It's almost time to put Spring Training 2009 in the books.
Wednesday, the Rebels had their 13th practice of the 15-practice spring session and their last in full pads - besides Saturday's Grove Bowl.
"We wanted to have one more real physical practice to get some more snaps on film of everyone, but most notably the backups," said Coach Houston Nutt.
He got his request. The Rebs, after shorter than usual individual work, went straight to team drills. In other words, scrimmaging, but without full tackling to the ground.
"We had a good spirited practice today. We got a lot of snaps in and let Jevan (Snead) rest his arm because we wanted to see more of Nathan Stanley and Billy Tapp," said Nutt. "Shay Hodge has some soreness in his knees, but that was good for Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux, who both stepped up their games today. Andrew Harris also continued to do some good things and TE Gerald Harris caught the ball well too."
On the defensive side of the ball, several players stuck out to Houston.
"Our leaders over there - Marcus Tillman, Kentrell Lockett, Marshay Green and Kendrick Lewis - are doing some real good things and are among the guys doing a good job of leading this team," he noted.
Nutt also mentioned the interior of the defensive line - Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott and much improved Jerrell Powe.
"Ted and Lawon have done a good job for us this spring. Lawon has been very consistent. Ted has also done a good job, but he's being pushed by Powe. That's a good thing - competition helps everyone," Nutt added. "We have three good ones in there and I think Justin Smith has closed spring training on a good note."
With Tapp and Stanley getting most of the reps in the pseudo-scrimmage, Nutt got a chance to get a closer look at the backup QBs.
"Nathan took off in the last scrimmage and then he took a step back for a couple of practices," Nutt assessed. "He didn't look as good doing some of the little things, missing a fade route, not throwing it away when he should have, missing a check. The game is fast for him right now because Tyrone (Nix) is throwing everything at him and some things he's not seen. It's a tough pace to keep up with, but he's doing fine.
"When we open up two-days, we will have a good battle going on for the number two quarterback slot."
The focus the past week of spring training has been more on the backups than the starters. What has Nutt seen in regard to the backups on the offensive line?
"Brandon Green is very valuable to us because he can play both guards and center. Mark Jean-Louis is getting better, but he's not ready yet," he stated. "A.J. Hawkins might have to be the next guy. He's improved, but he's just a freshman. We need to see more than flashes from Alex Washington or Don Mosley. They are showing signs but we need more consistency."
* There is some thought among fans that signee Bobbie Massie will start immediately on the OL. What are Houston's thoughts on the matter? "We need depth at tackle, so we will have to start him out there," Nutt commented. "How quickly he can help us will be determined by how quickly he can handle things mentally and adjust to the speed of the game. We might have to give him a package to get his feet wet at first. But when you are 6-8, 340 pounds and can move, you are going to play, at least some, quickly. With those qualities, you can get a tie. You may not dominate, but sometimes ties are just fine in this league."
* Cornerback was an issue last year until the end of the year, but Nutt has been pleased with the progress they have shown this spring. "They are so much more confident now and they are making more plays on the ball," Houston evaluated. "We feel comfortable right now with Marshay Green, Cassius Vaughn and Jeremy McGee. Marcus Temple is hurt right now, but we think he's going to be a good one in time. I'd like more depth there, but hopefully we've got time to develop some."
* Injured DE Greg Hardy has been observing practices from an arm's length all spring while he rehabs his foot. He likes what he sees on the defensive side of the ball. "If everyone stays on this path they are on this spring, we can have a really good defense," said Hardy. "Everyone is excited and flying around. We've got good speed and we've got a lot of veterans who know what Coach Nix wants." Food for thought: the defense is shaping up to be a very good unit in 2009 and Hardy isn't even in the mix yet.
* LB Patrick Trahan, WR Dexter McCluster, and FS Kendrick Lewis had class and were late getting to practice. In their absence, Lakenwic Haynes filled in for Trahan, Lionel Breaux took Dex's reps and Fon Ingram took over at free safety. Haynes has more work to do, but he's getting better. All three filled in nobly until the cavalry arrived.
* DT Ted Laurent has quietly gone about doing his job this spring without a lot of fanfare. But consider this - Jerrell Powe's improvement has been a constant conversation piece during spring training, but guess who is still number one? Laurent. Ted just gets the job done and has been very steady and productive. Coaches love dynamic playmaking and difference-makers, but they also like players who are consistent. They know what they are going to get from consistent players every down. Laurent is trying to become more of a playmaker, and showed signs of that in spring, but for now his bread and butter is consistency.
* The Rebs will have a rehearsal practice Friday. There will be no practice report.
Wednesday Practice Report
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