By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt sang the praises of his recruiting class all during the off-season and sang them even louder Saturday after the Rebels’ first practice.
A day that was about to begin outside moved to the indoor practice facility when thunder and lighting appeared around the 4:30 p.m., start time.
Ole Miss worked out for about 2 1/2 hours in shorts and helmets. They’ll practice again today at 4:30.
Nutt has said he’s counting on newcomers to add depth and compete for starting jobs.
On the first day, freshmen Nick Brassell, Senquez Golson, C.J. Johnson and Donte Moncrief and junior college transfers Aaron Garbutt and Jamal Mosley all got significant snaps with the first and second teams.
“I loved them more today than on signing day,” Nutt said. “We threw them right into the middle of it. The thing is, we had a spring with these (veteran) guys. Now it’s time to find out what the others can do. If they’re athletic enough to help us, we’ll put them out there.”
Plenty of the newcomers look like they’re up to the challenge.
Brassell, the former South Panola wide receiver, played both sides of the ball and made his bigger plays on defense, once showing his closing speed and picking off a pass intended for Philander Moore.
Golson, at cornerback, showed his skills too. Beaten once on a deep pattern, he rebounded a couple of plays later with a nice break-up of a pass intended for freshman T.J. Worthy. One one play, Brassell had just received instructions from cornerbacks coach Keith Burns, when he dropped into coverage but quickly recognized a run play. He made the read and met sophomore Jeff Scott near the line of scrimmage.
After their helmets knocked in a mild collision, Scott said, “Man, I thought you were on offense.”
Defense is where the depth needs are greater, particularly at linebacker.
Occasionally a safety, often Brishen Matthews was used as a linebacker, but Nutt says there’s no position change for his hardhitting sophomore.
He also doesn’t plan to stray from his base 4-3 defense because of numbers at linebacker.
“Brishen’s a safety. We’ll bring him down some and mix things up,” Nutt said. “He’s a guy that’s very physical. He’s playing the ball better, and we know he’s a hitter, but we won’t get away from our base. Our base is 4-3, and we’ll go from there.”
The quarterback race will get much of the attention early in camp.
On the first day Nutt praised all three – Barry Brunetti, Randall Mackey and Zack Stoudt – for their handling of the 2-minute offense. Quarterback play was better at the end of the workout than at the beginning, Nutt said.