By nature, Houston Nutt is an optimistic guy.
On Monday, however, the first-year Ole Miss coach could point to several extremely tangible reasons for his positive attitude.
The Rebels opened fall camp Monday with a walk-through in the morning and a 2 ½-hour workout in the afternoon. Nutt's first Ole Miss signing class was under the microscope for the first time, and from all accounts, the group passed with flying colors.
"What's impressive is our freshmen," Nutt said. "Our freshmen and newcomers. I'll tell you what, they don't look like little freshmen. They're physically ahead of the game for their age and I'm proud of that."
"Man, the first day was good," fullback Jason Cook added. "You can tell we've got a long way to go, but for the first day guys were working together and the new faces were working hard. It was a really good day, a lot of fun."
Specifically, Nutt had high praise for former Auburn linebacker Patrick Trahan, freshman wide receiver Andrew Harris, freshman defensive back Brandon Sanders, freshman running backs Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis and Devin Thomas _ "Everything you've heard about them, I agree," Nutt said about the trio of young tailbacks _ and quarterback Nathan Stanley.
"We got us one there," Nutt said when asked about Stanley, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound Oklahoman. "He's very good. He's got a quick release and he's accurate with the deep ball. He's tall and he's athletic. He was spinning that
ball. What I love is we throw him in during a third-and-8 and that's when you really find out about a freshman. He didn't flinch, didn't get nervous. He really handled things well. I'm really proud of him."
TILLMAN WORKS INSIDE: Defensive end Marcus Tillman worked at defensive tackle Monday in place of injured defensive tackle Ted Laurent. That opened up the end slots to a rotation of Kentrell Lockett, Greg Hardy and Emmanuel Stephens.
"With Laurent down, we didn't want to put everything on Jerrell Powe and Lawon Scott," Nutt said.
Speaking of Powe, his much-anticipated debut was fairly uneventful.
"It was good, for the first time in three years," Nutt said. "He's carrying around 340 pounds. I was proud of him."
JERRY PLAYING CATCH-UP: Offensive tackle John Jerry was working with the second team Monday, playing behind Maurice Miller. Michael Oher, Reid Neely, Daverin Geralds, Darryl Harris and Miller were working with the first-team offensive line, with Geralds and Harris each getting repetitions at center and guard. Jerry, Rishaw Johnson, Brandon Green, Alex Washington and Bradley Sowell were working with the second unit.
"He's really behind, but we're looking for him to catch up," Nutt said. "He's athletic enough, but he's got some guys in front of him that
are probably in a little better shape than him."
BROWN AGGRAVATES HAMMY: Free safety Johnny Brown re-injured a hamstring on Monday and had to leave practice. Kendrick Lewis took the first-team reps in his place.
"He tried to go home and race his cousin in Atlanta and he pulled his hamstring," Nutt said. "That's the only thing I hate about giving them a break. They think they're fast after working all summer. They don't stretch, they run and somebody pops his hamstring. He thought he was ready. He didn't pop it again, but he did re-aggravate it so we just have to watch him with caution."
TYLER'S CAREER OVER: Freshman offensive lineman Kermit Tyler will not play football at Ole Miss after doctors discovered that he had a rare allergic reaction that occurs during strenuous exercise and/or when he becomes overheated. Ole Miss head athletic trainer Tim Mullins said he and his staff noticed the problem during a couple of conditioning drills this summer. Tyler underwent a battery of tests in Oxford and Jackson before the decision was made that he could not play football anymore.
"It's really a shame," Nutt said. "He had worked so hard this summer. He's a great person with a big body. You hate to lose him, but we may have saved his life. That's what is important.
He'll help us here. Pete Boone really did a good thing by honoring his education.
REBEL RAMBLINGS: Cornerback Jeremy McGee switched to No. 6 for fall camp and he celebrated the new number by intercepting a Jevan Snead pass and returning it for a touchdown.
Linebacker Jonathan Cornell switched to No. 51 for the new season and likewise, he picked Snead off and returned his interception for a touchdown.
Freshman offensive lineman Josh Tatum, who missed the summer for a myriad of reasons, struggled to get through Monday's workout, but he drew praise at times from offensive line coach Mike Markuson.
Freshman wide receiver Melvin Harris, out for the first week with a broken foot, is targeted for a redshirt, if possible, Nutt said. However, Nutt said Harris reminds him of a young Marcus Monk, only Harris is "probably a little faster" than the former Arkansas wide receiver, Nutt said.
Ole Miss will have a walk-through Tuesday morning, media day during the mid-day hours and another afternoon session at 5:30.
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