April 2, 2008

Green sticks at cornerback

Marshay Green was back at cornerback Wednesday afternoon, a sure sign that the Rebels' defensive coaches liked what they saw on Monday, when the wide receiver/return specialist traded in his blue jersey for a white one for the first time.

"It's permanent until the end of spring," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "What he brings to the team, he's such a competitor. He brings energy. He brings emotion. He brings a lot. He lifts them up."

Green said Wednesday that he had never played defense before this week, not during Pee Wee ball, his stellar career at Bastrop (La.) High School and certainly not last season when he caught 31 passes for the Rebels.

"I'm actually kind of restless," Green said. "I've been out a week (with a staph infection) and I haven't played defense ever, so it's kind of weird. I'm just trying to learn how to backpedal and I'm trying to learn schemes and stuff like that. I'll learn though."

Green said Nutt called him aside and told him he could make the team a whole lot better by moving to defense.

"Also, he said he would still play me on offense, like in certain packages," Green said. "But he said moving to defense would make the team better, so I was like, 'Cool.'"

Green had an impressive interception in skeleton drills Wednesday, stepping in front of Mike Wallace on an out route. Later in the drill, however, Green got picked on. It's all part of the learning process.

"When I was backpedaling, I was sticking my head in the backfield, and that can hurt you," Green said. "That's the biggest challenge, I think."

Green said he's not yet comfortable in run-support, but he's not intimidated by the prospect of contact either.

"If push comes to shove, I'm all about coming down and tackling," Green said. "I'm just ready for the challenge. I'm just trying to bring energy, lift the defense and help the team."

Green admitted that he's given some thought to the reality that a 5-foot-9, 170-pounder has a better chance of playing in the NFL at cornerback that he does at wide receiver.

"That came across my mind a little bit," Green said. "With the competitive nature I've got, I think I can really play corner in the SEC. The only thing I have to do is learn the schemes and just try to be patient. I figure if I do that, everything will come."

RUNNING GAME PROGRESSING: Nutt said Wednesday he's seeing progress in the running game, even if it's not always evident in the results.

"It's getting better," Nutt said. "If you took the film the first week and compared it to today, it's a lot better. Are we there yet? No, we're not there yet, but we're getting better.
"We're just not getting everybody at the right spot on (a particular) play. There are five linemen and we have four on a particular play doing it just right. It takes five. We're trying to put an emphasis on 11 and getting 11 to do it right. As far as kinks, I'd say it's a missed assignment here, a dropped ball here, a missed snap count, an illegal procedure. You can't have it."

With Jeremy McGee's move to cornerback and the move of Reggie Hicks to tight end, Ole Miss is getting a little thin at tailback. Cordera Eason is the starter and Derrick Davis is his backup. Behind the two former Meridian stars, however, it's slim-pickings. Dexter McCluster appears to be a bigger part of the offensive backfield every practice, but the Rebels are clearly going to be counting on freshmen Enrique Davis, Devin Thomas and Brandon Bolden in the fall.

"We're going to give them a great look," Nutt said. "Not to take anything away from Cordera, he's done a great job and he's had a great spring and I'm proud of him. Jason Cook and Andy Hartmann have had good springs and competed. Derrick Davis is coming on, but those three freshmen will get a solid look. They'll get all they want."

Nutt said he has been pleased with the downfield blocking of his wide receiver corps.

"They're playing with great effort," Nutt said. "They've done a great job. Of the long runs Saturday, they were responsible for two of the them. They had what we call 'RBI blocks.' They really sprung them."

EMPHASIS ON EFFORT: The Rebels worked for a little more than two hours inside the indoor practice facility Wednesday.

"We're trying to get them to strain their bodies, strain their bodies on every play, strain their bodies to win and compete and then have a real short memory," Nutt said. "It's the next play. We just want consistency. It's been a good spring. We have to finish strong. We don't have that many left and we just want to continue to get better."

REBEL RUMBLINGS: Offensive tackle John Jerry (infection) did not practice Wednesday and doesn't appear any closer to returning to practice. …With Jerry out, Maurice Miller is working at right tackle and Darryl Harris is at right guard. …Linebackers Tony Fein and Allen Walker had interceptions of quarterback Jevan Snead in skeleton drills. …Strong safety Jamarca Sanford strained a hamstring midway through practice and did not return. …Several notable observers were at practice Wednesday, including former Ole Miss quarterback Seth Adams, former Ole Miss baseball coach Jake Gibbs and Murray, Ky., resident/Murray State booster Donnie Winchester. Nutt and Winchester struck up a friendship during Nutt's four years at Murray State (1993-1996), and the two men have remained friends. "He loves it here," said Winchester, who was decked out in Ole Miss gear. "He's got his second wind. He said he's going to retire here."

NEXT UP: Ole Miss will practice again Friday at 4 p.m. before having another scrimmage on Saturday around 11:30 a.m.

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