OLE MISS

Three areas to watch as Ole Miss splits into two teams for the annual Regions Bank Grove Bowl on Saturday.

Can Someone Emerge in the Quarterback Battle?

By all indications, sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade and junior college transfer Chad Kelly have split reps evenly this spring. 

The coaches have charted every throw and every drill, but there does not appear to be any true separation, and head coach Hugh Freeze has said he expects the competition to continue into the middle of fall camp.

Freeze and co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner were both generally pleased with the play of all three quarterbacks in their last scrimmage, but Freeze did say that Buchanan graded out the best of the three.

What does their last opportunity to impress the coaches before summer workouts and fall camp hold? 

As with previous observations of the quarterbacks, there's a caveat: The offense is not yet at full strength, particularly along the offensive line, where the Rebels have just 10 healthy players.

Physical Play on the Outside

More than any other matchup on the field, I found myself watching the wide receivers and tight ends working against the defensive backs. The play is physical, and the players appear to take each play personally.

Perhaps the most physical on the offensive side of the ball, Laquon Treadwell, will not be participating in the Grove Bowl, but Quincy Adeboyejo, Cody Core and Markell Pack have all returned from their respective injuries. Derrick Jones has also been one of the biggest surprises of spring practice and he's another player to watch.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tony Bridges and Tee Shepard are long, athletic and physical, and they pride themselves on being able to play on an island by themselves. Kendarius Webster is another long, athletic and physical corner. Like Derrick Jones, C.J. Hampton has been another surprise of spring practice.

It should be fun to watch on Saturday.

Battle in the Trenches

The Ole Miss defensive line was one of the most talented units in the nation last year. This year, the group may be even better with a year of maturity and experience for returnees and the addition of a trio of redshirt freshmen in Victor Evans, Garrald McDowell and Breeland Speaks and junior college transfer D.J Jones.

That being said, one of the areas where Freeze has been most pleased this spring has been in the running game, a credit to an offensive line that continues to deal with injuries and a group of running backs that may have found their stride this spring. Akeem Judd is one name that has popped up a lot this spring.

Junior Jeremy Liggins, who has transitioned to offensive tackle, and redshirt freshman Jordan Sims and freshman Javon Patterson, who have both come a long way this spring, are three players to watch along the offensive line.

By splitting into two teams, with five healthy offensive linemen each, it may be hard to tell if there's any improvement in the running game on Saturday, but it's something to watch nevertheless. And it will certainly be something to watch when the Rebels will likely have a full complement of healthy players come fall camp.

Junior cornerback Tee Shepard's story has been well-documented. 

Shepard is hearing impaired, but since he has arrived at Ole Miss, he has been the beneficiary of new hearing technology that has allowed him to hear sounds, such as a coach's whistle.

"The new technology hearing aid I have is phenomenal," Shepard said. "When I got it last fall, I heard my first whistle ever. It's crazy because I'm hearing sounds I haven't heard before, and I'm starting to pick it up."

Shepard is thankful for Ole Miss and the resources they have been able to provide him, specifically someone who understands his impairment in Shannon Singletary, the senior associate athletics director for health and sports performance.

"This is the first place that finally understood how bad my hearing was," Shepard said. "Shannon has a hearing loss himself, so we have that connection, and he's helped out me out big time."

That same fall, when he heard his first whistle, he appeared on the verge of emerging as a starter, or at least a regular contributor, in the Rebels' defensive backfield.

However, his promising fall camp was cut short after tearing a tendon in his toe that required surgery and a long rehabilitation.

"It was a freak accident," Shepard said. "I had never heard of a torn ligament in your toe. Everything happens for a reason. God has made me better this year. I was disappointed, but at the same, it got me ready and prepared for this season."

His toe, Shepard said, is probably about 85 percent, but he trusts it now. He said he also added about 10 pounds that has helped him be even more physical this spring.

"I have always been a physical corner," Shepard said. "You have to be physical because these big wide receivers are physical, like Laquon Treadwell. If we're not physical with them, they're going to outwork you." 

