Coming off the program's fifth-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and a school-record 15 wins this past season, the Ole Miss soccer team returned to the pitch for the first practice of the preseason on Wednesday.
The Rebels open the 2014 season with the first-ever live event broadcast on the SEC Network when they host Georgia on Friday, Aug. 22 at 6 p.m. CT.
"It's good to be back," head coach Matt Mott said. "It's nice to be out here. Our team is really fit. They did a great job on the fitness test. It's the fittest team I have been a part of in my 22 years. They are extremely fit. Our strength coach, Randy Dorvin, has done a great job with them all summer. It's a typical first day. We probably could have been sharper, but the energy and intensity was high.
"Our team did really well," senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick said. "We had high intensity. Our fitness was really good. We were performing like it's the middle of the season and we're ready to play a good opponent."
Ole Miss made history this past season, not only setting a school record for wins, but also hosting an NCAA Tournament game for the first time and winning its second NCAA Tournament game in five trips to the annual event, but the team wants more entering the 2014 season.
"It goes to the character of these guys," Mott said. "They're tight already as a team. They pushed each other all summer and they wanted to come into fall camp fit. All spring and into fall camp, we have said that we're not going to be a one-hit wonder and disappear again. Our goal is to get back into the top 25 and into the top half of the SEC."
Despite losing two of the program's top four all-time goal-scorers, Rafaelle Souza (1st, 44 goals) and Mandy McCalla (4th, 37 goals), Mott called this year's team his deepest yet, with 17 returning players from last year's squad and five newcomers.
"I feel confident about all 22 (players)," Mott said. "They have come here in really good shape and ready to go. I like all 22 of them. They will all compete, and it will make them better every single day."
"Each year, the coaches have recruited better and better," McCormick said. "My freshman year, we weren't the most talented team, but this year, we have depth in our team and we have players who can come off the bench and play right off the bat."
It starts with McCormick, the lone senior on this year's team who has started all three years for the Rebels and is already the all-time wins leader in goal (34). She posted a 16-6-2 record with 10 shutout wins as a junior.
"She has the right mentality," said Mott of McCormick. "She's a winner. She's absolutely a winner. She has the school record already for wins. Technically, she's really, really clean, which is really important for a goalkeeper. She has done a great job with coach Rob Thompson every single year and she has made big strides. She understands what it takes. She's been in those pressure situations."
Among the five talented newcomers is freshman goalkeeper Marnie Merritt, a high school All-America selection from Huntersville, North Carolina, where she also helped Hough High School to a No. 1 national ranking by ESPN.
"Marnie has come in and she's going to be really good for us," Mott said. "She has a great pedigree. She's learning it right now certainly. Madi Killeen, too. We have three really good goalkeepers, which is an anomaly in women's soccer. I'm comfortable with all three of them. It's a battle right now. Certainly Kelly is the leader because she's been our starter, but she has a battle on her hands with the other two coming in behind her."
On the field, Ole Miss returns all six players (Melissa Capocaccia, Maddie Friedmann, Gretchen Harknett, Jessica Hiskey, Georgia Russell and Samantha Sanders) who drew starts along the back line, with Harknett and Hiskey moving to the midfield.
The Rebels also return forwards Olivia Harrison, Addie Forbus and Bethany Bunker, who combined for 17 of the team's goals last season.
"If you look at Bethany Bunker, Addie Forbus and Olivia Harrison, all those guys had six or seven goals, which on most teams is a good number of goals," Mott said. "We just scored so many goals last year with Rafa and Mandy, it got skewed. Those three had great seasons with tons of assists, so I feel good about our ability to score. We'll have a scoring punch."
With the launch of the SEC Network just eight days away, ESPN released new animations for each of the 14 schools in the Southeastern Conference.
From the ESPN MediaZone press release:
Each school worked closely with the network to develop authentic and
timeless school IDs, including a 15-second "Quad" ID. All 14 Quad IDs
open with an iconic campus image which will then circulate into
legendary and current athletic imagery of coaches, players, fans and
school tradition. Each ID ends on a virtual SEC Network campus quad that
encapsulates the pageantry and passion of the individual school.
Below is the animation for Ole Miss. To check out the animations of the other 13 schools in the conference, go here
The Rebels practiced in full pads and held their first live session of fall camp on Tuesday.
The defense had dominated the previous competitions, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said, but the offense got the better of the defense in the live session, as sophomore tight end Evan Engram made a big-time catch on the last play to win it.
