After blazing through a stretch of seven games against top 15 opponents at 5-2, No. 3 Ole Miss is now facing a week in which it will play teams it is extremely familiar with and teams it considers its rival. The Rebels will trek to Memphis Wednesday night for a game against the Tigers at AutoZone Park before heading to Starkville for the weekend set against Mississippi State.
Mike Bianco made a minor tweak to his rotation to begin this week by flipping Ryan Rolison and Brady Feigl to have Feigl pitch on Friday night and Rolison on Saturday. Bianco pointed to Feigl's dominance on the mound through the season's first seven weeks as the reason for the switch.
"Brady has pitched so well," Bianco said. "Ryan hasn't pitched bad, just maybe not as dominant as Brady through the seven starts, and I thought this was the right time to do it, especially with the way the weeks fell to give him normal rest."
The Rebel skipper wanted it known that this is a fluid situation, as are most lineup-related things with any ball club over the course of a 56-game slate.
"Someone asked me this morning if it was permanent," Bianco said. "Nothing is permanent. The rotation is what it is this week, same with the lineup. Ryan understands and Brady understands. To use Ryan's quote from the beginning of a press conference, 'We have three Friday night guys throwing.' We are just trying to win baseball games and put the guy in there who is throwing the best."
Feigl has been lights-out this season, benefitting from improved slider command and being aggressive with hitters. The junior right-hander is 6-1 with a 2.23 ERA and has been good virtually every time he has grabbed the baseball this season.
For Rolison, it's just been a couple of minor mistakes that have led to innings slipping away from him. Bianco didn't seem too concerned with the recent minor struggles of his uber-talented left-hander and thinks he will get back on track this weekend in Starkville.
"Most of his outings it has just been an inning or two," Bianco said. "To be honest it has been mostly good fortune or bad fortune, however you want to say it. Not taking anything away from Arkansas, but a couple home runs that aren't usually home runs on this field and a tough first inning where he made a couple bad pitches with two strikes and they get base hits and score a couple runs. Ryan has given us great efforts."
Ole Miss wasn't lacking for confidence going into the daunting stretch it just came out of, but it only grows with each win. Bianco is pleased with how his team has found a multitude of ways to win baseball games and thinks that is evidence of a sense of toughness and maturity good teams in the SEC are equipped with year-in and year-out.
"I don't know if I learned more, but it really hammered home the feeling that we are tough," Bianco said. "They have won a lot of different types of games, games where they have had to score, where they have had to pitch and defend. We have fallen behind where we came back. We've won where we had a lead and held on."
Perhaps the most glaring piece of evidence to Bianco's point is how his team has responded when things haven't gone their way.
"It is not like we've had everything go our way," he said. "Certainly, we have had good fortune like everyone, but we also have had instances the other way, whether it is a call or a 50-50 pitch that maybe didn't go our way, but we have handled it. That is my takeaway. They've shown a lot of maturity and toughness that you need to have in our league."
Ole Miss begins this stretch of rivalry games on Wednesday and doesn't expect any letdown after its grueling late-March schedule. Bianco said his team is well-aware of the importance of each game, particularly when the opponent is in their backyard.
"The thing we want to do is play well," Bianco said. "If we do that everything will take care of itself. It is not foolproof. You can play well and lose, but you have a much better chance of winning. I hope that is the mindset because that is what has gotten us to this point. This week we are playing teams that are our rival. Anytime you play your rival it is a big game."
Houston Roth will get the baseball against Memphis Wednesday. First pitch from Autozone Park is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.
Ole Miss rifle alum Alison Weisz continues to compete on the national and international stage and late last week, she qualified for the United States Team for the 2018 World Shooting Championships.
Weisz earned the third team spot behind current TCU shooter Mindy Miles and former TCU shooter Sarah Beard. The selection process used results from Winter Air Gun this past December and scores fired in the Spring Selection Match last week at the Army Marksmanship Unit in Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Athletes began their quest during the 2017 Winter Airgun Championships and solidified their standing at the Rifle/Pistol Spring Selection Match following a two-day match and final. Team spots were handed out to the top-three finishers in Men's and Women's Air Rifle and Pistol. The World Championships will take place August 31-September 15 in Changwon, South Korea.
