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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Oct. 13-19)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Oct. 13-19, 2014

Football
- Ole Miss rode its dominant defense to a 34-3 homecoming win over Tennessee on Saturday to improve to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in Southeastern Conference play.
- The Rebels are 7-0 for just the second time in school history. The other time was in 1962 when the team went 10-0 and earned a share of the national title.
- The Rebel defense held Tennessee without a touchdown and limited the Vols to zero rushing yards in yet another impressive showing. The "Landshark" defense now leads the nation allowing just 10.6 points per outing.
- Senquez Golson intercepted two more passes to increase his SEC lead to seven interceptions, which ranks second nationally.
- Freshman DE Marquis Haynes had 2.5 sacks (of the team's seven total) and now ranks third in the conference and tied for 10th in the nation with 6.5 sacks this year.
- The Vaught-Hemingway Stadium crowd of 62,081 was third-largest in school history.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss went 2-0 last week, earning a 3-1 win at Auburn followed by a 3-2 win at Alabama to improve to 18-3 overall and 4-3 in the SEC.  
- The win at Auburn marked the Rebels' first SEC road win of the season and snapped a three-match losing streak to the Tigers.
- Ole Miss rallied from a 2-1 deficit to hand Alabama its first home loss of the season on Sunday. The Rebels have now won five of the last eight meetings against the Crimson Tide, which had an RPI of 29 coming into the match.
- Freshman Lexi Thompson notched a career-high 23 kills in the win against Auburn and then posted a double-double of 15 kills and 14 digs in the win at Alabama.
- Aubrey Edie tallied 48 assists at Auburn and then recorded 56 assists at Alabama, paving the way for four Ole Miss players to record double-digit kills, including Thompson, Nakeyta Clair, Melanie Crow and Ty Laporte.
- Clair tallied 13 kills and four blocks while hitting .333 at Auburn.  Against Alabama, she posted a team-high 17 kills, including the match clincher, and hit .560. She now has 13 matches with at least 10 kills and 17 matches with at least a .300 hitting percentage.
- The Rebels, winners of three in a row, are now the only conference team undefeated at home (9-0).  The Rebels currently own the best overall record in the league at 18-3 and moved up in the standings to fifth after the weekend wins.
- Aubrey Edie was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week. That makes five of the first eight weeks for the Rebels to earn one of the league's weekly honors.  The Rebels lead the league with five different players recognized to date.

Men's Tennis
- The Rebels participated in the USTA/ITA Southern Regionals last weekend in Auburn, Alabama.  Junior Stefan Lindmark reached the semifinals in singles and senior William Kallberg and freshman Gustav Hansson reached the semifinals in doubles.
- It marked the third year in a row and the fourth year in the last five for the Rebels to have a singles semifinalist.  It also marked the fourth year in the last five for the Rebels to have a doubles semifinalist as well.
- Junior Joe Rogers and freshman Zvonimir Babic teamed up for the first time to reach the quarterfinals in doubles.

Cross Country - Men
- Against a field consisting of nine of the top 30 teams in the nation, the Ole Miss men's cross country team grabbed an eighth-place finish in the Pre-Nationals Invitational on Saturday.
- Freshman Sean Tobin led Ole Miss in his second meet by clocking a time of 25:03.4 in the 8K, good for 48th overall.
- Junior Wes Gallagher (25:12.7) and sophomore Robert Domanic (24:36.88) finished 55th and 61st, respectively, to round out the top three Rebels at the meet.

Cross Country - Women
- The Ole Miss women raced a young team in the 6K, consisting of four freshmen, two sophomores and a senior.
- Freshman Shelby Brown (22:46.4) recorded the best time for the Rebels for the second consecutive meet.

Soccer
- Ole Miss had an 0-2 weekend, dropping a pair of road matches at Kentucky and South Carolina.
- Ole Miss returns home to host Missouri on Friday night after an extended road swing that has seen the Rebels go almost a month without playing a home match.
- Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick will set the school record for shutout victories (23) with her next shutout this season, currently she is tied with Brittany Gillespie who set the mark in 2003.
- Two of the final three regular-season matches will be at home for the Rebels, which also host Tennessee on Oct. 30 to close out the regular season on Senior Day, honoring McCormick.

Women's Golf
- The Ole Miss women's golf team sent Alison Hovatter, Maria Toennessen and Sofia Idoyaga as individuals to the Mercedes Benz Championship over the weekend.
- Hovatter led the Rebels, finishing in a tie for 22nd-place with a three-day score of 224.
- Hovatter's 224 is a season-low 54-hole score and her second round score of 70 was a season-low for 18 holes.

The winning formula revealed itself as it has throughout the season: a dominant defense and a mistake-free offense. The Ole Miss defense forced four turnovers, while the Ole Miss offense did not commit a single turnover in a workmanlike 34-3 win over Tennessee on Saturday night.

In addition to four turnovers, the Rebels held the Volunteers to 191 yards of total offense, including zero rushing yards, due in large part to a season-high seven sacks and 12 tackles for loss. 

"If you look at the stats, which everyone does, you have to figure, if we can score 17 to 20, to the mid 20's, we have a chance to win a lot of games with the way they're playing," head coach Hugh Freeze said.

Stat-wise, head coach Hugh Freeze called it the best performance from the defensive line in his two-plus years at Ole Miss.

"We got consistent pressure with just the front four," Freeze said. "We blitzed very few times. And we held a team to zero rushing yards. When you make somebody one-dimensional, you have a good chance to be successful."

More than any other stat, and there are a lot of good stats on the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack points to Tennessee finishing with zero rushing yards on 28 attempts.

"That's the number one thing on your sheet when you talk to them on Sunday about what you have to do to beat the next team," Wommack said. "If you can do that, you're going to win pretty consistently. You're going to get off the field because we're good enough in pass rush and in coverage. If we get you in second- and third-and-long situations, it's difficult to score and move the ball on us."

Freshman Marquis Haynes, the reigning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, led the way up front with 2.5 sacks, giving him 4.5 sacks over the last two games and 6.5 sacks for the season.

"I have been saying it since August, he's probably going to break the sack record here," junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said. "He's that good. He's going to be a really good player for us the rest of the season. He's been what everybody on our defense expected."

On the back end of the defense, the Rebels' extended their streak to 30 games where they forced at least one turnover. In the process, senior cornerback Senquez Golson picked off two passes, giving him seven interceptions for the season. 

"He's been in the right place at the right time," Wommack said. "He's played technique so well. It's good for our team. It depends on how they want to attack us. He's done a great job for us."

Offensively, Ole Miss was balanced, rushing for 180 yards and passing for 203 yards, exploding for 14 points in the span of four minutes late in the first half and extending the lead in the second half. 

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace was efficient, completing 13-of-28 passes for 199 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. More importantly, he made it four SEC games without a turnover.

"That is music to my ears," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "We obviously didn't play great. I know our stats weren't very good, but we did not turn the ball over. That's the thing I have been harping on with those guys. 

"With the way our defense is playing, if we protect the football, we have a really good chance to win games."

The Rebels are 7-0 for just the second time in school history, and it's no secret what the winning formula has been.

"We try to set the tempo for the whole football team," Johnson said. "We know our offense is capable of scoring points and they have a lot of playmakers."


Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss faces Tennessee for Homecoming on Saturday.

'Third Down for What'

Tennessee is very dangerous, Ole Miss football head coach Hugh Freeze said, because its talented, particularly if it gets momentum and confidence during the course of the game.

The talents starts on defense, led by senior middle linebacker A.J. Johnson, a preseason All-American who leads the Southeastern Conference in tackles per game (11.3). Tennessee ranks top-20 nationally in scoring defense (19.2 ppg allowed), total defense (316.3 ypg allowed) and passing defense (160.2 ypg allowed).

One of the more interesting situational matchups will be third downs, where Tennessee leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally in defensive third-down conversion (26.4 percent), and Ole Miss ranks fifth in the SEC and 22nd nationally in offensive third-down conversion (46.8 percent).

"They have good cover guys and they have good athletes and can play some man coverage to get after you with the pass rush," Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Matt Luke said. "They have a nice third-down package where they bring in some more speed and take out a D-lineman. They're flying around and playing really hard, playing with an edge."

Landsharks Not Satisfied

The Ole Miss defense has been regarded as one of the best in the nation, if not the best in the nation, giving up just 11.8 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks second nationally. 

The Rebels are also tied for the SEC lead and eighth nationally with 16 turnovers forced, as they have scored almost as many touchdowns (4) as they have allowed this season (6).

Ole Miss shut out Texas A&M in the first half but allowed three second-half touchdowns, including two touchdowns on the last three drives of the game, which has not sit well with members of the defense.

"That was aggravating for us," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "We want to be the No. 1 defense in the nation. For them to score 20 points on us is aggravating for all of us. That's one thing we have taken upon ourselves. We have a couple more games to prove we are the defense that people think we are."

"We gave up way too many points," senior cornerback Senquez Golson said. "It was a great thing we won, but after the game as a defense, we talked and said that it was not acceptable if you want the big games."

Big Games for Wallace, Nkemdiche?

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace is coming off his lowest passing total, having completed 13-of-19 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions, but it didn't matter because the running game topped 150 yards and the defense accounted for two touchdowns in a 35-20 win over Texas A&M.

Depending on the flow of the game, Saturday might present an opportunity for Wallace to air it out and help his campaign for individual awards and honors.

"One thing he's done for us, when our defense is playing well, we're really trying to manage the game," said Freeze of Wallace. "His numbers the other night could have been a lot better because we had some things in the passing game. In that environment, when you're playing in front of 110,000 who are itching to be a factor in the game, the last thing I want to do is give them anything to be excited about."

Like Wallace, sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche finds himself in the conversation for individual awards and honors, having been named to various outlets' midseason All-America team and added to the Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List.

Nkemdiche has put up modest numbers, totaling 14 tackles with a tackle for loss and one sack, and now faces a Tennessee offensive line that ranks last in the SEC and 121st nationally, giving up 3.83 sacks per game.

"He does so many good things in there, but his production's just not up as far as stats and numbers," Ole Miss defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "But as far as technique and all that, he's constantly getting better like I've always said about him."

Highlights from today's media opportunity with SEC Nation host Joe Tessitore and analysts Tim Tebow and Marcus Spears discussing the show's visit to Oxford for the SEC matchup between No. 3 Ole Miss and Tennessee. 

Tessitore recalls calling the first college game for the Rebels' star-studded sophomore class, Tebow talks about Bo Wallace's improvement as a quarterback, and Spears sees similarities between this year's Ole Miss team and his 2003 LSU team that won the national championship.

SEC Nation Host Joe Tessitore

On the backdrop of The Grove for SEC Nation...

"When I have done Ole Miss games before, I always get to the stadium early, so I can walk through The Grove and take that all in. It should be pretty special to have the SEC Nation set fired up. 

"When you look at our set, it should scream Ole Miss to you. When you look at it, you know what you're watching. That's one of the things I like about our set. You look at it and you know you're watching grand Southern football. It fits in beautifully here. It looks like it could be part of your campus. 

"I like how open it is, and it allows us to play to the crowd. You will see us tomorrow, when we're live on the air, stand up, turn to the crowd and interact with them during commercial breaks. This is a magic ride kind of season here, so it's going to be a celebratory kind of morning."

On the sophomore class, having called their first college game...

"That group, you knew. I could remember that afternoon, sitting there and hyping up (Robert) Nkemdiche in his debut, and you just knew it was going to happen. And to be able to say a year later that they have even over-delivered on all the hype, it's true. 

"It was an incredible recruiting class that, in a span of 18 months, has Ole Miss competing for a national title. That's as good as a group you're going to see. But it takes that kind of a group. It takes guys who buy in and all believe. Laquon Treadwell was a huge part of that. 

"I'm one of those geeks who follow recruiting, so I know the role he played in corralling everyone and buying into the vision early, a vision that's pretty easy to buy when Hugh Freeze is selling it."

SEC Nation Analyst Tim Tebow

On Ole Miss...

"What stands out is the heart they play with offensively and defensively. Everybody talks about the Landshark defense flying around, but you look at guys like Jaylen Walton fighting through tackles. That's just heart. They play together and they play as a family.

"Spending the day with Coach Freeze and the team yesterday, you could really see that and the environment they set. It seems like it's a fun time for all these players right now."

On Bo Wallace...

"He's improved a lot. In SEC play, he doesn't have a turnover. He's making big plays, but he's also not making big errors in the biggest of games. That's been huge, especially when you have a big-time defense. 

"What I like most about Bo is that courage and leadership and that 'it' factor he has, like on that 3rd-and-9 last week versus Texas A&M. 

"He knows where the sticks are, he fights through the line of scrimmage and he dives and goes over a defender to get the first down. That ultimately led to a touchdown, and they went up 28-7 and that was a huge play in the game. He has that 'it' that you can't necessarily teach."

SEC Nation Analyst Marcus Spears

On the backdrop of The Grove for SEC Nation...

"It's awesome. We should have a pretty good crowd. This is their network. That's how we resonate on campus. People understand we're more personable and we know the history of each school. It will resonate with people, and hopefully it's hyped up out here. It's a pretty big game. 

"Tennessee is not whatever they think they are. Tennessee has played everybody down to the wire. They have lost some close games. They're one of those teams on the cusp. The energy in the crowd should be good tomorrow."

On Robert Nkemdiche...

"He's a man's man. He's a beast. He plays with a high intensity level. He can knock guys back and he has great bend. I know I sound like a pro scout, but he can win with leverage and he wins with tenacity. He has it all, all of the tools. He can be a D-end or a D-tackle in the NFL. That poses a lot of problems for offensive lines. 

"First of all, you can move him, and he can be as effective from different positions. That's what I like about him. More than anything, I like his attitude and I like the way he plays."

On the transformation of Ole Miss under head coach Hugh Freeze...

"Coach Freeze has done a tremendous job. He's implemented a philosophy with this football team. He's put guys in place and he's recruited well. In order to stay atop this league, you have to have players. That's what it really boils down to. 

"All these coaches, we call them great, and we say they won so many games. It's about these players. The coaches, structurally, put them in the right position and put them in successful spots to make plays, but it comes down to the talent and the talent level. 

"We talk about Alabama, LSU, Auburn, all these schools that have been at the top. It's about talent, and now Hugh Freeze has a team that's as talented as anybody in the country. 

"You have a great quarterback who's playing really consistent right now, not turning the football over, offensive line, (Laquon) Treadwell out on the corner making plays.

"And this defense. It reminds me of the '03 LSU Tigers. It's a good mix, and it's a great group of talent, and it's coming together. Everybody is believing in what they're doing. That's to Coach Freeze's credit. It's about those guys he's putting out there on the football field, and I'm sure he would tell you the same thing."

On comparisons between the 2003 LSU team and this year's Ole Miss team...

"It starts with winning games. It starts with a belief system that you can compete against anybody in the country, that you have the talented and the play-makers to win every football game. That was our train of thought. We thought we were stacked in enough positions that there was no team you could roll out in college football and say LSU was not physically better or LSU did not have level of talent. 

"Ole Miss is in that same boat right now. Alabama has a tremendous amount of talent like they have always had, but if you go man for man in the whole country, I stack this Ole Miss team up against anybody, especially on defense."

On the Ole Miss running game...

"What Ole Miss is doing as well as anybody right now, is they're winning games defensively, and you can do it. That has been proven in the NFL and that has been proven in college, but I think Bo Wallace gives them the extra oomph that they need to win big games and put themselves in position to be in the College Football Playoff.

"The run game is a little different. Sometimes your team ins't built that way, but throwing these quick bubble screens is the same as a handoff. Getting these guys in space to make plays in the open fields is the equivalent of a handoff. Everything is not deep down the field.

"We look at turning around and handing the ball off to the running back as the run game. A lot of these teams are revolutionizing that by throwing quick hitches to receivers, then they beat a corner and they might go to the house. They have implemented stuff like that to help them out a lot. 

"Eventually, it will come town to a game or this year, where they will have to figure out to establish the run game. If they can, they will have success. They are just as good as anybody, if they show they can do that."

On the Ole Miss defense...

"You have to overcome to so much as a football team playing against this defense. The way they play, not only the way they play, but they creative turnovers. And that's huge. 

"A team can only give up 305 yards per game, which they consider pretty good, and they only gave 70-80 rushing yards, and they consider that pretty good, but when you have a defense like this that does that and creates turnovers and scores, it's tough to beat. 

"We led the league in scoring touchdowns on defense when we won the national championship. It's a formula that you can win with, and they have the guys to do it."

At the halfway point of the regular season, Ole Miss is 6-0 for the first time since 1962, when it went 10-0 and earned a share of the national title. It's No. 3 ranking in the national polls is its highest since being No. 1 in the 1964 preseason poll. 

With its success through the first six games, Ole Miss featured prominently in outlets' midseason honors and predictions for the rest of the season.

From CBS Sports: Dennis Dodd names Cody Prewitt the defensive player of the year, and Jerry Hinnen names Senquez Golson the most surprising player. Dodd, Hinnen and Jerry Palm all predict Ole Miss will win the national title, among other mentions.

From CBS Sports: Robert Nkemdiche, Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt were all named to the outlet's midseason All-America team.

From ESPN.com: Gene Wojciechowski ranks Ole Miss No. 2 in his top 10 and seeds Ole Miss No. 2 in his four-team playoff, among other mentions in his awards for the first half of the season.

From ESPN.com: Chris Low forecasts the winner of the Egg Bowl will play for the SEC Championship, and Ole Miss will be included in the four-team playoff.

From ESPN.com: Laremy Tunsil and Senquez Golson were named to the outlet's midseason All-America team. 

From ESPN.com: Evan Engram, Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche, Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt were named to the outlet's midseason All-SEC team

From ESPN.com: Todd McShay names Hugh Freeze coach of the year and Cody Prewitt a prospect on the rise in midseason awards handed out by himself and Mel Kiper Jr. (Insider)

I'll go with Freeze, but I couldn't argue with Mullen, either. Freeze and his staff have done a great job of developing a lot of young key contributors, and they've also worked with QB  Bo Wallace to get him to play within the scheme and limit mistakes, which has been critical to the team's success so far. The Rebels are 6-0 for the first time since 1962, including consecutive wins over Alabama and at Texas A&M.

The entire Ole Miss defense (aka the "Landsharks") has been sensational. But Prewitt is the senior captain who shows up every week. He's not exceptional in any area, with just average straight-line speed at 6-1 and 220 pounds, and he's likely a midround NFL draft pick. But he's a very good all-around football player whose best quality is his football smarts. He came up big Saturday with a 75-yard pick-six. 

From ESPN.com: Brock Huard ranks Bo Wallace No. 6 among his top 10 quarterbacks in the nation. On a scale from 1-10, he rates him as a 9 on college production and rates him a 7 on NFL skills. (Insider)

The state of Mississippi is the belle of the ball at the midway point, and it's no surprise that QB play and defense are the signature staples of both teams' success. Hugh Freeze and Dan Mullen place a premium on QB run, decision-making and controlling tempo from the QB spot, and while Bo is not the physically imposing athlete of his in-state counterpart Dak, his ability to limit mistakes and play his best in the second half and fourth quarter in particular (six TDs/six INTs in first halves, nine TDs/0 INTs in second halves) is why the Rebels are unblemished.

