Wednesday Practice Report

Cotton Bowl practices continued in the Indoor Practice Facility Wednesday with the same theme from yesterday - work on fundamentals, installing more of the Oklahoma State gameplan and a short young players' scrimmage to cap the day. Read about it inside.

"I can't reiterate enough how much good we get out of these bowl practices," said Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt after Wednesday's 2 1/2 hour, full-pad practice in the Indoor Practice facility. "It was another good, hard day. We got a lot in today on both sides of the ball and on special teams and then we had a short scrimmage for the younger players at the end.

"You can't measure the benefits of these extra practices. We get a great jump on spring ball and next season, plus we get to go have a good time and an extra game in a great bowl. I'm real excited about our young players. Someone new pops up every day and these extra practices have really helped in their development."

After a grueling regular season, one would be inclined to think it would be difficult to keep a team motivated through more practices. Not so, said Nutt.

"Number one, this team is still hungry. They have had an excellent attitude and have been playing very fast," Houston stated. "Also, we are not going to keep them out here three hours or make them practice twice a day, which some teams do. What we ask is that they go as hard as they can for 2 - 2 1/2 hours. They have been giving it to us and have been keeping their intensity."

Nutt was pleased to have senior OLB Patrick Trahan back on the field after being in a walking boot and on crutches for several days nursing a bad foot that plagued him the last three weeks of the regular season.

"He was rusty, but it's good to see him out here. He said he felt pretty good today. That's good news," Houston said.

Houston said he, his staff and the players are excited about the Cotton Bowl.

"It's very important for us to go down there and defend our victory from last year. We are going down there to try our best to win. It's important for recruiting and for the offseason energy and spirit of the returning players and the fan base," he said. "It carries over into the offseason fitness program and in the general enthusiasm for the team as next year approaches. We want to cap this thing off the right way."

Random Notes:

* Freshman TE Z. Mason has made some excellent catches in the scrimmages involving the younger players. Nutt sees quite a bit of development from him in the past five or six months. "One, he can bend over and touch his toes now," Houston smiled. "He's worked hard on his flexibility and agility and it's showing. He's made some really good catches and he's been physical in the blocking game, which we were glad to see. He's coming on."

* Today was the first day of the Junior College singing period. One player has been signed officially - DE Wayne Dorsey. "He's an excellent signee for us. We lose three senior defensive ends who were excellent players for us. Wayne was a very much needed signee," Nutt stated. "We really appreciate Coach Campbell and Coach Dorsett Davis, who coached Wayne, and the whole staff down there. We are very excited about him. If we can add a couple of more young ones at the DE slot, we'll get that situation shored up."

* Speaking of DEs, Greg Hardy continues to practice at full speed and impress Nutt. "He looks as good right now as he has since we have been here," said Nutt. "He's playing fast and looks full speed."

* OL Emmanuel McCray was one of the young players who stood out in the scrimmage. He's working some at guard and some at tackle. He has filled out some since he first joined the team in the summer and now weighs 300 pounds. "He's stronger and more mobile now. This extra attention - the extra reps - he's getting right now are really helping him blossom," Nutt noted.

* Next season, the center position could be a concern, but the coaches are taking advantage of the extra practices to get a jump on that situation. On Wednesday, A.J. Hawkins, Chris Gill and Evan Swindall all got snapping opportunities in practice. No word yet on their progress, but the chances to get it are there for them to seize.

* WR Pat Patterson was much more prominent in the passing game Wednesday while rotating with the third team. He had one touchdown catch off a tipped pass and made several nice mid-range snags. Patterson reported to Ole Miss at 216 pounds. He's now 225.

* Sophomore DT Justin Smith is still out struggling with the foot he broke last August in the preseason. "We are just going to rest him and get him healthy for spring. Back in August, he was one of our better interior linemen. We need him healthy for next year," Nutt added.

* Tig Barksdale rejoined the team last Saturday and has been playing musical chairs between safety and tailback. Today, he was strictly at safety and made a couple of nice tackles on runs that got to the second level. When Tig's conditioning comes around, he will be a special player. Spring and the offseason conditioning program will be critical for him, but so far, so good on his return to action.

* DL Coach Terry Price and RB Coach Derrick Nix were not at practice Wednesday. Word on the street is they were taking a home visit to Hollandale DE Carlos Thompson, who, by all accounts, is one of those "young DEs" Nutt and his staff are trying hard to add to the roster.

* Redshirt junior OL Logan Clair sat out today's practice with a dislocated toe he injured yesterday. No word on how long he will be out of action.

* Junior LB C.J. Johnson from Philadelphia High School took in practice Wednesday.

* In middle drills, a hole opened up and Reggie Hicks, who plays some tailback in the real physical drills, came through it with a full head of steam. Freshman LB Mike Marry was waiting on him. The resulting collision was loud and Hicks went down without much forward momentum. Hicks is a 240-pounder. That told most in attendance what they were hoping to see from Marry.

* Sophomore Tb Enrique Davis ripped off a couple of nice runs, one a 40-yard TD right up the middle where he showed good speed. "Enrique was coming on strong around the time of the Alabama game, but he hurt his ankle in that game pretty severely. He's finally back to normal and it's showing here lately," Nutt said.

* It was thought we'd see a lot of freshman QB Raymond Cotton in the young players' scrimmage, but Ray hurt his hand in yesterday's practice and was held out of the full contact. Clayton Moore took over for him and deftly moved the offense down the field on a long march. The drive was well-directed and methodical by Moore and company.

* Two young players who will be counted on next year are freshmen Cornerbacks Charles Sawyer and Ryan Campbell, according to CB Coach Chris Vaughn. "Charles is going to be a very good football player. All he needs is experience and the only way to get that is in the games," said Vaughn. "He has a nice skill set. He just needs to learn to study the game and prepare for Saturdays. Charles loves the game, and that always helps. He has some big goals and is pretty mature. Ryan has a high skill set too, but he's hanging on to some of his high school habits a little longer than Charles right now. He's got to work the little things hard and adjust to the talent level he's playing against. We need them to help us next year quite a bit. We have to get to work, but I think they can handle the extra load we are going to put on them."

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