August 2013 Archives
Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 high school recruit in the nation last year, is slated to start at defensive end, opposite junior C.J. Johnson, in his first college game.
His position coach, Chris Kiffin, and the other coaches are confident in Nkemdiche, and if anything, they will have to guard against his emotions and overexcitement.
"What we have been battling all fall camp is the notion that he feels that he has to make every play," Kiffin said. "We're trying to get him to play within the defense. Especially going out in the first game, I can't fathom the amount of pressure on him outside of all the other stuff. If he can just understand to go out and play the game like he has the last four weeks, then he will be fine.
"He's done a great job for a young guy coming in and having to learn the defense," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "There have been some issues with him jumping offsides, but you would rather have that then have a good who's sitting back. He's eager to play, very excited. Robert is as advertised."
Nkemdiche came a long way during fall practice, Kiffin said, from when he ran the first-team defense as early as Aug. 5, to entering his first college game.
"I was impressed with him picking up the defense like he did," Kiffin said. "He still has mistakes, obviously, but throwing him in right away, I think it was perfect for him. There was no, so to say, learning curve. The first two weeks, he was thrown in there, and we coached on the run.
"He would stay after meetings, just him and I, to go over that film, and then slow down and coach. Let him go full speed on the field, make a quick correction here and there, then in the film room, explain why he was doing something wrong and how it needs to be done."
Kiffin said Nkemdiche's technique "has varied," and "it's been up and down," but having gone back to watch film of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's freshman season, he said he saw a lot of the same things -- natural athleticism and making plays -- from Nkemdiche.
"I have seen both of them doing the wrong thing a number of times and making plays," Kiffin said. "So I'm not trying not to overcoach him. I want him to make plays and not play tentative. That stuff will come with experience."
A big challenge on Thursday will be getting Nkemdiche acclimated and handling the pressure of starting in his first college game.
"I talked to some of the older guys about it too, Cameron Whigham and C.J. Johnson," Kiffin said. "I got him rooming with C.J. Johnson on purpose the night before," Kiffin said. "I think that will be good for him, and out there as the game goes on, between plays and on the sidelines between series, those guys talking to him.
"It can't just be me every time. Those guys actually did it themselves. C.J. sees everything out there, so he's going to know if something is going on with Robert and let him know about it."
Freshmen In The Passing Game
Junior wide receiver Vince Sanders (collarbone) and senior Korvic Neat (knee) both suffered injuries during fall practice. With their injuries, freshman wide receivers Laquon Treadwell and Quincy Adeboyejo have taken on bigger roles in the Ole Miss offense.
Treadwell is slated to start at slot receiver, while Adeboyejo is a backup at one of the two outside receiver spots but will likely figure in the rotation on Thursday.
"Coming into the year, receiver was probably our deepest position," Wallace said. "And right now, we have two guys out, so recruiting those two guys definitely helped.
"Laquon is a big body. He helps you as a quarterback because defenders can't get around him to make a play on the ball. Quincy is a good route-runner. He's a little banged up right now, but he still looks good running around out there."
Another freshman, Evan Engram, is listed as a starter and expected a big role at tight end after losing seniors Ferbia Allen and Jamal Mosley from last year.
"He's going to really, really good," Wallace said. "He's one of the guys who's going to be a really good players. He's going to play a big role. He's a great receiving tight end. He's a mismatch for us, so he's going to play a big role for us."
Update On Mathers, Freshman Running Backs
Sophomore running back I'Tavius Mathers, who was listed as co-backup with fellow sophomore Jaylen Walton behind senior Jeff Scott, is about 80 percent, head coach Hugh Freeze said on the weekly teleconference on Wednesday.
"We think he's going to have a special year. He's put on some more weight. He's a physical runner for us, and he has some twitch to him, too. We think he's going to be a special back. He was hampered for quite a bit of camp with an ankle.
"I would say he's about 80 percent right now, so I don't know that tomorrow night you will see the true I'Tavius Mathers that you are going to see the rest of the year, but we're confident that once he gets back to 100 percent, he's going to be an important factor to our offense."
Also, on the weekly teleconference on Wednesday, Freeze was asked specifically about redshirting freshman running back Jordan Wilkins, one of three freshman running back in the mix for playing time, along with Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore.
"I would never decide to redshirt anyone this early, just because you never know," Freeze said. "I don't make up my mind this early to do that. I would like to redshirt him (Jordan Wilkins). He's going to be a good player, too. We just happen to have good depth at that position.
"We have got six guys that I believe are good players and would love to get to try to make it through the season with four of them and redshirt two. But again, it's too early to tell that."
21 - Darrius Henderson, WR
33 - Nathan Vanderburg, RB
34 - Tayler Polk, LB
39 - Kyle Fowler, K
42 - Amon'Ta Coffee, OL
42 - Grant Warren, K
60 - Chad Smith, LS
83 - Will Gleeson, P
None of them will dress out for tomorrow's opener at Vanderbilt, but you never know who might come out of nowhere to make an impact during the season.
Up-to-date Ole Miss Football Roster
When asked about his confidence in regard to different positions, head coach Hugh Freeze said the area that concerns him the most is the secondary.
Both cornerback positions were listed with co-starters -- junior Senquez Golson and sophomore Quintavius Burdette at Field corner, and seniors Dehendret Collins and Charles Sawyer at Boundary corner. With both Golson (hamstring) and Sawyer (shoulder) returning from injury, cornerbacks coach Jason Jones feels confident about those four players at the position.
"Starting out at fall camp, we didn't have a lot of depth at the position, but we got some guys back the last couple of weeks, and those guys are now practicing and executing the game plan," Jones said.
"I have four guys that are experienced and mature and can help us. I want to keep all of them fresh. It's supposed to hot on Thursday night. And at times, Vanderbilt can tempo you. The more depth you have, the more guys you can play, and so the fresher they will be."
Burdette, who ran with the first-team defense for most of fall camp, earned the start at Field corner, Freeze said Monday.
"It makes me feel great," Burdette said of getting the start. "It makes me feel like I have to go out there and prove myself even more now."
"He improved his game a lot," Sawyer said of Burdette. "He's making plays on the ball. He's getting the calls. He's understanding the defense. He's just making plays."
A converted safety, Burdette said he feels more comfortable with the defense. He also said he has learned a lot from facing junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief every day in practice, whether it was he or Moncrief making a play.
"After a play, we would go back and talk about it and see what he was thinking during the play, or if I wasn't doing something right, he would tell me," he said. "It taught me to be more patient as a defensive back, and how to make plays against a wide receiver of his size and quality."
On the injury front, Freeze and staff are confident about the status of senior cornerback Charles Sawyer (shoulder) and junior Senquez Golson (hamstring). Sawyer is prepared to play both cornerback positions, Freeze said, while Golson will come in at Field corner, and then they will see how the game goes.
"Charles, he's been going now for at least a couple of weeks," Jones said. "We may practice non-contact to try and take care of each. He's out there laying out for balls and banging around with Donte and things like that. I'm not concerned about him at all.
"Senquez, even though he was injured, he was still getting conditioning in with Coach Jackson on the side. His conditioning shouldn't be a big problem. Both of those guys should be good to go for Thursday."
At the safety position, sophomores Trae Elston and Chief Brown were listed as co-starters at Rover safety, with junior Cody Prewitt at free safety. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said he thinks of all three as starters who will all play about the same number of snaps.
"It's a battle between all three of them," Wommack said. "I have called them all starters to them in person. Chief has the ability to play both sides. Hopefully, between the three of them, we can keep them fresher than they were last year."
Ole Miss has six players vying for playing time at the running back, including three freshmen in Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins. Running backs coach Derrick Nix feels great about the overall depth of the position.
"We feel like we have choices at the position, which is always good," Nix said. "If something happens to Jeff (Scott), we have guys who are capable of going in and bringing some of the same skill set that he brings to the table. But most importantly, we have guys with more experience than last year.