On a related note, freshman Sammie Epps has moved from tight end to the slot to add some size and physicality to the position. The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder joins sophomore Quincy Adebojeyjo, who moved inside to the slot in the spring, and freshman Markell Pack, who has mostly worked in the slot during fall camp.
"We have said all along that O-line, receiver and tight end are our depth issues, and as we get more into practice, you notice that we're a little thin in the slot, particularly with a bigger body that can do some of the things Laquon (Treadwell) did in our run game and screen game," Freeze said. "We decided for (Sammie's) freshman year to move him there. I don't know if he will remain there throughout his career. We'll see how his body develops."
"(Sammie) seems to be really trying to learn it," Adeboyejo said. "He's staying after and he's trying to get it. He's coming along. He will be pretty good. He's a big, strong guy, so he can make a lot of mismatches."
With Epps' move to the slot, senior Nick Parker and junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins are the primary backups at tight end. Parker saw action in 11 games with three starts at tight end, catching two passes for 11 yards and a touchdown, while Liggins has moved to tight end from quarterback.
"He's coming along nicely," said Freeze of Liggins. "He still makes mistakes mentally. Physically, he mixes it up a lot better than I anticipated. He's a physical blocker, which is something we really need. He's a threat doing other things when he's on the field for us too. We ran a little quarterback stuff with him yesterday, and he looked pretty good at that."
Adeboyejo Transitions to the Slot
Sophomore Quincy Adeboyjo moved from outside receiver, where he rotated with Donte Moncrief and Vince Sanders, among others, to the slot, where he looks to replace sophomore Laquon Treadwell, who moved to outside receiver.
From the slot position, Treadwell led the team with 72 catches and was second on the team with 608 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Adeboyejo caught just seven passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, but coaches and players have said he is poised for a breakout year and a similar uptick in production.
"He gives us a threat there who can do things with the ball in his hands that are a little different than what we have had," Freeze said. "He's quick-twitched and he can run. He has to continue to improve his ball-catching. He still has too many that are not natural catches for him that he should make. We'll continue to work at that."
The transition has gone well, Adeboyejo said, having also worked in the slot during spring practice. Coaches and players have also praised his route-running and ability to stretch the field vertically.
"Going from outside to inside, I know both of them," Adeboyejo said. "I still know most of the outside stuff. When I'm in there learning, just because I play slot, I don't just look at the slot. I try to look at all of the routes, so if I have to go outside one day, I would still know what I have to do."
"His route-running is really good," Freeze said. "He's one of our better ones at getting in and out of breaks and any kind of double moves. He's a strider too. If he gets in the open field, he's a guy who is tough to corral. We're excited about him."
Alford Ready to Contribute in Variety of Ways
Sophomore Anthony Alford does a little bit of everything.
When SiriusXM College Sports Nation Camp Tour visited Ole Miss on Monday, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack called Alford one of the best two or three athletes on the team.
A two-sport standout out of Petal High School, Alford was selected in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays and signed a contract with the organization in June 2012 that allowed him to also keep playing football.
He started his college football career at Southern Miss, where he played in nine games with five starts at quarterback, as he led the Golden Eagles with 664 passing yards and rushed for 329 yards with eight total touchdowns.
After sitting out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules, during which time he played a key role on the scout team imitating the likes of Johnny Manziel and Nick Marshall at quarterback, he entered fall camp as the backup Rover safety behind junior Trae Elston, in addition to taking snaps at quarterback and returning punts in special teams drills.
"I love him in a lot of ways," Freeze said. "He took some snaps (at quarterback) yesterday too. He looked explosive. He looked good at punt return this morning. Defensively, he's getting better and better."
"I think I can help with my athletic ability and my quarterback background," Alford said. "I know what's going on on that side of the ball. By playing on both sides of the ball, it helps me a lot with playing quarterback."
This past summer, he played summer ball in the Blue Jays organization, splitting time between the Bluefield Blue Jays (Rookie Ball) and Lansing Lugnuts (Class A). He hit a career-best .320 in 25 at-bats for the Lugnuts, before rejoining the Ole Miss football team.
"I had to get back in the groove because I fell behind a little bit being gone playing baseball during the summer, but I'm feeling good," Alford said.
Alford, who was ranked No. 6 among Blue Jays prospects by MLB.com entering the 2013 season, has three years remaining of football eligibility, and he's in no hurry to decide between the two sports.
