In the first scrimmage of spring training Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the touted Rebel offense did not have the day Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin was hoping for.
There were inconsistencies up front and too many dropped passes. There was also, Austin said, a lack of the intensity he was expecting.
But there were also mitigating circumstances, such as an uncertainty of personnel placement and identification on the offensive line.
"Overall, the intensity was not what I was hoping it would be. We did some good things and we did some bad things," said Austin. "The quarterback play - besides one bad early decision by Jevan (Snead) when he threw late and was picked off - was pretty good, but we didn't catch the ball very well. We have a lot of room for improvement."
In football, 11 have to move as one and that's been difficult for the Reb offense with the offensive line being unsettled at this stage of the year.
"We are looking for the best five and who the next best couple of guys to go in," Kent stated. "We're not as solid there yet as we need to be, but that's part of it when you are trying to replace three seniors. There's a lot to getting that solidified and settled.
"We will continue to move guys around and pair guys up to see if we can get it more cohesive than it is now. We had some concerns coming in to spring training, but we'll get better. Some of the younger guys need to decide if they are going to be players on this level and a couple of guys in the receiving corps need to do the same thing. Spring will tell us a lot. We'll be able to make more informed decisions after spring when we have a lot more information to work with."
The Rebel offense was operating without multi-tasker Dexter McCluster, held out as a precaution with a bummed up ankle. A day without Dex is a day less effective on the Rebel offense.
"Right now we are not the same offense without him, that's for sure. But on the flip side it is an opportunity for the younger guys to step up and prove to the coaches they can be dependable," Austin said, seeing the silver lining in being Dexter-less. "It gives them a chance to gain some consistency and get better.
"But, for sure, it affects us when he's not in there and we'd rather have him out there than not."
Austin sounded fairly pleased, thus far, with the running back situation, singling out sophomore Brandon Bolden first.
"Brandon has had a pretty good camp, but honestly right now, it's too early to say how that pecking order is. All of them are showing flashes and doing some good things," Austin added.
There seems to be a battle going on for the backup QB position, which Austin encourages and likes.
"There is a competition at quarterback, including Jevan. We all need to compete. Billy (Tapp) and Nathan (Stanley) both did pretty well. They threw the ball pretty good. Nathan missed a couple of deep balls he's capable of making, but they all looked OK," Kent closed.
"New" Rebel Defensive Line Coach Terry Price is still getting to learn his troops, but he likes what he's seeing in the effort department, at the very least.
"Our top guys - Lawon Scott, Ted Laurent, Kentrell Lockett and Marcus Tillman - are playing well together. We are a long way from a finished product, but they are doing two things I really like," Price noted. "They are trying to show leadership and they are trying to be physical. They are communicating. As long as they are talking and leading and sticking their noses in the fight, we will get better.
"We made a few plays today. We played hard and physical. At times we didn't make some plays we needed to or should have, but overall the kids got after it."
Jerrell Powe continues to draw attention and gain praise, little by little.
"The weight loss has really helped him. He's moving around a lot better. We still have to shore some things up technically, but he's playing hard," Price said. "He's a big man who is explosive. We just have to get him tuned in."
Some of the backups have also caught Price's eye, starting with DE Emmanuel Stephens.
"Emmanuel has a high, high motor. He will chase the ball sideline to sideline and he's becoming more physical," said Price. "He's been a pleasant surprise for me. I like the way he plays the effort he's giving.
"Justin Smith had a slow start to spring practice, but the last couple of days he's starting to get better at some the little things he needs to improve. If he keeps doing that, the big things will come for him."
Freshman DE Craig Drummond has been on the moon - in another world - the first several practices, but Price says he's getting better the last couple of days.
"He's coming along, but he knows he has a lot of work to do. It's just a process. This is the first time he's ever been on a field where the players were bigger than him and were pushing him around some and the first time he's ever had to chase these speedy backs," Terry explained. "It's different for him, but he'll get it because he's a big, physical kid who has a lot of potential."
Austin, Price -
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