August 22, 2007

Orgeron narrows QB battle to his seniors

One Rebel newcomer found out he'd been in Oxford for the year and a returning starter took a step towards getting back on the field Wednesday.

Ole Miss head coach Ed Orgeron confirmed that middle linebacker Chris Strong had received clearance from the NCAA.

"It feels really good. We're happy for him," Orgeron said. "I announced it to the team today that he's ready to go. The No. 1 player in the state of Mississippi - that means a lot to us."

With Strong able to practice over the past two weeks, the big, physical linebacker has skyrocketed up the Rebel depth chart.

"He's a physical specimen. He has good instincts. Obviously, there are things he has to get better with, but he's probably our best middle linebacker right now," Orgeron said. "We'd like him to be a little lighter and he has some things to learn, but he overcomes all that with his physical tools."

Strong has also made an impression on his fellow Rebels.

"It's not exactly what it'll be when he's a junior, but he commands with how he plays. He's physical; he comes down hill," Orgeron said. "He has the respect of his teammates; there's no doubt about that."

While Strong continued reps with the first team, Brent Schaeffer climbed up the depth charts on the other side of the ball.

Schaeffer passed Michael Herrick, and Orgeron said the race will now come down to the two seniors.

"It looks like it'll be between those two guys, Seth (Adams) and Brent," Orgeron said. "We'll just go throughout the week and we'll see what happens."

Schaeffer excelled as the Rebels practiced inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

"Brent was on today," Orgeron said. "He had one of his better practices."

The entire Rebel offense had a good day, Orgeron said.

"The guys had a lot better tempo. We got a lot of work in today," he said. "We went on the turf in the stadium, which is good thing for us.

"Our running game was gelling today."

The running game got a boost with the return of the Corey Actis, John Jerry and Reid Neely from injuries that kept the trio out of Saturday's scrimmage.

"They're coming along," Orgeron said. "A couple of them are still a little gimpy, but they're coming along. It helped our offense today; you could see it the running game."

The Rebels continued to prepare for their opener at Memphis by beginning to gameplan for the Tigers.

"We looked at Memphis a little bit. We've been running their plays in an out of some of our stuff," Orgeron said. "But, we'll introduce them tomorrow. We'll deliver our scouting report on them. We're really going to kick in to game week next week."

Orgeron also announced Jerrell Powe will be permitted to keep practicing, but he would not comment on the situation.

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