Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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-Freeze called the opener a tremendous task. These are the type of games he wants Ole Miss to be in to expand the Ole Miss brand. Freeze wanted to make Ole Miss relevant on the national level, and games like the opener do that. They're ready to put the ball down and play.

-He called FSU one of the top teams in the country and one the fastest teams he's seen defensively. 

-Freeze called FSU safety Derwin James one of the best safeties he's ever seen. From top to bottom, he said Florida State is one of the better teams Ole Miss has played in his tenure. 

-Freeze said Ole Miss has a football team that's capable of competing with anyone in the nation. He understands why people are predicting FSU to make the playoff because of the amount of talent they have, but the SEC prepares teams for those battles. He said his team will be ready. 

-Ole Miss has to be discipled with fits to stop Dalvin Cook from finding the gap. Cook reminds him of Georgia's Nick Chubb because of Cook's ability to make people miss in space. 

-D.J. Jones, Evan Engram, Chad Kelly, Issac Gross, Akeem Judd, Quincy Adeboyejo, and Robert Conyers have all stepped up as leaders during camp.

-D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, Greg Little, Eric Swinney, Myles Hartsfield, Jaylon Jones, Jalen Julius, Benito Jones, Montrell Custis are all freshmen expected to get snaps. 

-Having Conner back changes Ole Miss. He's a leader and understands the game. They may limit some snaps in certain situations, but he makes them better even if he's at 90 percent.

-Ole Miss is comfortable with Rod Taylor at left tackle although he wishes he was a little bit longer. Freeze said he's done a nice job in fall camp. 

-Florida State has great CBs, but he's confident with his WR group against anyone. 

-Fadol Brown says his foot feels better, but won't know for sure until tomorrow during practice.

-Ole Miss practiced for the first time on Vaught-Hemingway's new grass on Sunday. 

ESPN to Hold Pregame Show Before Ole Miss-FSU

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Orlando Sentinel - ESPN plans to expand its coverage of the Florida State-Ole Miss game on Labor Day night with a one-hour live pregame show from Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

Rece Davis, Desmond Howard and David Pollack will anchor the show which will be called 'College Football Countdown' from 7-8 ET. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Samantha Ponder will call the game which kicks off at 8 and will be aired on ESPN.

The show will be from the concourse level of Camping World Stadium.

Ole Miss and Florida State were already going to be the focal point of the sports world on Labor Day, but now the showdown will be showcased to an even larger extent with College Football Countdown. The last time ESPN held a pregame show on location before an Ole Miss game, the Rebels knocked off No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

Football season is almost here.

Facing Florida State's Dalvin Cook

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Florida State's Dalvin Cook is a first-round talent, a Heisman candidate, and a potential game-breaker on any run. So yes, he's really good. In camp, a defense can only get so much tackling practice because of the fear of getting a player injured. In week one, Ole Miss faces one of the country's biggest home run threats at the running back position. He rattled off 22 rushes last season that picked up 20 yards or more, the most in the nation.

If Ole Miss doesn't tackle well, it will be a long, long night. Cook is a rolling ball of butcher knives that is incredibly difficult to bring to the ground. He ranked third among Power 5 backs in yards after contact per rush last season with 3.2 yards. For comparison, Leonard Fournette was at 2.8, Derrick Henry was at 2.4, and the Power 5 average was 2.1.

"The guy we're facing week one, this guy's special," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He's in a different league, and you've got to get him on the ground in a lot of space. They create a lot of good plays to get him in space."

It's not breaking news that in any game, the team that consistently wins up front nearly always wins. Against Florida State though, it's even more important for the Rebels. No one was better when he got through the line of scrimmage untouched last year than Dalvin Cook. He averaged a Power 5-best 12.6 yards per rush.

It's worth nothing that FSU returns the entire offensive line that paved the way for him to pick up nearly 1,100 yards BEFORE contact. Not only is he tough to bring down, the Seminoles are talented up front to give him lanes.

The Rebels have to be especially strong at containing the edges. Most of Cook's explosive runs come when he is able to bounce off-tackle and get in space. He averaged 8.0 yards per rush on off-tackle runs, picking up 1,089 of his 1,689 total rushing yards on the season. When he was kept between the tackles, his per rush average fell to a still-high 6.6 yards. The main thing is he had 14 fewer rushes that picked up 10 or more yards.

Ole Miss was very solid against the run last season, holding teams to 3.3 yards per rush. In regards to keeping off-tackle runs in check, the Rebels were third among Power 5 teams. It's important for Ole Miss to kick off the season in that same form because there's no easing into 2016 for the Rebels.

Chad Kelly Named All-SEC by ESPN

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ESPN - After leading the SEC in passing yards (4,042), passing yards per game (310.9) and touchdowns (31) last season, Kelly is easily the best quarterback in the conference.

Kelly has already been named first team All-SEC by the media and has been selected to numerous preseason watch lists. Now he adds ESPN's All-SEC team to his preseason accolades. 

In his first year starting, Kelly broke 14 single-season records and led Ole Miss to its first Sugar Bowl since 1970 I broke down his 2015 season in some detail here last week.  


Before Ole Miss kicks off against Florida State in one of the most anticipated showdowns of week one on Monday (Sept. 5), country music star Brad Paisley will perform a free concert on Sunday, September 4 for fans in Downtown Orlando outside of City Hall. 

The free concert is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. ET at City Commons Plaza/Seneff Arts Plaza (400 South Orange Avenue).

"If you like big-time college football and country music, Downtown Orlando is the place to be on Labor Day weekend," said Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan. "We're excited to host Brad Paisley on the night before the inaugural Camping World Kickoff game and add even more to the experience for fans of FSU, Ole Miss, and the Orlando community."

