According to Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt, baby steps were taken during Sunday's two-hour spring workout, the second of spring training, in the IP.
Nutt specifically likes what he has seen out of the defense, the veteran front seven in particular.
"The defense is moving pretty fast for us right now, and the offense is moving a little slow, but that's alright right now," he noted. "We just have a lot of teaching and learning to do on offense. We had 19 drops yesterday (Saturday) and we only had two I can recall today. That's improvement and that's what we need to see from day to day."
Nutt, for the second day in a row, could not divert his attention away from the defensive front.
"We have some grown men on that defensive line. Jerrell Powe, Kentrell Lockett, Ted Laurent and some others are hard to deal with. Wayne Dorsey has shown up well too. In gym shorts, he has done a really good job - he's quick and had two sacks in team situations today. Now, let's see what he can do in pads," Nutt said.
"The DL can always improve - they can't rest of their laurels, because they know a certain load and a lot of responsibility is on them. They have to control the line of scrimmage and they have to get after the quarterback to help our young secondary.
"They all have to keep coming, but I like where they are now."
Nutt was more impressed with his quarterbacks on Sunday.
"Nathan (Stanley) has been a little sick, but he looked like he felt better today. Raymond (Cotton) also threw some darts, some really nice passes," Nutt stated.
The first day of pads is tomorrow (Monday).
"We'll have a little more contact this spring just because we are so young, especially on the offensive line," said Nutt. "We won't hit the quarterbacks as much as we had planned because we only have two scholarship QBs out here, but we will have to let them go live a couple of scrimmages. We will pick and choose our spots."
Nutt wasn't the only one who saw QB improvement. So did Co-Offensive Coordinator/ QB Coach Dave Rader.
"Yesterday, some things did not translate from the board to the field, and that worried me a bit, but today things got better," Rader said. "That was encouraging. They thought quicker, they got the ball out of their hands quicker and they made better decisions. Now, we are still a light year away of being where we need to be, but what I saw today was more encouraging.
"I tell you, though, it's kind of hard to get some things done at times with that defense we are facing and the young front we have. Those guys like Powe are very, very good. Tomorrow, in pads, we hope to be able to slow them down a little bit."
Rader is back on the field after a few years out of football.
"It's been great. I have gotten to know our personnel and the system and it feels good. After a brief time, it's been like a duck on water," he said. "The coaches and the players have been very receptive to me and I am grateful for that."
As Nutt and Rader have already stated, Powe is making a major impression on them and making an impact in practice. He's disruptive.
"It's helped me that I am now 324 pounds. I'm quicker and more explosive off the line of scrimmage. I'm shooting for 315, and I will get there, but I alreay feel a lot better than I did last year," Jerrell stated. "I'm just trying to bounce around and make some plays. I'm trying to keep the team going and trying to help everyone keep their confidence."
Powe is head up on true freshman Center Evan Swindall.
"He's taking a whipping right now, but he's keeping his confidence up," smiled Powe. "That's what we need him to do - stay confident. We don't need him tucking his tail. I like his grit.
"Evan will be fine, he's just got to keep learning and sticking his nose in there."
Powe's biggest team goal is seeing everyone stick together and progress through August.
"I know we have a lot of young guys and new guys, but if we will stick together and stay tight, we will be fine. That's my number one goal as one of the older guys on the team," he explained.
* DE Jason Jones pulled a hamstring Saturday and sat out today's workout. No word on when he is expected back. As you know, Jason is still not 100% from ACL surgery back last fall, but was getting there before this latest setback.
* DT Justin Smith, who had foot surgery a week or so ago, will be put in a walking boot or a hard cast, get off his crutches, next week. Obviously, he is out for the spring.
* OG Josh Tatum, who fell in a fox hole during spring break back home in Alabama and hurt his ankle, practiced Sunday a little more than he did Saturday and is showing improvement daily.
* TE Ferbia Allen is now up to 245 pounds and it's showing up in his physicality. He's able to finish blocks more frequently and his route-running looks more decisive. He's not as easily knocked off his routes as he was last fall with the extra 10 pounds and he looks stronger in his efforts to go get the ball in traffic.
