It appeared to be a mostly normal August. Progress was good. Injuries were few.
Then came September. A Sunday game went against the college norm a bit, although Ole Miss and Memphis had been playing on some non-Saturdays during Labor Day weekend recently.
Then an early-season open date week was filled with "flu-like" symptoms and sickness as the Rebels were a bit of a nationwide story for something other than a top 10 ranking as they had been all summer. They were one of the hardest hit teams in the nation as far as this type illness, which has been popping up in schools and colleges north and south, east and west.
Some 30 players were out at any given practice last week, but now Coach Houston Nutt says things are coming around in that regard.
"It was good to get everybody back out there yesterday," said the second-year head coach of the fifth-ranked (AP) Rebs. "It seemed like it had been a long time since we practiced together. I think we had two or three still not out there. We were still a little sluggish. We'd been away from football for a while. Some were a little out of shape. We're anxious to get back going and play a game again."
This week's game is against Southeastern Louisiana in the home opener at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Televised live by CSS, the contest features a spread offense by the Lions and a SELA defense that has played well and created some turnovers.
The Rebs open SEC play five days later, a Thursday night ESPN affair at South Carolina. Nutt said his troops must think Southeastern Louisiana and not Southeastern Conference.
"One game at a time, as old a cliché as that is," he said. "Every Saturday you see what happens. Florida International gave Alabama fits early. You saw Florida State and Jacksonville State. There are good athletes all over the country now. Just one game at a time and be the best we can be. The No. 1 priority is to get our players ready and win."
Southeastern Louisiana, which practiced at Ole Miss for a week last fall due to a hurricane in Louisiana prior to a 34-10 loss at Mississippi State, has been impressive in its two games so far.
"Offensively they spread you out every which way," Nutt said of the Lions, 2-0 on the season with lopsided wins against Texas A&M-Commerce (41-7) and Union College of Kentucky (69-20). "Lot of different formations. Try to get the ball to different receivers. It's more of a basketball approach, and they try to spread it out and get it to everybody. They run a lot of screens and all. We've got to hustle and cover all our bases. Defensively they're not a big blitz team. They're more a zone team. They've gotten a lot of turnovers. They haven't been on the field much (defensively). They're more of a 4-3, with a lot of zone and a blitz here or there. I'm more concerned about our guys blocking and tackling and executing this week. That's important."
Nutt still looks forward to getting into some type of normalcy after the trip to South Carolina. The Rebels will play every Saturday throughout the season after that.
"The toughest thing is routine," he said. "Guys are used to a routine. It's a hard time to get in it because we played on Sunday, then had an open date, then play Saturday and then Thursday. When we truly get in a routine we're accustomed to will be after the South Carolina game. It is what it is and we'll deal with it. But it is different because they can't get into that routine."
*** Nutt said Greg Hardy would likely not play against the Lions because of an injured ankle.
"It's still swollen. He's moving a little better. A very swollen ankle is the best way to put it. He stayed here all weekend to get treatment. He has a ways to go. Hopefully we can get him back soon. He's very doubtful for this game."
*** Nutt said freshman Bobby Massie still continues to progress, and they feel good about how they are bringing him along.
"We're trying to play with a lot of different scenarios. The best thing (for him) is tackle right now. We have looked at him at guard but right now just zero in on the right tackle spot. We got him a lot of work last week. We've got some guys that are probably a little ahead of him on the inside. It's almost better for him to stay locked in and get reps so his mind is not swimming as much."
*** Nutt said Rishaw Johnson will play against Southeastern Louisiana.
"We've decided to play him this game."
*** Nutt was a big college football fan last Saturday.
"I watched football from the moment I woke up, all day, all night. It was a great football day."
*** Less than 5,000 tickets remain on sale at the Ole Miss ticket office for the game Saturday night.
Nutt: 'One game at a time'
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