Nix said they haven't finalized it all the way which running backs will travel to Nashville, and that guys are still competing every day.
What is probably set in stone, Nix said, is Scott, the team's leading rusher last season, then sophomore running back Jaylen Walton. After that, he said, there is a question mark about what they are going to do.
Sophomore I'Tavius Mathers, who was listed as co-backup with Walton behind Scott, has returned to practice since suffering an ankle sprain, but his status for Thursday remains uncertain.
"He did well in practice yesterday," Nix said. "We're going to evaluate him more today to see what he looks like. As the week goes on, we'll see how he progresses and then determine if he will play or not on Thursday."
That question mark also includes potential redshirts, which Freeze said they're considering for sure, adding that there's no way they can say at a position like running back exactly what will happen, such as injuries.
Twelve-time grand slam champion Mahesh Bhupathi marks his 17th U.S. Open appearance this year. He be in doubles later this week as well as mixed doubles. Bhupathi, who became the first NCAA Champion in men's tennis history at Ole Miss when he captured the 1995 title, has won two titles at the U.S. Open. In 2002, he teamed with Max Mirnyi to win the doubles title and then in 2005, he won the mixed doubles crown with Daniela Hantuchova. Above, Bhupathi is pictured with '95 partner Ali Hamadeh and Ole Miss head coach Billy Chadwick. The duo received a wild card into the '95 U.S. Open and advanced to the second round.
In 2009, Mississippi native Devin Britton became the youngest ever NCAA Singles Champion and the first Rebel to win the singles crown. Just a year removed from reaching the finals of the U.S. Open Junior Championships, Britton received a wildcard into the U.S. Open main draw where he matched up against 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer, in the first round. Britton also competed in mixed doubles that year.
Two-time All-American Sebastien DeChaunac competed in the U.S. Open singles main draw in 2001, where he lost to former world No. 1, Marat Safin, in three sets.
Ali Hamadeh teamed up with Mahesh Bhupathi to win the 1995 NCAA Doubles Championship and later that summer the pair took to the big stage of the U.S. Open, where they advanced to the second round.
A fiery Swede who advanced to the NCAA Doubles semifinals in 1995, Johan Landsberg played in four U.S. Opens in doubles, reaching the round of 16 in 2002.
The Rebels' first All-American (1988), Dave Randall reached the quarterfinals in doubles at the 1993 U.S. Open.
The story with the offensive line continues to be its depth.
Earlier in fall practice, offensive line coach Matt Luke said they should have eight or nine players ready to go this season, and that depth is taking shape on the practice fields, as senior Patrick Junen returned to full-speed practice on Monday.
"Right now, we're probably looking at three tackles and maybe four guards, so seven, then you always have got to have another center ready, so seven or eight is a fair number," Luke said Tuesday of the offensive line rotation.
Ole Miss returns both of its starting tackles from last season, seniors Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton, at left tackle and right tackle, respectively. Luke said he expects them to be leaders this season, as they both enter year two as starters.
"For us to be good this year, our seniors have to play like seniors," Luke said. "I expect them to be leaders and role models for those young guys. Laremy (Tunsil) is going to play some, so they have to be able to handle that and help mentor him to be the player that he can be.
With McCray out due to a family issue, Tunsil earned first-team reps at left tackle in Saturday's scrimmage, and head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday that Luke said Tunsil graded out better than any freshman he has ever coached in a scrimmage. Tunsil also drew similar praise from one of his teammates.
"Laremy is a class act," McCray said. "He's definitely a talented kid. He has to keep a level head, learn how to practice harder and play hard when he's tired. As far as the fundamentals, there are little things here and there, but for him to be a freshman and as talented as he is, he will be just fine."
There has been a lot of competition at both guard positions, with junior Aaron Morris, senior Jared Duke, sophomore Justin Bell, senior Patrick Junen and freshman Austin Golson all getting reps there.
At right guard, Junen missed most of the spring and the first two weeks of fall practice due to injury, so Bell got most of the first-team reps there. On Tuesday, Junen got first-team reps due to Bell being held out with a minor back issue.
"He missed most of the spring and sat out," Luke said of Junen. "That's always hard. The good thing is he's played a lot of football. I don't think it will take him long once we get into the flow of the season. Obviously, conditioning is going to be an issue. He's not ready to play a full game yet. Hopefully, by the third or fourth game, he will be."
"Without a doubt," Luke said of Bell making a strong case to be the starting right guard. "He's been there, day in and day out. He's a great kid. He's competing his butt off. It's very, very important to him. I am very comfortable with Justin playing, if we had to start today."
Senior Evan Swindall returns at center, but behind him, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers and sophomore Ben Still have split reps there.
"I have still have got a few days to decide between (Robert) and Ben," Luke said. "They are going back and forth, splitting all those reps. It's a battle. I would say, right now, they're about even. I would feel comfortable with either going in there and fighting and competing. Obviously, we want Evan to get the majority of the reps, but he's always one play away, so they have got to be ready to play."
'Back Into The Swing Of Things'
After missing most of the spring and first two weeks of fall practice due to toe and wrist injuries, senior offensive guard Patrick Junen returned to full-speed practice on Monday.
"It was very frustrating," Junen said of missing practice. "Seeing my fellow seniors out there, guys who I have been here for four years with, going through it and not being out there with them, it's super frustrating. I'm finally getting back into the swing of things and trying to get back on the line."
After losing seasons in 2010 and 2011, then last year's 7-6 season, Junen said there's much more excitement going into this season.
"It's a great feeling seeing Coach Freeze come in and build a program that's winning," Junen said. "It's very exciting to be a part of that and be able to be there at the beginning of the transition and go through it."
Protecting Wallace, Increasing The Tempo
As Ole Miss prepares for Vanderbilt, senior offensive tackle Emmanuel McCray said they're not letting the preseason hype and expectations get in their mind at all, especially on the offensive line.
"We gave up too many sacks, and we had a lot of little things that we could have fixed," McCray said. "Toward the middle and end of the season, we honed in on the little things and did them better. We're trying to pick off where we left off and get better from there."
One of those things, McCray said, is protecting junior quarterback Bo Wallace, who underwent offseason clavicle surgery.
"With him coming off the surgery, we're taking it personal already, just because we already kind of feel responsible for last year's injury," McCray said. "You definitely don't want to see your quarterback hurt. And with the quarterback situation that we have, we never know who's next after Bo. We don't know that right now, so we need to keep him healthy as possible."
Another of those things is tempo, which the offensive linemen have talked about throughout fall practice.
"We feel faster," McCray said of the tempo. "We're still getting into tempo shape. It's looking pretty good. We're definitely ahead of schedule, but we're not where we want to be. We had a couple of guys who were out with injuries and surgeries, like (Patrick) Junen and Aaron (Morris) that still got to get in shape. But for the most part, we're moving faster and looking better."
One of the position battles both head coach Hugh Freeze and defensive coordinator Dave Wommack discussed after Saturday's scrimmage is Rover safety, where Freeze said sophomore Chief Brown is pushing sophomore Trae Elston.
"Chief will have a much bigger role than he had last year," Wommack said after Saturday's scrimmage. I see Chief as a starter who can play both either Rover or free safety. I really haven't decided who will start yet. Chief might be a starter in the first game."
Elston started nine game at Rover last season and finished fifth on the team with 61 tackles, along with six pass breakups, a sack and a fumble recovery.
"He's done well," Wommack said of Elston. "He knows the defense, inside and out. He's a physical guy. I kind of worry about the targeting rule with him, but he's just got to play smart in that area. I like Trae Elston. He's a good football player."
Elsewhere in the secondary, at cornerback, senior Charles Sawyer has practiced, including some team drills, but has not participated in live contact drills. Injuries to Sawyer (shoulder) and junior Senquez Golson have given opportunities to other players at the position.
