Spring Practice Report 03.21: Saturday Open To Fans

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Senior defensive end C.J. Johnson
Senior defensive end C.J. Johnson

March 21, 2014

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss takes the field for the seventh practice of spring football drills on Saturday, and fans can get their first glimpse of the new-look Rebels. The open practice will start at 11 a.m. in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Fans with baseball parking passes should park in their reserved baseball lot and enter Vaught-Hemingway through Gate 15 in the northeast corner of the stadium. Fans without baseball passes are encouraged to park in the coliseum lot, walk around the construction area and enter through Gates 8, 9 or 10 on the west side of the stadium. Restrooms are available in the west concourse.

“Hopefully, it’s going to be a really physical, high-energy practice,” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “We’re going to compete in first-down, 2nd-and-7, 3rd-and-short, red zone and Red ball competitions. There will be some good competition, and it will be live with mostly the ones and twos and get about 50 plays each.”

The Rebels practiced outdoors for the first time this spring Friday afternoon. After talking about the team's intensity and effort in previous practices, Freeze touched on their execution through the first two weeks.

“We’re a ways away,” Freeze said. “That’s something that playing the number of young kids we’re playing, particularly on the offensive line. There are quite a few guys like Fadol (Brown), Anthony (Alford), Marquis (Haynes), Herbert (Moore), defensively who we are depending on, who are quite new at all the stuff. For five days of practice we are not behind, but we still have a ways to go in the execution of things. We’re making progress. I have been pleased.”

One of the older players, C.J. Johnson, has emerged as a leader this spring after missing most of last season with an ankle injury.

“The injury took him out of things last year,” Freeze said. “We didn’t see a lot of that throughout the course of the season. Once we got back and into team workouts and getting reports from Paul Jackson, it was evident that he had turned the page and was ready.”

"It's been really fun to come out here and work," Johnson said. "I'm so excited. My body feels good. I probably have not felt this good since I have been here. I'm stronger and faster, so I'll be better."

Another returning starter, Derrick Jones, continues to progress at cornerback after playing nine games with four starts last season. Freeze credits the Rebels’ talented wide receiver corps for his continued development this spring.

“He’s going against some good receivers every day in one-on-ones,” Freeze said. “He had never played corner before in his life, like we’re asking him to play. He still has a way to go to develop. He has the tools to be a really good one.”

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