The center and right tackle position battles have been two of the biggest story lines of fall camp, but as the Rebels prepped for their second preseason scrimmage Wednesday night, they are closer to solidifying the depth chart along the offensive line.
"It's starting to shape up," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "Right now, there's still a pretty good battle going on at center with Ben (Still) and (Robert) Conyers, and then Conyers being able to move out and play tackle gives us some flexibility there. Rod Taylor has come on, understanding with more reps he gets. He's very talented. The more reps he gets, the better he's going to get there (at guard). Craig Frigo has been impressive. He can give us some depth there (at guard).
"The issue we have right now is tackle, trying to figure out the mixing and matching when we're subbing. In early games, you want to be able to play some guys, especially with our tempo, so the challenge right now is to figure out the best rotation."
The discussion along the offensive line starts with sophomore Laremy Tunsil, a freshman All-American, who will anchor the line at left tackle and has made a jump from his freshman to sophomore season.
"He's much more confident," Luke said. "I know it's hard to believe with a guy of that ability, but his ability level has really risen. I have been very impressed with him as a leader and his knowledge of the game. He's gotten a lot stronger. He's kept his weight right where it needs to be, in the 305-pound range. He's moving really well. I have seen the biggest improvement in his run-blocking, trying to finish people. He took the challenge to get stronger and finish in the run game."
Inside, juniors Aaron Morris and Justin Bell have been constants at left and right guard, respectively, with Taylor and Frigo the primary backups there. Morris, who missed all of the 2013 season and was limited in spring drills with an ACL injury, has showed no ill effects during fall camp.
"I have been impressed with him," Luke said. "He has a little tendinitis from coming back from the knee injury, but he's gone every rep of every single thing. He hasn't come out. I'm hoping he will continue to get in football shape as we go through this second big scrimmage of preseason."
There has been shuffling on the line with redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin moving outside to tackle and leaving Taylor inside at guard. Bouldin is battling fellow redshirt freshman Davion Johnson for the fourth tackle spot behind Tunsil, junior Fahn Cooper, who appears to have solidified the starting right tackle spot, and Conyers.
"He's doing well," said Luke of the move for Bouldin. "I have been very pleased. We tried Rod out there a little bit, but with a young guy, it's better to leave him at one spot. Maybe as the season progresses, we can play some more tackle. Daronte has been in the offense longer and knows the offense. He's done well out there on the edge. He's been a pleasant surprise at tackle because I had him slotted as a guard in my mind."
Overall, Luke said, they're a couple of guys away from being where they want to be depth-wise, but they are comfortable with six to eight players in the offensive line. One area he looks for marked improvement this season is the run game.
"Our line is built to get better in the run game," Luke said. "We're bigger and more physical. Fahn gives us some punch there at right tackle because he's a big, physical guy. The run game will be good. We'll be physical. We still have to continue to try to block No. 5 (Robert Nkemdiche). That's hard for anybody, but when he gets into those 1-on-1 match ups, we have to step up and protect and we have struggled to do that against him."
Ole Miss Ranked No. 18 in SI Preseason Poll
Sports Illustrated unveiled its preseason top 25 Wednesday, including its four playoff-bound selections in No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Ohio State. In addition to Ole Miss at No. 18, other Southeastern Conference teams included in the top 25 were No. 7 Auburn, No. 11 South Carolina, No. 12 Georgia, No. 14 LSU, No. 20 Texas A&M and No. 22 Missouri.
Ole Miss had one of the SEC's best attacks at times last season, averaging 6.0 yards per play and a league-leading 78.3 plays per game, but execution was often a problem. The Rebels ended the year next to last in the conference in red zone efficiency (73.9%). That inability to finish kept Ole Miss from contending in the SEC West last season. Senior Bo Wallace holds the keys to coach Hugh Freeze's up-tempo offense. Sophomore receiver Laquon Treadwell and sophomore tight end Evan Engram should give Wallace plenty to work with through the air, while tailbacks I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, who combined for almost 1,100 rushing yards last year, will man the backfield.
For a complete scouting report on Ole Miss from Sports Illustrated, click here.
Hugh Freeze, on the status of Tee Shepard: "We are getting different opinions, but it doesn't look good. It is a rare injury that he could try to push through and get fixed after the season. However, there is the chance that scar tissue could form and affect him long term. We certainly think he has a career in football and we want to do everything we can to preserve that career. The final decision has not been made; we are waiting on one final opinion from one of the top doctors that deals with this injury every day, but right not it doesn't look promising."
Freeze, on Shepard's eligibility if he doesn't play this season: "He would have two (years) to (play) two (years). He's three (years) to (play) three (years) right now, but there's hopefully a basis for an appeal to get a year back. You can't do that until after his eligibility is done.
Freeze on Issac Gross: "He's fine. He was back yesterday at practice. He seemed to be his old self. He had a little neck strain, but he looked good yesterday at practice."
Freeze, on the offensive line: "We're pretty close to solidifying our depth chart. We worked a lot of combinations. We moved Daronte (Bouldin) to right tackle. We decided we're going to leave Rod (Taylor) inside. Davion (Johnson), Fahn (Cooper), Laremy (Tunsil) and Robert (Conyers) are getting work at tackle. Robert is going between center and tackle. There are going to be some guys who have to play two spots, but we're pretty close."
