Thursday Practice Report

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt kept with the physical theme of the week Thursday, as the Rebels worked in full gear for a spirited session dominated by the defense. Read about it inside.

It was a cooler day with overcast skies in Oxford, but that didn't stop Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt from upping the intensity for the fourth-straight day Thursday.

Donning full gear, the Rebels stayed physical on the practice fields, with the Rebel defense again getting the better of quarterback Jevan Snead and the offense.

"We've been blessed again with some great weather. We got a lot done today. We worked extremely hard on our kicking units today, with emphasis on PAT field goal, field goals and field goal block. Our defense really brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm today," said Nutt. "They were swarming to the football. Allen Walker, Patrick Trahan, Kendrick Lewis and Marshay Green really stepped up as leaders for us. It seemed like we didn't get much done offensively.

"We still have a little ways to go, but have just enough time to get there."

While there was no injury news of note, Nutt mentioned four freshmen absent due to mandatory student orientation.

"If you looked real hard, you didn't see four guys," Nutt said. "We got four guys that weren't here in the summer, who had to go to mandatory summer orientation – Ryan Campbell, Z Mason, Bobby Massie and Frank Crawford."

After receiving the news that freshman Tig Barksdale will be sidelined with a medical issue a day earlier, there was a bit of shuffling at safety.

Veteran special teamer George Helow has been thrown into the fold, joining returners Fon Ingram and Derrick Herman to add depth to a now-depleted unit.

"George Helow is our special teams guy, but right now he's running at third team safety," he said. "We lost two key guys we signed that we were counting on. Now you expect Derrick Herman to really make a jump. Between Herman, Helow, and Jared Mitchell, two of those guys have to come on."

Nutt was asked how Ingram and Herman have looked so far in fall camp.

"They have to be better tacklers," said Nutt. "I thought they really missed some tackles yesterday. Their eyes weren't in the right place in coverage. It's consistency. That's really what you have in Kendrick Lewis and Johnny Brown. You have some experienced guys. But we knew that."

Currently, Nutt plans to take it slow with Barksdale's situation. However, the question of a possible free scholarship was raised, as greyshirt linebacker Mike Marry is set to arrive on campus Monday.

"Right now, we're just taking it one day at a time with Tig. We've got a meeting coming up in the near future with mom and everybody. We've got until Monday to figure that out. But once you start practice and meeting, you can't switch off (scholarships).

"I'm really excited about Mike making that sacrifice for us. I'd give anything if he was in here. I hate when a guy makes a 28 on the ACT and is so anxious. It's hard when all your teammates are somewhere playing. He's really making a sacrifice. Hopefully, we can make it up to him someday and he can be a part of this family. He's going to do a lot of big things."

Random Notes:

* With Massie out of practice, Nutt and staff did some shuffling along the offensive line for depth purposes. Rishaw Johnson, who remains in timeout behind senior Brandon Green at right guard, was inserted at both left tackle and right tackle today. Also, senior Reid Neely worked multiple positions, as Nutt said having linemen who are multifaceted is desired. "We're having to do a couple of precautionary things in practice. We're working Rishaw, Reid Neely – some different combinations. Those are two guys who can do it. I've been really proud of Rishaw and how far he's come. He's working very hard, is in much better shape and understands our offense a whole lot better."

* Senior defensive end Greg Hardy spent Thursday in street clothes and his walking boot for the second-straight day, but Nutt said there are no worries on that front. The staff is being extra careful in his recovery from foot surgery, in hopes of keeping him fresh for the team's season opener at Memphis. "We feel good about Greg," said Nutt. "We're just doing it the right way. Tomorrow hopefully he'll be back out with us. It just got a little sore. It's precautionary. That's all it is."

* If you didn't hear, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper pegged Ole Miss junior QB Jevan Snead as the seventh pick in Kiper's first mock draft of the year. While the topic of Snead returning for his senior season will have to wait until a later date, the question of who might take over is still an intriguing issue. OC Kent Austin believes he has two capable replacements in RS freshman Nathan Stanley and freshman Raymond Cotton. "I sure hope they're ready (to take over). They better be, or we'll be in the market for somebody else," Austin said tongue-in-cheek. "But seriously, we've got a lot of confidence in those guys or they wouldn't be here. They each have a lot of physical ability. All of them have good skill sets. What we need to do is get them up the learning curve so they can compete mentally at the SEC level."

* When the freshmen reported earlier in the month, Nutt mentioned the possibility of Cotton getting some looks in the Wild Rebel. The talented frosh definitely has the tools, but Cotton is swimming a bit mentally in practice. When asked if we could see Cotton get some looks in a small package, Austin wasn't completely sold on the idea. "He might (play this year), but we're still discussing it at this point. If he does, it'll be a pretty small package. What we have to do is weigh that against taking reps away from other things that we do well. There are only so many snaps in a game you're going to get. So if it's something that advantageous to our production offensively, then we'll look at it. But if it's lesser production, I'm not sure if it makes a lot of sense."

* One thing is for sure, if kickoff were today, senior K/P Justin Sparks would take the field as the team's punter. But that hasn't stopped freshman Tyler Campbell from making the coaches' decision harder with his continued progression throughout practices. Consistency is certainly an issue, but there's no doubting the leg of Campbell. Today, with the wind at his back, Tyler booted punts of 45, 60 and 65 yards. Awfully impressive for a youngster.

* For any offense, the early stages of camp are always days for regaining a rhythm. It's been no different on the practice fields, with the veteran-laden defense swarming and causing havoc for Snead and company. But Snead said he sees the offense getting better. "Today was a little tougher. Of course, Dexter didn't practice much and our defense had a heckuva day. It's tough on us when our defense is playing as good as they are. As a team each day, we're getting better. Our defense is no different. They got the best of us today, but it is good going against a defense like that. It makes us better. I'm just glad they're on our side."

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