Spring Training, Day VII

In a good way, out of the necessity to get btter, Coach Houston Nutt put the Rebs through the wringer Monday as spring training resumed after a two-day Easter break. Read about it inside.

Practices are broken, usually, into 5-7-minute periods.

Any practice over 20-22 periods falls under the heading of a "grind."

After reviewing the overall results of Friday's scrimmage, Coach Houston Nutt and his staff decided they needed to put the hammer down a little bit more as practice resumed Monday after a two-day Easter break.

24 periods. Now that's a practice.

"We are not discouraged or anything like that. The kids are working hard and giving it to us, but we have to get better during this precious time," said Nutt. "We felt like we needed a good one today.

"We saw too many missed assignments on offense. These young guys are seeing ghosts and different things they are not ready for and the only way to get them ready is hard work. It was a good scrimmage to let us know where we are.

Stanley and Hawkins

"Our offense has a tall order competing with our defense and they way they are playing, but that's the task at hand and the only way to get better is to get in there and do it."

Houston said there has really been no major determination yet about the progress of the quarterback battle between Nathan Stanley and Raymond Cotton.

"We'll keep it going just like it is. Both of them are showing some bright spots and both of them have to keep improving and take care of the ball a little better," he assessed. "I like the way they are learning, especially against the defense they are facing every day. It's been good for them.

"Right now, it feels like the defense knows what we are going to run, but if you had your choice this time of the year, you want your defense to be ahead and go from there."

One name on offense Nutt did mention after Monday's practice was RG Rishaw Johnson, who is coming off being suspended the last half of the 2009 season.

"I have been really proud of him. He has done an excellent job of working hard, not saying anything and being one of our older guys," said Nutt. "Between him and Bradley Sowell, who had a really good scrimmage and is standing out among the linemen, we are hanging our hats on them up front right now."

A player who continues to get rave reviews is JUCO S Damien Jackson.

"Oh, man. I tell you, (WR Coach) Ron Dickerson did a heckuva job signing those two (Jackson and DE Wayne Dorsey). Damien is getting better every day," Nutt noted. "He makes a play or two every day."

Nutt evaluated the running back situation at this juncture.

"We have three good ones, reliable ones, in Brandon Bolden, Rodney Scott and Enrique Davis. I think Enrique has trained harder and he looks lighter on his feet," Houston continued. "He's working better and has a real good attitude. We expect good things from him.

Rodney Scott

"Rodney is tough as nails and is continuing to keep getting better. He's having a very good spring so far."

At the linebacker slots, it seems as if five are separating themselves for the time being.

"Allen Walker, even though he is not practicing right now in contact drills, Jonathan Cornell, Joel Kight, D.T. Shackelford and Mike Marry will be playing in 2010," stated Nutt. "We consider D.T. a starter as well. He will play a lot of snaps next year, no doubt."

Rodney Scott knows firsthand how good the defense is playing. "They get better and better every day," said Scott. "It seems like they know everything we are doing. We can't pay much attention to that because the real teams we will play won't know our plays. But even at that, our defense is very good."

Scott, as Nutt said, is having a very good spring, but he thinks it can be better.

"I'd call it (spring) decent. I know I can get better," he stated. "I work every day to get better. I want my blocking to get better and just get better all-around. I'm better know in knowing the schemes and all the calls, but I can do more."

Scott is known for being hard-nosed, but he believes he has added some movement to the overall package.

"I'm going to run the way I ran to get here - hard-nosed, but I think I have gained a little more burst, but I can get more," he stated.

Random Notes:

* Converted WR Jared Mitchell rolled his ankle over shortly after making a brilliant catch in Friday's scrimmage, forcing him out for the rest of that workout, but he came back to practice ready to go and slightly less than 100%. Jared is proving to be a relatively quick learner and has made plays in each of the previous practices. He's a big target at 6-3 and he has pretty good hands for a guy who has rarely played receiver.

* DL Coach Terry Price jogged past the media prior to practice and was asked about Jerrell Powe and Ted Laurent. He gave a one-line answer.

Ted Laurent

"If they keep working, they could be special," said Price. It does not appear they intend to do anything else but work. They are pretty close to dominant in practices now.

* OLB Allen Walker is still not hitting in practice due to his offseason sports hernia surgery, but Allen's value has expanded and is more than on the field. He's become one of the defensive leaders and has turned from a guy who rarely said anything to a sideline chatter guy, always keeping the defensive troops pumped up and motivated. Leadership development is critical in spring and in the summer offseason. It appears Walker is taking that bull by the horns and that's good to see.

* FB Derrick Davis suffered a hamstring pull last Thursday and is still being held out of practice. In his absence, the offensive coaches, wanting to see some more punch at the fullback slot, have moved DL Rodney Steen to fullback. They need a hammer. Maybe Rodney can be that guy. He's an undersized DL, but a nice sized FB.

* DE Jason Jones has been sitting out with a hamstring pull since the first day of spring training. He said it's finally getting better and he hopes to return before spring is over.

* A.J. Hawkins remains the number one center but he's in a battle with freshman Evan Swindall. Both got number one reps at center today. Also, RG Michael Brown got a few reps with the number one line.

* CB Jeremy McGee, with a broken hand and turned ankle, did not scrimmage last Friday, but he returned to practice Monday. He's still favoring the ankle a little, but he's toughing it out. And he would have had an interception today, but the cast on his hand has made catching the ball a dicey situation for now.

* No surprise here. Safety Damien Jackson got some number one reps with SS Johnny Brown. He responded with an interception.

Damien Jackson

Not to be outdone, senior Fon Ingram, who is still the number one FS, got a pick of his own shortly after.

* DE Wayne Dorsey left practice early complaining he was "lightheaded." he is expected back Tuesday.

* Even when the coaches call the number one defense off the number one offense, the O still has their hands full with the number two defense. Why? The biggest reason is the energizer bunny, MLB D.T. Shackelford. He's everywhere making plays. A fun player to watch, to say the least, especially now that the scheme is becoming second nature to him. He's playing faster now due to his knowledge and that bodes well for the Rebel defense. As Nutt said, D.T. is considered a starter.

* While Nutt did not mention them today, RBs Korvic Neat and Derrick Herman continue to show up in scrimmage work as change of pace backs. They both make quick reads and quick cuts in the hole and that is giving both a chance to make some long gains.

* WR Ja'Mes Logan followed up a very good Friday scrimmage with another bog day Monday, catching several intermediate passes and one bomb of 75 yards. He has definitely catapulted himself up the depth chart ladder and is breathing down the necks of the starters.

* WR Jesse Grandy did not show up much in the scrimmage due to a lack of reps to see what the others could do, but he resumed his dazzling playmaking show in practice today with two or three acrobatic catches.

* TE Z. Mason has not moved up the depth chart yet due to the experience of Ferbia Allen and Reggie Hicks in front of him, but he is quickly becoming a viable option in the passing game. Z. makes a big target and is not bashful about catching the ball over the middle in traffic. His hands are very good. Big and good hands are a pretty good combination.

* The cornerbacks have been an area everyone is watching closely. Monday, Marcus Temple showed why he is number one. He made two pass breakups that were as good as you will see with tight coverage against perfectly thrown passes. It looks as if he is solidifying himself as one of the starters.

* The Rebs will resume practice Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m.

Williams and Cornell

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