"I don't think we have been able to totally fix that because the injuries (Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson) to the two guys who have the most experience," Wommack said. "It was good situation for us that Bobby Hill and Anthony Standifer and some others got more reps than they would have gotten. We have to get those other guys back to have better depth in the secondary"
Sophomore Quintavius Burdette and senior Dehendret Collins continue to run with the first-team defense, and Wommack has been pleased with the play of both.
"Burdette has tried to go against #12 (Donte Moncrief) every time out here, and you get better every day that you do that," Wommack said. "He's had some rough days because of that, Donte is one of the best players in the nation at wide receiver. Burdette is a competitor. He's grown up, and I don't see him put his head down like he used to last year. I'm excited about him.
"Collins has been very solid to me. I wish we could have played him at corner last year. We didn't have enough guys, and we were trying to get speed on the field. I think we absolutely have him in the right spot now. He's tough, he's physical, and he's a competitor. He does everything we need that corner to do."
Earlier in fall practice, sophomore Mike Hilton, who has gotten first-team reps at Huskie, also got some reps at corner, but Wommack said on Saturday they are training him, at this time, to play corner. Behind Hilton at Huskie, freshman Antonio Conner has gotten reps, including some first-team reps alongside Hilton in passing situations.
"He's going to play a lot," Wommack said of Conner. "He'll play in the first game. He has been exceptional, especially for a freshman, assignment-wise," Dave continued. "He has a physical nature and is a natural playmaker."
Up front, freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross both practiced Saturday, and junior defensive end C.J. Johnson is expected to practice Monday. Wommack said he feels good about the depth there, when everyone is healthy, and sees a big role for Nkemdiche.
"He is going to play a lot," Wommack said of Nkemdiche. "We are going to keep those guys fresh by rotating them. I see him absolutely in the two-deep."
Developing Depth At RB, Offensive Line
Compared to last season, offensive coordinator Dan Werner feels better about the depth at both running back and offensive line.
It's a crowded backfield, led by senior Jeff Scott, who rushed 846 yards last season, and bolstered by a trio of freshmen in Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins. When asked on Saturday, Freeze said sophomore Jaylen Walton, right now, holds the No. 2 running back spot behind Scott.
On the injury front, Moore returned from concussion symptoms earlier this week, while sophomore I'Tavius Mathers (ankle) is out of his boot, and while he may not practice Monday, Freeze said he is close.
"Last year at this time, we had to move Randall Mackey to be the backup tailback," Werner said after Saturday's scrimmage. "This year, we have six or seven guys there. During the scrimmages, we're rolling them in and out. A guy knows if he doesn't make a right read or doesn't make a hard run, he's probably coming out and there's somebody else going in with a smile on his face."
There has been a lot of competition on the offensive line in fall practice, notably at left guard, where both junior Aaron Morris and senior Jared Duke have gotten first-team reps.
At other guard position, sophomore Justin Bell and senior Patrick Junen were listed as co-starters on the preseason depth chart. With Junen out, Bell has gotten most of the first-team reps, but Junen is expected to practice Monday.
Earlier in fall practice, offensive line coach Matt Luke said they should have eight or nine players ready to go this season, and Werner shared the same sentiment on Saturday.
"Last year at this time, we had five, maybe six guys that could play," Werner said. "This year, we've got about eight or nine, with Patrick Junen out right now. But from what I hear, he'll be back next week. Any time you have that many guys playing, it's just human nature you're going to play a little bit harder. You've got somebody behind you."
In the previous Saturday scrimmage, junior quarterback Wallace completed 6 of 11 passes for 125 yards with an interception. Throughout this past week, the coaches said they were pleased with Wallace, and it continued on Saturday.
"All of the quarterbacks looked better," Werner said. "I thought we protected the football better. We still have some issues with that, which has been kind of our camp motto - protect the ball. I thought for the most part (Bo) made good decisions, and we scored a lot of touchdowns. He completed a lot of balls, so I was pleased."
As for the freshmen, along with the three running backs, Laquon Treadwell continues to impress at slot receiver, where he has gotten most of the first-team reps, and drew praise from Freeze after Saturday's scrimmage.
Quincy Adeboyejo is in the rotation at outside receiver, along with junior Donte Moncrief, senior Ja-Mes Logan and sophomore Cody Core.
"He's a guy that was a big-time recruit but not as high as a couple of (others)," Werner said of Adeboyejo. "But, man, he came out right away and showed he's really fast, he's really explosive. He understands how to get into zones and make plays. He's another guy that will play a bunch."
On the offensive line, Laremy Tunsil has gotten most of the second-team reps at left tackle and earned first-team reps in Saturday's scrimmage with senior Emmanuel McCray out due to a family issue. Austin Golson has gotten second-team reps at both right guard and right tackle.
At tight end, Evan Engram, tights ends coach Maurice Harris said earlier this week, has separated himself some as a pass-catcher. Also at the position, Christian Morgan, who enrolled at Ole Miss in January, is expected to practice on Monday, as he recovers from a knee injury.
"If he goes through the next two weeks and feels like he can function," Freeze said of Morgan playing this season. "We're missing a lot of body types like his, if nothing else for short-yardage and special teams. I would like to see him play."
When asked about the tight end position after practice, head coach Hugh Freeze said they don't have any one player right now -- at this point -- who can do everything they want out of the position. Four players have split reps between the first-team, second-team and third-team offense.
"It's more play-specific," tight ends coach Maurice Harris said of the position. "We have to get the right kind of guys to do the specific task that we ask them to do. If we run the ball, Jack (Nuismer) is doing a good job, as well as Nick Parker. When we pass the ball, Evan (Engram) has separated himself some, along with Matt Brown. We have to get some consistency there, and these guys have to hone in on what we are doing."
Engram caught two touchdown passes in a live session of practice last night, Freeze said, while Harris mentioned a jump ball catch Engram had in the corner of the end zone over freshman safety Derrick Jones. Harris also raved about Engram's speed, his agility, his play-making ability and strong hands, adding that he plays fast.
"Evan is a physical kid," Harris said. "He's just light right now. He's 224 pounds, which is a lot heavier than when he came in at 209 pounds, but he's just light. I think he's physical enough to get the job done. I feel confident that he will."
Another interesting player at the position is Parker, who switched from running back to tight end. Of the four players, he has the most game experience, having appeared in seven games last season, mostly on special teams.
"I've been pleasantly surprised by Nick," Harris said. "The question was his physicality. Would he able to get in there and block, drive his feet, shoot his hands and finish blocks? And he's doing that. He needs to work on his route-running, but his pass-catching has been really good."
At cornerback, senior Charles Sawyer (shoulder) returned to practice, including some team drills, but did not participate in live contact drills. Junior Senquez Golson (hamstring) ran again today, his second day of running, which Freeze said is "a good sign."
On the defensive line, freshman defensive Robert Nkemdiche (groin) was held out, but Freeze said he is "good, progressing really nicely." Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson was held out a tight Achilles, and Freeze said "the last thing you want to do with a tight Achilles is make him push through it right now." Freeze also noted sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross (sports hernia) has practiced every day and "seems to be doing well."
On offense, Freeze said senior offensive lineman Patrick Junen (toe, wrist) is "really close and expects to see him start practicing next week." Freshman running back Kailo Moore (concussion symptoms) was back yesterday, and Freeze noted he "took a lot of carries today," and sophomore running I'Tavius Mathers (ankle) is now out of his boot, "so his situation is progressing," Freeze said.
Freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell continues to make plays in the slot. He separates well, runs good routes and has shown an ability to catch the ball in traffic and also gain yards after the catch.
A couple of plays that stood out for him in team drills included a pair of touchdown grabs, one on a corner route throw from freshman quarterback Devante Kincade, the other on a swing pass from junior quarterback Bo Wallace.
"He's just getting more comfortable," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Treadwell. "He starts understanding things more. Quincy, also, made some good plays. I think the more comfortable they get, the faster they feel like they can play. And I think they see now how vital they are to us and how they fit into things. I thought they both had good days."
Kincade himself continues to impress and has gotten a lot of reps with the second-team offense and even a few with the first-team offense during fall practice.
