When the first day of pads of spring training 2011 had ended, Coach Houston Nutt was anxious to expand on the news that had been circulating throughout the camp for a couple of hours, i.e., DE Kentrell Lockett has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA due to medical hardship rules.
"Let's start out with Kentrell Lockett," Nutt said, clapping his hands and smiling broadly. "That's good news. I know that's been a real burden on his mind and our minds and there's no question that burden has been lifted and he will start going full speed with his rehab, his school and in getting ready for next year.
While the Lockett news was extremely important, the recap of the first day of pads was just as urgent to Nutt.
"We had a good day today. It was different with pads on and everyone was a little slower while they adjusted," said Nutt. "We have to do better tomorrow before our big scrimmage Saturday."
On defense, Houston singled out the young linebackers as players who impressed him today.
"Mike Marry, Clarence Jackson and Ralph Williams are playing with a lot of energy and are making strides. They are young and made mistakes, but I like the way they attack," he noted. "(CB) Cliff Coleman made some progress today as well. That's where we are the thinnest so that was good to see."
On the offensive side of the ball, Nutt gave kudos to several players as well.
"Philander Moore had a real good day catching the ball, as did Terrell Grant. (TE) Alex Williams made two real good plays, nice catches, one of them one-handed. The wideouts have gotten better each day. Vincent Sanders, Terrell, Korvic Neat - they are getting better. I'm proud of the way they are working. Vincent has already shown he's going to help us - he just has to keep coming," said Nutt. "I tell you what, our quarterback stats were pretty good as well. Considering we are throwing the whole book at them and they are having to do a lot of thinking, they are doing well. I'm excited about them."
* One thing is definitely noticeable at practice this spring. In the past, Nutt would spend about 90-95% of his practice time with the offense. Now, with David Lee on board, he's floating around at practice more and more, keeping a keen eye on all phases. That's what he declared when he hired his old friend to run the offense and that's what he's doing. Some doubted he would give up the reins of the offense, but it's obvious he meant what he said as he is spending more and more time each day with the defense and with special teams, as well as the offense. Nutt will always be an offensive coach at heart, but this "new" delegation seems to be something he's enjoying and getting into.
* Prior to the official start of practice, the offensive linemen were running half-speed, non-contact plays against the backups OL, making sure they had their assignments down before things went live. Who was at middle linebacker? Terrell Brown, all 6-11, 375 pounds of him. Imposing looking MLB to say the least.
* JUCO transfer CB Wesley Pendleton is already running with the first team defense at cornerback. Is it by default because the numbers are so thin or is it because he's pretty good? CB Coach Keith Burns believes Wesley is pretty good. "Great speed, great feet and really going to be good in man coverage, which we will do a lot of," said Burns. More from Burns in a story tomorrow. . . .
* We like the potential of the number two defensive line, albeit very young. Carlos Thompson and Jason Jones/Cameron Whigham at the defensive ends, and Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett at the DTs. Lot of good football ahead of those guys for several years to come. We have to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves because they are not finished products, but it's easy to get anxious because you can readily see it coming. Patience, as hard as it is to have it, will be required, but know there is gold at the end of that talent rainbow.
* Apparently OL Matt Hall means business in trying to earn playing time. He had a fantastic offseason and it's showing now on the 6-9, 340-pounder. Today, in one-on-one drills, he threw Whigham around handily, and Whig is no slouch. He's 260 pounds, low to the ground and very strong. Hall is making his presence known.
* Backup Fullback E.J. Epperson is now around 260 pounds and looks like Tarzan. He also squatted over 500 pounds and cleaned 300. Will he get the most out of those physical attributes on the field? If he does, look out. The thing RB Coach Derrick Nix has looked for out of E.J. is every down intensity, like H.R. Greer has and why Greer is ahead of Epperson. The ball is in E.J.'s court.
* Zack Stoudt got the first couple of series in pass scale drills today at quarterback and he made some real nice throws during his opportunity. He hit Philander Moore twice on out routes, one for 20 yards and one for 15. . . .Randall Mackey, who got the next two series, was not to be outdone. He found Vincent Sanders for a 35-yard gain on a wheel route and then threw a strike to Alex Williams. . . Then Barry Brunetti and Nathan Stanley both found Melvin Harris behind the coverage for long completions. . . Good day throwing for the QBs and the receivers looked sharp as well.
* Vincent Moss, who is touted to be the fastest player on the team, has been moved to outside linebacker. He looks like his head is spinning, but he gathered himself enough to make the only interception of the day when he dropped in coverage.
* It's pretty cool when former players come back to campus to encourage their former teammates. None is more vocal or involved than former OLB Patrick Trahan. During tream drills, he was the cheerleader that got everyone on defense going and he passed along some words of wisdom to a defender who got burned and seemed a little down. "You are the man now," Patrick told him. "When you are the man, you are held to a higher standard. Don't get down - be the man. You are the man!" Refreshing.
* In watching Randall Mackey daily, it's easy to pick up one ingredient that makes him effective. Randall has a knack of extending plays with his feet, and not just by breaking out of the pocket rolling left or right or running with the ball, but using his quick feet to buy time in the pocket, all the while keeping his eyes downfield. He seems to have a sixth sense of where pressure is coming from and the athletic ability to buy an extra second or two, which many times is the difference in a successful play and an unsuccessful one. That's a good quality for a QB to have, obviously.
* The Rebs will have another full pad practice Friday. It's open to the public and will start around 4 p.m. Nutt has stated there will be a full scrimmage Saturday, most likely in the late morning, but he has not announced a definite time yet.