Jaylen Walton, on the running backs: "This is the most talented group because of depth. We're all young, all around the same class. I played against Mark (Dodson), I'Tavius (Mathers) and Jordan (Wilkins). All of them are going to be good backs."
Walton, on Akeem Judd: "Out of all the running backs, Akeem is the bruiser. He's the hard-nosed runner out of all of us. He's coming along, learning all the plays and all the assignment. He's picking it up pretty well."
Vince Sanders, on missing spring drills: "It was very frustrating. Any time you miss you wish you were out there with your guys practicing. It was frustrating, but I know I had to stay positive because I was looking forward to camp."
Sanders, on being overlooked: "I understand you can't get too caught up in the media. I have been here for a long time now and my name has never been up there because we had other guys. I don't let that get to me too much."
Matt Luke, on Sean Rawlings: "He's doing well. He's been doing some center and tackle. He has a similar body type to Conyers. As he grows, he will be in line with that. He's done well. He's picked up the offense. We would love to be able to redshirt him and Jordan Sims, if I can, but I don't know if I will be able to or not. We'll see how it goes."
Luke, on Craig Frigo: "He's exactly what you're looking for in terms of his demeanor in football. He's a tough guy. I asked him to play some tackle early on and he did that, but I see him contributing at guard, with him and Rod being able to sub for Aaron and Justin."
"Buy-in" is a common term thrown around by coaches. How will first-year Ole Miss head volleyball coach Steven McRoberts measure buy-in, as the team continues its preseason work for the upcoming season? Attitude and effort.
"If we bring those two things, we're going to be successful," McRoberts said. "I really do. And I even mean that from a wins standpoint."
A program with three NCAA Tournament appearances in its history, Ole Miss is coming off a 14-17 season, but McRoberts is confident in the process to build a successful program in the Southeastern Conference.
"My expectation for us is to stay with the process and understand that to get to the middle and then to the top of the conference, we have to all be on the same page," McRoberts said. "We have to pay attention to details. We have to do the right things on the court and off the court. A lot of this is going to be a culture change that we need.
"From a winning and losing standpoint, I don't know with what we're doing and who we have how that equates with who we're playing against because I haven't been through the SEC yet."
Through the first part of preseason camp, the focus has been ball control and limiting errors by extending rallies and being good with the ball. The team has battled the fatigue of two-a-days, but McRoberts is hopeful the team will improve their conditioning and fewer mental errors will follow.
"Sometimes you come back and feel like you picked up right where you left off in the spring, and sometimes there's some frustration with having to re-teach some things that we have already taught," McRoberts said. "Some of the re-teaching we did early has been picked up on really fast, and then there are other things that we consistently have to remind the team about. We're on target for where we want to be, but I also expect us in the next two or three days to be picking up our play."
Ole Miss opens the 2014 season on Friday, Aug. 29 against Canisius, the first of four games in the Buffalo Classic hosted by the University at Buffalo.
The Ole Miss men's basketball team wrapped up its Bahamian exhibition tour with a perfect 2-0 record. Head coach Andy Kennedy recapped the trip, talked about the chemistry, depth and experience of a new-look roster heading into the fall. The Rebels will open the 2014-15 season at home Nov. 14 against Charleston Southern.
Below are the highlights from Tuesday's media opportunity:
On what he learned about the team from the trip to the Bahamas:
I learned a lot. We had 10 practices here. We were over there for five days and we got two games. I treated it like an exhibition in that you obviously want to win, but I played all 12 guys. Terry Brutus is not healthy enough yet. He hasn't been cleared for full contact. Hopefully, he will be by the end of August or early September.
Our 12 scholarship guys who were healthy and eligible to play all averaged double-figure minutes. I had seven of those guys average 18-plus minutes, three of which were new guys. It was very beneficial to see us in game action. We were able to put in some offensive and defensive stuff that we feel like we can build on and tweak. It was good for us.
The depth and experience of this group is probably as good as I have had. We have five seniors, three of which have matriculated through our system in Jarvis (Summer), Snoop (White) and AJ (Aaron Jones). We have two fifth-year guys in Terence Smith and M.J. Rhett, two experienced, focused guys.
We then bring back a Martavious Newby and Anthony Perez who are now juniors. You guys have heard me say a bunch that when a kid becomes a junior, that is who he is.
You then add two junior college kids in Stefan Moody and Rod Lawrence, two guys who have started at the Division I level. And then you have Sebas(tian Saiz) and (Dwight) Coleby, two guys who were thrown in the fire as freshmen and you look to take that next step, and they have done so. And then you add a freshman in Marcanvis Hymon.
You have a bunch of upperclassmen who have been through this before. Trying to mix and match and see what we have as a group was very educational to me. When we start back at the end of August, early September, this experience will give us a head start in preparing for the season.
On establishing chemistry:
It's really important. I'll be going into my 10th year as a head coach. I'm not smart enough to know how to push all the buttons so that the chemistry aligns. It has to evolve and it has to be owned by the team.