"I'm real excited about him," Freeze said of Kincade. "I think he's going to be a really good player, and he wants to. He studies hard and works hard. He wants to be a leader."
A couple of notable plays from team drills included a long run by sophomore running back Jaylen Walton, then back-to-back completions from Wallace to Treadwell that resulted in a touchdown.
On the defensive side, junior linebacker Keith Lewis had an interception in a red-zone drill, and junior linebacker Serderius Bryant delivered a big hit on freshman running back Jordan Wilkins.
In the 3-2-6 defensive look similar to yesterday, there were similar changes in personnel. Lewis replaced senior Mike Marry at linebacker, but also sophomore cornerback Anthony Standifer was an extra defensive back on the outside and moved sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette from outside to inside alongside sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton.
"I'm still concerned," Freeze said of the cornerback position. "We're real thin there. We really need to get Senquez and Charles back, and we're working hard toward that. But at the same time, you know you got to have some depth.
"I think we may have to consider moving Cliff (Coleman) back out there a lot more than we have. I think (Anthony) Standifer has had a good week, and I like his length, particularly in the red zone."
Conyers Gets Second-Team Reps At Center
Redshirt freshman Robert Conyers, who has worked primarily at right tackle, got second-team reps at center behind senior Evan Swindall.
"It's a little new, just trying to get used to it," Conyers said of the move. "I went from tackle to center, and just trying to get on the field, whichever way Coach Luke uses me."
Conyers said the move was prompted this past summer by offensive line coach Matt Luke.
"Coming in, Coach Luke told me to be ready to play everything," he said. "And this past summer, Coach Luke told me to start snapping. Back in workouts, I would go with Evan Swindall to get it right. Now, it's time to step up and starting it a little bit. It's just learning how to get the snaps down."
The biggest adjustment, Conyers said, is just the snapping and getting the ball right, adding that blocking responsibilities also changes with the move from tackle to center.
"Dealing with the bigger guys," he said of the adjustment. "Trying to get over and making the calls right. At tackle, you're just seeing the edge pressure and the blitzes. But at center, you got to see everything, and you got to push the tempo of the ball. I think that's where I can help a lot is running up and pushing the tempo of the ball."
In a punt coverage drill, sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette and senior cornerback Dehendret Collins remained the outside gunners. And freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche remained one of the three personal protectors, alongside senior linebackers Mike Marry and D.T. Shackelford.
Senior Jared Duke got first-team reps at left guard ahead of junior Aaron Morris for the second straight day. Freshman Austin Golson got second-team reps at both right guard and tackle.
Shackelford got reps at defensive end for the second straight day, primarily with the second-team defense.
Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson was a full participant in practice and ran with the first-team defense, opposite freshman Robert Nkemdiche. It should also be noted that both senior defensive end Cameron Whigham and junior defensive end Carlos Thompson were held out of practice.
"He seemed to handle it pretty well," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Johnson. "He is going to have to just play through some pain. The doctors were here and everything looks good with the repair, he is just going to have to push through some of it and get himself back into shape."
Behind Johnson and Nkemdiche, sophomore Channing Ward got second-team reps at defensive end, opposite senior D.T. Shackelford, who moved from linebacker to defensive end, where he played some as a sophomore in 2010.
"We are moving him around to several positions and he was solely at end today," Freeze said of Shackelford. "He plays with a wide open motor and that is something you have to have on the defensive side of the ball. He is a great leader and any time he is out there people rally around him. His quickness is a lot better than it was this spring. He feels good and is getting more and more comfortable."
In the secondary, sophomore Chief Brown got some first-team reps at Rover ahead of sophomore Trae Elston. In a third-down situational competition, the defense showed what looked like a 3-2-6 base defense.
The notable personnel changes from the 4-2-5 to the 3-2-6 on the first-team defense were junior Bryon Bennett as the only defensive tackle, junior Keith Lewis replacing senior Mike Marry at one linebacker spot and the addition of freshman Huskie Tony Connor, alongside sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton.
"He is learning quickly and plays very physical," Freeze said of Connor. "He is still like any freshman and his eyes are in the wrong place some times, but he is everything we thought he would be and will be a really good player for us."
Options On Offensive Line
Not including senior Patrick Junen who has been held out of fall practice while recovering from offseason surgery, eight different offensive linemen have gotten first-team reps.
"There are several competitions going on right now, and that's part of the good thing about this camp. Last year, guys didn't really get pushed. We have a lot of competition going on at every position, and guys battling for their spot."
One of those competitions is right guard, where Junen and sophomore Justin Bell were listed as co-starters on the preseason depth chart. With Junen out, Bell has gotten most of the first-team reps there throughout fall practice.
"He's doing well," offensive line coach Matt Luke said of Bell. "Justin is a great kid. He tries to please in everything he does. He's a student of the game. He's very intelligent. He's paid his dues. He's worked hard, and he's really doing a great job while Patrick has been out. He has some things to work on in pass protection, but he's done a good job."
At the other guard position, junior Aaron Morris had gotten most of the first-team reps, but senior Jared Duke ran with the first team on Thursday.
"That's one of the battles going on right now," Luke said. "Jared has had a great camp. He's a little bit heavy, but he's had an unbelievable camp."
When senior Pierce Burton was held out earlier in fall practice, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers and freshman Laremy Tunsil both got first-team reps at tackle, and they now work with the second-team offense at right tackle and left tackle, respectively, behind Burton (right tackle) and senior Emmanuel McCray (left tackle).
"Laremy is doing well," Luke said. "He's a very, very talented freshman. And he's working to learn some things right now, but he's doing some things really well."
Another freshman, Austin Golson, has gotten second-team reps at right guard and might figure in the rotation on the offensive line this season.
"I expected him to come in and be tough, and nasty and hard-nosed," Luke said. "He was learning the system early, so he wasn't playing quite as fast. These last two days, I have really seen a change in him as he's learned the offense."
The defense won both team competitions, including the third-down situational competition.
A couple of highlights from individual drills: Freshman safety Derrick Jones had an interception on a jump ball against freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. In the same drill, junior quarterback Bo Wallace connected with junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief on a fly route against sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette.
A couple of highlight from team drills: On the first play of the third-down situation competition, Wallace connected with Treadwell on a seam route between two defenders. Later in the competition, sophomore cornerback Anthony Standifer had an interception on a jump ball against sophomore wide receiver Cody Core.
In a full-team kickoff return drill, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, freshman running back Mark Dodson and sophomore safety Trae Elston were the deep men. Three other freshmen -- Derrick Jones, Laquon Treadwell and Jordan Wilkins -- also got reps on the front line of the unit.
Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace's decision-making: "It was better, but we still got to get there, and we will continue to have some discussions watching film. He's being real coachable right now, which is a really good thing. He doesn't want to make mistakes any more than any other kid. His are much more noticeable because of the position he plays."
Freeze, on Wallace's shoulder: "I think that's just something he's going to have to work through. Ryan Aplin at Arkansas State had the same surgery, and he said it took him months to where his bicep and elbow area didn't hurt him. I think we're coming through it. I think he's getting better."
Senior D.T. Shackelford, on practicing at defensive end: "I enjoyed it. I played a lot there my sophomore year before I got injured so I felt comfortable at end. I don't care if I play linebacker or defensive end, I truly don't. I just want to be on the field and be able to contribute. I feel good at both. I'm just ready to play."
Luke, on offensive line rotation: "I would say we could play, right now in my mind, eight or nine offensive linemen. That's not to say I have eight or nine ready right now, but I think by the end of fall camp, we should have eight or nine guys ready to go."
Senior forward Mandy McCalla, who earned All-SEC honors from the coaches and tied for the conference lead with 13 goals and 33 points last season, will wear the captain's armband for the Rebels this season.
