The sound of leather popping.
That's when you know football is truly here.
Even though the Rebels were not in full gear, and contact was limited except in the trenches, there was enough thumping going on at practice Wednesday to get a better feel for the team.
The Rebs practiced in shoulder pads and helmets for the first time and Coach Houston Nutt took full advantage with an extended practice of over 2 1/2 hours.
"That was what the assitant coaches call the H-factor," smiled Nutt, in reference to the extra periods Nutt can sometimes throw into a practice beyond the scheduled workout, "but we also have an electircal issue in the IPF and the lights aren't supposed to come on for another few minutes (7:45).
"I thought it was a very good day today. We got better in a lot of areas. Our fundamentals were better. The timing with our quarterbacks and wideouts was better. The defense seems to be averaging about two scores a day and I love that from a defensive standpoint."
Nutt mentioned a few of the freshmen again, this time the running backs.
"Tim Simon, Korvic Neat and Rodney Scott all showed a lot of promise in team drills and in the middle drills. I'm pretty excited about them," he said.
Houston was asked about the backup quarterback situation. Right now, he gives the nod to RS frosh Nathan Stanley, with a little backstepping thrown in.
"If you put me on the spot right now, it's Nathan. He can throw the passes we need in this offense. He's making better decisions," Nutt said. "There are situations where Billy Tapp would go in the game ahead of Nathan, but if you ask me off the cuff right now, we are trying to get Nathan ready because his arm is stronger."
Nutt is also pleased with his young receivers at this juncture.
"Jesse Grandy is a blur, very fast. Patrick Patterson is a big body who is going to help us. Terrell Grant is very fast and is getting better as he gets adjusted. Ja'Mes Logan is one of the smoothest route runners we have signed," said Nutt. "I'd like to redshirt all four of them, but we will probably have to play two of them the way it looks right now. I'm not sure which ones, but the numbers dictate two will play."
Nutt mentioned the turnovers the defense is forcing. What, in his opinion, is factoring into the Rebel D becoming more ball-hawkish?
"They are so comfortable right now and they are playing so fast. They are a step or two ahead of where they were in the spring because they have a better grasp of what Tyrone (Nix) wants," Houston explained. "They are playing on automatic pilot. They can anticipate more now and it's putting them in position to make more plays on the ball."
Today, RG Rishaw Johnson was demoted to the third team for breaking team rules.
"He's got to be more disciplined in his life. I'm going to keep it in-house, but he's got to change. Right now, we are getting Brandon Green and A.J. Hawkins ready," Nutt noted.
OLB LaKenwic Haynes missed practice again today with heart issues.
"He looked a lot better today. He's gotten his color back. It always worries me in these hot practices when a player's heartbeat is not regular and he is having blood pressure issues, but I'm happy he's improving. He wanted to practice today, but we are going to keep him on a heart monitor and watch him for a week to make sure he's alright," Nutt stated.
With the new WRs turning some heads, WR Coach Ron Dickerson was asked about his newcomers.
"They are working hard. You really have to talk about the vets when you talk about our freshmen receivers because they are helping me coach them and taking them under their wing," Dickerson noted. "They want to get on the field and play so they are working hard.
"It's too early for a pecking order, but Pat is making some great catches and is picking up the offense well. Ja'Mes has done some things that have shocked me. I thought he could do it, and I'm happy he is, but he has been surprising with his progress. Jesse is walking in Dexter's shoes right now and has shown that kind of quickness. He's impressive. Terrell Grant is doing a real good job - he's learning more than one position. They are working well."
Ron expects them to continue growing in the system.
"Of course they have to continue learning their assignments and techniques, but the biggest thing is that they have shown no fear factor," he continued. "They came here to play. Their eyes are not big and they are not overwhelmed. They are taking the challenge. I'm looking at that aspect closely.
"Everyone in my room is on notice. If you want playing time, you better compete. We are blessed to have great competition in our room."
Dickerson also heaped some praise on senior Shay Hodge.
"Shay has taken his game to another level physically and mentally. That's what we need. He's doing things now I have never seen him do. He had a great offseason flexibility-wise. He's doing a great job," Dickerson closed.
* With Rishaw Johnson currently sielined due to disciplinary action, senior Brandon Green worked with the first-team offense at right guard.
