The Manning Center played host to 16 former Ole Miss players, including NFL Scouting Combine participants Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson, attempting to make a lasting impact on the 27 NFL teams represented at Pro Day on Thursday.
Prewitt, a projected second-round pick by CBSSports.com, was not pleased with his performance at the combine, where he ran a 4.60 40-yard dash and recorded 11 bench-press reps of 225 pounds. He improved both marks at Pro Day, as he posted times of 4.47 and 4.46 in the 40 and recorded 12 reps on the bench. His 4.46 mark would rank third among safeties and tied for 10th among all defensive backs at the combine.
"It ate me up," Prewitt said of his combine performance. "It aggravated the crap out of me. I still think I can do better in the 40, but I think today was a lot closer to what I think I can run."
After putting on a show at the combine, Golson, a projected fourth-round pick by CBSSports.com, only participated in two testing drills at Pro Day. One those drills was the bench press, where he improved his number of 225-pound bench press reps from 15 at the combine to 16 at Pro Day. Overall, he was pleased with his performance at Pro Day.
"There are a lot of questions when you got a 5-8 corner that catches 10 interceptions, Golson said. "A lot of people want to get their eyes on me and see if everything matches up with the numbers.
"They have asked me, 'What makes you think you can play in the league?' You go back to my freshman to my senior year, every week I played against first-round, top-10 picks. I played against Odell (Beckham, Jr.). I played against Mike Evans for two or three years. I played against Amari Cooper and Sammie Coates, all the top receivers that are going to come out this year, I have film against all those guys."
Both Prewitt and Golson went through defensive back drills with New York Jets defensive backs Joe Danna. Golson said he has private workouts or visits scheduled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
"It was fun," said Golson of working with Danna. "You get an idea of how NFL coaches think and how they want us do things. I was happy for that opportunity."
Other standouts at Pro Day were Deterrian Shackelford, who benched 225 pounds 33 times, which would have ranked second among linebackers and ninth among all players at the combine, and Carlos Thompson, who posted a 38-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-3 broad jump. He ran the 40 in 4.75 and 4.77 seconds and recorded 21 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.
Pro Day was also an opportunity for Bo Wallace to impress NFL scouts after not receiving an invitation to the combine. Wallace said he felt healthy and threw the ball well in a scripted positional workout put together by former NFL quarterback John Beck.
"I wanted to show I'm talented enough to compete with the guys that were brought into the combine," Wallace said. "I was upset I wasn't there and it pushed me and motivated me. I felt like I had as good of a day as I could have."
Representatives from 27 NFL teams, including a defensive backs coach from the New York Jets, were present to see 16 players work out at Ole Miss' pro day on Thursday.
The workout was held indoors and run on FieldTurf.
Cornerback Senquez Golson (5-foot-8 3/4, 180 pounds) had 16 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and a time of 11.93 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle (staying on the rest of his numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine). Golson -- who made a pivotal interception in Ole Miss' upset of Alabama in October -- was very fluid in the positional workout and displayed great ball skills.
Free safety Cody Prewitt (6-2 3/8, 208) ran much better at his pro day than he did at the combine in the 40-yard dash, posting times of 4.47 and 4.46 seconds (he ran 4.6 in Indianapolis). He also performed 12 strength lifts. Prewitt also showed good ball skills during his positional workout.
Quarterback Bo Wallace (6-3 5/8, 211) ran the 40 in 5.1 and 5.07 seconds. He had an 8-foot-8 broad jump. He went through a scripted positional workout and did an adequate job doing so. Wallace's workout was put together by former NFL quarterback John Beck.
One relatively unknown prospect was really impressive to the scouts present at Ole Miss' pro day.
Defensive end Carlos Thompson (6-4 1/4, 252) ran the 40 in 4.75 and 4.77 seconds. He had a 38-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-3 broad jump. He did the 20-yard short shuttle in 4.54 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.51 seconds. Thompson recorded 1.5 sacks in limited playing time while at Ole Miss, but might have had so impressive of a pro-day workout that he could get drafted as a pass-rushing prospect. At worst, Thompson will be a priority free-agent pickup for an NFL team following the 2015 NFL Draft.
The scouts at hand were treated to a big breakfast and lunch.
NFL Scouting Combine participants Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt are among 18 former Ole Miss players expected to go through Pro Day workouts in hopes of realizing their professional football dreams. More than 25 representatives from 22 different teams were on hand for last year's Pro Day that featured future third-rounder Donte Moncrief of the Indianapolis Colts.