In Women's Air Rifle, Mindy Miles of TCU was the top overall selection. She edged fellow TCU alum Sarah Beard by 9.7 points with Alison Weisz (Belgrade, Montana) earning the final selection spot. Weisz posted a combined score of 2080.4 to edge reigning Olympic Gold Medalist Ginny Thrasher of West Virginia University (2080.1) for the final spot.
"I'm very excited for Ali," said head coach Marsha Beasley. The World Shooting Championships are only held every four years. Ali has been shooting air rifle very well the last three years. She thrives when the pressure is on and I look forward to seeing her on the world stage."
Weisz finished a decorated career at Ole Miss in 2017, earning All-America honors twice in air rifle and finishing third at the 2016 NCAA Championships.
OXFORD, Miss - Four-innings of offensive infused chaos was extinguished over the final five outs by the right arm of Parker Caracci. A marathon of a baseball game culminated with the sophomore's second multi-inning save in as many nights as Ole Miss was the last one standing in an 11-10 war over one of the best lineups one through nine in college baseball.
"They're definitely one of the best offensive teams we have faced," Caracci said. "You just have to try to hit your spots. If you leave it over the plate they will most likely make you pay for it."
The Rebels secured a series win over Arkansas to cap off a stretch of seven games against top 15 teams at 5-2.
Six innings of grueling from Ole Miss starter James McArthur was largely lost in the haze of the 19 runs scored in the final four and a half innings of the baseball game. The junior right-hander came off the mound in the fifth after retiring his 10th consecutive hitter to a 1-1 tie. Ole Miss plated four runs to give him a cushion and three more in the sixth to hand him an 8-2 advantage. He fought through some errant breaking balls with a heavy dosage of fastballs he kept away from the Razorback barrels and turned in an outing he worked hard for.
"A whole lot of fastballs," McArthur said. "Couldn't really get the breaking ball over. I was able to make some really good pitches with my fastball, get quick outs and have some quick innings."
A solo shot in the seventh inning from Daniel Fletcher ousted McArthur leading 8-3 with nine outs needed to end the baseball game.
"I think you don't understand how good he was until you saw what happened after he left," Clement said. "Now he's out and baseballs start flying all over the yard on a hitter's day to hit. I think that just shows you how good he was. I know it gets lost because it was 11-10, but he was really good."
Chaos ensued over the next three innings as Arkansas plated seven runs off a bullpen that had been dominant all season. The Hogs homered three times to counter a pair of three-run innings from Ole Miss with a couple four spots of their own.
"We owe a lot of our wins to the bullpen this year," Clement said. "If we can pick them up every once in a while we will be fine."
It all led up to Caracci coming in with one out in the eighth inning in an 11-10 game. Aside from a leadoff double in the ninth, Caracci recored five easy outs and sealed a series victory over a top five team.
"Don't let the guy score," Caracci said with a grin when asked about his approach after the double.
Twice this weekend, he put out a fire to seal a pair of wins. He has six saves this season and five of them have come in the last nine days.
"He was spotting up and doing a great job," Olenek said. "He is just a special kid."
Ole Miss needed all hands on deck this weekend, from Olenek's seven-hit weekend with a dislocated finger, to Caracci's back-to-back saves to a quality outings from Brady Feigl and James McArthur against the most dangerous lineup in the conference. Tyler Keenan clubbed a three-run home in the seventh to make it 11-6.
"We just compete," right fielder Olenek said. "The situation doesn't matter. Even if we are up, we had a six-run lead, it is never enough. We keep on scoring."
Ole Miss would need all of those runs.
The Rebels' confidence continues to rise with each win. Ole Miss has shown an advanced sense of maturity that is evident in its 8-2 record in one-run games.
"Toughness is one word," Olenek said. "We know we are a really good team and hard to beat."
Cole Zabowski homered twice this weekend as the Rebels popped 27 hits in an effort to keep pace with the Razorbacks. Ole Miss showed it can win in a variety of ways, salting away a 5-4 win last night and swatting two home runs and ten hits in a slugfest.
