It seems rather mundane and irrelevant to start so many practice reports with a weather recap, but this season that has been significant to how the Ole Miss Rebel football team has been able to practice.
Wednesday? Bright skies, cool and the Rebels working out in the stadium in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets.
"Real good day today. Good concentration and we got everything in we needed to. Health-wise, we look pretty good," said Rebel Coach Houston Nutt. "I went with shells today because it's getting that time of year when we want to keep them fresh and not beat them down with too much contact. With the shoulder pads on, we were still able to get in some thud work and the contact we needed to get in."
Nutt addressed the Rishaw Johnson "situation."
"Rishaw is very discouraged because he's not playing. He's discouraged about the suspension - he has one more game to serve," said Nutt. "He's supposed to come talk to me tomorrow. I was hoping he'd come in today. I understand how young people who have been playing have something taken away from them - it hurts. They have to understand it's discipline and tough love. Hopefully he can get things straightened out and get on back.
"He started out so well with a great attitude. He just has to hang with it. Nothing is easy. He gets frustrated, but we hope he can get back on track and come on back."
Nutt also mentioned he has suspended backup FB Daniel Hoffman indefinitely for breaking team rules.
Senior RT John Jerry was glad to see the OL improvement in the Arkansas game, but he's not satisfied.
"We are clicking better, but we know there is so much we can still improve on," said John. "We are going to keep getting better. We just have to keep going and working our fundamentals.
"We got a boost from the Arkansas game because we saw if everybody gets on the right guys big plays will happen. We just have to keep doing that and keep focused."
Auburn DE Antonio Coleman will be the Rebs' biggest concern, individually, on the Tigers defense.
"He's very physical and he's relentless. He is equally as good at stopping the run as he is rushing the passer and not too many defensive ends are as good in both areas," Jerry stated.
Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix is very aware of Auburn's prowess on offense, despite some lapses in the past couple of weeks.
"They are explosive and are second in the league in total offense," said Nix. "They try to play at a fast tempo, which can cause confusion and can keep you from subbing like we want to sub, and they are unorthodox in their approach in a lot of ways.
"We have to be on our toes with our personnel and in getting our players set for the next play in a hurry. Those are my biggest concerns."
* Junior DE Kentrell Lockett returned to practice and seemed to be holding up well in all drills. His knee is taped to give it some added stability, but it appears he'll be ready to go for the game against Auburn Saturday. "He moved around really well today and that was encouraging," said Nutt.
* On Tuesday, backup QB Nathan Stanley missed practice due to illness. Stanley was back at practice on Wednesday.
* It appears the experiment of moving E.J. Epperson from tight end to fullback is gaining some solid footing. One, E.J. likes his new position where he can "get a running start to hit someone." Two, he appears to have a knack for the position. With Andy Hartmann being a senior, the Rebs will be looking for a FB for 2010. Will it be E.J.? We will see.
* Defensive Line Coach Terry Price, who was at Auburn for a decade prior to coming back to Ole Miss this year, says his Rebel group has a challenge in taking on the Auburn OL, who he is quite familiar with. "They man up and try to be physical. They will get after you," said T.P. "I know those kids well and they are battlers. They like to double-team at the point of attack. They don't cut as much as Arkansas did, but they are aggressive in their approach. We'll have to play well to slow down their run game and to put a good pass rush on their QB."
* Price also had high praise for their defensive front, which he coached a year ago and former Rebel DL Coach Tracy Rocker is coaching this year. Rocker and Price are first cousins. "Coach Rocker has some good material to work with and I know he's doing a good job with them," said Price. "Our offensive line will be put to the test just like they are in every SEC game. Auburn definitely has SEC-caliber defensive linemen who can play the game. They are good kids who play hard. I know because I coached them last year."
* PK/Holder Justin Sparks, who injured his knee three weeks ago, held for placements against Arkansas after missing a couple of weeks, but his method was a bit unorthodox. He was putting his left knee down and keeping his injured right knee up when he set up to hold. That caused no issues because PK Josh Shene was perfect on the day against the Hogs, but this week Sparks is working on going back to the right knee down and left knee up, which is the traditional setup for holding. Sparks still has a brace on the knee, but apparently he has more range of motion in that leg this week and it does not hurt for it to support his weight.
* A P.S. to the field goal operation. Shene appeared to have missed a field goal against the Hogs, but a Rebel OL had jumped and Shene was given another chance to kick the field goal from five yards further out. Josh said that's not what happened at all. He saw the lineman jump, heard the whistle and saw the flag. He wasn't even going to kick the ball, but he said the wind had changed directions so many times that day that he went ahead and kicked it to get a feel for the wind, knowing it was a dead ball kick. He drilled the second attempt.
* Freshman KO specialist Andrew Ritter started off the season booming the ball, but until the Arkansas game, which was much better, he was kicking the ball shorter than he had been. According to Special Teams Coordinator James Shibest, two or three things were happening. Ritter was rushing his approach to the ball which, in turn, threw his plant foot off a couple of inches and caused him to hit the ball at a less than desired point in his leg swing arc. To compensate for his plant foot being off, Andrew found himself overswinging trying to make up for the incorrect plant foot placement. Like a golf swing, taking a wild rip at a ball does not mean it will go farther. Solid contact is the secret to distance and accuracy. Andrew and Shibest figured everything out the week before the Arkansas game. Now, Ritter is taking a slower approach to the ball to make sure he gets his plant foot set right and he's swinging his leg more rhythmically for better contact and placement of his kicks. The results versus Arkansas were an improvement over the weeks before and Shibest feels they will continue to get better and better.
* While on the subject of kicking, redshirt freshman PK Bryson Rose has been quietly waiting his turn in the wings while Shene has been in the spotlight. Shene, who graduates this year, believes in Rose's ability to carry the banner next year. Shene has no doubts about Bryson's physical ability and feels the mental part will come once Rose has been in the fire a few times. In short, Shene feels PK will be in good hands the next three years.
Wednesday Practice Report
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