The Ole Miss Rebels opened Tuesday's practice outside under threatening skies. They weathered some light rain for a while, then moved into the IPF when the rain got heavier.
As was the case last Tuesday, the Rebs practiced in shoulder pads and helmets with thud work being the only contact. Tuesdays are normally reserved for full pad practices.
"We had a very good day today. We had a good start to the week. We are working on Mississippi State's stuff and we feel good about the progress we made today," said Coach Houston Nutt.
Houston does not see a letdown in preparations, so far, as the Egg Bowl inches one day closer.
"Our concentration is good. The last four or five weeks, the kids have been going about their business pretty good and they are off to a good start this week," he added.
Nutt was asked about LT Bradley Sowell winning the battle against LSU's Rahim Alem after "losing" some matchups earlier in the year against Eric Norwood and Antonio Coleman and what he thought that will do for Brad.
"It just builds his confidence. It's one more major battle against a legitimate guy and he did well," noted Nutt. "He keeps getting better and better as he learns more and more."
* It's kind of confusing how the SEC comes up with their players of the week sometimes. Last weekend, Ole Miss Placekicker Josh Shene scored 13 points on four field goals and a PAT against the number 10 team in the country in a two-point win. Alabama's Javiar Arenas, a magnificent football player no doubt, returned a punt for a touchdown in a lopsided win over Chattanooga. Arenas got the SEC Special Teams Player of the Week. Go figure.
* In the win over LSU, did you notice the apparent confusion the LSU kickoff return men had in trying to figure out which way freshman Andrew Ritter was going to kick the ball? Obviously, the Rebels were trying to kick away from Trindon Holliday, but LSU could not figure out where Ritter was going with the ball - left or right. They did guess correctly a couple of times eventually, but it was just a guess. Ritter never tipped his hand by lining up differently on kicks. The way he directed his kicks was by changing the angle of approach to the ball, not the setup. His setup didn't tip where he was going with the ball, which worked like a charm. Coaches talk about doing the little things correctly all the time. There's one "little thing" that made a difference in executing the gameplan on kickoffs the Rebels wanted to.
* Freshman TE Z. Mason seems to be winning the "fight" to stay at tight end and not outgrow the position. He was 270 pounds when he reported to Ole Miss in the summer and is 270 now, only he has changed his body substantially, losing body fat and adding muscle. There are still concerns about his flexibility, but he works on that daily with the strength coaches and is making progress.
* OLB Patrick Trahan remains in a walking boot and on crutches at practice. Just like last week, he has good days and bad days. Tuesday was a bad one. He cannot put any pressure on the bad ankle/foot at this time, but he's expecting to play against the Bulldogs, just as he did a week ago against LSU when he did not practice until Thursday of game week. "We're expecting him to play, just like he did last week - hobble around for a few days and then get ready to go," Nutt noted. "He probably won't be full speed, but he's tough and plays with a lot of heart. He's a captain and that's why the team selected him as a captain. He has great heart. He has courage - a lot of people would have said 'let me stay in the training room.' He won't do that. We need 60 more minutes out of him."
* MLB D.T. Shackelford played some against LSU and said his hurt right ankle felt "a lot better" after the game. He was at practice on Tuesday and went through all drills.
* Several players have kind of "come into their own" in the past two or three weeks, but none more than junior WR Markeith Summers. When asked why, Summers said it was because he's finally gotten comfortable with his expanded role. It's pretty apparent he's blocking better, he's selling the long routes better and he's drawing more attention of the opposing secondary. Good time for him to get it right. "We knew the expanded role from 2008 for Markeith would be a major adjustment and we knew it would take time for him to get it all down. Now, he's comfortable and he's producing the way we anticipated," said WR Coach Ron Dickerson.
* Senior LG Reid Neely won SEC OL of the Week for his performance against LSU, but he won't take credit for it. "It's nice, an honor, being a senior, but this is about the whole OL unit and the whole offense doing its job," Neely noted. "It just feels good to have some good chemistry on our OL now. I'm starting to feel like we did last year. We are communicating better now and feel like we are one." Neely said he did not worry when Bobby Massie was moved into the starting lineup a couple of weeks ago and John Jerry was moved inside to RG. "I trust whatever these coaches tell us. Coach (Mike) Markuson always knows the best moves to make and is always going to have the best five out there," Neely saidf. "We tried everything in practice before we put it out there in a game and we repped the new lineup hard. It was working. There was no reason it wouldn't work in games." Reid said he is not concerned about looking past Mississippi State to a bowl game even though the Bulldogs have a losing record. "Look, we understand fully that everyone in the SEC is good. Some just win more than others, but everyone is good," he stated. "We know we have to put our best out there and our whole focus is on doing that. Besides, it's the last regular season game for a lot of us to be Ole Miss Rebels and that means a lot, regardless of who it's against. The fact that it is Mississippi State, our in-state rival, makes it that much more important. We'll have the necessary urgency."
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