"You can start to feel the vibe in the dugout of just how good and tough we are," McArthur said. "We just have to stick together and keep getting better."
The Rebels are 25-4 (6-3) and currently sit at the top the SEC west standings after three weekends. The team took a road series at Texas A&M before taking out the Razorbacks on Easter weekend, two teams widely considered to be the cream of the crop in the western division and in the conference along with Ole Miss. It has back-ended to home series, rebounding after dropping the opening game to Tennessee and the Razorbacks.
"Our confidence was high coming into the year," Olenek said. "We know how good we were and how well we can hit. We have always been pretty confident.
Confidence wasn't lacking before but is continuing to become abundant with each win becomes more tangible evidence.
"Our goal is to keep our head down and keep going," Clement said. "That is the way you have to take it. We just try to keep plowing ahead."
One through nine, there is an argument to be made that Arkansas possesses the most potent lineup in the Southeastern Conference. Seven of its nine hitters are batting .320 or better. Every hitter but one has an OPS of .800 or better.
There is no remission, no place allowing an opposing pitcher to breathe for a moment or skate by on a sailing or elevated mistake.
"They fight and battle," Nick Fortes said. "They don't miss pitches over the plate. You have to be perfect with them. They're a good hitting club and you have to make pitches."
The team is slugging .537 and has clubbed 47 home runs. It had homered in 12 straight games until meeting Ole Miss' Brady Feigl, who scattered seven singles over 5.1 innings in a 5-4 Rebel win to even the series. Feigl moved to 6-1 on the season. He limited hard contact. Three of the singles did not leave the infield.
"You know who you're playing," Feigl said. "Arkansas has one of the best lineups in the SEC. It is one of the best we will face all year. One thing we always preach is that we play ourselves so it doesn't matter who is in the other dugout."
He largely neutralized a group of bats who'd inflicted terror on some of the nation's best pitching thanks to a changeup he leaned on more heavily than he has in any other outing this season, along with a good fastball and slider to complement it.
"That always makes you happy," Feigl said. "The defense was tremendous tonight. That is what helped the most along with the confidence to fill up the zone."
He survived a second inning in which the Hogs tagged him for two runs to take a 2-1 lead on an infield single and a ball that squirted through the left side. The junior righty became more aggressive after that and blanked them in the final three frames he was in the ballgame.
"Coach pulled me aside after the second and told me I wasn't doing anything wrong, I just was kind of passively attacking them," Feigl said. "He said to go after them. Go let your best stuff have it and let the chips fall after that. The biggest thing is to fill it up and use your best stuff in the zone. After he told me that it started working a little better."
The fastballs came more frequently in the later innings. Feigl left to an ovation in the sixth and a bullpen combination of Greer Holston, Dallas Woolfolk and Parker Caracci held off the Razorback offense for the final eleven outs.
"I thought he was terrific," head coach Mike Bianco said. "They're really good, and like us, can put an inning together. I thought it was a good mix of all three pitches. He used his changeup more today than he maybe has all year and went to his fastball later in the game. He was terrific."
This was a back-and-forth game in which each team led in the first three innings. Ole Miss made enough plays on both fronts, like Fortes who clubbed a hanging breaking ball over the left field fence to extend Ole Miss' lead to 5-2, two precious runs the team would need. He also hosed the tying runner going from first to second in the eighth inning that helped Caracci slip out of a jam.
"It had just enough," Fortes said. "I thought I was going to have to leg out a double so I am thankful it went out. I have been struggling a little bit and it helped us get over the top."
Caracci responded from a hectic eighth inning by striking out the side in the ninth in overwhelming fashion to preserve the one-run win. The sophomore fireballer has shown the ability to overpower some of the best hitters in the country with a fastball that creeps up to 97 and a slider with a lot of bite.
"Parker is something special," Ryan Olenek said.
"It just shows his composure," Fortes said. "He knows he has some of the best stuff in the country and the some of the best I have ever seen. That eighth inning he was trying to do a little too much, and in that ninth he was doing what he has done all year: mowing guys down and filling up the zone."