Golson and Prewittt are expected to be joined by 12 other recently-departed Rebels, including Serderius Bryant and Bo Wallace, as well as four players more than a year removed from their time in the Red and Blue. Golson and Prewitt, who both impressed at the combine, may not compete in every drill at Pro Day.
A reminder that the event is closed to the public, but we will have complete coverage on the official site. Official times and results will be posted on NFL.com in the days following Pro Day.
2014 Seniors participating:
The Ole Miss women's basketball team heads to the 2015 SEC Tournament in Little Rock, Arkansas, having won three of its last four games to finish the regular season with a 17-12 overall and 7-9 SEC record and earn the No. 8 seed in the tournament.
The Rebels are a near-lock for the Postseason WNIT, which would be the program's first postseason appearance since the 2009-10 season, but they will likely need to some damage this week to strengthen their case for the NCAA Tournament, starting with No. 9 seed Arkansas on Thursday.
"I feel like we're 100 percent in the NIT," head coach Matt Insell said. "We're going to have to win two games, at least, to solidify ourselves as having a chance to maybe be on the bubble and be in the NCAA Tournament. Beating Arkansas and then coming back and beating South Carolina, I think, would put us in, with South Carolina being the No. 1 seed (in the SEC Tournament). We know that, but Arkansas is our main focus."
Insell pointed to his team's wins over Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky and LSU, four teams ranked in the top 70 of the latest NCAA RPI and three teams projected to be in the tournament. The team not projected in the tournament, Georgia, was at full strength with a 15-2 overall and 3-1 SEC record, when Ole Miss met them earlier in the season.
Insell also noted the Rebels' SEC schedule, which featured two games each against Kentucky, LSU and Mississippi State, three of the top six teams in the league. Despite that schedule, they finished tied for seventh in the league standing.
The numbers, however, are working against them, including a No. 96 ranking in the RPI.
"If you're one of the better teams in this league, you deserve to have a chance to be in the tournament, but the computers say we're not in, and I guess we're going by the computers, and I'm going to keep saying that," Insell said.
ESPN.com Bracketologist Charlie Creme said the NCAA Selection Committee weighs many factors in their selection process, such as RPI and strength of schedule, as well as records against the RPI top 25, RPI top 50 and RPI top 100, among others, and those categories create the discussion points.
"The RPI is by no means everything, but it is how the committee groups teams," said Creme in an email. "At 96 at this point, they wouldn't seriously enter the discussion. No team has ever made it as an at-large with an RPI outside the 70's (and the 70's is even rare).
"The wins over UK and LSU would be where the committee would start with Ole Miss, but there isn't much else to discuss. Ole Miss isn't currently in my "Next Four" out, which puts them over eight spots away. The takeaway is Ole Miss has to win the automatic berth."
Senior forward Tia Faleru, a first team All-SEC selection, drew on the experience of the 2012-13 Ole Miss men's basketball team, when asked about the NCAA Tournament. That season, the Rebels entered the SEC Tournament in Nashville on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, likely also needing to win at least a couple of games, and they went on to win the automatic berth, eliminating any doubt of them getting in the NCAA Tournament.
"Nobody thought they were going to win it," Faleru said. "They got on a little roll and got all the the way to the championship. Nobody expected them to beat Florida that year either. I remember that like it was yesterday. They won it all, and we were here supporting them. I want to experience the same feeling. Do something impossible. We can do the same thing. It's no pressure on us. The pressure is on everybody else. We're the team no one wants to play."
Ole Miss welcomes back seven starters from the nation's No. 1 scoring defense, but two of those starters, seniors C.J. Johnson and Mike Hilton, will be starting the spring at different positions, with Johnson at Mike linebacker and Hilton at Rover safety.
"This is a different team with a different group of players with different talents," Johnson said. "The key for us is how do we build on what he had last year. We have a lot of young guys stepping in and trying to fill roles, so they have to understand what it takes to get to where we were last year."
Johnson was originally recruited as a linebacker and began his Ole Miss career at the position, before moving to defensive end, where he has played for the last three-plus years. He and coaches talked about a move to linebacker after the bowl game and then closer to National Signing Day.
"I wanted to try something different," Johnson said. "The coaches knew I knew the playbook really well and they knew me sitting in the defensive line meetings for install the first couple of days would be completely boring for me, so we decided to try the move."
