Tuesday Practice Report
Rain, rain, go away. . . . or not.
Like a movie stuck in the looping mode, the Ole Miss Rebels once again had to deal with heavy rain in the Oxford area and were forced to start their full-pad preparations for this Saturday's game against Auburn in the Indoor Practice facility.
It's a definite Catch 22.
Everyone is thankful the Rebs have the IPF to fall back on, but is this rain ever going to stop?
"There's a lot of rain in Mississippi this year," quipped Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt. "Thank goodness for the IPF.
"We had a pretty good first day on the Auburn gameplan. We got a lot done."
Nutt was asked about the Auburn offense and what the Rebel defense has to be mindful of Saturday.
"We have to do a good job of being responsible. We know there will be tricks and a lot of different formations and motions," Nutt noted. "I just want us to continue to be assignment sound and good tacklers, like we have been all year. We'll do a lot of film study and a lot of repetition so they will readily recognize what Auburn is trying to do with each different look and can still play fast."
Houston said the offensive staff has put even more emphasis on protecting the football this week.
"We won the game last week against Arkansas, but we need to tighten up on the turnovers and win the turnover margin," he noted. "We've been talking hard to them about that situation. When you take care of the ball, you have so much better chance of winning. We have to do a better job of that for sure."
* Despite DE Kentrell Lockett's Monday declaration to the media that his knee is "fine" and he would practice on Tuesday, the trainers - to Lockett's chagrin - held him out of the workout. Lockett still maintains he will be able to play against Auburn. He was in a knee brace and wrapping at practice and was doing some stretching exercises, but he was not allowed to participate in any drills. "I think he will be OK. He was running around pretty good today, but we just wanted to keep him out of drills for a day. He should be ready to go tomorrow, we hope," said Nutt. "He's hard to keep out of practice. What a winner. He's smart and wants to get better every day."
* Right Guard Rishaw Johnson was not at practice on Tuesday. Neither was backup QB Nathan Stanley. "We've got two or three guys who are sick right now. I'm not sure what it is, but we hope there's not much to it," said Nutt. "We don't think it's bad like the flu bug we went through earlier in the season."
* PK/Holder Justin Sparks, who injured his knee three weeks ago but returned to his holding duties against Arkansas, is still not able to kick any, but he will continue holding for all placements.
* For the first time since he broke his leg back in August, freshman OLB Alex Williams, who now weighs 223 pounds, was doing a little running at practice. He will not dress out the rest of the year, but he's working hard to get into playing shape for spring training and maybe some work during bowl practices. Here's a hint on his progress. What Williams could max once in the bench press when he reported back in the summer, he is now able to rep that same weight five times.
* DT Justin Smith, coming off an August broken foot, is not wearing heavy bandage on the foot for the first time since returning to practice. He seems to be moving better and, at the very least, is less restricted.
* The blocking of the wide receivers improved substantially in the Arkansas game, but WR Coach Ron Dickerson wants more - a lot more. "We got better, for sure. The guys seemed to take more pride in it for most of that game," Dickerson noted, "but it was still a sometimes thing in my book and it's got to be an every-play thing. They have to keep coming in that area and get more consistent, but they did help spring Dexter a few times in that game, so that is an improvement."
* UAB QB Joe Webb was like trying to catch a greased pig. Arkansas' Ryan Mallett was stationary - the Rebel defense knew he'd be right behind the center, go get him. This week, against the War Eagles, the Rebs will get a little bit of both. Auburn QB Chris Todd is more mobile than Mallett, but he doesn't make a living with his legs. On the other hand, the Tigers use Kodi Burns - the starting QB from a year ago - in their Wildcat formation and he's very capable of running and throwing out of that set. "We will face a little bit of everything out of their quarterback position this week," said Nutt. "We will have to prepare for a guy who can run and throw and for a guy who stands up tall in the pocket but can also get out of trouble. We have to be on our toes."
* Some fans have noticed a flaw in freshman Punter Tyler Campbell's catch-and-punt routine. Campbell lets the snap come to his body, makes the catch, then extends his arms to punt. Good catch, pardon the pun, by some alert fans, but the coaches have been working on that issue for several weeks. But it's not for the fear of the punt being blocked, it's for his punting operation to be smoother. The ideal time from the start of the snap to the time his foot hits the ball is 2.05 seconds. Even catching the ball close to the body, his times have been consistently in that range or below. Why? Because he's stepping and extending his arms at the same time as he steps into the punts. The issue with the coaches is that catching the ball close to his body has caused a hitch or a less rhythmic motion in his punting and his leg swing. A smoother operation will result in better, more consistent, contact with the ball. Tyler has been working hard on catching the ball with his arms extended, in his hands. He has even tried using gloves. He feels he's getting more comfortable doing it the "right" way, but he's uncertain if he is ready to unveil that method in a game just yet. Until catching the ball with his arms extended is second nature to him, he will do what's comfortable because the two most important things are catching the ball cleanly and getting it off in 2.05 seconds or less, both of which he is doing catching it "his" way. Take note, observant fans - the issue is being addressed.
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