That's really the biggest thing that I have challenged this group with, especially the seniors. M.J. and Terence, they're new to the situation, but they don't have time to feel your way through it. I want them to attack it with a sense of urgency that last year guys didn't play with.
Snoop, Jarvis and AJ have all been good players in this program and all have been vital parts of us having some success. This is it. This is the last go-around, and I want them to own it. This gave us an opportunity to put that in play early.
On the roster:
I felt like last year, the difference in winning 27 games and advancing to the NCAA Tournament to winning 19 games and not going to the postseason were evident to me. We needed to get more athletic. We needed to get stronger on our frontline. We had a rebounding deficiency that we weren't able to overcome. We weren't as proficient as we needed to be in a number of different areas.
Bringing in the two fifth-year guys and bringing in the two JUCO guys, we filled some of those voids. We return seven of our top eight, with Marshall (Henderson) being the lone ranger who was obviously pivotal in what we have been the last two years.
But the core of our team is back. You add a Stefan Moody who will have a Marshall-like impact honestly. I'm not sure from a sensational standpoint, but here's a kid who is a terrific player and brings a wow factor from an athleticism standpoint that's going to give us some pop in that void that Marshall left with volume shooting and volume scoring. Rod Lawrence is a very solid piece. I tell him all the time, he needs to be our (Manu) Ginobili, a guy who can help us in a lot of different ways, and that's what he does. He's athletic, he's energetic, he's a great defender, he can do this and he can do that.
And then you bring in two fifth-year guys. Terence Smith scored 1,300 points and started a bunch of games. He's been through college basketball and he's been through it at the level that he's never experienced this. He's excited about this, being in the SEC and having that opportunity. And the same for M.J. Rhett. He was eighth in the nation in double-doubles and led a league in rebounding. He has never experienced this. He has never experienced the NCAA Tournament, so those guys are hungry for that.
It's been a good edition based on what we have been able to bring in and what we have coming back. I feel pretty good about our core.
On the new players:
I wanted to throw them into some adversity. In our first game, we allowed it to affect us a little bit. We were looking around at what was going on, and it was good for us in game two when the same thing happened against a better team. Yet, we battled through it. We didn't give in. That was a valuable lesson and something that I will be able to use throughout the course of the season. Those new guys were a valuable part of that, seeing how we reacted to adversity and see how we deal with being in unusual circumstances.
On Jarvis Summers:
He's the most experienced and most productive returning player in the SEC. He has a chance, with a senior year on par with his junior year, to go down historically as one of the best players in the history of our program. He's very focused and very confident. Physically, he's probably in the best shape of his life. Jarvis came here at about 170 pounds, and he's about 190-195 pounds now. He's stronger and he's always had to be a physical guard. Last year, what he was able to accomplish has done wonders for his confidence. He knows this is his team, and he's leading that accordingly.
On the impact of Sebastian Saiz's international experience:
Last year, he was all arms and legs. He was gangly and he got knocked off his spot. He's gotten stronger and his base has gotten stronger, so he's not as easily moved. He played about 21.5 minutes a game, and he was our most productive big. He averaged close to a double-double (with) 11.5 (points) and 9.5 (rebounds). Some of that was because he was more familiar with international rules, like live ball off the rim, and he took advantage of a lot of that.
He's active. He's confident. He's always played with a motor. For him, it's a matter of figuring out the size and speed at this level and getting stronger. With him having been in the program for a year, you can see him physically stronger.
Dwight Coleby, as well. ... He's another one that I think you're going to see huge improvement in his physical conditioning and the way his body has reshaped. He's a big kid, both of those kids with Sebas at 6-(foot)-9, about 235-238 (pounds) and Dwight at 6-(foot)-9, about 245 (pounds).
You add a M.J. Rhett, who's about 6-(foot)-9, 245 (pounds). AJ, I remember the goal for us was to consistently keep him in the 210s, between 212-218 pounds. Now, he's in the high 220s to about 230. He's matured physically going into his senior year.
Hopefully we can get (Terry) Brutus back healthy. It's been a while -- last September -- since he played, when he tore the ACL. He's anxious to get back. Before the year, he was vital in us making that run, when we had Bear's (Demarco Cox's) injury, and he became that third post (player). You could always count on him. His quickness is somewhat Murph-like (Murphy Holloway-like). His skill isn't yet, but his quickness and ability to make plays.
You guys are going to really like Marcanvis Hymon. It was great to see him in game play. He has a natural feel and natural ability to find the ball, much like Murph did. I'm really excited about our frontline. That's six guys, not even counting Anthony (Perez), who can still slide down some in that spot. The competition is going to be great for us, and that's what's going to leads us to become a better team.
On Marcanvis Hymon:
He's a face four. He will play all his time at that four-spot until he evolves. He's only about 6-(foot)-7. He's long, he's a quick jumper, and he's athletic. He's a lot like Murph. He has a natural ability, and the ball finds him. He can shoot it out to about 15-18 (feet). Terrance (Henry) evolved into a 3-point shooter, and (Hymon) will in time. He played all post in high school. He's raw, but he's athletic, he's quick, and he did some really positive things.
