Fall practice began today on the practice fields under partly sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-90s and a "real feel" AccuWeather noted was 110 degrees.
But the Rebs weathered the heat and put up what Coach Houston Nutt called "a good start."
"It's good to get back on the field with these guys. We had a lot of good effort, despite it being very, very hot today," Nutt began. "For the first day, we moved around well, especially on defense. The offense started out good but as the day wore on in some good-on-good, the speed of the game caught up with us a little on that side of the ball.
"It was a good first day. We didn't have many balls on the ground and that's a good sign with brand new centers. I thought the quarterbacks threw the ball well too."
Nutt had high praise for QB Nathan Stanley, number one entering the fall camp.
"I was very proud of where he is coming back in to camp. His knowledge of the offense is very good and he threw the ball very well," said Nutt. "I was even more suprised with how accurate Randall Mackey threw the ball - very accurate for the first day out."
The media in attendance, naturally, turned Nutt's attendance quickly to the "new guy" - QB Jeremiah Masoli.
"For not having played QB since the Rose Bowl, Jeremiah did a good job today. He doesn't know the plays well yet, but still made some good reads and throws," Nutt continued. "We also worked some option in, which we already had planned with Mackey. He's so natural in the option game. It's a natural fit for him in reading and optioning the ends and linebackers.
"He realizes he has to be patient with the new terminology - it sounds like Chinese to him right now, but I thought he handled things really well. Randall and Jeremiah did a real good job for their first day out. He has a really good huddle presence. We did the right thing for our team by bringing him in.
"I am also glad Witt Haggard and Evan Ingram are here. They are good young QBs as well."
Nutt was also pleased with the look of some of the newcomers. Off the top of his head, he mentioned a few that stood out.
"(RB) Jeff Scott is lightning fast, (DE) Carlos Thompson and (DT) Carlton Martin didn't act like freshmen today," he stated. "I can see why they were rated as high as they were when I see them out here with the veterans. Nicholas Parker is a tough, tough guy. He never wants to leave the field and always wants more. All we are missing are our wideouts - we need them here."
Nutt was also asked about the departure of Tig Barksdale.
"I think a lot of him. I think he is a good person and I wish him the best. I have a lot of hope for him - he has been raised right and has a lot of good in him," said Nutt. "He just has a tough situation and I am praying for him to get some personal issues straightened out. Who knows? One day maybe he'll be back here."
With the summer fight incident with RB Rodney Scott, Nutt was asked if there will be any disciplinary action.
"We've worn him out pretty good with extra running and things, and that will continue, but I don't anticipate him missing a game," Nutt closed.
* Roughly 500 Rebel fans braved the heat for the first practice, but that did not surprise Nutt. "We've got a lot of momentum going right now. A lot of people are excited about football at Ole miss," he said.
* It appears that freshman Deep Snapper Will Denny is going to get a good shot at being "the guy" this fall. Wesley Phillips, who hurt his knee in a spring accident, will not be allowed to go through full contact work for a while, leaving Denny with an opening.
The first look of watching him snap indicates he has a real knack for it, with snap and accuracy in his snaps, both placements and punts. Good start for the frosh in an area of need as the Rebels replace Preston Powers, very reliable during his whole career.
* As has already been reported, RB Tim Simon is not at practice. He's still rehabbing the devastating knee injury from a year ago.
* It was good to see DE Justin Smith (foot) and DE Jason Jones (knee) back in the fold and running around with authority again. Both looked rusty, as expected, but both look the part of being able to contribute to this team.
* There was talk back in the spring that RB Devin Thomas may decide to transfer if he did not think he was going to get more playing time this fall. He opted against leaving and was going full bore at practice today.
* WR Markeith Summers had been known for a couple of years for his dredlocks. He's got a close-cropped haircut now. It's time for him to show his stuff as a senior. He must lead the wideouts. And don't look now, but Markeith was fielding punts with Jesse Grandy as well today, something we have never seen him do in the past.
* Korvic Neat worked all spring at running back, but he's been moved to wide receiver now. He responded today by catching one long ball from Masoli in tight coverage by Marcus Temple. He got his body between Temple and the ball and held on to it despite some pretty heavy contact as the ball arrived. Neat also showed his speed on a good gainer off a reverse.
