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.

Jersey Numbers Released for Football Newcomers

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With the opening of camp today, Ole Miss released the jersey numbers for the newcomers on the football team for the fall. Between the 2016 signing class, transfers and walk-ons, the Rebels will have 37 new faces in total. 

1 - AJ Brown, WR

2 - Deontay Anderson, DB

4 - Tre Nixon, WR

8 - Rommel Mageo, LB

11 - Greg Eisworth, DB

13 - Grant Restmeyer, QB

14 - DK Metcalf, WR

15 - Octavious Cooley, TE

15 - Myles Hartsfield, DB

16 - Jacob Mathis, TE

17 - Jaylon Jones, DB

17 - Jarred Gray, DB

20 - Shea Patterson, QB

26 - Jarrion Street, RB

28 - D'Vaughn Pennamon, RB

35 - Donta Evans, LB

43 - Detric Bing-Dukes, LB

54 - Jack DeFoor, OL

61 - Eli Johnson, OL

68 - Chandler Tuitt, OL

71 - Bryce Matthews, OL

72 - Royce Newman, OL

74 - Greg Little, OL

83 - Gabe Angel, TE

86 - Walker Rynd, WR

87 - D.J. Forte', DL

88 - Ty Reyes, DE

89 - Korbin Harmon, DE

90 - Jack Propst, LS

92 - Josiah Coatney, DL

92 - Luke Logan, K

95 - Benito Jones, DT

95 - Isaac Way, K

96 - Mac Brown, K

97 - Qaadir Sheppard, DE

98 - Charles Wiley, DE

99 - Justin Charette, K

Madden 17 Ratings for Former Rebels

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When Madden 17 is released in a couple weeks, 21 former Rebels will be included on the launch roster (some of the undrafted free agents that signed are not on the game yet). Not very surprisingly, Eli Manning leads the way in terms of highest rating with an 83 (which seems pretty low for the two-time Super Bowl MVP).

These ratings change pretty quickly once actual snaps occur. If I'm picking a couple to be risers by the midpoint of the season, I'm going with Donte Moncrief (currently a 78 overall) and Robert Nkemdiche (currently a 75). Of course, rookies can move around ratings-wise since they're all pegged in about the same area to begin. There's also the aspect of these being our guys, so we think naturally they should be rated higher than they are currently.

This seems like a good point to mention how much I miss the second week of July being special when NCAA Football came out each year. It really helped push through the final leg of summer leading to football. RIP NCAA Football series.

A blog post about a football video game. Football season is so desperately needed. 


Rebel Notables from the First Week of NFL Camp

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While the current Rebels have another week before practice starts up, former Rebels in the NFL began training camp over the past week. Here are some Rebel notables from the first few practices of the 2016 NFL season. It's still extremely early, as the first week of the preseason doesn't begin until August 11.

Donte Moncrief, Colts

It's not football related, but Moncrief is helping support the daughter of a former teammate who died in June. It's a great story. You should read it.

Laremy Tunsil, Dolphins

It seems that the Dolphins are planning on playing Tunsil at guard for the time being. Their LT position is currently being filled by Branden Albert, who signed a 5-year, $47 million contract before the 2014 season. Albert believes that Tunsil will flourish in that role.

Laquon Treadwell, Vikings

Treadwell was happy to finally get pads on so he could use his physicality that is the strength of his game. 

Robert Nkemdiche, Cardinals

Nkemdiche suffered a high-ankle sprain and will miss a couple weeks of practice. He's still been on the receiving-end of some rookie pranks.

Senquez Golson, Steelers

Golson lost his first NFL season to injury before it even began, but he's grown more comfortable as a member of the Steelers over the past year.

Cody Core, Bengals

Bengals.com writer Geoff Hobson expects Core to make a big impact and dress on opening day because of his ability to cover kicks.

Fahn Cooper, 49ers

The 49ers were one of the later starters, having their first practice on July 31. San Francisco currently has Cooper slotted as a left guard.

Bobby Massie, Bears

Massie singed with the Bears in the offseason and is penciled in to be their starting RT. Massie was eager to get started with his new team according to Bears' OL Kyle Long.

Bradley Sowell, Seahawks

Sowell worked with the first team as the left tackle in the first 11-on-11 session of the season. The Seahawks assumed starter is being brought back slowly after a spring knee surgery.

Coaches Want Freeze Coaching Their Sons

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Who would coaches want to coach their son if he was an elite prospect? ESPN's Chris Lowe polled the 23 head coaches in the Big 12 and SEC on that question, and Hugh Freeze was one of the top vote-getters. 

One of the coaches had to say about Freeze, "Integrity would be extremely important to me, finding a coach who would always be honest with you and your son, and that's the kind of man Hugh is and the way he lives his life."

Freeze has won everywhere he's been, due in large part to the way players buy into his message. He compiled a 20-5 mark at Lambuth and took them to the second round in the NAIA playoffs for the first time in a decade. The year before he took over as head coach at Arkansas State, the Red Wolves went 4-8. With Freeze as the head coach, he coached them to a 10-win season. Then of course, he breathed life back into Ole Miss' football program faster than he even expected. 

