Football, when you boil away all the glitz, comes down to one thing.
Can you "whip" the man in front of you? If you can, you most likely win.
The who's-the-best-man nature of football is being tested this week in the Rebel preseason camp.
Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt told the squad after last Saturday's scrimmage he was going to turn the heat up in the week prior to school starting next Monday, and Tuesday's practice was an indication of a promise fulfilled.
Kickoff blocking drills to get things going were full contact, followed by a version of Oklahoma drills - where it really is best-man-wins, middle run drills and then live team work.
"We had a good day today. We worked hard on getting tougher with some middle drill, half-line and some overtime after a 50-play session," said Nutt. "I was very pleased with the way Jevan Snead threw the ball today. His timing with Dexter McCluster and Shay Hodge is really good. I have also been pleased with the guys who have lost weight - Jerrell Powe, Mark Jean-Louis, etc. - because they are moving so much better and are going to help us."
Nutt was asked about the physicality of the Rebels at this point.
"Our first group, especially on defense, has shown they are physical. They move around, they arrive in a bad mood and are working hard. Patrick Trahan, Jonathan Cornell, Allen Walker, Marcus Tillman, Kentrell Lockett, Lawon Scott, Emmanuel Stephens and the guys who have been around are moving and playing hard. They are creating enthusiasm for the rest of the squad," Nutt stated.
And what about the timing between Snead and anyone not named Hodge or McCluster?
"Lionel Breaux and Markeith Summers have been very consistent. They know what to do and are playing well. We are still very pleased with Patrick Patterson. He will be in the rotation in some role this year," noted Nutt.
Senior DT LaMark Armour, who seems to be the fourth DT in the rotation, was a subject Houston was approached with.
"I don't know how much time he will get yet in games, but he's playing hard and we like to roll guys in and out there. Right now, I feel he'll be in the rotation and we are comfortable with him being in the game," said Houston.
Brandon Green sort of took the number one right guard slot via default with Rishaw Johnson's demotion due to off-the-field issues, but Nutt said Green is more than a fill-in.
"Are we comfortable with him as the starter? Yes, yes, yes. He's really committed. He's physical and is a fighter and he can play a lot of positions. He's dedicated himself and we believe in him," Nutt added. "Right now, he gives us the best chance, but I will say this - Rishaw has responded to this latest setback. I have been proud of him. He's gotten more physical and is doing a good job. There's nothing like competition."
Houston was asked if he thinks the OL can handle things this year to the point of him and OC Kent Austin being able to run everything they want to run.
"That is a great question. People are going to come after us and we have to be able to handle what they throw at you or cut back in what you do," Nutt stated. "I think in time we will be OK, but it's hard for us to throw the book at guys who don't have a lot of experience in there.
"It's been difficult for us to protect the QB against Greg Hardy, Kentrell and Emmanuel Stephens, but I think Mike Markuson will tell you we are getting better. We just have to keep working and progressing and see where we end up when the season starts."
For his part, Green says things are getting better for him.
"Coach Markuson calls me the American Dream. I was in JUCO, a totally different level from here, and I didn't know if I would ever get here," Brandon stated. "Now that I am here, I am going to live the dream and give them everything I have. It's a real strain on the body, but I'm hanging in there. I know a million other kids would like to be in my position, so I am not going to waste a snap.
"I grew up without a Dad and I am being molded into a man by Coach Markuson. I am very thankful for him. He does not baby me or anyone and I appreciate that. You want to give everything you have to someone like that. I will come back later in life and tell my kids that Coach Markuson was the person who made me into a man. I do not want to disappoint him or my teammates. I refuse to."
Green's advantage is playing between veterans John Jerry and Daverin Geralds.
"They are so experienced and so smart. There is nothing I can ask them that they don't know the answer," Green said. "They always pull for me and encourage me. I know they have my back and obviously I have theirs too."
Markuson likes what Green is doing so far.