The most senior member of the Ole Miss defense, Johnson said he knows pretty much know what everybody in front of him is doing, and he also draws on his high school and early college experience playing linebacker, but there's still a lot to learn.
"With the multiple things we do, you have to be able to do a lot of different things, so it's going to be a challenge for me," Johnson said. "It feels familiar and it feels good. A lot comes with the position, being the quarterback of the front of the defense and getting everybody set and lined up, knowing the checks and formations. It's going to be a big learning process for me, but I'm ready for it."
As a defense, despite ranking among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, Johnson said they need to give up fewer big plays to improve as a defense. In their meeting yesterday, Johnson said, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack brought up that they were two plays away from an 11-1 record with a case to play in the College Football Playoff.
Those two plays, Johnson said, were a pair of dropped interceptions, one in 35-31 loss to Auburn and another in a 10-7 loss to LSU. He also mentioned a sack that he missed on a third down against LSU, after which the Tigers drove down the field and scored.
"You look at the games we lost, and we didn't get turnovers and we gave up too many big plays," Johnson said. "If we eliminate the big plays and we get more takeaways, we'll be a better defense."
Familiar Spot for Hilton
The coaches have shown a similar type trust in Hilton, who has started a game at every defensive backfield position, including two career starts, both last season, at Rover safety.
"I feel like it's another good move for me," Hilton said. "Once again, it show the trust the coaches have in me and my ability go out and produce on the field."
His move to Rover safety leaves a two-deep at cornerback that will likely include juniors Tony Bridges, Kailo Moore, Tee Shepard and freshman Kendarius Webster. It also shifted senior Trae Elston from Rover safety to free safety, where he will look to replace three-plus year starter Cody Prewitt.
"Free safety is more in the box and has more run support responsibility, while the Rover safety has more coverage responsibility and has to be able to tackle in the open field," Hilton said. "I feel like it's a good spot for me because open-field tackling is one of my best assets."
Hilton is learning under first-year safeties coach Corey Batoon, a member of head coach Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss staff since the beginning, who was recently promoted to assistant coach for safeties and special teams coordinator in January.
"He's a strategist," said Hilton of Batoon. "He wants everything down perfect. He wants you making the right steps and everything. I feel like he will put us in the right position to make plays; we just have to go make them."
Johnson on returning to linebacker: "The game has slowed down for me a lot. I pretty much know what everybody in front of me is doing, as opposed to coming in as a freshman when you know absolutely nothing. Right now, I'm getting adjusted to the drops and coverages."
Johnson on his playing weight: "I was trying to lose weight to get down to a weight where I could run and play fast, and over the weekend, I came in Monday at around 246. I have to drop a little weight, but I felt fine yesterday running."
Johnson on the move to linebacker preparing him for the NFL: "I don't really know, I don't really get involved in all that. I try to come to work every day, do my job and play to my strengths as a football player."
Johnson on leadership: "It kind of feels weird being the oldest one out there and being the person that everyone looks up to. It's something I'm ready to embrace."
Hilton on the defense's identity: "I feel the identity of the defense is the same. We still have guys like C.J., myself, Trae, Issac and all those guys on the defensive front. We feel like we have that same Landshark mentality and the mentality to be one of the top defenses."
Hilton on Tee Shepard: "He looks really good. He's holding up and playing well. He's running full speed and everything. He's looking good. He's ready."
Hilton on Tony Bridges: "He's really quiet, but he's really coachable. He's even come up to me and asked questions. He's really coachable. He works with Coach (Jason) Jones a lot. He's good be a good one for us."
Hilton on the younger players: "Breeland (Speaks) has shown dominance up front. He's put on some weight, but he's still able to move. Victor (Evans) is coming off the edge a lot better. Those two I'm really looking forward to seeing this year."
Ole Miss began spring practice Tuesday, and for the first time under head coach Hugh Freeze, the Rebels will have a starting quarterback not named Bo Wallace. With the graduation of Wallace, sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, as well as junior college transfer Chad Kelly, will split equal reps this spring.
"We're going to be very thorough in our evaluations by charting every single drill that they do," Freeze said. "We'll look at stats from those. It's going to a very competition three-man deal. They will be in a constant rotation, and everyone will get equal reps with the 1's and the 2's. The main thing you want to see is who can handle hard coaching and who can understand what we're trying to get accomplished with what we have called and then being able to execute and take care of the ball, which is always a priority."
