Last night, alcopaul and I drove up from Jackson to stay the night, witness the scrimmage, and enjoy Oxford. We joined EtOHRebel to watch the practice, and we tried to pay legitimate attention to the goings on and ensure we had good information for you all. It's long and fact-laden, but I think that;s what you want and expect from us. We're not going to spend time rehashing the same stuff, and we're going to try to avoid telling you what to think about players.
Today was my first chance to see the Rebels practice this Summer, and I wasn't let down. My friends and I both came away thinking it was the most encouraging practice we had ever seen. I'll get into why later, but suffice it to say that while we may not be good, I think we'll be improved from last season.
This report will be a different style than normal (bullet points as opposed to micro-anecdotes). A ton happened, and in order to keep it readable (and ensure that this wouldn't take us several hours to write), we felt that this approach was the best option. EtOH compiled this with me, so credit goes equally to him. We've broken the report down by position, thinking that'd be the easiest way for anyone to skim this for whatever information it is that they're looking for.
No bad snaps from the centers today in any formation..
Marcus Temple - Stayed near line of scrimmage; was beaten by Ja-mes on a pass to the sideline; overall a good day.
Kyle Horine - gave up huge touchdown pass to Terrell Grant; EtOH swears he was running. I think he was walking.
Wesley Pendleton - Nothing exciting, wasn't noticably beaten, is fast and skinny.
Charles Sawyer - Excellent. Our best corner by far. Absolutely blanketed every single receiver; only pass given up was to Melvin Harris.
Senquez Golson - Obviously talk was about whether he would sign his new contract offer with the Boston Red Sox. Played a surprisingly large amount. Had three PBUs, all of which were due to wonderful positioning. Played some linebacker; not sure how to take that.
Nickolas Brassell - Played corner sparingly; blanketed Tobias Singleton on one pass. It looks like he rolled his ankle or something, as he hobbled off of the field late in practice.
Kentrell Lockett - Didn't penetrate but was out there a ton. Had a pick where he batted a Brunetti ball to himself and almost took it for six, but was tackled at the two. Bradley Sowell actually performed quite well against him.
Gerald Rivers - Blocked two field goals; chased the quarterback pretty well.
Jason Jones - Nicked up early, but he stopped the run well. Won't be in for pass rushing situations, I don't imagine.
Wayne Dorsey - Played the run and pass well. If he doesn't make an impact this year, it will surprise me.
Carlos Thompson - Easily our best speed rusher. Had three sacks today against poor lines. Forced a fumble.
Cameron Whigham - Had a sack. EtOH hasn't noticed him much this Fall. Not a speed guy.
Uriah Grant - going to start. He penetrated more than any other defensive tackle, but that's not saying a lot.
Bryon Bennett - Was involved in a sack with the help of CJ Johnson.
Justin Smith - He will probably end up being the other starter along one of the Madison Central guys. Not incredible, but servicable.
Carlton Martin - Played a lot, had a couple of tackles. Overall though, the DTs were not the stars of the day
GIlbert Pena - Also mediocre. Big.
HR Greer - Had a gorgeous block against Wayne Dorsey on a Randall Mackey scramble, one that would make the highlight reel. Also had a TD run out of the wishbone, which it looks like we will be running in short yardage/goal line situations. With the depth we have on the offensive line, I like this move.
Earnest Harmon - Probably our fastest fullback (to untrained eyes). Not going to play this year probably.
EJ Epperson - He was hurt. No, I don't know the details.
Bryson Rose - Dude's got a boot, and he's quite consistent. He made a 47 yard field goal which looked nice. Overall a good day
Andrew Ritter - Has not improved accuracy. Missed a 35 yarder from the left hash. Why are we giving this guy a scholarship?
Chris Conley - The inbound sophomore booted two great punts. So did Tyler Campbell. We'll be fine in the "knocking a football 55 yards downfield" department. I don't know if our punters can kick a decent coffin corner or keep a ball inside of the ten yard line without it bouncing into the endzone, but in situations where those kicks aren't necessary, they'll flip the field.
Serderius Bryant - Had a scoop and score. Looked alright.
CJ Johnson - Had one solid sack of Brunetti. It was a nasty hit that knocked Brunetti's helmet off. Other than that, not much. Played a lot. Struggles getting off blocks and oftentimes looks hesitant out there. His upside is there though, and he is one of our defense's most aggressive tacklers even as a true freshman. When he hits people, they go down.
Joel Kight - Blew up a toss to Devin Thomas. He's got above average speed for LB and looks excellent when he's rushing the passer.
Keith Lewis - Tackled a second string player after a two yard gain on a pass to the flats. He's the freshman most deserving and ready to play, in my opinion.
Mike Marry - He was injured.
Ralph WIlliams - He is bigger than I remembered, and uses that size well. He holds his own against the run.
I'm not going to focus on individual linemen here, but instead give my brief thoughts on the unit as a whole. I think the line did a good job creating holes and running lanes, just as any Markuson line does. They struggled more in pass protection. Emmanuel McCray should not be a left tackle. He's the LT of the future for South Alabama. I say we get Aaron Morris ready to take that role on in the future an let McGray rotate at the guard spots. Sowell was mentioned earlier as doing well against Lockett, and Bobby Massie looks comfortable at RT.
