When looking over the grade sheets from Friday's full-scale scrimmage, Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze said he got about what he expected.
There were a few surprises, such as the toughness redshirt freshman Defensive Tackle Woodrow Hamilton played with and the "relentlessness" junior Defensive End Carlos Thompson displayed, but there were also some areas that Freeze expected a bit more.
"I figured we'd have some good and some not so good - that's the case with most scrimmages, especially early scrimmages," Freeze began. "We graded them tough, we want them to know where they are at this point in time without pulling any punches, but I was fairly pleased with the overall effort they gave us. A lot of the mistakes they made were full-speed mistakes and that, in itself, is satisfying."
The grading system this staff employs is based on many factors, but it basically comes down to a plus for a good play and a minus for a bad play. 70% is a "passing" grade.
Freeze began with the defensive line, where Hamilton and Thompson were his "pleasant surprises."
"Woody has a lot of work to do, but something that showed up to us was his toughness. I really believe he's going to be a good one in time. He graded out at 91%, the highest of the DL," Freeze noted. "Carlos was fanatical in his play and led the team in tackles with 7. He graded 86%.
"There were others who played very well up front also. DT Uriah Grant probably had the best overall day of that group with 88%. He didn't have the highest grade, but he was the most consistent in doing what he was asked to do. DE Jason Jones (89%) and DE Cameron Whigham (90%) were also very solid in their play. DE C.J. Johnson played really hard every snap, but he did the wrong thing too many times to grade well. I like his effort though. We had a few others on the DL with passing grades, but those were the ones who stood out."
While the linebacker grades were not as lofty as the DL, Hugh was pleased with the progress that group showed from Thursday's practice when they had a "mini-scrimmage" at the end of the workout before the big one on Friday.
"We are moving those guys around a little, trying Joel Kight in the middle some, moving Aaron Garbutt from safety to OLB, but they still managed to do a lot better than they did the day before," he explained. "They were probably the most improved group from Thursday to Friday.
"Ralph Williams (76%) showed a good burst at times and Joel (75%) did a lot better," he continued. "Serderius Bryant (74%) has the want-to, there's no questioning his effort, but sometimes he has a tendency to do his own thing and play outside the system. He's got to cut back on that."
At safety, the overall grades dipped a bit.
"Those guys played hard, but had too many busts as a group," Hugh stated. "The two number ones - Charles Sawyer (70%) and Chief Brown (67%) - were erratic in this workout. Charles was just moved there and Chief is nursing a groin injury, so that's part of the problem, but they have to play cleaner and they know that.
"Tanner Burns (81%) played the cleanest of the group and Denzel Nkemdiche (71%) is active and had six solo tackles. Right now, those guys are thinking a lot and that is slowing down their reaction time. Once everything becomes more natural to them, I expect those grades to improve."
Senior Wesley Pendleton (80%) was the steadiest of the cornerbacks/Husky slots.
"Wesley was very consistent and had a good day," Freeze allowed. "Dehendret Collins (75%) has something to him. He needs more discipline, but he's got some grit and ability. With Brishen Mathews sidelined, Ivan Nicholas (75%) got a chance to play with the ones and I thought he responded pretty well. He has definitely improved. A player we didn't know much about who has made some plays and did well in the scrimmage is Abdul Bangura (73%). If he stays on the path he's on right now, we'll get some quality snaps from him next year. Cliff Coleman (80%) also had a good day."
On offense, the grades dipped substantially overall.
"The defense dominated for over a half, so the lower grades were expected," Freeze said. "The offense is behind the defense right now, as expected, so these grades are not a huge surprise. We have to do better in a lot of areas."
At quarterback, the game stats were deceiving as to the overall grades.
For instance, Barry Brunetti, who split time with Bo Wallace with the first offensive unit, was 6-9 for 78 yards with two TDs and an interception. Those stats might indicate a good grade, but that wasn't the case for the junior.
"When Barry got his reads right, he was pretty good, and he did lead us to two late TDs, but he missed a lot of reads and in this offense, those are critical," Hugh assessed. "Consequently, his grade was 57%. It's all about recognition and making the right decisions. That will come - he's still learning the ins and outs of this offense, as they all are.
"Bo's stats (9-17 for 66 yards) were not as good as Barry's, but he didn't made as many mistakes and he led us on more sustained drives. So his grade as 69%. Not good enough, obviously, but headed in the right direction."
The rest of the QBs got limited snaps. That was determined by moving the chains and being able to stay in the game. Bo had 36 plays, Barry 21 and Randall Mackey 16.
At running backs, Jeff Scott (78%), Nick Parker (80%), H.R. Greer (85%) and Houston Keyes (86%) all graded well, but Scott and Parker were most prominent in Freeze's analysis.
"Jeff is obviously a threat, but we need him to get the yards that are there sometimes and not try to hit the home run every run. Sometimes he'll bounce outside and four yards are there, but he'll bounce again and nothing is there. We need him to learn when to take that four yards and be happy," Freeze stated. "He also needs to work on playing without the ball, but I'm happy with the direction he's going.
"If Nick will lose some more weight, he's going to help us. He's got to get more burst and being lighter will help that. Nick is sharp mentally. H.R. is tough and will help us with that mentality."
On the offensive line, the grades were not where Hugh or OL Coach Matt Luke would like them.
"We have a long way to go there, but as I have been saying all along, those guys will be the last to catch on. We are not going to hit the panic button, Matt will get them right," Hugh noted, "but for the purposes of grading this scrimmage, they have to do better.
"A.J. Hawkins, Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray were all a little under 70%, so they are coming. Most of the minuses are from confusion, which is making them play tentative," he said. "Once things start feeling more natural, they'll come around little by little."
All three of the "main" tight ends - Ferbia Allen (79%), Jamal Mosley (70%) and E.J. Epperson (83%) had passing marks, but Hugh expects more from them.
"They are veterans and have to set the pace and standard. We need them to pick up their games and be bigger factors than they are right now," he allowed.
Out side, Donte Moncrief (back spasms) did not participate, but four receivers stood out the most to Hugh.
"Philander Moore, Collins Moore, Terrell Grant and Korvic Neat all had good grades in this scrimmage. Ja-Mes Logan has been the most consistent this spring, but he can do better than he did in the scrimmage," Freeze stated. "We feel Tobias Singleton and Vincent Sanders will come around with their assignments and technique, but they didn't have the kind of scrimmage we were hoping for."
Overall, Freeze said he's seen better and he's seen worse.
"The first scrimmage gives us something to go on. It helps give us an initial evaluation under game conditions and gives us more information on what each individual player needs to work on," he ended. "From those standpoints, it was a good day, a good start.
"We will work hard to get better and I believe the next scrimmage will show improvement."