Honoring Former Ole Miss Track Coach Joe Walker

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Walker,Joe_040911_JB.jpgFour Olympians and a number of other elite college and professional athletes will be competing on the Ole Miss campus at this weekend's Joe Walker Invitational track & field meet.

How fitting that it's named for the former Rebel coach who mentored a number of athletes to Olympic status during his 30-year career in Oxford.

Walker, who serves as an assistant coach for jumpers at Louisville since his retirement from Ole Miss, is universally known for his warm and caring personality in addition to his penchant for training world-class jumpers and hurdlers.

Having developed such talents as Olympic gold medalist and NCAA champion Brittney Reese, Olympian and NCAA champion Savante' Stringfellow, Olympian Ricky Robertson, NCAA champion Antwon Hicks and many others, Walker is world-renowned for his coaching abilities. The Mississippi native also maintains a humble attitude about it all.

"The coaching staff at Ole Miss reached out to me about the name for this meet," Walker said. "I just felt real humbled and honored that they would think to do that."

In 30 seasons at the helm of the Ole Miss program, Walker led the Rebels to 11 top-20 national finishes, 124 All-America honors, 12 NCAA individual champions and 60 SEC individual titles. But it wasn't always easy.

"When I started at Ole Miss we didn't have a track of any sort," Walker recalls. "Then we had a decent one but not great. Then we went two-and-a-half years with no track again while they built the indoor practice facility."

The current Ole Miss Track & Field Complex was completed in 2003 and hosted the 2004 Southeastern Conference Championships. Walker has fond memories of the time he spent at the facility.

"I always felt like the layout and closeness of everything was good. The coaches' offices are right there, all in one place. Across the street is the training room and weight room. The layout is conducive to watching and coaching. Once we got that I thought I was in paradise.

"Folks that have come to that track have seen some world-class athletes, that's for sure."

Though he no longer coaches at Ole Miss, the 2016 M-Club Alumni Hall of Fame honoree finds plenty of time to follow the program and its success under second-year head coach Connie Price-Smith and her staff.

"I'm so excited," Walker said. "They are doing a phenomenal job. They're got Ole Miss just rocking and rolling. I'm so proud for them and Ole Miss. I'm glad to have been a part of it, and now I'm an active fan."

In the five years since he's been at Louisville, Walker has enjoyed the time he gets to spend with his children and grandchildren, as well as continuing to coach collegiate jumpers.

"Basically all my family's up in this area. My youngest son is in Dayton, Ohio, and the other two sons are right here in Louisville. The grandkids are growing up so fast, I can't believe it. It's been a good situation for us, really positive."

Game 3: Ole Miss 10, Vanderbilt 8

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Ole Miss had been struggled at the plate lately. On a day where the pitching wasn't as dominant as it's been for nearly all of this season, the bats came to life to put up eight runs over the final four frames and take the series with a 10-8 win against Vanderbilt. When the Rebels fell behind 5-2, and then 6-3, it felt like a lead that would be too much to overcome. Ole Miss would cut into the lead, but then Vandy would add back to the lead. After allowing Vandy to answer in the sixth and seventh inning with runs of their own, Ole Miss finally put up a zero in the top half of the eight. Then in the bottom of the eighth, Ole Miss put up the runs that would complete the comeback.


Player of the Game: Colby Bortles. Bortles has been making good swing after good swing, but the hits haven't been falling in. It seemed like he was consistently hitting the ball hard, but right at fielders. Well, if you hit it over the wall, they can't catch it. He was 2-for-3 on the day with two RBIs, but his no-doubt solo home run tied the game up for Ole Miss in the eighth and set the table for the three-run Ole Miss inning that secured the victory.


Key Moment:  Obviously after the Bortles home run, there was still work to do. The game was only tied. Might as well win it at that point. Will Golsan drew a full-count walk to reach, but Ole Miss needed to move him around the bases. The very last position player to come off the bench in the game, Chase Cockrell, gave the hit that would do just that. A hot shot into the right field corner on a 2-1 pitch gave Ole Miss the lead as Golsan went from first to home to score. From there, Nick Fortes gave Dallas Woolfolk an extra run to play with by driving in Cockrell with a single. Woolfolk sat Vandy down in order in the ninth for the win.