On the team's depth:
When you talk about experience, with Jarvis as the most experienced guy in the SEC, Snoop who's been through it and we hope that he can take that next step, AJ who was coming as a sophomore. This time last year, he was walking around on crutches, and then I throw him into a starting role. It had mixed reviews, but now he's had a year. He's healthier and he's bouncy again as a senior, with a sense of urgency.
You bring in two fifth-year guys who have been tremendous assets to us. Terence Smith, I knew from watching him that he was an open shooter, but he's a lot like Jarvis. He's a very efficient guy. He's solid, much more athletic than I thought. He's an angled defender. He always made open shots for us. I'm playing him at some backup point and he did a great job. All his turnovers were bad-rule turnovers -- backcourt violations that aren't backcourts for us and traveling that not's traveling for us -- and he's very steady with the ball. It allows me to play Moody with the ball and without the ball. Moody is a guy who can play a little bit everywhere. He averaged 16 (points) a game at the Division I level.
We added some pieces, along with Anthony (Perez), who went from a freshman who didn't play very much to a sophomore who helped us to win games, and Newby, who broke his hand and came back at end when we were playing a little better and evolved into a starter. All of those guys have been there and gained some experience and now they know through this trip what's expected of them moving forward. I'm excited about what I see and where we are.
On the third assistant coach position:
It's kind of on the back burner. I'm still going through due diligence. You guys are pretty smart and you realize what I'm doing, and if it evolves like I want it to. ... The positive and the reason I don't have a huge sense of urgency is because of Todd (Abernethy). I brought Todd in here to a position (Coordinator of Recruiting Development) that men's basketball had never had before. I credit Ross (Bjork) and the administration for having the foresight to empower me to have the position, so we created a non-coaching, recruiting development, off-the-floor position.
When this transpired, I moved him up and allowed him to recruit to give us another body. He has done a great job for us and has gotten us involved with some really good players that he's a point guy for. He was great on the floor and it adds to his credibility with the guys, if and when that spot gets changed.
They will view him differently because here's a guy who jsut finished a professional basketball career, he was an All-SEC player, and he can still play. He's out there and he's interacting with them, which has helped his relationships and helped him get to know the guys.
That's another advantage of the trip. We had a lot more interaction for him and Tony (Madlock). They are now much further ahead in their relationships with the players than they would be before because of the experience. All of that has been helpful.
(Todd's) a natural coach. He will be a coach, sooner rather than later. He's like me and he's like everybody else, you get in where you get in and you try to move your way up. He's had a great opportunity and he's taken advantage of it. It's opened my eyes to the fact that he's a valuable piece to us, so I don't feel like I have to name somebody tomorrow because we're understaffed. We're really not.
Sophomore defensive end Fadol Brown and sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore returned from their respective injuries, while sophomore Tee Shepard remains out with a toe injury. The results from Shepard's MRI performed on Saturday are being sent to Birmingham, head coach Hugh Freeze said, and there could be another update on his status as early as tomorrow.
"I'm always optimistic, but this is something that I'm not really familiar with," Freeze said. "It's a tendon on the bottom of his big toe. If it's completely torn, it definitely needs surgery. If it's not, there have been some who played through the year and then gotten it fixed. I just want to wait for the guys who do that all the time to tell us what they think."
Freeze remains confident in the depth at cornerback, a position bolstered by the return of Moore and the addition of freshman Kendarius Webster, who had previously been practicing in a green, non-contact jersey prior to Saturday's open practice.
It might also mean a larger role for junior Mike Hilton who has practiced at both corner and Huskie and senior Cliff Coleman who has practiced at both corner and safety.
"The guys who we have are definitely better, and Ken Webster is added to it, now that he can go," Freeze said. "He's going to be a good player. Kailo is back. ... That's one place where we have some capable guys."
One position where depth remains a concern, Freeze said, is offensive line, where there was some shuffling Monday. Freshmen Rod Taylor and Sean Rawlings were practicing at tackle, with senior Carlton Martin moving inside to guard.
In the center position battle, which has gone back and forth throughout fall camp, junior Ben Still and sophomore Robert Conyers split first-team reps, with Still receiving the majority of them.
Junior Fahn Cooper appears to be the backup at left tackle, if they were to be without sophomore Laremy Tunsil, as he took some reps at left tackle with the first-team offensive line, similar to Pierce Burton last season. In the same look, Taylor took reps at right tackle with the first team.
Freeze also mentioned tight end and wide receiver as areas of concern with depth. The wildcard in the wide receiver group is sophomore Damore'ea Stringfellow, a transfer from Washington, who has run half the time with the second-team offense, as Freeze and the Rebels await word on an appeal to be immediately eligible.
"There are some depth issues there," Freeze said. "We have to stay healthy. Some of those young kids, Sammie (Epps), Markell (Pack) and Dayall (Harris) are going to be good players. Will they be ready Aug. 28? I don't know. That's a good question, and we'll see. If String's appeal would come through, that would certainly help, but I really have no time frame to know when it would be coming and what the response would be."