In fact, Wallace's fourth-quarter efficiency (269.2) is tops in the country. Freeze told me in Week 2 that his defense was title-worthy, and if Bo and the Ole Miss offense could stay healthy up front, they could compete for the ultimate prize. So far, so good in Oxford.

From NFL.com: Daniel Jeremiah names Laremy Tunsil the best offensive line in the nation, and Gil Brands predicts head coach Hugh Freeze will win coach of they year and Ole Miss will will the national title.

From NFL.com: Bryan Fischer predicts Ole Miss will win the SEC West.

From Sports Illustrated: Brian Hamilton predicts Hugh Freeze will win coach of the year, and Andy Staples predicts both Ole Miss and Mississippi State will make the four-team playoff.

From Sports Illustrated: Robert Nkemdiche and Cody Prewitt were named to the outlet's first team All-America team, and Senquez Golson was named to the outlet's second team.

From Sporting News: Matt Hayes ranks Senquez Golson No. 10 in his re-ranking of the top 25 players in the nation.

From Sporting News: Laremy Tunsil and Senquez Golson were named to the outlet's midseason All-America team.

Phil Steele also released his All-America and All-SEC teams, with Ole Miss featuring prominently on both team. Laremy Tunsil, Robert Nkemdiche and Senquez Golson were named to the first team All-America team, and Cody Prewitt was named to the second team. Tunsil, Nkemdiche, Golson and Prewitt were joined by Evan Engram on the first team All-SEC team, while Bo Wallace, Laquon Treadwell and Tony Conner were named to the second team.

With a dominant defense that ranks among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, head coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged he has changed his offensive philosophy and play-calling to limit negative plays and quick possessions.

Ole Miss averaged the second-most offensive plays (74.0) in the SEC in 2012 and averaged the most offensive plays (78.3) in the SEC in 2013. Through six games this season, the Rebels average a more modest 70.8 plays per game, which ranks ninth in the SEC. 

"You're more concerned now with not putting yourself in the hole because of negative plays, whether they are turnovers or plays of minus-two yards or minus-three yards," Freeze said. "When you go fast, the possibilities increase as defenses catch up to it."

The more deliberate tempo has also helped quarterback Bo Wallace manage the game more and allowed the team to play to its strength on defense.

"When the defense has played like it's playing, you just want to make sure you manage the game from an offensive perspective, where it gives you the best advantage to win," Freeze said.

O-Line Continues to Progress

Fahn Cooper has started every game at right tackle, but he's made great strides of late, as he graded out well and helped Ole Miss play a clean game with only two penalties, two sacks allowed and zero turnovers against Texas A&M.

"He played more, and then we tried to work (Robert) Conyers in at center," said offensive line coach Matt Luke of Cooper. "That plays a factor, too. I have a lot of confidence in Robert, but Fahn has obviously been getting better each and every week."

Another offensive lineman who has made great strides is freshman offensive guard Rod Taylor, who continues to play more snaps as the season progresses, and Luke will look to play him more this week against Tennessee.

"Rod had probably his best week of practice last week and this week," Luke said. "He's just a very, very talented young man. He has got a bright, bright future ahead, and you're going to see him play a little bit more this week. I wrote that down in my notes when he got in there. He was very productive. He needs to be playing more, and he will."

Webster Impresses in First Career Start

With the suspension of Rover safety Trae Elston for the first half against Texas A&M, Mike Hilton slid over from cornerback to Elston's spot, and Kendarius Webster made his first career start at cornerback.

Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said Webster did well, noting his maturity for his age, as helped Ole Miss pitch a first-half shutout against Texas A&M.

"In fall camp and practice, we put him up against Laquon to see how he would hold up, and at times, he held his own," Jones said. "If he continues to work, like I think he will, he's going to end up being a really good player."

Coaches continue to rave about Hilton, who's now started at four positions in the Ole Miss secondary in three seasons. The do-it-all player ranks second on the team with 34 tackles and leads the teams and ranks second in the SEC with six pass breakups.

"Mike is a sharp football player," Jones said. "He understands it. He's played every position in the secondary, almost every position on the dense except for defensive line. He's a coachable young man. 

"Whatever you ask him to do, it's always, 'Yes, sir.' We came in and had to move him to Rover, and he said, 'OK, coach, whatever I need to do to help the team.' That's the attitude he has. He's smart and he can get out there and execute and play fast."


Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in Oxford.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:04:00 mark)

Opening statement

"We're looking forward to another great SEC football game here in Oxford. I know our fans are enjoying the year we're having, and it's always good to play in front of them and the excitement we have here in town. It's an extremely talented Tennessee team. 

"The job that Coach Jones has done there in a short amount of time is impressive. They're scary on tape because they're hungry and they're playing very passionate football with great young talent. We're going to have to play another solid game for us to have a chance on Saturday."

On the development of cornerback Senquez Golson...

"The first thing I probably need to point out is how much he has changed as a person, which is the key to why he's playing better. He's always been a talented kid. When I first got here, I definitely questioned whether he had the heart, drive and discipline to be quality enough to play in a program like this. I think he would tell you the same.

"Now that he has made the decision to be dedicated and be a team player who buys into our core values and the way we want do things, his talent on the field has really taken off. He dedicated himself this year in the offseason to be the best he can be. And I'm thrilled he's getting the results on the field."

On avoiding a letdown game against Tennessee...

"I don't know that you can. You depend on the leadership of the team. I know our coaches are peaching the right things to them. If our team vales their standing right now, they will certainly come out and play. I don't know if you are always going to have your team emotionally charged, but it's very possible to play with passion. It shows in the way you pursue the football on defense and the way you execute on offense.

"I don't really worry too much about that. I know it's a popular question, but if we're ready to take the next step and value our standing, then you will be accountable to doing that, and that's the message they hear from us consistently."

On quarterback's Bo Wallace lack of turnovers in SEC play, whether it's maturation or better decision-making by him...

"I think it's both, and we have changed some that has helped him. With our defense playing so well this year, I have really been trying to manage the game differently. 

"Bo has understood and accepted that, and he's had to make to make plays when he's made them. He's definitely much more mature and understands now we don't have to score every possession. He can make better decision when things aren't there."

On whether he expected this type of defensive success before the season...

"I did. I began to question that when we lost two starters and one backup in Tee Shepard, Chief Brown and Carlos Davis. Tee was going to be a really vital part to give us a long, rangy corner that could win a lot of 1-on-1 battles. Chief is an experienced kid that has played a lot of snaps for us.

"You begin to doubt what would happen if we have more injuries like we did last year. Fortunately, we have not. I did feel like we were going to pretty good up front, which I know is the starting point. And I knew we were longer and faster."

On adjusting offensive tempo and play-calling in two-plus years at Ole Miss...

"I have definitely changed this year. We're not as concerned about tempo in a consistent manner. We still do it, and we'll have spurts of it. I kind of did a study last year, and we had too many negative plays in tempo. 

"Some of the change has to do with our defense. We have recruited well and built this team around the defense. The last thing you need is a lot of quick possessions and creating negative plays, where you don't convert first downs. I have changed this year, and we have tried to manage the game quite a bit differently."

On similarities between Ole Miss and Tennessee...

"The first thing I see is they have recruited extremely well. None of us are great coaches without players who can make plays. Coach Jones and his staff have certainly done that. They have tremendous young talent. That's how we were after our first full recruiting class. We played a ton of freshmen just like they're doing. 

"Those freshmen are scary. They're obviously young and make mistakes sometimes, just like ours did and still do. They are so talented. It's a scary talent because not only have they recruited well, but they're playing with hunger and passion, which I think we did in our first couple of years also. 

"We were in a lot of games where maybe we didn't stack up as well. We were in a lot of games with those teams. That's what they're proving this year, and it's only a matter of time before they break through."

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones (starts at 40:50 mark)

Opening statement

"It's a great, great challenge going up against a very, very solid football team. They're very complete in all areas -- offense, defense and special teams. They're very well-coached and play with an entire mentality. They're the No. 2 in scoring defense in the country. They returned nine of their 11 starters from last year, and their backups have had significant playing time as well. They take the ball away.

"Offensively, it starts with their quarterback Bo Wallace. He's been very competitive, gritty, andy e's playing winning football. It's going to be a tremendous, tremendous challenge for this football team."

On the Ole Miss defense...

"They have been very dominant. And it starts up front. They have been able to win the line-of-scrimmage game. Their linebackers are very, very active, downhill players, very physical, and they have a tremendous, tremendous secondary. 

"They're playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger right now, and again, they're very, very physical. It's a very, very complete defense, when you look at all levels of their defense, starting up front, then the linebacker position and then in the backend as well. They feed off of each other, and you can see where they have played a lot of football together as well."

On points at a premium against the Ole Miss defense...

"You do (expect points to be at a premium). You look at how many touchdown they have given up, and a lot of those touchdowns were in end-of-game situations. When you go into a game like this, every point is critical. And field position becomes critical as well."

On the status of running backs Marlin Lane and Jalen Hurd...

"I do expect them. Jalen is progressing exceptionally well. He has not missed a rep in practice. Marlin is a little bit slower than Jalen right now in terms of getting back, but he did practice. Again, there's time yet. They're getting extra treatments. I fully anticipate Jalen will play, and we're hoping Marlin will be available as well."

Game-Manager Bo

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Head coach Hugh Freeze admitted the offense played well enough to manage the game and let the defense win it. 

Ole Miss leaned on its running game, rushing for 160 yards on 35 carries, while Bo Wallace completed 13-of-19 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions. 

Most importantly, the Rebels won the turnover battle and protected the football, which proved to be a winning formula, as the Rebels cruised to a 35-20 win at Texas A&M.

"One thing he's done for us, when our defense is playing well, we're really trying to manage the game," said Freeze of Wallace. "His numbers the other night could have been a lot better because we had some things in the passing game. In that environment, when you're playing in front of 110,000 that are itching to be a factor in the game, the last thing I want to do is give them anything to be excited about."

Wallace is the only SEC quarterback to rank top-four in the SEC in total offense, passing yards and pass efficiency. He also ranks second in the SEC, completing 68.5 percent of his passes, and ranks third in the SEC, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt.

Most impressively, since the second half of the season opener, Wallace has thrown 14 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He has also not turned the ball over through three games in SEC play.

"I feel so much more relaxed going into games," Wallace said. "I know if we punt the defense is going to go out and make a stop. I'm going into games confident and feeling good. I'm definitely not trying to force any balls."

Defense Limits Explosive Plays

The Ole Miss defense leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally, giving up just 4.31 yards per play. A large part of that success is due to limiting explosive plays. 

Opponents have run 428 plays this season. Among them, Ole Miss has allowed 64 plays of 10-plus yards, 19 plays of 20-plus yards and six plays of 30-plus yards, all of which rank among the top-20 nationally.

"I've always been a believer from being an offensive coach, if you make an offense have to drive a consistent drive, over and over again for 60-70 yards, we make mistakes on offense," Freeze said. "You're going to block a look wrong or something. It's very difficult if you don't get explosive plays. 

"When you get explosive plays, those drives get easier. If you really have to grind out first down after first down and then convert in the red zone, it's difficult. Our team has given up very few explosive plays and then we've been stingy when it does get in the red zone and made people settle for field goals."

This emphasis showed against Texas A&M, an explosive offense that ranks among the nation's leaders in yards per play and long plays from scrimmage. Ole Miss limited Texas A&M to 5.2 yards per play and just three plays of 20-plus yards, both of which were well below its season averages.

"We were playing a pretty good offense the other night at their place," Freeze said. "Over the last three years, they've probably been the No. 1 offense in the nation in yards and points, top three for sure. I would have to say we've improved. You're only judged by your last game, as we all know."

Prewitt Wants More on Defense

The Ole Miss defense ranks among the nation's leaders in most categories and has drawn praise from opponents and pundits alike, but safety Cody Prewitt, the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week, is his own harshest critic.

"I would give us a 'B' right now," Prewitt said. "I'm sure people from the outside would look in and say A-plus. Knowing the defense and knowing everything that goes into it, I would give us a B, maybe a B-plus, because I know about the small things that most people don't recognize -- small fits here or there, or missed assignments here or there. I would give us a B-plus, but on effort, I would give us an A-plus."

Ole Miss held the explosive Texas A&M offense to 20 points and shut out the Aggies in the first half for the first time in the Kevin Sumlin era. The three touchdowns allowed were just the fifth, sixth and seventh touchdowns allowed this season and only the second and third allowed by the first-string defense.

"That was aggravating for us," Prewitt said. "We want to be the No. 1 defense in the nation. For them to score 20 points on us is aggravating for all of us. That's one thing we have taken upon ourselves. We have a couple of more games to prove we are the defense that people think we are."

Related Links: 

Big Picture: Ole Miss' nasty D could have next Ndamukong Suh & more, writes Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports 

AP voters who put Ole Miss No. 1 really like Rebels' defense, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Ole Miss' defense is college football's most impressive unit, writes Matt Brown of Sports on Earth

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Oct. 6-12)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Oct. 6-12, 2014

Football
- The No. 3 Ole Miss Rebels showed they belong among the nation's upper crust with a dominating 35-20 win at No. 14 Texas A&M on Saturday.
- Ole Miss jumped out to a 21-0 first-half lead and led 35-7 in the fourth quarter before a pair of late Aggie touchdown strikes.
- The Rebels improved to 6-0 for the first time since 1962 and only the sixth time in school history.
- The Rebel defense held Texas A&M scoreless in the first half for the first time in the Kevin Sumlin era, and limited the Aggies to a season-low 20 total points.
- Cody Prewitt returned an interception 75 yards for a touchdown and Keith Lewis added a 21-yard fumble return for a score, marking the first time Ole Miss had two defensive touchdowns in a game since 1996 vs. Georgia.
- Bo Wallace accounted for three touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) and has yet to turn the ball over in a Southeastern Conference game this year.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss went 1-1 last week, falling to Arkansas on the road 3-0 before downing Mississippi State 3-0 at home Sunday. The Rebels improved to 16-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC.
- With Sunday's win, the Rebels set the school record for most consecutive home wins (9), and are off to their best start since the 1989 season when they started 17-2.
- Ole Miss improved to 68-23 against Mississippi State and has won seven of the last eight meetings.
- The Rebels hit .402 in the win over Mississippi State, which is their best hitting percentage in an SEC match this year and the second best overall.
- The Rebels rank among the top five in the SEC in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, kills per set, assists per set, service aces per set and blocks per set.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair continues to rank second in the league in hitting percentage at .425. She also ranks seventh in kills per set at 3.45.  Aubrey Edie ranks fourth in assists per set at 11.15.

Women's Tennis
- Ole Miss participated in the USTA/ITA Southern Regionals and senior Julia Jones captured the singles title with an impressive run. In the final, she rallied to defeat the top seed, Pleun Burgmans of Auburn, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(4) to punch her ticket to the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships, which will be held in November at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center.
• Competing in her first tournament of the fall, Jones defeated the Nos. 36, 42 and 61 ranked players to begin the year 6-0.
• Jones was the fourth singles finalist in the last five years for the Rebels, and the fourth player in school history to win it.
• Overall, the Rebels had a great tournament at the USTA/ITA Southern Regionals, with freshman Arianne Hartono reaching the quarterfinals, and the doubles team of Erin Stephens and Iris Verboven advancing to the semifinals before losing to the No. 1 ranked team in the nation in the third set.

Rifle
• Ole Miss dropped both its matches this past weekend, falling to No. 5 Murray State and No. 9 Nebraska.
• Against Nebraska, freshman Jessica Haig equaled her career-best with a 588 in air rifle.

Men's Golf
- Sophomore Ben Wolcott notched his third top-20 finish of the young season, placing 11th at the Jerry Pate Intercollegiate in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
- Wolcott fired a three-day total of 211 to just miss the top 10.
- The Rebels finished in a tie for 10th with Georgia State and UT-San Antonio after a team total of 293 in the final round gave them a three-round total of 873.

Women's Golf
- The Ole Miss women's golf team traveled to the UNC Tar Heel Invitational in North Carolina, the home state of senior Taelor Rubin (Raleigh, N.C.)
- The Rebels placed 18th and saw sophomore Maria Toennessen card a career-low round of 72 in the second round.

Behind an efficient offense and dominant defense, No. 3 Ole Miss defeated No. 14 Texas A&M, 35-20, on the road in front of a record-breaking crowd of 110,633 at Kyle Field. Here are some Ole Miss-Texas A&M related links and Tweets:

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Alabama Highlights from David Kellum of Ole Miss IMG

Where will Ole Miss rank after Texas A&M takedown, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Hostile crowd has no effect on Ole Miss, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Rebels had no hangover, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Bo Wallace's place key to Rebels' recent, and possible future, success, writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com

Instant Analysis: No. 3 Ole Miss 35, No. 14 Texas A&M 20, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

Ole Miss rolls past Texas A&M, stakes claim to No. 1 ranking, writes Craig Stephenson of AL.com

What we learned from Ole Miss 35, Texas A&M 20, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com

There is no doubting Ole Miss' Landshark defense after win over Texas A&M, writes Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report

Ole Miss dominates Texas A&M, moves to top of playoff projection, writes Jerry Palm of CBS Sports

College Football Rewind: When the SEC turns, it turns fasts, writes Jon Solomon of CBS Sports

Either Mississippi State or Ole Miss deserve No. 1 ranking, writes Laken Litman of USA Today

Three and Out: Bo Wallace, Ole Miss continue hot start with win over Texas A&M, writes Martin Rickman of Sports Illustrated

And in case you missed it, "Gigged: Ole Miss Cruises at Texas A&M" and "Landshark Defense Silences Record Crowd" on Ole Miss Blog. Speaking of the Ole Miss defense, here's the story of the Ole Miss Landshark from ESPN's Tom Rinaldi.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- What could Ole Miss do for an encore?

After a thrilling win over No. 1 Alabama, Ole Miss put its No. 3 national ranking on the line on the road at No. 14 Texas A&M. 

Playing in front of a state of Texas and SEC record 110,633 fans, Ole Miss went wire to wire with a 35-20 win that never felt as close as the final score indicated.

"We knew it wasn't a fluke," defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "We knew we were ready for Texas A&M. Both games, we knew we were supposed to win. We don't really care what the media says. We're going to keep playing and keeping getting better as a team."

Outside of a few moments in the third quarter, the Rebels took the crowd out of the game, taking a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and going into halftime with the same 21-0 lead. 

By the end of the game, most of the 110,000-plus had cleared out of Kyle Field, and the small but vocal pockets of Ole Miss fans drowned out their Texas A&M counterparts.

"It was important to come out with a great intensity in a hostile environment," Nkemdiche said. "The defense was great. We came out and didn't let them get anything. We went into halftime 21-0 and that was really big for us."