It's the first true quarterback competition in Oxford since the 2012 season, when Wallace beat out Barry Brunetti for the starting job. In that case, Freeze did not name Wallace his starting quarterback until two days before the Rebels' season opener against Central Arkansas, and it may a similar case this season between Buchanan, Kelly and Kincade.
"It would probably have to be so clear-cut for me to do that this spring, knowing the personalities of who I'm dealing with and the time between now and fall," said Freeze of naming a starting quarterback in the spring. "A lot of dynamics play into that. It's probably not going to be a clear-cut decision at the end of spring and will continue through summer workouts. It's time for that room to be the leaders of this team. With that, comes some responsibility, and we have them to understand that throughout summer workouts."
Changes on Defense
Freeze had already announced one position change during his National Signing Day press conference. That change was moving Jeremy Liggins to offensive tackle, although he will likely continue to play some tight end and "Wildcat" quarterback. But there are also changes on the other side of the ball.
The changes on the defensive side are familiar, but they are notable. Freeze announced that senior Mike Hilton, who has started a game at every defensive backfield position, will start the spring at one of the safety positions, as they try to find the best rotation in the defensive backfield.
"We think we he have a lot options (in the secondary)," Freeze said. "We're going to start Tony (Bridges) and Tee (Shepard) at cornerback and start Mike Hilton at one of the safety positions, knowing that he's played them all and can do that. If we think there's a better rotation, we won't hesitate to move them around"
Freeze also said that senior C.J. Johnson will get a look at Mike linebacker, a position that Freeze called their biggest question mark right now. Johnson was originally recruited as a linebacker and began his Ole Miss career at the position, and he will join senior Christian Russell and junior Temario Strong in looking to replace Deterrian Shackelford and Keith Lewis.
"We are going to see this spring," said Freeze of Johnson playing Mike linebacker. "I don't know (how he will perform), it is hard to say. I know he can run and tackle. I know he is smart and really understands the defense. It is a different role, playing there. But that's where we are going to put him and see how it goes this spring. We can always move him back down to the defensive line. We are going to see how he performs this spring."
D. Nkemdiche, Treadwell Return from Injury
The Rebels will be without a trio of offensive linemen in junior Laremy Tunsil and senior Aaron Morris, two returning starters, as well as sophomore Daronte Bouldin, but the Rebels will welcome back a talented trio of players in junior wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, senior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and junior cornerback Tee Shepard.
"I expect Denzel and Quon, both, to be back," Freeze said. "Denzel, right away. Quon, after spring break. He will do some things but not a lot this week. Robert Conyers will go after spring break also. The others, Daronte (Bouldin), Aaron (Morris), and Laremy, will not participate in spring practice. Tee will be full-go. Carlos Davis, we'll see where is after spring break."
With the injuries along the offensive line, it is a great opportunity for freshman offensive lineman Javon Patterson, an early enrollee, who was rated a five-star prospect and listed as the No. 1 offensive guard in the nation by 247Sports.com.
"I told him yesterday that we he will get all the reps he wants, and then some," Freeze said. "It's going be good for him. He's going to get plenty of reps. i'm really excited about him. He's exactly the type of student-athlete you want. He's a great kid, first, and he's going to be an outstanding player. Getting him enrolled early and getting an extra spring with him will be big for him. He will get plenty of reps to get looked at this spring."
The Southeastern Conference announced today Kickoff '15, its annual football media days, will be held July 13-16, remaining at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. The event will continue to be four days in 2015.
The 2014 edition featured an additional fourth day to the event, and it will remain the same for the 2015 edition. Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss contingency will be in the Magic City on the final day, Thursday, July 16, and grouped with Georgia and LSU.
ESPN will once again bring SEC Media Days to a national audience, with the SEC Network making its debut at the event to close out a historic first year for the newly launched network. The network will have live coverage all four days.
A more detailed daily schedule with full television information, rotational breakdown and student-athletes attending will be available later this summer.
The previous four SEC Football Media Days have drawn over 1,000 attendees, including over 1,200 attendees each of the last two years.
