Saturday Scrimmage

Saturday's football scrimmage in Vaught-Hemingway began with total domination by the Rebel defense, but the Ole Miss offense turned things around and started getting back the rhythm they had built throughout the week. Read about it inside.

After a week where the Ole Miss offense seemed to be growing and competing more evenly with the defense, Saturday's scrimmage began as a throw back to the first few days of spring, where the defense dominated.

But as the 100-play workout continued, the offense started making a few plays, and then a few more, gaining some rhythm and competing with some intensity.

"There was a lot of hitting going on. It was a pretty spirited workout," said Coach Houston Nutt. "The last few practices, the offense has improved and there have been some younger guys on both sides of the ball who have made some good strides.

"OT Emmanuel McCray, DT Corey Gaines, LB Mike Marry, C Evan Swindall and a few more are helping their causes. I'm proud of that because we have to build more depth in several areas."

Nutt was semi-pleased with the offensive production on the day.

"We got some rhythm going and the running game definitely improved - all our backs had their moments and ran hard and they are getting better - but we were inconsistent," he explained. "We had too many dropped balls and too many interceptions. We caught it great yesterday, but today we had some problems and we can't do that. When the play is there and the ball is there, we have to make the play. We are getting better, but I know we can do better than we showed today.

Nathan Stanley

"The first couple of series we started off slowly on offense, but we came on after that. The last three or four practices we are doing better with our mechanics, footwork and execution."

QB Nathan Stanley started out with a couple of picks where he underthrew receivers, but he too picked it up the last half or so of practice.

"He made some good decisions, but I felt like he had a couple of open guys who he didn't get the ball to and they got picked," assessed Nutt. "On those fades, either the receiver gets it or nobody does. He underthrew two or three balls he should have hit. We'll watch this film and come out better for it."

Stanley is starting to separate himself a little from Raymond Cotton for a couple of reasons.

"We know Raymond has ability, but he's missed a couple of practices with a sore arm and he's raw. He can make plays but he couldn't afford to miss those practices," said Nutt. "Nate has taken advantage of Ray not being 100%."

With CB Marcus Temple out with a sickness, the backup corners got a lot of snaps and each had a pick.

Campbell had an INT

"Charles Sawyer is having en excellent spring and Ryan Campbell is coming on strong," said Houston. "He made a jump today."

Defensively, Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix gave his evaluation.

"We started out like gangbusters today - our best start of the spring," said Nix, "but we have to learn to keep our focus and intensity.

"We had some big turnovers from our young corners with Temp out and that was good to see. We've got a chance and that's what we were looking for."

Nix, like Nutt on offense, is looking for more consistency.

"If we are going to be a dominant defense, we have to do it on a more consistent basis," he said. "We've done a lot of good things, but we have to keep pushing it to be good."

Tyrone is also in the middle of the task of developing depth on his unit.

"I think Mike Marry, D.T. Shackelford, Ryan Campbell, Damien Jackson and Charles Sawyer are all stepping up their games," said Tyrone. "And Gerald Rivers is getting better. He's made a big improvement. We expect him to contribute a lot this year."

Random Notes:

* Ben Garrett is putting together another story with more statistics from the Saturday scrimmage and a brief summary. Stay tuned to The Spirit for more later. . .

* Backup FS Frank Crawford was held out of the scrimmage with a knee issue. He had an MRI yesterday but does not know the results yet.

* CB Marcus Temple was also held out because of an illness.

* The gunners on the punt team are extremely important for containment purposes against the fleet return specialists in the SEC. It appears Lionel Breaux, who did an excellent job in that role last year, and Charles Sawyer are the two that are stepping up to fill those spots.

* CB Ryan Campbell has had a rough spring to this point, busting too many assignments, but today it seemed as if he made a jump with his status. He had an interception early in the scrimmage on an out pattern and then knocked down a sure TD on a long fade route, among other plays. Good day for the redshirt freshman in Temple's absence.

* Early in the scrimmage, the Rebel offense faced several second and long and third and long situations. The defense took advantage. "Those downs are not conducive to success, obviously," said Co-Offensive Coordinator Mike Markuson.

Sawyer, Scott collide

"Once we started making positive yardage on first downs, things picked up for us a little. We would jump offsides, mishandle a ball, get a minus-yardage play - just the little things that you can't do, but we righted the ship a little as the scrimmage wore on. We got better this week and today."

* QB Raymond Cotton has not been able to throw heading into the scrimmage the last three or four days, but in the scrimmage his arm looked fine. He threw one pass rolling to his right that went about 60 yards in the air.

* If everyone played with D.T. Shackelford's enthusiasm and passion, well, coaches might become obsolete beyond the X's and O's. What a dynamo.

* It was not a stellar day for the field goal kickers. We didn't keep exact stats, but the placements were erratic in the scrimmage. A good guess? About 50% and none from real long range.

* How did the offense finally get the ball rolling? After a couple of series of being stuffed, they started a possession on the 50.

Jesse Grandy

Stanley hit Jesse Grandy for 8 yards, Grandy got another 12 on a reverse, Brandon Bolden ripped off a 12 yard run and then Stanley found Breaux for an 18-yard TD. Bingo and from there the offense's blood started pumping.

* OG Josh Tatum, who has suffered with bad ankle most of spring, is healthy now and got some snaps with the number two offense at right guard today. "Josh is doing some good things," said Markuson. "So are Mike Brown and Emmanuel McCray on that number two line. McCray is the one who is jumping out at me right now."

* After Stanley's underthrown picks, he finally found the range and followed the Breaux TD with a 35-yard touchdown to Markeith Summers.

* All the running backs had flashes in the scrimmage. Nobody was immune from a good gain. Bolden ran hard inside and outside and had two or three very good gallops. Enrique Davis and Rodney Scott flashed their power games for good gains. Devin Thomas had a 50-yard TD run on a sweep and another run of about 16 yards. Korvic Neat had two good runs of medium yardage but the highlight of the day was him shaking off two tacklers, keeping his balance and exploding for a 30-yard run.

He and Derrick Herman both showed their quickness. Herman, near the end of practice, put a move on a defender that froze him - ala Dexter - and danced into the end zone from 15 yards out. If things keep going like they are right now, there will be a role for all of them.

OM Spirit Top Stories