Running back, similar to corner, is a position where Freeze feels they have quality depth, led by juniors I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, the team's two leading returners. Because of their experience, Freeze said you have to give a nod to them, but the other backs have also received their share of reps in practice.
"I'm pleased with all our running backs," Freeze said. "That's another place where we have quality depth. I'm not afraid to play any of them at this point. (Mark) Dodson is just like the rest of them. They're tit-for-tat in a lot of things. There are some that do some things better, but I wouldn't be afraid to play any of them."
Seven different offensive linemen received first-team reps during individual drills: Cooper (left tackle and right tackle), junior Aaron Morris (left guard), Still (center), Conyers (center), junior Justin Bell (right guard) and Taylor (right tackle).
In special teams work, Pack, junior safety Trae Elston, sophomore safety Anthony Alford, junior cornerback Carlos Davis, Mathers and Walton returned kickoffs. Davis, Elston and Pack also returned punts.
Redshirt freshman Will Gleeson and freshman Gary Wunderlich split reps at punter, with Gleeson on the first team and Wunderlich on the second team. Gleeson practiced both the traditional punting and rugby-style punting but significantly more of the latter.
With junior Issac Gross out due to injury, senior Bryon Bennett has worked with the first-team defense at defensive tackle, so he would be appear to be the team's third defensive tackle in the rotation with Gross and sophomore Robert Nkemdiche.
Similarly, freshman Marquis Haynes continues to receive reps with the first-team defense at defensive end, even with the return of Fadol Brown, so it appears to be Haynes, Brown and junior C.J. Johnson in the rotation there.
Freeze, on Kendarius Webster: "As long as he's full-go on the contact, he's physically gifted enough. Where he is understanding our stuff, he's still a little behind in that. If there's no one place that is the easiest to pick up on stuff, it is corner."
Freeze, on Mark Dodson: "He's physical. He runs with great balance and finishes with good pad level. He takes care of the football when he runs it. In pass protection, he's pretty decent. He measures up quite nicely with the rest of them."
Freeze, on Rod Taylor's conditioning: "As you go through camp, you're leg weary, but he's pushing himself to get through it. He loves to play. He's a gym rat and loves to play the game. I don't worry about his conditioning. It will get there."
Dodson, on the running back competition: "We know that when we're in there, we have to make something happen because we have another man who has the same talent as us, so we're out there doing what we can and taking advantage of every opportunity."
Dodson, on separation among the running backs: "What I think will make the difference is when we get into game situations and who can do what. Picking up the blitz will be number one thing. Can you stand your ground and know your blitz packages?"
Brown, on his foot, having missed some practice due to injury: "It felt pretty good. I felt pretty good going forward, but when I get to planting on it, it kind of bothered me a little bit, but I'm going to fight through it."
Brown, on the defense: "We're definitely executing a lot better, flying around. That's what Coach (Dave) Wommack and Coach (Chris) Kiffin stay on us about: effort. That's what we're focusing on right now: executing and giving maximum effort."
The SEC Network will debut on Thursday, August 14 with a three-hour SEC Now that will visit every SEC school and the 21 sports within the SEC. The first two weeks of the network will also feature customized programming to feature 14 schools in 14 days.
Among the highlights from the first two weeks are team previews, "best of" games from the last 5-10 years and all-access specials. The "Best of Ole Miss" block of programming will air on Monday, Aug. 18 starting at 11 p.m. CT and will include "SEC Storied: Book of Manning," the 2008 game vs. Florida, the 2002 game vs. Florida, the 2003 game vs. Auburn and the 2013 game vs. LSU. The first two weeks will also include the soccer team's season opener vs. Georgia on Friday, Aug. 22 at 6 p.m. CT.
For the full ESPN MediaZone press release, go here.
Ole Miss continues its preparations for the the 2014 season with the second full week of fall camp starting Monday. Here's a look back at the first full week of fall camp with some observations and takeaways, as well as some linked stories of interest for Ole Miss fans. We will look to do something similar each week on the blog throughout football season.
1. Southeastern Conference coaches talked anonymously about conference foes for the 2014 season, and they had a lot of praise for Ole Miss.
"They are probably the second-best team in the West, maybe better," said one anonymous SEC coach.
2. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks compiled a list of the top 25 college football teams with the most NFL talent, and headlined by the sophomore trio of Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss came in at No. 13.
"With the Rebels poised to dominate the NFL draft the next few years, it's time to view Ole Miss as a viable contender in the SEC West," wrote Brooks of Ole Miss.
3. ESPN.com's Travis Haney compiled a list of the top 50 breakout players for the 2014 season, and Nkemdiche came in at No. 10, and if the first week of fall camp is any indication, he's primed for a breakout season.
"In our gap schemes we can't back block because of him, and that causes us to have to change some things," said Freeze of Nkemdiche. "When you're installing you want to be able to just run your stuff and teach it, but it looks so bad you get frustrated. He's a handful."
4. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack called Anthony Alford one of the best two or three athletes on the team. He's pushing junior Trae Elston at Rover safety, he's in the mix as a punt returner, and he's taking snaps as a Wildcat quarterback. He looks the part and he's going to play a significant role this season.
