Spring Training, Day XIII

Thursday was the last day of full pads - besides Saturday's Red-Blue game - and Coach Houston Nutt and his staff made the most of it. Friday, the Rebs will work out in shorts with drill work and Grove Bowl rehearsal in mind. Read about it inside.

The most notable aspect of Thursday's spring football practice - the last one in full pads besides Saturday's Grove Bowl - was when Coach Houston Nutt yelled "goalline."

That's where the men thrive and the boys hide.

Nutt put the ball down on the three-yard line and basically said best men win between the offense and the defense.

At the first of spring, that would have been no contest, the defense won every time. If it had been a boxing match, it would have been called off for human rights issues.

But Thursday, 13 practices deep in spring training, it was a different story.

Houston Nutt

You could say the defense still held the upper hand, but the guy next to you witnessing the same things might have called it more of a draw.

"We feel good about the progress we've made on offense. It's been baby steps, but we've gotten better. You could tell that today - we couldn't have done that a month ago," Nutt noted. "Bradley Sowell has been a leader up front and has been very good, and everyone down the line has gotten better - Rishaw Johnson, A.J. Hawkins, Alex Washington, Bobby Massie started slow but has come on the last few practices, Evan Swindall, Emmanuel McCray - they have improved across the board.

"I know we have a long way to go, but we are further along than I thought we'd be after those first few practices and the defense was dominating and we couldn't push pillows back. Things have changed a lot, for the better, up front for us. Again, we are not close to ready yet, but we are seeing some light at the end of the tunnel."

Nutt has also been pleased with some of the running backs who have emerged more in the latter half of spring training.

"Enrique Davis has really been good the last two or three day," he continued. "He's hitting the hole hard, being physical and getting beyond the first level more and more. He's getting downhill quicker. He has gotten quicker, but that's not really him. What I like is he's getting downhill faster and running more physically.

"Derrick Herman and Korvic Neat got better and better. They are getting a feel for the position now and starting to see things better. That's what spring is about."

The backs are not the only ones who have gotten a boost from the improved OL play.

"The running game helps the passing game - it all goes hand-in-hand. One helps the other and you have to have both in this league because the defenses in the SEC are too good," Nutt explained. "When the OL got going and the run game fed off that, our quarterbacks got better, especially Nathan (Stanley), who got a lot of reps this spring.

While the defense has gotten a majority of the spring praise, there was still some concern going into the session with the secondary. Nutt addressed their progress.

Johnny Brown

"They have gotten better too. I think they are going to be fine. Johnny Brown is our leader back there, Damien Jackson was a fine addition, Fon Ingram is solid and our corners are better. They still have work to do, but Marcus Temple, Jeremy McGee and Charles Sawyer have done very well," Houston stated.

Overall, Nutt was pleased with spring training.

"We've had a really good spring. The guys have done an excellent job with listening and learning," said Nutt. "We have a high school coaches' clinic tomorrow and will be in shorts. We'll run a lot of drills and do some team to rehearse the Red-Blue game. We can use some more of that type work too.

"Overall, our coaches coached hard, the players gave us everything they had and we came out on the other end with a good spring grade."

Random Notes:

* Late in the full contact portion of goalline, the Rebs got a bit of a scare. Stanley was in the end zone set to pass and just as he stepped into his pass to the right, DE Wayne Dorsey's knee caught Nate just above his right knee. He was taken into the training room and did not return to the field. Fortunately, it was not his knee. It is a deep quad contusion. His status for Saturday? At this point we are not sure, but at least it wasn't the knee, which was the initial scare.

* To add to Nutt's statement of the secondary getting better, there are several things working there. One, the pressure applied by the front seven makes their jobs easier, for lack of a better word, because they don't have to cover as long. Two, the addition of Jackson has been very important. Three, the development of Sawyer was absolutely a must. As spring began, it's safe to say the coaches felt they had two safeties and maybe 1 1/2 corners ready to go. Now, they feel like it's three and three. That's still a little shorthanded, but it's a giant leap forward.

* On goalline, OLB Joel Kight picked off a Raymond Cotton pass and would have gone 97 yards for a score if the whistle hadn't blown the play dead. . . Enrique, on the next series, bulled over from the two. . . The score was 1-1. . . With the coming out from the 1, the defense held once and then the offense got out of the hole three times, once on a Brandon Bolden run, once on a Herman run and once on a 97-yard TD by Neat with the twos against the twos.

* When most mention the DTs at Ole Miss, it always starts with Jerrell Powe and Ted Laurent. Senior Lawon Scott, at times, seems like the forgotten man.

Lawon Scott

Sometimes folks forget that Lawon is the starter along side Powe. Even though Laurent is considered a starter as well, Lawon is the guy who holds the title. He's number one for a reason. Don't forget him. The coaches haven't.

* Annually, at the Red-Blue Game, we at the Ole Miss Spirit produce the program with stories from each position coach, rosters and depth charts. The proceeds go to the J.W. "Wobble" Davidson Scholarship Fund. We're proud of that involvement for a great cause. We'll have tables on both sides of the stadium as you enter coming from the Grove. Grab a program and drop some folding money into the buckets for a good cause. We'd appreciate it and the kids who receive the Wobble help, children of former athletes who need financial assistance to go to Ole Miss, certainly appreciate it. Thanks.

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