Spring Practice, Day XIV

The Rebels concluded spring training Friday, with the exception of the Red-Blue Game tomorrow at 1 p.m. in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Read about the next-to-last workout inside.

From where the Rebels started spring training through the 14th practice Friday, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt has been pleased with the results.

"We've had an outstanding spring. What we appreciate as coaches is our guys are listening and learning. We have a long way to go, both the players and coaches understand that, but the way they approach practice makes you feel good they will get where we want to go," said Nutt. "They have good listening skills and that's where it starts.

"We want to have a good game tomorrow with a good game atmosphere from our fans and then have a good offseason and summer after finals."

News broke today that RS freshman QB Raymond Cotton has a problem in his shoulder, but Nutt is hopeful things will work out fine.

"He's going to go tomorrow. He's had this injury since high school, but it flared up because he's never thrown this many balls before. He was throwing a lot of balls early in spring," said Nutt. "There is a tear there, we found out, but we are going to try to manage it and rehab it so he can get through next year. We don't think it will get any worse to try it that way.

Raymond Cotton

"He's obviously used to playing with it, so we think it will be OK, then we will get it fixed after next season. Of course, that is pending us talking with his parents, who will get in here tonight. We'll let them get a feel for things and they will have the final decision, but I think we will be OK and he'll be OK."

Nutt expressed after yesterday's practice the improvement of the offense. What about the defense?

"That first unit is very solid. We believe in them. They started strong and got better," Nutt stated. "If you ask Coach (Tyrone) Nix, he's say we had two or three days where we let down, and that's the way we want to think, but they had a good spring. They can also keep getting better, though, and they know that. Again, we've got to have a great summer."

Senior OLB Allen Wwalker also feels the defense continued to get better throughout spring.

"The main thing we were trying to do was develop more depth, which would make us stronger," said Walker. "I think guys like Mike Marry, Gerald Rivers, Charles Sawyer and Damien Jackson have done a good job.

"Charles made plays all spring. Mike is going to be a terrific player. Damien fit in well and is a headhunter. Gerald is turning into a beast. He has really stepped up. He had problems with the calls last year, but now he knows what he's supposed to do and he's making plays."

Yesterday, QB Nathan Stanley got hit above the knee and sustained a deep thigh bruise, but he returned to practice today. He was sore, but willing.

"He did a great job getting back out here in a hurry. He took a shot right above the knee, but he's better today and will play tomorrow," noted Nutt.

Stanley said he was still hurting, but he was able to go.

"It's good. It could have been a lot worse. At first I thought it was my knee, so I am happy. It's just bruised. I'm a little sore moving around, but I'll be alright tomorrow," said Stanley.

The sophomore QB was pleased with his spring.

"I think I came a long way. I got a lot better with my fundamentals and with reading defenses," he continued. "Coach (David) Rader did a great job of bringing all the quarterbacks along and I'm thankful for him."

Nathan Stanley

Nate said he's still got work to do in reading defenses and coverages, but he'll get it done.

"You can never know too much about recognizing defenses, fronts and coverages. I've got to spend a lot of time in the film room, but I'll do it," he said.

Nate said he also developed in the leadership department.

"I'm comfortable in the huddle. I think I have progressed a lot in commanding the huddle," he closed. "The guys have responded to me. We are a pretty tight group and they have accepted me."

Walker backed up Stanley on the leadership aspect.

"I'm not in the huddle with the offense, obviously, but I hear the offensive guys talk and they are following Nate's lead," Walker noted. "That's good to hear. The quarterback has to be the guy to control the tempo and the huddle and all that and apparently Nate is doing a fine job according to what other offensive players tell me."

Random Notes:

* Signees FB Martez Eastland and DE Delvin Jones, two fine looking young guys, were at practice today along with over 100 local high school and junior college coaches in Oxford for a coaches' clinic. Tomorrow, over 130 recruits are expected for the Red-Blue Game.

* It's still the Red-Blue Game, but the Rebs will actually be in Blue jerseys for the Blue team and White jerseys with Red numbers for the Red team.

* Late noise: DE Gerald Rivers, CB Ryan Campbell and LB Mike Marry were not making a lot of noise early in spring, but as spring wore on and they became more comfortable, you could see them start spreading their wings and making more plays. Good to see that development in areas that need depth.

* For most of spring, WR Melvin Harris has been erratic with his hands. The last two or three days, he has caught just about everything in sight. If he can stay on that track, he could be a real weapon. You read it here first.

* Tomorrow, the Grove stage is where to be before the 1 p.m. Red-Blue Game. The food court will open at 10, but at 11, Dexter McCluster and other former Rebels with NFL backgrounds will be interviewed by Tim Brando. Should be a lot of fun.

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