Nearing the end of his first spring practice, Shepard has once again emerged as a likely starter at cornerback for the Rebels, perhaps opposite fellow junior Tony Bridges, a junior college transfer.

"We have to be physical, lockdown corners because we can't run our defense the way we want to without us being on an island by ourselves," Shepard said. "I have been looking forward to this moment. It's been a long journey for me. I'm excited. I'm ready to go."

Players Ready to Take on Bigger Roles in Year Two

They did not have the fanfare of the class that came in the year before them, but last year's freshmen made valuable contributions in their own way. Among those then-freshmen are sophomore defensive end Marquis Haynes and sophomore offensive guard Rod Taylor. 

Haynes, a Freshman All-America and SEC All-Freshman selection, set an Ole Miss freshman record for sacks with a team-leading 7.5 last season. Coaches and his teammates have noted how Haynes has gotten stronger to play better against the run, which has been a point of emphasis for him going into and through spring practice.

"I didn't trust my power like I should have my freshman year," Haynes said. "This year, I want to try to do better on that. I have been getting stronger. Playing the run against Alabama, I saw what I was doing. This year, I should have a big improvement."

Taylor was a regular in the offensive line rotation and started two games, including the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against TCU, getting thrown into the fire due to injuries. It has been a similar case for him this spring, running with the first-team offense and getting a lot of reps, also due to injuries.

"It's been good to get increase reps in practice," Taylor said. "I feel like with me getting a lot of reps at my position, I'm getting better at what I'm supposed to do and I feel like I'm getting better every day. I had to get better with my technique and my stance and putting my hands in the right place. Those are the things I'm getting better at."

The coaches have also raved about second-year players C.J. Hampton, who's emerged at free safety, DeMarquis Gates, who might can play both Mike or Stinger linebacker, and Kendarius Webster, who like Tee Shepard, is in the mix at the cornerback position.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

March 31-April 6, 2015

Baseball

- Ole Miss finished the week with a 2-2 mark to remain a .500 overall record for the season (16-16). 

- The Rebels claimed a midweek victory over Memphis before dropping its first home weekend series of the year by losing two-of-three to Tennessee. In the two victories, Ole Miss rallied from three-run deficits due to clutch hitting. 

- Against Memphis, the Rebels went 6-for-17 at the dish with runners on base for a .353 clip. With two outs, Ole Miss went 7-for-15 (.467) throughout the game. 

- The trend continued to the next game, a Friday night win over Tennessee. As a team, the Rebels were 6-for-14 with two outs, 7-for-20 with runners on and 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position, scoring five of their 10 runs with two outs in the inning. Ole Miss also finished with a season high for runs (10) and hits (13) in a Southeastern Conference game this season. 

- Freshman leadoff hitter Will Golsan recorded three hits, tying his career high, in both of the wins to lead the Rebels, including a career-high four RBI in Friday's victory over Tennessee. 

- Junior left-hander Christian Trent earned the win over UT to improve to 5-2 on the season. He went 6.0 innings strong, giving up three runs and scattering seven hits with two walks and five. Senior Sikes Orvis homered in the win, the seventh of the season and 25th of his career. 

- Golsan ended the week with a .412 average at the plate. Sophomore J.B. Woodman also had a solid week by batting .467. Woodman scored six of the Rebels' 22 runs, including a solo homer in the top of the ninth at Memphis to give the Rebels an important insurance run. Woodman tied Golsan for the team lead in hits throughout the week. 

- Junior Connor Cloyd also produced at the dish when called upon to fill in as the team's designated hitter. In two games, Cloyd smacked multiple hits in each contests for the first two multi-hit games of his Ole Miss career. Cloyd scored three runs on Friday night to match his season total. 

- On Saturday, junior Mitchel Babb pitched a career-high 3.1 innings without allowing a run and striking out four to surpass his season strikeout total in one game. 

- Sophomore Wyatt Short appeared out of the bullpen in three of the four games and did not allow a run. Short saved both of the Rebels' wins before pitching the retiring all four batters he faced in the final game of the week on Sunday. 