"She's a leader for us," head coach Matt Mott said of McCalla. "She understands completely what we're trying to do, and how we're trying to do it. I trust her and believe in what she does. She brings the best out of everybody. She demands it out of herself first, then her teammates next. That's what you want in a leaders, and the girls absolutely respect her."
McCalla tied for the conference lead in goals and points with her teammate, senior Rafaelle Souza, and they are two of six seniors on the team.
"We have a good senior class that is going to carry us," he said. "We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, but we have a strong senior class. You win with seniors, and we have six seniors."
As the Rebels prepared for their season opener, at home, against Louisiana-Lafayette at 7 p.m. on Friday, August 23, Mott said the first emphasis will be on the back line.
"The good thing is we're starting out further along than we ever have, so we're starting a higher level," he said. "We've got to get our defensive game plan and figure out who we're going to play in the back because we have some options. I think we always want to put in the defense first.
"We're going to score goals with Mandy and Rafa, and Bethany Bunker and Olivia Harrison all returning, and the new guys, we're putting in Addie Forbus and Mackenze Parma. We're going to score goals. We got to get sold defensively first."
A trio of sophomores -- Maddie Friedmann, Jessica Hiskey and Samantha Sanders -- started all 22 games as freshmen, and they all return to anchor the back line for the Rebels, along with junior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick who started all 22 games in goal and posted eight shutout victories last season.
"That, to me is exciting going into this season that we have all of those guys back," he said. "The whole back line is back, and you have Kelly in goal, who will be a junior now. Those guys who are sophomores have a full year under their belt and they look great."
On Tuesday, a large emphasis was placed on converting inside the Red Zone. Today, one of the team drills focused on covering at the goal line, with the ball placed at the 3-yard line.
A couple of the big plays in the drill was a pair of touchdown passes, one from junior quarterback Bo Wallace to junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief, another from senior quarterback Barry Brunetti to redshirt freshman tight end Matt Brown. On the other side of the ball, redshirt freshman defensive end John Youngblood dropped into coverage and intercepted Brunetti.
Another part of this drill was the shift from a base 4-2-5 defense with the Huskie position, to a base 4-3 defense with the Wolf linebacker, where junior Keith Lewis got first-team reps, along with senior Mike Mary at middle linebacker and sophomore Denzel Nkemdiche at Stinger linebacker.
"I see him having a big role on this defense," linebackers coach Tom Allen said of Lewis. "Keith is one of those guys who from a size-speed ratio has the best combination of that and does an excellent job. I want to see him be a big third-down linebacker for us and be on all our money packages in situations like third-and-long.
"I believe he's a very good inside linebacker and can play in all our packages. He's going to be a guy whose role I see expanding and be able to make plays for us on Saturday."
A freshman All-American last season, Nkemdiche started all 12 games at Stinger linebacker and led the team with 82 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interception. Allen said he looks for Nkemdiche to improve with his leadership, preparation and being the total package.
"Last year, I think he was a guy that just made a lot of plays on Saturday, and he did that consistently, but I would like to see him be the guy that leads our defense, on and off the field," Allen said. "His energy and effort is never in question, but just making he eliminates mistakes. Leadership is part of that. And off the field, being a guy who we look to as a model of doing the little things right every single day."
In the base defense with Huskie position, Lewis slides to middle linebacker on the second team, and junior Serderius Bryant has gotten second-team reps at Stinger linebacker. Allen said Bryant has probably made the biggest jump from last season to this season.
"I think his knowledge has really improved," Allen said. "And he's one of the guys who changed his body and committed to the program, in the way he takes care of himself, and it's showing on the field. He's a step quicker. He's always been talented athletically, but with his knowledge of what he's doing now, as well as being physically better, it's showing up on tape."
Senior D.T. Shackelford has missed the last two seasons due to knee injuries. He returned in the spring and has mostly worked with the second-team and third-team defense in fall practice but got some first-team reps today. For Shackelford, Allen, said it's more mental than physical, specifically reacting split-second on the field and confidence in his knee.
"We met last night at length, and he feels good," Allen said. "He feels like that his knee is strong, and when you watch him moving around, you can tell he's better than we was in the spring. But it's a process with him, and we're trying to bring him along."
Early Look At Special Teams
Through six practices, all four special-team units -- punt, kickoff, punt return and kickoff return --have gotten work. Senior punter Tyler Campbell and senior kicker Andrew Ritter both redshirted last season, and Allen is pleased with their performance in fall practice.
"Right now, we're in the beginning stages of the process of putting in all of them schematically," Allen said of special teams. "I'm please with our kickers. Tyler is a guy who's very talented, and Andrew Ritter is doing a really god job for us.
"We have a lot of guys back from last year that played as freshmen and sophomores. So we're getting them ready, the depth chart set with coordination with our travel squad is the challenge right now. I feel like we're making progress and we're trying to work on it every practice and getting better."
In kickoff coverage drills, from left to right, not including kickoff specialist Ritter, the first-team unit consisted of freshman running Kailo Moore, sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette, junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, junior Keith Lewis, freshman Huskie Tony Connor, redshirt freshman Temario Strong, sophomore safety Chief Brown, sophomore wide receiver Cody Core and sophomore Mike Hilton.
On Tuesday, senior running back Jeff Scott, senior wide receiver Korvic Neat and sophomore safety Trae Elston all got reps as the deep men in punt return drills, and Allen said, right now, Scott is their starting punt returner for sure. The competition at kickoff returner is more wide open.
"Jaylen Walton is very talented and he's gotten himself physically bigger and stronger," Allen said. "I'm excited about I'Tavius Mathers and what he can do. And Kailo Moore, he's a threat back there. There are going to be a few other guys competing for that spot, but we got some speed back there that give us a chance to get a good return."
Senior offensive tackle Pierce Burton participated in team drills and got first-team reps at right tackle, so freshman Laremy Tunsil got second-team reps at left tackle, with redshirt freshman Robert Conyers at right tackle.
In the team competition, the offense won 13-12, with the offense winning the decisive point by drawing the defense offsides.
Some of the highlights from the team competition: For the offense, freshman quarterback Devante Kincade had a pair of touchdown passes, one to freshman Laquon Treadwell and another to freshman Quincy Adeboyejo. For the defense, junior safety Cody Prewitt and sophomore safety Trae Elston each had an interception.
In that same drill, Kincade got some reps with the first-team offense, including a nice sideline throw to junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief and the touchdown pass to Treadwell.
Freeze, on sophomore safety Trae Elston: Trae is really athletic, really solid. We expect him to have a great year. He kind of got his nose bloodied a little bit last year as a true freshman. He got a lot of experience, so hopefully he has a great year."
Elston, on the cornerback position: "I think our twos and threes are doing very well. It will be better when Charles and Senquez come back, so we're just trying to get better.
Elston, on freshman safety Derrick Jones and freshman cornerback Bobby Hill: "The freshmen are looking very good, very quick and fast, learning very quicly. DJ is a good athlete. Bobby is a physical athlete. They're both very good."
Allen, on the linebacker position: "I think several of them have improved themselves physically, in the way their bodies are shaped, and that excites me. I think the knowledge of what we did in the spring, building off of last season, and having so many guys back, I think we are able to move forward and not take steps backward."
From individual drills, to 7-on-7 drills, to team drills, a large emphasis was placed on converting inside the Red Zone. One of the players that stood out was freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who showed a knack for getting separation, running good routes and catching the ball in the slot position.
"Laquon had a really good day," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He's starting to understand things more. We're going to slow it down a little bit for them. Him and Quincy both, we're looking at them as having to play. When you install something new every day, it's tough on a young kid, so as they understand things more, they will get much more confident, and you saw that today with Laquon."
There's a lot of rotation at the wide receiver position in team drills, but Treadwell got a majority of the second-team reps in the slot, with sophomore Cody Core and freshman Quincy Adeboyejo outside.
The first-team wide receivers, right now, are senior Ja-Mes Logan and junior Donte Moncrief outside, with senior Korvic Neat in the slot. Junior Collins Moore, who missed most of last season with injuries to both shoulders, has also gotten a lot of reps in the slot.