Number of the Game: 15. Ole Miss dressed 15 position players for Sunday's game. All 15 entered the four hour marathon of a rubber match. In total, 20 players entered the game for the Rebels on Sunday. It took nearly the entire team to get the series-clinching win.

Game 1: Ole Miss 1, Vanderbilt 0

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Ole Miss pitches and pitches. The Rebels have put together five-straight shutouts, and this time Vanderbilt fell victim to the Rebel staff. Ole Miss allowed just three hits, and Tim Rowe came through in a big way in the sixth inning to give Ole Miss the 1-0 victory. 


Player of the Game: David Parkinson. He didn't have his best stuff tonight, but he battled through six innings of scoreless baseball. The leadoff man reached in four of his five innings, but the junior showed why he's the Friday night starter for Ole Miss. He found his way out of jams, none bigger in the third inning. Vanderbilt loaded them up with no outs, but Parkinson got the first out via batter's interference. He got the next batter to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to keep the game tied at 0 in a big momentum-shifting escape. 


Key Moment:  The first two batters of the sixth were retired for Ole Miss, and it seemed like Kyle Wright might have an easy inning. An opportunity was presented after Bortles and Dillard both reached with two outs. Mike Bianco went to the bench for Tim Rowe to pinch hit and break the 0-0 deadlock. With a 1-1 count, he did just that. He sent a ball on a line into left field to score Bortles and drive in the only run of the contest.


Number of the Game: 1-for-13. Vanderbilt had baserunners for most of the game. The leadoff man reached in four of the nine innings, so there were opportunities. However, Ole Miss' pitching was fantastic when a Commodore reached base. Vanderbilt managed just one hit with a runner on, going 1-for-13. That 1-for-13 includes a hitless 0-for-6 with a RISP.

Vote Ole Miss as South's Best Tailgate

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Anyone that visits Ole Miss on a Saturday in the fall knows that the game day experience is unlike anywhere else. The Grove, while tailgating under those trees, is distinctly Ole Miss in the best way possible. 


Ole Miss has been named atop of the list of the South's Best Tailgates by Southern Living, tied with Alabama. To break the tie, Southern Living is holding a fan-vote to determine the best tailgate in all of the south.


Obviously, all Ole Miss fans know without a shadow of a doubt that the best tailgate experience is at Ole Miss and The Grove. To let Southern Living know that too, fans can vote here. The poll closes at midnight, Tuesday March 21. 


To create the first ever South's Best list, Southern Living surveyed more than 22,000 readers on the best-loved places in 13 categories: bars, breweries, cities, hotels, inns, islands, museums, resorts, restaurants, shops, small towns, tailgates, and barbecue joints. 

Game 3: Ole Miss 1, Furman 0

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Runs were at a premium this weekend, due in large part to Ole Miss' dominance on the mound. Furman couldn't manage a run in any of the three games this weekend as the Rebel staff combined for three shutouts for the series sweep. Today, it was Greer Holston that delivered a spectacular start with his seven innings of two-hit baseball. Ole Miss' offense racked up nine hits through the game but couldn't string hits together to bring home the run. The game stayed deadlocked at zero until Michael Fitzsimmons came off the bench in the eighth for the deciding pinch-hit RBI single. 


Player of the Game: Greer Holston. The freshman was awarded the weekend start, and he definitely made the most of it. He went seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts and two hits in extremely impressive fashion. Adding to that, both of the six hits were infield singles. Furman never got solid contact off of the right-hander. The Rebel pitching this weekend overwhelmed the Furman bats. 


Key Moment: Ole Miss needed just one run to win with the way the pitchers were operating on the mound, but that run didn't come until the eighth inning. Ole Miss tallied hits throughout the game but couldn't put them together. Kyle Watson started off the inning with a leadoff single followed by Cooper Johnson getting the sacrifice bunt down. Coming off the bench cold, Michael Fitzsimmons worked the count to 2-2 before roping one into left for the RBI single. From there, Dallas Woolfolk closed it out.


Number of the Game: 0. Three games, three shutouts. Furman didn't score a run all weekend against Ole Miss' staff. It's the first time since 2004 against Nicholls that the Rebels held an opponent scoreless all weekend.


Quotable: "We held them to 10 hits on the weekend, and they didn't have an extra base hit," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "That's about as dominant as you can be on the mound to a team I think can hit. They came in with really good numbers offensively. One through nine in their lineup, their lowest batting average was .279 on Friday night. You're talking about a team that's hitting above .300 that has success. They were averaging about eight runs a game coming in. Our guys answered it. We pitched it really well all week."

