April 7, 2008

Rebels spend Monday making corrections

Ole Miss returned to the practice field for the first time since Saturday's scrimmage, and as one might expect, Monday's two-hour session focused on correcting the mistakes coaches saw on film.

"It was correction day," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "We had a good focus day. We didn't have a ball on the ground except for maybe that one fumble (Derrick Davis fumbled in team drills) today and we didn't have any (flawed quarterback-center) exchanges today. That's where it starts. I appreciate their effort. I appreciate their attitude. They just have to keep coming. We're not there yet, but we keep coming."

Ole Miss' defense dominated the scrimmage Saturday, and Nutt said the film review showed nothing different.

"You have to give the defense credit," Nutt said. "They're flying around. If you watch the film, they were flying around and it was hard for us to maintain some blocks. That's OK. It's a good feeling to have."

WALKER EMERGING AS DEFENSIVE STANDOUT: In the days prior to the start of spring practice, Nutt said one of the things he was really hoping to see was someone step up at linebacker.

Enter Allen Walker.

"Allen's been our most consistent backer right now," Nutt said. "I think Coach (Tyrone) Nix would agree. He's been very, very steady and I've been proud of how he's competing."

Walker said he's not surprised that he's had such a strong spring, one that has resulted in the former Olive Branch, Miss., star having a firm grip on one of the three linebacker spots.

"I always thought I was one of the better guys here, but I guess I really didn't get my chance," Walker said. "I'm not going to say the (former Ole Miss) coaches didn't like me, but I guess I was on the backburner. I was in the doghouse. The new coaching staff gave me a chance to show what I could do and I'm doing my best every day."

Walker said the coaching change has been rejuvenating.

"It's great because I'm from Mississippi and sitting on the bench for two years, everybody was wondering what I was doing," Walker said. "Now it's my time to shine and I'm taking advantage of it."

Walker said he got in former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron's doghouse for things that occurred on and off the field. He said he's matured since then, but he said he's also benefited from a different coaching style.

"I think we get coached a lot better," Walker said. "I'm not going to say (Tyrone Nix's system) is easier to play, but I think we're just getting better coaching."

OHER GETTING PHYSICAL: It might seem odd to some, but when spring practices began on March 19, All-American offensive tackle Michael Oher was still a bit of a question mark in the eyes of the Rebels' new coaching staff. That is no longer the case.

"Mike, the last 10 days, has really come on," Nutt said. "At first, I didn't like his physicalness because he's such a big man. I thought he was feeling his way but these last few days, he's really improved. I've been proud of that. He can dominate. Once he gets everything on, he can dominate a game and that's what we need to have. I had one like that (at Arkansas) in Shawn Andrews and they're built a lot alike. We just need him to keep coming."

JOHN JERRY OUT FOR SPRING: For regular practice observers, Monday's admission by Nutt that offensive tackle John Jerry is out for the remainder of spring practice and will need surgery wasn't exactly surprising.

"That's probably the biggest disappointment of spring," Nutt said. "He's probably going to have surgery. We can't afford to have this keep reoccurring. It's been reoccurring and we have to get that corrected."

Nutt said Jerry, who's been out with an infection and hemorrhoids, will be back in plenty of time for summer workouts and the start of fall camp.

PERIA JERRY CONTINUES TO SHINE: While John Jerry has been hobbled, defensive tackle Peria Jerry has been one of the stars of camp.

"Peria's been that and more," Nutt said. "Peria's been a real leader for us. He doesn't take one lazy step. He's been a guy that you can depend on. He brings his work hat every day."

Jerry, who is playing at a relative svelte 290 pounds, said he feels much faster and quicker this spring.

"We're feeling pretty good," Jerry said. "We're learning new things. We're getting everything going. We're going to be pretty solid up front."

Jerry has also served as a mentor of sorts for fellow defensive tackle Ted Laurent, who has also had a monster camp.

"He's working hard," Jerry said. "He's lost a few pounds and he's looking good at the nose tackle right now. I feel like I don't have to get doubled as much right now."

EASON FOCUSED ON BALL SECURITY: Running back Cordera Eason has had a good spring, but a recent bout with fumbles upset coaches and shook Eason up a bit as well.

"I've improved a little bit on it," Eason said. "I still have a ways to go. Mainly in the summer, that's all I'm going to be working on. I'm going to work on different drills to hold onto the ball. It's coming along, but I have a ways to go."

REBEL RUMBLINGS: FB Andy Hartmann suffered strained knee ligaments Saturday and missed Monday's practice. …Reserve FB Dan Hoffman tore the ACL and MCL in his knee and will have surgery Wednesday. …DE Chris Strong spent some time Monday working at defensive tackle, a move that has appeared imminent for quite some time. "We're experimenting there a little bit," Nutt said. "He looked good." …SS Jamarca Sanford had an interception in skeleton drills, prompting praise from secondary coaches Chris Vaughn and Kim Dameron. "He did it," Dameron screamed. "Don't let anyone tell you you can't catch a ball." …In team drills, the Rebels scored touchdowns on consecutive plays. First, quarterback Jevan Snead hit Eason on a perfectly-executed dump screen. One play later, Snead connected with tight end Gerald Harris for a long touchdown. Harris, who was running a seam route, made an acrobatic catch.

NEXT UP: The Rebels will practice again Wednesday at 4 p.m. on the practice fields. They'll work Friday as well, though the time and venue for that practice hasn't been determined. Spring drills wrap up Saturday at 1 p.m. with the annual Grove Bowl game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

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