2015 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE
MONDAY, July 13
Auburn - Gus Malzahn
Florida - Jim McElwain
Vanderbilt - Derek Mason
TUESDAY, July 14
SEC Coordinator of Officials - Steve Shaw
South Carolina - Steve Spurrier
Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin
Miss. State - Dan Mullen
Tennessee - Butch Jones
WEDNESDAY, July 15
Alabama - Nick Saban
Kentucky - Mark Stoops
Arkansas - Bret Bielema
Missouri - Gary Pinkel
THURSDAY, July 16
LSU - Les Miles
Georgia - Mark Richt
Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze
Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Feb. 24-March 2, 2015
Track & Field
- Ole Miss got SEC titles from Jalen Miller (60m), Daniel Bulmer (mile) and the distance medley relay, and the Rebels achieved their best SEC indoor finish since 1984.
- The Ole Miss men scored 62 points to finish fourth in the team standings, their third-best result in school history and best since tying for third 31 years ago. The team's 62 points were also their most at an SEC indoor meet since that year.
- Overall on the weekend, Ole Miss snagged three SEC titles, two runners-up and two school records. The only other time the Rebels won three titles at the SEC indoor meet was 1983.
- The Rebels' success was notable because 20 of the team's 44 participants were competing in their first SEC Championships, and the men were without injured distance standouts Sean Tobin and Robert Domanic.
- Miller has won every 60-meter race in which he's lined up this year, and captured the school's first ever SEC crown in the event with a time of 6.56 on Saturday.
- Bulmer and Craig Engels finished 1-2 in the men's mile at 4:03.28 and 4:03.76, respectively. Bulmer is the first SEC mile champion in Ole Miss history.
- Bulmer and Engels teamed with Dameon Morgan and Holland Sherrer to capture to Rebels' second straight SEC distance medley relay title. Crazy enough, it was four different men than last year's championship relay team.
- The women were highlighted a pair of school records. Freshman Brooke Feldmeier earned a silver medal in the 800 meters with a school-record time of 2:04.34, and senior Fabia McDonald broke her own record in the pentathlon (4,168) to place sixth.
- Ole Miss closed the regular-season with a 2-1 record in the final week of action, which included wins over No. 11/13 Kentucky and LSU before losing to instate rival, Mississippi State in the regular season finale.
- Ole Miss concludes the regular season with a 17-12, 7-9 SEC record -- the most overall and SEC wins since 2009-10.
- The Rebels, who were picked to finish 14th in the preseason SEC poll, finished tied for seventh and earned the No. 8 seed in the SEC Tournament -- its highest seed since 2009-10.
- Tia Faleru posted double-doubles in two of the final three games of the regular season. She now has 13 double-doubles on the season and 33 career double-doubles. It is the second consecutive season the senior has recorded 10 ore more double-doubles after entering her junior campaign with just five career double-doubles.
- Ole Miss' win over Kentucky gave the Rebels two wins over a ranked opponent this season and gave Ole Miss head coach Matt Insell his first win over his former team. The last time Ole Miss defeated two ranked foes was in 2009-10 when they had wins over No. 8 Georgia and No. 12 LSU. Additionally, the win over a top 15 foe was the first in the last 20 tries.
- The No. 18 Ole Miss baseball team went 2-2 last week with all four games being decided by one run
- The Rebels started with a 2-1 victory over Arkansas State in their first midweek game of the season.
- Sophomore left-hander Evan Anderson picked up the win, going five innings and allowing just one run on one hit and two walks while also adding four strikeouts to his stat line. Freshman Will Stokes closed out the game to earn the first save of his career.
- After the midweek victory, the Rebels hit the road for the first time this season, taking on an undefeated UCF team that was ranked 15th in the nation.
- In the series opener Friday night, Ole Miss saw the Knights rally from a four-run deficit before a walk-off base hit in the bottom of the ninth lifted UCF to the 5-4 decision.
- Errol Robinson's diving catch and flip for a double play was No. 2 on Sportscenter's Top 10 Plays Friday night, Feb. 27.
- Due to inclement weather on Saturday, Ole Miss and UCF played in a doubleheader on Sunday. It marked the third straight weekend the Rebels played a doubleheader, and for the third time, Ole Miss split the two games. The Rebels fell, 3-2, in a shortened 7-inning game one before claiming the series finale, 4-3.
- The Sunday victory gave UCF its first loss of the season. Florida natives Tate Blackman, Colby Bortles and Sikes Orvis recorded all four RBI in the win. Blackman doubled in the first run of the game, and Bortles hit his second homer of the season. Orvis also played long ball with a solo shot of his own before drawing a bases-loaded walk in the top of the ninth that brought in the winning run.
