Like all football coaches who mentor in the Deep South, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt likes the heat at practices because he knows a lot of games will be played in sweltering conditions.
He got his "wish" today as temperatures rose a little to the low 90s and the humidity was thick after a relatively cool week last week.
"We got a little heat today and that was good," said Nutt. "We started off practice good, but we have to finish better. Some of our young guys lost their concentration at the end with too many missed assignments and too many balls on the ground.
"For the most part, the defense did a real good job. (FS) Kendrick (Lewis) did a good job of leading and was very vocal. The defense picked up a couple of turnovers. Overall, it was a good day except for the finish on offense."
The Rebels got a bit of a scare early in practice when number one TB Brandon Bolden went down in a non-contact drill and was holding his leg/knee, but it sounds as if the alarm bell rang for something very minor.
"He's been going very hard the whole camp, running out every carry and every catch about 30 yards," Nutt explained. "I think he just did not have enough fluid in him today and kind of strained the hamstring a little. We don't think it's bad. We hope he's back tomorrow and we are going to have to make sure he hydrates and eats right now that classes have started and their schedules are more hectic."
Nutt was asked if the running back situation is settling into a pecking order now or if it's still undecided.
"The older guys - Brandon, Cordera (Eason), Enrique (Davis) - are ahead because of experience. The other guys are showing flashes and may get their opportunity. We told them all to be ready, but we aren't sure now how they will work into a game. We will start with the older group," Nutt explained.
The Rebels were last in the SEC last year in pass defense, but Nutt feels those numbers were skewed a bit based on how the secondary finished the 2008 season. He expects carryover.
"I think if you look at the last five games, we improved a lot. The numbers we gave up early skewed the overall numbers," Houston stated. "Without question, I think we will be better. I think they started off unsure and lacked confidence. As they built on some success, they got more confident and started having even more success. If you had told us we were opening last season with Texas Tech, we might have forfeited. But we got better, enough so that we did a nice job against Tech in the last game of the season. I think we will be even better this year back there."
Cornerback Coach Chris Vaughn echoed some of Nutt's sentiments, but he cautioned against jumping the gun too soon.
"For the most part, I have been pleased so far," Vaughn noted. "We always want to do better, but we are a lot better now than we were a year ago because of experience. Now, we have to take it to the field in the games.
"They have more confidence now because they understand what they are doing now. They have a plan they understand now and aren't in no-man's land anymore. We want our guys to be confident, but not cocky. The minute you think you've got that position mastered and let off a little, that's the minute you get burned. We have to keep working - that's the whole key. Come to work every day and work on your craft."
Chris sounds a little more comfortable with the depth situation at cornerback, but there's never been a coach in the history of a game who said "we have enough depth, we don't want more."
"I'm more comfortable, but you can never have enough cover guys. We will play some four-corner defenses and that doesn't leave us anyone left over who we feel is ready yet. We feel good about our top four guys (Cassius Vaughn, Marshay Green, Jeremy McGee and Marcus Temple) but we don't need anyone hurt or anything like that," he continued. "We feel better, but we still have some work to do in developing more depth. Our freshmen are talented, but we don't know how ready they are yet."
* The rumor started on another school's website and spread like wildfire. Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead, "they" said, broke his collarbone in practice yesterday. It's not true, unless Jevan is the toughest human being on the planet because he was throwing bullets Wednesday in practice. He was even joking about it. "I guess I should be in a sling," he quipped, shaking his head and wondering where things like that come from. Whoever "they" are, nice try, but the Heisman candidate is fine.
* Backup Strong Safety Fon Ingram was still running a fever and missed Wednesay's workout, but he's expected back at practice in the next day or two. With Ingram, who is the third safety, or as the coaches like to say "next" at free and strong safety, we asked about "next" without Fon. "It would be Derrick Herman," Dameron said. "Derrick has been up and down in spring, but he's got ability. He's just got to get more consistent, especially with his tackling in run support." Beyond Herman, next is RS freshman Jared Mitchell. "Jared has also shown improvement, but I want to see him get more physical out there," Kim noted.
* It was thought a week ago the coaches might settle on a six or seven-man wide receiver rotation. Now, it appears they are rethinking that and maybe expanding the number to eight who will play. "We have different guys for different roles," said WR Ron Dickerson. "For instance, Jesse Grandy is more of a Dexter-type player, but he's not going to go across the middle and take out a linebacker. We wouldn't ask him to. Andrew Harris is a big, physical receiver who can do that and is more of a possession receiver. Both have cut out a role and both will see the field this year." The others are, in no particular order, Shay Hodge, McCluster, Markeith Summers, Lionel Breaux, Patrick Patterson and Jacarious Lucas. "The top guys are more experienced and are more complete wideouts, but the other three or four have shown skills we can use in different roles," Ron closed.
* The Jason Jones to defensive end experiment continued into its second day. Jones, who carries 238 pounds on his 6-2 frame, is a bit light right now for DE, but projecting into the future, S&C Coach Don Decker said Jones "can easily hold 255 pounds," the current weight of senior Emmanuel Stephens.
* For the Greg Hardy alarmists and doubters, for the second day in a row, the talented senior DE was dressed out in full gear and went through contact drills without any problems. Not only that, prior to position meetings and practice, Hardy went through an extra lifting session in the weight room that was not required. Doesn't sound like someone who is dragging to us.
* Tuesday, CB Jeremy McGee, considered the third corner and equal to the starters by the coaches, left practice with a "racing heart." It was just a precaution. McGee returned to practice Wednesday with his normal wide grin. "I'm fine. No big deal," he said. Nutt was glad to see him back. "We are kind of thin at corner and we need all of them, especially those top four, healthy," said Houston. "We didn't think there was anything to it yesterday, but we had to make sure and thankfully we were right."
* Back in the summer, it was decided RS freshman Josh Tatum would not practice this year while he concentrated on his studies and raising his grades up. But due to a shortage of scout team OL, Nutt called on Tatum to take up some slack. "He's on scholarship so I called him and asked him if he would come out and work on the scout team. He won't play and he won't travel, and he'll have plenty of time for his books," said Nutt. "He was very excited to get back out there and said he could handle the responsibility. We will monitor his academic situation closely." Josh practiced Wednesday.
* It's kind of staggering to watch the defensive line do drills and see who is manning the second team. Stephens and Hardy on the ends and Jerrell Powe and LaMark Armour at the DT slots. Let that sink in a little. That's our second team, even though they aren't considered that by DL Coach Terry Price. Hardy could start for anyone in the country. Powe would be a starter for most teams in the country. Stephens would be a starter at Ole Miss most years. Like we said, kind of staggering when you look at it like that.
* Senior TE Gerald Harris is still out with a hamstring issue and is not expected to practice any this week. In his absence, RS frosh Ferbia Allen is working with the number one offense. In two-tight end sets, E.J. Epperson, also a redshirt freshman, is also working with the ones. "Ferbia is doing a really good job. We trust him. He will play a lot this year and I think he will be very effective," said TE Coach James Shibest.
* In field goal drills Wednesday, PK Josh Shene was 3-3 from 39 yards out.
* DE/DT Garrett Ryan also missed a couple of days with a shoulder stinger similar to Kentrell Lockett. Lockett came back to practice Tuesday, Ryan Wednesday.
Wednesday Practice Report -
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