It's been a while since the Rebel football team has held a full-staff, all-hands-on-board practice, but that all changed Monday in the IPF when Coach Hugh Freeze put his squad through their first "real" practice of bowl preparations.
The full-pad workout lasted about 2 hours and 15 minutes and Freeze was pleased with the outcome.
"Tremendous," Freeze said. "It was awesome. Great energy, competitive. We got a lot of the young kids a lot of reps. Everything we wanted to get out of today, we did. It was a good day."
Freeze appreciated getting to see some of the younger players quality reps.
"Temario Strong is very physical. He gets after it. Carlos Thompson had a decent day. Corey Gaines at center showed some good signs," Freeze said. "Robert Conyers is going to be OK and Maikhail Miller did some good things.
"Early in practice, those young backs (Jaylen Walton and I'tavius Mathers) showed some explosiveness and had long TD runs."
Freeze had Strong at linebacker in Monday's workout.
"We moved him there from DE last week. We think he is a Mike LB if he can pick up everything, particularly against the power teams we play. He's a 240-pound physical guy who will strike you," he assessed.
* QB Bo Wallace ran some run plays, but did not throw at all during the workout. "He could go, but we are trying to rest him until the seven practices we will have after Christmas," Freeze stated. "We just want him to have as much pop in his arm as he can for the bowl game. We don't know if he will need surgery after the bowl or not. We did some tests last week and it's borderline. He's got a slight separation in his shoulder. Sometimes that heals on its own and sometimes it doesn't. We will do more tests after the bowl game and do what needs to be done one way or the other."
* With Wallace out, Barry Brunetti ran the offense, and ran it well. He threw for two long touchdowns and ran for another. "Barry is getting better. I think his confidence is real high right now and these reps this week will help that even more," noted Freeze.
* One player Freeze was wanting to see more of during the bowl practices was OL D.J. Bailey. Unfortunately, D.J. is sidelined. "He's got a knee issue - same knee that was operated on before he came here," noted Hugh. "We are not sure what extent the injury is, but he definitely has some meniscus tearing. We need more tests to see is the graft he got before he got here is still stable."
* TE Ferbia Allen, who tore a meniscus during the season and missed the last couple of games, was braced up and practicing Monday. "He will play. He won't be 100%, but he's going to go for it and I am glad he's going to get a shot," noted Hugh. "I want him to get to play - he is such a great kid and deserves it."
* WR Cody Core could be Safety Cody Core in spring training. "It depends on who we sign, but we feel Cody can play either," Freeze added. "Depending on how many ends we sign, we may looked at Carlos Thompson at tight end. We have a lot of things we think about but nothing definite yet."
* Thompson was redshirted this year and it's helped him, Freeze said. "Look at his body. He got up to 250 pounds during the season, but lost some of that recently due to sickness. He looks the part now," Hugh noted. "It's also helped him socially and academically to redshirt."
* TE Jamal Mosley did not practice Monday.He is not eligible for the bowl - as of today - but he's working on his situation. "He's doing some extra work right now to try to get eligible. We'll see," Freeze said. "With all the academic issues we had last year, we will never be totally out of the woods. We still have to get working on that GPA. Our team GPA was 2.8 first semester, so we are really proud of that, but we have to keep working at it every day and we have some borderline kids on our squad academically."
* DT Uriah Grant sat out of practice with a pulled groin. The hope is that he will be back in action after Christmas. He could have practiced today, but he would have been risking coming back too soon. Had it been a game week, he would have worked out Monday.
* LB Denzel Nkemdiche has his hand in a cast from surgery last week, but he dressed out and practiced full speed today.
* LB Aaron Garbutt was in a walking boot all last week with a bum ankle, but he practiced Monday.
* Patrick Junen was a busy man Monday. With OL Coach Matt Luke trying to get a look at what next year may look like, Junen started with the one offense ahead of senior A.J. Hawkins, but then OG Aaron Morris went out temporarily and Junen had to fill in for him at left guard. Then, RT Pierce Burton went out briefly and Junen played right tackle for a couple of series. Junen is projected to take Hawkins' place next year in the starting OL.