Ole Miss football has begun the Freeze Era. Was great to see the red and blue to hit the field again. With these being the only two back-to-back open practices, I thought I spent today mostly watching our offense.
Today was a practice in no pads, just helmets, jerseys and shorts. Not too hot, not too cold was nice to have out there. Seen at the practice today not dressed: Senquez (not on baseball travel roster), Nick "Snoop" Brassell (academic reasons according to Hugh's presser earlier this week), and DT (still in brace and on crutches).
Biggest Questions Going Into Spring:
1) With seemingly 18 quarterbacks and no one walking in the immediate starter, who will be the signal caller?
2) Who's gonna catch whichever QB we uses' passes?
3) Who's gonna run the ball to take the pressure off the passing game besides Jeff Scott?
4) What will our offensive line look like?
5) Who are some of these coaches Hugh has brought in?1) Today in the green, no-contact jerseys at QB were Ole Miss returners Barry Brunetti, Randall Mackey, and Zack Stoudt, JUCO transfer Bo Wallace (wearing 14 this year), former greyshirt Mikhail Miller (wearing 9), and practice squad players from last year Robert Ratliff and Evan Ingram (19). In one of the first drills of the day, we had a hurry up drill where the offense went down the field and alternated between two quarterbacks and getting the play off within 15 seconds from when the play clock would start if in a game situation. The pairs of QBs were Wallace-Brunetti, Mackey-Stoudt, and a trio of Ingram-Ratliff-Miller. The Mackey-Stoudt tandem's offensive line has to work on their quickness up to the line, but didn't look like starters. Another drill done with all position players was to hold a ball, roll over one time, up, roll back the other way while coaches stood behind them and tried to strip the ball. As expected, slowest QBs were Stoudt (somewhere between three-toed sloth and Robocop) and Ratliff. By far the quickest was Brunetti, who also did a good job with ball security. The final quarterback drill was net accuracy with two diagonal holes to catch passes. Best as this drill was Bo Wallace, who can throw a friggin' rocket (so hard they will go in the net and come back out). Brunetti's arm is substantially better than last year, but still inconsistent accuracy. The most impressive that I was not expecting was Mikhail Miller, good mobility but a surprising strong and accurate arm. Don't be surprised if Mikhail Miller works his way up the depth chart. One thing they need to work on are strength of swing passes with defenders in the backfield.
2) In the receiving corps, we have a good brood coming back obviously. Donte Moncrief looks good (almost made a one-handed circus catch, but hooked it up too high and it came down and was intercepted). Vincent Sanders will be a big factor, as will Tobias Singleton. Nick Brassell sat out today (Hugh Kellenburger with cheese said he probably would b/c academics), but was there. At tight end, Jamal Mosley could be a great fit in his offense and Ferbia Allen should perform well there too. But keep your eyes on a few other guys. Korvic Neat is really quick, but his hands are still iffy. If he can get them improved, he'll fit in well in this offense. Philander Moore's hands have vastly improved from last year and he could be a real good slot receiver. Terrell Grant got a good amount of targets on go routes. Don't know if a lack of speed on his end or overthrown by Wallace, but missed on two. Would like to see how Snoop would do with those. Didn't see a whole lot of targets towards Ja-Mes Logan, but was there and had a few. Seems to be back on the straightened arrow after the "Circle of Untrustables" from last year.
3) In the running game, we have Jeff Scott (who is made for this offense), but without Brandon Bolden and Enricky, who else we got? Nick Parker and Devin Thomas both look good. Nick looks like Paul Jackson has gotten him in phenomenal shape. His burst through the offensive line is great. Will be a really good power back for the 40-50 running plays we may see per game this year. Devin Thomas did have some good runs and had a long touchdown run down the right side. With Scott, he looks stronger. He's hitting holes off tackle and getting into the linebacking corps quickly. Changing directions tighter than I've seen out of him in the past. Did see a lot of two running back sets with a RB on each of the QBs hips, especially in that hurry up drill we saw from the quarterbacks. Could be one of our really surprising units this year.
4) The offensive line on the interior looks pretty solid, but edges are weak. Emmanuel McCray got a majority of 1st team reps at left tackle, but the edges were the noticeably weak part of the offense. Gotta see how Matt Luke does putting these guys into the right group. They still have some work to do with Paul Jackson to work on endurance and speed getting up to the line.
5) The coaches brought in have earned there respect quickly. Dan Werner has a track record that gets him respect (made Seth Adams into a moderately serviceable SEC quarterback) and the quarterbacks we have now (outside of Stoudt) have all made good improvements.
Matt Luke is doing a good bit of teaching with these o linemen to take them from Mike Markuson heavy-footed behemoths to quicker on their feet spread linemen.
Grant Heard may be young, but he's going to be a really good wide receivers coach. He's barking at his guys all the time to get them to be more precise in their routes and stronger in their hands. He had them circle 4 cones 1 and a half times and catch a pass coming out. Really light on their feet and agile.
Derrick Nix looked revitalized under this new regime. Spent a good amount of time working on running backs picking up the blitz today, something I never saw for more than 5 minutes under the Giggitus.
I didn't get a good look at Allen, Kiffin or Wommack today, so I'll let you know more about them in tomorrow's report. THEN, there's The Crimedog, Wesley McGriff. I had fully intended to mostly focus on the offense from the moment I got there, but Crimedog changed that. He's loud, he's intense, he's in your face and barks at his guys the whole time. On passing skeletons and 7-on-7's, the defensive backs coaches were all screaming at the secondary to rip the ball out for the whole 30 minutes or so. McGriff is the first one to congratulate players after a good play, but won't take any lip of explanation. Today, Denzel played good coverage on Collins Moore (I think) coming out of the slot, but Collins was still able to make the catch. When Coach McGriff called him on it, Denzel tried to explain himself, to which he was met with "Don't talk. Its yes sir or no sir."
Coach Freeze is right in the thick of things too. On one of the hurry up drills, Terrell Grant took a step and Hugh let him know he saw it with "Oh my God Terrell!" After the offense had reached the endzone, Hugh walked back toward sideline with Terrell and had a little chat with him one-on-one.
There are some very noticeable differences from the past few years though. First, they play music through the entire practice and ,cover your ears because I'm about to blow your mind, it isn't all rap. In fact, mostly stuff that it sounds like the coaching staff would more listen to than the players. Secondly, there is a respect for the coaching staff that I don't recall seeing as much of in the past. Thirdly, and the most important, the effort on both sides of the ball is night and day different from last year. Taking care of business in getting to the line, giving more effort on catching the ball, running the routes, finding a hole, whatever it may be. Part of that effort comes from them just looking like they are having fun out there.
That's gonna be it from the first day out. Waiting to see how this team will look in pads and how that will effect the offense's speed. Hope to see all y'all in Oxford out tomorrow morning at 10:30. I'll be sure to put more on here tomorrow about the defense.