Ole Miss will attempt to take the series with James McArthur on the hill tomorrow against Arkansas' Kacey Murphy. First pitch is slated for 1:30 p.m. CT.
Ole Miss is now nearing the culmination of spring football with the Grove Bowl being just over a week away, and the Rebels dabbled into some live football action this past weekend with a controlled scrimmage in which the coaches stayed on the sideline and the offense and defense squared off against each other. Matt Luke wanted to see where his team stood more than two weeks into spring ball.
"We did some situational stuff with some red zone, third down and stuff but really we just put the ball down and played to see where we were," Luke said. "There were a lot of positives and also a lot of stuff we need to get cleaned up. We slowed down today and really honed in on some stuff. The tempo, going fast, we wanted to slow down today. Try to teach some stuff and get guys' fits right and getting them chasing the ball."
The offense dominated early during the red zone portion of the scrimmage. Phil Longo's squad gassed the defense with an up-tempo pace. The defense weathered the storm and made a couple of plays on the later drives. Luke is beginning to understand that, as a head coach, he is going to be concerned with one side of the football no matter what, but he was pleased to see both sides go at one another.
"I think the offense started out really strong in the scrimmage early on in the red zone. In the third down period they were really good," Luke said. "I was happy to see the defense fight back and get some turnovers in later drives. I am learning quickly as head coach you are not going to be happy in spring ball. You are going to be upset one way or another. I did like the ebb and flow of practice. It was good to see the defense fight back."
Ole Miss has some veteran starters sidelined for spring ball as a precaution towards some nagging injuries. None of the bumps and bruises will affect the team heading into the fall but nonetheless has kept some guys off the field this spring. It's forged an opportunity for some younger players to get experience as this team tries to add depth, particularly on the defensive side of the football.
Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said last weekend he would like to see his defense play with more confidence. Luke thinks this is part of the learning process as these young players get used to the speed of the game.
"The little things are lacking because they are thinking and still trying to process what they are doing," Luke said. "They don't see the formation or the intricacies. They know what to do they just don't understand yet. You are trying to get them to understand so they can play instinctively and aren't out there thinking."
Luke thinks it will eventually click as the cerebral part of the game turns into instances and allows them to play freer and faster.
"I think it is mainly the younger guys," Luke said. "We have a lot young guys out there with three defensive linemen out. The young linebackers are showing flashes and the only way you get those guys ready is to put them out there in the fire. That is kind of the growing pains but you have to put them out there to learn."
Ole Miss has dealt with a couple more injuries this week as A.J. Brown tweaked a knee trying to get into the end zone in the scrimmage. Luke doesn't think it is serious but is not taking any chances as Brown has been limited early on this week.
"I like the competitiveness. That is why he is who he is. He was trying to score. You like to see that," Luke said.
Greg Little is dealign with a tight back and is limited also.
Overall, Luke knows this team has a long way to go as do most teams in the spring, but he is pleased with the progress as this team wraps up the spring.
"I think there are some signs that we are," Luke said. "The kids are pushing one another and there is a sense of togetherness, not so much offense and defense. That is what we are trying to get accomplished."
As Southern Miss' left-hander Adam Jackson jogged out of the right field bullpen in the 7th inning in a 5-4 game his team led, Thomas Dillard switched his grip and hopped over to the right side of the plate for the second time in the game.
Golden Eagles' skipper Scott Barry played the numbers game with Dillard once before in the fifth when he called on southpaw Mason Strickland to face Dillard in a two-on, one-out scenario. The Rebel left-fielder came into the ballgame hitting just .179 from the right side, a number due more than anything else to the fact he only had 32 plate appearances and 28 at-bats from the right side compared to 75 and 60 on the left.
"I started off kind of slow right-handed and I have been picking it up lately," Dillard said. "I don't blame them for playing the matchup."
