Rebels not holding back in practice

Hugh Freeze has had to swallow his whistle while watching his Ole Miss football team going full-speed in preparation for Georgia Tech's offense. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Hugh Freeze has had to swallow his whistle while watching his Ole Miss football team going full-speed in preparation for Georgia Tech’s offense. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

By Parrish Alford

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Hugh Freeze has been tempted to blow the whistle, but the reward outweighs the risk.

Slowing down the Georgia Tech option means taking on cut-blocks from the Yellow Jackets’ backs and receivers, and shedding those blocks, Freeze says, requires full-speed work in practice.

The cut-block drill has been a staple of each of the Rebels’ Music City Bowl workouts.

“I hate watching it. I’ve wanted to blow it several times and stop it, but I know if we don’t practice it we’ll pay for it,” Freeze said.

The drill is especially dangerous for knees and ankles.

The Rebels already have a number of players sitting out practice and working to get back for the Dec. 30 kickoff.

There have been mixed results with the drill though Freeze believes players have gotten better through the repetitions. It almost requires perfection on the part of the defender. Even a stumble could be enough space for a skilled running back to break off a significant gain.

“If you just lose balance … hopefully you will have some help in the real game, right now it’s two on one, but you’ve got to get the guy that initially gets there to do it right, to make sure the ball goes to the right place,” Freeze said.

Georgia Tech goes into the game with the nation’s No. 5 rushing offense at 311.7 yards a game.

Players like it

Linebacker Serderius Bryant is glad Freeze has kept the whistle in his pocket.

“I love it. It’s helped me out a lot,” he said. “The first day I got cut every time I did it, to tell you the truth. It’s not my type of game. Today I didn’t get cut not once. I’ve gotten way better at it.”

Bryant shares the team lead with 70 tackles and leads the team with 10 tackles for loss.

Bryant says the drill – and ultimately making the plays on game day – requires great athleticism.

The Rebels have good athletes getting them ready in Southern Miss transfer Anthony Alford. He’s sitting out this season and is expected to compete as a defensive back in 2014. He could help in a number of areas.

“You have to be as athletic as possible and avoid getting knocked down,” Nkemdiche said. “When you’ve got a guy like (Alford) that’s really athletic, a guy who can play both ways and knows what angle to take, that’s probably the best cut-block you’re going to take on. Going against him definitely prepares and gets you better.”

parrish.alford@journalinc.com