"I feel like I haven't truly given football a shot," Alford said. "I don't truly know what I can do in football, so I won't know that for a year or two."
In the individual and team drills open to the media, the first-team offensive line consisted of sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), sophomore Robert Conyers (C), junior Justin Bell (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT).
Conyers also worked with the second-team offensive line at right tackle. He was joined on the team by redshirt freshman Davion Johnson (LT), junior Craig Frigo (LG), junior Ben Still (C) and redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin (RG).
Junior Channing Ward, who switched back to defensive end from tight end, ran with the first-team defense in the team drill. He was joined by junior C.J. Johnson at the other defensive end spot and sophomore Robert Nkemdiche and junior Woodrow Hamilton at the defensive tackle spots.
At linebacker, senior Deterrian Shackelford and junior Denzel Nkemdiche ran with the first team, with junior Christian Russell and senior Keith Lewis the second team. Sophomore Tony Conner ran with the first team at Huskie, with junior Mike Hilton on the second team.
Among the freshman defensive backs, other than Kendarius Webster who continues to work with the cornerbacks, C.J. Moore worked with the safeties, while A.J. Moore and D.K. Buford worked with the Huskies. Senior Cliff Coleman, who has played both cornerback and Huskie, worked with the safeties.
Junior cornerback Carlos Davis, who Freeze earlier said was the leader at punt returner, fielded punts in special teams work, as did junior safety Trae Elston and Alford. In the same drill, A.J. Moore got a piece of a punt.
Freeze, on Denzel Nkemdiche: "I couldn't be more pleased with him and his attitude and leadership out there in practice thus far. He's always positive. He's kind of accepted what his punishment is, and he's gone through it very nicely."
Freeze, on the backup quarterbacks: "I'm disappointed, to be candid. They're not taking care of the ball well enough. Our timing is off. They seemed a little bit confused. I told (co-offensive coordinator) Dan (Werner) we have to get it cleared up mentally with them and get them playing faster. That's the way I feel after today's practice."
Alford, on being eligible to play after sitting out last season: "It's a lot different because it gives you something to look forward to. It makes me work harder because I'm actually motivated now than I was just going through the motions last year."
Alford, on missing playing quarterback: "I miss having the ball in my hand every play more than anything."
Alford, on the secondary: "I feel really confident. Like coach said, it's probably our first year having a true two-deep in the secondary at Huskie, Rover, free safety and corner. I'm really confident in knowing if one person goes down, we can bounce back and put someone else out there."
Adeboyejo, on Bo Wallace and adjusting to his stronger arm: "His arm is a lot stronger. Some balls we used to wait longer on, but now it's zipping in there. We have to get used to it. We do routes on air a lot. During the offseason, we did a lot of routes on air and we did a lot of 7-on-7. As we throw around with him a lot, it's getting easier and easier to get used to his balls zipping in a little faster than they had been."
Adeboyejo, on freshman wide receivers Markell Pack and Dayall Harris: "They're going to be really good. Markell is pretty fast. A lot of people say he's kind of like me. We both have dreads, so a lot of people think we look alike and run alike. Markell is going to be really good. Dayall, he's in the meeting room and he's asking coach question after question. He's really trying to learn it. That's a good thing coming in as a freshman trying to learn it off the bat."
The SiriusXM College Sports Nation Camp Tour visited Ole Miss on Monday, as Chris Childers and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik talked Ole Miss football live from the Manning Center.
The three-hour show featured live interviews with athletics director Ross Bjork, co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, senior quarterback Bo Wallace, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior linebacker Serderius Bryant and senior safety Cody Prewitt, as well as pre-recorded interviews with head football coach Hugh Freeze and head baseball coach Mike Bianco.
The show will re-air on Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. CT on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, channel 91 on satellite radios, on the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at SiriusXM.com. Here's a sample of the show with Wallace talking about being a senior leader and Freeze talking about the start of camp.
Here are some highlights from Chizik talking with Childers, as he previewed the upcoming season for Ole Miss:
On expectations: "The recruiting classes have been off the charts. Depth, you are finally going to see play a factor. That's probably one of the things why you see them in these SEC matchups, where they can't quite close on the deal on a Texas A&M or an Auburn. Now, all their young guys are gaining experience and gaining year. They have a lot of depth, and you are going to see it make a difference this year.