On the other side of the ball, with junior Senquez Golson and senior Charles Sawyer sidelined, senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette continue to run with the first-team defense at cornerback.
When the defense added an extra defensive back, Collins moved inside, and sophomore Anthony Standifer got some first-team reps at cornerback. In the base defense, Standifer and freshman Bobby Hill got second-team reps there.
"Up and down," Freeze said of cornerback play behind Sawyer and Golson. "I think Dehendret has had a good camp. He gave up a touchdown in that red-zone competition, but I think he has had a good camp. I think Bobby Hill is going to be fine. He's just really young.
"We need to get Charles (Sawyer) back. At field corner, Quintavius Burdette has a chance to be OK, and Standifer and Q(uadarias) Mireles, we need to bring them along. Everyone knows that's an area that we feel thin at."
Stable Of Backs
It's a crowded backfield for running backs coach Derrick Nix, with senior Jeff Scott, sophomores I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton and freshmen Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins splitting reps between the first-team, second-team and third-team offense.
Scott is the leader of the group, having led the team with 846 rushing yards on 197 attempts last years, but there's some definite competition behind him.
"It's going really well," Nix said of the running back competition. "The younger guys have come in and gave us some more energy, some more guys that can do a lot of things with speed and size. They're pushing Jeff Scott, and I'Tavius (Mathers) and Jaylen Walton really hard.
"I have to brag on Mark Dodson. I think it was a big help for him to get in here early for the spring semester and going through spring football and summer workouts. He's light year ahead going through fall camp right"
For Scott, Nix said, it's about continuing to be a pro in everything he does, from perfecting his protection, to perfecting his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, to knowing exactly what's happening when the offensive line is blocking for him, which includes cutting up and running inside.
"Me and him sat down and watched four or five games and hone in on that part of his game," Nix said. "He's a guy who has always been the fastest guy on the field all through high school, and he always leans on that as his crutch. I'm trying to make him conscious about down and distance, and knowing what he needs to have to keep the chains moving."
The other two returners, Mathers and Walton, Nix said are "light years ahead" of where they were last year.
"Those two guys have shown tremendous improvement, just mentally," Nix said. "They have always had the running ability, but the fact that they know exactly what they're doing now, they're 10 years ahead of what they were doing last year.
"They are so much more comfortable. You can see it when they get up and lined up, they know exactly what is happening, and they can become the players they were in high school again."
With Dodson participating in spring practice, the two newest players are Moore and Wilkins. Nix described Moore as home-run threat who can flip the field with his speed, while Wilkins is the biggest back of the group 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.
"Right now, he's an every-down back in my opinion," Nix said of Moore. "I think he can run the ball inside, on the perimeter, and he can catch the ball. Right now, I won't put a cap on what he can do. I think he's a guy who can go in and operate in every facet of our offense right now."
"From that injury that he had in high school, he's back 100 percent to me," Nix said of Wilkins. "He's cutting well. He's running the ball downhill. He's got a little bit of an AC sprain (in his shoulder) right now, but he's battling through that every day, showing some toughness and doing a really job so far."
With junior Carlos Thompson out, freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche ran with the first team for the second straight day, opposite senior defensive end Cameron Whigham. Behind them, sophomore Channing Ward and redshirt freshman John Youngblood got second-team reps there.
Senior Pierce Burton, who Freeze said is "really close" and "could have gone today," was held out, and freshman Laremy Tunsil got first-team reps at left tackle, with senior Emmanuel McCray at right tackle.
There was a lot of rotation at the guard position in team drills. Junior Aaron Morris got the majority of first-team reps at left guard, with sophomore Justin Bell at right guard, but senior Jared Duke and freshman Austin Golson also got some first-team reps at guard. Freshman Daronte Bouldin also moved up and got some reps on the second team at right guard.
In kickoff return drills, it was the same five players from earlier in fall practice, with sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, freshman running backs Mark Dodson and Kailo and sophomore safety Trae Elston rotating as the deep men.
In punt return drills, Elston was joined by senior running back Jeff Scott and senior wide receiver Korvic Neat as the deep men.
Freeze, on running back position: "Jaylen and I'Tavius are probably a little ahead of the others, but Dodson, Kailo and Jordan are not far behind. Kailo is doing some things for us, as you get into a game plan, you might put him in some places to get him the ball in space.
"Any guy that we feel like we can line up and be very multiple, as far as whether we're going to throw it or run it, and bring him back (into the backfield) and do things, he helps the offense. Jeff can do that, too."
Freeze, on junior Senquez Golson's hamstring injury: "I'm always worried about injuries, yeah. It's a hamstring. You can push it, but if you don't get it well, you're going to be fighting it all year long, so we're just trying to get it well and then move forward from there."
Sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton, on cornerback play: "I'm out there with Quintavius Burdette most of the time. He's a really good athlete. He'll come up and hit. He can run. I feel comfortable. Dehendret at boundary corner, he played there, so I feel pretty comfortable with everyone."
Senior Dehendret Collins on switching from Huskie to cornerback: "I look at as I'm back home because I came here as a boundary corner. I started there, but they moved me because they told me they wanted to get the best players on the field, but now I'm back at home, so I look at it as I'm home."
Sophomore Jaylen Walton, on running backs being involved in the passing game: "We got so many personnels where we got to motion out into a slot, or line up in a slot. We got to learn so many different routes to run."
It took until the fourth day of fall practice, but freshman Robert Nkemdiche got the majority of first-team reps at defensive end today.
"Carlos (Thompson) got a ding to the head," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I don't know what all is wrong with him, but I wouldn't be shocked to see (Nkemdiche on the first team) quite frequently," Freeze said.
Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin has been pleased with Nkemdiche's progress through the first four days of practice and the work he's putting in outside of it.
"He's learning every day, staying after it, staying after getting work, staying after meetings and watching extra film," Kiffin said. "Like I have said before, he wants to be great."
Kiffin said one of the things he thinks about is balancing how much he works with Nkemdiche, relative to the other defensive linemen.
"I think about that every day, making sure the other guys don't feel like they're getting slighted," Kiffin said. "We got a couple of guys out here helping. But at the same time, we got to get him ready for opening night. He's going to take more attention because he's behind the 8-ball.
"There are guys who have been here two years, so I can trust that they know it. Guys like Cameron Whigham, I'm limiting his reps because I know he knows it inside and out."
Among the things Kiffin said Nkemdiche needs to work on are his consistency, his first step and understanding pass sets, similar to what they worked on with sophomore defensive end Channing Ward last season. At the same time, Kiffin said he doesn't want to overcoach Nkemdiche.
"A guy like that, when you overcoach him, he made maybe three or four plays out here today he shouldn't had made because he did the wrong thing," Kiffin said. "You got to find the fine line right there and let him play ball, and making sure he's doing it right and doesn't cost the team."
Defensive Line 'Further Ahead'
Kiffin said he can see the improvement in his overall unit, from where it was a year ago.
"I think the effort has been there," Kiffin said of his unit. "You can tell we're so much further ahead in the second year of the system, coming out of the spring. These guys know the defense like the back of their hand.
"Obviously, tempo will always give us a problem, getting the signals and getting lined up. The effort and desire for these guys to get better has been there. I'm pretty pleased right now."
Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson was held out of team drills, but he participated in all individual drills today, as he recovers from a broken leg suffered in spring practice.
"He looks great, doing all of the individual stuff," Kiffin said. "And we gave him pass rush today, and he looks fine. The plan was to get him a couple reps of pass rush today, then maybe in a couple of days, get him into some team work. I think he's going to be fine all season. He looks great, running around and cutting. We just got to get him feeling the big bodies on him."
Kiffin also had praise for Channing Ward who has also gotten some first-team reps at defensive end. Ward played in 12 games at defensive end and on special teams, recording 21 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss last season.
