Spring brings injuries, improvement, physicality and a good start for newcomers.
Spring practice is concluded each year with the playing of the Grove Bowl.
The Grove Bowl is a scrimmage to mark the progress Ole Miss has made during the 14 prior spring practices.
It pits the blue team against the red team with one side comprised of the starters on offense and reserves on defense, the other is made up of the starters on defense and reserves on offense.
There is no question that this spring has been very physical for Ole Miss.
Despite injuries, the energy and physicality has been present throughout. Head coach Hugh Freeze would like to see that one more time on Saturday in the annual Grove Bowl, which is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff.
“We’re going to get ready to have a physical Saturday for sure,” Freeze said.
It’s always good to improve and play physical in the spring. However, sometimes that can lead to a negative.
junior offensive lineman Aaron Morris (out for spring), junior quarterback Bo Wallace (out for spring), junior offensive lineman D.J. Bailey (out for spring), junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief, sophomore defensive lineman Issac Gross, junior wide receiver Vincent Sanders, freshman tight end Christian Morgan, senior wide receiver Korvic Neat, senior defensive back Charles Sawyer, senior offensive lineman Patrick Junen, junior defensive tackle Carlton Martin and more.
While injuries have taken most of the headlines, there has been improvement worth noting in many players, as well.
“There has been marked improvement in a lot of kids,” Freeze said.
“I think of the Chief Browns of the world, and Temario Strongs and D.T. Shackelfords. Carlos Davis is showing up and so is Anthony Alford.”
The biggest story coming into the spring was, as it is most years, the quarterback situation.
All eyes were on Barry Brunetti and Maikhail Miller and how they would perform in the absence of Bo Wallace.
“Up and down. They’re both just really inconsistent,” Freeze said of Brunetti and Miller’s performances this spring.
Both quarterbacks struggled with accuracy this spring but have excelled when the plays go live.
This means the quarterback is involved in full-contact tackling instead of two-hand touch. This allowed them to escape the pocket and make more plays with their feet.
“It gives you an accurate representation of who we are,” Freeze said.
“I had a feeling it would help us get a few more runs out of Barry and Maikhail and make us more successful.”
An issue that Freeze spoke about this spring was depth. There were glaring depth deficiencies at tight end.
Freeze was also displeased with his depth along the offensive and defensive line as well as at wide receiver.
He said his team was “a few more recruiting years away” from being able to match up as far as depth goes in the SEC.
Lastly, there were newcomers who impressed. First is Mark Dodson, who is an early high school enrollee.
Dodson made waves at running back this spring and at times looks like a guy who will garner major reps come fall practices.
The next is Quadarias Mireles, who is a December junior college graduate and former Ole Miss signee out of high school.
The next two guys are Christian Morgan, who made many big plays at tight end this spring before tearing a meniscus, and Lavon Hooks, who looked the part but spent most of the spring trying to get a grasp of the playbook.
Hooks is a guy who could break out come fall camp.
Five things to watch for come Saturday’s Grove Bowl
Denzel Nkemdiche: He picked up right where he left off last season and is a real playmaker.
The quarterback situation: Barry Brunetti and Maikhail Miller are fighting for the backup job and both are gifted runners.
It may come down to who makes more plays with his arm.
The running backs: This is a position that went from the Jeff Scott show to a stable.
Everyone knows the usual cast in Scott, I’Tavius Mathers, Jaylen Walton and Mark Dodson, but newcomers Darryan Ragsdale and Nick Parker have looked good at times this spring, as well.
Tight end: Who can make plays and show that they can step up and help at this position come fall?
Anthony Alford has impressed at safety this spring as well. Quintavius Burdette should help here, too.
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