That intensity started with a defense that's one of, if not the best defenses in the nation.

Ole Miss held Texas A&M to 455 yards of total offense, a 5.2 yards per play average, with a significant amount of the yardage coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach. 

The Aggies entered the game ranked third nationally in total offense (583.2 ypg) and scoring offense (47.8 ppg) and fifth nationally in yards per play (7.5).

"I couldn't be more proud of the staff and the kids on defense and the way they're playing," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We stressed tonight in the second half because the offense didn't stay on the field enough. Those last couple of drives showed. The offense takes the blame for that. But any time you get defensive scores, it's big for you."

The Ole Miss defense, behind two touchdowns, equaled Texas A&M's scoring output, if not for the Aggies' last touchdown as time expired. 

Safety Cody Prewitt put Ole Miss ahead 21-0 with a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown, and linebacker Keith Lewis, making his second start of the season, pushed the lead out to 35-7 with a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown.

"We executed the game plan," Prewitt said. "We play how we're coached. We have great coaches and they have harped on all season to take the ball away and score."

The three touchdowns allowed were just the fifth, sixth and seventh touchdowns allowed this season and only the second and third allowed by the first-string defense.

"We're probably going to get ripped for letting them score 21 (sic) points because that's the level of expectation we set for ourselves," Nkemdiche said. "We have to do a job next week of cleaning things up and come out and play a better game.

"If somebody scores on us, someone wasn't doing their job because of the talent level and the people we have on defense. Nobody should score on us, no matter what."

With No. 3 Mississippi State's win over No. 2 Auburn, poll talk and playoff talk will only intensify going forward, particularly in the Magnolia State that took center stage in the college football world for the second straight week. Freeze was very candid in regard to the subject after the win over Texas A&M.

"We beat the number one team in the country last week, by some polls, and then we beat a top-15 opponents in their house in front of 110,000 tonight," Freeze said. 'I'll tell our team tomorrow, 'No one, no poll and no media gets to decide for us how we define ourselves,' and I'll tell them that again tomorrow. 

"It's good for our fans. They like that stuff. We could lose every game left on our schedule with the league we play in, so we better just focus on us. It would be great to be voted wherever they vote us. We would consider that an honor and we'll try to represent and be worthy of that voting. I'll tell our team, 'We don't give credence to it until the end of the year. That's when it really matters.'

"I do think the SEC West deserves two in the playoffs, though."

Three areas to watch as No. 3 Ole Miss travels to No. 14 Texas A&M on Saturday.

Battles in the Trenches

The Ole Miss D-line against the Texas A&M O-line, headlined by defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche for the Rebels and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi for the Aggies, will get the most attention, and deservedly so.

"They are a good offensive line," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "No doubt about it. "They have recruited well for a while at that position. It seems like they lose first-round picks and then replace them the next year."

But the other matchup in the trenches, the Ole Miss offensive line against the Texas A&M defensive line, is equally intriguing. The Ole Miss O-line, by all accounts, had their best performance of the season in the win over Alabama, while the Texas A&M D-line leads the SEC and is tied for eighth nationally with 19 sacks.

"Our offensive line has gotten better," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It's very hard to move the ball consistently on (Alabama's) defense. We made plays when we had to. Our offensive line played pretty solid for most of the game."

"They definitely gave me time to throw," quarterback Bo Wallace added. "It's one of the best jobs they've done since I've been here."

Leading the way for the Aggies is defensive end Myles Garrett, who already owns the freshman school record with 6.5 sacks, which ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally. He is also 1.5 sacks shy of Jadaveon Clowney's SEC freshman record for sacks.

"They're physical and fast," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "Starting with their D-line up front, those guys are athletic. One of their defensive ends, No. 15 (Myles Garrett), is sort of like our C.J. Johnson and going against him."

Making Special Teams Special

Ole Miss knocked off Alabama due in no small part to some big plays on special teams.

There was the forced fumble by Channing Ward and recovery by Kailo Moore that set up the game-winning touchdown. 

But there was also the brilliant punting of redshirt freshman Will Gleeson and a pair of long kickoff returns by Mark Dodson and Jaylen Walton that helped flip field position in favor of the Rebels.

Gleeson particularly has been a weapon for Ole Miss in that regard, averaging 45.1 yards per punt, which is third-best in the SEC and 14th-best nationally. He has also landed nine of his 16 punts inside the 20, including five inside the 10 and two inside 5.

On the other side of the coin, there was some shakiness on field goals and extra points, with a missed field and a pair of missed extra points. After Freeze re-opened the placekicking competition, freshman Gary Wunderlich beat out senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt-freshman Andy Pappanastos. 

Wunderlich has been the primary handler of kickoffs and connected on his first and only career field-goal attempt, a 46-yarder, against Alabama.

"He has always been very steady on the long ones," said Freeze of Wunderlich. "It's on the shorter ones that he gets a little quick and has been a little bit inaccurate. But I think he deserves a chance to get into a game and let's see. He hasn't missed one in a game other than an extra point that he got a little quick on. I'm going to give it to him and see what he does."

Preparing for the '12th Man'

The capacity of Kyle Field is 106,000, and Texas A&M is projecting 109,000-plus fans for the game Saturday, which would set a state of Texas football attendance record. 

Ole Miss has been piping in noise to practice this week to prepare for the crowd noise, but it will be the first true road experience for the first-year starters, such as junior center Ben Still and freshman guard Rod Taylor.

"I have a headache right now from the noise," Freeze said. "We have been blaring the speakers about as loud as we can. I can't hear anything that's going on with them, so that's probably pretty accurate with what we will get. We have seemed to handle it fairly well.

"Bo has been in those places before so that helps. We have a few new linemen who haven't, so that's always something that you have to adjust to a little bit, and hopefully we helped them get accustomed to it this week."

Through five games, sophomore Robert Nkemdiche has put up modest statistics, totaling 12 tackles with a tackle for loss, sack and quarterback hurry, but his impact has gone beyond the numbers.

Nkemdiche has been an integral part of an Ole Miss defense that ranks second nationally in scoring (10.2 ppg allowed) and leads the nation in fewest touchdowns allowed (three). The Rebels have also allowed just 4.1 yards per play, best in the SEC and fifth-best nationally.

"He does so many good things in there, but his production's just not up as far as stats and numbers," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "But as far as technique and all that, he's constantly getting better like I've always said about him. 

"He has a desire to get better. He just absolutely loves defensive tackle now where before, he didn't know if he wanted to play that. He's playing very well for us. You don't really notice it until all of a sudden you realize you're in the top five in total defense. Something is happening up front where he is."

Watching the film Wednesday, Kiffin also noted the improvement freshman Marquis Haynes has made through five games this season. Haynes started the season opener against Boise State and recorded his first career sack against Memphis.

"I was telling my guys how good Marquis Haynes is becoming for being a true freshman and really playing with zero game experience," Kiffin said. "He's constantly getting better, and the sky is the limit for him. He's so athletic. I see him getting better and better every week."


Wunderlich Wins Placekicking Job

After some shakiness in the kicking game in the win over Alabama, head coach Hugh Freeze re-opened the placekicking competition, and freshman Gary Wunderlich beat out senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt Andy Pappanastos.  

"Gary is going to get the start," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll go from there, but it's his to win or lose."

Wunderlich, an Under Armour All-American and rated the No. 1 kicker in the nation by Rivals.com, has been the primary handler of kickoffs and connected on his first and only career field-goal attempt, a 46-yarder, against Alabama.

"He has always been very steady on the long ones," said Freeze of Wunderlich. "It's on the shorter ones that he gets a little quick and has been a little bit inaccurate. But I think he deserves a chance to get into a game and let's see. He hasn't missed one in a game other than an extra point that he got a little quick on. I'm going to give it to him and see what he does."

Prepping for Garrett

Texas A&M boasts one of the nation's best pass rushes, recording 19.0 sacks, which leads the SEC and is tied for eighth nationally. And it started with freshman Myles Garrett, who was rated the top defensive end prospect in the nation. 

Garrett has started only two games, but he already owns the freshman school record with 6.5 sacks, which ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally. He is also 1.5 sacks shy of Jadeveon Clowney's SEC freshman record for sacks.

"He is a phenomenal talent," Freeze said. "He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."

Similar to piping in noise to prepare for what is expected to be 106,000-plus fans at Kyle Field, which would be a state of Texas football attendance record, Ole Miss is trying to simulate Garrett in scout team work this week.

"Victor Evans is the best we have," said Freeze of simulating Garrett. "He's a special athlete for sure. It's hard to prepare for him."


Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's game in College Station.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:23:16 mark)

Opening statement

"We're looking forward to going to College Station. It's one of the great venues in college football. It's certainly going to be a great challenge because of the atmosphere and the wonderful team that Kevin (Sumlin) has put together. 

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge stopping those guys and playing in that environment. It's going to be very tough, and we're looking forward to it, and I'm sure they are too. They're hungry to get back out and play after the loss they suffered last weekend. It will be a great SEC West game."

On refocusing his team after a big weekend and a big win...

"Every week, either you're going to be on the bitterness of a difficult loss or you're on the the high of an emotional win. Either one, we try to treat the same, and that is we have our normal Sunday meeting where we talk about the recent game and physically put it in the trash and then get back out and get going for the next one.

"It's worked for us on the bitter end. We have had some difficult losses in our two-plus years here and we have bounced back the next week from those and played really well. I don't know if we've had a lot of experience yet on this side of it. We had just the one last year when we beat LSU, which was ranked sixth at the time. I do like what I see right now in our preparation, and they follow the coaches' lead and move on very quickly."

On the difference with this year's Texas A&M team compared to the two previous years...

"They are more athletic on defense. Offensively, they don't have the threat of a guy extending plays quite like (Johnny) Manziel, but they are deeper at receiver and they really stretch you from sideline to sideline, and their quarterback plays extremely well. Their offensive line is one of the better ones I've seen in a long, long time. They're really good and athletic, and they do a good job.

"The only real difference you see is they may be a bit more athletic at every spot, but they don't extend plays quite like we have experienced the past couple of years."

On earlier players laying the ground work for the current success...

"I think of Donte Moncrief, Ja-Mes Logan and Gilbert Pena, and I'm sure I will forget somebody that is very key to us. Evan Swindall, Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray are others. They were solid kids that were 100 percent bought-in to our core values and doing things the right way. Mike Marry is another. 

"Those kids that I knew were bought-in really helped us overcome the negativity that may have existed when we got here within the team. They helped hold others accountable to the little things that I think is the reason you can bring a team together and start winning."

On Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett...

"He is a phenomenal talent. He's really quick-twitched. He has some good pass-rush moves that shows he's worked on in his craft. He's a guy who you better know where he is."

On Kevin Sumlin and the progressions of Ole Miss and Texas A&M over the last three years...

"We're old friends and we go way back and we did come in to the league at the same time. We've kind of made sure we knew what was going on in all those meetings and didn't embarrass ourselves too much. He's helped me through that. There are a lot of similarities in our progressions.

"We both believe in tempo offense. He may throw it a little more than we do, even though we can do that. Our defense is playing so well right now that I try not to do anything that causes us to get too far out of whack and stay in the game until late in it."

"There are a lot of similarities as far as how we're going about building it and recruiting. He's recruiting really well, and we have done OK in recruiting. Our philosophies are very similar. He's a player's coach, I know that about him, and hopefully our players would say the same about me."

Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin (starts at 1:31:35 mark)

Opening statement...

We're coming off of a disappointing loss last weekend at Mississippi State. We look forward to this week. We have another huge challenge. Ole Miss is a team playing really well. They're one of only 10 undefeated teams left in the country. 

"This will be our first SEC game at home. That will important for us to get back to Kyle Field and play at home. Our guys have approached the week in a good way and ready to get back on the field again."

On Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace...

"He is one of the few veteran quarterbacks in this league. This our third time playing against him. Bo has had his ups and downs over his career, but this year, he has really played like a true veteran. He made plays to win the game last week in a critical moment in a big game. There is no substitute for experience. 

"There's no doubt you see his leadership and his ability to be in the system for the amount of time he's been in the system. You see his confidence level and the confidence the coaching staff has in him with the situations they put him in. He's improved. He understands what they're trying to do, he's operating at a high level right now, and he's a big reason for their success offensively."

On defensive end Myles Garrett...

"He's a very talented young man. He was the number one defensive end in the country as a prospect. He's extremely explosive and naturally gifted. He's working on his technique, which is something all young guys are going to do. He's starting to see different blocking schemes, which is the greatest compliment. He was frustrated, and we explained to him that was the best compliment to pay him. 

"He's gone through that phase of it. Right now, it's a hard time for all talented freshmen that are playing or have been starting midway through the season, particularly in this league. He's still very young, he's raw, and he's getting better. Over the course of time, he's going to pick up weight and get stronger. He will be the first to tell you there's still a lot of room for him to improve."

On what a win over Alabama can do for your program...

"Alabama is such the standard program for college program, particularly when you're in this league because of their success over the course of the last decade of so, particularly when you're in the West. It becomes not only a big deal for your team, but also for your fan base and your university to say you can compete with the top of the league. It helps in recruiting, too.

"You don't me to tell you what it can do for you. All you have to do is look at the postgame at Ole Miss, and that will tell you enough and how big it was for them."

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 29-Oct. 5)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2014

Football
- Ole Miss outscored then-No. 1 Alabama 20-3 in the second half Saturday en route to a thrilling 23-17 victory over the Crimson Tide. It was the Rebels' first win over a top-ranked opponent in program history.
- Senior quarterback Bo Wallace went 18-31 for 251 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. Wallace finished the game by completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns. The win was the Rebels' first over Alabama since 2003 when Eli Manning was the Ole Miss quarterback.
- Despite Alabama entering the game averaging 42.0 points, the Ole Miss defense held the Crimson Tide to just 10 points. The Rebels also held Alabama to 3.8 yards per carry, which is nearly two yards fewer than its season average.
- Senior cornerback Senquez Golson sealed the game with an interception with 37 seconds remaining in the back of the Ole Miss end zone. Ole Miss has forced a turnover in 28 straight games, which ranks among the top five streaks nationally.
- The Rebels are 5-0 for the first time since 1962. Ole Miss is also 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play.

Soccer
- The Rebels posted a fourth undefeated weekend after playing Auburn to a 2-2 draw and posting the shutout victory over Alabama this past weekend.
- Senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick tied for first on the all-time shutout list at Ole Miss with a 1-0 victory at Alabama on Sunday. McCormick has 21 shutout wins for her career.
- Ole Miss will now have a bye week after moving the match with Georgia to the season-opener for the SEC Network, and return to action in two weeks with road matches at Kentucky and South Carolina.
- Jennifer Miller scored her second goal of the season, hitting the game-winner in the 1-0 victory at Alabama to extend the Rebels' win streak over the Crimson Tide to four matches.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss downed defending SEC Champion Missouri 3-0 in its only match of the week, snapping the Tigers' 20-match SEC win streak dating back to Nov. 23, 2012. The Rebels improved to 3-0 against Missouri in Oxford.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair posted a team-high 14 kills and hit .500 to lead the offensive attack, also adding three blocks defensively. Clair ranks second in the SEC in hitting percentage at .425.
- Freshman Taylor Alexander, in just her third start, posted a career-high eight blocks to lead the defensive effort. She had four blocks in the second set to help the Rebels erase a 22-16 deficit and win the set 25-23. For her efforts, Alexander was named the SEC Freshman of the Week.
- With the win, the Rebels improved to 8-0 at home this season.
- Head coach Steven McRoberts earned his 490th career win in the victory over Missouri.
- The Rebels rank second in the SEC in hitting percentage (.271), second in opponent hitting percentage (.167), third in assists per set (12.61), fourth in kills per set (13.54) and fourth in blocks per set (2.47).

Rifle
- Ole Miss hosted its second annual "Shoot Pink" match Saturday as part of the Ole Miss Invitational. The Rebels posted a 4603 aggregate score with a 2336 in air rifle to finish sixth overall.
- The Rebels were paced by two freshmen. Jessica Haig fired a 588, while Nadia Hata posted a 586 in air rifle.  Sophomore Alison Weisz shot a 583 in air rifle.
- In smallbore, the Rebels were led by freshman Shelby Sandstrom, who turned in a 569.

Men's Golf
- The Ole Miss men's golf team placed three players in the top 20 of a tournament for the first time since 2012.
- Seniors Joe Lewis and Blake Morris, and sophomore Noah West help propel the Rebels to a fourth-place finish at the 2014 Shoal Creek Invitational.
- With first-year head coach Chris Malloy at the helm, Ole Miss has finished in the top five in two of its three tournaments this season.

Cross Country - Men's Team
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team, ranked fourth in the USTFCCCA South Region, finished second in the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday. The finish was above 12 other regionally ranked teams and all four other SEC teams competing.
- Junior Wes Gallagher led Ole Miss in his first event as a Rebel. The Northeastern transfer clocked a time of 24:00.74 in the 8K, good for seventh overall. The Rebels placed six runners in the top 33.
- Gallagher, Robert Domanic, Sean Tobin, Daniel Bulmer, Taylor Caldwell and Mark Shaw all made their first appearance of the season in the strong performance for the Rebels.

Cross Country - Women's Team
- The Ole Miss women placed 17th overall in the 5K race. Freshman Shelby Brown turned in a time of 18:10.51 to pace the Rebels. Brown has improved on her 5K time in each race this season. She's shaved 38.82 seconds from her opening meet time.
- Ole Miss raced a young squad at the meet. The nine Rebels competing included six freshmen and two sophomores.

Women's Basketball

- The women's basketball team officially opened the 2014-15 season with its first practice on Sunday, Oct. 5 inside the Tuohy Center.
- The Rebels will open the regular season campaign Nov. 14 when they host Grambling for the 12th annual School Kids game at 11 a.m.

Men's Basketball
- The men's basketball team officially opened the 2014-15 season with its first practice Friday, Oct. 3 inside the Tuohy Center.
- The Rebels open their season Nov. 14 with a home game against Charleston Southern at 6:00 p.m.

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Alabama Final Call from David Kellum of Ole Miss IMG

VIDEO: Ole Miss vs Alabama Highlights from Ole Miss Sports

No. 11 Mississippi stuns No. 3 Alabama, 23-17, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

No. 11 Ole Miss knocks No. 1 Alabama from unbeaten ranks, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today

Rowdy Ole Miss fans party with the goalpost after beating Alabama, writes Laken Litman of USA Today

3 things we learned from Ole Miss' exciting upset of Alabama, writes Laken Litman of USA Today

Ole Miss upsets Alabama: How far can Rebels go in CFB Playoff race?, writes Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports

Ole Miss back on the map, shakes up SEC West by beating Bama, writes Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports

Finally, these Rebels have reason to yell, writes Mark Schlabach of ESPN.com

Ole Miss rallies past Alabama in upset Rebels waited years to capture, writes Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated

Ole Miss beats Alabama 23-17 after thrilling fourth-quarter comeback, writes Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated

Ole Miss enjoys beats Bama, but wants more, writes Matt Hayes of Sporting News

Ole Miss caps off historic day, incites bedlam with thrilling upset of Alabama, writes Pat Forde of Yahoo!