On Bo Wallace and cutting down on his turnovers: "If you look at some of the premier quarterbacks in the league who really had a chance to win their division -- the AJ McCarron's of the world, the Nick Marshall's and Connor Shaw's -- you're looking at guys who turned the ball over in air four or five times, and for Connor Show, one time. He has to be able to do that. He has to manage those games in the critical times. You're going to see a better Bo Wallace. I really do.
On veterans back on defense: "You have three years in Dave Wommack's system and you have nine starters coming back, and you have some other guys who have played a lot on top of that, not among the nine. You're going to see a very aggressive defense. I have always admired how hard they play. Dave keeps it simple enough, where they can just turn those guys loose and play. They're going to have to play well early and give the offensive line, which has a lot of new guys, time to gel and get better. The defense is going to be a critical element in the first four games of the year.
In between segments, I caught up with Chizik and he shared his thoughts on this year's Ole Miss team and the state of the program:
On season opener against Boise State: "It's cool for the players. I don't know if they train any harder or practice any harder, but certainly as the game gets closer, it has a whole new meaning to a player because it's opening in a pseudo bowl game. They will be excited about it. It's a national TV game and it's going to be one of the biggest games at the beginning of the season. It can be a great opening for Hugh and the football team to play a team like Boise, which has also had a lot of success in its openers, even going back a couple of years to its game against Georgia. The fan base, the players and everyone is going to be excited.
On continuity of staff: "It's night and day if you're trying to build a program, and every two years you're replacing coordinators or you're replacing recruiting coordinators. The kids feel good when they walk back into the building every day and they hear the same voice and the same message. Everyone is beating to the same drum.
On last year's freshmen now sophomores: "So many of the freshmen last year --and they were a very highly-touted class -- came in and had to play, probably more than they needed to play or should have played, when you're talking about freshmen. Hindsight obviously being 20/20, knowing that you had to do that, it certainly makes a better case for you the next year. There were so many guys last year that really had to do it when they were thrown in the fire early. It will pay huge dividends for all those guys this year.
On question marks along the offensive line: "It's going to be huge on the defense. The defense plays a part in that. It's a team game. It's the hardest to put 11 guys on one side and 11 on the other together, but ultimately 22 guys blend together, plus special teams. The defense's job is to buy time for your offensive line to get some experience and gain some confidence, to play together and to listen to the calls. The only thing that you can do with a young line is to give them that experience, game by game, and hopefully you're winning while you're doing it.
On going from the "hunter" to the "hunted": "I don't know if anything changes. There's an awareness there from the coaches and the players that when people play us they have to strap it on and play us for 60 minutes. They can't beat us in 58 minutes. They have to prepare and they have to play the whole game. In this league, they're learning that every week you're the hunted, no matter who you are. Now, they have experienced a great amount of confidence in some of the big games they have won, like the LSU game last year. It makes them very aware that everybody is going to be gunning for them."
On taking the next step as a program: "There's not a day that goes by here that Hugh is not telling his football team that there's one goal, and that's to win the SEC West and go to Atlanta. As you look back and watch the games they have played in the SEC West, there's probably not one guy in that meeting room who thinks that's not a reality, a possibility. They have played everybody tough and beat some of them. That's certainly the goal that they talk about on a daily basis.
On what to look for in first couple of games: "You always look for special teams play. You always look for coverage units and hidden yardage with field position. A lot of people overlook those things because they're looking for touchdowns, interceptions and long runs. That's huge in early games. The other thing is turnovers. You have to protect the ball and you have to try to get the ball back to your offense. Those are the things that every coach in America is going to look for in their openers."
Here are some more highlights from the live interviews on SiriusXM College Sports Nation:
Werner, on Bo Wallace: "The big thing with Bo is that he's sort of a gambler. He'll take his shots. You have to live with it and die with it. When he throws one in there, I'm up the press box and I just go, 'Oh, no,' but then it pops for a touchdown and everybody is happy.
"He makes the exact same throw four plays later and it gets intercepted, and now not so much. That's the thing that I've talked to him about. We have to cut down on those types of plays. We're not going to hit as many big plays, but we're going to keep the chains moving."
Wommack, on C.J. Johnson: "He's one of the leaders of the defense. They all rally around him."
Wommack, on Anthony Alford: "He's one of the top two or three athletes on the team."
Wommack, on Robert Nkemdiche: "We will move him around and use him in different packages, in different places."
Johnson, on being back healthy: "When I'm on the field, it's go-time. I'm ready to go."
Johnson, on season opener against Boise State: "We have a target on our back (as an SEC school). That's another part of the motivation."
