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Cool Wednesday Practice in August

Laquon Treadwell Photo courtesy of OMSpirit.com Chuck Rounsaville
Laquon Treadwell
Photo courtesy of OMSpirit.com Chuck Rounsaville

Amazing. Mid-70s temperatures greeted the Rebels when they took the practice fields for Wednesday morning’s practice. Is it mid-August or mid-October?

Unseasonably cool temperatures greeted the Rebels in their Wednesday morning workout.

What? Temperatures in the 70’s in Mississippi in August? Yes, that anomaly took place and the Rebs basked in it.

“Phenomenal weather,” said Coach Hugh Freeze. “Great. We certainly should have been able to have some great work done and we did have great spirit.”

But it seems like, according to Freeze, the Rebel defense took advantage of the cooler conditions more than the offense did.

“The defense dominated every phase of the practice except one-on-one passing drill. We didn’t match their spirit on offense – hopefully we will tonight.”

The grind of August is relevant and is becoming apparent, but Freeze said there’s no easy way around it.

“The only way for coaches to pull them through it is to demand it. I don’t know of another way,” Hugh noted. “We have to demand they bring their best every day and give us great focus and energy. See the big picture. All we have to go against right now is each other and we still have a long way to go.”

Random Notes:

* The battle cry from Freeze is to get them completely healthy before Vandy in regards to the injured. . . . DE C.J. Johnson, after a couple of good days on the comeback trail, sat out today with soreness. . . Ditto on LB/DE D.T. Shackelford. . . CB Senquez Golson and S Brishen Mathews are still nursing hamstring pulls. . . CB Charles Sawyer is expected to return Monday. . . Slot Receiver Korvic Neat is out with a swollen knee. . . Freshman DE Robert Nkemdiche missed today’s morning practice trying to get a pulled groin healed up. . . . OGPatrick Junen is still not practicing, but the hope is he will start back Vandy game week. “Some of our handling of injuries is precautionary, but I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth if I said it doesn’t concern me,” said Freeze. “We have a lot of nagging things that don’t seem to want to go away. Senquez is coming along nicely – he ran today and looked good. Charles looks good, Junen looks good, Brishen looks good, Korvic will be ready to go tomorrow – we just wanted the swelling to go down on his knee. Herbert Moore’s shoulder popped out but he should be back in a couple of days.”

* Freshman TB Kailo Moore dressed out Monday morning and went through a lot of the non-contact work, but is still being held from contact due to the process of coming back from a concussion. Guess his attendance derails the rumor-mongering about his departure, huh? “As long as he ran today and had no symptoms, and can run some again tonight with no symptoms, he should be full go tomorrow,” said Freeze. “We are excited about his speed, but we have to make sure he knows what to do before we put him out there.”

* Slipped by us – the departure of DE Kameron Wood and backup Center Austin Douglas. It’s simple – both want to play more or start and will go to “smaller” college teams. Most are saying North Alabama for both, but that’s not carved in stone either. The handwriting was on the wall for Wood – too many players in front of him; but Douglas was penciled in as Evan Swindall’s backup. Where does that leave the center position? Robert Conyers has been moved there and Ben Still is getting a harder look as well. We’ll see. . . .”I like that Robert is long. He brings length to the position. His snaps are getting better and he has good quickness,” said Freeze. “I am anxious to see the films on him today. I know he and Ben got beat some on one-on-one, but we have to get them ready.”

* Yesterday, we took a look at some of the players beyond the “starters” who appear to be making a strong move at playing time, possibly significant playing time. Here are a few more:

Patrick Junen was penciled in to start at right guard at the end of last season and was living up to that billing in spring prior to injuring both his wrist and toe, that both required offseason surgery. Meanwhile, Justin Bell, a journeyman most of his career, was promoted to first team and has been there ever since. Justin, according to S&C Coach Paul Jackson, had a solid offseason and thus far in August camp has held his own. It’s hard to project who will win the job when Junen comes back at this point, but suffice it to say Bell has, at the very least, made himself viable and has earned the trust of OL Coach Matt Luke with the work he has done in both spring and fall.

This is old news, but something that hasn’t been touched on in a while. OLB Serderius Bryant is not going to beat out All-SEC performer Denzel Nkemdiche, but he will get plenty of action this year as Denzel’s backup, and rightfully so. Serderius committed himself in the offseason to getting in the best shape of his career and he’s playing with more discipline. The result is that he makes plays daily and that’s hard to bench. He’s a valuable part of the defense.

DE Channing Ward got caught in a trick bag last year. He was declared academically eligible midway through August practice, got behind in all the installs, stayed confused most of the season and just never caught up. It was like falling behind in Calculus – you ain’t going to catch up. Spring training gave DL Coach Chris Kiffin more time to work with Channing and now he is up to speed with his assignments, playing faster and making plays. He will play this year and only get better and better.

Slot Receiver Jordan Holder, son of former Rebel Jamie Holder, got lost in the shuffle last year. While most of the early talk this year at wideout has been centered around Laquon Treadwell and Quincy Adeboyejo, Jordan has quietly gone about making himself a viable option in the slot. He is earning a spot in the WR rotation and making plays when the opportunity arises. “Jordan is on his way to earning playing time. It’s too early to say he will or won’t, but it would not shock me at all if he does. He’s had a great camp and he loves Ole Miss,” said Freeze.

Q. Burdette played safety in spring, and most of last year, but with his speed, the coaches opted to try him at corner. While he still has a lot to learn, he’s been getting a full dose of first team reps with Senquez Golson and Charles Sawyer out with injury. Those quality reps, according to the coaches, have accelerated his development and he is on the cusp of being a contributor at a position the Rebels need help.

There may not be enough room at the inn, so to speak, when all is said and done, but John Youngblood’s move from tight end to defensive end in spring is starting to pay dividends. If all the defensive ends stay healthy, John May not get a lot of playing time this year, but he is setting himself up to be in the rotation in the future. His calling cards are intelligence and a knack for the position. Being more aggressive is his challenge, but that seems to be coming in spurts.

This will come as no surprise, but sophomore TBs Jaylen Walton and I’tavius Mathers have made the jump the coaches were hoping for in order to be able to take some of the load off of Jeff Scott. Enough so that Scott has now returned to full time punt return duties. Scott returning punts, it says here, would not have happened unless there was complete confidence in Walton and Mathers. Freshman Mark Dodson is quickly moving into that echelon as well.

* Rebel Basketball Coach Andy Kennedy attended practice today and got his first look at the Rebel football team. “We are looking better and better from a physical standpoint,” he said. “I like our look just a year-and-a-half into this program.”

* Freshman Husky Tony Connor got some first team reps this morning in the Red Ball period. . . Carlos Thompson was also running with the one defense at DE.

* In Red Ball, the number one offense drove down the field to the Red Zone with series of intermediate passes from Bo Wallace to Ja-Mes Logan, Laquon Treadwell and Donte Moncrief, but the offense was shut down from scoring with a pair of pass breakups, one by MLB Keith Lewis, the other by Rover Trae Elston.

* Freeze was asked about the development of Nick Parker at TE. “His transition has been a bit of a roller-coaster, but he has some gifts. He has good hands and can catch the ball. He’s not as physical as he needs to be at the point of attack, but he’s coming on,” said Freeze. “We are going to have to have him.”

— Chuck Rounsaville, OMSpirit.com Publisher

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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