With final exams in their rear view mirror, the Ole Miss Rebel football team resumed workouts for the Cotton Bowl Friday in the Indoor Practice Facility.
The Rebs, who will face Oklahoma State on January 2 in Dallas, were in full pads.
If the schedule holds, they will practice Friday (today)-Saturday-Sunday, take Monday off to use as a lifting day, and come back next week for practices Tuesday-Saturday before breaking for Christmas and meeting back up in Dallas the 26th of December.
"There's nothing like bowl practices and being able to teach our young guys more and get them more acclimated. Middle drill, one-on-one, scrimmage time - that's what it's all about with these extra practices we get," said Coach Houston Nutt. "Guys like Z. Mason, Raymond Cotton, Ja'Mes Logan, Charles Sawyer, Corey Gaines, Ryan Campbell and Alex Williams all stood out today and are exciting to me."
Nutt received some good news from DC Tyrone Nix today. Nix is staying at Ole Miss after some talks with Florida about their defensive coordinator opening.
"He's going to be here," Nutt noted. "It got hot and heavy with Florida. We know how many games they have won down there and it's a credit to him and the kind of coach he is that they came after him. I think he stayed because he loves the people he is working with.
"He's going to get some extra money and some other things to stay. I'll be glad when all these positions throughout the country are filled. Tyrone is head coaching material without a doubt. He's a very good disciplinarian, he understands defense, he's a good play caller, as you know, and he has a good relationship with his guys. He gets on them hard, but he knows how to handle them. His time is coming, no question.
"It's huge to us that he stayed and says a lot about our program. I really appreciate him staying. Everything is good."
Nutt is excited about getting Mike Marry, Evan Swindall, Tig Barksdale and Cameron Whigham in the fold tomorrow.
"We are still waiting on a little paperwork for Cameron, but the other three are good to go and we are anxious to see them all out here," Houston stated.
* Nutt said OLB Alex Williams is now tipping the scales at 228 pounds, starting from 203 pounds when he reported back during the summer and went through a broken leg rehab. "Alex is getting better. He's grown. He has work to do, but the biggest thing is he has a good attitude and a lot of ability," said Nix. "If he'll continue to learn, he could be in our rotation or in the starting lineup next year, but it is real early with him. He's promising though."
* Senior Center Daverin Geralds did not dress out Friday due to chest congestion/pneumonia. In his place, senior Brandon Green was handling center duties, but also getting extensive work has been freshman A.J. Hawkins, who has been moved to center from offensive guard in preparation for next season and beyond. The word around the camp is that A.J. is catching on quickly and has gotten a lot of individual help from Geralds. All indications are that he "loves" his new position and is adapting quickly. A.J. is currently at 305 pounds with Strength & Conditioning Coach Don Decker's goal to get him to 315 pounds by next season. "He's got a lot of potential there, but has a lot to learn," noted OL Coach Mike Markuson. "I like the way he is approaching the change though."
* Freshman WR Terrell Grant has been moved to strong safety for bowl practices. Before he was moved, he set the school wide receiver record for the power clean at 311 pounds. Rebel DC Tyrone Nix likes what he has seen of Terrell at SS so far. "He's got a great body and having been a wide receiver before, we think he will have good ball skills and should be able to come down with some picks. I'm excited about the first looks at strong safety," said Nix.
* A couple of highlights from the rookie session of practice. TE Z. Mason made some nice catches from freshman QB Raymond Cotton, Cotton hit WR Melvin Harris for a 60-yard TD and TB Rodney Scott had a couple of explosive runs during the short period.
* S Tig Barksdale, LB Mike Marry and C Evan Swindall, and possibly DE Cameron Whigham, are set to start practicing Saturday. Swindall and Marry greyshirted this year while Whigham sat out a semester and Barksdale had some health issues to clear up. Marry, Swindall and Tig were all watching practice on Friday getting set for their debuts tomorrow. "We want to see Tig at safety and see what Mike can do at linebacker. We recruited Mike as a LB and that is where we think he can make an impact," said Nix.
* Senior OLB Patrick Trahan did not practice Friday. He's on crutches and in a walking boot right now seeing if he can get his troublesome foot healed up by resting it. We'll keep you posted on when he returns to workouts. "It's very frustrating. He was fine for a couple of days and now he can't walk again," Nutt noted. "He's got something there that we haven't figured out. We are sending him to Jackson Monday for more opinions. We've done all we can do with MRIs and stuff."
* We were told last week that senior DE Greg Hardy was practicing and intends to play in the bowl game, but practices were closed last weekend and we wanted to see it for ourselves. We did - Friday. Greg is practicing with a a hard protective shield on his surgically repaired wrist and appears to be doing everything everyone else is doing in practice. "This is the best he has looked in 2 1/2 months. He's quick, fast and his attitude has been outstanding," noted Houston. "I'm proud with what he is doing."
* In Trahan's absence, freshman Joel Kight is getting valuable work with the number one defense. His freshman running mate at LB, D.T. Shackelford, who has struggled most of the year with a bum ankle, appears to have taken advantage of the time off. He was moving better Friday than he has in a couple of months.
* FB E.J. Epperson sustained a slight concussion last Saturday and sat out Friday. He is expected to miss one more day and then return to action. Cotton Bowl practices have not been good to Epperson. If you recall, last year in on-campus CB workouts, Epperson dislocated his wrist and missed spring training due to the injury. Fortunately, this year's injury is not as severe.
* Senior FB Andy Hartmann did not practice last weekend in an effort to allow a sore hamstring to heal. Apparently it has. Hartmann was back in the swing of things Friday and appeared to be full speed.
* Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix met with the media after practice.
"Florida contacted me and we had some conversations. I'm happy to be a Rebel," said Nix. "It starts with our head coach and the opportunity of what we can do here considering what we have done here in a short period of time. We are looking forward to doing some good things here.
Nix basically said he had to listen to Florida.
"In this profession, you are only as good as your last win," Nix continued. "You have to maximize every opportunity and do what is best for you and your family."
Junior DE Kentrell Lockett is certainly happy Nix is staying at Ole Miss.
“It’s big. We really like the guy. We love his schemes and his energy. We love what he brings to the team. We really didn’t want him to leave. He couldn’t go. That would’ve been like the third defensive coordinator I’ve had. It would have meant new everything. I didn’t want to start out new. I’m happy he’s still with us," said Lockett.
Even though senior DE Marcus Tillman only gets one more bite from the Nix apple in the Cotton Bowl, he's happy about the Nix news as well.
“He means a lot to us. He’s very straightforward with you and only wants the best. He’s not a guy just to pick with you or single you out. I have a lot of respect for him. I love the guy," said marcus. “He wants you to come with the mindset to work. Ever since day one, he’s wanted us to get better. He’s never wanted us to let up, because he knows we have the talent to really beat people.”