on the team. We will try to rectify our lack of ink for Till, a war horse in the trenches who does everything the right way and with 100% effort every snap.

* Sometimes your mind plays tricks on you when you want to see something badly enough, but it's no mirage when you watch the tailbacks run this year and believe you are seeing some added quickness and cutting ability. Bolden, Davis, Cordera Eason and Thomas are all cutting quicker and making more moves than last season. As Nutt explained, S&C Coach Don Decker has them a the right weight for maximum results. "I am seeing the same thing," said Decker. "It's real because their test numbers in drills support what you are seeing." Bolden made a cutback move against the grain today that planted two defenders. Enrique did the same just moments later. They are making moves they did not make and probably were not capable of making last season.

* From two non-contact days, what unit has improved the most? To these untrained eyes, the secondary. This spring there are more passes being contested and more picked off than last spring. The man coverage is just tighter across the board. Even when a pass is completed on them, a DB is usually there to contest it and in decent position. It's noticeable in one-on-one drills, which the offense is no longer just dominating.

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