Madness in Mississippi as Rebels and Bulldogs Knock Off Top-10 Team, writes Rusty Hampton of the New York Times

Ole Miss has 'a tremendous day,' writes Neal McCready of Rebel Grove/Rivals.com

The New Normal, writes Ben Garett of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Game-Saver, writes Jeff Roberson of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Greater Opportunities, writes Jeff Roberson of the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Freeze has Rebels among nation's elite, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Clutch Bo: Wallace's huge fourth quarter leads upset, writes Riley Blevins of the Clarion-Ledger

In a big moment, Senquez Golson came through, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Bo-dacious: Wallace sharp as Rebels rally past Crimson Tide, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Rebels talented, mature enough to survive mistakes, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Senquez Golson, Bo Wallace provide heroics in Rebels' upset, writes Jack Schultz of the Sun Herald

In the aftermath of Saturday's historic win, the Rebels' first win over win over a top-ranked opponent and the first win over Alabama since 2003, senior quarterback Bo Wallace was at the center of it.

After throwing three second-half touchdown passes, including the game-tying and game-winning scores, the fans stormed the field and mobbed Wallace and his Ole Miss teammates. They would later raise him up and carry him for a distance, and they would go on to tear down the goal posts.

With the game on the line, he completed each of his final three passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns, as he finished the game 18-of-31 for 251 and three touchdowns. 

"It was special because I know a lot of those guys that rushed the field are doubters, and for them to lift me up, it was special," Wallace said. "And it's huge for the seniors. Those guys have been through some rough times here. And to get a win against the No. 1 team in the country, it's definitely special."

"He just played so solid," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "On that last touchdown, that ball was right where it needed to be for us. Who knows what the next week holds, but tonight, Bo led his team to defeat the No. 1 team in the country. He deserves credit for being a big part of that."

Down 14-3 at the half, Ole Miss held Alabama scoreless on its opening drive and then put together a four-play, 66-yard drive, capped by Wallace's first touchdown pass, a 14-yard one to sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to help set the stage for late-game dramatics.

"Our team has never quit, not one single time, not even when we got beat that first year bad by Texas here," Freeze said said. "They fought to the end. We're not going to quit. We're going to fight to the end. That was never really a question in my mind. 

"Whether or not we were going to stop Alabama and score points, I didn't know, but I knew our kids were going to fight. Playing for 60 minutes is a trademark of our program."


For the seniors such as Senquez Golson, it was one big step forward to the top after starting their Ole Miss careers at the bottom, playing through a forgettable 2-10 season. His transformation and emergence as a leader continued, as he sealed the win with an interception with 37 seconds remaining in the game. 

"I knew we were going to get a stop," Golson said.  "We're that good of a defense. I knew we were going to come up and make a big play. I didn't know who it was going to be, but I knew we were going to get a stop."

The interception by Golson provided the exclamation point to a dominant defensive effort, as the Rebels held the Crimson Tide to just 10 points. Alabama entered the day averaging 42.0 points per game on offense.

"They play for each and care for each other," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "They want to do good. They came from the bottom and are trying to head back to the top. 

"We have some good leadership and we have a nice mixture of seniors who have been here in the past and juniors and sophomores who are really talented play. The experience and maturity has helped them get to where they are now."

On one of the biggest weekends in school history, complete with the first-ever visit of College GameDay, it marked another moment of arrival for the program. 

"It's a great feeling," sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "I have seen this team put in the work all through the week. We have worked toward this since spring practice. We have a new spirit. We believed we could do this, and that's where it started. We believed we could beat these guys, and we did."

With the schedule ahead, there are possibilities of many more moments of arrival, as well as Wallace's goal of becoming the first quarterback to lead Ole Miss to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game.

"Right now, we have to focus on winning the West," Wallace said. "If you win the West, with the opponents you're going to play, you're going to be in the conversation, and that's all you can ask for."


 

After Senquez Golson's interception to seal the win over Alabama, here's what the last 32 seconds looked like from the field, including the fans storming the field and then lifting up and carrying Bo Wallace.


Three areas to watch as No. 11 Ole Miss faces No. 1 Alabama on Saturday.

Wallace Gets Another Shot at Alabama

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace has said he wants to be the first quarterback to get Ole Miss to Atlanta, and becoming the first quarterback since Eli Manning (2003) to defeat Alabama would be a big step forward in achieving that goal.

Wallace keeping his composure, ESPN.com's Edward Aschoff said, is one of the keys to victory for Ole Miss.

The Southeastern Conference's active leader in most passing categories, Wallace ranks second in the SEC and 13th nationally passing (317.8), but he's been up and down some this season, and he's coming off a game against Memphis where he completed 22-of-37 passes for 248 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

"His mindset never changes," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He'll be as confident as any kid on the field entering Saturday's game. He's always that way. It's a really good quality about him. He's very resilient. He'll be looking forward to this game."

Alabama ranks fifth nationally in total defense (250.3 ypg), second only to Ole Miss among SEC teams, but the Crimson Tide have been more susceptible to the pass than the run. 

On the ground, Alabama ranks second nationally, giving up 62.0 yards per game, including just 2.67 yards per attempt, while through the air the Crimson Tide rank 25th nationally, giving up 188.3 yards per game and 5.8 yards per attempt.

"It's obviously a big challenge playing Alabama," Wallace said. "They're a top-five team and the distractions are going to be here. It's a great opportunity for our team. We're excited about the challenge, and we know it's going to be a good game." 

Eliminating Negative Plays, Staying on Schedule

The biggest mismatch on paper is the Ole Miss rushing offense against the Alabama rushing defense. The Rebels' rushing offense ranks 76th nationally, averaging 160.8 yards per game, and ranked 82nd nationally, averaging 4.0 yards per attempt, while the Alabama rushing defense ranks second nationally.

Ole Miss has showed more two-tight sets to help in the run game, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins has found success in short-yardage situations, converting three third-and-shorts, three fourth-and-shorts and scoring a 2-yard touchdown in his 10 carries this season.

"It's a tall task to consistently do it," said Freeze of running the football against Alabama. "You have to be balanced. You have to mix it up and find things that give your kids a chance to do what you're asking them to do, but it's a difficult defense to do it against." 

Eliminating negative plays, staying on schedule and staying out of third-and-longs, offensive line coach Matt Luke said, are among the little things it takes to win close games, and those little things start with running the ball effectively and finding balance offensively.

"They're big and fast," Luke said. "They have a lot of good players. They have a very good scheme. They mix it up quite a bit. They're a very, very good team, and we're going to have to play very, very well to run the ball."

Tough Test for Stout Defense

If called upon, whether to keep Ole Miss in the game, or win the game, can the Rebel defense rise to the challenge as they have so far this season?

Through four games, the Ole Miss defense has been among the nation's best, giving up just 8.5 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally. 

More impressively, the Rebels have given up just two touchdowns this season, the fewest in the nation.

"I don't know if we have had a better effort than that in our two and a half years here," said Freeze after holding Memphis to three points and 104 total yards in a 24-3 win this past Saturday. "They were really phenomenal. That was a team that was putting up some really good numbers."

In Alabama, the Ole Miss defense faces a balanced attack, one ranked 16th nationally in scoring offense (42.0 ypg), 19th in rushing offense (258.5 ypg), 12th in passing offense and fourth in total offense (594.3 ypg), headlined by senior quarterback Blake Sims and junior wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Sims ranks second nationally in completion percentage and fourth in passing efficiency (190.3), leading the SEC in both categories, while Cooper leads the nation with 163.8 receiving yards per game, and leads the SEC with 10.8 receptions per game and five receiving touchdowns.

"The most impressive thing with Sims is his accuracy and how efficient he's been running the offense," Freeze said. "He's completing a huge percentage of his passes and throws the deep ball extremely well.

"Cooper is arguably one of the top three receivers in the nation, if not the best, and he's been super explosive. You have to guard him on runs because of the screen game, and you have to guard him on the deep ball. He's a difficult matchup for everybody, including us."

Highlights from today's media opportunity with ESPN College GameDay producer Lee Fitting, host Chris Fowler and analysts Desmond Howard and Kirk Herbstreit discussing the show's first-ever visit to Oxford and the SEC West Showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss on Saturday.

College GameDay Producer Lee Fitting

On when he starting looking at Ole Miss-Alabama as a possibility for College GameDay...

"Over the summer when the schedule came out. We're always looking for opportunities to come to Oxford, so this one has been sort of earmarked for a while. We followed it for the first several weeks and it got real about two weeks ago. It made us sweat a little bit last week with Memphis.

"Every year we're looking for opportunities to get here. We are thrilled to here. I mean that. This is awesome. It re-energizes us whenever we go somewhere for the first time. This weeks feels different than all the other weeks. In turn, our show is typically better because of that. It's exciting to see how excited the fans and people are here, and the product reflects that."

On the excitement to be in Oxford...

"Behind closed doors in our little group, we talk about the Grove all the time. 'When are we going to get there? When is it going to fall on the right week? I want to get down there and I want to experience.' Our crew typically after the show, most weeks, will leave and go home. 

"This week, there is a huge pack of us sticking around, tailgating in the Grove, going to the game, hanging out after the game. This is a big deal for us. I'm not in here just to say that for a quote in the newspaper or TV. This is a big deal. This is fun. I'm excited, and the guys are excited. This is more than Oxford. This is a chance to introduce and explain to the country in further detail what the Grove is about."

On Katy Perry as a celebrity guest picker...

"We're excited. She's really fired up to do it. We may have had equal superstar status on our show before, but she's up there. This is awesome. Twitter doesn't tell you everything, but she has 57.5 million followers, which is pretty good. She's pretty popular."

College GameDay Analyst Desmond Howard

On Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss...

"He's done an excellent job recruiting, bringing in some great young talent. They have been doing a tremendous job of coaching the young men up. Defensively, I was really impressed early in the season when I watched them play Boise State. 

"Not only were there guys in the right position, but I also thought they did an excellent job of tacking. You watch a lot of football nowadays and guys just want to hit and try to put their shoulder pads on somebody, but these guys are actually hitting and wrapping, making excellent tackles in the open field against Boise State. That was refreshing to see, so defensively I was very impressed.

"Offensively that night, there were too many interceptions and too many poor decision with the ball, but it was something that Boise wasn't good enough to take advantage, so Ole Miss ended up winning that game. Those were the pros and cons of what I saw earlier in the season with Ole Miss."

On the opportunity Saturday's game and this weekend presents for Ole Miss...

"This game doesn't just have the potential to define a season, but it has the potential to define a program."

On Ole Miss playing on the big stage...

"As a former player, they will be very excited. They will come out with a tremendous amount of energy, but after the first couple of plays, things will settle down for them and they will get back to the basic. You look toward your coaches and team leaders to make sure the guys get focused on the task at hand. It's going to be a tremendous atmosphere for those guys.

"In my opinion, this is why you to come to Ole Miss. You come to Ole Miss to play games like this and in atmosphere like we're going to experience tomorrow, so hopefully they're prepared for it."

College GameDay Analyst Kirk Herbstreit

On getting the opportunity to come to Oxford for College GameDay...

"For us, the pageantry of the sport and the passion that fans have for it, that's we love about it. To be able to go place like Fargo, North Dakota, even though it's not necessarily what people think of as big-time college football, but in their world, it is. We have always had in our mind that it would be great to get to Seattle, and we got there last year.

"We always talked about getting to the Grove forever. I have been on the show 19 years, and it's one of those landmarks that people love to come to. We have never looked at ourselves as 'Hey, we have arrived. Everybody pat us on the back.' 

"We're very much more about the place we're visiting and being a conduit between the fans nationally and the university we're on that week. And what better place to celebrate a college football Saturday than in Oxford, Mississippi with a huge showdown, arguably one of the biggest games in school history. We're thrilled to be here. 

"I have been here for the Egg Bowl, but it's during Thanksgiving and it's like 45-50 degrees, so it doesn't really count. This will be my first real experience of the Grove and looking out over the stage, I can't imagine what it's going to be like. It's going to be sweet. We feed off the energy of the crowd, and this crowd will be one of the best we will have all year."

On Katy Perry as a celebrity guest picker...

"We have so much fun with segment, not just because of Lee (Corso) at the end and whatever he might be up to it, but the person and whatever their background and industry is, they get up there and they get intertwined into the fun and the prediction. 

"Lee's telling them, 'Not so fast my friend,' and it's a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to see how she does and hopefully she will have fun with it."

On Ole Miss and the opportunity Saturday...

"In the past with a new coach, when they would get into these types of games, there was a hope they could compete and they needed something good to happen for them to buy in. 

"When you're down for so long as a program -- and there have been some moments with Eli and some other moments over the decades -- it's hard to go from being irrelevant in the SEC West to mattering over night.

"There have been enough steps forward that when they get into this setting now against Alabama, at home especially, I don't think they hope they can catch a break and compete. Deep down, they think they can play. 

"The X's and O's to me would be Bo Wallace and the running game. They have to run just enough to avoid those 3rd-and-8 and 3rd-and-9 plays. If they're not running the ball, they're not going to win. They have to be able to run the football to take pressure off of Bo Wallace.

"If you put him into obvious passing situation, you're going to turn it over two or three times, and you're going to lose. Running the football and getting into those 3rd-and-manageable situations will be really big. 

"The other thing is Lane (Kiffin), who everybody kind of made fun of when Nick Saban hired him, has become maybe the national story with what he's been able to accomplish with a new quarterback who's really never played. 

"That's the difference with Alabama and the old Alabama teams. It's no long defense, special teams and running the ball. Now, they're spreading you out with empty formations, throwing the ball down the field. Its' very different from what AJ McCarron and Greg McElroy operated in. Defense has been a strength for Ole Miss, and it will be interesting to see how they matchup against Amari Cooper and arguably the best group of receivers in the SEC."

On Saturday as a program-defining game for Ole Miss...

"It would earn them instant credibility on a national scale. I was talking to Huge (Freeze) yesterday at practice. If you win the game, it's exciting, everyone runs on the field and you took advantage of a great opportunity, but you're going to Kyle Field next week, and you can lose that game and be forgotten.

"I wouldn't say this is a program-defining moment, but this is definitely an opportunity to prove to people that you can beat the best teams in the SEC and that gets a lot of attention from a lot of people. Look at their schedule. No matter what happens Saturday, it's not as if they beat Alabama, reserved your hotel tickets for Atlanta and the Final Four. They can beat Alabama, but I don't know if anybody in the SEC West is going through the gauntlet of all these teams. It's just too tough."

College GameDay Host Chris Fowler

On mentioning Oxford as College GameDay destination in the opening segment of the picks last week...

"We go where the game is, and we have wanted to come here for a long time. The people who follow this program might know there have been some close calls and some games we had circled, but then the result didn't quite fall the right way, namely Ole Miss stumbled before the big game we had circled. We were just hoping that it didn't happen this year. 

"Obviously this game has been on the schedule and we have looked at it from the beginning of the season. We thought there was a very good likelihood that both teams would be undefeated. It came down to one final hurdle to clear with Ole Miss home against Memphis as a three-touchdown favorite. We thought we would have fun with it. We have started to talk more in the show about games that have GameDay implications and let it out there that if this happen, we will likely be at this place next week. 

"That was the blatant I have ever been about it. We had some fun, although I wasn't really kidding. If the game here had fallen through, we likely would have been in Starkville." 

On the experience so far in Oxford...

It's great. I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We have all been here for games. To be clear, the show hasn't been here, but those of us who have been around for a long time in this have been to Oxford for games and to do features. 

"It's just the first time the show has arrived here on Saturday. Doing some of the Thursday games, it's not quite the same. I have been looking forward to a big Saturday atmosphere for a long time. You can tell the buildup is as advertised, so we can't wait until tomorrow morning."

On what Hugh Freeze has done at Ole Miss...

"It starts with inheriting a situation where he needed to make drastic changes right away, and he talked to me about that yesterday, on the field and off the field. He has brought in top-flight talent, which is one of the reasons he was an attractive coaching candidate. 

"Now, the next step is getting those guys to not just win the games they're supposed to win, but to beat people like Alabama and LSU. Everybody knows, in soccer teams, the SEC West is the group of death. There's no easy passes. Every game is going to take the best effort that Ole Miss has and now it's time to step up. 

"I sense a real difference from being around practice yesterday and some of the comments I have read. It's no longer viewed as Ole Miss just trying to be respectable against big, bad 'Bama. Now, those guys really believe they belong with anybody and should win the game. 

"Nationally, there's always going to be skeptics because until you have done it, you haven't done it. There will be a lot of eyes on this town tomorrow afternoon to see if they can take that step and beat Alabama. And then keep it going because the season isn't over, win or lose, and that's what Hugh has preached, and rightfully so. You can't let down for one week in this division."

On Saturday being perhaps the biggest college football day in the history of Mississippi...

"The ingredients are there. You talk about two top-15 matchups that are 75 miles apart as the crow flies. Any place in the country would be thrilled to have that. The fact that it's been a long time down here certainly makes it fun for us. 

"It's hard to imagine it being bigger, but if they keep winning, there are going to be a lot more big weekends. Tomorrow's result will determine whether Mississippi gets a lot more weekends like this and if there will be biggest Egg Bowl in the history of Egg Bowls."

On the Grove and Oxford...

"It's a place of good food and drink and great atmosphere. I have been to the Grove before, but I haven't seen it quite like that. There is stuff that's unique about it. I was trying to explain it. You see this picture on television with these red and blue things, and I don't think people even knew what that was, and I explained they were staking out territory and what it is going to look like tomorrow.

"It's our job to capture what's unique about it because at first glance, you might look at the show and say every week is kind of the same where there's a bunch of screaming kids with signs. If we're not doing our job, we won't be able to point out what's distinct and what's unique about this. We're going to get on the ground and go all over the place and try to capture it as best we can sprinkled throughout the show. There are few surprises thrown in there too that even the people on the desk don't know about yet."