Wallace, on last year's Mississippi State game: "It was really frustrating. I felt like we had a good plan for them. I felt like we were the better team. I still feel that way. To be out there, I felt helpless. I didn't know what to do, but I'm healthy now and excited for the year."
Wallace, on leadership: "For me, every guy on the team, when they ask, who wants to win more than anybody, a lot of them are going tell you it's me. That's a huge thing. Competing for those guys, they want to see you're going to put everything on the line every time you walk out there. That's huge for a leader. I'm a quiet, lead-by-example-type guy. I need to be more vocal as a senior and with it being my offense. I'm working on being more vocal."
Bryant, on being underrated: "I love proving people wrong. I got to have a chip on my shoulder because of my size."
Bryant, on the defense: "It's crazy how we all fly around on defense. Everyone's making plays."
Bjork, on his charge as athletics director: "Our job is to build and show progression."
Prewitt, on returning all four starters in the secondary: "It means a lot to be coming back with the same four people in the back end. You can sense what the other guys are going to do and the reads they're going to make. It makes it easier to execute the game plan well."
Prewitt, on Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche: "It's really fun to watch them interacting with each other and the way they push each other. It makes all of us better."
Both coordinators have been pleased with the first couple days of practice as the Ole Miss football team looks to continue to develop more depth on both sides of the ball.
On offense, the discussion starts and ends with senior quarterback Bo Wallace, now more than a year removed from clavicle surgery and the rehabilitation that followed in 2013.
"It's like two different players," co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Werner said. "He's so far ahead. The key is obviously making it all the way through the season, but last year at this time, he was barely coming off rehab. Now, he's not only done with all of that, but he's worked to get his normal strength and maybe then some. He's gained some weight, gotten bigger. He's excited and can't wait for the season."
Running back remains a crowded position, where juniors I'Tavius Mathers (95 carries, 563 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Jaylen Walton (113 carries, 523 yards, 6 touchdowns) are the leading returners, but they are being pushed by sophomore Mark Dodson, redshirt freshmen Eugene Brazley and Jordan Wilkins, and junior college transfer Akeem Judd.
"Two years ago, we basically had one tailback, and he knew pretty much he was going to be the guy," Werner said. "There was nobody else. Now, there's six of them in there, and every one of them is a good player. They're all going to have to battle. If one guy has a bad day, he knows he's probably going to be dropping down."
One of the areas Ole Miss looks to improve is third-down conversion (46 percent, 5th SEC) and red-zone conversion (74 percent, 13th SEC), and part of that is conversion in short-yardage situations. Enter Judd, the biggest of the backs at 6-foot-0 and 220 pounds.
"Today, in the pads, we didn't get a really good look because we're still not going live, but I was pleased," Werner said. "I didn't think we would be impressed with him when we're just in t-shirts, but he made some really nice moves. I'm excited to see when we got live and he makes a nice move, but then gets north and south and runs over someone. That's why we brought him in."
One of the key positions, as far as depth, is offensive line, particularly on the edges. Werner has been pleased with the competition there, but depth remains a concern.
"I like the athleticism of the guys," Werner said. "They are battling. The whole key to that is staying healthy. The depth is the issue. We feel like we have six, seven, eight guys who can really play and help us. If we get a couple banged up, then we have problems."
Junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins, Werner said, can be a really good player at tight end, as he competes for playing time there alongside sophomore Evan Engram and freshman Sammie Epps.
"He's definitely a natural," Werner said. "You can tell him to block somebody, and normally it takes weeks to figure how and where you place your hands and all that, and he just gets into them. He's so strong. He's so physical. And he's so athletic to be able to catch the ball too. It's just learning it. When he will get to that point, nobody knows. We will find out."
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said the depth is better than it's ever been and the talent level is up also. Two areas for improvement were defensive end and length at corner, and he's been pleased with the progress on both fronts.
"Defensive end, from last year, is a huge thing because we lost them all and we were thin," Wommack said. "We took care of a lot of that in recruiting and we add Fadol (Brown), and C.J. (Johnson) is back healthy and 100 percent. We added Marquis (Haynes) and some of those other guys. I see some good things out of the young guys. That's one thing.
"And I wanted to see us get longer at corner and recruit longer at corner, and we have been able to do that. We need them to rise up and get some playing time. I love our corners. Some of them are short, and we wanted to get length at corner."
Among those younger players on the defensive line have been freshmen Breeland Speaks and Garrald McDowell.