"I love him in a lot of ways," said Freeze of Alford. "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."
5. With the injury to sophomore Tee Shepard - who had an MRI on Saturday and we will learn more from Freeze on Monday - it will be interesting to see where senior Cliff Coleman and junior Mike Hilton gets reps. Both versatile defensive backs can play cornerback, Huskie and free safety.
6. On a related note, with the injury to Shepard, freshman Kendarius Webster may play a bigger role at cornerback. He shed his non-contact green jersey for the first Saturday and made a couple of nice plays, including an interception of sophomore quarterback Ryan Buchanan.
7. Going back to spring practice, the coaches have raved about freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes. He's run with the first-team defense in place of sophomore Fadol Brown, who's been sidelined with an injury. Look for him to contribute as a rush end opposite junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, if not in a larger role this season.
"He's getting some different looks over there with the tight end and different things that he's not used to, so he makes some mistakes," said Freeze of Haynes. "But one thing I know about him is he makes them 100 miles an hour. We can live with that. We're pleased with where he is and we expect him to get better each day."
8. While the defense dominated on Saturday, senior quarterback Bo Wallace showed off his stronger arm, rolling left and completing a back-shoulder pass to Treadwell for a touchdown, and later throwing another touchdown to sophomore tight end Evan Engram in a red-zone drill.
9. On the offensive line, it appears to be six players competing for five spots, with Tunsil at left tackle, junior Aaron Morris at left guard and junior Justin Bell at right guard the constants throughout fall camp. Concerning the center and right tackle position battles, Freeze said it would probably be another week before deciding on the first-teamers.
"We've been going back and forth this week," Freeze said Saturday. "It will probably be another week before we say, 'This is who we're going with in the first group.' Fahn (Cooper) has been going with the first group (at right tackle) until today I think we made a switch back to look at Robert (Conyers) there and Ben (Still) at center."
10. If you're looking for a walk-on to contribute, junior Craig Frigo, a 6-foot-1, 301-pound offensive lineman from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is a prime candidate. He has consistently worked with the second-team offense and has also showed some versatility, moving around from left tackle, to right tackle, to left guard, even taking some snaps at center.
11. With six running backs also competing for playing time, it's hard to notice any separation, but it appears that sophomore Mark Dodson and redshirt freshman Jordan Wilkins have taken a lot of first-team reps and have shown out thus far in fall camp.
12. Without much fanfare, junior Quintavius Burdette moved from cornerback to slot receiver during the spring and entered fall camp as a backup behind sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo. The two-sport athlete, who also competes on the Ole Miss track & field team, has gotten his share of first-team reps with Adeboyejo and sophomore tight end Evan Engram, who has also lined up in the slot.
13. In special teams work, freshman Gary Wunderlich, the No. 1 kicker prospect coming out of high school, has split reps with redshirt freshman Will Gleeson at punter and redshirt freshman Andy Pappanastos and senior Andrew Fletcher at kicker. Wunderlich has the strongest leg of the group but he must improve his consistency.
14. When asked after practice Thursday, Freeze said Gleeson was in the lead at punter. The Melbourne, Australia, native gives the team some options to do some out-of-the-box stuff, such as the rugby-style punting from his Australian football background. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Tim, who plays for Rutgers, the younger Gleeson has played the American game for about two years.
"I basically had to forget all my instilled knowledge of kicking Australian football on the run low and hard, and basically kick it high and as long as possible in two steps with hang time," Gleeson said.
15. We're 18 days away from the season opener against Boise State, but here's an interesting profile of first-year Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin and his stamp on the program after the departure of long-time Broncos coach Chris Petersen for Washington. Prior to his arrival at Boise State, Harsin was the head coach at Arkansas State (2013), where he followed Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn (2012), who followed Freeze (2011).
An extended portion of the team drills were open to the media. Gameplay-wise, the highlight of the period was a pair of deep throws from senior quarterback Bo Wallace, one to sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and another to junior Cody Core.
Depth chart-wise, the offensive line, particularly center and right tackle, continue to be the story.
Sophomore Robert Conyers and junior Ben Still continue to battle at center, looking to replace three-year starter Evan Swindall, with Conyers earning first-team reps Tuesday and Still earning them Thursday.
"I'm pleased with Ben and Robert," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Robert (Nkemdiche) is a tough block, and when you're asking a center to do a back block in a one-on-one situation, sometimes we can look really bad doing that. I hope that he makes a lot of people look that way. Mentally, (Ben and Robert) pick it up very well. I have been pleased with the snaps. We have had very few that have thrown our timing off. The effort that those two guys give fit with us. We're going to be OK there."
Junior Fahn Cooper, a junior college transfer who also started 13 games for Bowling Green during his redshirt freshman year in 2012, has started to emerge at right tackle, where Conyers also figures in the mix.
"Fahn has definitely come on the last few days," Freeze said. "Robert is getting reps over there, as is (Craig) Frigo and Rod Taylor. We're kind of doing that by committee, but it looks like Fahn is kind of emerging. Robert looked good there too, but Fahn is coming on now that he has a better understanding."
