Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt said at Wednesday's practice he had never had more than five players…
* The big picture story of the aftermath of the Memphis game and the open week was/is, as you know, the flu.
Fortunately, that all seems to be headed in the right direction, with less new cases reported Friday morning and the afflicted turning the corner to getting well.
What has to be the immediate concern, however, is how will those stricken with the illness respond when they do come back, which will be Sunday for the majority, it is speculated. There are strength and conditioning issues to worry about.
Coach Houston Nutt and Football Trainer Tim Mullins were asked that after Thursday's practice and they couldn't give a definitive answer. Like all sicknesses, each individual will react and respond differently, so an ironclad answer was next to impossible.
Nutt said he and his staff are going to approach it the only way they can - business as usual, and see who can go and who is lagging behind. It will be an act and react situation.
One would expect 18-23 year old, well-conditioned athletes to overcome the setback quickly, but the demands they will be placed under will be challenging coming off the shock to the body they have been under for several days.
A big reason why some didn't come back yesterday was smart planning on the staff's part. Give them one more day to recuperate and regain their strength before throwing them back in the meat grinder of practice and the season.
The bright side of this, of course, is the fortuitous timing of the open week. If the Rebels had to play tomorrow, it might be ugly. While the complaint when the schedule came out about the open week being too early was legitimate, it turns out it was - with the help of a lot of luck - perfect.
And with all due respect to SLU, it's also fortunate the next opponent is not SEC-caliber.
After the week the Rebels have just been through, being ready for an SEC foe next Saturday might have been too much to ask. . . .
* Sickness wasn't the only issue on the Rebel front burner. DE Greg Hardy injured his "other" foot in the Memphis game, but came back to play after the injury, limping noticeably. A gutsy effort, for sure, but he was definitely running on adrenaline. The days after the game produced a hefty amount of swelling and Greg's ankle being placed in a walking boot to keep pressure off of it. Unless something unexpected happens, the goal for Greg is to have him ready by the South Carolina game. SLU is not out of the question, but it's looking bleak he will be available for that contest.
* After the Memphis game, four non-starters grabbed a share of the spotlight, and rightfully so.
Junior Cornerback Jeremy McGee answered a lot of the questions about the depth at corner with five tackles and two quarterback sacks. Sophomore Running Back Enrique Davis put on a lot show with power running and some nifty moves he did not exhibit as much last year. True frosh MLB D.T. Shackelford was extremely active for his debut and managed a stop on a fourth-and-one for a loss at a crucial time in the game. DT Jerrell Powe, at times, was dominant, crashing into the Tiger backfield frequently.
In talking to all four either after the game or during this past week, none of them were surprised with their efforts.
"I've worked hard to get where I am," said Powe. "All the weight loss, the wrist operation, the offseason workouts - it's all paying off. I've still got a lot to do. I'm only going to get better as I get more experience."
McGee believes his transition from running back over a year ago is almost complete.
"You can never sit still with your game. As the coaches say, you are either getting better or you are getting worse," said Jeremy. "But I am a lot more comfortable with the position now. I've been a running back all my life, but last year I was switched to corner. It was a tough transition, really tough, but now that I am confident on defense, I wouldn't go back to running back."
D.T. was as wide-eyed after the game as he was during it.
"I've never been on this kind of stage before, but I really wasn't nervous. Excited, but not nervous," said Shackelford. "I made a couple of plays and made a couple of mistakes, but I'll just keep working. My parents told me my whole life that hard work is what success is all about and I believe that, so I'll just keep trying to get better at something I love every day."
Davis has been the beneficiary of a rigorous offseason program that he committed to.
"Coach (Don) Decker had a plan for me and I stuck to it. Speed, flexibility and body control were the main areas I attacked," said Enrique. "I can tell a difference when I am running. I can cut better under control. I also am completely healthy for the first time. Last year, I struggled a while with a sore ankle I got at Hargrave that never would completely heal. Now, it's fine."
One thing is certain - quality depth will be vital to the Rebs' cause. With four "backups" like that, the cause will be helped.
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