Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt gave a fair evaluation after the 100-plus-play scrimmage Saturday, the first of spring training.
As is usually the case in the first full-contact action of the spring, there were peaks and valleys.
"I was proud of our attitude and effort the first week of spring training and that led to some crisp hits and some good things in the scrimmage," said Nutt. "Our defense played with more of an attitude today.
"(OLB) D.T. Shackelford led the way with his play and vocal leadership and it was contagious. (OLB) Joel Kight had a good day as did (DE) Wayne Dorsey. I saw (DT) Justin Smith make some good plays. I was also very proud of some of the secondary guys - Charles Sawyer, Wesley Pendleton, Ivan Nicholas, Frank Crawford and Damien Jackson was doing well until he got injured (shoulder stinger). Basically, I just saw more of a toughness and attitude that we have been emphasizing."
Offensively, Nutt was left shaking his head a bit, for now.
All eyes are on the quarterback race. Nutt gave all four a favorable nod, overall.
"They all had some good moments. Randall (Mackey) stood out a little more than the rest, but Zack Stoudt, Barry Brunetti and Nathan Stanley all made a good throw or two," he added. "It helped that they were all live and took some hits.
"Mackey did some real good things by extending plays and making accurate throws. Once (Barry) Brunetti learns something, which he is doing on the fly right now, he's very smooth. Zack and Nathan are dropback guys, but Zack made some nice throws under duress and Nathan also hit a couple. We just have to keep going and keep putting them in these kinds of situations. We'll know a lot more next week."
At running back, all three of the top guys drew Nutt's praise, again, considering it was the first scrimmage.
"I feel real good about Brandon Bolden. Enrique Davis was a workhorse today - he's very physical - and Jeff Scott showed the speed you have to have," noted Nutt.
The offensive line is one of the most experienced of any unit and will be leaned on heavily in the fall.
"We are going to be depending on those guys to be the leaders of the offense, but we have to pick it up a notch from today. The defense was moving fast and twisting and stunting and we did some things well and didn't do others very well. We can play better than we did today," Nutt said. "You feel good about the edges with Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie. Emmanuel McCray is coming on strong - watch him closely. Matt Hall is coming - a big strong body. A.J. Hawkins and Evan Swindall are battling. Jared Duke, Patrick Junen, Logan Clair, Alex Washington - we are starting to develop some numbers there and that's creating competition. There's nothing like competition. We just have to put it all together."
* In our scrimmage coverage, we will also publish on the front page a stat story from today, a photo gallery and a quarterback feature. We will continue coverage tomorrow with comments from the coordinators.
* When Jackson went out with a shoulder issue, Frank Crawford stepped in and made a positive impression. He wasn't perfect, but he made a couple of physical hits and intercepted a pass in the end zone. "Frank made plays and that's what we need to see from him," said Nutt. Certainly, that's a position that needs help and is Crawford can move up to a trusted performer, that will be a bonus.
* Kight seemed to be all over the place for most of the scrimmage. He pressured the QB a couple of times, he ran down running backs, he showed up in coverage situations by making some plays. His year of experience is starting to show. At times, he seemed tentative last year. That hesitation in his game is now gone and it shows. Could it be that Clarence Jackson is breathing down his neck as well? As Nutt said, there's nothing like competition and someone right behind that wants your job. Kight is responding to the challenge.
* When Jeff Scott gets the corner, get ready to get out of your seat. It's going to be a big gain, of which he had one today. The kid simply runs by pursuers. Blessed with speed.
* The wideouts were way too inconsistent overall catching the ball. Yes, they made some nice plays, but there were several drops that will make a big difference in the fall. Right now, the top four appear to be Melvin Harris, Ja-Mes Logan, Vincent Sanders and Philander Moore. All four had their moments of making the play there to be made and all four had moments of losing their concentration. Consistency has to be the next step for that group.
* It's hard to tell how they did in the trenches, but the tight ends had a real good day catching the ball when it was thrown their way. Ferbia Allen has three or four nice receptions and, if we are not mistaken, Alex Williams got in on the action as well in the receiving game.
* It seems when the talk turns to the tailback slot senior Enrique Davis is somewhat a forgotten man with casual observers. Not so with the coaches and the scrimmage showed why. He was the most physical back on the day and gained a lot of tough yardage. Don't write him and his role off. It will be important to this Rebel offense.
* There was a big to-do about Mackey's ability to communicate in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage prior to spring. To this point, that has not been an issue - either in the huddle calling the plays or at the line of scrimmage barking signals. He has come miles and miles from last year when he first stepped on campus in that department. While we wouldn't go as far as to say it is a forgotten issue, it's not near the problem that was anticipated. If he keeps progressing in that area, it will be an afterthought by the time the season rolls around.
* A personal note: Heading into the scrimmage, the prevailing thought of yours truly was that the defense had a long way to go. That's still in my thought pattern, but they don't have as far to go as imagined after the first four practices. The scrimmage seemed to bring out a different mindset - a more aggressive approach. They got good pressure on the quartebacks, they didn't miss a lot of tackles, they ran to the ball in groups and they made plays when they got the opportunity. Again, long way to go, but probably the surprise of the day to this untrained eye.
* The Rebels will take tomorrow off and will resume practice Monday afternoon.