August 10, 2009

Massie impressive in inaugural college practice

Bobby Massie wasn't cleared by the NCAA until Friday.

Some 72 hours later, one of the most heralded recruits in recent Ole Miss history was on the practice field, and all eyes were on him.

Massie didn't disappoint, performing well and looking comfortable as the Rebels' No. 2 left tackle in Ole Miss' opening practice of the 2009 football season.

"He's got no choice," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "It's where we are. He's one of those guys that physically has to get ready to go. He did enough good things that I know he'll be all right. (Fellow freshmen offensive linemen) Emmanuel McCray and Michael Brown showed why we signed them. They're going to be good players. Massie's older coming from a prep school. He's a little more mature, a little stronger."

Ole Miss senior right tackle John Jerry might dispute Nutt's account. In fact, Jerry said he was more than impressed with Massie, especially with the 6-foot-7, 345-pounder's physical tools.

"I'm surprised physically," Jerry said following the Rebels' 2-hour afternoon workout, one that followed a morning walk-through. "I went against Bobby one time and I kind of underestimated his strength. I was like, 'Whoa.' I looked around and I told (offensive line) Coach (Mike Markuson), 'Next time I won't take it as light on him.'

"I think he had a great day. He really impressed me. With me being one of the leaders on the team, he really impressed me, and not only him, but Emmanuel (McCray) and all of the young guys. They're coming in and they're willing to learn and that's the main thing."

Jerry said Massie is "a little bit behind, but he's going to catch up. We have a lot of time before the first game, so he's going to be all right."

Ole Miss opens its season on Sept. 6 at Memphis. The Rebels open Southeastern Conference play on Sept. 24 at South Carolina.

NUTT PLEASED WITH FIRST DAY: Nutt admitted that he caught himself watching his freshman class several times on Monday, looking to see how the newcomers would do in their first college practices. The second-year Ole Miss coach seemed pleased with what he observed.

"You realize that that was really an exceptional class, but are they ready to go?" Nutt said. "I'm not saying that, but they run and jump and catch. You see potential. I'm really excited about them."

Massie and freshman wide receiver Patrick Patterson saw a lot of playing time with the second-string offense and appear poised to play major roles in the Rebels' offense this fall. However, they weren't the only newcomers who turned heads Monday.

"Boy, they looked good," Nutt said. "I'm really proud of both those guys, and I'll tell you what, Terrell Grant from Cleveland, Miss., Ja-Mes Logan, those three wideouts look very, very good. (Quarterback) Raymond Cotton did some good things. {Tight end) Z. Mason was outstanding at the tight end position. (Linebackers) D.T. Shackelford and Joel Kight (who intercepted a Jevan Snead pass and returned it for a touchdown in team drills) looked really good. (Running back) Tim Simon[db] did some good things, (as did Charles) Sawyer. They all did a very good job."

The final member of the Rebels' class of 25 newcomers waiting to be cleared academically was strong safety Darius "Tig" Barksdale. He got the good news of his clearance late Monday and arrived on the practice field in jeans and a short-sleeved shirt around 6:20 p.m. Nutt said he's hopeful Barksdale will go through physicals and begin practicing with the Rebels sometime Tuesday.

WILLPOWER PAYS OFF FOR JERRY: Like so many of us, Jerry loves late-night snacks. This summer, he eliminated them. The Rebels' right tackle swore off fried foods as well, choosing baked and grilled meats instead.

The result: 38 pounds off his 6-foot-5 frame.

"I can tell it," Jerry said. "I was moving around a lot better. I didn't get as tired. I got tired towards the end, but overall, I have to give all the credit to my strength staff, Coach (Don) Decker and his staff. I can't take the credit. I have to give it to them."

Down to 330, lowest he's been since freshman year of high school. Was 368 in beginning of June.

"I kind of got on the same little regiment that (Jerrell) Powe and some of those other guys were on. I have to give them a lot of credit because if it weren't for Powe and LaMark (Armour) and Lawon (Scott) and those guys _ I saw how those guys were losing weight _ I probably couldn't have done it. I have to tip my hat off to those guys for giving me the motivation to do it."

HARDY MAKES ANTICIPATED RETURN: Ole Miss defensive end Greg Hardy practiced Monday for the first time since the final tune-up for the Cotton Bowl. From all accounts, his surgically-repaired right foot held up well.

"I'm taking it easy," Hardy said. "I'm coming out slow, making sure everything is all right. It felt great just to be out there being able to do what everybody else is doing, especially this morning, just to get out there and do all the drills."

"He did good," Nutt said. "I'm just so glad he is out here and he looked good the first few periods of fundamentals. We just have to gauge him and get him ready gradually. You can't rush him into it. We can't let him go a full practice at once right now, but he looks good."

Hardy said he's having to remind himself to take his time returning to form after suffering through an injury-plagued junior season.

"Last year, I was feeling (pain) and the year before that, I was feeling it," Hardy said. "Right now, I'm really not feeling it and I want to get out there and go, but I have to tell myself there are better things in the future. You have to take these things slow overall because it's a foot and you're trying to get to the first game and trying to make it through the season. I just want to keep it healthy and play it by ear."

REBEL RUMBLINGS: Nutt said the retention from last season to Monday was "really good. So much better. We were just talking about that coming off the field. Compared to last year, so much better. Jevan getting in and out of the huddle. [db]Jonathan Cornell on the other side, getting the signals and getting them out of the huddle. Everybody was much quicker, better. …With Barksdale's clearance, linebacker signee Mike Marry will have to grayshirt, meaning he will have to enroll as a part-time student this fall and go on scholarship in January with a full complement of eligibility. Nutt said he planned to call Marry later Monday, adding that he hopes the Largo, Fla., native "sticks with it. He's smart and athletic, a good player."

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