"He got a little bit overweight, but he's kind of worked himself down," said Wommack of Speaks. "He's tough and he's a competitor. He's figuring out what college football is all about right now. There's no question he's going to be a factor here down the road. When, I don't know."
"He finds a way," said Wommack of McDowell. "He's a steady guy in there. He's tough. He's a competitor. He's really football smart on the field."
With length at corner, you look at sophomore Derrick Jones (6-foot-2, 182 pounds), as well as the additions of junior college transfer Tee Shepard (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) and Kendarius Webster (5-foot-11, 170).
"He's improved a lot," said Wommack of Jones. "The biggest thing was, physically, he went against one of the best receivers in the nation all spring, and it made him better and made him see he that he had to get stronger. He got strong over the summer and he keeps on coming. I love his length."
"I don't think he's in shape all the way yet," said Wommack of Shepard. "I don't think he's had the conditioning he's needed, so he can't last very long, but the good, quality reps that I see from him are very positive. He has tremendous short-area quickness and has that knack that you want in your corner that's, 'Hey, send me the ball to me. I want the ball thrown to me.' We'll see the whole package here."
Overall, Wommack has been pleased with the freshman class, and no one has stood out more than DeMarquis Gates, a 6-foot-2, 211-pound linebacker from Hampton, Georgia.
"He can run, he's physical, he's tough, and he's smart," Wommack said. "He didn't play last year, so I really wasn't expecting what we have been getting from him. Each and every day, including today, he has shown up, so that's a good thing for us."
With media day behind them, Ole Miss practiced for the first time of fall camp Saturday on the practice fields. Head coach Hugh Freeze split the practice into two parts, with about 40 minutes devoted to getting reps for the younger players.
"It was good for the young group to get out early," Freeze said. "We finally have some kids, when we go two-deep, that are not getting enough reps. That has not been the norm, so we split practice this morning and went out early with the young guys. That will give them some confidence moving forward."
The first part provided a first look at the many players from the 2014 signing class, ranked as high as No. 14 by the major recruiting services.
"I really like the class that we just brought in," Freeze said. "There are a lot of talented kids in it. If we can do a good job of helping them understand how we want to do things and what there is to do, we have some guys who can perform in that class. I don't want them to get too far behind that they can't play fast."
At media day, Freeze said he was most anxious to see the punters and kickers, as the Rebels look to replace Tyler Campbell and Andrew Ritter, who both graduated following their senior year last season.
"I'm pleased with (Will) Gleeson," Freeze said. "He hit it well today. On one day, Andy (Pappanastos) had the best day, but Gary (Wunderlich) had some really good hits, particularly on the left hash. He struggled a bit on the right hash. Andy had the best day of those guys today. I'm pleased with Gary's punting too. We have two quality punters there in Will and Gary. We have a good battle that's going to happen for the PAT and field goal stuff."
Another position battle to watch on special team is punt returner, where the Rebels look to replace Jeff Scott and Jordan Holder, who handled most of those duties last season.
"Carlos Davis would probably be the guy, if we played today," Freeze said. "Anthony Alford and Trae Elston are other good possibilities also. Carlos is pretty natural back there."
In the individual drills, junior Ben Still, senior Chase Hughes and junior Craig Frigo all took snaps at center, with Still getting most of the first-team reps.
The other four players on the first-team offensive line were sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), junior Justin Bell (RG) and sophomore Robert Conyers (RT).
The second-team offensive line consisted of redshirt freshman Davion Johnson (LT), redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin (LG), freshman Rod Taylor (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT), with Taylor also getting reps with the younger players in the first part of practice.
In special teams work, junior running back Jaylen Walton, sophomore running back Mark Dodson and sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore split reps returning kicks. Junior defensive back Mike Hilton, senior defensive back Cliff Coleman, freshman safety C.J. Hampton and sophomore safety Anthony Alford worked as gunners on punt coverage.
Freeze, on newcomers who stood out: "Dayall Harris was phenomenal. Rod Taylor is going to be good. We knew that and believed that. He kind of cramped today and didn't quite get all the reps. All of those guys, Tee Shepard, (Damore'ea Stringfellow) is what we like in our offense, the twins from Bassfield (A.J. Moore and C.J. Moore) are super athletic and make us faster, Ken Webster is going to be a good player at corner. Offensively, (Sammie) Epps was solid. (Jeremy) Liggins, too. I'm excited about them."
