Wednesday Practice Report

When the dust cleared from Wednesday's spring football practice, Coach Houston Nutt was praising DT Jerrell Powe and Coach Mike Markuson was talking about some experimentation on the offensive line. Read about it inside.

Sometimes a spring practice session can be productive but nondescript.

And sometimes all hell breaks loose when the coaches try to shake things up a bit.

The second scenario took place Wednesday when Coach Houston Nutt and OL Coach Mike Markuson played some musical chairs with the offensive line.

"Nobody needs to get comfortable," said Markuson. "Our best five are going to play, regardless of position."

On Wednesday, that was apparent as RG Reid Neely worked at number one left tackle, Brandon Green and A.J. Hawkins took snaps at right and left guard with the top unit, and LT Alex Washington was seen getting reps at left guard.

And while all that was going on, DT Jerrell Powe continues his climb toward reaching his immense potential.

At times like these, with this much "action," it's best to let the coaches speak.

"We got better today. Jerrell Powe continues to excite us. He's lost a lot of weight and is quicker and harder to block," said Nutt. "He's tougher and penetrating like he's supposed to. He's also got more confidence. The difference in him from last spring to this spring is not even close. He wasn't ready last year. Now, he's coming."

Before Nutt talked about the suprising shifts on the OL, he wanted to continue with the defense.

"Lawon Scott, Emmanuel Stephens, Kentrell Lockett and Marcus Tillman are doing great, but we expect that," Houston continued. "I overlook them sometimes, but I shouldn't.

"Patrick Trahan, Jonathan Cornell, Lamar Brumfield and Allen Walker have become good leaders for us. We have to keep bringing Lakenwic Haynes and Jason Jones. They are getting better, but they are thinking too much. It has to become more natural for them so they can keep up with the speed of the game."

Nutt then switched sides of the ball to offense.

"As good as we think our depth can be on the defensive line, it's just the opposite on the offensive line. The numbers aren't stacked up right," he said. "I'm saying that to say this - we are moving some guys around to see how they will do.

"We moved Reid Neely around. He's got length and he's been around the block. If we need him to, he can play tackle, we believe. We need his versatility. If we played tomorrow, and thank goodness we don't, he'd be our starting left tackle. We are pushing Bradley Sowell and he fought through a swollen ankle today, which was good, but he's got to get a little tougher and a little stronger. I think he will be fine, but we've got to see it. We wanted to see how he would handle that ankle injury and he did well. Brandon Green is becoming a good utility guy capable of playing three interior positions. A.J. Hawkins is coming on. Mark-Jean Louis has probably been the surprise so far. He's snapping well, getting the calls and he's tough and strong."

Out wide and in the backfield, Nutt sounds pleased with the progress.

"Shay Hodge is doing an excellent job at wide receiver and is our most consistent player there. Dexter is doing great and we got him some tailback reps today. Cordera Eason is coming on, as is Enrique Davis. Brandon Bolden has been very good. I'm proud of all of those guys."

Markuson wanted to shake things up a bit today and he was successful.

"We need some depth at left tackle and we are concerned about that position. Bradley has had some good days, but we are going to make sure we have our best five out there and spring is for that type of experimentation. Bradley has to get tougher. He has to get motivated to keep his spot. He will figure it out," said Markuson. "We are always trying to prepare ourselves for a 'next guy' scenario if someone gets hurt.

"Reid did fine at LT. He's versatile. It's different working against a five technique guy on the edge, but we think with work and time he will be OK. He's healthy now and worked hard in the offseason to stretch his hamstrings."

Hawkins surfacing this early has been a pleasant surprise.

"A.J. is a smart kid. Again, reps and time and he will do good things. He's someone who will probably have to play for us, so we are going to try to get him ready," Mike noted. "We're also trying to find a spot of Jean-Louis. He's a leverage guy and strong. He's hard to get around if he gets his hands on you. Mark is working hard so we'll see where that goes."

Are these changes something that we can buy stock in? Not yet, but time will tell the tale. In the meantime, based on today, all OL have to be on their toes and produce to keep their jobs.

Random Notes:

* Free Safety Kendrick Lewis missed practice today due to a class conflict on Wednesdays. In his absence, Fon Ingram worked with the first team defense and Jared Mitchell was his backup.

* PK Josh Shene wasn't sure how the transition from Holder Rob Park to new Holder Justin Sparks was going to work, but he's been very happy with Sparks' progress with that duty. "He's doing a great job. He's getting the ball down quickly and putting it right where I want it," said Shene. Shene was 2-2 out of Sparks' holds on field goals today and Bryson Rose was also 2-2. All four kicks were from 35 yards out.

* The inside punt coverage guys consists of players who have some size but can also run - linebackers, safeties, etc. Top candidates early on? Allen Walker, Johnny Brown, Lamar Brumfield, Jason Jones, Reggie Hicks and Jared Mitchell, to name a few.

* With the experimentation going on with the OL, the number one defense dominated middle run drills today. "Coach Nix and Coach Price had them going today," said Nutt. "They controlled the line of scrimmage for most of that period."

* Terry Price is a high-energy coach who is very vocal. When a player does something he likes, you hear about it, and the other way around as well. The DL seemingly getting the most kudos from Price is Lockett. The extra 15 pounds he added in the offseason is showing in a more forceful presence. He's got more punch at the line of scrimmage and the result is he's making more plays. No wonder Price is happy.

* Nutt discussed things slowing down for MLB Jason Jones. Today, he showed what he can do when that happens. Jones penetrated the line and ran down a back to the sidelines in quick fashion. Nutt was all over the redshirt freshman congratulating him. His burst of speed to the outside was just what Nutt and Nix have been looking for and they showed him their approval.

* After practice, some Rebel coaches ran a couple of dozen hopefuls through some drills in walkon tryouts. Is there a walkon who can help the team? We'll keep our eyes open and let you know.

* The Rebs will not practice tomorrow and will resume Friday at 3:40 p.m. with their next workout. All spring workouts are open to the public.

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