Ahead of the first-ever visit of ESPN's College GameDay and one of the biggest weekends in school history, here's an exhaustive link roundup of stories from local and national media regarding the SEC West showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 11 Ole Miss:

Alabama vs. Ole Miss, 1969: The night college football went prime time, writes Lars Anderson for AL.com

Katy Perry for GameDay? Katy Perry for GameDay, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Two top-15 games make for the biggest weekend ever for Mississippi football, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com

New York Giants' Eli Manning likes Ole Miss' chance against Alabama, writes Dan Graziano of ESPN.com

Mississippi's Moment: The Newly Relevant Rebels and Bulldogs Take Center Stage in the SEC West, writes Matt Hinton of Grantland

Mississippi becomes epicenter of college football, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

Good Guys Finish 1st: The Hugh Freeze Story, writes Lars Anderson for Bleacher Report

Big week in Mississippi a milestone for coaches Freeze, Mullen, writes Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports

Alabama's got 'chinstrap in and locked and loaded' for Ole Miss' 296-pound running QB, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

Alabama QB Sims has Ole Miss' respect, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

This is the Rebels' best chance, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Alabama's top-ranked run defense poised for different sort of challenge vs. Ole Miss, writes Andrew Gribble of AL.com

At Ole Miss, evolving perception both outward and inward, writes Dan Wolken of USA Today

Bo Wallace eager for another shot at Bama, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

Hugh Freeze preps for Lane Kiffin curveball, says 1-on-1 battles could determine Alabama-Ole Miss, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

Alabama defense to be tested by Ole Miss tempo, Laquon Treadwell, writes Alex Scarborough of AL.com

How Lane Kiffin improved Bama's offense, writes Mackenzie Kraemer of ESPN.com

Ole Miss can make a statement vs. Bama, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Blake Sims (then a RB) had a memorable night in Alabama's last Ole Miss trip, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

Alabama-Ole Miss: Kiffin has turned Tide into nearly unstoppable force, writes Coy Wire of Fox Sports

Game-changers: Cooper, Treadwell major keys in Ole Miss-Alabama matchup, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Amari Cooper 'banged up' after Florida win, not listening to Heisman talk, writes Michael Casagrande of AL.com

No. 11 Mississippi prepares for Alabama offense, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

History on schedule for Mississippi, writes Chris Low of ESPN.com

Ole Miss and its Landsharks a legit threat to Alabama's run as the SEC's best defense, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com

Ole Miss confident it can compete with Alabama, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Alabama faces biggest test yet in Ole Miss, writes Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com

Wild, wild SEC West set for historic day, writes John Zenor and David Brandt of the Associated Press

Epic, writes Chuck Rounsaville of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

In case you missed it, 3 Things You Should Know About Gameday, The Memphis episode of The Season: Ole Miss Football and Get Your Grove On - Get Up. It's GameDay

Ahead of one of the biggest games in school history, I caught up with ESPN.com SEC reporter Edward Aschoff and had him finish the following statements that are on the minds of many Ole Miss fans. Among them, he discussed the impact of "College GameDay," matchups to watch, what Ole Miss has to do to win the game and what a win over Alabama would mean for the program.

Earlier this week, Aschoff wrote how Ole Miss can make a statement against Alabama. Check it out.

Austin Miller: The impact of 'College GameDay' will be... 

Edward Aschoff: huge for the Ole Miss program and the Oxford community. It's crazy to think this will be the very first time GameDay will be in the Grove. It's been a long time coming, but folks in Oxford should be ecstatic. This is a chance for the rest of the country to really see what makes the Grove so special and why it might be the nation's best tailgating venue.

AM: When Ole Miss is on offense, the matchup to watch will be... 

EA: Bo Wallace against Alabama's pass rush. We all know Wallace has had problems with consistency when the pass rush gets dialed up against him. Alabama didn't get a lot of pressure on Jeff Driskel in the Tide's win over Florida, leaving him plenty of time to make plays. While he didn't take advantage of those opportunities, Wallace can, if he doesn't try to press. That's been an issue for him in the past, and we saw a little of that against Memphis. Wallace has to be patient but also confident when Alabama brings pressure. At the same time, Alabama's secondary has to be ready to tighten its coverage. It has a tough time with these fast-paced offenses, and if Wallace gets into a groove, that could create problems for this younger defense. Without the threat of a true pounding running game, Ole Miss' offense will live and die by Wallace's decisions, as will Alabama's defense.

AM: When Alabama is on offense, the matchup to watch will be... 

EA: Ole Miss' defensive line vs. Alabama's offensive line. The Tide has done a pretty good job of protecting quarterback Blake Sims this year -- it's only allowed three sacks thus far. I can't wait to see the matchup between Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson and Ole Miss defensive end C.J. Johnson. That should be fantastic TV right there. Also, Robert Nkemdiche facing Arie Kouandjio and Ryan Kelly in the middle should be great too. If the Rebels, who have 28 tackles for loss on the season, can bring more pressure Sims' way, that will go a long way to keeping Alabama's offense honest.

AM: Ole Miss wins if... 

EA: Wallace keeps his composure and the defense can contain that vicious running game.

AM: Alabama wins if... 

EA: the running game can make some plays and the defense keeps up with Ole Miss' uptempo offense.

AM: A win for Ole Miss would be... 

EA: huge for a program that hasn't beaten Alabama since 2003 and has an unpleasant history in games like this. It would thrust the Rebels right into serious playoff conversation and put them right at the top of the SEC West, and probably the SEC in general. It would also be a great momentum builder for the West gauntlet that awaits. 

AM: A loss for Ole Miss would be... 

EA: hard to swallow for a team with such lofty expectations. These are the games Ole Miss just doesn't generally win, so many people would chalk it up to the Rebels just not being ready. It certainly wouldn't hurt the Rebels' chances at a big season, but it would put them behind the eight ball when it comes to winning the West, especially with such a tough stretch approaching.

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Alabama head coach Nick Saban on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of Saturday's much-anticipated matchup.

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban (starts at 36:16 mark)

Opening statement...

"It's always a tremendous challenge to play on the road in our league. Ole Miss has a very, very good team. They're undefeated and have played extremely well all year long. The most important thing for our team is to understand that executing, paying attention to detail, maintaining discipline, playing smart and playing our game are really important and that all starts with the preparation that you have and how you focus on getting ready for the game. That's something our guys have done a pretty good job of this week.

On Blake Sims...

"Blake has done really well in practice. He hasn't had any issues this week so far in terms of throwing the ball. We're really pleased with the way he's progressed and he's been able to take all the reps he's prescribed to take, so we're pleased with that."

On Tony Brown and confidence in playing younger players...

"Tony has progressed very nicely for us. He's made really good progress, so we're pleased with that. We have no problem playing younger players, but we also try to protect our players and make sure they have enough knowledge, experience and understanding of what's expected of them before we throw them in there. 

"Tony got to play almost half the game in a couple of games prior to the Florida game. Eddie (Jackson's) been battling injury and that created an opportunity for Tony, and he did a pretty good job. We continue to work with him every day in practice so he can continue to improve. 

"Experience is important to any players being able to play well so they can maintain focus and be able to execute on a consistent basis. For young players, the only way to gain experience is to play. That's been our plan with Tony to this point."

On the bye week and execution on offense...

"Nobody really knows exactly how a bye week is going to affect your team. Sometimes when you have good momentum going and you're making progress and improvement, you rather just continue to play. There are other times when your team needs rest and time to recover. We have a lot of young players who had a chance to develop during the bye week and improve their ability to start, play more, be backups and play on special teams. 

"The bye week is whatever your team makes it and the commitment they make to improving. Hopefully, we had a good bye week and our players will come out and be ready to play. The environment is going to be difficult, and the noise will be difficult. There will be circumstances that we will have to overcome in this game, but the most important thing to keep executing, play your game and play through those things." 

On the challenge of facing Ole Miss' tempo on offense...

"We haven't faced one play of huddle all year long. This is the way of the world now. We made some progress in how our players play against that and the rhythm and routine we can create by playing against this offense a lot more often. It takes a lot of poise on the defensive players' part, especially when they go fast. You have to have a good substitution plan for trying to keep players fresh. 

"It's the way of the world now, and our players have gotten more accustomed to it. We probably practiced it a little bit better and prepared them a little bit better for it, but Ole Miss is a very challenging team not only because of the no-huddle and the pace of play, but also because they have really quality players at a lot of positions."

On matchup problems Evan Engram presents for the Alabama defense...

"Any time a team has a guy who has the versatility that he has, it always creates problems. The guy lines up in the backfield, and then he lines up at receiver, and sometimes you got to have a linebacker on him. Tight end is one of the most difficult mismatch guys, and he's certainly a quality player and a really good receiver.

On experience in spotlight games...

"We're talking about our team. We're still trying to develop an identity relative to the players and leadership we have on this team. You're always trying to develop the team chemistry and maturity  that it takes to play well on the road. We really haven't played a road game yet, other than playing a neutral-site game. It's going to be interesting to see how we respond. Our players have to believe their actions are going to affect what happens in the game, and their ability to have the poise and focus to execute is still going to be the most important things."

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 1:12:36 mark)

Opening statement...

"We're looking forward to the challenge. I have said before of the respect I have for Coach Saban and his staff. The job they have done there with the consistency of being a measuring stick in this conference is pretty special. When you get into this, you want to measure yourself each year and we have taken steps in the right direction in the last couple of years to give ourselves a chance to compete in this game. 

"It's still a tall task, but it's one we're looking forward to. We're excited about having GameDay here for the first time and being able to showcase our great university, the campus and the Grove, and hopefully our team will represent very well on the field Saturday.

On the state of Ole Miss and Mississippi State with two big games this weekend in Mississippi...

"It speaks volumes for our state and the job that both staffs have done, not only in recruiting, but also developing the talent we have here in this state, and then adding to it from outside the state, and it also speaks to the vision of the administrations to continue to elevate our facilities and resources to compete it this league. 

"We have made great strides at both places in all of those things in the last few years. The Mississippi people, they deserve this. They're great people, generous people with great hearts. There is tremendous passion for this game at both places, and it's exciting for this to happen."

On the importance of mitigating risk and efficiency on offense playing Alabama...

"It will be one of the huge deciding factors in this game as to how we perform in regards to turnovers and negative plays that get us off track, where we can't be in any kind of tempo. Bo (Wallace) is a huge part of the that. 

"He has had a game and a half where he was not really solid in his decision-making. Some of it wasn't just him. We've had a couple of poor routes that probably caused it. And then he's also had two and a half games where he was phenomenal, so we hope that it's time for him to be phenomenal again."

"It will factor into my play-calling probably early, depending upon how our defense is playing, how our special teams are playing, field position, all those things, you can't help but thinking about minimizing the risk as a play caller."

On managing the outside attention surrounding the game...

"We're just a little over two years in here. We have played in arenas like Alabama and the others in our conference but nothing to quite this attention and magnitude. Hopefully they will follow the example that we have tried to set and we focus on what we can do today to be ready for Saturday and stay in the moment. They're hearing that from us constantly in our meetings. 

"Is it totally possible to isolate them from everything with the social media access today? Probably not. Yo just hope we have enough mature leadership that the only way you can have a chance Saturday is to prepare by staying in the moment today."

Ole Miss has been held under 100 yards rushing in each of its last meetings with Alabama, a 33-14 loss in 2012 and a 25-0 loss in 2013. Running the ball effectively and finding a balance is one area, the coaches and players have said, that would go a long way on Saturday.

"Top to bottom, they're a great team, arguably the best team in the country," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "We have to play really, really well to win. We have to protect the football. When a break comes our way, we have to score. We have to be efficient in the red zone. 

"We have to try to eliminate negative plays, stay on schedule and stay out of third-and-longs. We have to do the little things it takes to win close games and win close games in the fourth quarter."

Behind senior quarterback Bo Wallace, the Rebels rank third in the SEC and 13th nationally in passing offense (335.5 ypg), but they rank 11th in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 160.8 yards per game. Alabama, meanwhile, leads the league in rush defense, giving up just 62.0 yards per game

Ole Miss has found more consistency on the ground in recent games, rushing for 214 yards on 35 carries against Louisiana-Lafayette and 178 yards on 42 carries against Memphis, but Alabama undoubtedly will provide the toughest test yet.

"They're just pretty good," Luke said. "They're big and fast. They have a lot of good players. They have a very good scheme. They mix it up quite a bit. They're a very, very good team, and we're going to have to play very, very well to run the ball.

"You don't want to be one-dimensional against any team," sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil said. "You want to run the ball, pass the ball, mix it up."

Replacing Alford on Defense, Special Teams


Without sophomore Anthony Alford, who decided to leave the Ole Miss football program and pursue a professional baseball career, players are thrust into bigger roles on defense and special teams.

Alford, who transferred to Ole Miss in January 2011, played in all four games this season as a backup to junior Trae Elston at Rover safety and punt returner. He registered six tackles and two punt returns for eight years.

"We had a great talk last night and this morning about what was best for him and his wife and his future," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I hate it for our team and for him because I love having good kids a part of us but he really felt like it was best."

In Alford's place, sophomore David Kamara and freshman C.J. Moore, who have both played primarily on special teams, stepped into the backup Rover safety spot in practice Tuesday. 

Freeze said they didn't have to shuffle a lot, but should they need to shuffle players going forward, senior cornerback Cliff Coleman and junior cornerback Mike Hilton both have previous experience at safety. On a semi-related note, sophomore Derrick Jones, who started the year at cornerback and then moved to wide receiver, practiced at cornerback Tuesday, providing extra depth there

"I know they're both athletic kids," said Freeze of Kamara and Moore. "They haven't been in the battles but really neither had Anthony. This was really his freshman year to be a defensive player. He has more experience than them from being in the early games, but we'll get them ready and I think they will do well."

On special teams, freshman wide receiver Markell Pack has been the primary punt return option, returning seven punts for 38 yards. Freeze also mentioned redshirt freshman Eugene Brazley stepping in as a punt return option.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 22-28)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 22-28, 2014

Football
- No. 10 Ole Miss used a dominant defensive effort to put away Memphis 24-3 on Saturday, setting up one of the biggest games in recent history this coming Saturday against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
- The Rebels allowed just 104 total yards the entire evening, including 23 rushing yards on 31 carries. Excluding one 42-yard pass play by Memphis in the first quarter, the Rebel defense allowed just 62 total yards on the other 61 plays from scrimmage.
- The 104 total yards allowed were the fewest since giving up 24 yards to Mississippi State in 2008.
- Sophomore Laquon Treadwell had five catches for a career-high 123 yards and a career high-tying two touchdowns to lead the offense.
- Memphis native Jaylen Walton had a game-high 78 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown.
- The defense has allowed only two touchdowns this season, which is the fewest in the nation.
- Ole Miss improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1970.

Soccer
- Ole Miss went 0-1-1 on the weekend, splitting a match with Arkansas on Thursday before falling 2-1 to No. 10 Texas A&M on Sunday.
- Sophomore forward Gretchen Harknett bent in her second goal of the season to help the Rebels play Arkansas to a double overtime draw.
- Junior defender Maddie Friedmann scored her first goal of the season with a header off a double-assisted goal Sunday afternoon to put the Rebels on the board against No. 10 Texas A&M.
- After the weekend, Ole Miss is now 4-1-3 at home this season with the lone loss coming at the hands of the 10th-ranked Aggies.
- Ole Miss will now hit the road in SEC play and not play a home match over the next three weeks before closing things out with two of the last three matches of the season at home.

Volleyball
- The Rebels dropped both their matches on the opening weekend of SEC play to fall to 14-2 overall and 0-2 in conference.
- Friday, the Rebels lost a five-setter at South Carolina after having a 2-0 lead. They had match point in the fourth set, but the Gamecocks won the final three points to force a fifth set. In the fifth set, the Rebels led 12-11 but the Gamecocks won four straight points to take the match 3-2.
- Against South Carolina, junior Nakeyta Clair equaled her career-high with 20 kills and hit .395, and also had four blocks. Clair ranks third in the SEC in hitting percentage at .420.
- Freshman Taylor Alexander got her first start of the year against South Carolina and finished with nine kills, a .375 hitting percentage and four blocks.

Men's Tennis
- Five Rebels competed in the pre-qualifying at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Freshman Gustav Hansson won his first round match, but none of the five advanced to the qualifying. The Rebels will have two players in the qualifying with Stefan Lindmark and William Kallberg in singles, and two doubles teams with Lindmark/Hansson and Kallberg/Ricardo Jorge.

Women's Tennis
- Junior Mai El Kamash won three matches in pre-qualifying at the Riviera ITA All-American Championships to advance to the qualifying tournament, which begins Tuesday in Pacific Palisades, California. She improved to 4-1 on the year.

Observations from the Best Seat in the House

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Observations Logo.pngIt's Sunday, so that means it's time for this week's Observations from the Best Seat in the House. I'll handle the bulk of the notes this week, but we also have some insight from Austin Miller here as well. Let's get started:

1. Did you hear ESPN's College GameDay is coming to town? Unless you legitimately live under a rock - a rock that blocks out all outside sound - you have heard this. It's going to be awesome. What a great day that will be for Ole Miss, this university and this town. Finally, the premier college football pregame show will visit the premier college football tailgating scene. The buzz that will surround Oxford and that football game will be palpable all week. Can't wait.

2. That Ole Miss defense is legit. The Rebels allowed just 104 total yards, and just 23 rushing yards on 31 carries. For those without a calculator, that's 0.74 yards per carry. Here's another stat nugget I enjoyed from that game: Memphis ran 62 plays, and if you take out the Tigers' 42-yard pass play in the first quarter, the Rebel defense allowed just 62 total yards on the other 61 plays from scrimmage. If you still haven't gotten a calculator, that's 1.02 yards per play.

3. Let's not forget this was a Memphis offense that accumulated 469 yards on the road against UCLA earlier this season. In that game, which the Tigers, despite having to travel across the country, only lost by seven points, Memphis had 164 yards rushing and 305 passing yards. Oh, by the way, UCLA is ranked No. 8 in the latest Associated Press top 25.

4. As the calendar turns to October, fans will be treated to a loaded slate in the Southeastern Conference this upcoming weekend, including three successive top-15 matchups in the SEC West: No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State (11 a.m. CT, ESPN), followed by No. 1 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss (2:30 p.m., CBS) and No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn (6 p.m., ESPN). We're going to learn a lot about this division next week.

5. Want to know how good the top of the SEC West has been in recent years? With Alabama coming to town ranked No. 1 in the AP poll that makes five straight years Ole Miss has faced the nation's top-ranked team: Auburn in 2010, LSU in 2011 and Alabama in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

6. Ole Miss boasts the nation's third-best scoring defense, allowing just 8.5 points per game. More impressively, Ole Miss has given up just two touchdowns all season, the fewest in the nation. Big reason why; opponents have scored just two touchdowns in 10 trips to the red zone.

7. To that point, Memphis ran just two plays inside the 20-yard line Saturday and came away with three points. Among the four games played, opponents have run 37 plays inside the 20 and come away with 29 points.

8. I thought it was so great with all of the festivities surrounding Chucky Mullins, his memory and legacy, that Deterrian Shackelford, the guy who wears No. 38 in Mullins' honor, led the team in tackles Saturday.

9. The committee of running backs approach produced favorable numbers Saturday. Juniors Jaylen Walton (10 carries for 78 yards) and I'Tavius Mathers (14 carries for 57 yards) combined for 135 yards on 24 carries. Freshman Jordan Wilkins contributed with five carries for 33 yards and sophomore Mark Dodson had five carries for 16 yards.

10. After catching seven passes for 105 yards and one touchdown against Boise State in week one, sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell had been held to a combined eight catches for 79 yards and no scores against Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Lafayette. The preseason All-SEC selection broke out a bit Saturday though, catching five passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers.

11. If you enjoyed the powder blue helmets Saturday against Memphis, check out this story by Austin Miller documenting the decision making that led to the Rebels wearing this helmet, as well as how it was kept on the hush throughout the week: http://www.olemisssports.com/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/092814aab.html.

