Tuesday Practice Report

The first Cotton Bowl practices the last two weekends for the Ole Miss Rebels were designed to give the younger players more reps and to get back into a rhythm. Tuesday, the Rebs began more diligent installation of the gameplan for the January 2 contest against Oklahoma State. Read about it inside.

"We got our grades today from the final exams and my Mom being a former teacher, I want to thank all our professors for all the work they do," said Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt after Tuesday's lengthy practice session. "All of our players are eligible for the Cotton Bowl and we are happy about that."

Nutt and his staff did more installation of the gameplan for the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State Tuesday.

"It was about 80% of working on Oklahoma State and about 20% of fundamentals and working with the young guys," Houston said. "Tomorrow, we are going to scrimmage the young guys a little at the end of practice, but we will continue with the installation of our gameplan too."

The Cotton Bowl will be Dexter McCluster's last game as a Rebel. Is Nutt worried about life beyond Dexter in the running back pool next year?

"I feel good about who we've got coming back. Rodney Scott is doing well, Enrique Davis is doing better and Brandon Bolden is very versatile and very good," Nutt noted.

Nutt was asked about Tig Barksdale, who joined the team last Saturday.

"In his first scrimmage action, he took off on a 42-yard run from the tailback slot. In the second scrimmage, he looked pretty good at safety," said Nutt. "I don't know what we are going to do with him now. He's not in shape right now, but we know he can be a player. Right now, we need him more at safety, but we think he can do either well in time and with conditioning.

"We moved Terrell Grant to safety because we need more help there - and he's looked real good there so far too. He's tall and rangy and can run."

Random Notes:

* OLB Patrick Trahan did not practice Tuesday. He was checked out in Jackson on Monday with the diagnosis being an inflamed tendon. Trahan will try to practice tomorrow and get back in the flow of things. "I look for him to play in the Cotton Bowl," Nutt concluded. "The MRI and X-rays didn't show anything that's a major concern in his foot, but he's still real sore."

* Some good news. Freshman MLB D.T. Shackelford, after struggling most of the year with bad ankles, is finally 100%. "Oh my gosh he looks good," said Nutt. "He's finally healthy and it shows in his play."

* Once again, Nutt praised the four newcomers - Barksdale, C Evan Swindall, LB Mike Marry and DE Cameron Whigham. "I can't say enough about them. I think they are going to be four really good players in time," he noted.

* S Fon Ingram has been playing through a knee injury for over half the season. He will continue to deal with it in the Cotton Bowl, but on January 19th, Fon is set for scope surgery on his knee. The recovery time is expected to be three or four weeks and he should be completely well for spring training.

* Brandon Bolden missed Saturday and Sunday practices with a pulled groin muscle, but he was back in action on Tuesday. "Brandon has had a very good year for us," said Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin. "He's versatile and has done everything we've asked him to do. I'm glad to see him back on the field today."

* DT Justin Smith missed some workouts last week with the foot he broke back in August flaring up some. He was still in a walking boot on Tuesday. It appears the hoped-for "cure" is rest. There's not much else that can be done at the moment. His status for the Cotton Bowl is uncertain at this time.

* DE Jason Jones, who tore up his knee last August the day he was moved from MLB to DE, is now jogging some around the track during practice and appears to be well on his way to full recovery. During his rehab, Jason has been working hard on his upper body strength. His bench press is now around 360 pounds and his body weight has jumped to 251 pounds, and that's without being able to do much to develop his lower body.

* Freshman QB Raymond Cotton has turned some heads in the "youth sessions" of practice. "Raymond has done well. He's competitive, he runs the ball well and he's got a really strong arm," said Austin. "He's on pace with learning the offense. I'm very pleased with where he is right now." Cotton said he feels he needs to work on his accuracy some. "Some QBs are born accurate and some have to become accurate via good fundamentals. Raymond is somewhere in between," Austin noted. "Like I said, we like where he is in his development."

* As Nutt noted, Grant has been moved to safety. From brief looks Tuesday, his range is what is most impressive while he's learning the ropes. He made a couple of sideline-to-sideline type plays Tuesday and Nutt said he made "several" in the last scrimmage that concentrated more on the young players.

* Another freshman who is starting to get noticed is Tight End Z. Mason. "He's gotten some opportunities in these workouts and has come up with several nice catches," Nutt stated. "I'm impressed with his ability to catch the ball. He's doing a lot better."

* Another player who is getting some mention is freshman DT Corey Gaines. "Corey has good explosiveness and good lateral movement. I like the way he's developing," Nutt stated. "He's done some good things, some things that make you take notice."

* Senior C Daverin Geralds missed last weekend's practices due to a light case of pneumonia. He's back at practice now.

* With both corners graduating this year, a lot of attention is being given to the two freshmen corners the Rebs signed last signing period - Charles Sawyer and Ryan Campbell. "I will be surprised if Charles is not on the field a lot next year," Houston assessed. "He's going to be a really fine corner and he could be very good in a hurry. Spring will be big for him. Ryan has a lot of skills, but he's a little raw right now. We love his upside though, but he may not be as far along as Charles right now."

* We were hoping to get a little more extensive look at the freshmen Tuesday, but Nutt shifted gears into the installation of the gameplan. There were several periods of ones versus scout teamers and not as much youth work as previous practices. We'll be anxious to see the younger guys scrimmage on Wednesday.

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