"He looks a lot better, more focused," Kiffin said. "The speed of the game is just different for him now. I think he feels more comfortable with that but still has a ways to go to be consistent every day. He's making plays that he never made before. They're routine plays that take a little work, but he's showing a lot of improvement."
Carlos Thompson and Cameron Whigham also got first-team reps at defensive end, with redshirt freshman John Youngblood getting second-team reps there. Inside, sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross has been sidelined, but Kiffin said he feels good about the defensive tackle position.
"I feel really good about the guys working there, with Bryon Bennett and Lavon Hooks playing '3' technique and Woody (Hamilton) and Carlton (Martin) playing nose," Kiffin said. "Those guys are getting a lot of reps, and I don't think we're missing a beat.
"Obviously, we don't have the explosiveness inside with Issac out, but those guys are playing heck out of the run. And we can find ways to get pressure on the quarterback, so I'm pleased inside."
Robert Nkemdiche also worked as one of the three personal protectors on the first-team punt coverage unit in a special teams drill, along with senior linebackers D.T. Shackelford and Mike Marry.
In the same drill, sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette and senior Dehendret Collins worked as the two gunners on the first-team punt coverage unit. Sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton and freshman cornerback Bobby Hill were the gunners on the second-team unit.
With senior Pierce Burton limited, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers got first-team reps at right tackle for the the third straight day. Freshman Laremy Tunsil also got first first-team reps at left tackle, with senior Emmanuel McCray switching from left tackle to right tackle.
Senior Patrick Junen has also been limited, so sophomore Justin Bell continues to get first-team reps at right guard. Freshman Austin Golson, who has worked primarily at tackle, got second-team reps at right guard.
In the secondary, Burdette, Collins and sophomore Anthony Standifer all got first-team reps at cornerback, with junior Cody Prewitt, sophomores Trae Elston and Chief Brown and senior Brishen Mathews getting first-team reps at safety. Hill and junior Quadarias Mireles continue to get get second-team reps at cornerback.
Freeze, on quarterbacks behind junior Bo Wallace: "I think Devante is going to be really good, and I think Ryan has a chance also, once they get an understanding of what we're doing. Barry did some decent things today but also did some really bad things. Bo hasn't been that consistent either. It feels kind of like last year. We just have to manage the game and help them not make mistakes that really hurt us."
Sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, on his brother, Robert: "He's definitely dominant. He's a dominant player and definitely getting better. We just got to make sure he knows what do when he's out there and make sure he keeps getting better every day."
Kiffin, on sophomore defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton: "I just love Woody. I love his attitude, his work ethic. He's just a good ol' country kid that comes out here. The guy, he's still a pup. He's a 305-pound pup. I love being able to mold a guy that is so physically dominant. I can't say enough about him."
Junior wide receiver Vince Sanders suffered a broken collarbone during one-on-one drills Saturday and is expected to be out 6-8 weeks. Sanders started 12 games last season and finished with 39 catches (3rd on team), 504 receiving yards (2nd on team) and four touchdowns (2nd on team).
"It's certainly a blow," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Sanders' injury. "The guy knew everything we did, and he could do at a fast pace. And he had a great offseason. Hopefully, he only misses three games. We got that opening week early, so maybe he can be back for our fourth game.
"We have some good young kids, and they will get ready to play. Hopefully, we stay healthy and not lose anyone else from that spot."
Freeze said senior Ja-Mes Logan is prepared to play both outside and inside receiver. He also said they have to have four guys ready to play at outside receiver and mentioned Logan, junior Donte Moncrief, sophomore Cody Core and freshman Quincy Adeboyejo as players for that role.
"He is a smart kid out there on the football field," wide receivers coach Grant Heard said of Logan. "He can handle a lot. I can put him in any spot, and he'll know what to do. And he's' the ultimate team player, because it doesn't matter to him. He just wants to get out there and compete."
With Sanders's injury, senior Korvic Neat's role will increase in the slot, and two other receivers who will look to step up are sophomore Cody Core, who played mostly on special teams last season, and junior Collins Moore, who missed most of last season with injuries to both shoulders.
"I need Cody to be more consistent, but he knows what to do, but be more consistent making plays," Heard said. "He can be a guy that can be a big-play threat for us."
"Collins, I'm still trying to figure out and make sure he's good. He's trying to get back into the swing of things from missing spring, but he's out there and looking good. He knows how the offense runs, so he can do some things to help us, too."
The two freshmen, Adeboyejo and freshman Laquon Treadwell, Freeze said have got to get ready to play at outside and inside receiver, respectively.
"They pick things up quick," Freeze said of the freshmen. "They're quick learners. And of course, they have the skill level, which helps. I expect them to be very good players."
"They're freshmen," Heard said. "When things start going fast and get hectic, they make mistakes, but they are picking the offense really quick. And they're making plays out there, which is good to see. I think they're having fun. This offense is easy, but it's different for them. When things get hectic, they have to learn to slow it down in their minds."
Sunday was the first practice with shoulder pads.
Senior Pierce Burton was limited, so redshirt freshman Robert Conyers got some first-team reps at right tackle. Conyers is also getting reps at center behind senior Evan Swindall.
With senior Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson sidelined, senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette got first-team reps at cornerback for the second straight day.
On the defensive line, senior Cameron Whigham and sophomore Channing Ward got first-team reps at defensive end, and junior Bryon Bennett and sophomore Woodrow Hamilton at defensive tackle.
Behind them, freshman Robert Nkemdiche, junior Carlos Thompson and sophomore John Youngblood got second-team reps at defensive end, and juniors Lavon Hooks and Carlton Martin at defensive tackle.
Five newcomers were among those who got reps in the back seven on the second-team defense, with freshman Tony Connor at Huskie, junior Quadarias Mireles and freshman Bobby Hill at cornerback, and sophomore Anthony Alford and freshman Derrick Jones at safety.
In a kickoff return drill, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, freshman running backs Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore and sophomore safety Trae Elston got reps as the deep men.
Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace: "We really saved him until the end of practice today, and he seemed to be fine. He wasn't complaining, or anything. We just have to take things slow."
Heard, on flexibility at wide receiver: "The good thing about this offense is once they know it, they can be put in anywhere. Ja-Mes, Donte, Cody, I can move around, and they can go in and fill that spot."
In his Media Day press conference, head coach Hugh Freeze said senior Charles Sawyer, along with sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross, were the furthest off, injury-wise. And junior Senquez Golson was held out of Saturday's practice after suffering a pulled hamstring yesterday.
Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said they're trying to find two guys who are going to step up and be more consistent behind Sawyer and Golson on the two-deep, and with their two injuries, it's offered an opportunity to build depth at the position.
"He's out moving around, just trying to get him ready for the game," Jones said of Sawyer. "We know what we can do. He's been playing for a long time and has a lot of experience, so we're not going to rush him. With the [Vanderbilt] game a few weeks away, we can take time and develop these younger guys and develop some depth."
With Sawyer and Golson sidelined, senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette got the bulk of first-team reps at cornerback. Both players are relatively new to the position, as Collins moved from Huskie during the spring, and Burdette moved from safety during the summer.
"We moved Dehendret, right at the end of spring, and he's done a great job for us," Jones said. "Him and Charles Sawyer, they are going to provide depth in the boundary. He's had two really good days.
"Q Burdette has been a great surprise for us. He worked hard all summer. You can tell. He came out to practice yesterday and today, and he's flying around, making plays for us. We're pleased with those two guys."
Two freshmen also got a lot of reps at cornerback, along with sophomore Anthony Standifer. Freeze said yesterday that Bobby Hill, one of the freshmen, will be a big plus, and Jones also had praise for Hill and the other freshman, David Kamara.
"Bobby Hill has done a great job for us," Jones said. "Right now, we have him working in the boundary. He's had two really good practices and I'm looking forward to him continuing to progress. I'm looking forward to him to contribute this year, so he will be guy that we will depend on.