"When he was a kid, he always wanted to play for Ole Miss. The dream came true for him and he's trying to make the most of it," Markuson noted. "We needed a center at the time, but we found him to be versatile. He's a hard worker and gets the job done. He will be our first-team guard for the Memphis game. He's worked hard with Coach (Don) Decker and has improved his speed, flexibility, strength. He makes good grades, he's on time, he works hard, he has a smile on his face and he gets the job done. Kids like that are fun to coach."
Markuson has also opted to move heralded freshman Bobby Massie to right tackle from left tackle.
"We moved him to the right side because he is swimming a little right now mentally and he's always played RT before. He's more comfortable at RT than LT. We wanted to make it a little easier for him at this point. Some other guys could play left - Rishaw, Logan Clair or maybe even Reid Neely. We are trying to get to the point where we don't have to move around too many guys. With Bobby, we want him to learn right tackle for now and see where that takes him. He might get another shot at left tackle in the spring," Mike explained. "We feel he can help us for sure in some capacity this year, but we do not know when. It may be game four or five, but you have to be patient, keep repping and watch him grow as a player. At some point, the light will come on and stay on. Right now it's flickering."
Markuson said the first scrimmage last Saturday was on the sloppy side.
"We jumped offsides and didn't snap the ball well. We weren't clean and didn't make enough plays. We didn't get in a rhythm, but since that we have had two real good, physical practices and we are getting better," he commented. "We are seeing a lot of different looks and our defense is very fast, so it's helping us get better. We'll get ready to go, but we have to be patient and correct as we go. We are getting more physical as we go, but we have to keep working on that."
* Sometimes, between the hoopla over the current "stars" and the future stars, there is a layer of players who seem to get lost in the shuffle with fans and the media. The top and the new seem more interesting, but the "middle" guys, for lack of a better term, are just as important. The Rebels have several who fall in that category, but one who is having a very good fall camp thus far and is considered a starter is junior wide receiver Markeith Summers. Markeith, who had one of the best offseasons of anyone on the team according to S&C Coach Don Decker, has come into his own and is quickly becoming one of the more dynamic players on the team. Number 16. Don't forget it or take him for granted.
* On the defensive side of the ball, DE Emmanuel Stephens may fall into that category. There's been hardly a mention of him, but with his new 255-pound frame and the feet of a linebacker, expect him to make a valuable impact that has been somewhat overlooked in the early going of fall camp.
* In an interesting early drill, OC Kent Austin and OL Coach Mike Markuson had buckets of water placed on the field to dunk the football in during center-quarterback exchange drills. The wet football drills get the center and quarterback used to handling a wet ball when it's raining during a game. . . . As a sidebar to that, Daverin Geralds, Mark Jean-Louis, Brandon Green and newcomer Chris Gill were all snapping.
* As we informed you yesterday, freshman Craig Drummond has been moved from defensive end to defensive tackle. In some early DL drills, Craig was drawing some praise from DL Coach Terry Price as he began learning the DT techniques. Price, a perfectionist, told the rookie "not bad" several times. If you know Price, that's as close as he gets to saying "very good." Drum is currently on the third team behind Lawon Scott and LaMark Armour.
* Backup free safety Derrick Herman missed practice Monday to be with his Mother, who was having surgery in Cleveland, Miss. We are pleased to report Derrick returned to practice today and said his Mom is "doing fine."
* PK Josh Shene was 2-3 from 37 yards out in field goal attempts Tuesday. He missed from the far right hash and hit from the middle of the field and the far left hash.
* On the injury front, DT Justin Smith (broken foot) had surgery today, but no word on that yet. . . FB Dan Hoffman sustained a concussion yesterday and spent the night in the hospital. He was at practice today but not dressed out. . .OLB Lakenwic Haynes is now full speed after missing some days last week with an accelerated heartbeat. . . SS Tig Barksdale did not dress out today for an undisclosed medical issue that we were told "needs more checking. We are running more tests. We've always had two or three heart murmurs that need further checking and we are going to make sure he's OK before we put him out there," Nutt said. . . OLB Lamar Brumfield (hamstring) is practicing sparingly, but is not quite 100 percent yet.
* The new Field Turf installation in the stadium will begin tomorrow, weather permitting. Yes, the end zone is Navy Blue.
Tuesday practice report
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