By Chris Burrows

Daily Journal

OXFORD Tell us, Tommy Tuberville, how much difference is there between spring practice at Ole Miss this year and spring practice last year?

"About like daylight and dark," said the second-year head coach of the Rebels. "We're so far ahead of where we were last year, it's amazing."

Of course, being ahead doesn't necessarily equate with being ahead physically. The Rebels are ahead in terms of practice tempo, drills and assignments.

"We've still got to get better physically," Tuberville said. "We've got nearly 40 players that didn't play a whole lot or were redshirted last season.

"A lot of those players are going to have to step up and fill major roles for us this season. Who some of those guys are remains to be seen."

Running back Artie Moore is emerging as one of those "remains to be seen" products that has performed well thus far.

Moore, who served as the No. 3 running back last season, had 160-plus yards in last week's scrimmage. He has busted very few assignments.

"Artie just needed the reps more than anything else," Tuberville said. "Our scheme requires two backs to be able to play in that one slot.

"We got a lot out of Dou (Innocent) and Mark (Smith) last year, but they've graduated. Artie is playing like a man that will fill one of those spots."

Along with Moore's performance, several other developments have surfaced after seven practices outdoors.

The switch of Lawrence Adams from defensive back to U-Back has been termed, "a success. He's an excellent addition for us there," Tuberville said.

On the defensive front, tackle David Evans and end Morris Scott have shown improvement.

Redshirt freshman Ronnie Heard has emerged as the starting free safety, while redshirt freshman Tim Strickland has become the top reserve to starting cornerbacks Derek Jones and Gary Thigpen.

In the kicking game, Reed Killion, who redshirted last year as a freshman, appears to have earned the deep snapper job. Randall Green and Kevin Cooper are still battling to be the starting punter.

Injuries have slowed the progress of defensive switches Eli Anding to linebacker and Quentin Wilson to defensive end. Johnny Desler, who played nickel back last year, has been limited by a knee injury.

"As a whole, we haven't had many injuries and that's a positive thing," Tuberville said. "We just need the weather to cooperate and we'll be ready for the spring game (April 13, 11 a.m.)."

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