* There's a lot of meat on the field goal team. Across the front are A.J. Hawkins, Alex Washington, Reid Neely, DS Preston Powers, John Jerry, Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell. They should be able to protect effectively. On the wings? TEs Gerald Harris and Ferbia Allen.
* In punt drills today, freshman Tyler Campbell had two punts over 50 yards and he showed good agility and calmness when the snap on his third try rolled back to him, but he had the presence of mind and ability to pick it up on the hop and boot it downfield 35 yards before it could be blocked. Pretty impressive.
* Marshay and Dexter will handle punt return duties this year, but waiting in the wings and learning the ropes is Grandy. Cat-quick and fields punts fairly smoothly for a rookie.
* The two young linebackers continue to turn heads. Joel Kight is on the outside and is already in the rotation as a number two behind Patrick Trahan. DC Tyrone Nix said "he's instinctive and he learns quickly, plus Joel is very fluid.". . . D.T. Shackelford is in the middle for now. "D.T. is going to be a real good one, but he's thinking too much right now and looks a little mechanical. He'll smooth out once he catches on to what we are doing better. His time will come."
* Some have wondered how journeyman senior DT LaMark Armour has suddenly moved into the four-man DT rotation. This might be a clue. LaMark is now 275, which is a hair light, but don't let him fool you. During the summer offseason workouts, he had a squat of 600 pounds (500 is considered the standard) and in the power clean, he had a 328-pound lift (300 is the standard for "enough" strength.)
* If you want to know what a back is made of, don't look at the great plays, look at the bad plays that he salvages. Today, in middle drills, the hole collapsed on freshman Rodney Scott and he appeared trapped in the backfield for a four-yard loss. He quickly sidestepped trouble and made a three-yard gain out of a disaster. Instincts and quickness. You can't teach that.
* Scott is not the only frosh RB who is impressing the coaches. Tim Simon looks like a terrific inside runner with excellent moves, and when he gets on the outside, like he did today, he can move. Simon looks unintimidated and very gifted.
* In pass skelly, with no pass rush, Dexter showed out today, making a diving catch of a Jevan Snead bullet over the middle and then beating coverage deep for a bomb. He also made a move in team drills on a run play that left defenders grabbing for air and the onlookers ooohing.
* FS Kendrick Lewis picked off an overthrown Snead pass and returned it for a score today. DT Jerrell Powe, dropping back to spy on short middle routes, also picked off Snead and had a nice return, rumbling into the end zone from 25 yards out. SS Fon Ingram forced a Scott fumble after a long run and CB Marcus Temple caught the ball in midair and had a nice return on it as well. Backup CB Jeremy McGee picked a Stanley pass on an out pattern. Great anticipation on the play.
* Continue to keep your fingers crossed. DE Greg Hardy looks as good as he has in over a year. No limp, no pain.
* When you see a player's maturation before your eyes, it's very exciting. Take one play made by OLB Allen Walker today and you know he is now grown into a mature, heady football player. Snead threw a pass out wide to Dexter, who then scampered to his right and tried to throw a bomb to TB Brandon Bolden who had sneaked out of the backfield. Walker trailed Bolden all the way down the field, never giving up on his assignment, and made a play on the ball, breaking up the pass. Two years ago, Allen would not have made that play. Maturity goes a long way.
* Rumors continue to float around about new turf in the stadium. Nobody would confirm that today after practice, but the rumor is too strong to ignore. We're going with it until someone tells us differently. We have even heard the design - but don't take it to the bank. In one end zone, blue Ole Miss outlined in Red. In the other, blue Rebels outlined in Red. In the middle, a red Ole Miss outlined in white. Of course, that is just rumor too. . . . .
* WR Jacarious Lucas returned to practice today. He missed the first two days because his father passed away. Our prayers and thoughts to the Lucas family.
* Someone asked the other day about the "gunners" on punt coverage. The candidates being worked with the most are Lionel Breaux, Cassius Vaughn, Derrick Herman and Marcus Temple. All speedy guys with good tackling skills.
* New Chancellor Dan Jones was at practice for a few minutes for the first time. The team greeted him with applause.
* The Rebs will practice in shoulder pads and helmets again Thursday before going in full gear Friday.
Wednesday Practice Report -
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