- Ole Miss dropped a pair of games last week versus Georgia and at LSU, snapping its school record four-game SEC road winning streak.
- With one more win, Ole Miss will reach 20 wins for the seventh time in nine seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just seven 20-win campaigns in the 96 seasons before Kennedy's arrival.
- The Rebels have 35 wins against SEC foes over the last three years trailing only Florida and Kentucky in the SEC.
- Ole Miss ranks fourth in the nation in free throw percentage, hitting 77.6 percent of its attempts. The Rebels have hit 326 of their last 416 (.784) attempts from the line. Junior guard Stefan Moody leads the SEC and ranks fifth in the nation shooting 91.2 percent from the free throw line.
- Head coach Andy Kennedy is tied with Alabama's Wimp Sanderson for the third-most wins in SEC history with by a coach in his first nine years in the league at one school with 190. He trails only Kentucky's Joe B. Hall (205) and Florida's Billy Donovan (193).
- Junior guard Stefan Moody averaged 25.5 ppg and knocked down 14 3-pointers in wins over MSU and Tennessee en route to his second SEC Player of the Week honor of the month. Moody is averaging 19.6 ppg over his last nine games and leads the SEC in scoring in league play at 18.4 ppg.
- Senior guard Jarvis Summers is tied for the lead the league in assists in SEC play at 5.3/game and has posted 75 assists in his last 13 games.
- Summers is the SEC active career leader in points (1,580), assists (500), minutes (3,730) and wins (82), and is just the fifth player in SEC history with 1,500 career points and 500 career assists.
- Ole Miss rose to No. 10 in the ITA National Rankings last week, their highest ranking since ending the 2013 season in the top 10. The Rebels finished the week 4-0 including wins over Tulane and No. 16 Vanderbilt to improve to 9-2 overall, 1-0 in the SEC.
- Senior Nik Scholtz went a combined 5-0 in doubles and singles on the week, including wins over the No. 14 ranked and No. 9 ranked players in singles. His come-from-behind win over No. 9 Gonzales Austin clinched the Rebels' 4-0 victory against the Commodores. He improved to 7-1 at No. 1 singles.
- Freshman Grey Hamilton came up big in his first SEC match, serving twice to stay in it at No. 3 doubles and then hitting a forehand winner down the line at 5-5 in the tiebreaker, setting up Scholtz' to serve it out for the first point of the match.
- The Rebels are a combined 14-3 at the two spots in the lineup, as junior Stefan Lindmark owns a 7-2 mark at No. 2 singles. He won both his doubles and singles to help in the win over Vanderbilt.
- The Rebels have now won 10 of the last 11 meetings against Vanderbilt.
- Ole Miss is coming off a 4-1 performance at the Felsberg Invitational hosted by FIU this past weekend in Miami.
- The Rebels' 12-5 start is the best through 17 games since posting the same mark to open the 2010 season.
- With a pair of one-run wins this past weekend, the Rebels have played in seven one-run games with a 5-2 record.
- Ole Miss has played 18 consecutive games on the road and will play 21-of-22 on the road to open the season.
- The Rebels have four players hitting over the .350 mark, paced by sophomore OF Miranda Strother at a .537 clip.
- Sophomore P Emily Gaitan helped lead the Rebels at FIU, posting a 3-1 record and is now 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA.
- The Ole Miss women rose to No. 15 in the rankings last week, their highest ranking since 1999.
- The Rebels opened SEC play on the road at No. 25 Kentucky and No. 13 Vanderbilt and lost a tight match to the Wildcats, 4-3, before dropping a 6-1 decision to the Commodores to close out the road trip.
- Senior Julia Jones, ranked No. 14, went 1-1 in singles and picked up her 93rd career last Friday in the loss to Kentucky. She is now 19-5 overall and 9-2 at No. 1 singles.
- Ole Miss hosted the Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships this past weekend and finished fifth overall with a 4613 aggregate.
- Freshman Jessica Haig led the Rebels with a personal best 579 in smallbore followed by a 590 in air rifle. She finished with the 11th best combined score in her first conference championships.
- Sophomore Sarah Emery shot a career-best 584 in air rifle.
