Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fantastic freshmen catch Nutt's eye in 1st practice

An optimistic Houston Nutt left his first Ole Miss preseason practice with a high opinion of his roster - especially the freshman class.

"I'll tell you what - they don't look like little freshmen," said Nutt, the first-year Rebels coach. "They're physically ahead of the game for their age, and I'm proud of that."

Nutt mentioned several of the newcomers by name, including the running back trio of Enrique Davis, Brandon Bolden and Devin Thomas.

All three are competing with junior Cordera Eason for the starting spot. Davis comes in with the most hype as the No. 1 prep school recruit in the country, but Bolden and Thomas have received considerable accolades as well.

And at least for the first day - the three left an impression worthy of their reputation.

"Everything you've heard about them," Nutt said, "I agree with."

The Rebels took the field at about 5:20 p.m. and went through a practice that lasted about 2 1/2 hours. Temperatures were hot, but not nearly as bad as the 100-degree predictions forecasted over the weekend. Players wore helmets, but did not wear pads as the team goes through the NCAA's required acclimation period.

Only a few players had to drop out of practice, which senior fullback Jason Cook said was an indication of how hard the team had worked over the summer.

"It's been a tremendous difference," Cook said. "The time of the practice helped, but (strength coach Don Decker) has got us so strong and so conditioned that it's unbelievable. I haven't been able to go through a practice like this since I was a freshman."

Nutt admitted that, as with any first day practice, mistakes were common. But he also saw numerous positives, especially at the quarterback spot.

Nutt praised Jevan Snead's first day, even though the sophomore and almost certain starter threw a few interceptions during drills.

"Some of those weren't his fault," Nutt said. "He threw the ball well, especially early."

The receivers dropped a few easy catches on hot routes that would have helped Snead's day. But the coach was pleased that his quarterback didn't hold a grudge.

"He's got a short memory and that's what you need back there," Nutt said.

One thing the Rebels sorely lack is quality depth at quarterback. But Nathan Stanley, a true freshman, showed a quick and accurate arm during drills, routinely hitting his receivers in stride.

When Nutt talks about the 6-foot-5, 195-pounder, his speech becomes even more excited than usual.

"We got us one there," he said.

Nutt was especially pleased when the coaches threw Stanley into a drill on a third-and-8 play. He connected with a receiver for the first down.

"He didn't even flinch," Nutt said.

Also of interest for many of the 200-some fans in attendance was how defensive lineman Jerrell Powe looked on the field. At 6-foot-2 and 340 pounds, Powe appeared a little out of shape, but did not have to leave practice.

Powe played mostly with the third team at nose tackle.

"It was good," Nutt said. "He was carrying around 340 pounds, (but) I was proud of him."

The Rebels will practice each day this week at 5:20 p.m. with the first scrimmage scheduled for Saturday. Practices are open to the public for the rest of the week.

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