Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt went outside the normal practice box Monday by - for all intents and purposes - putting the Rebels through a scrimmage in the Indoor Practice Facility.
The practice was relatively short compared to the average Monday workout, but there was plenty of action. Even though there was no tackling to the ground, the pads were popping and the players were as enthused as they have been all spring.
"As a staff, we needed to see 50-60 more plays on tape, especially of the younger guys. We put them in different situations, down and distance, to see how they would react," said Nutt. "I think this format got their motor running. It was a very energized practice and we saw a lot of good things. I'm anxious to watch the film. We got everyone 30-40 plays and that should give us another good look at how they are progressing. You can only do so many fundamentals and individual drills before you need to see them more live in game situations. That's what we did today."
Houston started with the defense.
"Our defense had a lot of energy today. I tell you, they are really moving around. (OLB) Patrick Trahan was at a different level in Saturday's scrimmage and that continued today," Nutt noted. "I think our younger backers (Jason Jones and Lakenwic Haynes) are coming on now too.
"Our top four linebackers - Allen Walker, Trahan, Jonathan Cornell and Lamar Brumfield, who can play all three positions - are doing a real good job for us. Walker has gotten so much better - he's moving better and understands the defense now. Cornell's year of experience last year has really helped him. Trahan is on another level and Brumfield is valuable to us."
Houston was asked about the progress of the running backs, both in Saturday's scrimmage and then after Monday's workout.
"I was a little disappointed Saturday. Brandon Bolden was pretty good and Andy Hartmann did some good things, but the others didn't do as well as I had hoped," Nutt stated. "Cordera and Enrique were inconsistent Saturday, but today they came back and had a good practice and made some nice runs.
"Our backs have to become more consistent. They have to stay focused and do the little things on every snap. They didn't Saturday, but they seemed to today."
The Rebels have one practice to make up so they are going to do that tomorrow (Tuesday). And they are going to beat the chickens out of bed.
"We are going to practice in the morning at 5:30," Nutt said. "We have so many class conflicts for an afternoon practice on Tuesday and Thursday, going early is the only way to get them all here."
It is anticipated the Tuesday practice will be in shorts, helmets and shoulder pads.
* The injury list evened out on Monday. WRs Andrew Harris and Jacarious Lucas (hamstring) returned to practice today, but CB Marcus Temple (dislocated shoulder) and WR Shay Hodge (sore knees and heels) sat out. Temple will not have to have surgery, but he is out for the rest of spring training. Hodge may return in the morning or Wednesday.
* Speaking of Harris, the big sophomore wideout is making plays all over the field now. He's more confident and he's making plays. CB Cassius Vaughn can explain it better. "Drew is very physical and can manhandle you if you let him get leverage on you in coverage," Cassius said, "but the biggest difference in him this spring is that he understands the offense and coverages now and knows how to attack them. He's also gained a lot of confidence. He's getting hard to handle in the open field."
* We bumped into men's basketball player Eniel Polynice at football practice today. He said he will be released to play full speed in two weeks. He said his knee is "perfect." He also said PG Chris Warren will be released to practice in "four-five weeks." As you know, G Trevor Gaskins was released roughly two weeks ago. As you are aware, all three tore their ACLs last season.
* With Shay Hodge out, junior Markeith Summers took his place and made a couple of nice catches in Monday's workout. . . RS frosh Julian Whitehead took over for Temple and made a big play early in the drills, intercepting a Nathan Stanley pass and returning it for a long touchdown.
* For the first time all spring, the Rebels worked on kickoff returns. Who are the candidates? They are numerous. Lionel Breaux, Derick Herman, Markeith Summers, Brandon Bolden, Cordera Eason, Devin Thomas, Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn all got their shots and gave the coaches a look as to their ability to field the ball and accelerate after the catch.
* RT John Jerry missed practice Monday due to class. In his absence, Alex "Tank" Washington took his place.
* Backup Center Mark Jean-Louis has come a long way this spring learning the center position, but something he has not mastered yet is the shotgun snap. He was mostly snapping the ball too high, but toward the end of practice he started getting it down some.
* On the back end of the defense, the guy who appears to be taking things over and making a lot of plays is senior FS Kendrick Lewis. He may be the most confident player on the team at this juncture and it's surfacing in the form of big hits, tipped passes and interceptions. The position has become natural to him now and that has freed him up to know when to take chances and know when to go in for the jarring hit. He's exciting to watch and should have a monster senior season.
* Nutt mentioned the backup linebackers Jones and Haynes. In Monday's "scrimmage" both made big plays. Jones sacked Stanley on a middle blitz for a 10-yard loss and Haynes jarred the ball loose from Bolden on a big hit as Brandon broke past the line of scrimmage. As Nutt said, they are starting to show up more and more and that's needed because one or two more LBs DC Tyrone Nix "trusts" are essential to next year's squad.
Monday Practice Report -
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