Practice Report: Rebs open spring football

Coach Ed Orgeron

Ole Miss Football Coach Ed Orgeron wanted today's first spring football practice to be a lesson in the way he expects things to be done - fast and furious. He got that in a 2 1/2-hour workout in the Indoor Practice Facility.

Disclaimer: New Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron has asked the regular members of the media - the guys who cover practice and file practice reports - to not give depth charts or injury reports. We will honor that request in our practice reports.

Due to rainy weather, the Ole Miss football team held its first practice session under new Coach Ed Orgeron in the IPF. Roughly 200 fans attended the up-tempo, 2 1/2-hour workout that was, in essence, non-stop from the opening whistle to the sprints run at the end. The Rebs - by rule - practiced in shorts and helmets today.

The first day of full contact, full pads practice will be Friday from 3:45-6:15 p.m. Saturday, the Rebs will practice at 11 a.m. with a scrimmage beginning at approximately 12:15 p.m.

Approximately 90 Rebels got their first dose of what is expected of them and responded to the challenge fairly well, according to Orgeron.

"This practice was all about our players learning what to expect," he said. "I think now they have a better understanding of what we want. They tried to do everything we asked of them. I thought we ran out of gas a little late in the practice, but they will get used to it as the days go by. They gave us all they had, and that's what we will ask for every day."

Orgeron saw some good things on both sides of the ball - for the first day, but he said there is a lot of work to do in the 15 days of spring training.

"I thought we played the run well on defense, but we let a couple of receivers get behind us for some big pass plays today. We can't do that. I also thought we got fatigued on that side of the ball late in the practice," said Orgeron. "Overall, our offense has to execute much better but they made a few plays throughout the practice that we can build on. Again, I think they started understanding what we want in terms of tempo and the next time out they will know the number of reps we want to get in during a regular practice."

Orgeron was pleased to see about 200 fans show up for the practice.

"I think it is good for the players to see the fans out there and good for the fans to get to know us and our coaching methods better," he explained. "Overall, we were a little better than I expected us to be. We were very organized in our transition from drill to drill and we got in a lot of reps without a lot of drag time. I was pleased."

Notes:

* DT McKinley Boykin, OL Andrew Wicker and RB Brandon Jacobs did not participate in pratice.

* OL Darryl Harris was a tackle the past two years. He has been moved to left guard. . . It appears RS frosh OL David Traxler is going to settle in at left tackle and true frosh OL Lance Lee will be a RT - at least for now. . . Tony Bonds appears to be set to at center. . . Of course, the Rebs have two returning starters on the OL - LT Bobby Harris and RT Tre' Stallings. They remain the stalwarts on the OL.

* Every quarterback appeared to get fairly equal opportunities, at least the top three did - Robert Lane, Ethan Flatt and Micheal Spurlock all had their moments of making plays and all had their moments of what appeared to be confusion and doubt. Lane connected with WR Taye Biddle on a 65-yard TD over CB Travis Johnson and Lane also hit TE Robert Hough for about a 35-yard gain.

* In somewhat of a surprise today, Hunter Bray - who has been strictly a placekicker since coming on campus - punted pretty effectively in practice today, hitting the ceiling of the IPF several times. Hunter has worked hard in the offseason on his punting game, sensing an opening with the graduation of Cody Rodgeway, and it appears the work has paid off.

* In placekicking, it looks as if Matt Hinkle, also a PK, will handle th holding chores. He will be replacing Ridgeway in that area - for the time being. Bray was 3-3 on field goal attempts while Will Moseley, a walk-on a year ago, was 2-3. The long of the day was a 34-yarder by Bray.

* Orgeron is very much a hands-on coach. He directs the defense in full team drills, but he can also be seen getting in the trenches with the players in individual drills. He's not a head coach who observes - he's in the middle of the action.

* Some observers today were Rebel signees OL Michael Oher and WR J.D. Lawhorn. . . Briarcrest DE Greg Hardy, a prospect for next year, was also in attendance.

* Former Rebel Von Hutchins, now the nickel back for the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL, was at practice today also. Von said last year, when he made the Colts' squad and ended up playing "roughly 40% of the defensive snaps," was a "dream come true." Von said he feels real good about his chances of making the squad again and of doing even more next season. He is on campus to work out in the new weight facility until he has to report to preseason camp in a few weeks.

* Former PK Jonathan Nichols worked out today for the Colts and said he hit 13-15 field goals, including 2-3 attempts from outside the 50-yard line. "I had a good workout. I hit the ball well," he noted.

* Rebel TB Jamal Pittman appears to have shed a few pounds in the offseason and, as a consequence, he seems to be a half a step, maybe a full step, faster and quicker. He knocked off two nice runs today by being able to accelerate when he hit the holes faster than he has in his injury-plagued career here. . . TB Vashon Pearson also ripped off two nice runs and also appears to be a bit quicker/faster than in the past.

* Speaking of losing some weight for their benefit, TE Lawrence Lilly has gone from 285 pounds to 273. It shows in his workouts. Lawrence and all the tight ends seem to be more involved in the passing game in this offense as opposed to the last few years. In the past, Mazzone has always thrown to his tight ends a good bit and from the looks of practice today, that trend will not change. The TEs are also being used in routes other than short outs or drag patterns - they are being used to stretch the field with some longer routes.

* DEs Jayme Mitchell and Corvelli Haynes each had offseason surgery, but they were both practicing today full speed. They both appear to have all their movement and agility back. They will both play heavily in the Rebs' defensive plans for 2005, so it was good to see them out there working and apparently healthy.

* CB Travis Johnson and SS Kareem Moore each had interceptions of errant passes today. Moore jumped a corner route thrown by Flatt and raced into the end zone for a score. Johnson picked off a long Lane pass and had a short return.

* Even though the Rebs were not in pads, there was a lot of interior "work" done along the lines and more contact than one would expect in a no-pads workout. With the tempo they are going at, that is inevitable, but quite different.

* Hugh Freeze, who does not have an official title yet, but is on the coaching staff in an off-the-field capacity, is on board officially now. He was at practice and excited about being at Ole Miss - finally. It's long been a dream of Hugh's to coach at Ole Miss and now it is a dream realized. Welcome, Coach Freeze.

* If I was looking for one specific thing to be impressed with, I would have to say the lineup of Kelvin Robinson, Garry Pack and Patrick Willis at the linebacker slots in the 4-3 defense. Those guys can run. Once they learn the ropes of this defense, I look for them to be as active as any linebacking group in the SEC. THe problem? Developing some backups who can play on this level without some major dropoff.

* The Rebs will practice again Wednesday at 3:45 p.m. Ya'll come out. You won't be disappointed.

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