Houston Nutt still sees confidence in Rebels

Ole Miss has been here before.

The Rebels are feeling low after a heart-breaking 14-13 opening loss to BYU, but last year they were even lower after dropping a home game to Jacksonville State.

Now is the time for veterans to step up and coach Houston Nutt said Wednesday that he’s seen some of the key leaders of this team do just that since Saturday night's defeat.

Seniors Bradley Sowell and Kentrell Lockett are speaking and motivating. So is sophomore linebacker Mike Marry. Nutt said players have come out fired up and focused and Tuesday’s practice was classified as “excellent.”

How that will translate to the field Saturday against Southern Illinois is yet to be seen, but Nutt said preparation starts with the coaches and ends with the players.

“It’s up to us as coaches to get a good plan and get them started and then they carry it over,“ Nutt said. “You can tell in practice the enthusiasm level, the energy and that’s what you feel good about.”

Offensively, the Rebels will have to find some sort of spark. West Virginia transfer Barry Brunetti started at quarterback, but was benched after just three passing attempts against BYU. Junior college transfer Zack Stoudt replaced him, passing for 140 yards on 13-of-25 passing.

The plan is to start Stoudt, but Brunetti and recently-suspended Randall Mackey are available. Nutt said Mackey is getting snaps in practice, but will be evaluated throughout the week.

For now, Stoudt is the guy.

“The thing about Zack, he’s a little older than Brunetti was and he gave us a lift,” Nutt said. “He has a very strong arm, he’s 6-foot-4 and can really get the ball down the field. I feel like [offensive coordinator] David Lee will take him to another level and he’ll keep getting better.”

They’ll need him to get better with top running backs Brandon Bolden (ankle) and Enrique Davis (knee) sidelined with injuries.