* Nutt said he has high hopes this spring for WRs Ja'Mes Logan and Melvin Harris. So far, they have not disappointed him. "They have made some plays and look more assertive in their play. We really need them to step up and get to the level of Markeith Summers, Lionel Breaux and Jesse Grandy. I see it in them - now they have to deliver."
* A lot of talk has been made of the youthful offensive line. It's real. They are young and they don't have a great deal of experience, even tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie only have one year and a piece of a year under their belts.
But if you watch them work out under OL Coach Mike Markuson, you know it's only a matter of time before he whips them into a quality SEC line. It's attention to detail, repetition, constant teaching, constant demand for excellence. If they have some patience and follow his lead, they will be fine in time. Massie has reshaped his body and has virtually no body fat on his 6-7, 335-pound frame. Sowell has also leaned up and muscled up during the offseason.
Rishaw Johnson, suspended most of last year, seems single-minded and focused, driven to prove a point. Alex Washington's Achilles heel has always been his movement - he already looks quicker off the ball. And it's clearly evident that Emmanuel McCray, Logan Clair, Josh Tatum and Michael Brown have taken a giant step forward since last August. Still work to do, but gaining on reliability and quality. Swindall? He's mature, intelligent and strong beyond his years. Certainly, he's a work in progress but he is already a guy who the coaches feel has an extremely bright future.
* From some notes we scribbled down, Cotton was feast or famine today, but he exhibited as strong an arm as has graced a Rebel practice field in quite some time on several throws. One, a 15-yard out to Summers, was a frozen rope that got on Markeith almost before he looked back for the ball. Perfect. Another, he found TE Z. Mason over the middle in a crease about 35 yards downfield and hit him in stride with a BB. Yet another one, he got flushed from the pocket and rolled right. Off balance, Ray threw a 60-yard pass on the money to a streaking Richie Contartesi. That drew ooohs and aaahs from coaches and players alike. He's raw, but what a gun. (He also threw a couple of picks on some bad throws. That's where the raw comes in.)
* Stanley had his moments as well. Very noticeable on one play was how he looked at three different receivers before quickly releasing the ball downfield to TE Reggie Hicks for a 25-yard gain.
Reggie was his fourth option and read progression. In other words, he's sees the field and seems to ignore a pass rush while going through his reads. Nice quality to have.
* TB Korvic Neat surfaced some at wideout in team drills. No surprising to see him being nurtured into a Dexter type of role with his speed and quickness.
* One day. . . one day soon. Opponents are not going to want to look up and see D.T. Shackelford, Mike Marry and Alex Williams - the Rebs' number two LB unit - on the field. One more year in Don Decker's weight program and Marry and Williams will be physical specimens. D.T. already is.
* FS Fon Ingram had his knee scoped during the offseason. He's the old Fon now - 100% and making plays on the ball.
* It's not a real fair gauge when everyone is not in full pads, but the defensive front seven had at least 6 QB sacks today in team drills. As Nutt said, Dorsey had two and Lockett had two off the edge.
* OLB Allen Walker is not showing much residual affect from his offseason sports hernia surgery. He looks 100% to these untrained eyes.
* On the other hand, WR Markeith Summers, who had similar offseason surgery, is not quite as far along in his rehab. He looks to be about 90%.
* We have been asked who OLB Joel Kight reminds us of. The answer: Lanier Goethie. He's a little shorter than ideal, like Goat, but he makes up for it in being mentally and physically mature. He's strong, quick and he has excellent linebacker instincts. For a sophomore, the sky is the limit. Joel and D.T. are what is known in coaching circles as quick twitch athletes. It's obvious, even to a novice observer.
* Even though a bunch of the talent on the team is green, you know something is being built when you see athletes like Terrell Grant, Mike Thomas, Brandon Sanders, Dele Junaid, et al, who should all help on special teams next year, lining up with the third team. This staff is developing some depth, slowly but surely, at several positions.
* Full pads/contact tomorrow!