Longer, Faster on Defense
One of the goals in recruiting, Freeze said, was to get longer and faster at every position on defense, and it shows with the additions on that side of the ball, notably freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes and freshman defensive back A.J. Moore, who have already broken into the two-deep during the team portion of practice open to the media.
Haynes, an early enrollee who went through spring drills, ran with the first-team defense in place of sophomore Fadol Brown, who sat out practice with a foot injury.
"He's a tremendous athlete,"said Freeze of Haynes, who's listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds. "He's swimming a little bit with all of the installations, and now he's learning a different position. Instead of the weak end, he's playing some of strong end.
"He's getting some different looks over there with the tight end and different things that he's not used to, so he makes some mistakes. But one thing I know about him is he makes them 100 miles an hour. We can live with that. We're pleased with where he is and we expect him to get better each day."
A.J. Moore (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) ran with the second team at Huskie, behind sophomore Tony Conner. Freeze also mentioned sophomore Tee Shepard (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), a junior college transfer, and freshman Kendarius Webster (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) as examples of getting longer on defense.
"Our defense has improved so much," junior safety Trae Elston said. "We are getting better and better players, and everyone is getting all in for the university."
Among the wide receivers, Treadwell made a couple of nice catches on the outside, where he was in the rotation by Core, senior wide receiver Vince Sanders, redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe and freshman wide receiver Dayall Harris.
Sophomore wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo ran with the first team in the slot, where he was joined in the rotation by junior Quintavius Burdette, freshmen Sammie Epps and Markell Pack, and a trio of tight ends in sophomore Evan Engram, senior Nick Parker and junior Jeremy Liggins.
Junior Mike Hilton and senior Cliff Coleman continue to split their time among the cornerback, Huskie and safety positions, with Coleman breaking into the second team at safety alongside sophomore Anthony Alford.
Freshman cornerback Kendarius Webster has been a wearing a green, non-contact jersey through the first part of camp.
"He had shoulder surgery in February back at home," Freeze said "There's some work to be done between our doctors and their doctors. He's full-go in everything except for the live periods where we ask them to hit. He feels good. I expect it to come off soon."
In special teams work, redshirt freshman Will Gleeson and freshman Gary Wunderlich continue to split reps at punter, with Gleeson on the first team and Wunderlich on the second team.
"I still think (Will) Gleeson is in the lead punting, but Gary (Wunderlich) can really hit it," Freeze said. "He has a strong leg. Gleeson gives us some options to do some out-of-the-box stuff in punt.
"PAT and field goal, charting them, Gary, (Andrew) Fletcher and Andy (Pappanastos) are all about even. I love the height that Gary and Andy are getting on theirs. That will be a good battle. Nathan (Nobe) is going to handle the kickoffs, it looks like, but Gary can do that also."
Freeze, on quarterback snaps for Jeremy Liggins and Anthony Alford: "They would both have a package. We have to be careful as to not throw too much on Jeremy. How big that will be early on, I don't know. He's fatigued right now. He hasn't done something like this in awhile, and it kind of shows. Once we get his legs back under him and he can think and he has a clear understanding, we'll see what he can do. We expect both to have a package."
Freeze, on backup quarterbacks: "I have been really pleased with Ryan (Buchanan) the last two days. DeVante (Kincade) did some really good things, but he had some bad decisions today too, and they kind of stand out in my mind. I'm still confident in both of them. We needed them to be sharper."
Elston, on competition at safety: "Anthony Alford and David Kamara are pushing me very hard. I'm glad they have been doing it because it improves our team."
Elston, on pass coverage: "Ever since the end of my sophomore season, I told myself I have to improve myself. My teammates and coaches have been staying on me to get better at that. I had to work on my footwork, and I worked on that in the offseason very hard."
Still, on three-year starter Evan Swindall: "I learned a lot under Evan. He was a smart player. He taught me a lot. It's our time now."
Still, on Fahn Cooper and Rod Taylor: "Fahn has done really well. He's strong. Rod, he'll be something special once he gets his head and gets the offense down."
Still, on the defensive line: "Issac (Gross) is one of the best in the league. He's quick off the ball. Robert (Nkemdiche) is good off the ball and strong. Woody (Hamilton) is a plugger but strong and hard to move him. Going up against them every day, I feel like we have one of the better D-lines in the SEC."
