To call Ole Miss' recent bye-week odd would be an understatement.
With up to 31 Rebels sitting out of practice due to flu-like symptoms and injury, head coach Houston Nutt and staff were forced to work with a skeleton crew, consisting mostly of youngsters running first-team duties.
However, with most of the unit back intact, Ole Miss returns to the practice fields in preparations for the team's home opener against Southeastern Louisiana.
"It was good to get everybody back out there (Sunday)," said the second-year head coach. "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."
Following a matchup with the Lions, the Rebels open conference play in Columbia versus South Carolina a week from Thursday on ESPN.
Due to the quick five-day turnaround, the team's practice schedule will be a bit uncharacteristic, according to Nutt.
"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."
A Mixture of Emotions:
For junior quarterback Jevan Snead, struggles with flu-like symptoms proved minimal in a tumultuous bye-week for the Stephenville, Texas native.
Thursday, Snead was met with the death of his adored grandfather, Joe Long Snead Jr., who succumbed to his fight with cancer at the age of 79.
Though "Daddy Joe" was unable to attend but a handful of games quarterbacked by one of his 10 grandchildren, he was able to catch the Rebels' thrilling Cotton Bowl victory over Texas Tech in person, followed by a 45-14 win over Memphis on TV to open the 2009 season.
"He got to see a couple of games," said Snead. "Unfortunately, his health started declining and he didn't get to see as many as he'd like. But he got to see a few, and he got to watch a lot on TV. So I know he really enjoyed that, and I'm glad he was able to watch them."
Also during the week, Snead was sidelined due to sickness. The 6-foot-3, 215 pounder said he's been given a clean bill of health, however, and is eager to begin practices.
"I know we can play better. I expect to play better. I expect to get better every week as an offense and as a team. I think we'll do that," he said.
"As far as timing with the receivers and how everything like that goes, it's one of the things we really worked on hard in the summer. So I'm not too worried about that. I know these receivers, and it's just one of the things I feel will come back as soon as we start practicing hard again. So I'm not too worried about that. As a team coming off this sickness, we definitely need to make sure we're mentally prepared. The coaches I'm sure will have us (prepared)."
An Impetus on Tackling:
In Ole Miss' decisive win over Memphis, the Rebel defense shined, holding the Tigers to 284 yards of total offense.
The unit also forced three turnovers, with a Fon Ingram interception returned for a touchdown in a dominating effort.
"Awesome. Just spectacular," Nutt said of the defensive effort following the game. "Their tall receivers kept me up at night, really all summer. (Carlos) Singleton is 6-foot-9, (Duke) Calhoun is 6-foot-5, and the other guys are good. This is a good team. If you look at their team physically, Tommy West has done a good job of upgrading his team physically. They've got some good looking guys on that team and they're good football players. I'm just proud of our guys."
But despite the numerous positives, missed tackles and a few botched assignments reared their head on the afternoon. While limited in numbers, an impetus was placed on physicality over the bye-week, with tackling drills at a premium.
"I think we can blame (the poor tackling) on being tired," said junior defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who also missed time over the week while ill. "Being the first game, we weren't really into game shape. I mean, we were in shape, but it takes time to get used to running sideline to sideline. We just haven't built that stamina up yet. It was just more fatigue.
"I heard that tackling drills were all the guys did last week. It was periods among periods of just tackling. If it wasn't tackling, (defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix) was stressing running to the ball. He wanted all 11 guys to the ball every time."
Mistakes to Pass Around:
Despite a 28-point fourth quarter, most of the Rebels' win over Memphis was mired with inconsistency by the Ole Miss offense.
The squad totaled 349 yards offensively on the day, but the second and most of the third quarters showed no scoring, with senior wide receiver Shay Hodge and company out of rhythm while clinging to a marginal lead.
"It's a little bit of everybody's fault when things go bad," he said. "Protection, route running, quarterback – we all were messing up. Once we got it fixed, we started rolling. I take it as first game stuff. Usually you don't get back on all cylinders at the beginning."
With an abundance of players out during the open week, the group was unable to practice in full. However, Hodge believes it should take little time for the offense to regain chemistry.
"That'll come back pretty quick. You develop that in the summer. That doesn't just come in camp. We'll get that back easy," said Hodge.
Notebook: Welcoming the Lions
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