"The expectations that are coming now with our program, I'm very careful," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I told every group that I went to this spring, I tell our team quite often, unrealistic expectations, always produce frustration. I don't care in what area of life that you're in, if you have an unreal expectation and it does not come to pass, you get very frustrated."
"Our task in year two is to maintain the enthusiasm and energy from both our fans and our players and everyone that is involved in our program, as we continue to strive to be relevant in the SEC West. We have made strides. But, again, those young men we've recruited to help us with our depth issues, they're 18-year-old kids. How quick they'll adjust to this game and this league, you really don't know."
Speaking about the excitement surrounding the top-five recruiting class, Freeze said other teams in the Southeastern Conference have had that for five years, and those are the teams they are competing against. One class, Freeze said, is not the answer by itself, but just part of the process.
"Spring revealed to us that we're still not an SEC depth chart," Freeze said. "We went from being a decent football team to a less-than-average one when you had a few key injuries. Last year, we were so fortunate to not have any injuries.
"I look at our depth chart now, we have made improvements, but improvements with really young kids. How will they respond to this league? I don't know. I think we're a year away from being able to look at a depth chart and say 'we're pretty good there.'"
The number one area of concern in depth, Freeze said, is the offensive line, adding that players returning from injuries and offseason surgeries are also of concern. Freeze also mentioned defensive end, corner and safety as positions where the Rebels are thin.
"We feel like everybody is pretty well on track," Freeze said. "We have a physical summer with our strength coaches, and it has created some new things here and there, and exactly where we'll be in a few weeks when we start camp is kind of hard to tell.
"We know there will be some who will be limited when we start, but we sure hope by two weeks into fall camp that we will have all our critical members of our team to start getting ready for Vanderbilt."
Wallace Right On Track
Junior quarterback Bo Wallace had clavicle surgery in January, and he said he's participating in seven-on-seven workouts and expects to be ready for the start of fall camp.
"I'm in the last two weeks of the rehab," Wallace said. "Now, I'm just getting to throw every day to get ready for fall camp. It feels good -- I have all the confidence in the world in it. I'm just ready to get back out there and compete with my team."
Freeze said they also feel good about Wallace's recovery.
"He feels very good about where he's at in his progress," he said. "They've released him about four weeks ago to start tossing. Last week he began throwing full go. He's had some soreness, of course. But everything seems to be moving along very nicely."
Wallace completed 235 of 368 passes for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season, adding 390 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Freeze said to have an experienced quarterback in the SEC is "invaluable," but also said he expects Wallace to cut down on his turnovers.
"He kind of plays the game a little bit too free for me at times with the football," he said. "He'll be the first to tell you that. That's probably the biggest negative of him not going through spring practice, was the fact he didn't get quality reps against a live defense.
"I know that he understands and knows that. So now it's a matter of us, through fall camp, getting him prepared to take care of the football."
Wallace participated in the Manning Passing Academy last weekend, and he said he talked to Eli Manning about making better decisions with his feet and protecting the ball batter.
"We both said sliding is awkward as a quarterback, but I have to pick my spots," he said. "I don't want to go through another injury like this. I think I help the team more being out there healthy than trying to pick up one or two more yard and getting banged up.
"At the same time, I'm going to compete my tail off like I always do, and if I don't slide, I'm just trying to compete."
Looking Ahead To The Season Opener
Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are two of the SEC's hottest teams entering 2013. The Commodores were 9-4 in 2012, their most wins in a season since 1915. Head coach James Franklin has also led Vanderbilt to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.
"That game in Nashville in August is going to be a difficult task because of the job that Coach Franklin and his staff have done at Vanderbilt," Freeze said. "They're returning quite a few guys. They're going to be a mature football team.
"They understand quite clearly what this game means. Our kids will, too. Am I crazy about opening with a conference opponent? That's probably not what you would always desire, but an opportunity to put us on national TV is something that I'm always in favor of."
Players report for fall camp on Aug. 1, and so begins year two of the journey for Freeze and the Rebels.