The calendar turned to March, as the men's and women's basketball teams march toward the SEC Tournament and postseason play. The baseball team faced perhaps its biggest challenge of nonconference play. The softball and men's tennis teams each had another strong week, while the men's track and field team did something they had not done since 1984. All of that, and football spring practice begins this week. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:
- The Ole Miss men's basketball team dropped a pair of games this past week at home against Georgia and on the road at LSU, two teams ranked in the top 50 RPI, and like the Rebels, also projected to be in the NCAA Tournament, heading into the last week of the regular season.
- Ole Miss, now 19-10 overall and 10-6 in SEC play, entered Saturday as the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament, and with the loss to LSU, they fell to the No. 6 seed in the SEC Tournament, with a road game at Alabama on Tuesday and a home game against Vanderbilt on Saturday.
- Georgia and LSU, also 10-6, hold the respective tiebreakers over Ole Miss, but Georgia still has a home game against Kentucky and LSU still has a road game at Arkansas, so the Rebels may have an opportunity to move back up to the No. 4 seed with a sweep this week.
- For a closer look of what happened in the Rebels' road loss at LSU and their psyche going into their last regular season, check out my postgame blog from Baton Rouge here.
- Here's a reset of Ole Miss' NCAA Tournament resume entering the final week of the regular season: No. 50 RPI, 1-2 vs. the RPI top 25, 3-7 vs. the RPI top 50, 7-7 vs. the RPI top 100, 9-6 in home games, 7-4 in road games and 3-0 in neutral-site games. Alabama (No. 82) and Vanderbilt (No. 98) represent two more opportunities against RPI top 100 teams for the Rebels.
- As of the latest bracket projections Sunday, Ole Miss is a No. 9 seed in CBS Sports' Jerry Palm's bracket and a No. 11 seed in USA Today's Shelby Mast's bracket. Here's more from Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger, who talked to Palm and Mast about the Rebels' NCAA Tournament chances.
- The Ole Miss women's basketball team went 2-1 this past week week, highlighted by a 67-59 win over No. 13 Kentucky on Monday night. To make a strong case for the NCAA Tournament, the Rebels likely need to do some damage in the SEC Tournament next week, but they all but locked up a bid to the Postseason WNIT, which would be the program's first postseason appearance since the 2009-10 season.
- Ole Miss, now 17-12 overall and 7-9 in SEC play, has some opportunities ahead by virtue of earning the No. 8 seed in the SEC Tournament. They will play No. 9 seed Arkansas, a likely bubble team after going 0-2 this past week, and with a win over Arkansas, they would play No. 1 seed South Carolina, a likely No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which also boasts the No. 4 RPI in the nation.
- The No. 18 ranked Ole Miss baseball team faced their toughest tests of the young season, going 2-2 on the week, picking up a midweek home win over Arkansas State and taking one of three on the road from No. 15 UCF, handing the Knights their first loss of the season.
- In a series where all three games were decided by one run, Ole Miss strung together quality at-bats in the ninth inning to score the go-ahead run, while Wyatt Short worked 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, giving up just one hit with no walks and four strikeouts in a 4-3 win over UCF on Sunday.
"To win the last game, you feel a little better going home," said head coach Mike Bianco on the Ole Miss Radio Network after the win. "We're close. Thats' a really good team over there and team playing with a ton of confidence, an older group, and not just an older group, but a talented group. They played really well, and you can see the confidence when they have to execute certain things. Those first two games, we came up short in a few of those areas, and that's all it takes in a close game, so we end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard."
- Also, in the 4-3 win, senior right-hander worked a season-long 5.1 innings, giving up two runs on four hits with a walk and two strikeouts. It was also his longest outing since going 7.0 innings strong against Georgia on May 11, 2014. It's encouraging to see a return to form from the SEC's most experienced weekend starting pitcher, to go along with Christian Trent on Friday and Brady Bramlett on Saturday.
"He still has a ways to go, but today, he was sharp with all four pitches and really located them well," Bianco said. "He seemed to make pitch after pitch. Today, he was so much more consistent. He looked confident and he had great body language. We need him. He's a big part of this, so certainly it was a great start for him."
- The Ole Miss softball team traveled to sunny Miami and went 4-1 on the weekend, improving to 12-5 on the season. After playing their first 17 games on the road, and having the Red & Blue Classic cancelled, as well as a home doubleheader against Southern Miss postponed, both due to inclement weather, the Rebels play their first home game Tuesday against Memphis, before opening SEC play with a three-game weekend series at No. 4 Alabama.