This isn't the first time Ole Miss Athletics and Brad Paisley have been connected, as he performed on campus as part of The Pavilion's grand-opening in January.

Ole Miss legend Archie Manning will be featured on an episode of Raycom Sports' Emmy Award-winning series 'Havoline Football Saturdays' on Saturday, August 13. The show is hosted by Tim Brando. 

The episode will air on Saturday on WHPM in Hattiesburg at Noon and WLOX in Biloxi at 4 p.m. On Sunday, it will air in Meridian on WGBC at 10:30 a.m. Complete local listings are available at 

During the episode, Brando takes a trip to New Orleans to talk with Archie about Ole Miss football, his Super Bowl MVP-winning sons, and the state of college football.

Souza Settled in on Brazil's Back Line

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Ole Miss' career leader in goals scored and points Rafaelle Souza has found a home in the middle of Brazil's back line.

Souza and Brazil advanced to the quarterfinals of the Olympics relatively easily, winning Group E with two wins and a draw while allowing only one goal. Souza appeared in all three matches at centre-back, starting twice and appearing once as a substitute

Brazil faces Australia on August 12. The host nation will be looking for revenge as Australia knocked Brazil out of the World Cup last summer in the Round of 16. is the go-to location for updates and information on all Rebels competing in the Olympics this summer.

Watch Party for Sam Kendricks as He Goes for Gold

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Sam Kendricks had a decorated career competing in the pole vault while wearing the Ole Miss red and blue from 2012-14. He was a two-time NCAA champion, five-time USA champion and five-time All-American, and now he's looking to add a gold medal to his collection while wearing the USA red and blue in Rio. To qualify for the Olympics, he set an Olympic Trials record win a winning value of 5.91m/19-4.75. 

The LOU Ole Miss Club will be hosting a watch party at Rafters Bar and Grill in Oxford to support Sam as he goes for gold on Monday, August 15. Come early at 6:15 p.m. to see a special welcome video from Sam before coverage of the pole vault kicks off at 6:35. You can RSVP here.

You can get to know Sam a little bit better by listening to his interview on Head to Head from last month. His dad, who serves as coach, also joins him on the show. Listen here. is the go-to location for updates and information on every Rebel competing in Rio this summer.

PFF - 7.Ole Miss

Despite sending three first-round picks to the NFL, Ole Miss is loaded up once again with talent. They boast the SEC's top returning quarterback in Chad Kelly and one of the nation's best receiving tight ends in Evan Engram. WR Damore'ea Stringfellow should improve upon his 76.0 overall grade with more targets now that Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core are off to the NFL. On defense, defensive ends Fadol Brown and Marquis Haynes are a formidable pair while DT D.J. Jones assimilated well to SEC competition last year as a JUCO transfer, landing him a spot on the PFF 101 at number 51. On the back end, CB Kendarius Webster ranks third among returning SEC corners at 79.6 while safety Tony Conner returns after playing only 163 snaps last season - he was excellent as a sophomore in 2014 at 79.2. Multiple years of strong recruiting have put Ole Miss into reload mode.

On media day, Freeze was asked about the presence of a few scouts at practice. "(They're looking at) football players. We have a few here."

Ole Miss' five draft picks in 2016 was the most from the program since the NFL moved to the current seven-round format, yet Ole Miss is still loaded with talent because of the job Freeze and his staff have done on the recruiting trail. Even after losing Core and Treadwell, the WR position seems to be in even better shape than last year and is definitely deeper. 

I put together a breakdown a week ago that shows what percentage of starts Ole Miss returns in terms of production. Every category except OL starts is more than 50 percent, and the OL still returns several guys that have played many meaningful snaps. 

Practice Observations from August 8

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Ole Miss held their first practice that was open to the media on Monday. Here are a few quick takeaways from a practice without pads. Most of my time was spent watching the offensive side of the ball:

As always, I'm going to keep an eye on the offensive line most of the time. Without shoulder pads on, it's tough to take much away. Those don't go on until Thursday. However, what stands out is the tackle position's future. While there is some inexperience there now, with freshman Greg Little, RS-freshman Alex Givens, freshman Royce Newman, freshman Bryce Mathews, and redshirt sophomore Sean Rawlings, there is more depth at the position than there has been in a long time. Ole Miss seems set at the position for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of, Givens is a key to the team this year. Rawlings proved he can hold his own against SEC quality competition last season, starting the first seven games of the season at RT. If Givens can provide some stability at LT, it removes the burden off of Greg Little immediately having to step in and play. There has been a lot of optimism surrounding Givens all offseason. 

I'm very bullish on the interior of the offensive line especially this year. Patterson played a lot of valuable snaps as a true freshman, Conyers is one of the better centers in the league, and Sims was probably the most effective guard last season and one of the most undervalued players on the team. 

When the Rebels first went through offensive drills, the initial first team was Givens, Patterson, Conyers, Sims and Rawlings upfront with Adeboyejo, Stringfellow and Jefferson out wide. Engram, Judd and Kelly rounded out the initial first team of camp with Wilkins and Zettergren also getting snaps with the ones. Jefferson received steady praise from the coaches during spring practice about how he handled his redshirt season and offseason. Freeze mentioned today that Jefferson is the best route-runner on the team.

Rod Taylor was taking snaps at LT with the second team. Greg Little was the third to get reps at LT. Both of them along with Givens will be in contention for the LT two-deep.

Ole Miss can always use someone that can receive punts. Tre Nixon spent some of the early portions of practice snagging punts off the Jugs machine.

Ole Miss is stacked at the WR position. There are mounds of talent at the position. Even without Treadwell or Core, Ole Miss will be just fine there.

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