Spring Training, Day V

Even though the defense still has the edge, the Ole Miss offense is starting to make more plays in both the running game and passing game. Coach Houston Nutt likes their improvement through five days of spring training and tomorrow's 9:30 a.m. scrimmage approaches. Read about it inside

Several Rebels had to leave for a night class around 5:30 today, so Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt shifted gears a little and went quickly into team work at Thursday's slightly shortened workout.

The Rebels will have a full scrimmage in the stadium Friday morning with the practice starting around 9:30 and the actual scrimmage starting around 10 or a little after.

"We switched things around today and got more team work done," said Nutt. "I feel real good about the way our young guys are responding. Z. Mason made several good catches today, Michael Brown came in at guard when Rishaw Johnson had to leave for class and did a nice job, Josh Tatum and A.J. Hawkins had good days today. Guys like that. It's been good to see.

"Also, Ja'Mes Logan made some real nice catches and is getting better and better. He's very smooth and his routes have gotten a lot better. That's especially good to see because that's a big need area.

Ja-Mes Logan

"I also want to give it to Jared Mitchell. As thin as we are at WR, he's stepped up for us. Markeith (Summers) is showing some leadership and Lionel Breaux and Jess (Grandy) are doing real well."

Having said that, Nutt acknowledges the defense is still way ahead of the offense due to the experience on that side of the ball.

"When you've got guys like Kentrell Lockett, Ted Laurent, Jerrell Powe, Lawon Scott and so on, it's a good feeling," he said. "I am also pleased with what Johnny Brown and Fon (Ingram) are doing at safety and the linebackers are playing real well at this juncture.

"D.T. Shackelford is like a starter. He can play all three positions. He does everything right and plays with some fire. He brings some violence when he tackles. Alex Williams is coming on as well.

"We have also been real pleased with our two JUCO signees, Damien Jackson and Wayne Dorsey. Damien brings us more toughness back there. You have to tell him to slow down. He wants to tackle all the time. That's the way you want it. Dorsey is the same way - quick and very physical. He's putting a lot of pressure on the QB."

Nutt then delivered some bad news. Tig Barksdale has been suspended for the remainder of spring training for breaking team rules.

"We've had to suspend Tig for the rest of the spring. I hate that. His standing is not good. We will look at the rest of the spring and see (how he responds)," said Nutt. "We're trying to make a difference in his life, but I don't know where it's headed."

Back to the playing field, both Rebel quarterbacks, Nathan Stanley and Raymond Cotton, completed a lot of passes in the extended team work.

Nathan Stanley

"We had a couple batted down at the line, but we are seeing more completions and less drops. They are getting better," he said. "They just can't enough snaps. Cotton has a strong arm, he's strong but he is very, very raw. He's coming too though."

The scrimmage plan is as follows.

"We'll hit the field around 9:30 with 10 minutes of kicking, 10 minutes of individual and 10 minutes of separated teams to get warmed up and then we will put the ball down," explained Nutt. "We'll go ones against ones about 10 plays and then twos against twos and threes against threes. We'll try to get 75-100 plays in and mix in some punting and placements as well."

Damien Jackson has made an impression already and is pleased with his transition from junior college to the big leagues of college football.

"It's been good so far. The coaches and players have made it comfortable for Wayne and I," said Jackson. "You have to bring it whenever you come. Don't come if you aren't going to play hard.

"All the guys in the secondary have been tremendous in helping me and it's fun to watch how fast they think and play. It's where I am trying to get. Things are getting easier every day. I'm starting to understand the concepts more and more. That's the biggest adjustment, not the physical side. I want to win and I am going to do whatever the coaches tell me to do."

Random Notes:

* CB Jeremy McGee missed practice due to an afternoon class, but he's also a bit banged up with an ankle issue and a hand issue. We'll see if he scrimmages tomorrow, but the odds are he won't. Ryan Campbell is taking his place as the number one corner in his absence.

Jeremy McGee

* The PK competition is pretty heated. All three placement guys hit their only chance at a field goal today from o32 yards out - Bryson Rose, David Hankins and Andrew Ritter. Not many misses from any of them this spring so far.

* A brief rundown of some highlights of the team drills, which is like a scrimmage without full tackling. . . . Wayne Dorsey used his 6-8 body to knock down one pass and he used his quickness to register a QB sack as well. He's had at least one sack in every practice thus far. . . DT Lawon Scott also sacked the quarterback and Jerrell Powe had three tackles in the backfield. . . . Nate Stanley connected on his first six passes, all of the short to intermediate variety. . . . D.T. Shackelford dropped Rodney Scott for a two-yard loss, but Scott followed that up with an 22-yard scamper in which he ran over a defender in the open field. . . Ja'Mes Logan had a long TD catch from Stanley in which he caught the ball over his blind shoulder. He also made a diving catch on an 8-yard out and wrestled the ball from a defender on a jump ball situation for an 18-yard gain. . . DT Corey Gaines batted down a pass at the LOS and recovered a fumble. . . E. J. Epperson had a 12-yard reception out of the backfield. . . TE Z. Mason caught one pass from Ray Cotton for 22 yards and then had another reception of 8 yards with two defenders hanging on him. . . TB Korvic Neat has two nice inside runs where his quickness broke him to daylight and to the second level in the bat of an eye. . . TB Derrick Herman showed his speed as well, hitting the corner and streaking 40 yards for a score. . . Cameron Whigham, Lakenwic Haynes and Gerald Rivers also registered tackles for loss.

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