As the Rebels go down the stretch run toward game week, which will begin in earnest next Tuesday, there's not a lot left to ask and not a lot left to say.
"The growing theme is that we need to hit somebody else. It's time," smiled Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt. "We are looking forward to Saturday because we will have a real rehearsal practice with sideline organization, substitutions, the whole works. We need that.
"It will be the scout team against the guys we expect to be in the game rotation. It will not be a full contact practice, but it will be full thud. No tackling to the ground."
Nutt was asked about the rise of freshmen linebackers D.T. Shackelford and Joel Kight.
"I'm not sure I expected them to be second team this early, but they have forced the situation," said Houston. "Here's the deal. Here's what they have. Intensity, toughness and intelligence. They came in and picked up the terminology and the playbook and ran with it. They are still learning, but they are intense and they are tough and they make progress daily."
Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix is not surprised D.T. and Joel are in the rotation.
"When we recruited them last year, we felt they had the kind of ability to make an immediate contribution," said Nix. "That's why we were so tickled when we signed them both on signing day. Mike Markuson did a great job to get D.T. and Joel was a kid we targeted from the beginning. They have met all expectations so far and are right on schedule."
Nix is not calling them finished products, but he's expecting them to play in the season opener against Memphis.
"We looked for their mental capacity and their comprehension of the system. These guys have done well," he continued. "If we played tomorrow, they would play. If they don't get hurt between now and nine days from now, they will play against Memphis.
"So far, they have handled everything I have asked them to do. There are certain packages they are not involved in, but for the most part I call the defense and they have executed the call."
Overall, Nix said he feels pretty good about the Rebel defense, comparatively speaking.
"I feel better than I did a year ago," he commented. "We are more experienced and the kids are playing harder. Those are two big steps in the right direction."
With the emergence of D.T. at middle linebacker, RS frosh Jason Jones has been moved to defensive end. How has he looked out there, coach?
"We moved him late and that's difficult for him because he's not getting the reps he would have gotten had we moved him at the first of camp. But from what I have seen, he's got a shot to be a good DE," Nutt stated.
* It's well-documented RT John Jerry, DT Jerrell Powe and C Mark Jean-Louis have lost a lot of weight since last spring, but how has that helped their game? "You can see a higher level of performance for a longer period of time," said S&C Coach Don Decker. "They lost weight and didn't lose any strength and to do that is difficult. In essence, they are now stronger because they can use their strength more effectively because they are now more athletic."
* Think DE Greg Hardy isn't hungry for a big year for himself and the team? Check this out. In the past five days, Hardy has - between classes, meetings and practices - gone on his own to the weight room for an hour-long lift four separate times that were not required. That's how you become a great player - doing extra.
* Greyshirts are allowed to use athletic facilities to work out in, but they cannot receive any hands-on instruction from coaches or be involved in any team function. That means whatever gains they make in that semester are purely self-motivated. That takes discipline. So how did last year's greyshirt OL A.J. Hawkins do? "He got substantially stronger on his own," said Decker. "I was very proud of the way he accepted the responsibility of getting better on his own shoulders without any supervision. That tells you something about a kid's work ethic. A.J. showed he has that and that will take him a long way in this program."
* A player who did not lose weight but is moving as if he did is starting DT Ted Laurent. How did that happen? In the offseason, players work in position groups. Ted's goal was to get quicker and more explosive. To accomplish that, he worked out with the skill players - WRs, RBs, CBs, Safeties - instead of with the linemen. He did all the speed and agility routines the skill players did and it's paid off with more explosion and lateral movement. "Ted didn't need to get stronger, he just needed to maintain his strength and work on his movement," said Assistant S&C Coach Jason Wilfawn. "Working with the skill position players definitely helped him."
* Two keys players have hamstring issues - TB Brandon Bolden and TE Gerald Harris. Both said today they are "much better" and should return "soon." Harris said he hopes to be back in the fold Sunday and Bolden said early next week. Both jogged Friday around the practice fields as the team practiced. "They look good to me. I don't think they will go tomorrow, but I think they will be back with us Sunday, which will be a light day," Houston said. "We will correct from Saturday, have a little jog, do some film study and have dedication night where we will announce to the team who the team voted for captains."
* SS Fon Ingram missed three days with the flu but he's back now. "It's gone. I'm fine, thank goodness," said Fon. "The fever I had made me very weak, but that's behind me now."
* RS freshman E.J. Epperson is starting to make a move back to where he was before he dislocated his wrist in Cotton Bowl practices. He's finally gotten his strength back and is now gaining back some of the weight he lost. E.J. weighed in today at 256 pounds. "I can tell I've gotten my strength back. I'm doing a lot better in the run game," Epperson noted. "I feel good about where I am now."
* There will be no opportunities for the media for any kind of reports or interviews from Saturday or Sunday's practice sessions. They are completely closed to the media and there will be no post-practice reports. Monday is an off day, so the next practice report will be after Tuesday's workout. Nutt will start his weekly Monday press conferences this coming Monday.
Friday Practice Report
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