"I've been telling you (the media) all week the defense is good," said Coach Houston Nutt after the 80-play workout. "Those guys up front give us a chance because of experience. Those guys in the trenches are strong and they understand technique. Jerrell Powe, Lawon Scott, Ted Laurent, Kentrell Lockett and even newcomer Wayne Dorsey, who has come a long way in a short time. Cameron Whigham also showed up today.
"Our linebackers are solid with Jonathan Cornell, Joel Kight, D.T. Shackelford, Mike Marry is coming, and Allen Walker is not even out there in full contact drills. I feel good about all of them. Our safeties were physical, Fon Ingram, Johnny Brown, Damien Jackson and Frank Crawford. The corners were pretty good and only gave up one deep ball, and Jeremy McGee is sitting out. Overall, we were very solid on defense and that was good to see."
It was a little different story on offense, according to Nutt.
"We have a thousand miles to go. It's what we expected, but we've got to pick it up. We have to be more physical and we have to get better. We had very few running lanes for our backs, very few," noted Nutt. "Ja'Mes Logan continues to step up at wide receiver and that will help our offense. We know what Jesse Grandy can do.
"Our quarterbacks were inconsistent. We put in a lot of checks today and they were thinking a lot. We have to get them where they can play without overloading their thinking. Just play. I'm anxious to watch the film, get a grade on it and get better next week."
Nutt continued to sing the praises of Logan, who made several big catches on the day, including one 20-yard TD reception from Nathan Stanley on a corner route.
"Ja'Mes is what we thought he was coming out of high school," Houston added. "He's talented and he's gotten better fundamentally. He could always catch the ball and is a very smooth athlete, but now he's stronger and faster due to our offseason program. He gives us a chance out there - I'm excited."
Nutt does have hope the Rebel offense will come around - what they are going through right now is simply a process of learning.
"I'm pleased that they are listening and trying hard," he explained. "It's the first time a lot of them have ever played. Look at our centers - A.J. Hawkins and Evan Swindall. Never played. Swindall was playing high school ball a few months ago and he's going against one of the best in the country in Powe every snap. You're not going to look that good early on and we understand that. By the end of spring, after getting our noses bloodied a little bit, we'll be better. We'll be alright."
Hawkins is a little ahead at center, but Swindall is right behind him breathing down his neck. At quarterback, Nutt said it's basically the same thing.
"Nate would go out there first and Raymond would play the third series if we had a game tomorrow," he stated.
Two players who are showing up on offense along the front are the veteran tackles, Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie, but Nutt said they can improve as well.
"They are doing OK, but they have to be better, much better, because we are leaning on them. They are our cornerstones right now and they have to produce on every play," Nutt said.
The running back situation is much the same - good but can be better, must be better.
"We're pretty comfortable with the toughness of Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and Rodney Scott. We are seeing glimpses of Korvic Neat and Derrick Herman giving us a change of pace and earning a role," said Nutt. "The first three know protections and everything, but we want them to produce more."
At quarterback, what's Nutt looking for the rest of spring?
"We want to see who can handle the team. Who can take the team and put them in the end zone? Who's going to make the least mistakes? Who is calm with the play clock and with checks to get us out of bad plays? Those things will determine who wins the job," Nutt closed.
* Evan Swindall has been with the one offense at center since the start of spring until today. A.J. Hawkins was the starter in the scrimmage.
* CB Jeremy McGee (hand, ankle) dressed out but he did not take any live snaps. He should be back next week. In his place, Charles Sawyer played with the number one defense opposite of Marcus Temple at the other corner. Sawyer is quickly establishing himself as the third corner in the rotation.
* FB Derrick Davis also sat out today's scrimmage after pulling a hamstring in yesterday's practice. . . As has been the case since the first day of spring, DE Jason Jones is sidelined with a pulled hamstring.
* The gunners on the punt team play an important role in containing the fleet return men in the SEC. It looks as if that chore will fall on the shoulders of Lionel Breaux and Marcus Temple, but Charles Sawyer and CB Kyle Horine are also in that mix.
* With Allen Walker still rehabbing from offseason surgery, true frosh Mike Marry is filling in with the first unit on defense and DC Tyrone Nix is pleased with his progress. "I'm surprised he is catching on as quickly as he is," said Nix. "He's doing some good things and has good intensity, a lot like D.T. and Joel, two of my other young LBs. Alex Williams is also making a move and progressing.". . . Shackelford also played a few snaps at Sam LB and is in the process of learning all three linebacker positions slowly.
* When the Rebels go into dime coverage, with six DBs, S Frank Crawford appears to be the man right now. He responded today with an interception on a pass tipped by CB Demareo Marr.
* WR Jared Mitchell, who made one real nice catch on a 25-yard sideline route, rolled his ankle in the scrimmage and had to sit out about a half of it. He was the only injury on the day.
* The personal protector on punts will most likely be D.T., but Brandon Bolden worked there as well today.
* All the field goal kickers were perfect on six attempts today, with Bryson Rose going 3-3 in the opening series from 45, 41 and 41 yards.
* The offense started on a high note, with WR Jesse Grandy taking a reverse handoff and rambling 17 yards. Stanley hit Markeith Summers for 7, scrambled for 5 more and then Bolden ran for 6 out of the Wild Rebel before the offense had to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Rose. . . . When the twos tok the field, DE Gerald Rivers blew up a run play and dropped Enrique Davis for a 10-yard loss. S Damien Jackson registered a sack and then Mitchell made his 25-yard catch before D.T. recovererd a fumble and killed the drive. . . Kentrell Lockett took over the next series with a blocked pass and a three-yard TFL on Rodney Scott. Johnny Brown sandwiched in a sack between Lockett's plays and Cornell also got to the QB to end the series totally dominated by the defense. . . Crawford got his interception and D.T. knocked down a pass on the next possession by the twos. . . The one offense got a little movement on their next possession with Scott gaining 5, Stanley hitting Reggie Hicks for 5, Scott taking a screen pass for 8 and Stanley finding Logan for 14 yards. Enrique ripped off 8 yards, but then the defense, led by Powe, ended the charge down deep with two stops and a D. Jackson pick and long return. . . With Cotton at the helm, he found Logan for 14 yards and Korvic Neat ran for 7 before D.T. delivered the hit of the day on Derrick Herman, a blow so hard it flipped Herman over backwards. . . From the 20 going in, the ones got a 1-yard TD run from Scott that was set up by a 16-yard Stanley to Logan pass play. . . The twos also scored from 20 yards out when Davis ran for 15 on first down and then Cotton found Logan in the end zone for a short score. . . On the final series, from the 40 going in, Stanley hooked up with Melvin Harris for 20 yards and then threw a perfect corner route to Logan in the end zone for a 20-yard TD. . . . Nutt lined the ones up one more time and the defense dominated with Dorsey stopping Scott for a 2-yard loss and Laurent nearly decapitating Scott on the final play.
* The Rebs will have the weekend off for Easter and will return to practice on Monday.