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Practice report: early to rise

 

Ole Miss changed things up on Monday, practicing at 5:30 a.m. instead of the usual afternoon practices. Head coach Hugh Freeze said he thought the practice went well.

“We slowed it down some today,” Freeze said. “I usually do two or three early mornings in the spring. It’s really a lot of teaching. We try to correct things and get a better understanding of what we’re doing.

“I definitely thought that Brunetti had a good day for most of the day, and the receivers were bright for most of the practice. The offensive line kind of faded there at the end and the defensive line kind of dominated us in that last little team period there. I thought we got a lot out of the day.”

For the first time all spring, sophomore wide receiver/cornerback Nick Brassell was able to practice with the Rebels. He missed the other practices due to academic issues.

“Nick’s whole deal is we love him and he’s one of my favorite kids, but he’s got to get his academics in order,” Freeze said. “There’s no academic tutoring going on at 5:30 in the morning so we felt it was OK for him to get out there. We’re doing everything we can to make sure he makes it.”

While Brassell is behind in terms of knowing the playbook and system because he’s been held out of practice, Freeze said it’s obvious Brassell’s a “special player” who will make the team a lot better.

“He didn’t know what he was doing, but you could tell that he’s got it,” Freeze said. “Just throw him out there in (pass skeleton) and tell him to run back across the pylon and he runs by everybody and scores a touchdown.

“These young men have to understand that they are here for an education first, and I hope he makes it because there’s no doubt he would add a different dimension to us.”

McCray appreciates the opportunity

Junior offensive tackle Emmanuel McCray hasn’t had many chances to shine so far in his Ole Miss career. He played behind Bradley Sowell at left tackle each of the past two seasons and started the spring at No. 2 left tackle behind sophomore Aaron Morris. Last week, Morris moved to starting left guard and McCray was promoted to the first team, and he hasn’t looked back. For the 6’5,” 319-pound lineman, he’s just glad to have a chance.

“It’s the only shot I’m probably ever going to get,” McCray said. “I’m just working to push myself harder at practice because I always questioned myself with how good I was in the previous years because I didn’t get my shot. I want to prove it to myself.”

The Jackson native has battled chronic knee injuries, which kept him off the field this past season after playing in 12 games as a redshirt freshman in 2010. McCray said his knees aren’t much of a problem now.

“That’s the biggest difference this year,” he said. “I’ve been taking care of them a lot better, I feel like, and just taking my medicine that’s required. I’m definitely happy about that.”

Healthy knees and renewed confidence in his abilities have allowed McCray to be one of the surprise stories of the spring and one of the Rebels’ most consistent linemen so far.

“Emmanuel has had a good spring so far; he’s probably been our most consistent, he and A.J. (Hawkins),” Freeze said.

That’s exactly how McCray would like it to stay.

“All in all, it feels good,” McCray said. “I’m finally getting my chance, but it’s all a team effort so I give it up to the O-line and the quarterbacks and everybody. I appreciate the coaches for giving me a shot.”