12. Did you see Josh McCoy's photo gallery of the football game? If you answer that question with a 'No,' well I just don't know what to say. He's the best in the game. Check it out here: http://www.olemisssports.com/view.gal?id=167161. You can also follow him on Twitter at @OleMissPix.

13. It was a tough weekend for the Ole Miss volleyball team. The Rebels closed out the non-conference portion of their schedule with a perfect 14-0 mark, the best in program history, but opened SEC play Friday with a tough five-set loss at South Carolina, followed by a three-set loss at No. 10 Florida, which is always a very difficult place to play for any team. This Rebel team is playing good volleyball and is a lot of fun to watch. Be sure to show this team your support and head out to the Gillom Center on Wednesday for a huge SEC match against Missouri at 6 p.m. CT.

14. The Ole Miss soccer team went 0-1-1 on the week in a pair of SEC home matches against Arkansas and No. 10 Texas A&M. After a 1-1 tie Friday against the Razorbacks in a really physical contest, Ole Miss lost 2-1 Sunday against the highly ranked Aggies. Ole Miss scored the first goal against Texas A&M in the 62nd minute, but Texas A&M responded with goals in the 72nd and 79th minute. The Rebels will head out on a four-match SEC road swing now with two matches next weekend in the Yellowhammer State against Alabama and Auburn, respectively.

Wearing the lighter blue helmets for the first time since 1994 to honor the late Chucky Mullins, the Ole Miss defense also honored his memory with perhaps the most dominant defensive performance of the Hugh Freeze Era.

"Chucky would have been proud of the helmets, the baby blues, and particularly how the defense played," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I know Chucky would have loved that. We will continue to honor him because of his character traits, his selflessness and his attitude about life and the university."

Against a Memphis offense that averaged nearly 45 points and 500 yards per game, the Rebels held the Tigers to only a field goal and 104 total yards, the fewest by an opponent since Mississippi State in 2008, as they defeated the Tigers by a score of 24-3.

"I'm extremely proud of our defense," Freeze said. "I don't know if we have had a better effort than that in our two and a half years here. They were really phenomenal. That was a team that putting up some really good numbers."

"We were dominating up front," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "The linebackers played well and the secondary was in the right position most of the night. You don't get many of those, but we did a lot of good things."

The Ole Miss defense created some big plays, an interception by junior safety Trae Elston and a sack and a sack-strip by freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes that helped lead to the Rebels' second touchdown drive, making it a two-score game in their favor at 17-7. 

The Rebels also finished with a season-high 12 tackles for loss and four sacks, as they limited the Tigers to just 1.7 yards per play.

"We were flying around, doing our job, being in the right place and making the plays we're supposed to make," junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche said. "Playing as one defense. This is probably the most emotional we have played since we have been here. That's us now. That's who we are. We have seen what we can do. We have seen how our defense is coming together."


One of the biggest question marks entering the game was the rush defense, which Ole Miss answered emphatically, holding Memphis to negative-four rushing yards on 17 carries.

"We were fitting our gaps, flying to the ball," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "We had a lot of energy and we were running to the ball and hitting as much as we could. That's what gave us so much success against the run."

Prewitt said the only thing he could remember they did wrong on defense was a 42-yard pass late in the first quarter. Despite that long gain to the Ole Miss 7-yard line, the defense responded with three straight tackles for loss and held Memphis to a field goal.

The defensive effort was especially important given that the Ole Miss offense was held to seven points through three quarters and also committed four turnovers.

"We're a team," Prewitt said. "There's going to be some games where the offense is going to win the game. There are going to be some games where the defense carries the load. That's how a team goes. It goes back and forth. I'm just really proud of the way the defense played. We never blinked."


Three areas to watch as No. 10 Ole Miss faces Memphis Saturday.

Battle of the Quarterbacks

Ole Miss and Memphis have both gotten steady quarterback play, as both teams rank inside the top-15 nationally in scoring offense. 

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace leads the nation in completion percentage (75.5 percent) and ranks fifth in the NCAA in pass efficiency (190.0). He also ranks eighth in the NCAA in passing offense (341.0 yards per game) and ninth in total offense (346.3 ypg). Behind the arm of Wallace, the Rebels have put up 132 points, the second-most through three games in school history (145 in 1935).

"My understanding of his career is that he's been through some ups and downs and persevered through it and plays with a true toughness out there," Memphis head coach Justin Fuente said. "He does a good job of getting the football to those guys on the perimeter, and he seems to have good control of what they're trying to accomplish offensively and thus has gotten them to where they are now."

In his second year as the starting signal caller for Memphis, sophomore Paxton Lynch has completed 68-of-103 passes for 766 yards, with five touchdowns and two interceptions, including a career-night against No. 11 UCLA, when he completed 27-of-41 passes for 305 yards and accounted for two touchdowns. 

After scoring 30+ points just once in 2013, the Tigers have scored 30+ points in each of their first three games, including a 63-point explosion against Austin Peay.

"When you look at last year's and this year's film, (Lynch) is more of a field general and feels comfortable with his checks," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "He's more accurate with his passing. They have good backs and receivers, too. They do a nice job with their scheme and coaching it. We'll have to play well."

Stopping the Run

The Ole Miss defense has allowed just two touchdowns this season, giving up just 10.3 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third nationally. 

But if there's been a weakness on the defensive side of the ball for Ole Miss, it's been rush defense.

The Rebels' total defense (296.0 ypg) and pass defense (151.0 ypg) both rank second in the SEC and top 15 nationally, but their run defense ranks ninth in the SEC, giving up 145.0 yards per game on the ground.

"That was probably my fault because I was trying to get the ends up the field too much and we weren't squeezing on some of the things that we needed to squeeze on," Wommack said. "It was scheme more than it was the players. I think we got those things answered, I believe. We'll see."

Memphis will provide a test for Ole Miss in this area with a top-25 rushing attack (242.7 ypg), ahead of a five-game stretch for the Rebels including four top-20 teams, starting with No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 4.

"I've said from the beginning that I thought these guys are different and their mentality is different, that they want to do well," Wommack said. "They've worked extremely hard and they're not into letting things slip and move in the wrong direction. They're hungry to play this week. I'm proud of where we are right now, but it's important to get better each and every day you go out to practice and each and every game."

'Staying in the Moment'

Ole Miss stressed focus and attention leading up to Saturday's matchup with Memphis. 

Head coach Hugh Freeze said he hasn't really talked to the team about it being a rivalry game, but he expect both teams will be emotional because of their close proximity and connections between the two teams.

And then there's the elephant in the room: The impending Oct. 4 matchup with No. 3 Alabama and likely visit of College GameDay, should Ole Miss defeat Memphis on Saturday.

"With all the media attention and the social media that continues to talk about the future, I wake up thinking about those things and what can I do today to make sure our kids are focused on staying in the moment and preparing ourselves today for what the next step is in our journey, which is Saturday against Memphis," Freeze said. "We're doing everything that we can and you hope that the leadership of your team understands the magnitude of each game and that each game has a separate life of its own. It doesn't matter what's going to take place in future weeks. What matters is this week."

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' matchup with Memphis on Saturday (6:30 p.m. CT, Fox Sports Net).

Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:21:20 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Opening statement...

"We're excited to be back in a game week after an off week last week. We had really good attention and focus yesterday (Tuesday) in practice. This will be our most difficult game of the season thus far. Justin (Fuente) has done a nice job there. 

"His kids play extremely hard, tackle extremely well, they have one of the best third-down defenses in the country and they are getting really good quarterback play right now. We have to raise our game. After our last two games, the sample size we have to judge our team right now is still a bit too small. We're excited to get back out and see how we match up."

On improvement he has seen from Memphis...

"My last experience with them was when I was at Arkansas State, and I was hoping that they would be similar to (the team) then, but it's so much different. Justin has done wonderful job. They have just upgraded the talent level and he has them playing well. 

"The thing that really stands out to me is the way they tackle. I can probably can count on my 10 fingers how many missed tackles I have seen in their games and the passion with which they play. Their third-down efficiency on defense is really remarkable. Teams are only converting around 28 to 29 percent of third downs, so they're getting off the field.

"Offensively, their quarterback play has been very steady. When that happens, you have enough skill people around you at this level to make plays. That's what they have done. They're a really nice team." 

How have the changes on offense over the last 10 years changed recruiting players on defense....

"We want to get longer and faster. We're not so much concerned with our defensive linemen or linebackers being a certain weight. We think we can add weight when they get there, but you have to recruit speed. If you can't run on the defensive side, it makes for some long afternoons because people are so good now at exploiting matchups and putting their guys in space with these offenses. 

"From five years ago, if you look at what teams are averaging now offensively in yards per game and points per game, the game has certainly changed. Defensively, you have very little chance to slow people down if you are not dominant up front and have some back-end guys who can really run."

On concern about Memphis being a trap game ahead of a matchup with No. 3 Alabama...

"I'm concerned all the time about our focus and our attention to what's going on today. With all the media attention and the social media that continues to talk about the future, I wake up thinking about those things and what can I do today to make sure our kids are focused on staying in the moment and preparing ourselves today for what the next step is in our journey, which is Saturday against Memphis. 

 "That's all said here within these walls, but I would be foolish to think that they're not hearing all the other. We're doing everything that we can and you hope that the leadership of your team understands the magnitude of each game and that each game has a separate life of its own. it doesn't matter what's going to take place in future weeks. What matters is this week."

Memphis is 2-1 heading into Saturday's matchup with wins over Austin Peay (63-0) and Middle Tennessee (36-17) and a 42-35 loss at No. 11 UCLA. The Tigers scored two early fourth-quarter touchdowns to tie the Bruins at 35-35 with 13:44 left in the game before falling short in its upset bid.

"Going to UCLA, it was a big stage," Memphis junior linebacker Wynton McManis said. "This is another big stage but now we are more prepared for it and we know how to handle it. It's just another game on the schedule that we have to handle."

"As a team, we got a lot of confidence, even though we didn't come away with a win," Memphis senior cornerback Bobby McCain said. "We feel like we can compete with anybody in the country. Having true confidence out there as a team, offensively, defensively and special teams wise is huge. Going to Ole Miss and playing in that environment, playing in the SEC is a big deal, but you have to take it as the next game."

Memphis rolled up 469 yards of total offense against UCLA, and it started with sophomore quarterback Paxton Lynch who completed 27-of-41 passes for 305 yards and accounted for two touchdowns. 

For the season, Lynch has completed 68-of-103 passes for 766 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions, while also rushing 20 times for 77 yards with three touchdowns.

"They've gone toe-to-toe with one of the nation's best at their place," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "If their quarterback keeps playing solid, their defense is good enough to keep them in every game. That's what they've done."

Opportunistic Rebel Defense


Through three games, the Ole Miss defense has been one of the nation's best.

The Rebels are allowing just 10.3 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks third in the NCAA, and allows 4.37 yards per play, which also leads the SEC and ranks 13th in the NCAA.

Ole Miss has also forced nine turnovers, including a nation-best eight interceptions, led by senior cornerback Senquez Golson who leads the SEC and ranks top-five nationally with three interceptions.

"They force you into mistakes," Memphis head coach Justin Fuente said. "When they hit you, it's usually hard. You have to hold onto the football, and you can't let some pressure force you into poor decisions."

On the other side, Memphis is tied for fourth in the NCAA with just one sack allowed and tied for 18th in the NCAA with just three turnovers lost. 

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack noted how Memphis moves quarterback Paxton Lynch around and how quickly he gets the ball out. Going against the Ole Miss offense in practice, Wommack said, has helped in preparing for Memphis.

"It's discouraging sometimes to the D-line when you don't get the sacks, but we have had so many pressures and hurries, which have resulted in good things for us," Wommack said. "We have to explain that to the D-line because they want the sacks."

Wallace, Rebels Look to Avoid Negative Plays


The SEC's active leader in most passing categories, senior quarterback Bo Wallace leads the nation in completion percentage (75.5%) and ranks fifth in the NCAA in pass efficiency (190.0). He has thrown for 341.0 yards per game, which leads the SEC and ranks eighth in the NCAA.

Wallace and the Rebels will face a Memphis defense that mixes up its looks and has created a lot negative plays that have put teams behind the chains. The Tigers rank top-15 nationally in tackles for loss (8.67/game) and sacks (3.67/game).

"These guys are really scary," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "They bring a lot of different blitzes. They disguise it really well. The teams that we have seen have given up a lot of sacks and negative plays. That's one thing we have been fairly good on so far this year. They bring a lot of different things for the table."

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' open date and return to action on Saturday, Sept. 27 against Memphis.

Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:50:18 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Opening statement...

"We're coming off of a solid win last week against ULL, and any time you're going into an open week, you hope it come at a good time to work on some things that you're struggling with and also maybe to get your team fully healthy. In all candor, I wish the open week was a bit later and that we were continuing to play. 

"We try to control the things we can control, so we're using this week on ourselves and to do some self scouting and to obviously prepare for our next game and do some recruiting. I like the chemistry and demeanor of our team right now, and hopefully we can maintain our focus on the process and not get caught up in being result-oriented all the time. I'm excited about where are at this point, but we have some very difficult games coming very soon."

On watching other games...

"I will watch every game I can physically do. We'll let our kids and coaches off Saturday. I'll do some family stuff that morning, I'm sure, and go a volleyball or something to watch my kids. The TiVo and DVRs will be running and I will try to catch every SEC game."

On the SEC Western Division...

"It's scary. I said in my press conference this week that I really believe that all seven teams could be considered Top 25 teams. I think they're all that talented. Whether or not the high rankings for all of us are really justified to this point, I don't know, it's still really early. 

"The fact remains we may all be Top 10, Top 15, Top 20 teams, but we're going to beat each other up at some point. It doesn't mean you're not a quality team for sure, but it's inevitable that's going to happen. I've seen film on every one of these (SEC West) teams and I think all of them are tremendously gifted and well-coached. It's going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out."

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NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., visited Ole Miss on Wednesday. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native spoke to various student groups, including the football team. 

Stenhouse Jr. presented head coach Hugh Freeze with a firesuit, and Freeze presented him with an Ole Miss football jersey. Stenhouse Jr. also caught passes from Bo Wallace and threw passes into the target net at football practice.


 

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 8-14)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 8-14, 2014

Volleyball
- Ole Miss captured the Magnolia Invitational this past weekend to improve to 10-0, its best start in school history.
- The Rebels downed UAB and Mercer 3-0 and then defeated Jacksonville State 3-1 after dropping the first set for the first time all year.
- Freshman Lexi Thompson was named the tournament MVP, while Ty Laporte and Aubrey Edie joined her on the all-tournament team.
- Thompson averaged 2.80 kills, 3.00 digs and 0.50 blocks and aces per set to lead the Rebels to the title. She tallied a career-high 18 kills, and a career-best 17 digs in the 3-1 win against Jacksonville State. With the Rebels dropping the first set for the first time all year, Thompson tallied 7 of her 18 kills in the second set, as the Rebels evened the match.
- Laporte finished the tournament with 28 kills and 9 blocks and hit .375. Edie posted 122 assists (12.2 per set), to earn her third straight all-tournament team honor.

Football
- Ole Miss used a high-octane offense and suffocating defense to claim a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday.
- The Rebels (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) moved up from No. 14 to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, their first top-10 ranking since week four of the 2009 season.
- The Rebel offense produced its second-highest scoring output of the Hugh Freeze era and accumulated 554 total yards in the rout.
- Bo Wallace completed 23 of 28 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns, notching his third straight 300-yard performance and the 10th of his career, which ties him with Eli Manning for the school record.
- Vince Sanders set career highs of eight catches, 125 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half.
- The Rebels have surrendered only two touchdowns to their opponents this year and rank fourth nationally with just 10.3 points allowed per game.
- The Rebel defense snagged three more interceptions against the Ragin' Cajuns and now leads the nation with eight this season.

Soccer
- The Ole Miss soccer team went 2-0 on the week with a pair of shutout victories over Austin Peay (2-0) and Middle Tennessee (4-0) on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
- Junior forward Olivia Harrison led the Rebels against the Lady Governors on Friday with a pair of goals in a three-minute span. Ole Miss out-shot Austin Peay 18-7 on the road in Clarksville, Tennessee.
- Unlike Ole Miss' win over Austin Peay, the Rebels spread out the scoring against Middle Tennessee with four different goal scorers, including sophomore Georgia Russell's first career goal, and one goal each from Addie Forbus, Gretchen Harknett and Jennifer Miller.
- The two shutouts by senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick were her first two of the season and give her 19 for her career.

Women's Tennis
- Freshman Arianne Hartono won the Country Club of Little Rock Invitational on Sunday for her first title with the Rebels. In the final, she defeated Houston's top player, Desponita Vogasari, who is ranked No. 68 in the preseason ITA Singles Rankings.
- Before winning the singles title, Hartono teamed with junior Mai El Kamash to capture the doubles title in their first tournament together. The duo defeated 59th-ranked and the top-seeded duo of Arkansas, Yang Pang and Sasha Shkorupeieva, 8-6 in the final. On Saturday, Hartono and El Kamash took out the No. 2 seed from the University of Houston.

Women's Golf
- The Rebels opened the 2014-15 season with the Memphis FedEx Intercollegiate (Sept. 8-9). Ole Miss took third-place with a score of 886 and Abby Newton claimed medalist honors. The third-place finish was Ole Miss' highest finish since taking runner-up honors at the UNC Tar Heel Classic in 2012-13.
- Newton's win at the Memphis FedEx Intercollegiate was the first individual title for the Rebels since Natalie Gleadall won the Cougar Classic in 2010.
- Several Rebels set new career marks at the tournament. Newton's second-round score of 68 was an 18-hole career-low, while her three-day tournament score of 210 was also a new 54-hole career low. Ole Miss' 886 is the sixth lowest total for the Rebels.

Men's Golf
- The Ole Miss men's golf team claimed fourth-place at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
- Junior Connor Davis finished the tournament with a career-low, three-round score of 208. He tied for fifth-place, which is a career-best for the two-year letterwinner. 
- Senior Joe Lewis and sophomore Ben Wolcott fired career-low tournament scores of 212 and 213, respectively.

Men's Cross Country
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team grabbed a third-place finish in the Commodore Classic, besting both SEC rivals Mississippi State and Vanderbilt at the event.
- Just as in the first meet of the season, freshman Mark Robertson posted the best time for the Rebels. His time of 25:00.31 in the 8K was good for 10th overall in the field of 242 runners.
- The Rebels have a first-place and third-place finish on the season, while sending only a portion of the team to the meets.

Women's Cross Country
- The Ole Miss women's cross country team placed sixth in a field of 17 teams at the Commodore Classic.
- For the second time in as many events, Mary Alex England finished with the best run for Ole Miss. Her time of 17.23.33 in the 5K placed eighth overall of 260 runners.

After a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, Ole Miss moved up four spots to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll, released on Sunday. 

