Saturday scrimmage report

Saturday's scrimmage accomplished everything Coach Houston Nutt wanted to see, except for a couple of injuries that gave him cause for concern. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss went through a full-scale scrimmage Saturday designed to see the first team offense execute some early and then focusing on the backups, an exercise that should get the coaches closer to making some depth chart decisions as the season approaches.

Nutt was pleased with the day except for a couple of injuries, one to a starter.

"We got a couple hurt I didn't want to get hurt today. (Freshman DE) Alex Williams, I think he broke his leg," said Nutt. "He probably wasn't going to play this year, but it depletes your scout squad each time one of these guys goes down and he really needed as much work as he could get to develop for next season. Also (senior TE) Gerald Harris popped a hamstring. I don't know how long he will be out. Sometimes those things can heal up quickly, sometimes they linger. All I know is that he will work hard to get back out here. We know that.

"Other than that, we had a very good scrimmage overall. We got to see a lot of things we were looking for with our younger guys. It was basically what we thought, but it's always good to check one more time.

The number one defense, as a unit, did not play at all, but Nutt considers some of the backups as valuable as starters.

"We know what the ones can do for the most part, but I consider Jerrell Powe, Emmanuel Stephens and a couple of more on that unit as starters," Nutt stated. "We wanted to get that second defense rolling. I thought they did a pretty nice job as a unit."

OL Coach Mike Markuson played musical chairs with the offensive line in the skirmish, moving players around frequently trying to get a better look at everyone.

"We are always playing the 'what if?' game. What if so-and-so goes down? Where do we go next? We wanted to put some players at different positions and put them in game situations so we will know in our minds where to go next if something happens," Nutt explained. "We played Reid Neely and Rishaw Johnson at tackle today some, put Brandon Green at center some, moved Mark Jean-Louis out to guard a little and we may look at Bobby Massie at right guard if push comes to shove. We know Bobby needs to be on the right side somewhere. He's more comfortable there than on the left side.

"We have been very happy with the job Bradley Sowell has done at left tackle. We have a lot of confidence in him right now. He's had an excellent camp so far. We'd like to be able to redshirt Logan Clair, but I don't know if we can or not."

QB Jevan Snead had a nearly flawless day.

"He looked extremely sharp. He and Shay Hodge and Dexter McCluster, in limited work, looked great. You know what they can do and they showed that today," Houston said. "They just have to keep working and studying and stay on the path they are on and they have a chance to be special."

With Harris temporarily shelved, most likely, Nutt said the Rebs will turn to RS freshman Ferbia Allen, junior Reggie Hicks and RS frosh E.J. Epperson at tight end. Also junior Leyton Jones had a couple of nice receptions in the scrimmage.

"Ferbia has done some good things in camp and looks pretty good. When we go to two-tights, it will either be Reggie or E.J. for now," noted Nutt.

Three defensive ends were sidelined today - Kentrell Lockett (shoulder stinger), Garrett Ryan (shoulder stinger) and Greg Hardy (precaution).

"Stingers react differently. You know there's some pain there, but you have to make sure the pain is gone. I've seen guys come back in two days and I've seen them take a week. We'll get him ready, I think," noted Nutt. "With Greg, we can get one practice a day out of him, normally, but as I have said all along, we are not risking anything with him."

Houston was asked about the recent AP preseason poll naming the Rebs the 8th best team in the nation.

"We are appreciative, but as I have been saying all along, it doesn't mean that much. We are thankful and grateful, but it means nothing when the ball is kicked off in September," he closed. "You have to play between those white lines, be physical, be in great shape and execute in all three phases to win."

The Rebels will have a light day on Sunday. They will watch some film from Saturday, lift weights and correct the mistakes from the scrimmage.

Random Notes:

* To reiterate on Snead's sharpness, he was 8-11 for 105 yards and two TDs, a 14-yarder to Jacarious Lucas and a 3-yarder to FB Dan Hoffman, but it was more than that, according to OC Kent Austin. "He was as sharp in all phases of being a quarterback as I have ever seen him," Austin noted. His calmness in the pocket was also noted. The defense came after him pretty hard, but amidst the maelstrom of a torrid rush, Snead held tough and delivered strike after strike.

* It sounds as if Markuson is getting a little more "satisfied" with some of his backups on the OL. "Mark (Jean-Louis) has done very well. His weight loss has helped him a lot. He's a leverage guy who can play center or guard," said Mike. "I think A.J. (Hawkins) is going to be able to help us down the line. I hope to get Rishaw (Johnson) back pretty soon - he's doing a nice job. And Bobby (Massie) is going to help us in one capacity or another. We've made some strides in the two weeks of camp, we really have."

* Are frehsmen LBs D.T. Shackelford and Joel Kight really good enough to be ready for the season opener or are they simply the best backups Tyrone Nix has got right now? We'll let him answer that. "I am comfortable with playing them in certain situations for now," said Nix. "They both still have a lot to learn, but they will both play against Memphis and will continue to get more and more each week."

* With Lockett, Ryan and Hardy sitting out the scrimmage, freshman Craig Drummond was moved back out to defensive end from DT for the workout. "He can do both," said DL Coach Terry Price. "When everyone gets back to practice, I'd like to see him settle in at DT, but for now, he's a DE again."

* We know the top four receivers are Hodge, McCluster, Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux, but what about 5, 6 and 7? According to WR Coach Ron Dickerson, it's "Pat Patterson, Lucas and a battle between Jessie Grandy and Andrew Harris for seven."

* A position that is often taken for granted but is extremely important is the personal protector on the punt team. He's the guy who lines up two or three yards behind the deep snapper and calls the signals. He has to set the protection by reading the rush setup and call the snap count. If he counts wrong or makes a bad call, punts get blocked. Last year, it was Jason Cook, who did an excellent job. This year, FB Andy Hartman has that chore. So far, he's drawn praise from ST Coordinator James Shibest.

* In punt work, Justin Sparks had three boots for a 41-yard average and freshman Tyler Campbell had three for a 45-yard average. Winds were gusting briskly during all kicking drills.

* The outside gunners on punt coverage have to leverage the return man and, many times, make the tackle, all while fighting off a blocker who trails them all the way down the field. The Rebs are in good hands there with veterans Cassius Vaughn and Lionel Breaux, who both did excellent jobs last year in those roles.

* In kickoff drills, Sparks kicked to the six and the goalline with good hang time on both kicks. David Hankins kicked six and four yards deep with decent hang time. Andrew Ritter mishit his first effort, but then booted his second try eight yards deep in the end zone.

* Freshman CB Charles Sawyer showed up well today in the big play category. Early on, he picked off a Nathan Stanley pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage and later came up for two or three nice open-field tackles. The rookie is exhibiting varsity toughness.

* The running back situation is why they coach and we write about what they do. As you are aware, there are a bevy of backs capable of toting the rock, but there's only one ball. How do coaches sort it all out? We don't know because, in our uneducated eyes, it would be very difficult. Put it this way, in years past, the Rebs would have been drooling to have Tim Simon, Rodney Scott and Devin Thomas as their total RB battery, but one or two of them may not even play this year. Tough, tough calls.


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