Strickland extinguished Dillard with a whiff on a breaking ball in the fifth. Jackson did not have the same experience. Dillard demolished an 88 mph fastball deep into the left-field seating for a three-run shot. It gave Ole Miss a 7-5 lead and marked the end of a comeback that saw the Rebels score seven unanswered runs to erase a five-run deficit for the first time since May 14, 2016.
"I think people are looking at the numbers," Bianco said. "Especially with (lefty Cole) Zabowski behind him, I think it is sometimes easy to go to the left-hander. I don't know if it is more Thomas or it is the combination of turning him around and going left-handed with Zabowski too. We all know Thomas can hit right-handed. The numbers may not stand out right now, but last year it was the opposite. So it is not one of those things. I think by year's end it will probably even out."
Dillard knew it off the bat as the ball sailed well over over the 365 sign in left field.
"It felt really good," Dillard said. "I think that was the first ball I have hit out of here to left field in my career. It felt good to hit it out there."
The sophomore slugger has clubbed seven home runs this season and has worked hard on hitting from the right side recently. It was his second from the right side this season.
"It is getting a lot better," Dillard said. "That at-bat I was sitting towards the right side of the field and then the first pitch I got a foot down later. I told myself to try to get my foot down and hit it over the batter's eye. I got the head out a little earlier than I wanted but still put a good swing on it."
The swing propelled Ole Miss in front, and after surviving a tight situation in the ninth that Parker Caracci slipped out of with a fly ball to strand men at the corners, the Rebels notched their 10th come-from-behind win of the season with a 7-6 decision over 14th ranked Southern Miss.
Each of the 10 comebacks have had their own anatomy, but each one keeps building toward an attitude and a confidence that's morphing into an identity.
"With this team, we always have that bullet in the gun like Coach B says," sophomore pitcher Houston Roth said. "Seventh inning we put up a four-spot. We are never out of a fight, ever. There is never a moment where we are beaten, down or defeated."
Roth ate up five innings in relief of starter Jordan Fowler who struggled when the Golden Eagles blitzed him for four runs in the first inning. He scattered six hits and gave up just one run.
"Stuff happens," Roth said. "Fowler gave up a few hits. I knew going in I was going to have to go a long way and act like a starter. It wasn't going to be one inning and shut it down. I knew that. I have starts under my belt. I just went out there and did what I did."
He mixed a lot of changeups and breaking balls to keep Southern Miss off balance.
One thing that has delighted Bianco is how these comebacks have come to fruition. It's come from all over and taken a multitude of guys.
"I think we just continue to fight," Bianco said. "They've all been different things. One, you obviously have to have a good offense. Once again, we put a couple of big innings together with three and four-run innings tonight. You also have to be able to pitch out of the bullpen. We have been able to do that with a lot of different guys."
Tonight, Chase Cockrell's two-out, 2-RBI double in the fifth helped spark the three-run fifth Bianco alluded to. Greer Holston then put together 1.2 innings of shutout ball to pave the way for Dallas Woolfolk and Caracci to preserve the game in the eighth and ninth.
The ability of Ole Miss' bullpen to come in and immediately cease further offensive carnage makes it a hard team to put away. It's what has helped breed the air of the confidence this team exudes even when it gets in a hole like the 5-0 deficit on this night.
"Our pitching staff, no matter what they've done early in the game, they will come back and shut it down," Dillard said. "Our hitters have done a great job of keeping with the at-bats no matter what the score is. If you just chip away, chip away you will have that one big inning. We will go ahead eventually and the pitching staff will hold it."
Ole Miss returns to action on Thursday against Arkansas. First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.
A sense of toughness and maturity beamed from an Ole Miss baseball team that took two of three on the road at Texas A&M this past weekend. A team whose confidence is continuing to grow gutted out a pair of one-run wins on Thursday and Saturday to improve to 22-3 (4-2) on the season.
Each game saw a relatively early exit for Ole Miss' starting pitcher, an uncharacteristic occurrence for what has been a good weekend rotation. But it was picked up each time by the bullpen, headlined by Parker Caracci getting the final five outs on Thursday night and the last three on Saturday to close out the series.
