They're young. They're inexperienced. They're feeling their way. But the Rebel defensive line is…
Spring Practice, Day VI
With thunderstorms coming through Oxford Monday afternoon, the Rebels had to move practice inside and Nutt was appreciative of the facility.
"I know it sounds like a broken record, but thank goodness for this building. We didn't skip a beat," he said. "Because of this facility, we were able to hold the kind of practice we wanted for a Monday after a day off and after a Saturday scrimmage."
'The kind of practice' they wanted was a tough one. Full pads, lots of fundamental drills, lots of correcting and a relatively lengthy spring workout - 24 periods, roughly 2 1/2 hours.
"We got a lot of work done today. Our guys came back with a tremendous attitude. We needed to correct some things from Saturday and I thought we accomplished that," Nutt stated. "We blocked better today. We didn't catch the ball very well Saturday, but we were better today. Our defense continues to play quicker and faster.
"We played good-on-good and had a lot of third-down situations. It was good work."
After watching the film from Saturday's scrimmage and having a chance to digest it more, Nutt brought up a few more names from that workout who stood out to him.
"(TE) Ferbia Allen was very consistent. (TB) Brandon Bolden didn't get but 20 snaps or so, but he stood out and was consistent. (OLB) D.T. Shackelford continues to lead the way on defense. (DTs) Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett are showing up well for two young guys. They have matured, and they have to. I'm very proud off them. We need them badly," noted Nutt. "(FB) H.R. Greer is doing a very good job for us as well."
Saturday, the defensive line did better than was anticipated. Nutt was not surprised.
"We should be quicker up front and they have a good attitude. We lost a lot of guys up front and these guys are hungry," he noted. "They are playing fast. They are making mistakes, but they are making them at 100 miles an hour, which is all we ask right now."
The daily question, and a good one, is about the quarterbacks. Randall Mackey seems to be gaining control of the position at this point.
"We are not really close to a true depth chart. There is a lot of thinking going on," Nutt explained. "I like the way they are working and it's a good competitive situation.
"The candidates will determine the depth chart - how they perform. We will decide off what we see, but they are the ones who will determine where they land on the depth chart."
The concern about Mackey's communications skills has subsided dramatically.
"The single most awesome thing this spring is Randall seems to have overcome his issues. He's calling the plays very clearly in the huddle and he's barking out the snap count fine," noted Houston. "The difference since fall has been remarkable.
"The best thing we did was redshirt him. On top of that, Coach (David) Lee and Randall have worked extra on him getting it right. Whatever they have been doing has meant zero issues in that area, knock on wood."
DE Gerald Rivers hurt his right knee in practice. Nutt did not know his official status at the end of practice, but the early thought is that the Rebs may have dodged a bullet.
"We don't know for sure - he's having an MRI tomorrow at noon, but we are hopeful it's just a sprain," said Nutt. "We don't need to lose him. The initial exam showed we might have escaped major damage, but we'll see after the MRI results are in."
* JUCO transfer Safety Ivan Nicholas had a good first week, all things considered, in run support, but his pass coverage was lagging behind. Monday, he made up some ground in that area - intercepting one pass and knocking another down on a diving effort that almost resulted in his second pick of the day.
* Safety Damien Jackson had to sit out most of the scrimmage Saturday with a shoulder stinger. It was anticipated he would miss a few days of practice. Either Damien is extremely tough or is a fast healer. He was full speed ahead on Monday and even had an interception in 7-on-7 passing drills. Good news.
* Speedster Vincent Moss has been searching for a home. He has been at wideout, safety and linebacker. He seemed to be making some strides at LB, but the depth chart is crowded there with more (signess) on the way. The solution? CB Coach Keith Burns wanted him. "Keith told me that he could do something with that kind of speed (4.4) and he could make him a player," said Nutt. "We moved him to corner and the first thing Vincent did was show he can be physical by knocking a wide receiver completely out of a play with a strong shiver to the chest. We really need to find that kid a home with that kind of speed. We'll see how he develops there. Keith wants to give it a try and I think it could be a good move."
* The first week, the Rebel offensive coaches stayed mostly with the basics of having the quarterback under center. Monday, they introduced the shotgun formation to the centers and QBs and worked out of the shotgun almost exclusively during 11-on-11 team drills for five periods. The plans are to use the shotgun more in Saturday's upcoming scrimmage.
* In case it means anything, in team drills Mackey got the first series, Barry Brunetti the second series, Zack Stoudt third and Nathan Stanley fourth. In 7-on 7, Mackey was 5-7 with two scores and an interception by CB Charles Sawyer on a long pass; Brunetti was 1-5 with the Jackson pick; Stoudt was 3-5 with one deep ball completion; and Stanley was 4-4 with all underneath routes. Note: Lee is working on Brunetti's release point. Right now, he's releasing the ball at too high an angle and a lot of his passes are sailing high.
* There are two distinct differences in the top three linebackers. You can hear D.T. Shackelford on every snap chattering and encouraging. You may not ever hear a word from OLB Joel Kight and MLB Mike Marry, but they are making their presence known. Kight had a terrific scrimmage and Mike gets more and more comfortable each day, it seems. Marry made several nice plays today in run support on the edges. he can cover some ground and just seems to be under control right now.
* Offensive Line Coach Mike Markuson played a lot of musical chairs with his guys up front today. Massive Matt Hall played quite a bit with the number one OL at right guard in place of Logan Clair. Emmanuel McCray worked some inside at left guard with the ones and the twos. Patrick Junen, who has been exclusively a guard since he has been at Ole Miss, is now working some at left tackle behind Bradley Sowell. While those are interesting experiments, the one that turned out head the most today was watching 6-11, 370-pound OT Terrell Brown line up at right tight end in short yardage situations. The right side of the line went 340 pounds (Hall), 325 (Bobby Massie) and 370 (Brown). Lots of beef.
* Former Rebel great Kris Mangum came to practice Monday. He's on campus this week going through a banking seminar. Kris, who retired from the NFL two or three years ago, has been working in the banking industry the past two years. He has four children under the age of 12 - three girls and a boy.
* The Rebs will practice in full pads again Tuesday, most likely inside because the practice fields are flooded, unless Nutt opts to take them on the stadium field. Practice will start around 4 p.m. and is open to the public.
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