"David is doing a great job for us also. He's in the field. We're still trying to see and make a decision about him. He's working hard, still learning coverages and things like that. We'll know more once we get pads and continue to practice."
With senior Pierce Burton dealing with a lower back strain, senior Emmanuel McCray moved from left tackle to right tackle, and freshman Laremy Tunsil got reps at left tackle on the first-team offense.
In some of the other offensive line drills, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers also got some first-team reps at right tackle, opposite McCray. Another freshman, Austin Golson, got second-team reps at left tackle.
The first-team defensive line consisted of junior Carlos Thompson and sophomore Channing Ward at defensive end, and junior Bryon Bennett and sophomore Woodrow Hamilton at defensive tackle.
Along with Bobby Hill at corner, freshmen Robert Nkemdiche (defensive end) and Tony Connor (Huskie) got reps on the second-team defense.
Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace: "His arm is hurting today, not where his shoulder was repaired, but his arm. To come out yesterday and throw a lot of balls, and come out today, it was sore, so we held him out about halfway through to try to get it well."
Freeze, on freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche: "He's physically gifted enough to play. It's all about, can he understand what we're trying to accomplish and what his assignments are. If he can get that, there's no question he can physically. They better be trying to get him ready."
Freeze, on freshman offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil: "He's as physically gifted as any freshman that I have seen, athleticism-wise. He's swimming right now with everything being installed. He's going to make mistakes, like any freshman, but he is a gifted player."
Freeze, on freshman tight end Evan Engram: "Evan is going to be a good one. Again, he's a freshman that is undersized at this point in his career, but he has got to play, and he's going to play. We just have got to be sure we ask him to do things that he can do."
Among the 105 players who reported yesterday for the start of fall camp were 23 first-year Rebels, and many have already made an impression on the coaches and returning players.
"I did get to see them this morning and liked what I saw," head coach Hugh Freeze said in his Media Day press conference. "I thought guys like Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell and Tony Connor all looked really good. I came off the field thinking Quincy Adeboyejo is going to be a really special player.
"Herbert Moore is a big guy and had a quick twitch. I am very excited about the young kids like Daronte Bouldin out of Canton. I think we hit on all of them. I haven't had a staff meeting with defense guys yet, but I think Bobby Hill will be a big plus for us."
His position coach, Chris Kiffin, and one of his teammates, C.J. Johnson, also had praise for Robert Nkemdiche, his work ethic and how he has handled outside expectations.
"I don't think he thinks about the outside stuff as much as people think he does," Kiffin said. "He's really focused on being the best player he can be. He has a desire to be great. That's what I continue to say about him. And he has a motor like his brother. They just fly around, it's what they do. He has all the intangibles, but everything is going to be new for him."
"He's a hard worker," Johnson said. "It's hard to put those expectations on a freshman like that, but I think he has really embraced the opportunity. he understands the sense of urgency and knows he will be able to play a role on this football, and he has embraced that really well.
"His work ethic is second to none. He's a great guy. He goes out there every day, competes and works hard."
"All of the freshmen have good level heads," McCray said. "The mental aspect, they will be fine. Athleticism-wise, Laremy and Austin are ready to play I wouldn't just off the bat. With experience, they will be All-SEC kind of guys."
Some other freshmen, Freeze said freshman Evan Engram will be special at tight end and is the guy they have to get ready to play and ask him to do things they need him to do because they are thin at the position.
Freeze also said he would like to redshirt both freshman quarterbacks, Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade, but one of them will have to be ready to play just in case. He added both had a lot of reps Friday, and he will continue to prepare both of them.
"It's going to take them a while to get into the playbook," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said of the freshman quarterbacks. "It's a tough playbook to understand, but at the same time, they're working hard. They came in right away and started working, so they'll get it down."
Wallace Continues Recovery
One of the biggest storylines of SEC Media Days for Ole Miss was junior quarterback Bo Wallace's recovery from clavicle surgery in January. He participated in seven-on-seven workouts, and Freeze said in his press conference, he is practicing, but they are charting every throw and try to keep it at 50 throws.
"It's good," Wallace said of the shoulder. "They're limiting my throws. I'm looking forward to next week, so I can condition my arm and get used to throwing all those throws, but it feels good though.
"They're giving me the reps that I feel like I need, that I want. I know that if there's a rep I don't feel good about, then I will get right back in. I'm still getting my reps. It's not really like I'm limited out there."
It's year two for Wallace as a starter, and he said it's night and day, this year from last year.
"Last year, I was in a competition, so I was having to worry about every rep, what the other guy is doing, what I'm doing," Wallace said. "Now, it's just going out there, playing and trying to get the team better, trying to get me better."
One Goal For Nkemdiche
When the players reported yesterday, sophomore Denzel Nkemdiche said it was a completely different feeling, with the locker room and the new faces, including his brother Robert, who he now shares a locker beside.
"It's something I have waited for forever, and something I had dreams about," Denzel Nkemdiche said of playing with his brother. "Seeing him out there with the number five jersey and with the team, I can sit back and thank god for everything that has happened. I'm truly blessed.
"We're here now, so we have to take it to another level. Right now, we have one goal and that is to make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship."
In trying to get better this offseason, Denzel Nkemdiche described both his individual goals, and the goals his brother set to get ready for his first season.
"This offseason, I put an emphasis on putting on weight, and today, I weighed in at 210 pounds," he said. "I'm still moving fast, and I still feel explosive, so I'm definitely excited about that and looking forward to putting the pads on. No matter how well I know the position, I can still find things to improve on every day.
"His goal was to stay fast and stay strong. Throughout the summer, he put on weight and still able to run, learning the defense and progressing fast than incoming freshmen typically do. He knows the burden and pressure he has on him, so he's definitely excited about that."
Close-Knit Offensive Line
The Rebels return four starters on the offensive line, plus senior Patrick Junen, who saw action in all 13 games last year, and two of the seniors, Emmanuel McCray and Evan Swindall talked about the chemistry within the unit.
"We have always been a close-knit bunch," McCray said. "We have these guys that have experience, and it gives us a jump-start. They have been in this fast tempo for a while, but what we're working on now is getting into game shape. We have conditioned all summer, but it's something different about that tempo. It takes two or three days to get it going."
"We all hang out together," Swindall said. "We all understand each other. I don't even have to make some calls this year because we know what we're doing naturally."
Both McCray and Swindall admitted some of guys did gain a few pounds, but after the first day, they feel like they're in a good spot.
"Some guys needed to put on weight like Robert Conyers and Ben Still," McCray said. "And other guys were injured, so that comes with the territory. Between camp and the strength and conditioning staff, we'll definitely get those pounds off before the season start."
Also, of note, Swindall said Conyers has been working with him at center, and Tunsil, Golson and Bouldin have been working at second-team left tackle, right tackle and right guard, respectively.
Chris Kiffin, on health of CJ Johnson and Issac Gross: "I expect both of them to be ready for Vanderbilt. They may be a little rusty, but I think we can get some full-speed reps a couple of weeks before, and I think they will be ready to go."
Emmanuel McCray, on putting on pads: "I haven't had a chance to go against Robert yet. I'm waiting on my opportunity, but I really can't wait until we get our pads on. That's a true test. These shirts and jerseys, you can only grab on cloth so long."
Nick Parker, on his move to tight end: "The coaches came to me about it. They wanted to ask me about it, and I said I would give it a try. As of right now, it's going good. I have to learn different techniques and get everything down, but I think I will get it."
Charles Sawyer, on being a leader in the secondary: "I'm going to coach them like Cassius Vaughn or Marshay Green coached me and help them learn from their mistakes."
D.T. Shackelford, on returning to fall practice: "I'm ready to get back to work. I'm ready to get back in there and playing like I'm capable of playing."
Bo Wallace, on Treadwell and Adeboyejo: "They're big, physical guys. They got to get used to the college game, the speed of it. A couple of times they're getting jammed outside, just from the physicality of playing against an SEC defense, but they'll get used to it and be ready to roll."