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Preseason Football – Defensive backs improve, Morris practices with first-team offense


The Ole Miss football team hit the practice field Monday afternoon after reviewing film of Saturday’s scrimmage on Sunday.

After practice Monday, head coach Houston Nutt was pleased with his team’s return to the field.

“We had our best work day today,” Nutt said. “We started early and did a really good job of focusing and concentrating.”

Nutt mentioned junior defensive back Aaron Garbutt, senior defensive end Wayne Dorsey, senior defensive tackles Justin Smith and redshirt freshman defensive tackles Byron Bennett and Carlton Martin as players who stood out on defense Monday.

Offensively, Nutt singled out freshman wide receiver Tobias Singleton.

“Tobias Singleton had an awesome day,” Nutt said. “I thought he caught the ball extremely well. He made some big plays for us today, really proud of him.”

Nutt praised the offensive line for having a very physical day on Monday, after not going as hard as he would like to see during Saturday’s scrimmage.

Improvements in the secondary

It is no secret that the young Ole Miss secondary struggled last season. Ole Miss brought in new defensive backs coach Keith Burns from Kansas State and, after a spring and one week of fall camp, the improvements can be seen on the field.

Nutt was impressed with the performance by the corners in Saturday’s scrimmage.

“Marcus Temple, Wesley Pendleton, and Charles Sawyer – those three guys are really doing a good job of playing the ball,” Nutt said. “They are very quick, fast and are doing a good job of coverage.”

Burns echoed Nutt’s sentiments about the way his corners played Saturday.

“Overall, we did well,” Burns said. “The guys we are counting on – I thought they stepped up and made plays. Outside of the one play they caught along the sideline, we eliminated the big play.

“I love their attitude and I love their work ethic.”

Morris makes push to start

The Ole Miss offensive line has received lots of attention and accolades as the 2011 season approaches. The unit is filled with veteran talent and has great depth. However, part of that depth may be forcing its way into a starting role.

After Saturday’s scrimmage where freshman Aaron Morris was the “most physical lineman,” according to head coach Houston Nutt, Morris worked with the first-team offensive line at left guard during Monday’s practice.

“Aaron Morris has made a huge jump,” Nutt said. “He is very mature for his age. He was the most physical offensive lineman in the scrimmage Saturday and that is why he is in that starting spot.”

Ole Miss offensive line coach Mike Markuson also praised the import Morris has had during fall camp, but mentioned the depth chart is fluid

“For a true freshman, he’s done a lot of good things. We’re really pleased with his progress,” Markuson said. “That thing (the depth chart) is subject to change every day.

“You just keep working and see what the next guy does compared to that guy and just keep working on it.”

While Morris has impressed with his physical play on the field, he’s still working on getting the playbook down after switching sides from backup right guard to starting left guard on Monday.

“We moved him to the left side,” Markuson said. “He’s been at right for a week, so he’s spinning a little bit.

“Football players play fast when they know what to do. He’s not quite there yet. He’ll get better. He’ll get it.”

Injury watch

After practice Monday, coach Nutt said that junior tight end Alex Williams tore his ACL late in the scrimmage Saturday and would be out for the year. Nutt also said that junior defensive tackle Gilbert Pena had a fracture in his hand, but expected him to be back in about three days.