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August 27, 2010For those covering the Ole Miss program in 2008, it was common to see Nathan Stanley and Melvin Harris working after practice.
Two years later, that hard work has apparently paid off. Stanley seems poised to make his first collegiate start in eight days, and Harris figures to be one of his top targets.
"I'm excited," Stanley said of Ole Miss' Sept. 4 opener against Jacksonville State at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. "Good nerves are setting in. I'm ready to go. I feel like we've grown to be comfortable with each other and how each other plays and how I throw. I think that's really paid off."
Stanley has battled Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli and junior college transfer Randall Mackey throughout fall camp. Masoli's status remains unclear as of Friday afternoon as he awaits an NCAA ruling on a residency waiver that would allow him to play for the Rebels this season. Stanley said the uncertainty around Masoli's status doesn't impact his preparation for the opener.
"The coaches will make the calls," Stanley said, "and whatever happens happens."
Stanley is coming off a strong performance in last weekend's scrimmage, one that saw him connect with classmates Harris and Ja-Mes Logan.
"Melvin has come so far," Stanley said. "He's going to be a weapon for us. I'm excited to see him play. He's doing a great job. In the summer, he never missed a workout. He never missed a 7-on-7 or a route tree. He was always there. You could tell he wanted to play. He had a tenacious attitude about him. He'd always say it too. He'd say, 'Man, it's got to be me and you this year.'
"(Logan) is doing OK. He had a really good spring. He's doing pretty good things. We're excited about him and he's going to play a lot."
Stanley said he feels much more prepared for game action than he did when he was when he was forced into play when Snead was injured in the second quarter of the Rebels' Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State in January.
"I'm a lot more familiar with our playbook now than I was then," Stanley said. "I think I'm way more prepared than I was then. I'm ready to go."
MATHEWS READY FOR DEBUT: Brishen Mathews had likely played his way into the playing rotation anyway, but when Fon Ingram went down with a minor knee injury earlier this week (Ingram had successful surgery Thursday and will miss up to four weeks), the freshman safety knew he had to be ready quickly.
"I'm nervous as always," Mathews said. "You know, SEC, best conference in the nation, can't beat it, but I feel like I'm ready. I've been here going on three months and I've been working like everybody else and I feel like I'm ready."
Mathews said he's about "90 percent" confident with the playbook, adding that he feels confident at both safety spots as well as in the Rebels' nickel and dime packages. Mathews, known for his physical play at the prep level, said he thinks he's ready to handle the step up in that department as well.
"In practice, I'm there," Mathews said. "In a game situation, I guess we'll just have to see. There's only one way to find that out. I can't wait."
SPECIAL TEAMS FOCUS OF FRIDAY WORK: Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt put his team through a short workout Friday afternoon in shorts and shoulder pads, focusing quite a bit on special teams work.
"We're trying to go over everything you can think of, from the last play of the game to the last second to victory formation, all that you can think of," Nutt said. "We'll do a rehearsal tomorrow and try to go A through Z."
Nutt said Jesse Grandy, Brandon Bolden, Derrick Herman, Jeff Scott, Markeith Summers and Frank Crawford are in the mix to handle some of the return duties. Wesley Phillips returned to full-contact work on Friday and figures to share snapping duties with freshman Will Denny.
Nutt said the Rebels will go through a dress rehearsal of sorts Saturday, going through various scenarios "just to make sure we can get 11 out on the field and that we're paying attention and doing right."
Ole Miss will begin its game-week routine on Sunday, which includes taking Monday off before practicing in full pads on Tuesday.
REBEL RUMBLINGS: Nutt said freshman offensive guard Jared Duke (concussion) had headaches again Friday, so he held him out of contact work. Freshman defensive tackle Bryon Bennett has a slightly strained MCL. Nutt said the Madison, Miss., product will be back soon.
SEASON TICKET SALES NEAR 45,000: With the 2010 Rebel football season just over a week away, the Ole Miss ticket office is announcing one of its highest totals ever for season tickets sold.
As of Friday morning, there have been 44,460 season ticket packages sold, which includes the full allotment of 7,500 student season tickets.
A limited number of season tickets remain. To order your tickets today, log on to OleMissSports.com and click on the "Tickets" link. You can also call the Ole Miss Ticket Office at 662-915-7167 or 1-888-732-8587 (in state) or visit a ticket window at Tad Smith Coliseum between the hours of 8:30 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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