Despite breaking into the top 10, the Rebels remain fifth among Southeastern Conference Western Division teams with Alabama (No. 3), Alabama (No. 5), Texas A&M (No. 6) and LSU (No. 8) ahead of them in the polls. Ole Miss plays each of the other four teams in five-week stretch starting with a home game against Alabama on Oct. 4.

This is the first time Ole Miss has been ranked in the top 10 since 2009, when the Rebels were ranked in the top 10 in the each of the first four polls before falling out after a loss to South Carolina. 

Before 2009, the last time Ole Miss was ranked in the top 10 was 1970, Archie Manning's senior season, when the Rebels finished 7-4 and earned a berth in the Gator Bowl.

With Saturday's win over Louisiana-Lafayette, Ole Miss is 3-0 for the second straight year, the first time the Rebels have started 3-0 in consecutive season since 1971-72. When Ole Miss hosts Memphis in two weeks, it will seek its first 4-0 start since that 1970 season.

Golson's Buy-In Pays Off

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Senior cornerback Senquez Golson has come a long way since he was a freshman. 

That season, he was most notably on the receiving end of a highlight reel juke from Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

Three years later, as part of a defense that has allowed just two touchdowns all season, Golson is making his own highlights, intercepting two passes, including one that he returned 59 yards for a touchdown, in a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

"This is, in my opinion, the first year that he decided he was really going to buy in," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Not that he was bad the last couple of years, but there's no question with the way he comes to work every day and the way he allows me to coach him, he's just a different guy and he's definitely more in. 

"When somebody does that and has success on the field, it's rewarding when you see good things happen because a kid has decided to buy in."

After saying it before in past interviews, Golson believes he's finally playing the best football of his career. He already has three interceptions this season, tying his career high and giving him nine for his career.

Golson credited his maturation off the field for the change on the field.

"I was a senior this year and I wanted to go out with a tradition with the corners, the secondary and the defense," Golson said. "I wanted to try to lead them with the knowledge I have from four years and what we used to be and what we are now. I wanted to step up and be the leader that I'm supposed to be as a senior."

Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack told Golson he was going to get a pick-six this week, and he proved him right.

"I knew when I saw him jump it, he was going to take it away from the guy," Wommack said. "He's pretty fast, so there was probably going to be no catching him."

Wallace Keeps It Going


Senior quarterback Bo Wallace said he couldn't remember going as deep into a game without an incompletion as he did against Louisiana-Lafayette.

He completed each of his first 14 passes on the way to his third 300-yard passing game in as many games this season, completing 23-of-28 passes for 316 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He also tied Eli Manning for the school record with 10 career 300-yard passing games.

"He really made good decisions today," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "I was proud of him today. He keeps getting better and better, and hopefully we can keep that going."

Since the start of the second half against Boise State, Wallace has completed 80.5 percent (58-of-72) of his passes and thrown for 875 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.

"It's what I'm expecting out of myself," Wallace said. "I'm trying to get in a rhythm as soon as I walk out. Get in a rhythm, and I have felt good the past couple of games. I'm playing how I expect myself to play. I have to continue it each week."

Explosive Plays in the Run Game

One of the areas Freeze looked for improvement was to work out ways to effectively run the football. 

Behind long touchdown runs from junior running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the first time this season, as the Rebels rushed for 214 yards on 35 carries, a season-high 6.1 yards per carry.

"It's better, but not where we need it to be totally, and we'll keep working on it," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We have to keep working. There were some good things today."

"We got a bunch of big plays and that's only going to help us in the long run," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "We need to get more consistent three and four-yard runs. That's the big things. You want it to be 2nd-and-6, not 2nd-and-10, but the backs did a good job of popping some big ones for us."


Three areas to watch as Ole Miss faces Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday.

Wearing the Bull's-Eye

After a 2-0 start with wins over Boise State and Vanderbilt, Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll, its highest ranking since 2009. 

Many are already pointing to the matchup with No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 4 in Oxford, but two home games stand in the way, starting with Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.

"There's no question in my mind the bull's-eye that will be on our chest for this week with the group from Lafayette will be huge," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We expect to get their best shot and we have to be prepared for it."

There's also a mutual familiarity from when Freeze was the head coach at Arkansas State in 2011, which was also Mark Hudspeth's first season at Louisiana-Lafayette. 

"They didn't play their best the other night," said Freeze, referring to Louisiana-Lafayette's 48-20 loss to Louisiana Tech. "They turned it over and put them in bad spots, but I know we'll get their best, and just a couple years ago they either beat Florida or had them right to the wire.

"From being in that conference, I know how it is for those kids to get a chance to play in these arenas and these games. I know Mark will have them ready and it'll be a good game." 

Developing Offensive Line Depth

From week one to week two, the false start penalties decreased from eight to two, while the yards per rush average increased from 2.1 to 3.6, but the coaches continue to want to see improvement from the offensive line as the season progresses.

Freeze said Ole Miss will continue its offensive line rotation against Louisiana-Lafayette, with sophomore tackle/center Robert Conyers and freshman guard Rod Taylor seeing extended action in reserve roles. 

Freeze also mentioned Craig Frigo as a candidate for additional reps, but it remains to be seen if redshirt freshman offensive tackle Christian Morris has progressed enough to be game ready.

"He's got a ways to go," Freeze said. "The last couple of weeks, he's been with the scout team and hasn't been working the scheme that we're running. His technique is a ways away too because he hasn't played in a while. I'm glad we have him. We're going to bring him along because we could certainly use him before the year is over for sure, but he still has a ways to go." 

Freeze Eyes Two Areas for Improvement

In addition to continuing to work out ways to effectively run the football to be balanced on offense, Freeze mentioned two areas where he wants to see improvement going forward.

Offensively, Freeze wants to see improvements in red-zone scoring, where the Rebels have scored six touchdowns and kicked two fields goals in 10 trips to the red zone through two games.

"In the red zone, sometimes you have to be hard-nosed to run it in, and if they load the box, we feel pretty good about throwing it up to Laquon (Treadwell)," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "It's going to be one of those things, where we're either going to pound it in there, or if they want to put a bunch of people in the box, we feel like we have receivers who can make some plays."

Defensively, Freeze wants the defense to continue to limit explosive plays. He has said on more than one occasion, he's confident in the defense if the opponent has to drive the length of the field consistently. 

Through two games, the Rebels have allowed just eight plays of 20 yards or more, which has helped lead to allowing just 8.0 points per game, which ranks fifth in the NCAA and second in the SEC.

"We stopped the run primarily and we got some pressure on the quarterback and we didn't give up explosive plays and I think that's key for us this year," Freeze said after a 41-3 win over Vanderbilt. "We want to make people drive to earn points and I think we did that well."

VIDEO: Return of The Grove

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Rebel Nation goes into its home opener Saturday excited for the return of football at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, but also saddened by the loss of one of its most renowned voices.

Stan Sandroni, 64, passed away of a heart attack late Wednesday. In his 26th season with the Ole Miss Radio Network, he handled the football sideline reports and Locker Room Show until his passing. He touched the lives of so many people.

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' home opener Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and will be televised on the SEC Network.

Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:04:35 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Opening statement...

I was really excited to see some improvement from week one to week two in a lot of areas. We certainly have a long way to go, but I did think we got some really good play out of some key positions like quarterback and our wide receivers, and our offensive line certainly took a step forward. We still have a ways to go, like I said, and defensively we continue to play really well, holding an opponent in this conference under 200 yards. It was a solid, solid day, and our special teams were solid. We played a pretty complete game. I'm excited about that, and hopefully we can get back up and do the same thing this Saturday against a very talented Lafayette team.

On Bo Wallace's performance since the first half against Boise State...

"If you take the first half out, I think everybody would say he's been phenomenal. The second half of the game and the two-and-a-half quarters he played at Vandy were as solid as I have seen him play. He was pressing quite a bit in the first half (against Boise State) and tried to force some throws down the field. We really haven't changed anything about the way we prepare him. He's settled in and hopefully will continue to understand that we have a quality defense and that he doesn't have to force things offensively, take what we have, try to keep us on schedule and that it's OK to punt. Hopefully he keeps that mindset moving forward. He certainly has played really well the last game and in the second half of the Boise game.

On Bo Wallace's maturity...

"There's no question he's much more mature. He never got rattled or showed any signs of being down. He just wanted to get the next possession going. He handled it well, and our team handled it well. We were all encouraging him. He's very resilient. To be a quarterback in this league and have some of the tough losses that you have some times and to get some of the criticism, you have to be resilient, and he's very much that."

On the 2014 schedule...

"I don't have enough power to control any of the scheduling. I wish I did. I assure you, if I had a say in it, absolutely it would be broken up some because that's going to be a murderous stretch to go through with those quality teams. I wish we could break it up, but unfortunately I have no control over that. We have to control what we can and that's preparing to play the best we can. It would be nice if it was broken up some."

On the team and where he wants the team to improve...

"Our team has great chemistry and is very hungry. Those are the two things. I love our staff. There are no egos. We all want to do the best we can here in mentoring young men, first in life, and then hopefully win some football games with them. I like our team as far as that goes.

"We have to continue to work out ways to effectively run the football to be balanced on offense. We have to improve our red-zone scoring of touchdowns, and defensively we have to continue to make sure we don't give up the big plays. I think our defense is talented enough that if people have to drive the length of the field consistently on us we're going to win some of those battles. In the past, we have given up some big plays. We haven't yet this year, and hopefully that will continue."

Former Ole Miss football player Jody Hill has partnered with Square Books in Oxford to launch his book, "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect," celebrating the life and impact of his Ole Miss teammate Chucky Mullins.

Hill will be signing copies of his book on Friday starting at 5 p.m at Off Square Books in Oxford. Billy Brewer, who was Hill and Mullins' head coach at Ole Miss, will also be in attendance at the event that will kick off the release of the book.

For more information, visit Hill's website here.

What members of the Ole Miss family are saying about "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect":

Billy Brewer

"My former player Jody Hill has written a firsthand account of the life and legacy of our beloved Chucky Mullins. This is not hearsay, but the direct feelings offered by family, friends and teammates. Every Rebel needs to read this, He got it right!"

Cooper Manning, former Ole Miss football player

"My Ole Miss teammate Jody Hill has written a heartfelt tribute to his teammate Chucky Mullins. Although Chucky and I never played together, Jody has helped me to better understand and appreciate Chucky's impact upon so many. I recommend this read to everyone who has a love for Ole Miss or Chucky Mullins. I think you will find it to be an inspiration"

Carver and Karen Phillips, Mullins' guardians

"We were fortunate enough to be blessed by sharing our lives with Chucky. We believe this book will be a blessing to many others as they learn more about this very special person. Chucky has encouraged many through his motto: 'Never Quit.' We pray that each one who reads this book will also be inspired by Chucky's story."

From week one to week two, head coach Hugh Freeze and offensive line coach Matt Luke are generally pleased with the progress along the offensive line.

The number of false start penalties went from eight to two, while the ground game improved from 34 carries for 71 yards, a 2.1 yard per rush average, to 50 carries for 180 yards, a 3.6 yards per rush average.

"They were prepared this week and there was some good and some bad," Freeze said Monday. "We have to continue to work on them understanding what we are facing and getting better at their technique, but there were a lot better things up front against a good defensive line." 

"There was some improvement from week one to week two, and I want to continue to see improvement as we go forward," Luke said. "That's the key on any team."

Sophomore offensive tackle/center Robert Conyers missed Tuesday's practice with a hip flexor, but Freeze expects him to practice tomorrow and play on Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. 

In his absence, junior Fahn Cooper got additional reps at right tackle, where he started each of the first two games with Conyers playing some behind him. Cooper was flagged for three penalties against Vanderbilt, including a holding penalty that resulted in a touchdown being called back.

"I was disappointed in those penalties because they cost us a touchdown and we had to settle for a field goal," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "Anytime you take points off the board, you're not pleased with that, but I do think for sticking a guy in there coming out of junior college without the benefit of spring practice, he's going out there and battling and doing well for what he has been asked to do. 

"He's going to keep improving as the experience happens. I remember when Pierce Burton went through some of those same growing pains."

Behind Cooper and Conyers, the coaches are also bringing along redshirt freshman Christian Morris, who recently received a hardship waiver from the NCAA. He and redshirt freshman Davion Johnson split reps at No. 2 left tackle behind sophomore Laremy Tunsil.

"He looked good," Luke said. "He's rusty. He's probably a few pounds overweight just from not getting him as many reps on the scout team. He's rusty. We worked him in with the 2's some today and we're going to bring him along slowly. It's obviously good to have that extra body to get in there some. I don't know if he's quite game ready yet, but we're working toward that for sure."

Like Cooper, Luke expects freshman offensive guard Rod Taylor to improve as he gets more reps in practice and gets more experience in games. He and junior offensive guard Craig Frigo both saw extended action against Vanderbilt

"I was pleased," Luke said. "He played physical. He got beat on a pass rush right before the half, but I was pleased with him. He was out there bouncing around with a lot of energy. He played really physically and had some pancakes. He showed his ability and showed what we thought he could be."


Core, Others Not Surprised by His Fast Start

After setting career highs with four catches for 110 yards and two touchdown against Boise State, junior wide receiver Cody Core followed it up with four catches for 85 yards and another touchdown against Vanderbilt.

"I wouldn't say I saw it coming, but I knew something was going to come if I kept working hard," said Core of the start to his season.

In his new role as the team's No. 1 slot receiver, he's already set career high with his two-game season totals of eight catches, 195 yards and three touchdowns. He's averaging 24.4 yards per catch and he is tied for first nationally with five receiving plays of 20 yards or more.

"It's his first chance and first opportunity," Freeze said. "He didn't all of a sudden become talented. It's time now with Ja-Mes (Logan) and Donte (Moncrief) gone, it's time for a kid in the program to step up now and have his chance, and he's used that."

"I've always thought he could be a good player for us," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "I think it's just his opportunity. He's surprised me with how well he is (running) after the catch. He made some good moves after the catch in the Vandy game. I've always known he was able to play ball. It's really not a huge surprise." 


Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 1-7)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Sept. 1-7, 2014

Football
- Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the USA Today Coaches poll after its dominating 41-3 victory at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
- It was the Rebels' largest margin of victory against an SEC opponent since beating Mississippi State 45-0 in 2008.
- Ole Miss ranks fifth in the nation in scoring defense (8.0 ppg) and second nationally with five interceptions.
- Ole Miss outgained Vandy 331-76 in total offense at halftime and finished 547-167. The Rebels also piled up 34 first downs -- the most in a game under Freeze.
- Vanderbilt didn't get past midfield against the Rebels until the final couple minutes of the third quarter, and the Commodores had to settle for a field goal after recovering DeVante Kincade's fumble at the Ole Miss 5 in the fourth quarter.

Volleyball
- The Rebels captured the Memphis Invitational this past weekend, defeating Memphis (3-2), Arkansas State (3-1) and UT-Martin (3-1) to win their second consecutive tournament title to open the year.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair, sophomore Aubrey Edie and junior Ty Laporte were named to the All-Tournament team, while Clair earned Most Valuable Player honors for the second week in a row.
- Clair finished the tournament with 55 kills, nine blocks and hit .463. She posted double-digit kills in all three matches, including a career-high 20 in the win over UT-Martin. Laporte finished with 13 blocks (1.00 bps) and equaled her career-best (eight) in the win against Memphis. Edie tallied 149 assists (11.40 aps).
- The Rebels are 7-0 to start the year for the first time since the 2007 season. They are also the only SEC team still undefeated on the season.
- For the weekend, the Rebels averaged 14.00 kills per set and 1.85 blocks per set. In the tournament finale, the Rebels hit .312 to defeat UT-Martin 3-1.
- Senior Cara Fisher was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week last week for her performance at the Buffalo Classic.

Soccer
- Olivia Harrison tallied her first career hat trick, including the golden goal, to give Ole Miss a 3-2 double overtime win over Minnesota on Friday.
- Harrison scored two goals in three minutes Friday night against the Gophers to tie the match for the Rebels.
- Harrison and sophomore Addie Forbus had two of the three hat tricks recorded by an SEC team this weekend following Harrison's performance on Friday night.
- Jessica Hiskey tallied her third goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Memphis on Sunday night as the Rebels went undefeated on the weekend.

The No. 15 Ole Miss football scored early and often defeating Vanderbilt 41-3 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. The Rebels return home for its home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, the first of three home games also including Memphis (Sept. 27) and No. 2 Alabama (Oct. 4). Here are a few Ole Miss-Vanderbilt related tweets and links to audio, videos and stories:

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Vanderbilt highlights from the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Vanderbilt highlights from ESPN

Ole Miss QB Wallace rebounds, makes better decisions, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Turning Point: Ole Miss sets tone with timely turnovers, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

It's hard not to think about Alabama bout, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Three Rebels from Midstate have happy homecoming, writes Sam Brown of The Tennesseean

This week's win more satisfying, writes Parrish Alford of The Daily Journal

Looking forward, writes Ben Garrett of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

What we learned from Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 3, writes Craig Stephenson of AL.com

What we learned in the SEC: Week 2, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

And in case you missed it, "Ole Miss Thumps Vanderbilt 41-3" on OleMissSports.com and "Wallace Leads Rebels in Romp" with Hugh Freeze and Bo Wallace videos on Ole Miss Blog

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After a 28-point explosion in the fourth quarter to pull away from Boise State in the season opener, the Ole Miss offense delivered a message loud and clear in a 41-3 demolition of Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Ole Miss rolled up 34 first downs and 547 yards of total offense, averaging 6.2 yards per play and converting 10 of its 15 third-down attempts. The Rebels scored on seven of their first eight drives, with the one exception being their fifth drive that ended the first half.

"They gave us exactly what we thought," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We had a good game plan, and guys were running wide open the whole night. Guys made some plays after the catch, and we put up some yards."

Wallace led the way with perhaps the most complete game of his Ole Miss career, completing 23-of-30 passes and shredding the Vanderbilt defense for 320 yards and a touchdown. It was his second straight 300-yard passing game, the ninth of his career, which is one shy of tying Eli Manning's school record.

Between the second half of the Boise State game and the first half of the Vanderbilt game, Wallace completed 31-of-39 passes for 488 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The 488 yards would have shattered Archie Manning's school-record 436 yards against Alabama in 1969.

"He didn't make any bad decisions, or anything that was even close," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said.

With a 34-0 lead halfway through the third quarter, Wallace made way for redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, who combined to lead the Rebels on a 13-play, 68-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Kincade, his first career touchdown.

"That was fun for me," said Wallace of watching the game from the sideline. "I was watching Ryan warm up and I was laughing at him because I could tell he was a little nervous. It was good. They did a really good job."

The quarterbacks completed passes to eight different receivers. Five receivers caught at least four passes, led by sophomore tight end Evan Engram with career highs in receptions (7) and yards (112) and junior wide receiver Cody Core who hauled in his third touchdown catch of the season.

The Rebels also got the running game off the ground, rushing for 180 yards on 50 carries, a 3.6 average, after being held to 71 yards in the season opener against Boise State.

