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August 15, 2012
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze meets with the media following Wednesday morning's practice.
OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss closed its first practice of Wednesday with an overtime period.
Bo Wallace's short pass to Donte Moncrief turned into a 25-yard touchdown on the first play of the extra session, and Tanner Burns' stop of Barry Brunetti on fourth-and-goal ended it.
"The overtime period was just OK," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "The first group scored on the first play, but it was just sloppy tackling on the defensive side. I don't know if they were on the sideline and didn't want to take a shot at one of our teammates. I don't know, but it looked sloppy.
"Then the other team, to get it down there and get a penalty was disappointing. We didn't get it in, but give credit to the defense for making a play that changed the game."
It was a bit of a theme for the practice, the first of two on Wednesday. The defense started fast but faded late, while the offense had a generally positive day.
The Rebels also worked heavily on the running game Wednesday morning, a move that was made primarily to give the defense a look at run-oriented offenses.
"That's now who we are," Freeze said. "But it's good if you get into a sloppy rain game or something and you're struggling, you better be able to do something. It's good for us, too."
The Rebels will return to the practice fields at 5:15 p.m. today, marking the last two-a-day practice of fall camp. Ole Miss will practice once Thursday and once Friday before scrimmaging Saturday morning. Classes begin Monday and the Rebels open the season on Sept. 1 against Central Arkansas at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
ALLEN NOT WORRIED ABOUT WEIGHT: While Mike Marry is prototypical size for a linebacker in the Southeastern Conference at 245 pounds, Ole Miss' other linebacker spot in the 4-2-5 will mostly be manned by players carrying significantly less weight.
Aaron Garbutt and Denzel Nkemdiche will get the majority of the Rebels' snaps at the stinger linebacker position, and each weighs right at 200 pounds. The converted safeties may not be Marry's size, but linebacker coach Tom Allen isn't worried about it.
As long as the assignments are sounds, results will follow.
"We call them flow players because they move around," Allen said. "We moved those guys from safety to linebacker by design to increase our speed at the position. The challenge was to get them to play physical. Garbutt has embraced that challenge and has gained weight over the summer and is playing physical in the box. Denzel is like the Tasmanian Devil because he plays so hard. If I can get his eyes right and get his fit right, I'm not worried about his weight.
"If you're 205 pounds in this league and strong, explosive, with the right scheme you can play."
Sophomore Keith Lewis missed the spring due to injury, but he's made up ground quickly this fall. He's Ole Miss' third first-team linebacker in the 4-3 and is pushing Marry in the 4-2-5.
"Lewis is the best combination of size and speed of all our linebackers," Allen said. "He's still catching up but it's coming fast. He's been really impressive so far."
SCOTT'S SPOT IN JEOPARDY: Jeff Scott entered fall camp as Ole Miss' starting running back. His grasp on that spot today is iffy at best. Scott has missed time with a concussion and a lower back problem, and Randall Mackey, Jaylen Walton and I'Tavius Mathers have had strong performances in his wake.
"Absolutely it's tight," Freeze said. "Jaylen and I'Tavius and Mackey have proven that they're tough and they've been through every practice, something I respect out of kids that do what they do and take a beating."
THE GLOVED ONE: Wallace threw with a glove on his right hand Wednesday, an effort to let a severe blister on his throwing hand heal.
"He doesn't want to do that, but if you continue to open it up, I don't know if it'll ever get well, so we're trying to put some bandages on it today and put a glove on it," Freeze said. "He seemed to be OK with it.
"I thought Bo did really well in our (skeleton) drives, both times putting it in the end zone."
EPPERSON MAKING MOVE: Former tight end E.J. Epperson worked with the starting defense Wednesday instead of Cameron Whigham, who had worked in that spot throughout fall camp.
"He's been a super effort guy all camp," Freeze said. "He's a great kid and he's great for our football team and we try to honor those. He's got some disadvantages over there because he's so new there, but man, his effort is just unquestionable. You put the film on every day and you see his effort is top shelf."
NO WORD ON WARD: As of Wednesday at noon, Ole Miss officials still had not heard from the NCAA regarding the eligibility of freshman defensive end Channing Ward.
"We love him and he's done everything to do it the right way to become eligible," Freeze said. "I just can't imagine. He took his additional coursework just like he was permitted to do and he took the (standardized) test with his accommodations. I can't wait for him to get here."
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