Freeze, on the arm strength of senior quarterback Bo Wallace: "He's overthrown two streaks. We have never had that problem before. We have just hoped it has gotten there sometimes, so we kind of laughed about that today, so his arm is definitely stronger. We hope it sustains the course of the time and grind of the year."
The immediate goals for fall practice, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said, are developing more depth, particularly at key positions, and staying healthy.
"Staying healthy is a quandary in my mind because you need to be fast and physical but you have to stay healthy," Freeze said. "Now, we really feel like we have a team that can be good. Hopefully we can go from good to great.
"The line that you worry about, particularly with us still having some depth issues, is how do you get done what you need to do and develop depth and create a competitive, juiced practice and still stay as healthy as you can. We have to create some more depth."
On a related note, Freeze also said everyone is academically eligible, and aside from junior defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton possibly being held out of some drills on day one, everyone is also healthy entering fall camp.
Part of that good news included the clearance of sophomore Tee Shepard, a consensus four-star recruit out of junior college. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder brings an added dimension to a talented cornerback group, led by senior Senquez Golson, sophomore Derrick Jones and junior Mike Hilton.
"I expect Tee to come in and hopefully be a lockdown corner that we may have been missing," Freeze said. "He has the size, strength and speed, and he's physical. I love his demeanor. The guy smiles all the time. He's excited to be here. I like our depth at corner, and that's the first time I can say that. We have some good possibilities there."
"On defense, it's going to take turnovers," said Jones of getting to the next level as a team. "That is the big emphasis we have going into this camp, getting more turnovers, and getting the ball to the offense. We can be one of the top defenses in the country. We have the players and we have great coaches. We have to go out there and play like we know we can play."
One of those key positions as far depth is offensive line, where it starts with sophomore Laremy Tunsil, a freshman All-American, who will anchor the line at left tackle.
"Being a sophomore and being considered that, it's a blessing," said Tunsil of consideration as one of the nation's top offensive tackles. "Last year, I learned about adversity. When the game is not going your way, to try to think about the positive things."
To continue to build depth on the offensive line, Freeze said, sophomore Robert Conyers will work at offensive tackle and center, and freshman Rod Taylor will work at offensive guard and offensive tackle.
"We have to be careful with our offensive line," Freeze said. "We're OK inside depth-wise. On the edges, we're very, very thin. We have a special one in Laremy, and we hope he has a healthy and outstanding year, and we hope Fahn Cooper is exactly what we thought he would be. We have to start getting depth ready behind those guys."
"They showed out this summer," Tunsil said. "They did a pretty good job this summer. They're going to kill it this fall camp."
Passing Game Ready To Take Next Step
Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, the Southeastern Conference's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdown, received the podium treatment at Ole Miss Media Days, and he appeared as healthy and confident as ever.
"I feel as good as I have ever felt, except that first year coming in," Wallace said. "I feel 100 percent. I feel a lot of zip on the ball, and I can push it down the field more. I'm anxious to go out there and start."
"He actually hurt my hand a couple of times playing catch," said sophomore wide receiver Treadwell, smiling and laughing. "But yeah, his arm has gotten very strong. He's making great decisions now. Last year, it was like, 'C'mon, Bo, throw the ball.' Now, he's zipping it and throwing it wherever he wants to put it, in any position."
Treadwell, the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year, moves outside to his natural position, where he looks to stretch the field and make more explosive plays in the offense.
"I worked on it last year, but this year I feel like I had to work on it more because I know that's what we're going to do with a healthy Bo and me moving to the outside," said Treadwell of stretching the field. "Quincy (Adeboyejo) is going to help that a lot because he's mismatch, also, because his route are so crisp that a lot of people can't guard him 1-on-1. He's showed that since day one."
"That's his natural position," said Freeze of the sophomore. "He's a physical blocker, which helps us on the edge. We'll continue to move him around but he will primarily an outside guy. Outside guys typically have the chance to make more explosive plays. He's excited to do that."
With his move outside, fellow sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo, Treadwell said, is poised for a breakout year in the slot.
"Quincy (Adeboyejo) is going to help that a lot because he's a mismatch, also because his route are so crisp that a lot of people can't guard him 1-on-1. He's showed that since day one."
With Moncrief now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Treadwell has not only moved outside, but he's also taken on a bigger leadership role among the wide receivers and the team in general.
"I stay around my teammates as much as possible because they are going to humble you," Treadwell said. "You can't read your press clippings. I try to keep working hard and leading the team."