Game 2: Ole Miss 5, Furman 0

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For the second game in a row, Ole Miss got a dominant outing from its starting pitcher. Working a day earlier than usual, Brady Feigl was masterful in his eight scoreless innings to give the Rebels the series-clinching 5-0 win. Between Feigl and David Parkinson's performance last night, Ole Miss starters have worked 16 scoreless innings while allowing just four hits against Furman in this series.


Player of the Game: Brady Feigl. The right-hander was dominant in his eight innings of work. He struck out 10 while allowing just one walk and three hits. He consistently was ahead in counts and didn't allow Furman many opportunities at any point. While the wind was blowing in, that had nothing to do with Feigl's great outing. Furman was rolling over most pitches that led to 11 ground outs against just three fly outs. When 21 of the 24 outs recorded are via strikeout or groundout, it's obvious the pitcher was on top of his game.


Key Moment: When a pitcher is having a day like Feigl, it doesn't take much run support. Ole Miss supplied him with enough runs for the win with one swing of the bat in the second inning. Michael Fitzsimmons drove a 3-1 fastball through the teeth of the wind and into the left field bullpen for a two-run home run. From there, Ole Miss never looked back.


Quotable: "When you look at the box score, it was all about Brady Feigl," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "I don't think he pitched well because of the weather. I don't think he pitched well because they hit a lot of balls and the wind stopped it. He could have pitched if the wind was gushing out. He would have pitched very similar to this. I don't think they hit a ball deep and long where the wind caught it. I'm pleased with that and the way we played defense. We can do that; we can pitch and play defense." 

Game 1: Ole Miss 2, Furman 0

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In what turned into a pitchers' duel between two extremely talented pitchers that were dealing, Ole Miss behind the dominant performance from Friday ace David Parkinson squeaked by Furman for the series opening win. The Rebel offense battled all night at the plate against the Paladin's top-of-the-line starter Will Gaddis to scratch across the two runs for the 2-0 shutout victory.


Player of the Game: David Parkinson. When you take a no-hitter into the eight inning, you're going to be the player of the game. The Rebels only supplied him with two runs, but that was plenty for the left-hander. He allowed only two baserunners all night and faced the minimum while never allowing a runner to reach second base. He had every pitch working and completely overpowered Furman batters for eight innings. He struck out nine and retired eight more on groundouts as Furman didn't even manage much solid contact against him.


Key Moment: After Parkinson excited, the Paladins mounted their biggest rally of the game. The first two batters of the ninth reached against Rebel closer Will Stokes. However, Stokes was able to work out of it unscathed. The next Furman batter failed to get a sacrifice bunt down for the first out of the inning. The next lined out to third, leading to the runner on second being doubled off for the third out of the inning and an Ole Miss victory.


Number of the Game: 0. Furman never managed to advance a baserunner to third base all night as Parkinson dominated. The runner reaching second in the ninth was the only time a runner was in scoring position, and that was as far as he advanced before Stokes worked out of the inning.


Quotable: "David was terrific," Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco said. "His curveball was really good tonight, and he was able to throw it in the strike zone. The changeup was terrific tonight. That's what he didn't have last week at Minute Maid. He struggled with his offspeed. We talked a lot this week about making some first pitch strikes, whatever it is. I thought he did that tonight, especially with the offspeed. He was able to own the inside part of the plate to those right handers and make it tough on them."

Rebels Excel at NFL Combine

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The NFL Combine is a big stage that offers an even bigger opportunity to make an impression on NFL front offices before the draft in late April. It's safe to say the Rebel quartet of Evan Engram, D.J. Jones, Quincy Adeboyejo, and Fadol Brown all took advantage of the opportunity. 


Evan Engram hasn't been a secret over the past four seasons to any college football fan. He's been unguardable and a matchup nightmare for every defense Ole Miss faced. He really emerged on the NFL radar at the Senior Bowl, but he followed it up with a spectacular combine performance. He turned in a strong effort in the position drills while clocking the fastest 40-time of an TE at 4.42. The 40 was the highlight, but his broad jump and three-cone drill were also very impressive. It's hard to believe that an NFL team won't view a playmaker with those measurables as an instant boon to the offense and worth a first-round selection. He has the production and the athleticism that makes decision-making on draft day easier.