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
14 For '14,
2013 World Championships,
2014 World Cup,
2014 World Cup Brazil,
2016 Summer Olympics,
3 Things About Gameday,
3 Things You Should Know About Gameday,
38: The Chucky Mullins Effect,
Alabama Crimson Tide,
Armintie Price Herrington,
BBVA Compass Bowl,
Be The Fan,
Best of the Season,
Best Seat in the House,
Billy Van Devender,
Boise State Broncos,
Boise State Football,
Bram ten Berge,
By The Numbers,
Cal Ripken Senior League,
California Collegiate League,
Cape Cod League,
Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge,
Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic,
Chucky Mullins Award,
Chucky Mullins Courage Award,
College Baseball Tournament,
College Football Live,
College World Series,
Collegiate Summer Leagues,
Colorado Springs Sky Sox,
Dr. Jamil Northcutt;,
Engineers Without Border,
Episode 1 Sneak Peak,
Episode One Sneak Peak,
ESPN College Gameday,
Evan St. Laurent,
Florida State Seminoles,
Florida State Soccer,
Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl,
Franklin American Music City Bowl,
From The Vault,
Georgia State Baseball,
Georgia Tech Baseball,
Give To Athletics,
Hall of Fame,
Hard Core Fighter,
Health and Sports Performance,
Jackson Touchdown Club,
Jacksonville State Baseball,
Jacksonville State Gamecocks,
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,
Mississippi State Basketball,
Mississippi State Men's Basketball,
Mississippi State Women's Basketball,
Mississippi State Women's Hoops,
Music City Bowl,
National Signing Day,
National Women's Soccer League,
NCAA Baseball Tournament,
NCAA Doubles Final Four,
NCAA Lafayette Super Regional,
NCAA Oxford Regional,
NCAA Super Regional,
NCAA Tennis Final Four,
New Basketball Arena,
New Softball Coach,
NFL Draft 2014,
NFL Draft Combine,
NFL Draft Projections,
NFL Mock Drafts,
NFL Pro Bowl,
NFL Scouting Combine,
Nike Asia Tour,
North Carolina State,
Observations from the Best Seat in the House,
Off Square Books,
Ole Miss Athletics,
Ole Miss Athletics Foundation,
Ole Miss Baseball,
Ole Miss Baseball Fans,
Ole Miss Basketball,
Ole Miss Cross Country,
Ole Miss Defense,
Ole Miss Engineering,
Ole Miss Fans,
Ole Miss Football,
Ole Miss Football 2014,
Ole Miss Football Schedules,
Ole Miss Football Top 25 2014,
Ole Miss Football Video,
Ole Miss Foundation,
Ole Miss Hoops,
Ole Miss Media Day,
Ole Miss Men's Basketball,
Ole Miss Men's Golf,
Ole Miss Men's Hoops,
Ole Miss Men's Tennis,
Ole Miss Pix,
Ole Miss Pro Day,
Ole Miss Programming,
Ole Miss Rebels,
Ole Miss Regional,
Ole Miss Rifle,
Ole Miss Soccer,
Ole Miss Softball,
Ole Miss Solo Cups,
Ole Miss Sports Productions,
Ole Miss Tennis,
Ole Miss Top 25 2014,
Ole Miss Track,
Ole Miss Track and Field,
Ole Miss Volleyball,
Ole Miss Women's Basketball,
Ole Miss Women's Golf,
Ole Miss Women's Golf; Dori Carter,
Ole Miss Women's Golf; Kaitlin Voll,
Ole Miss Women's Golf; Katie Voll,
Ole Miss Women's Golf; Katilin Voll,
Ole Miss Women's Hoops,
Ole Miss Women's Soccer,
Ole Miss Women's Tennis,
Ole Misss Rifle,
Opening Day 2014,
Postgame Press Conference,
Rebel Media Day,
Rebel Road Trip,
Rebels Choice Awards,
Rebels' Choice Awards,
Red & Blue Classic,
Red And Blue Classic,
Rifle Video Promo,
Road To Omaha,
Run On Opening Day 2014,
School of Education,
SEC Baseball Tournament,
SEC Basketball Teleconference,
SEC Basketball Tournament,
SEC East Opponents,
SEC Football Media Days,
SEC Football Schedules,
SEC Football Teleconference,
SEC Media Days,
SEC Men's Basketball,
SEC Men's Basketball Teleconference,
SEC Men's Basketball Tournament,
SEC Men's Tennis Tournament,
SEC Player of the Year,
SEC Tennis Tournament,
SEC Track and Field,
SEC Track and Field Championships,
SEC Track and Field Indoor Championships,
SEC Women's Basketball Teleconference,
SEC Women's Basketball Tournament,
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,
Southeast Athletic Trainers' Association,
Southeastern Conference Basketball,
Southeastern Conference Record,
Spain National Team,
State of Ole Miss Athletics,
Super Bulldog Weekend,
TCU Horned Frogs,
TD Ameritrade Park,
Texas A&M Basketball,
Texas Tech Baseball,
Texas Tech Red Raiders,
The Pavilion at Ole Miss,
The Season Ole Miss,
The Season Ole Miss Baseball,
The Season Ole Miss Football Episode 1,
The Season Ole Miss Football Episode 2,
The Season Ole Miss Soccer,
The Season Ole Miss Volleyball,
The Season: Ole Miss Football,
Three and Out,
Track & Field,
Under-19 World Championship,
Under-20 European Championships,
University of Mississippi,
USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships,
USA Track & Field,
Vanderbilt Men's Basketball,
Vanderbilt Women's Basketball,
Vanderbilt Women's Hoops,
Walk Out Music,
Walk Out Songs,
We Are Ole Miss,
Week 2 SEC Football Teleconference,
Week in Review,
What They're Saying,
William & Mary,
William Winter Institute,
Women's Basketball; Yolanda Moore,
World Cup Brazil,
Year In Review,