OXFORD – Amid the coaching news – with Houston Nutt talking with Kansas and the unsuccessful pursuit by Florida of his defensive coordinator, Tyrone Nix – Ole Miss bowl preparation seemed to find the back burner last week.
Nutt and Nix are both remaining, and both were pleased to turn their attention to their younger players – some of them new to the practice field.
The Rebels were off Monday but will be back at work today. They’ll practice through Saturday before being released for Christmas break. They will gather in Dallas on Dec. 26 to continue work for the Jan. 2 Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma State.
The focus will continue to shift to the Cowboys, but early bowl work has focused on this year’s redshirt players and some from the 2009 signing class – so-called “grayshirts” – who have just now joined the team.
“It’s fun to watch the young guys going full speed and seeing how excited they are,” quarterback Jevan Snead said. “They’re good. There’s a lot of talent there.”
Redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley got some playing time, mostly late in games that had already been decided, behind Snead this year.
True freshman Raymond Cotton should be in the mix for playing time next year and has benefitted from the extra bowl practice.
“There’s nothing like bowl practice,” Nutt said. “Just being able to teach our young guys and give them the fundamentals … that’s what it’s all about.”
Freshman wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan made some nice plays in August, but with the numbers at the position he was ultimately redshirted. Logan arrived at 170 pounds but is up to 195, Nutt said.
Another player who has put on weight is freshman Alex Williams. He arrived at 203 pounds as a defensive end and sustained a broken leg early in August work. Williams has had a successful rehab of the injury, has put on 25 pounds and has been moved to linebacker.
Another freshman position switch in what coaches like to call a “mini-spring training” has wide receiver Terrell Grant going to safety.
Also getting into practice, once the fall semester was complete, is former South Panola star Darius “Tig” Barksdale. Barksdale was projected to play at safety this season, but in August it was announced he would sit out for undisclosed medical reasons. Those medical issues are “resolved right now,” Nutt said.
Grayshirt players who have joined the team for bowl practice include defensive end Cameron Whigham, linebacker Mike Marry and center Evan Swindall.
“Mike Marry is a big body that we really need,” Nutt said. “He’s 250 pounds, and we think he can play other positions too. We know Tig has a world of ability. He can play kick returner, safety, tailback, and he’ll be on all the special teams.”
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal