After practice Wednesday, Hugh Freeze said his team has been focused and attentive, which is exactly what you want from your team in practice the week leading up to playing the two-time defending national champions, Alabama.
“I like where our kids are right now,” Freeze said following Wednesday’s practice. “We practiced hard, got after it. Maybe too physical at times, but I think we’re as far along this week preparing for Alabama as we could be.”
Then came the good news for the Rebel defense. Denzel Nkemdiche practiced again today. Freeze said earlier in the week that Wednesday would be when they would be looking for swelling on his knee.
“He didn’t have any swelling today,” Freeze said. “If that is the case tomorrow, we’ll put him on the travel squad.”
Freeze also spoke about the development of highly-recruited junior college defensive lineman Lavon Hooks at tight end. Hooks split time at tight end and defensive tackle during Wednesday’s workout.
“Learning, swimming a bit, trying to go fast. So we’ve scaled it back this week. We’ve got one package for him. I think he understands that and he gives us a different look,” he said.
Freeze said that Hooks will continue to split reps at each position for the remainder of this season to maintain the current depth at defensive tackle in case of injury at that position. Next spring, Freeze noted, would be when they would have to make a final decision on Hooks’ permanent position.
Freeze also spoke about the overall health of his team to this point this season. Assuming Nkemdiche plays on Saturday, and with the return of Vincent Sanders, the Rebels will have all hands on deck, minus Aaron Morris, who is out for the season.
“We’re fresh. Pierce (Burton) gimps around a bit, but he’ll go through this game for sure. I feel like we’re as healthy as we could be at this point,” Freeze said.
Secondary coach Jason Jones said after practice on Wednesday that Senquez Golson and Mike Hilton played every snap against Texas. Naturally, the return of Charles Sawyer to that group of cornerbacks this week will be a major help.
“(Sawyer’s) going to help us at boundary some. He’s been in these battles before. Him and Hilton both will probably share that spot. Bringing Derrick Jones along, he’s going to help, too,” Freeze said.
Freeze also noted that Devante Kincade has been taking second string reps at quarterback this week because Barry Brunetti has had issues with his shoulder.
“I’m not sure what will happen the first time he gets hit on it, but I know he’ll try to go,” he said.
One thing that stood out during Wednesday’s work was how much different the offense looks with the return of Vincent Sanders. As was expected, Ja-mes Logan was moved back inside to the slot, so that Sanders could man the outside spot opposite Donte Moncrief. Logan was very explosive and made a lot of big plays in the slot during the part of practice media was allowed to watch.
The Rebels have a nice rotation of slot receivers now that Logan is back at that spot. They rotated Laquon Treadwell, Jordan Holder, Collins Moore, Korvic Neat and Logan at that spot on Wednesday.