- Short allowed just one hit, limiting opposing hitters to a .083 average at the plate. Short now has a 3-1 record, five saves and an impressive 0.81 ERA as well as 27 strikeouts, only seven walks and just two earned runs over 22.1 innings (13 appearances).

Men's Tennis

- Ole Miss won both its matches last week, shutting out Tennessee and Kentucky to close out the regular season home schedule at 10-1. The Rebels improved to 15-6 overall and 7-3 in the SEC.

- The Rebels have now won six straight against Tennessee, while snapping a six-match losing streak to Kentucky.

- Senior Nik Scholtz went 3-0 in singles and doubles in his last regular season homestand, including team with Zvonimir Babic to clinch the doubles point against Tennessee with a win over the No. 2 team in the nation.  Scholtz has now won 21 of his last 22 home matches.

- Stefan Lindmark clinched the win over Tennessee to improve to 12-3 at No. 2 singles and remain undefeated in the SEC at 7-0.

- Freshman Grey Hamilton made his SEC singles debut against Kentucky and won in straight sets to give the Rebels a 2-0 lead.

Women's Tennis

- Ole Miss split a pair of matches on the road, losing to No. 5 Georgia 4-0 and then shutting out Tennessee 4-0 to improve to 12-9 overall and 4-8 in the SEC.

- Senior Julia Jones clinched the win over Tennessee and picked up her 99th career victory. She needs just one more to become the seventh player in school history to join the 100-club.

- The Rebels have now won two straight and three of four against Tennessee.

- The Rebels have now posted three shutouts in SEC play this year.

Track & Field

- Ole Miss had a great weekend at the Tiger Track Classic in Auburn in a performance that head coach Brian O'Neal called a "complete meet."

- Overall, the Rebels earned three event titles, set one school record and posted several marks that rank among the NCAA's best this outdoor season.

- Phillip Young won the triple jump and long jump on the Plains. His triple jump of 52-2.75 ranks him No. 9 in the NCAA this year. His wind-assisted long jump of 25-4.75 (+5.3 wind) would have ranked him fourth nationally if not for the wind reading over the allowable +4.0.

- Dameon Morgan claimed the 800-meter title in 1:51.04.

- True freshman Shannon Ray had a breakout performance in the 100 meters, running 11.41 (first among collegians) to rank No. 2 in school history and sixth in the nation this season. She also helped the 4x100-meter relay team to a runner-up finish in 44.8, just off their season best of 44.73 that ranks them top 10 in the nation.

- Redshirt-freshman Dempsey McGuigan set a school record in the men's hammer throw in his first official outdoor competition as a Rebel, heaving the hammer 212 feet and 7 inches. That ranks him 14th nationally this year.

- Jalen Miller placed third overall and first among collegians in the men's 100 meters with a season-best time of 10.38 that ranks him 19th in the country this year.

- Kierra White placed fourth in the women's long jump with a season-best leap of 20-1 that ranks her 20th in the country.

Women's Golf

- The Ole Miss women's golf team hosted the seventh annual Rebel Intercollegiate April 3-5. Ole Miss placed ninth with a three-day score of 896 (298-295-303--896) in its annual tournament which closed the regular season for the Rebels. 

- Sophomore Maria Toennessen had a great weekend, posting a 54-hole career low of 216 and in opening round action carded a 70 for her 18-hole career low. Toennesssen competed as an individual but was the Rebels top finisher on the weekend, placing eighth for her first top 10 finish. 

- Freshman Sofia Idoyaga also had a great weekend. The Argentine carded back-to-back rounds of 73 in the second and third rounds, which tied her career low for 18 holes. Additionally,  her 54-hole score of 225 is a new career low for the freshman. 

Softball

- Ole Miss' Allison Brown continued to play well for the Rebels in the weekend series at No. 2 LSU, hitting her fifth home run of the season and bringing the season total to 32 for the squad. 

