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August 7, 2011OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss was in team drills late in Sunday afternoon's practice and Keith Burns was searching for Nick Brassell.
Burns yelled for the freshman from Batesville, Miss., but there was no answer. Eventually, the Rebels' secondary coach figured out the reason he couldn't garner a response from Brassell. The former Rivals100 standout was lined up across the field - as a wide receiver.
Ole Miss' second practice of fall camp was in shorts and helmets, granted, but Brassell is definitely making a strong case for immediate playing time on both sides of the football. Brassell hauled in a long pass from Barry Brunetti during skeleton drills on offense and intercepted a Randall Mackey pass and returned it for a touchdown minutes later.
"I love it," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "I love it. He can do it. There's no doubt in my mind."
The Rebels worked for almost two hours in brutally hot conditions _ the mercury hovered around 97 degrees with the heat index readings topping 110 degrees during the session _ though the conditions didn't seem to hamper Brassell until the very end of the practice.
"We can't go run six go routes and then go cover six goes," Nutt said. "That 's basically what happened there in that one period. He ran about four or five goes and then turned around and had to go cover a guy running 50 yards twice. That's tough going in 110 heat index."
DEFENSE DOMINATES: Brassell wasn't the only defender making plays Sunday. Damien Jackson had a pair of interceptions. Aaron Garbutt had one. Charles Sawyer did as well. Mackey was intercepted three times in skeleton drills. Stoudt appeared to be intercepted twice, and Jackson intercepted a Brunetti pass that bounced off Brandon Bolden's hands.
"Today we came out here and tried to correct from yesterday," Nutt said. "I thought we got some things corrected. The heat jumped on us a little bit and we lost some concentration but I loved what the defense did today. I thought they really ran to the ball. They caused a lot of turnovers today and it came in droves. I was excited about how fast the defense played today.
"They're showing a lot of speed and they're breaking on the ball with a lot of agility and athleticism," Nutt said. "Aaron Garbutt showed up today. Senquez Golson for two days in a row doesn't look like a freshman. That's been good. Nick Brassell does both sides of the ball and he's over on a corner and he gets an interception today and runs it back for a touchdown, so we've got some special guys. (Charles) Sawyer and (Marcus) Temple are much better. Wesley Pendleton is better. We're better, but we've just got to keep going."
QUARTERBACK UPDATE: Brunetti appeared to clearly have the best day Sunday among the quarterbacks vying for the Rebels' starting job. However, each of the trio had his struggles Sunday.
"There were some routes that weren't right and there were some protections that weren't right, so it was a little bit of everybody," Nutt said. "We'll look at the film and correct it. We can throw better than that. We can catch better. We can run better routes and we can protect better. It's all 11 of us."
JUNEN SETTLING IN: After spring drills, just one offensive line spot _ left guard _ appeared to be undecided. After two practices, however, sophomore Patrick Junen appears to be putting his clamps on that spot.
"Patrick's doing really well," Nutt said. "It seems like he has a better grasp of things right now as far as terminology, communication with his center, pulling and all those things. I'm anxious to get the pads on Monday and hopefully, he carries that over."
FEELING THE HEAT: By the end of Sunday's session, cold towels were the most valuable commodity on the practice field. Gatorade likely could have fetched five times the going rate at Wal-Mart, and a dip in a cold tub was a luxury.
"Right now, nobody's getting IVs and we're not going to the hospital," Nutt said. "I think that's key, where you can get them back again and do it again and just take a little bit at a time and give them a little more each time."
Ole Miss will practice again Monday at 4:30. The Rebels will strap on shoulder pads for the first time this fall. The squad's first full-pads practice is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
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