Wednesday Practice Report

Sunny, low 70s and Oxford. It doesn't get much better than that. Those conditions greeted the Rebels on the practice fields Wednesday. Read how their full-pad workout went inside. Also, see video from practice detailing frosh RB Tim Simon's plight after major knee surgery.

This ain't Mr. Rogers, it's football - not for the weak at heart or mind - but it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood when the Rebels took the practice fields Wednesday for their "hump day" practice in preparation for the Vandy game in Nashville Saturday.

"We are loving this weather. After two weeks of rain, it's good to get some sunshine and outside work, as I said yesterday, and it was cool enough that it reminded you more of football," said Coach Houston Nutt. "There's a football smell in the air."

Houston was pleased with the workout.

"We went over a lot of kicking situations today and the normal defense, offense and gameplan drills for a Wednesday," said Nutt. "I thought the offensive line did a much better job today and was really tuned in and focused. We need to carry that over tomorrow and have a good mental day because here we go again Saturday in Nashville."

Senior DE Greg Hardy did not attend practice Wednesday due to a "very sore" ankle.

"I talked with Tim (Mullins) and we thought it would be a good idea to hold him today becuse he was very sore from the last game and we thought it would be best to rest him," Nutt noted. "We feel he will be OK for Saturday. the ankle he turned versus Memphis is the one with issues right now."

LBs D.T. Shackelford (ankle) and Lamar Brumfield (foot) continued to try to push through practice despite their injuries.

"They were a lot better today. A lot better. I am hoping they will be alright," Nutt stated. "On Tim Simon, you need to get the particulars from Tim (see video on front page), but the surgery yesterday was successful. He will have to have another surgery later, but the first one went well, we were told."

Nutt said one main focus of this week has been putting the past behind them.

"There's nothing we can do about what has already happened except to learn from it. It's always what's in front of us. That goes for the staff, the quarterback, the line, the defense, all of us. That is what we are focusing on."

Random Notes:

* Tight Ends Coach James Shibest feels "whole" again. For three weeks, he was coaching the TEs without senior starter Gerald Harris, going to battle with a pair of undersized redshirt freshmen or sliding/flipping a tackle to the TE slot. Now, he has a full arsenal with the return of Harris, who has been out with a bad hamstring pull. "Gerald is our leader," said Shibest. "He's also our most physical TE and has the most experience. He's a very good blocker. Ferbia (Allen) and E.J. Epperson have done a really good job - they have battled in there and done everything we have asked them to do. They have improved a lot and have excellent futures, but there is no replacing the senior leader." As Nutt said after Tuesday's practice, Harris sets the edge in the run game and is like having a 6th offensive lineman in the lineup, plus he has developed in the passing game, as was witnessed in the Cotton Bowl. How much difference will Harris make? Nobody knows that for sure, but the hope and anticipation is quite a bit. Harris' return also takes the pressure off the two freshmen. They should be more comfortable, and more effective, in backup roles for now.

* FB Andy Hartmann (knee), DT Justin Smith (foot), DE/OLB Alex Williams (leg) and DE Greg Hardy (sore ankle/precaution) missed practice Wednesday. In Hartmann's absence, it appears Derrick Davis and Mark Jean-Louis will get the bulk of the fullback snaps. With Hardy missing, Gerald Rivers filled in during practice nicely.

* As was noted Tuesday, it appears freshman Safety Frank Crawford may be "activated" and his redshirt removed. Frank has made some good strides lately in the run defense part of playing defense and has always been more natural in pass defense. It's getting close to being his time. Whether it will be this week or not, no decision has been made, but he's being prepared to play.

* Two of the most difficult and important, but often unrecognized and under-appreciated, jobs in a game are that of the "gunners" on punt coverage. They are the outside cover guys who have to race down the field full speed while warding off a blocker, sometimes two, who presses them up at the line of scrimmage and tries to impede their route to the punt returner. There's a knack, athleticism requirement and fearlessness to the job not inherent to any other task on the field. They must contain the returner from getting outside, but take the proper angle to squeeze him toward the traffic. It's akin to catching a rabbit in a two-acre pen. The Rebels have been successful in keeping put returners in check thus far and the four responsible are starters Lionel Breaux (on the right side) and Marcus Temple (left gunner) and their backups, Derrick Herman and Cassius Vaughn, respectively. "They are conscientious kids who understand the importance of their jobs, plus they are excellent athletes who have learned their techniques," said Special Teams Coordinator James Shibest. "That's a critical job so you have to make sure you have the right people out there. We feel we do." Next time the Rebs line up to punt, watch the outside guys in pursuit. You'll see athletic skill and precision.

OM Spirit Top Stories