Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Nutt brags on John Jerry

 With the temperature only reaching close to 90 degrees and winds shifting out of the north, it felt more like springtime than the dog days of summer Friday, but on the practice fields adjacent to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium the action heated up as the Ole Miss football team put on pads for the first time in preseason camp.  

“We got a break in the weather, and had a really good practice,” said first-year head coach Houston Nutt.   “I was hoping for a little hotter weather, but I am sure we’ll get it. The guys bounced around and moved around good. We had a good practice overall.”

 With a couple of players out on the defensive line, freshman Justin Smith of Alpharetta, Ga., got a chance to show the coaches what he can do, and Nutt was pleased.

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“Justin is really coming on,” Nutt said.  “I like what he is doing.  He’s intelligent, he’s committed and he runs to the ball. He may go the wrong way or line up wrong sometimes, but not very often. He’s physical for a freshman, and he’s not afraid to mix it up with the big linemen. I’ve been really proud of him.”

Nutt also praised the other side of the ball, talking about the improvement of the offensive line and the running game as well as first-year quarterback Jevan Snead.

“That group has stepped forward.” he noted. “John Jerry had a good day, Michael Oher probably had his best day and then you have Daverin (Geralds) and Maurice Miller.  Darryl Harris has probably been our best guy, if you had to pick one.

“Jevan had his best day today.  He was on target today.  He had good protection, and the receivers caught some good balls.”

Saturday, the Rebels scrimmaged for the first time this season. Nutt talked about what they hope to see from the team in their first scrimmage.

“I want to see a very physical team,” he said.  “I want to see our secondary tackle and play the ball.  I want to see some of our guards and tackles (especially in the second group), what they do offensively. 

“We have young running backs. I want to see what they do with the helmets coming after them, because they’ve looked real good in shorts when they know they’re not being tackled.  We’ve got three talented running backs. They are very good.  They raise the level of play in Cordera (Eason) and Derrick (Davis).  You’re not afraid to hand them the ball. They can handle it. It’s going to be interesting.”

Saturday marked the final practice which was open to the public.  Starting Sunday, all practices are closed.

Ole Miss will open the 2008 campaign Aug. 30 when the Memphis Tigers travel to Oxford. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.