Thursday's football practices for the Ole Miss Rebels are mostly mental work with a lot of full-speed repetition done in helmets and shorts.
Even though it was overcast in Oxford, the plan for today's practice was simple. Work out in the stadium for an hour and a half.
The Rebels hit Hollingsworth Field in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and everything was going just fine. The kicking work was completed and then. . .
. . . as has been the case more days than not this still-young season, the bottom fell out and hard rains fell, forcing the team into the cozy confines of the IPF.
"We had a good mental day with good concentration," said Coach Houston Nutt. "This (the IPF) is a heckuva facility. It's a good thing we've got it this year for sure. We got our kicking in outside, but then we had to come inside and do team and the two-minute drill.
"I've never been through a year like this with this much rain. It hasn't affected us much, but you'd like to be outside - that's where the games are played. There's no question we are fortunate to have this facility - it's the first thing recruits talk about when they visit."
Nutt was asked if he had any worries about getting the team up for UAB.
"It can't be. It better not be. When you look across the country, do you realize how many teams would love to be 4-2?" he said. "This is a critical game and our guys have to know that. UAB has good athletes."
The Rebel coaches have boiled things down to the basics this week and their goals are basic as well.
"I just want to see a hard-playing football team that plays with a very physical style," Nutt noted. "On offense, I want to see us take care of the ball, execute, make first downs and put the ball in the end zone."
Nutt was kind of mum on the injury situation.
"Marshay (Green) hasn't practiced all week, so that doesn't look good, but besides him and Enrique (Davis), everyone should be good to go," he finally conceded.
Without Marshay out, Jeremy McGee will get the start at his corner slot, but it seems the biggest concern is punt return.
"We're still working it. Dexter, Jesse Grandy and Lionel Breaux have been back there all week. I'm proud of the way Jesse is catching the ball. We're stressing to all of them how important a clean catch and holding on to the ball is," Nutt said. "We may put two of them back there this week, I don't know yet."
Houston is pleased with the progress of MLB D.T. Shackelford and his bummed up ankle.
"He's not 100%, but he's better. I'm anxious for him to get back to 100%," said Houston.
There has been some back-and-forth about whether or not to play sophomore DT Justin Smith, who is coming off a broken foot, or to redshirt him. Nutt spilled the beans today.
"He's ready so we are going to play him," said Houston. "The season is too long and we are going to need him to contribute. We're playing him. He'll need the experience for the future too."
* PK Justin Sparks, who dislocated his kneecap a couple of weeks ago, is expected to be able to possibly return next week in terms of being able to hold for placements. His range of motion has improved and is close to being back to normal. He will not be able to kick or punt, though. It's not been determined when he may be able to return to those duties as the backup.
* Some have asked about why Kickoff Specialist Andrew Ritter seems to have lost some distance since the opening game against Memphis. Whatever the reason was, he appeared to be back in form prior to the start of practice when the kickers get a lot of their work in. Kicking into a brisk breeze, Ritter was hitting his kickoffs inside the five consistently. With the wind, those would have been deep in the end zone.
* Davis is out for the UAB game, but he's making progress in rehabbing his high ankle sprain. Today, he was gingerly jogging and loosening the ankle up. He was favoring it a little, but it was easy to see he's improved since Monday.
* TB Rodney Scott has moved ahead of senior Cordera Eason on the depth chart this week. RB Coach Derrick Nix indicated yesterday that two things have taken place. One, he wants to give Rodney a shot based on his success during practice and two, Cordera's play has slipped a bit.
* On Thursday's, to loosen up the team prior to them getting down to serious business in practice, some large JBL speakers are set up and music is played during stretch. Today, the coaches went "old school." AC/DC, The O'Jays, etc., blared. "We want to play old school physical football this Saturday, so we played some old school music," Nutt smiled.
Thursday Practice Report
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