Position Changes, Position Battles
After having worked at tight end during spring practice, Channing Ward is switching back to defense, Freeze said. Among the three "athletes" on the roster, freshman D.K. Buford will start at Huskie, freshman D.J. Moore will start at Rover or Huskie, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins will start at tight end.
"Jeremy is one of my favorite kids, even though he ripped my heart out at one point in the recruiting process," Freeze said. "He's such an athletic big guy. He is starting at tight end, but that doesn't mean that's where he will end up. He could play a lot of things. People like that certainly help your football team. We could move him around if we have some depth issues."
The backup quarterback battle continues, and it's in much the same place as it was when Freeze talked to the media at SEC Media Days, with redshirt freshman Ryan Buchanan ahead as a pocket passer and redshirt freshman DeVante Kincade ahead running the entire offense.
In addition, Liggins and sophomore safety Anthony Alford, Freeze said, may also factor in helping fill Barry Brunetti's role from last season.
Freeze said he's most anxious to see the kickers because he's hasn't seen them all summer, as the Rebels look to replace Tyler Campbell and Andrew Ritter, who both graduated following their senior year last seasons.
"(Will) Gleeson has the edge right now, as far as the punting duties," Freeze said. "The kicking duties are wide open. I expect Andy (Pappanastos) and Gary (Wunderlich) to have a great competition for that. (Andrew) Fletcher, too. Nathan Noble will likely handle kickoff duties."
Transcript of Hugh Freeze and Bo Wallace's Ole Miss Media Day press conferences
Athletics Director Ross Bjork announces the renaming of Coliseum Drive as Chucky Mullins Drive, in recognition of the spirit and life of Chucky Mullins.
Bjork also announces "It's Time," a celebration of Chucky Mullins around the Sept. 26-27 weekend of the Memphis football game, which will include the football team wearing helmets with No. 38 decals on the side.
14 For '14,
2013 World Championships,
2014 World Cup,
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2016 Summer Olympics,
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BBVA Compass Bowl,
Be The Fan,
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Give To Athletics,
Hall of Fame,
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Jackson Touchdown Club,
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Jeff Scott Hugh Freeze,
Lafayette Super Regional,
Lock The Vaught,
Look Back Video,
Los Angeles Sparks,
Lynnette Johnson; SEC Women's Golf,
Mai El Kamash,
mary ashton nall,
Mary Ashton Nall,
Meet The Rebels Day,
Mel Kiper Jr.,
Men's Tennis Tennis,
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Nike Asia Tour,
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Ole Miss Baseball,
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Ole Miss Basketball,
Ole Miss Defense,
Ole Miss Engineering,
Ole Miss Fans,
Ole Miss Football,
Ole Miss Football 2014,
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Ole Miss Media Day,
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Ole Miss Pix,
Ole Miss Pro Day,
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Ole Miss Regional,
Ole Miss Rifle,
Ole Miss Soccer,
Ole Miss Softball,
Ole Miss Solo Cups,
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Ole Miss Tennis,
Ole Miss Top 25 2014,
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Ole Miss Volleyball,
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Ole Miss Women's Hoops,
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Opening Day 2014,
Postgame Press Conference,
Rebel Media Day,
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Red & Blue Classic,
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Rifle Video Promo,
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School of Education,
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SEC Basketball Teleconference,
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SEC Media Days,
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SEC Men's Basketball Tournament,
SEC Men's Tennis Tournament,
SEC Player of the Year,
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SEC Track and Field,
SEC Track and Field Championships,
SEC Track and Field Indoor Championships,
SEC Women's Basketball Teleconference,
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Shelby Jo Fenter,
SiriusXM College Sports Nation,
SiriusXM College Sports National Camp Tour,
Soldier Returns Home,
Soldier Surprises Family,
Solo Cup Races,
South Carolina Basketball,
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Spain National Team,
State of Ole Miss Athletics,
Super Bulldog Weekend,
TCU Horned Frogs,
TD Ameritrade Park,
Texas A&M Basketball,
Texas Tech Baseball,
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The Pavilion at Ole Miss,
The Season Ole Miss,
The Season Ole Miss Baseball,
The Season Ole Miss Soccer,
The Season Ole Miss Volleyball,
The Season: Ole Miss Football,
Track & Field,
Under-19 World Championship,
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Vanderbilt Men's Basketball,
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Walk Out Music,
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We Are Ole Miss,
Week in Review,
William & Mary,
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Women's Basketball; Yolanda Moore,
World Cup Brazil,
Year In Review,