Thursday Practice Report
While better execution was/is the goal for this week in practice as the Rebels prepare for Saturday's match against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt was also looking for the intangibles during workouts this week.
"We had a good special teams and mental day. We got a lot accomplished this week. Now we are anxious to take it to Saturday," Nutt said after Thursday's shorts and helmets practice. "We feel like we got better and we looked sharper, but we still have to translate that to the games when the lights come on against a very good team.
"I was looking for more sense of urgency and I saw that this week. There's nothing like seeing yourself on film - a picture is worth a thousand words - and these kids saw where they let that game get away last week and went about trying to correct their mistakes this week."
After a loss, Houston said he and his staff have to be tuned in to how the team reacts to the setback, which has been rare in these parts the past 10 months or so.
"It hurt us all. That was a tough one, one they didn't expect to lose, and it was a shock to their system. You could see it all the way through Sunday, but we, as a staff, have to get them out of that funk. We gotta go," Nutt said. "Anyone can whine and look at the ground, but this season is too long and too difficult to allow yourself to do that. South Carolina is over, done, nothing you can do about it. Move on. Get better. Correct. When you lose a game and have a bad taste in your mouth, it's easy to let your guard down, but I have not seen that. I have seen an attitude of 'I'm going to get better - step better, tackle better, throw better' and all those things. I'm glad to see that reaction. Now, the only way to get that bad taste out your mouth completely is to win."
The Rebs' opponent, Vandy, defeated Ole Miss last year due, mostly, to six turnovers by the UM offense.
"They are a team that doesn't beat themselves. They are very sound. We gift-wrapped one to them last year and still had a chance to win at the end, but we can't play that way and expect to win in this league," he said. "Our guys know that."
There really is no silver lining in any loss, but Houston was glad - if that's the right word - to see how the squad reacted to their first loss in nine games.
"The way they reacted this year was a lot different from the way they reacted to our early losses last year. They had so much more pride about it. It hurt worse. The reality of losing was tougher on them than it was last year," he explained. "Last year, when we started 3-4, it was like it was just another loss without the pain. This year, they hurt. To me, that's a good thing, but now let's go fix it and get that winning feeling back."
The Rebs will get that chance Saturday night at 6 p.m.
* DE Greg Hardy was at practice today, but he was more heavily taped than normal. "It might have been a 12-roll (of tape) day," Nutt smiled. "We're just happy he was out here. Both feet and a wrist he jammed were all taped, but as I said, he was out here."
* The injury saga of LBs D.T. Shackelford (ankle) and Lamar Brumfield (foot) and TE Gerald Harris (hamstring) continues, but it's mostly good news now. "Both the LBs were better today. They should be able to play some. They probably won't be full speed, but they could be close in 48 more hours," Houston stated. "Gerald is not 100%, but he will be close. We hope for sure to get 20-25 plays and I am excited about that. We have been missing him and (FB) Andy (Hartmann, knee) on the offensive side. It's good to get at least one of them back."
* RS freshman H.R. Greer couldn't seem to crack the playing rotation - yet - at fullback, so the coaches asked him to move to linebacker, where depth and future depth is an issue. H.R. gladly did it recently, moving to what he called his natural position.
* Hartmann, when healthy, is not only the starting fullback for the Rebels, but the personal protector for the punter. The last line of defense between onrushing defenders and the Rebel punter, which is an important job. Backup QB Billy Tapp, who played some tight end earlier in his career and is a good all-around athlete, asked if he could try his hand at PP while Hartmann was out and the senior has won the job in Andy's absence. He performed the task against USC and got good grades for his efforts. Good to see Billy get a chance to get on the field in his final year.
* During August, Dexter McCluster worked very little in practice with the running backs. He practiced almost exclusively with the wideouts so he could sharpen those skills - he's played tailback his whole football career, it's second nature to him. Recently, however, he's been working with both groups. After the USC contest, where Dex was inserted at tailback and gained 85 yards on 15 carries, he realizes he will probably get more TB opportunities down the line and he wants to make sure he's crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's.
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