* LG Alex "Tank" Washington is not where he wants to be weight-wise, but he has obviously shed some pounds over the summer and it's not only apparent in his look. It's apparent in his movement, the thing that has separated Tank from playing time in the early part of his career.
* Freshman RT Terrell Brown may not be just a big body. Yes, he's 6-11. Yes, he weighed in yesterday at 410 pounds. Yes, he can get out of his stance and move a little. More impressive than we anticipated.
* The personal protector on the punt team has to be sharp, tough and active. He has to recognize and call fronts and do it quickly. He's the last line of defense from a punt being blocked. Can't think of a better candidate with those qualifications than D.T. Shackelford.
* There is little doubt the top five OL are Bradley Sowell, Alex Washington, A.J. Hawkins, Rishaw Johnson and Bobby Massie, but the offensive line meeting room has certainly gotten bigger lately with the addition of Brown, Terrance Hackney, Patrick Juden, Jared Duke and Matt Hall. Not to mention Emmanuel McCray, Michael Brown and Josh Tatum, who are large young men in their own right. Things are looking up on the OL, although a lot of them are very young.
* Speaking of Duke, he reported back in the summer at 365 pounds on his 6-6 frame. He's lost down to 348 and has a goal of 330. But first things first. Like all true frosh OL, his head is spinning. Patience, rookie, patience.
* Speaking of a room looking better, quarterback is night and day from spring training with the addition of Masoli and Mackey, two superb athletes, and even Haggard and Ingram look like they know what they are doing and have pretty decent mechanics and arms. Major upgrade from spring.
* We tried to watch Masoli's throwing motion closely. From our look, he has a short, snappy release and gets the ball out quickly with good velocity. It also appears he fairly comfortable throwing on the run, but this may be a premature judgment based on one practice from a guy who has not played any QB since the Rose Bowl.
* South Panola WR Snoop Brassell was at practice today. The fact that he visits Ole Miss frequently on his own has to be a good early sign of his interest level.
* Another SP product, Nick Parker, is being used as a swing back, playing both fullback and tailback right now.
* A player who has not only changed his body for the better, but has also changed his demeanor and his outlook is TB Enrique Davis. His approach to football and in general is so much more positive now. You can see it in the way he runs the ball with authority and the way he carries himself with confidence. Good to see.
* Rookie CB Cliff Coleman got a rep on a slant pattern and did a decent job covering it. CB Coach Chris Vaughn raced on the field and said "that play right there showed me I don't have to send you back to Florida. It showed me I can work with you."
Of course, it was said jokingly, but it meant, "son, I see potential."
* WR Ja-Mes Logan started spring like gangbusters, but tapered off at the end, meaning a good summer was needed. Although it was just one practice, Ja-Mes had an excellent day, making several nice catches, one on a deep ball from Stanley over his opposite shoulder. He needs to keep trucking. Melvin Harris also showed he's worked hard in the offseason. He too had a productive day when he got some opportunities.
* The battle at corner has heated up, apparently. Jeremy McGee, Temple and Charles Sawyer all split reps with the number one defense. In fact, Sawyer appeared to get the most reps of any of them. Speaking of corner, Frank Crawford is now working at corner after working at number two safety all spring. That moved Terrell Grant, a converted wideout who went through spring at safety, to the fourth safety slot, for now.
* OLB Mike Marry had an interception today on a crossing route he read perfectly. He jumped high in the air, made the catch and raced for a score untouched.
* Even though the backfield is crowded, there's little doubt in our mind that Derrick Herman has a role, either catching the ball out of the backfield or making something happen with his quick feet at straight TB. The guy just makes plays with the ball in his hands - he makes people miss.
* TB Rodney Scott also flashed his speed and moves today on a run, getting to the open field and then making two DBs miss with quick outside moves. Nice.
* As Nutt said, Jeff Scott also showed why he clocked a 10.3 100 meters. Cat can motor.
* TE Z. Mason, in an effort to get more flexible and athletic, has lost from 270 pounds down to 255, by design.
* Media Day is tomorrow morning. Practice begins tomorrow at 5:15 and is open to the public again.