- The No. 10 ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team swept its weekend home matches, picking up a 5-2 win over Tulane on Friday. and a 4-0 win over No. 16 Vanderbilt on Sunday. Senior Nik Scholtz, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, won his 16th and 17th consecutive home matches, defeating the No. 14 and No. 9 players in the nation. The win over Vanderbilt also gave head coach Toby Hansson a win in his first SEC match as head coach.
- The Ole Miss men's track and field team finished third at the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championships, its best finish since 1984, when the Rebels also finished third. Overall on the weekend, the men's team took home SEC titles, including a 1-2 finish in the men's mile by senior Daniel Bulmer and sophomore Craig Engels.
- Speaking of the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championship, check out athletics photographer Josh McCoy's Day 1 and Day 2 photo galleries from the event, as well his collection of snow day photos, taken Wednesday on the Ole Miss campus.
- In case you missed it, check out one of Ole Miss Sports Productions' latest offerings, "The Flagship," an Ole Miss football ticket promotion video.
- Former Ole Miss players Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt participated in on-field workouts at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine on Monday in Indianapolis. They will later participate in Ole Miss' annual pro day on March 5 (closed to the public) and will wait to hear their names called at the 2015 NFL Draft, which will be held from April 30-May 2.
- In the latest NFL Draft prospect rankings from CBS Sports, released after the combine, Prewitt is the No. 63 overall prospect (No. 1 free safety) and a projected second-round pick, while Golson is the No. 127 prospect (No. 16 cornerback) and a projected fourth-round pick. For more, check out my recap of their respective days at the Combine.
- Also, looking ahead, Ole Miss will begin spring football practices on Tuesday, which will include Hugh Freeze's pre-spring press conference at the Manning Center at 1 p.m. Spring practices will conclude with the 2015 Regions Bank Grove on April 11 at noon CT.
The numbers and bracket projections may not be in his favor at this point, but head women's basketball coach Matt Insell is selling the NCAA Tournament selection committee on his team passing the eye test, as Ole Miss enters its regular-season finale on the road at intrastate rival Mississippi State.
Ole Miss has won three in a row for the second time in Southeastern Conference play this season, highlighted by a win over No. 13 Kentucky this past Monday, but the Rebels have only seen a moderate bump in their RPI, up to No. 96 in the latest rankings released by the NCAA.
In the latest bracket projection from ESPN's Charlie Creme, released on Monday, not including Thursday's SEC games, the league had seven teams in the field, with Georgia as one of the "Next Four Out" and Ole Miss not among the teams considered.
"We're sitting here at 17-11 and 7-8 (in SEC play), and I'm looking at these bracketology things, and this is an NCAA Tournament team," Insell said. "The problem here is our RPI is not very high. I hope the selection committee, as they look at it, they will watch the eye test of Ole Miss.
"You look at Arkansas and Ole Miss, and the bracketologists say Arkansas is in as a 10-seed, and we beat them beat them by 14 points at our place in the head-to-head contest, and we're going to end up with basically the same record."
Ole Miss enter Sunday's matchup at Mississippi State, ranked No. 27 in the RPI, with a 5-11 record against the RPI Top 100, including a 2-7 mark against the RPI top 50, with wins over Kentucky (No. 12) and Arkansas (No. 45).
One of the marks against the Rebels' resume, along with their RPI, however, is their nonconference schedule. The slate included three RPI top 100 opponents, two in the RPI top 58, but it also included nine RPI sub-200 opponents. They won all nine of those games, but playing the games themselves work against their overall resume.
"I have never seen an 8-8 team not get in, but what they'll come back and say our RPI and our out-of-conference schedule wasn't the greatest," Insell said. "We had a young team with eight newcomers. If we would have gone out and played one of the best schedules in the country, we wouldn't be sitting here because we would have killed their confidence before we even got going."
With a win at Mississippi State, Ole Miss would not only add a resume win, a win that would be the Rebels' best road win of the season, but it would also lock them into the No. 7 seed at next week's SEC Tournament in Little Rock, Arkansas, where they might still need to pick up a win, maybe two, to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
"We need to get to 8-8 and we need to win one in the SEC Tournament," Insell said. "If we do that, I think there's no chance we're not in. If we slip up and don't do that, you put in the committee's hands. This team is fighting to get in the tournament."