About this time every fall camp, the grind, as it is affectionately known, starts to take its toll on every football team. Despite that normality, the Rebels had a relatively productive practice Tuesday morning, but Coach Hugh Freeze wants a little more fighting through the doldrums.
It’s real and it hinders every team in America around mid-August. How a team fights through it is the key.
“We were kind of ho-hum for a good portion of the practice today,” noted Freeze. “It’s the grind, but everyone is going through it. The thing I have always said is that one thing we have that is equal to our opponents is time and the more we get out of our time, the better prepared we will be. We did some good things, but some of the periods we showed a little drudgery. That is a little frustrating, but I am sure I am our worst critic.”
The good side is that the Rebel offense continued to show signs of getting more consistent in the Red Ball period.
“We’ve had two really good days of that. We didn’t put it in the end zone today – we kind of stalled down deep a couple of times, but it was because I made a couple of bad calls and put Bo (Wallace) in a bad situation a couple of times,” said Freeze. “We definitely moved the chains though and are doing better staying on schedule.”
On the defensive side, Freeze also saw some good thigns.
“Defense won the team competition at the end and played crisp,” Freeze noted.
The head man was asked about the Rebel run game.
“We’ve been sporadic, but I will say this – I will be very disappointed if our defense is not pretty good against the run with the stuff they do,” Freeze allowed. “I think it is very difficult to have consistent runs against them with the things they do. As for us, maybe we will experience more success against other folks who don’t have the same understanding of what we do as our defense does. I hope that is it, anyway, because we have been inconsistent there. We were inconsistent in fall camp last year as well, but once we started going against other defenses, we were OK.”
* By this time every year, most of the starters are known. There may be two or three battles going on for the right to start, but the majority of the position battles have a clear leader. While starting, per say, is not as critical at most positions as it used to be due to coaches now wanting to use a two-deep – if available – regularly, a key question is always “who are the backups?” We are nearing the final stages of a two-deep we hope to unveil this week (as if you don’t already know most of it), but some names that keep popping up on the “important backup” list are as follows:
MLB Keith Lewis – The coaches are very excited about what Keith brings to the table. Make no mistake, Mike Marry is the starter and leader of the unit, but there are some situations where Keith is better and he will be utilized accordingly. DC Dave Wommack has talked about using Lewis in third-down packages, obvious passing downs and as the third LB in 4-3 sets. He is being factored in by the coaches as an important cog to this defense.
Safety Chief Brown is capable of playing both safety slots – free and rover – and is actually pushing hard to start. Obviously, he will be the third safety and may end up playing as much as starters Trae Elston and Cody Prewitt. Nice luxury to have – a guy who is considered a third starter at a two-position area.
DT Carlton Martin has been a player of excellent talent since he arrived on campus, but he has not reached his potential to this point. The coaches are now saying the light is shining brighter and Carlton has lined himself up for some serious playing time in the DT rotation. Carlton is the strongest player on the team in the weight room, by the way.
CB Dehendret Collins has been getting all the first-team reps this fall with Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson both sidelined. Guess what? They may have a hard time getting their jobs back when they return. Dehendret, according to the coaches, is doing that well. At the very least, he will be the third corner and should get significant playing time.
Keep an eye on the progress of D.T. Shackelford at defensive end in pass rush situations. He has a knack for coming off the edge. . . Also, DE Carlos Thompson has made himself viable for playing time, despite missing a few games with a concussion.
* Freshman TB Mark Dodson now weighs an extremely fit and full 197 pounds. When he reported this summer, he weighed in at 188. Nine good pounds have been added to his frame.
* Despite rumors (lies) from across the state, South actually, that he has left Ole Miss, freshman TB Kailo Moore was at practice Tuesday morning, but he only stayed a few minutes and did not participate. He is overcoming the effects of a concussion, despite the rumor that the concussion story is a cover-up for him leaving. Sometimes those folks, you know who I am talking about, are good for some laughs. “He should be running some tonight and we will move forward from there,” added Freeze.
* Freshman DE Robert Nkemdiche sat out Tuesday morning’s practice with some tightness from a muscle pull he sustained Saturday in the scrimmage. There didn’t seem to be a lot of concern for a quick return. “He’s got a groin pull. He could have gone today, but we want him healthy so we rested him today,” noted Freeze. “We want to get everyone going into next week as healthy as possible.”
* DT Issac Gross practiced again Tuesday morning and went through full team drills with LOS contact and the whole ball of wax. Good sign. Gross, by the by, weighed 248 pounds when he played as a true freshman last year. He weighs 254 now. “He went the whole practice and had another good day,” said Freeze. “He’s a competitor and will get right, I feel.”
* In the Red Ball (tempo) periods, the offense seemed to retain the spark they had Monday. QB Bo Wallace looked particularly sharp finding Laquon Treadwell, who was playing the number one slot position, Ja-Mes Logan twice and Jordan Holder for first-down gains. TB Jaylen Walton also ripped off a 20-yard run with the ones. Bo showed good zip on the ball and made quick, good decisions in the periods the media was allowed to watch.
* The two offense also struck for a TD when QB Barry Brunetti found a leaping Quincy Adeboyejo for a 51-yard TD.
* DE C.J. Johnson had a couple of good days on his comeback bid, but was rested some this morning. “He could have gone, but he was feeling some pain after two really good practices yesterday,” said Hugh. “He changes us up front when he out there so we want him healthy and are not going to push it.”
* OLB Denzel Nkemdiche is taking on more and more of a role of a leader on the defense and he’s also a media favorite to interview. How does he feel the defense has done thus far in camp? “We’ve done well. We are still giving up a few too many big plays, but we will tighten that up,” said Denzel. “We are two springs and a season into this defense, so we know it a lot better. That’s allowing us to play faster and execute better. We’ll get the right guys out there and they will know what to do. That will eliminate a lot of big plays. I feel good about the young guys who are likely to play. I know our coaches won’t put them in positions to fail and will not put them out there until they are ready to execute the calls. They are meshing well. They are not playing as fast as they can because they are still learning, but give them some time and they will be good.”
* What are Freeze’s plans for Vandy preparation? “Ten days out, we will work a few periods a day on them and then we will go into the normal game week preparations during game week,” he noted. “It’s still about us right now.”
* DE Cameron Whigham has come back from a concussion last week and has drawn kudos from Freeze. “He’s so solid. He knows what we are doing and was solid last year,” Freeze ended. “Cameron is real good against the run.”
— Chuck Rounsaville, Publisher of OMSpirit.com