Caracci whiffed Braden Shewmake and Logan Foster -two of the better hitters in the Southeastern Conference - in the eighth inning of Thursday's game to escape a bases-loaded, one-out jam made more complicated by a long replay of a play on a call at second base. Caracci blew fastball after fastball by the Aggie hitters, hitting 98 on the stadium radar gun. It was the biggest moment of the season for a guy who has earned every opportunity afforded to him this season.
"We knew he was a strike thrower. We knew he would fill up the zone with his fastball and slider. In the fall his fastball got up to 95 but was inconsistent," head coach Mike Bianco said. "We saw some spurts of this just not as consistent as this. Now that he has been back out in the spring and fully rested, and being out there, it is a tough position, to get out there on that bump by yourself with 10,000 people watching and to be able to perform in a game. Those last three outs are tough to get. The other thing is composure. Will they be able to perform? He surely has been lights out for us this year.
Caracci has progressed mightily since the upper 80s strike-thrower Bianco saw coming out of Jackson Preparatory School four years ago. His velocity has risen to the mid 90s with a good slider to complement it. The consistency Bianco alluded to finally meshed with the stuff he'd shown flashes of and it's equated to a breakout redshirt sophomore season.
"I didn't expect it this early," Caracci said. "They've helped me with my mechanics, getting into my lower half more and really learning to attack the strike zone."
Will Ethridge's three innings of scoreless, two-hit baseball in relief of Ryan Rolison paved the way for Caracci's moment on Thursday. Ethridge stranded two runners at second and third when he came in during the fifth inning to keep the game at 4-2 A&M and keep the Rebels in it. On Sunday, the bulk of the bullpen chipped in as Jordan Fowler, Greer Holston, Ethridge and Dallas Woolfolk ate up 6.2 innings of the game in relief of James McArthur before Caracci came on in the ninth. A bullpen that has been the backbone of this baseball team came through in multiple spots on the road to deliver a series win over a top 15 team.
"It is a luxury," Bianco said of his bullpen. "These guys have more depth and can give some different looks."
What impressed Bianco the most? His team won a road series in a weekend when it didn't play well admittedly, especially on the mound from the starting pitching where the Rebels have been so dominant this year.
"We won two out of three this weekend but we didn't play great," Bianco said. "The first two days offensively didn't do much until the end of the game. Our starting pitching was the worst its been all year. There are always things we can work on. I am proud of the way we played and competed, but it certainly was not our cleanest games. It shows a lot of toughness and competitiveness you have to have in our league."
Ole Miss got hits when it mattered in the late innings, something that had eluded it last season. It came from all over, too. From Chase Cockrell who went 5-8 in the final two games. Cockrell's had a breakout sophomore season. He made a mechanical adjustment by widening his stance and reducing his front leg kick in the box over the fall and winter, and it has allowed him to put more balls in play this year. With his power, fewer strikeouts have produced more hits. As simplistic as it sounds, that's been a difference maker at the plate.
"He's so strong and has tremendous bat speed," Bianco said. "Not just power with home runs, when he touches the ball and puts it into play, his hit percentage is really high. He had that last year. He got to a point where he was striking out too much. He is putting more balls into play this year, breaking balls and off-speed pitches."
Thomas Dillard hit a go-ahead double to give the Rebels an eighth inning lead on Thursday night. He has a 14-game hitting streak working. It came from Cole Zabowski and Will Golsan, who combined to go 5-10 with 4 RBIs in the finale.
"I think it is just guys having good years," Bianco said. "Certainly, we have a physical lineup. The biggest difference I see is that we are better hitters than we were statistically. Guys are getting good, confident swings off. That is certainly a good combination."
Bianco said he spoke to his starting pitchers about trusting themselves and their stuff, not getting caught up in swings and misses and battling to find a way to win a ballgame.
"They are so talented and there have been times where, I don't want to say easy, but success came quicker," Bianco said. "Texas A&M was excellent offensively. They hit it hard. They had 17 two-strike base hits. I don't know if I have ever seen that. Nine on Saturday. I think at times we got frustrated with that. We'd been striking out so many people that when you don't get a strikeout, or even a ground out or pop up, it got to us a little bit."
