Friday Practice Report

With the Grove Bowl just around the corner, Ole Miss used Friday's practice to focus on special teams and run-throughs in shorts and shirts. Read the report inside.

With 14 practices in the books, all that's left for Ole Miss this spring is the Grove Bowl.

After running through a rather light 2-hour practice Friday, the Rebels will reconvene tomorrow at 1 p.m. for Red/Blue day. The best will face the rest in an all-out scrimmage inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

"Finished out the 14th practice with a lot of mental preparation," head coach Houston Nutt said. "We practiced our kicking to make sure we're good to go. We won't have live kicking tomorrow. Sometimes that can be so unorganized. Today, we tried to make sure we had 11 on each side.

"(The Grove Bowl) will be a scaled down version of a game. Hopefully we can avoid some rain, everybody comes out and we finish strong."

Nutt anticipates around 30 or so snaps for most of the starters, as Saturday will be a day to see some younger players who have developed this spring.

"This last week has been excellent," he said. "I'm eager to see guys like Jason Jones, Justin Smith, Devin Thomas and Gerald Rivers tomorrow. They've really stepped up. I'd like to see them finish out physical. Lekenwic Haynes is another one. They need to play hard and keep coming.

"There are some offensive linemen in the same boat. Rishaw (Johnson) hasn't played much. He needs to finish out strong. Bradley Sowell at left tackle has really made a stride this last week. So you see a lot of improvement, you just want to end on a good note. This is the last time we play until we come back until August."

Speaking of the offensive line, Nutt was asked of having such a strong leader as John Jerry beside the younger Johnson.

Nutt believes Jerry has played a big role in Johnson's improvement over the last few weeks.

"John is a veteran. He understands the schemes and has really done a good job of coaching Rishaw up until the ball snap," said Nutt. "That's one of the reasons we have Reid (Neely) on the left side. He's very intelligent and has helped Bradley (Sowell). It helps when people have been there. Reid's played and John has played. That helps."

In the team's last full scrimmage, Nutt wasn't pleased with the production of his running backs. What will he be looking for tomorrow?

"I want to see good, hard running," he said. "They need to run with their eyes and be physical with their pads over their toes. No fumbles. We have a tendency to look for the long run. That's not how you do it. You try to get four yards and then the big ones will come. But if you start pressing and looking and dancing, this league's too fast. They'll catch you."

DC Tyrone Nix, whose defense has been stifling throughout spring training, said he wants to see all of his defensive players give their all.

"I want the kids to play hard, play with fundamentals and be good tacklers," Nix said. "No one needs to get hurt. I want to see everyone we put out there on defense to play well. Regardless if it's the Blue team or the Red team, they're our team. We want to see all the kids go out there and play as well as possible. I want them to play their assignments full speed, and play with passion when they hit the field."

Random Notes:

* While senior defensive end Greg Hardy has sat out during spring drills while recovering from additional surgery on his foot, his presence has been more than felt. Over his previous years on campus, Hardy has become known as somewhat of a free spirit, but is now taking a firmer stance as leader for the Rebels. "We just talked about that this morning," Nutt said of Hardy's attitude shift. "He has not missed a 5:30 a.m. and he didn't workout. But he hasn't missed. That's never happened before. He hasn't missed a treatment. His classwork has been good. And he's out here encouraging. He was coaching Craig Drummond last week as a big brother. That type of attitude we've really praised him for. If he can carry this come July, it will be a special year for him."

* Greg still has a long way to go until he's fully healthy, but Nutt said he's already working without his walking boot in therapy. "The trainers are already allowing him to take the boot off to do some walking right now," said Nutt. "He's out of it a couple of hours a day. That's a good step. Hopefully he'll be away from the boot by mid-June." Of course, Greg believes he'll be out of it in a week.

* There's been plenty of speculation around departed Rebels Michael Oher and Peria Jerry's stock with the draft only a week away, but Nutt said he's heard nothing but good things for the two. Around 12-14 teams have contacted Nutt, with both expected to be selected midway through the first round.

* Junior QB Jevan Snead is expected to receive around 20 snaps during tomorrow's scrimmage. Nathan Stanley is currently running with the second team, but a fierce battle still remains against incumbent No. 2 Billy Tapp. Nutt said reps will be divided up between Stanley and Tapp, and both will receive long looks with the first team.

* It's been mentioned many times before, but special teams are of great importance for the staff. A good portion of today's practice was set around the specialty reps, with many starters filling the spots. A few names were involved in punt, punt return, and kickoffs. Kendrick Lewis and Johnny Brown come to mind, as well as Fon Ingram and Derrick Herman. With so many big names being utilized, expect no drop-off in that area come fall.

* The Rebels closed with a scaled-back version of scrimmage work, before breaking into some pressure-kick situations with the field goal unit. Nutt called all remaining players from the sidelines to the 35-yard line, where they surrounded PK Joshua Shene and started shouting, with the coaches blowing their whistles. Shene missed the first wide-left, but was able to get some redemption in the next attempt. After the miss, the team started chanting "Shene! Shene!," with Josh putting his next one perfectly between the up-rights.

* Finally, despite inclement weather expected for tomorrow, Nutt said the plan is to play on outside unless drastic conditions arrive. The worst-case scenario will be to move into the IPF, but it will have to pour for that to happen. In terms of the Oher/Jerry program, it will be moved from the Grove into the Student Union if necessary.

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