- Ole Miss has passed several marks from the 2014 season with 19 games left in the season. The Rebels have hit 32 home runs, passing last season's total of 30 home runs on the year. 

- Ole Miss has also broken the mark for steals a year ago, successfully nabbing 69 bases in 2015 after only attempting 60 steals a year ago. 

- The Rebels have posted 22 wins, matching last year's win total and the five wins in SEC play bests last year's three-game win total in conference play and is one shy of totaling the win mark in SEC play over the previous two seasons.

Six former Rebels begin the 2015 Major League Baseball on opening day rosters. Chris Coghlan, Zack Cozart and Seth Smith all started or are slated to start on opening day for their respective teams. Lance Lynn and Drew Pomeranz will begin the season in the starting rotation for their respective teams, while Aaron Barrett will play a key role in the bullpen for the Washington Nationals.

30 | Aaron Barrett | RHP | Washington Nationals

Barrett made his MLB debut on opening day last season with the Washington Nationals. And for the second straight year, he made the Nationals' opening day roster. In his rookie season, he appeared in 50 games as reliever, going 3-0 with a 2.66 ERA in 40.2 innings of work. He also made the Nationals' postseason roster. He returns to a similar late-inning relief role for the Nationals this season.

Barrett makes most most of each opportunity with Nats, writes Bill Ladson from MLB.com

8 | Chris Coghlan | OF | Chicago Cubs

The 2009 NL Rookie of the Year and a 7th-year veteran, Coghlan is in his second year with the Chicago Cubs. In his first season with the Cubs, he hit .283 with 28 doubles, five triples, nine home runs and 41 RBI, his best marks since his rookie season with the Florida Marlins. The Cubs played the St. Louis Cardinals on Opening Day, and Coghlan started in left and batted fifth, where he went 1-for-4 with a double in a 3-0 loss.

Another new skipper, but Coghlan finds familiarity in Cubs camp, writes Carrie Muskat from MLB.com

2 | Zack Cozart | SS | Cincinnati Reds

Cozart has been a fixture as the Reds' everyday shortstop for the last three years. Defensively, Cozart ranked near the top of the majors in several metrics and helped save the team some runs. At the plate, he looks to bounce back from one of the worst years of his career. He is slated to start at shortstop and bat eighth for the Reds in their season opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Frustration fuels Cozart's motivation for 2015, writes Mark Sheldon from MLB.com

31 | Lance Lynn | RHP | St. Louis Cardinals

Lynn won 15 or more games for the third straight season, going 15-10 with a 2.74 ERA. He also recorded 181 strikeouts compared to just 72 walks in 203.2 innings. His 15 wins were tied for 15th among major league pitchers. He was also one of just 11 pitchers with 15 wins and 180 strikeouts for the season. Lynn will begin this season as the Cardinals' No. 2 starter and he will start their home opener against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 13, the first home-opening assignment of his career.

Lynn returns to mound in impressive form, writes Andrew Simon from MLB.com

13 | Drew Pomeranz | LHP | Oakland Athletics

For the second time in his career, and the second straight season, Pomeranz made an opening day roster. After making the Athletics' opening day roster as a reliever this past season, he will begin this season as their No. 5 starter and he is slated to get his first start against the Seattle Mariners on April 10. Pomeranz posted a 2.35 ERA in 69 innings over 20 appearances (10 starts) last season, but he missed more than two months due to injury.

A's name Pomeranz as fifth starter; Chavez to bullpen, writes Alex Espinoza for MLB.com

7 | Seth Smith | OF | Seattle Mariners

The most veteran member of the Ole Miss contingent in the major leagues, Smith is in his eighth major league season. It's his first season as a member of the Mariners, his fourth different major league team, after being traded rom the San Diego Padres during the offseason. He's coming off of one his better offensive seasons, hitting at a .266 clip with 31 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs and 48 RBI. He is slated to start in right field and bat second for the Mariners in their season opener against the Los Angeles Angels.

Smith brings quiet approach to first Mariners camp, writes Greg Johns from MLB.com

The reigning SEC Player of the Year, Nik Scholtz decided to return for his senior season, wanting to give Ole Miss and Oxford one more season.