The reason for the success is the way Freeze runs his program. Nearly every player that chooses to play football for Hugh Freeze has the exact same reasoning: the program has a family-atmosphere about it and feels like home. 

The atmosphere around the team carries over to more than wins and losses on the football field. In the spring semester of 2016, the football team posted their best-ever cumulative GPA. Players commonly contribute around the Oxford community and 19 players have forgone their spring breaks to go on mission trips to Panama and Haiti over the past three seasons. 

Coach or not, that sounds like the type of person any father would want to entrust his son to for four years.

Vaught Ranked No. 30 CFB Coach of All-Time

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Sports on Earth - "No. 30 John Vaught: Ole Miss has never been crowned national champion by the AP poll, but in 1960 it shared titles honors with Minnesota, thanks to the FWAA vote, and the Rebels also claim shares of championships in 1959 and 1962. Needless to say, it was a remarkable era of success for Ole Miss football, all under the watch of Vaught, who led the Rebels to seven straight top-11 rankings from 1957-63 and ultimately coached 10 top-10 teams that played in eight Sugar Bowls and two Cotton Bowls in his career. Far more than anybody else, Vaught is Ole Miss football, having won all six of the program's SEC titles, with the only two undefeated teams and the top 11 teams in school history, according to Sports-Reference's SRS data. Plus, he finished out his career by bringing Archie Manning to Oxford, setting the stage for Eli to play for the Rebels too in the early 2000s."

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Tradition is a common word that comes up when discussion Ole Miss football, and that's due in large part to what the Rebels accomplished under Johnny Vaught. Ole Miss under Vaught was as successful as any team in any era. The Rebels earned 14-straight bowl appearances that included five Sugar Bowl victories from 1957 to 1970 under Vaught. He was at the helm for 25 years in Oxford, and only once did Ole Miss experience a losing season. 

When he took the job, Ole Miss sat at ninth in the all-time SEC standings. By the time he was finished, he had elevated the Rebels up to third. The stadium namesake and statue on campus were well-earned. 

Ole Miss to be Well-Represented in Rio

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Ole Miss track and field will be represented in a big way as the world's attention turns to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. A school-record seven members of the Rebel family will compete at the Games while Ole Miss head coach Connie Price-Smith will serve as the head coach for the U.S. women's track and field squad.

"It's an exciting time for me as the head coach of the US Olympic Team," Price-Smith said. "It's exciting to be the head coach of athletes that are actually going to the Olympics with me." 

Two current Rebels, sophomore Raven Saunders and volunteer assistant coach Gwen Berry, will don a different red and blue as they represent the United States of America this summer. Saunders, who holds the all-time indoor and outdoor collegiate records in the event, will be the first Rebel to compete in the shot put at the Olympics. Berry, a three-time All-American thrower during her college career at Southern Illinois, will be the first Rebel to compete in the hammer throw at the Olympics. 

"I'm excited," Saunders said. "It doesn't feel any different because I don't want it to change my work ethic at all."

That work ethic helped propel Saunders to the 2016 NCAA title in the shot put during the outdoor season. She set the goal to make the Olympics early on and worked towards it all year.

"After how freshman year went and seeing how much more I had to improve on along with coming down to Ole Miss and having a few more resources, I knew that I would be capable of a lot more," Saunders said. "Every practice going in, I was going in super hyped. This was in September, I was screaming about going to the Olympics on every throw." 

Berry will once again be competing for a Price-Smith squad as she did during her collegiate career at Southern Illinois after serving as an assistant coach at Ole Miss this season. 

"It's a good feeling," Berry said. "I had confidence in myself that I would make the team. I wasn't as happy as everyone else probably because I didn't have my greatest performance (to qualify), but I'm grateful."

For Berry, the student-athletes at Ole Miss have helped her stay motivated during training while she passed on knowledge of her own to them. 

"I train with them as much as possible," Berry said. "The students listen. They take in everything you say. You give them advice, and they keep you motivated. I'm 27. (Raven) is 20. If she can make it, I need to make it too. We motivate each other."

The Olympics kick off for Price-Smith and the seven Rebels with the opening ceremony on August 5. 

"Ole Miss has great tradition. One of my goals when I came here was to keep building on that tradition," Price-Smith said. "It's great to go and represent the United States and Ole Miss at the same time."