D.J. Jones plays inside at DT, which isn't the most flashy of positions. He was flashy at the combine. What he did at his side was remarkable. Weighing in at 319 pounds, Jones, nearly broke into the 4.9s with his 5.04 40-time. That ranked seventh among DTs, but each ahead of him came in at a smaller weight. His broad jump was the sixth-best, with those ahead also being lighter like in the 40. That athleticism at that size is rare and has to be appealing to NFL teams.


Quincy Adeboyejo is very fast. His 4.42 40 ranked ninth of all the skill position players at the combine. He proved that he's more than straight-line speed as well. His three-cone drill time of 6.73 seconds ranked sixth-best among all of the skill players. At 6'3", Adeboyejo has the speed and quickness to be an outside-deep threat that an NFL team believes they can use to their advantage.


Fadol Brown struggled with a foot injury throughout the 2016 season, but there's no doubting that he's an athletic specimen. Brown measured in with the sixth longest arms of any defensive lineman. That might seem trivial but keeping offensive lineman away is of vital importance. An arm's length for Brown is a long way. He also showed good explosion by turning in a 34" vertical and 4.94 40-time at 273 pounds.

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With Ole Miss beginning spring practice, the focus begins to turn to the 2017 football season. Coincidentally, the SEC released the schedule for 2017 Football Media Days today as well.


Ole Miss will be featured on the final day of the four day event, with head coach Hugh Freeze being the penultimate coach to take the podium on July 13. 


Media Days will take place July 10-13, held again at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. Auburn and South Carolina are also taking the podium on the final day with Ole Miss. 


A more detailed daily schedule with full television information, rotational breakdown and student-athletes attending will be available later this summer.


The SEC Network and ESPN will once again be on site to bring SEC Media Days to a national audience.


MONDAY, July 10

Arkansas - Bret Bielema

LSU - Ed Orgeron

Tennessee - Butch Jones

 

TUESDAY, July 11

Florida - Jim McElwain

Georgia - Kirby Smart  

Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

Miss. State - Dan Mullen

 

WEDNESDAY, July 12

Alabama - Nick Saban

Kentucky - Mark Stoops

Missouri - Barry Odom

Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin

 

THURSDAY, July 13

Auburn - Gus Malzahn

Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze

South Carolina - Will Muschamp

Game 3: Ole Miss 8, UNCW 6

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The Rebels just keep winning. Another top-25 team leaves Oxford with three losses after a weekend with Ole Miss. Ole Miss was dominant throughout the weekend, spending 21 innings of the 27 with a lead. The only time Ole Miss trailed was in the top half of the 8th inning of Saturday's game. Of course, that was followed by Ole Miss' big rally to grab the lead right back in the bottom half. Needless to say, it was a very impressive weekend for Ole Miss.


Key Moment: Ole Miss grabbed the lead with a five-run third inning and spent most of the game in control. Both teams added a run in the fifth, but UNCW's opportunity to make it a game came in the sixth inning. A single and a walk surrendered by Brady Feigl led to Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco going to reliever Andy Pagnozzi. Pagnozzi escaped the inning by leaving the bases loaded, but it was the second out that was the most remarkable. Grae Kessinger saved a run by using all of his vertical jump to snag a line drive. Getting out of that jam kept the Rebel lead at five runs. UNCW didn't go down without a fight in the ninth inning, but the Ole Miss lead was too large to completely overcome.


Player of the Game: Grae Kessinger. In particular, Kessinger's glove. The freshman was making plays all day at shortstop. In the fourth, he kept the lead off man from reaching by making an incredible play going into the hole to his right. Then in the sixth, he changed the complexion of the inning by going way up when he took away a line drive RBI base hit. If that ball gets over his head - like it would for most shortstops - the Seahawks' ninth inning rally may have been enough to change the outcome of the game.


Number of the Game: 7. Ole Miss is 7-0 on the young season. This is the fourth time under Mike Bianco that the Rebels have started 7-0. What's most impressive about these seven though is that six of them were against nationally ranked teams. Wins like that plus the brutal SEC slate makes it almost a certainty that Ole Miss will have one of the top RPIs in the nation. 


Quotable: "When it was hit, I thought 'I better jump really high,' Grae Kessinger said about grabbing the line drive. "It all worked out. Pitchers are throwing well. I was just trying my best to make a play."

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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