Ole Miss will need its starters as it enters a week of four games against ranked teams, beginning Tuesday with Southern Miss before third-ranked Arkansas comes to Swazye for a series this weekend. It will be a top-five match up between two SEC West teams looking to gain ground early in the conference slate.
First pitch on Tuesday is set for 6:30 p.m.
At Ole Miss' Pro Day on Tuesday March 27, 11 Rebels will go through drills and workouts with the hope of catching the eye of NFL scouts and teams.
A pair of offensive linemen in Daronte Bouldin and Rod Taylor will be on the field as well as Breeland Speaks and Marquis Haynes, who became a formidable duo on the Ole Miss defensive line this past season. Running back Jordan Wilkins and kicker Gary Wunderlich will also be on display for teams on Tuesday.
Below is a full lists from Ole Miss' 2017 team who will be participating in tomorrow's Pro Day.
The event is closed to the public, but fans are encouraged to follow along on Twitter (@OleMissFB) beginning at 9:30 a.m.
OXFORD, Miss. - Nearly 200 fans from all over made their way inside the gates of Vaught Hemingway-Stadium and onto Jerry Hollingsworth Field to compete in the first-ever Fan Pro Day as part of Ole Miss' Year of the Fan initiative.
Kids in eighth grade and under, Ole Miss students, as well as adults over the age of 22 made their way around 10 different drill stations set up across the field and put their NFL Combine-like football skills to the test.
The events consisted of a 40-yard dash, cone drill, field goal competition, punt catch, quarterback competition, shuttle run, tackle dummy obstacle, vertical jump, hot dog eating contest and a cooler pull and dig.
Nat Dean and his son, Drew, of Water Valley, made a pitstop on their way home from a baseball tournament in Southaven to let Drew flash his skills on the gridiron.
"I think this is really neat," Nat said. "I think it is a great way to get fans engaged by getting to be on the field and all of the festivities ."
Drew's favorite drill?
"Probably the 40-yard dash," he said as he pointed to his scoresheet that showed a quick time.
Nat said it was Drew's first time getting to be on the field.
"They get a feeling of being big time by playing on a surface where big time athletes play," Nat said. "I think it's cool for them to get to experience that.
Kelly and her daughter, Kailey, drove more than six hours all the way from Vancleave, Mississippi, to come partake in the fun. Kailey said the vertical jump was her favorite station.
Barrett Hopkins and his son, Hayden, trekked down from Ripley for them both to go through the gauntlet of drills. Hayden was partial to the quarterback throwing drills as he ran around on the field for the first time.
"This has been really cool," Barrett said. "We have always wanted to come down onto the field."
Barrett caught a ball on the jugs machine and decided to retire on top.
"I caught one and walked away," he said with a grin.
Contestants times and scores at each drill flashed across the video board as kids ran through the drills and pummeled some tackling dummies.
The nearly two hour event allowed the fans to emulate the athletes they've watched for so many years inside Vaught-Hemingway as well as gave them an early taste of Saturday afternoons next fall.
When Eric Swinney looks around the running back group meeting room, he can quickly see he's now the oldest guy in the room. That comes a leadership role he's beginning to embrace.
He's now taken it upon himself to mentor some of the younger running backs that Matt Luke has been bullish on throughout spring ball.
"It's different taking on a leadership role," Swinney said. "I am trying to help the new guys out like Isaiah and Armani (Linton), even Scottie. Telling them to study the playbook, get in the film room and getting the calls even when they are not on the field."
Luke said after practice on Tuesday the two biggest surprises of the spring have been newcomers Isaiah Woullard and junior college transfer Scottie Phillips. Swinney tends to agree with his head coach.
"They're learning the system really fast and making plays, man. Isaiah is quick an strong. Scottie is making big time plays and they're going to do well for us," Swinney said.
Swinney's a guy who's endured a pair of catastrophic leg injuries, the second coming on his first touch in game action after surviving the first in the Rebels' 2016 season opener against Florida State. It forced him to sit out a second straight college season.
