While going over the piles of notes taken at spring football practices, it's easy to find some that were left on the cutting room floor, so to speak, and out of our practice reports.
On this off day, we thought you might enjoy a few that got omitted.
* With each new season and fresh batch of seniors, the question always comes up about leadership. It's easy to see the guys directing traffic and taking over the leadership roles. On this year's squad, quite a few are positioning themselves for consideration of permanent team captaincy. FS Kendrick Lewis, CB Marshay Green, DE Marcus Tillman, RT John Jerry, QB Jevan Snead and WR/TB Dexter McCluster are very visible in leadership roles. There are others, but these are the main players the rest look up to and turn to for direction. Each position coach has at least one they turn to when their group needs a little peer prodding, but we've noticed on two or three instances Houston Nutt is turning more and more to Jerry when the troops need rallying. John has blossomed a lot since last year in terms of being more vocal and leading the herd. We understand older brother Peria and Jamarca Sanford had a long talk with John during the offseason and explained to him the meaning and value of leadership, how it was his turn and what they expected of him in carrying the torch they carried last year. John has taken those words to heart and it's evident in every snap of every drill. The Rebels had special leaders in 2008. It appears more are developing to fill the void and the lead guy just might end up being John Jerry.
* As we witnessed last season, the Rebel coaches like to play, if possible, a lot of players, so while starting is important, being in the playing rotation is the aim of most on the team. Some of the players vying for being in the rotation are having - so -far - pretty good spring showings. MLB Jason Jones is making a move with the game slowing down mentally for him some. . . S Fon Ingram is making a case for being the third safety. He may have the best nose for the ball of any of the safeties if practice interceptions is an indicator. . . CB Jeremy McGee started to gain the trust of the coaches late last year and appears to be strengthening that this spring. . . WR Jacarious Lucas is putting his name in the hat to be in the wide receiver rotation, particularly since he is one of the more physical downfield blockers in that group. . . From this untrained eye, you could put the top three tailbacks in a bag, shake it up and play whoever pops out first without any drop off. . . We haven't been able to get a feel for how TE Ferbia Allen is doing in the run game, but in the passing game, he's doing well catching the ball. . . And last, but not least, DT Jerrell Powe, from this time last year until now, is one of the most improved players on the team.
* Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt will be one of the keynote speakers at a men's convention - The Standard - to be held May 1-2 at Tad Smith Coliseum. More on that event in a few days. . .
* Attitude went a long way in the Rebs finishing last year on a high note. It's going a long way in developing next year's team as well. All you have to do is go to a practice and check out the positive body language of the players. No sideline "mumbling and grumbling." No lips poked out or pouting. Just a bounce in their step and a go-to-work-to-get-better demeanor. Very encouraging sign.
* From the Taken For Granted file - Some players who get the job done every day and don't get as much mention as they probably should. . . WR Shay Hodge - He quietly goes about his business of being the best pure wideout on the team. Great routes, deceptive speed and excellent hands. . . DE Marcus Tillman - Every minute, every snap, every practice he's working toward getting better and he's been pretty darn good for a long time. Marcus is stronger this year and it's showing in practice situations. . . MLB Jonathan Cornell - Last year he did yeoman's work and made all the plays he was supposed to make. Look for him to expand his arsenal in 2009 and make some plays that are above the call of duty. . .RG/LT Reid Neely - He's not a flashy offensive lineman, but Reid is productive and versatile. He will be part of the glue of the OL next season. . . TE Gerald Harris - He basically had his coming out party at the Cotton Bowl with two TD catches, but where he does his best work is in the run game. Very reliable blocker and an important cog in the Reb offense. . .FB Andy Hartman - "Run through that wall, Andy." "Yes, sir. No problem." That says it all. . .DT Lawon Scott - After being the "other" tackle alongside Peria Jerry last year, expect Lawon to make a name for himself the rest of his career. . . C Daverin Geralds - His transformation from just one calendar year ago has been nothing short of tremendous. . . Deep Snapper Preston Powers - As good and reliable as any deep snapper in the business. Has he had a bad snap in his career? If so, we can't recall it. Games can be changed with a bad one, but that's not a worry we have.
* For the sake of the general well-being of the team, who needs to jump a couple of notches this spring? Certainly three or four offensive linemen, but that is well-documented. . . RS frosh MLB Jason Jones' advancement is definitely needed. Cornell can't play all the snaps. Jason showed flashes last year and is starting to put things together better in his processing of information, but he's got to keep coming. Right now, the Rebs have four LBs who you would call game ready. That's not enough. Jason has to become the fifth and the backup MLB, which is critical. . . Junior Derrick Davis has transformed himself from a tailback to a fullback by putting on 10-15 pounds in the offseason. He needs to emerge as a reliable fullback this spring. Again, Hartmann can't man that position by himself. . . Who will be the backup tight ends? Will it be Reggie Hicks, Ferbia Allen or E.J. Epperson? Those are the candidates and two of them need to surface as reliable, not just functional. . . While the belief is the Rebs are very deep at wide receiver, that's not really the case - yet. Hodge and McCluster are the only two returning from 2008 who have a lot of game experience. Markeith Summers, Lionel Breaux, Andrew Harris and Jacarious Lucas have improvements to make and consistency issues to address. Breaux is leading that charge right now, but the others are needed as well. . . Sophomore DT Justin Smith did the unexpected last year and played some, but he has to pick his game up to another level before we can honestly say the Rebels are two-deep at DT. He was serviceable last season, which was a major accomplishment as a true freshman, but serviceable is not good enough now that his playing time will likely increase substantially. . .Sophomore Derick Herman switched from corner to strong safety this spring to give that position more speed in passing downs. Herman has to become at least the fourth safety and needs to play some in passing situations, at the least, next season. . . These are key players/candidates this spring.
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