Barry Brunetti - Led a fantastic opening drive where he picked up a great first down on third and long. He proved his ability to run quite well on a 25 yard option keeper. Overall, he made seemingly good decisions but struggled a bit with execution. A criticism people have had of him since he was in high school showed up today when he had some difficulty throwing deep.
Randall Mackey - Honestly, I liked his game more than Brunetti's today, but they're really neck and neck. You'd kinda wish that one of them would just show out and leave the other in the dust, because I think we're all tired (hell, you know David Lee is tired) of having to guess who will start against BYU. Anyway, Mackey had one beautiful roll out pass to Philander Moore that went for 40 yards. He continues looking down field and still feels pressure coming, something which I haven't seen a Rebel quarterback do since Eli Manning.
Zack Stoudt - He would play well for a team that could really give him a lot of time in protection. Whenever there's any pressure, he gets flustered. Struggled heavily with players in the backfield. He does have a good arm, though. So he's got real value to this squad.
Devin Thomas - Had several good runs. He will contribute a little this year and probably a lot next year, which is great considering how we've been waiting on this guy to get his shot for several years now.
Nick Parker - He looks like he's got the potential to be a beast. He's not incredibly fast, and he runs too high, but he had an incredible 20 yard run where he picked up a head of steam and wouldn't have been tackled even if a player had put a finger on him (which they didn't). He's got a big body and uses it very well.
Enrique Davis - I'm a Davis doubter, but he ran quite well today, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him finally be an effective back as a senior.
Chevarlez "Chief" Brown - Chief manned up on third team. Looked lost at times. He'll play this year but only on special teams. I'm hoping he will be a good one in the future.
Frank Crawford - Tackled well; didn't seem like he was only a coverage guy. Did knock the ball out of Brassell's hands on a great play.
Brishen Matthews - While we run the 4-2-5, it's really more of a 4-3 look because Brishen plays up like a linebacker so often. He hits hard, but overpursued on one option keeper that really cost him. He won't be an all-SEC guy, but he'll give us a lot of work over the next few seasons.
Tanner Burns - I had no real expectations for him, even though he led San Jose State in tackles two seasons ago, so I was happy to see him perform well. He had one spectacular play in coverage where he lept over a receiver (don't remember who) and would have had a nice interception had the receiver not knocked it out of his hands.
Cody Prewitt - He's probably not physically or mentally ready. Has a nice frame, but the pace of the game is obviously different from what he's used to (private school ball is worlds slower than public school ball in Mississippi).
Denzel Nkemdiche - The late signee made several plays to stop the run. He read Zack Stoudt's eyes on an out route and was an inch away from a beautiful pick where he broke up the pass but couldn't come down with it.
Aaron Garbutt - We remember that he made a good play and looked fast. We remember nothing about the play.
Damien Jackson - Absolutely destroyed Nick Brassell on an end-around. Didn't do too much other than that. He'll look good for us this fall though. He plays hard and has a nice nose for the ball.
Jamal Mosley - Dropped a pass on his knees where he was wide open. It wasn't a great pass, but I don't think even Mosley would blame the quarterback for the incompletion. Mosley is a major component. We put him in motion often to create mismatches. I see the Rebels using him a lot this fall in red zone situations.
Ferbia Allen - Used his body well for a touchdown catch. Will play a lot but is obviously second to Mosley. I think David Lee really likes the tight ends he has to work with this fall.
Nick Brassell - Didn't have a catch, but he almost caught a beautiful ball he had to come back for. It wasn't his fault at all that he didn't make the catch, as he had the corner beat, but Brunetti couldn't quite put it in front of him.
Donte Moncrief - Moncrief's an incredibly crisp route runner with solid hands. We referred to him today as a sophomore Shay Hodge because that's exactly who he reminds most of us of. He ran a tight hook route for a touchdown. Moncreif will be heavily involved in the receiver rotation this fall.
Tobias Singleton - He is not ready to play in the SEC. They threw to him a lot, but he struggled for it. He's just not fighting enough for the ball when it's in the air. If he doesn't redshirt, it's because the coaches promised they'd let him play as a freshman.
Ja-Mes Logan - Easily our best returning receiver. He's a great possession guy who catches the ball with his hands.
Terrell Grant - Ran straight. caught a pass with no one on him (something with which he has struggled all week), and continued running straight. Thanked Kyle Horine for the opportunity.
3 Overall impressions:
1. Our secondary has never looked this competent. Could it be the freshmen and incoming junior college transfers? Could it be Keith Burns? It's honestly likely a little bit of both. I think that the newfound speed in the defensive backfield gives us some opportunities, and Burns has a proven track record with successful defensive backs, so I am optimistic that the Rebel secondary in 2011 will not be as abysmal is that of 2010.
2. Our defensive line got pressure, but the OL held up. I like a lot of the talent we have at defensive line, especially defensive end. We'll have a serviceable tackle rotation, but at the ends we've got a nice mix of veteran skill and young talent.
3. The freshmen really are that good. They're awesome. I know we've been fawning over these guys but, truly, this may be the best freshman class Ole Miss has had in the modern era of college football. There's just so much speed, size, and potential with guys like CJ Johnson, Donte Moncrief, Aaron Morris, Nickolas Brassell, Chief Brown, Tobias Singleton, Senquez Golson (PLEASE DON'T SIGN WITH BOSTON), and others.
Your impressions of yesterday's practice?