Last year, Swinney finally got back onto the field, carrying the football 41 times for 195 yards. It was a start, and more importantly, Swinney began to feel like his old self again.
"I am not really adjusting to it, but I feel like I am getting back to myself a little bit when I am out there," Swinney said.
He says he's put on more weight and has become a more deliberate back as a result of the injuries. Aside from that, he doesn't feel any major lingering effects anymore. He's healthy again.
"Everything feels like it has balanced out," Swinney said. "My body is feeling great. I am taking care of myself. Just learning how to take care of my body has really helped me."
Swinney's enjoyed seeing some newcomers emerge around him. Between he and D'Vaughn Pennamon, he hopes this team will begin to compile some depth in the backfield. Phillips and Woullard's emergence will only add to that.
"We're working well together," Swinney said. "We're competing out there just working every day and getting in the film room. We're trying to make this team better."
Ole Miss is now on the back end of of spring practice as the culmination nears with the Grove Bowl in two weeks. The Rebels are banged up and have held some guys out of practice as a precaution. It's allowed some of the younger players to get more reps, like Ben Brown on the offensive line. He's been working with the first team the last couple of days.
"It helps out a lot," Brown said. "It's a lot faster paced for sure. There are a lot of very talented players. I am just happy to be getting the reps."
Brown got adjusted to the speed of the college game as a freshman last year as he redshirted and the coaching staff is hopeful he will be a contributor this fall to pad the offensive line depth with the departure of Daronte Bouldin and Rod Taylor. Depth up front helped the Rebels battle some attrition on the offensive line last season and kept the running game afloat late in the season.
"I feel really prepared," Brown said. "Getting to learn from the older guys has been a big time help."
14 For '14,
2013 World Championships,
2014 Season Highlight,
2014 World Cup,
2014 World Cup Brazil,
2014 Year in Review,
2015 NFL Draft,
2015 Rebels' Choice Awards,
2016 SEC Women's Golf Championships; Kory Henkes; Ole Miss Women's Golf; Rory McIlroy;,
2016 Summer Olympics,
3 Things About Gameday,
3 Things You Should Know About Gameday,
38: The Chucky Mullins Effect,
A Year in Review,
A Year in Review 2014,
Alabama Crimson Tide,
Arkansas Women's Basketball,
Armintie Price Herrington,
Athletics Week in Review,
BBVA Compass Bowl,
Be The Fan,
Best of the Season,
Best Seat in the House,
Billy Van Devender,
Bo Wallace Stadium,
Boise State Broncos,
Boise State Football,
Bram ten Berge,
By The Numbers,
BYU Men's Basketball,
C Spire Conerly Trophy,
Cal Ripken Senior League,
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Can't Be Denied,
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Chucky Mullins Award,
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College Baseball Tournament,
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Colorado Springs Sky Sox,
CoSIDA; Langston Rogers,
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Egg Bowl Motivational,
Egg Bowl Motivational Video,
Engineers Without Border,
Episode 1 Sneak Peak,
Episode One Sneak Peak,
ESPN College Gameday,
Evan St. Laurent,
Fifth Annual Rebels' Choice Awards,
Florida Men's Basketball,
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Lynnette Johnson; SEC Women's Golf,
Madisen Bentley; Maria Toennessen,
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mary ashton nall,
Meet The Rebels Day,
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Miss Men's Basketball,
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Ole Miss Women,
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Ole Miss Women's Golf; Dori Carter,
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Opening Day 2014,
Oxford University Stadium,
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Powder Blue Helmets,
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SEC Baseball Tournament,
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The Season Ole Miss,
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Year In Review,
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
I like what you guys are up too. Such smart work and reporting! Keep up the superb works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my site in post Madden 17 Ratings for Former Rebels
Jamie laverty said:
Bulmer I love you and ole Miss in post Fast Runner From Down Under
Sharon Hamlin said:
Hi! Really Bulmer is very fantastic & dedicated in his job. Really outstanding & well done... :-) in post Fast Runner From Down Under
Sharon Hamlin said:
Hi! Really motivating post & outstanding job did Bulmer .Loved it... :-) in post Fast Runner From Down Under