Playing in perhaps his last home match at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center Saturday, Scholtz gave the home crowd another match to remember, a fitting send-off, if it was indeed his last home match.

Scholtz partnered with freshman Zvonimir Babic for a 6-4 win at No. 1 doubles, and in singles play, he won 6-4, 6-3 at No. 1 singles to give the Rebels a 3-0 lead on the way to a 4-0 win over Kentucky. For Scholtz, it was his 21st win in his last 22 home matches and his 80th career victory.

"Last year when I walked out of here, it was emotional, but I knew in the back of mind there was a possibility that I could come back if I wanted to, but this time there is no coming back (after the last match)," Scholtz said. "That's life. It goes on. It's time for the younger guys to step up. I feel like I gave everything I had to the school like they did for me. I'm satisfied."

Fittingly, with all eyes and camera phones on him, he served to close out his singles match, delivering the winning point after his opponent saved three previous match points. 

"I told myself that if that situation came to not think anything too erratic or think too far into the future, and it's so easy that, and then when that time comes and you hear that slow clap, it's in your mind," Scholtz said. "You have to handle it. He played three good points to get it to deuce, and then I was able to come with a good serve. It was good to finish with a serve. It's the right way to end it."

"They were soaking in the atmosphere, and they deserved every bit of it," said head coach Toby Hansson of Scholtz and fellow senior William Kallberg. "It's an amazing feeling for those guys, and also for me to be part of it. It's been a privilege to work with these guys for four years."

After the winning point, he threw up his signature Landshark, fist-pumped and then hugged his current head coach, Hansson, and his former head coach, Billy Chadwick. He also saluted the crowd, hitting the ball into the stands, before exiting Billy Chadwick Center Court for perhaps the last time.

"If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have been here in the first place," said Scholtz of Chadwick. "That's where it all started, and I finished on his court. That's where I played my first and last match. A lot of things came together to make it a really special moment."

Ole Miss plays their last two regular season matches on the road at South Carolina and Georgia, before traveling to College Station for the SEC Tournament. The Rebels, ranked No. 14 in the nation and now 15-6 overall, still have a chance to host the NCAA first and second rounds.

"It's good to know in the back of my mind that there's a slight possibility to play here again, and if that's not motivation, I don't know what is," Scholtz said. "I am going to do my best to make sure we get a chance to be back here for two more matches and I know the rest of the team will as well."

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    Joe Snaidauf said:

    Rebs stay healthy, they can win it all!!!

    in post Eleven Rebels Garner Phil Steele Preseason Honors

    Jamie laverty said:

    Bulmer I love you and ole Miss

    in post Fast Runner From Down Under

    Rhonda said:

    Coach Freeze is a genuine coach and our players and fans adore him!!

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

    Gary Vaughn said:

    It's great to be a Rebel fan. Coach Freeze
    Has brought back the excitement
    Competitiveness we all so desire. The
    fan base and even our doubters are
    Paying attention. Even the whole country
    Sport tLk shows ect. Are taking notice.
    After we upset Alabama this weekend
    38-27 we will bolt to a top 12 or better
    Ranking. Go Rebels

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

    Tom said:

    I am not and never have been an Ole Miss fan. I am however a Coach Freeze fan. I like what he represents in today's world of big time sports and what he stands for in leading young men of today into a more responsible role. He is everything that Ole Miss has never had. I am on his band wagon winning or losing.

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    Cory Wilson said:

    How can I get my hands on one of these?

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    Dave Darnell said:

    Gray pants with red and blue stripes on the legs have served Ole Miss football my entire life time. The blue on blue, red on red and white on white are hideous and UGLY! Leave the pants alone.

    Dave Darnell
    Ole Miss '68
    ddarn@aol.com

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    JT said:

    Tiger fan here (LSU) b we now have 3 in the SEC. You guys looked great last year. You looked coached, and the players were up for every game. Good to see you back in the hunt.

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