T&F Rebels in Rio - Event - Years at Ole Miss

Gwen Berry (USA) - women's hammer throw - 2016

Antwon Hicks (Nigeria) - men's 100-meter hurdles - 2002-05

Sam Kendricks (USA) - men's pole vault - 2012-14

Brittney Reese (USA) - women's long jump - 2007-08

Ricky Robertson (USA) - men's high jump - 2010-14

Raven Saunders (USA) - women's shot put - 2016

Khadijah Suleman (Nigeria) - women's 4x100 relay - 2015-16

Sports Management Degree - Autumn-time Saturdays in Oxford, Mississippi, are devoted to Ole Miss and college football. The parties and tailgating start early, and by game time, hundreds of tents, grills, tailgates, and lawn chairs can be seen for acres around the main stadium. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is easily one of the most iconic in the SEC (and even the country). The north end zone is home to the eighth largest scoreboard in all of college football, while the north end zone has uniquely placed luxury boxes and suites that make for a terrific view if you can snag one. On game day, the stadium is known for being incredibly rowdy, and in 2016, the volume is expected to escalate even more as 5,000 additional seats are being added.

College athletics is always going to be a mix of tradition with staying modern, and that's exactly what Vaught-Hemingway represents. Opened in 1915, making it the second oldest stadium in the SEC, VHS has been the home of six conference champions and three national champions. The upgrades over the last couple of years to go along with the recent expansion that will open this season continues to give Ole Miss fans a stadium to be proud to spend a fall Saturday at. Speaking of that expansion...

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Honestly, grass in the Vaught makes me way too happy. Much like the way I care about uniforms, I care way too much about the some of the superficial aspects of football. Grass looks so much better on television than field turf. Ole Miss' reds on grass with the new north end zone renovation will be more than easy on the eyes. 

The new video boards in the corners of the SEZ have been overlooked I think. There is no such thing as too many large HD screens. The more the merrier.

Back to actual football, the Vaught has been a tough place for opponents since it opened. The Rebels have won 73 percent of games over the 100 years spent in the stadium. Freeze has carried on that tradition since taking over in 2012, sporting a 21-7 home record. That includes an unblemished 4-0 record in trophy games against rivals Mississippi State and LSU, winning those games by an average margin of two touchdowns.

Ole Miss at Media Days 2016

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When Hugh Freeze took the podium at SEC Media Days just four years ago before the 2012 season, the expectations regarding the program were nearly as low as they could go. Freeze said during that press conference the goal of the season was competing for 60 minutes in each game and getting the program out of the "wilderness".

I grew up an Ole Miss fan during some pretty bleak years over the past decade. As a kid, the first whiff of football season every year was when the preseason magazines hit the shelves. Nearly every year was the same process to the point it was essentially a tradition for me. Look at the win-loss projection the magazine provided and figure out how Ole Miss was going to win six games and make a bowl. That would constitute a successful season, and I would be happy with it. 

Flash forward four years, a "new normal" has been established in Oxford due to four straight bowl berths, back-to-back New Year's Six appearances, and back-to-back wins against the college football gold-standard Alabama.  

Hugh Freeze has changed that mindset and upped the expectations each season. Ole Miss returns the best QB in the SEC and one of the best in the nation in Chad Kelly along with a the talented core that already checked off the Sugar Bowl from Freeze and nearly every Ole Miss fan's bucket lists. 

Ole Miss' schedule is far from easy, as it includes the programs that have accounted for six of the last seven national championships in Alabama, Auburn and Florida State to go along already difficult SEC slate.  

"I like to call it pretty much a gauntlet," Evan Engram said. "We want to be the team to take the cake this year, so we accept the challenge week in and week out."

All Eyes on Kelly

While addressing the media, Hugh Freeze mentioned in particular Kelly's playing over the final seven games of the year. Over that span, Kelly tossed 17 TDs and averaged 311 yards per game in the air.

"I've been asked all morning about what he needs to do to improve," Freeze said. "I don't know that I can look at a lot of things and say, man, you're doing this really poorly, or -- he did everything for those last seven games pretty solidly."

Ole Miss has talent all over the field on both sides of the ball, but the 2016 season will go as No. 10 goes. He's every bit talented enough for Ole Miss to once again be in the championship picture again as the calendar turns to November. 

It helps that most of the SEC is in a much less stable position at QB. Last season, Kelly threw 31 TDs. There are nine SEC West QBs still on rosters that played last season. They threw a combined 35 TDs. 

Defensive Line Still a Strength

Losing a first-round talent in Robert Nkemdiche and still feeling very optimistic about the ability of the defensive line gives a good indicator in the quality of the program.  

"If you were to start to build a football team to compete in the Southeastern Conference, you would start with quarterbacks first and defensive line next," Freeze said. "We wish we had a little more depth (at defensive line), but we believe we're really, really talented there."

Jones along with Breeland Speaks, Marquis Haynes and Fadol Brown will no longer have the luxury of Nkemdiche being the focal point of offenses upfront and drawing so many double teams. 

"I think we are a faster defensive line," Jones said. "We are a little more powerful. So I think as a unit we will get better."

Ole Miss also gets one more season of Issac Gross in opponent's backfields after he missed nearly all of last season with an injury. Adding in impact freshman Benito Jones, Ole Miss has nice depth upfront. Freeze said he would like to have more of it, but defensive line depth is a lot like money. You always want more of it. 

Scenes From the Day

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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