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November 9, 2010

Notes: Masoli's status uncertain for Tennessee

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OXFORD, Miss. -- Jeremiah Masoli's status for Saturday remains uncertain.

The Ole Miss quarterback suffered a concussion during the first quarter against Louisiana-Lafayette this past Saturday and experienced headaches and vomiting a day later. He practiced sparingly Tuesday, but neither coach Houston Nutt nor trainer Tim Mullins were willing to predict the quarterback's availability at Tennessee.

Local media asked for an interview with Masoli, but Ole Miss officials denied the request.

"We're watching him very closely and doing all we can to make sure of his situation," Mullins said. "Concussions are serious issues, and it's about how the symptoms are dissipating and going away. He has to pass a set of tests, balance test and then we'll see how he handles an exertion test."

"You could clear him (as late as) Saturday morning (kickoff is set for noon EST, 11 a.m. CST). You just check him daily and see where we're at. We just don't know right now."

Concussion tests measure a variety of thing, including headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light, irritability and changes in sleep habits, according to Mullins. Nutt said Masoli visibly wasn't ready for contact Tuesday.

"You could tell he had taken a pretty good hit," Nutt said. "You like his attitude because you know he wants to be out here, but we have to listen to the doctors and do what they say."

Sophomore Nathan Stanley took the majority of the first-team snaps in practice and is preparing to start against the Volunteers. Stanley started the season opener, played one series at Tulane and completed six of 14 passes for 108 yards last Saturday in relief.

"I've got to get back in the swing of things and get ready to play," Stanley said. "I feel like it could have been better Saturday. It was rusty. But it felt good to get back in there, and it feels good to be more involved in practice."

Mullins said Masoli is responding adequately, but the timetable differs with each situation.

"We've had guys in the past that responded good and then they have a setback," Mullins said. "So it's just still too early to say."

REBS PLAN TO RELY ON RUN GAME: Ole Miss broke a three-game losing streak thanks to its running game last Saturday.

The Rebels racked up 298 yards on the ground against Louisiana-Lafayette, increasing the team's confidence and providing momentum for what Ole Miss hopes is a November push to bowl eligibility.

UM needs two more wins for its third straight bowl berth, and the run game will be counted on immensely - maybe even more so than normal with Masoli status in the air.

Nutt was excited about his running backs, but he also cautioned not to make too much out of the domination over the Ragin' Cajuns.

"No disrespect to Louisiana, because they played hard, and I did think we improved," Nutt said. "But we'll play a much more athletic team now that we're jumping back in the SEC. Gotta hold your blocks longer, gotta finish, gotta keep working and getting better."

Junior tailback Brandon Bolden led the assault with 136 yards rushing and three scores (two running, one receiving). He knows the productivity has to continue, and he thinks it's important to take things from Ole Miss' recent win.

"Of course opponents are different, but getting the assignments right and the focus, those are things that should be the same no matter who you're playing," Bolden said. "We have to do our job, and the offensive line has to do its job. It'll be on the road, and it'll be loud, but if we have attention to detail, we can have the same success."

Bolden isn't worried with whether Masoli or Stanley get the bulk of the playing time in Knoxville. While some plays will be different and the scheme changes, the backs' jobs are close to identical.

"We have to pass block more and protect if Nathan is in there, but we have confidence in him," Bolden said. "I'd be surprised if Jeremiah didn't play, but we have to win with whoever the quarterback is. We're familiar with both and just have to get the win."

DOOLEY GIVES BRAY CREDIT: Derek Dooley would really like to avoid comment, but try as he might, the Tennessee head coach had to admit freshman quarterback Tyler Bray had quite the game Saturday at Memphis.

Bray - in his first start - passed for 333 yards and five touchdowns, as the Volunteers demolished Memphis, 50-14. It was quite the debut, and Dooley did his best to downplay the event. However, during UT's Monday press gathering, the first-year head coach folded.

"It's hard to say that he didn't do enough to make a statement," Dooley said to VolQuest.com. "That'd be kind of a ridiculous comment by me. He had a phenomenal first half. It pains me a little bit to say that he played well because he's a freshman in his first game, but he played really well.

"He made some great throws, avoided the rush really well, took some hard shots. If you didn't watch the game you'd think it was probably easy. It was a little because we had them mismatched on the back end, but up front we didn't block them. Guys were in his face all night. It wasn't like he was back there all day (with time), and I feel like that's a good evaluation."

However, the Volunteers need three more just like if they are to reach a bowl game.

"You have to keep it in perspective though. It's one game and one game has never made a quarterback, it's never made a team and it won't in this case," Dooley said.

TENNESSEE TIDBITS: Starting right guard Zach Fulton has an ankle injury and is doubtful for the game against Ole Miss… Tight end Luke Stocker sustained a concussion, but Dooley expects him to play… Cornerback Naz Oliver was medically cleared after tearing his ACL in the spring, but Dooley said his availability is "unrealistic."


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