"We have to continue it," said Wallace of the start of the season for the offense. "There are some things we have to clean up. The defense is doing a great job in getting us the ball where we can run some plays. There's always something to clean up, so we'll watch the film tomorrow, and I'm sure we won't feel as good about it as we do right now."


Three areas to watch as Ole Miss travels to Nashville for its SEC opener against Vanderbilt from LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.

Rebels Look to Get Ground Game Rolling

The coaches challenged the players this week after Ole Miss rushed for just 71 yards on 34 attempts (a 2.1 yards per rush average), and had no gains of 20 yards of more. The Rebels also look to clean up their penalties, as they committed seven false starts in the first half alone against Boise State.

For Vanderbilt, it will be its second game after switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive alignment under its new coaching staff. In their first game, the Commodores allowed 4.3 yards per play, including 3.2 yards per play on the ground, and held Temple to 2-of-17 on third-down conversions.

"We made the adjustments at halftime and did much better in the second half," said Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke on Tuesday. "We can play more physical and obviously play better. That's the goal. You have to go out there and go to work and get your mistakes corrected. You kind of have a sick feeling even though you won the game, and you want to try to get that corrected going into game two."

Commodores Seek Consistency at Quarterback

After playing three different quarterbacks in a 37-7 season-opening loss to Temple, Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said he is looking for consistency at the position against Ole Miss.

Sophomore Patton Robinette, graduate student Stephen Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary are all listed as co-starters on the depth chart this week, and Mason said he would not announce the starter publicly prior to the game.

Robinette started the game against Temple, completing 4-of-6 passes for 38 yards, while Rivers earned the most playing time, completing 12-of-25 passes for 186 yards and an interception.

"You go through the process of evaluating and you want to see what you see in practice measure up to what you see on game day," said Mason in his weekly press conference Tuesday. "We don't have the consistency at the position that you'd like but I needed to see all three guys in order to see where we are."

Rivalry Feel, NFL Atmosphere in SEC Opener

It's a rivalry born out of competitiveness, but that's what Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have become in recent years. There have been notable exceptions, but it's been a closely contested series, with 10 of the last 15 meetings decided by eight points or less.

Two years ago, Vanderbilt erased a 17-point second-half deficit, and rallied to win 27-26 in Oxford. Last year, in Nashville, Ole Miss snapped the Commodores' three-game winning streak in the series with a 39-35 win behind a late 75-yard touchdown run from Jeff Scott.

Saturday marks the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams and the game will be played inside LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. With a large Ole Miss contingent in the Nashville area, it might resemble a neutral-site to a pro-Ole Miss crowd.

"They tend to get up extremely high for us," said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze of Vanderbilt. "It means a lot being in such close proximity in recruiting. We recruit a lot of the same kids in the Tennessee area. It means a lot to both programs. It's been every competitive and they have always played us tough up there for whatever reason."


Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. CT at Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. 

For the full SEC teleconference, go here.

Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason (starts at 24:58 mark)

Opening statement...

"Our football team is coming off a tough loss versus Temple. We found out a lot about ourselves in terms of who we are offensively, defensively and on special teams. The quarterback situation has been definitely resolving itself. We're working though the process of making sure that our schemes fit what their skill sets are. 

"In terms of our offensive line, we're working toward getting on track and doing what we do. It will be great to get Jerron Seymour back. Ralph Webb ran extremely well. The tight ends were very productive. In terms of the run and pass game, we need to make sure that those guys have opportunities for touches. We had a young receiving core group grow up in front of our eyes. That's where we are offensively.

"Defensively, we're looking at how we played. This group is definitely capable of doing great things. We have to keep being about the work at hand. Our focus is sharp and narrow, just in terms of the opponent in front of us. We're going to face a really good Ole Miss team. Our defensive unit has a tough task ahead. Our front has to continue working toward stopping the run, being able to set edges on the perimeter and playing from the top down in the secondary."

On the team's bounce back since the loss to Temple...

"They have done exactly what they needed to do and that's make the corrections, re-focus, understand who they are and understand more or less what we need to in order to be the team that we want to be. That's a day-to-day focus and day-to-day commitment. We work toward dominating the day. The practices have been physical and fast. That's the way we like it and that's the way we need to be."

On the offensive tempo of Ole Miss...

"Ole Miss is going to be much faster than Temple. They can go at a much faster pace and they have several speeds. They can go from a regular tempo, to a NASCAR tempo, to a warp-speed tempo. The ball is being hiked with anywhere from 20-28 seconds left (on the play clock). You have to know and understand what their mechanics are, and once you know their mechanics, you have to make sure you get lined up, get your calls in, structure your defense and play fast."

On a rivalry feel in games against Ole Miss...

"On Saturday, we looked at a little bit of Ole Miss in terms of preparing these guys, and some of the veterans got up and talked about the rivalry between the two schools, what it is and how tight it's been. That's where your leadership has to come out and give you a chance to understand the scope of the game. Not only is it an SEC opponent, but it's a rivalry game. There's always a little more on these rivalry games, but it also helped us understand where we need to go and what the level of intensity is going to be. With Ole Miss having a decent fan base here in the Nashville area, it's going to be a great crowd. We're excited and looking forward to it."

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 58:12 mark)

Opening statement...

"We're excited to come away with a win last week against Boise in the Chick-fil-A (Kickoff) Classic. Let me take a moment to say what a wonderful organization Chick-fil-A is for our sport and the partnership they have with the SEC. Those guys are super people and run a first-class deal, so we were excited to represent our conference there and come away with a win.

"Our defense played extremely well for most of the game, as did our special teams. Offensively, we struggled the entire first half, but we settled (down) in the second half and played much better, so hopefully we can continue improving in all areas this Saturday up in Nashville."

On a rivalry feel in games against Vanderbilt...

"I've only been back here for two years, but we've had two phenomenal games with them. When I was an assistant here, we had some good ones also, so it's been more the competitiveness of the games when we played them. They tend to get up extremely high for us. It means a lot being in such close proximity in recruiting. We recruit a lot of the the same kids in the Tennessee area. It means a lot to both programs. It's been every competitive and they have always played us tough up there for whatever reason, and most of the time here (in Oxford) also."

On playing at LP Field and whether it will seem like an Ole Miss home game...

"It will be my first experience playing them there. In our bowl game, we certainly traveled well to (LP Field). Our fans always travel well, so I expect to have a very good representation there. It would be nice if it does, but I'm not sure if it will or not."

On Cody Core separating himself from other receivers and earning a start against Boise State...

"Probably after the second week, he was the most consistent that we had. We were playing him outside for the first two weeks, but he kept showing up. He's an intelligent young man, so we started moving him inside some, hoping to get the return of Collins Moore who could play outside, and we needed more depth inside with a bigger body besides just Quincy (Adeboyejo). We moved him there and he picked it up very quickly and continued to be the most consistent performer throughout camp. 

"I couldn't be more pleased for his success. Everyone knows about the tragedy that he went through in losing his mother who was very young and was a super lady who influenced many people as a schoolteacher. Our team was so ecstatic for him to have success in his first game."

Vanderbilt played three different quarterbacks in a 37-7 season-opening loss to Temple, with sophomore Patton Robinette getting the start and graduate student Stephen Rivers earning the majority of the playing time, as he completed 12-of-25 passes for 186 yards to lead the Commodores. 

Vanderbilt was limited to 4.41 yards per play and committed seven turnovers that directly led to 27 Temple points. Robinette, Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary are all listed as co-starters entering Saturday's game

"You can't just go off that one game," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said Tuesday. "I totally don't expect to see that offense this week. Our players are mature enough to know it's not going to be like that."

For Ole Miss, junior defensive tackle Issac Gross practiced Tuesday after missing the season opener against Boise State. While he did not know his official status, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said Gross practiced well and he fully expects him to be back for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt. 

The coaches are also excited about the return of junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche. An All-SEC second team selection last season, Nkemdiche is expected to split time at Stinger linebacker with senior Serderius Bryant. There may also be third-down and 4-3 packages with both of them on the field.

"Last year, after the knee injury and surgery after the Vanderbilt game, I don't know that he ever recovered," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. "He always had a little gimp in his leg, and I don't see that during fall camp. I see a kid who is hungry to play and hungry to prove himself again. 

"He has gone through everything with us, and he's ready to play. It's just a matter of getting the game plan down this week. He and Serderius (Bryant) will split time at that spot.  I'm sure we'll have a third-down package for both of them on the field. We're excited to have him back."

Sophomore Derrick Jones had been listed as the No. 3 boundary cornerback behind junior Mike Hilton and senior Cliff Coleman each of the past two weeks. It might be something, it might be nothing, but Jones worked with the wide receivers during the portions of Tuesday's practice open to the media.

"There's great competition there (at cornerback)," Freeze said Monday. "The other guys are playing really well, not that he didn't play well. We'll need him before the year is up, but the great thing about football is you get to compete. We certainly try to play the best kids out there, and we love Derrick. I expect him to play a lot of football for us before his time is over. 

"Right now the others, Senquez (Golson) and Kendarius Webster and those, are playing pretty solid. There are some things Derrick is better at than they are. They didn't really threaten us, but if we get in the red zone against big receivers you'll see Derrick. There are certain things he has to continue to improve on."

Adjustments Along the Offensive Line


In Monday's press conference, Freeze challenged the offensive line after Ole Miss rushed for just 71 yards on 34 attempts, a 2.1 yards per rush average, in a 35-13 win over Boise State.

"We didn't play physical, and that's a result of the stemming and noise that was being made," Freeze said Monday. "We jumped offsides so many times. You know what we're saying to them, and they think they better not jump offsides so they were a little tentative. We got it fixed at halftime, but it was still not physical in the second half in the run game."

It appears the offensive line has answered that challenge in the practices since the Boise State game last Thursday.

"We made the adjustments at halftime and did much better in the second half," offensive line coach Matt Luke said Tuesday. "We can play more physical and obviously play better. That's the goal. You have to go out there and go to work and get your mistakes corrected. You kind of have a sick feeling even though you won the game and you want to try get that corrected going into game two."

Luke also noted some possible changes and the challenge of developing chemistry with playing different players in different spots along the offensive line.

"It will take a little while, but everyone has to do their job and step up and handle their job," Luke said Tuesday. "That will occur. We'll look at (Robert) Conyers at center some more and Fahn (Cooper) playing more and you're going to see Rod Taylor some at guard because the heat will be a factor and it will be important to keep some guys fresh."

"We'd never really played beside each other, but at the end of the day, we trust each other and that's the most important thing," junior offensive guard Justin Bell said Tuesday. "I feel like we got things clicking. We have worked real hard on this week, feeling each other out. I expect big things out of us."


Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Aug. 25-31)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
Aug. 25-31, 2014

Football
- No. 18 Ole Miss opened the 2014 season with a 35-13 win over Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
- The Rebels led 7-6 entering the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Bo Wallace and the offense exploded for 28 fourth-quarter points to cruise to victory.
- Wallace passed for 387 yards and four touchdowns, and receivers Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core both set career highs and went over 100 receiving yards.
- The Rebel defense picked off the Broncos four times, including Cody Prewitt's 10th career interception that ranks him top 10 in school history.
- Logging his first start, junior wide receiver Cody Core finished with four catches for a career-high 110 yards and his first two career touchdowns.

Volleyball
- Ole Miss kicked off the Steven McRoberts era this past weekend by winning the Buffalo Classic. The Rebels defeated Canisius, Siena, Lehigh and Buffalo all by 3-0 scores to capture their first tournament title away from home since 2007.
- The Rebels started the year 4-0 for the first time since 2007 and swept their first four matches for the first time since 1984.
- Melanie Crow, Aubrey Edie and Nakyeta Clair were named to the All-Tournament Team, while Clair earned Most Valuable Player honors.  
- The Rebels averaged 15.0 kills per set, led by Crow, who posted 46 kills for an average of 3.83 kills per set.  Crow came up with several big kills in Sunday's win over Buffalo to stave off the Bulls and also added 13 blocks, 7 service aces and hit .320 for the weekend.
- Clair finished the tournament with 42 kills and 13 blocks and hit .381, while Edie tallied 149 assists (12.42 per set).

Cross Country
Men's Team
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team opened the 2014 season on a high note, tying for first at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic. Three runners finished in the top 10 for the Rebels.
- In his first event as a Rebel, freshman Mark Robertson recorded the best time for Ole Miss in the four-mile run. His time of 20:07.74 was good for second overall in the event.
- The first-place finish was against a field consisting of four regionally ranked teams.
Women's Team
- The Rebel women's cross country team finished third in the Twilight Classic, ahead of two other regionally ranked teams.
- Sophomore Mary Alex England's fifth-place finish in the 5K led the way for the Rebels.
- Of the 10 Rebels who competed in the opening event, five were freshmen and four were sophomores.

Soccer
- Sophomore Addie Forbus turned in her first hat trick and added two assists to help the Rebels defeat Louisiana-Lafayette 5-1 on Sunday.
- Junior Jessica Hiskey added a pair of goals against Louisiana-Lafayette as the Rebels improved to 2-1-1 on the season.
- The Rebels split on the weekend, dropping a road contest at Louisville 1-0 on Friday before picking up the win over the Ragin' Cajuns to close out play in week two of competition.

The SEC Storied documentary "It's Time," centered on the the inspirational friendship between former Vanderbilt football player Brad Gaines and former Ole Miss football player Chucky Mullins, will premiere on Tuesday on the Vanderbilt campus and will debut on Thursday at 7 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.

"It's time is a film about two people whose lives change in one football play," said Fritz Mitchell in his director statement. "Before Oct. 28, 1989, Brad Gaines and Chucky Mullins had never heard of each other. After that day, they would be bonded in friendship and they would never be the same again."

From the ESPN MediaZone press release:

On October 28, 1989, Ole Miss defensive back Chucky Mullins hit Vanderbilt running back Brad Gaines in the back and separated him from the ball. While Gaines was uninjured, Mullins suffered a broken neck on the play, leaving him a quadriplegic. But in that heartbreaking moment, a friendship was born that lasted another two years, until Mullins died of a blood clot in a Memphis hospital room, with Gaines at his side. "It's Time" will chronicle the inspirational journeys of these two men brought together by tragedy.

Here are some more clips from ESPN:

 

 
 

Observations from the Best Seat in the House - Aug. 31

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Observations Logo.pngThis is a new concept we've created for the Ole Miss Sports Blog that we're calling Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations from the previous week in Ole Miss sports. Some of these will be stat nuggets, some of these will be links to great work from other people, and some will simply be casual observations about a game/subject/whatever. Sometimes I'll be posting these weekly features, sometimes it will be Austin Miller, and sometimes we'll team up for it. We'll keep it professional, of course, but we're also going to have some fun with this because it is a blog after all. Let's get started:

1.) Great season-opening win by the Ole Miss football team. Was it always pretty? No. Does it matter? Not really. At the end of the day, the Rebels are 1-0, which is a fact half the teams in the country cannot say.

2.) He plays a position that doesn't always (OK, ever) get a whole lot of attention, but can we please give a shout out to Will Gleeson? The Punter from Down Under was a beast Thursday night against Boise State. Not only did he punt for distance, he also punted with precision, landing three of his four punts inside the Broncos' 20-yard line, including a 70-yarder that stopped at the 7.

3.) Here's a nice story on Gleeson from Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger from back on Aug. 10. Check it out.

4.) We had read and heard about the Ole Miss defense throughout fall camp, but when they're going against the Ole Miss offense there (obviously) aren't any big hits so as to prevent injury. Well, my guess is those defensive players had a little energy built up. There were some absolutely massive hits Thursday from a number of folks. Check out this Vine showing three of the bigger hits: https://vine.co/v/MlV2vObKAxE.

5.) In camp, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said he expected really big things from sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. The former consensus No. 1 overall recruit didn't disappoint. While his stats weren't necessarily eye-opening, if you watched the game you saw how much attention he drew from the Broncos, which thus freed up his teammates for three sacks and 10 tackles for loss. I really liked this quote from Nkemdiche after the game: "The Rebel defense really made a statement and are really getting an identity. You better get used to it. It's the new normal for us."

6.) Senquez Golson had a big-time game for the Rebels against Boise State. The senior from Pascagoula, Mississippi, made a game-high tying eight solo tackles, including one tackle for a loss and he also had a key interception in the end zone.

7.) Speaking of that interception in the end zone, the key to the game may have been the Rebels' defense bending but never breaking in the first half. Boise State had two drives stall inside the Ole Miss 5-yard line. In total, the Broncos ran seven plays inside the Ole Miss 5 and came away with just three points. If Boise State scores two touchdowns there the whole game could have been different.

8.) Stop me if you've heard this before: Cody Prewitt picked off a pass. The first team All-American picked up right where he left off a year ago when he led the Southeastern Conference with six interceptions.

9.) While there wound up being a lot of good that came from Thursday's game, there were also a couple head scratchers. Fourteen penalties is a whale of a number, first game or not, and that's surely something Coach Freeze and the rest of the Rebel coaching staff will be focusing on prior to their next game at Vanderbilt. Of the 14 penalties, half came as a result of false start calls ... in the first half.

10.) Ole Miss will also look to kick start its running game its next time out. Ole Miss finished the day with 34 rushes for just 71 yards and a touchdown. I, for one, believe the Ole Miss running back corps is a position of strength and the remainder of the year will be a different story.

11.) Here's a fun fact: With Thursday's win, Ole Miss Football is now 8-0 all-time in the month of August.

12.) Did you see Josh McCoy's photo gallery of the football game? Do yourself a favor and click here to check it out: http://www.olemisssports.com/view.gal?id=164946. He's the best photographer in the biz, folks. You can also follow him on Twitter at @OleMissPix.

13.) What a great weekend for the Ole Miss volleyball team as it kicked off the Steven McRoberts era in grand fashion by going 4-0 in Buffalo, New York, at the Buffalo Classic.

14.) The Rebels didn't drop a set throughout the entirety of the tournament. The Rebels' 4-0 start is their best start since 2007, and it's their first time opening a season without dropping a set in their first four matches since 1984. Wow. The volleyball team will play in three matches next week (Sept. 5-6) in nearby Memphis, Tennessee, before hosting two tournaments in back-to-back weekends Sept. 11-12 and Sept. 18-20.

15.) The Ole Miss soccer team also continued its strong start to the year with a 1-1 weekend that saw it bounce back from a 1-0 loss at Louisville on Friday with a 5-1 win over Louisiana-Lafayette at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium on Sunday. Love seeing a team respond from its first loss with five goals and a victory.

16.) The soccer team is now 2-1-1 after facing four tough opponents to open the season. Come on out to support your Rebels this upcoming week for two home games against Minnesota and Memphis on Sept. 5 and Sept. 7, respectively. It's a fun environment and the team really feeds off a strong crowd.

The No. 18 Ole Miss football team won the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game defeating Boise State 35-13. The Rebels move into Southeastern Conference next week with a road test at Vanderbilt from Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. The Commodores are coming off a 37-7 home loss to Temple on Thursday night. Here are a few Ole Miss-Boise State related links to audio, videos and stories:

AUDIO: Ole Miss-Boise State highlights from the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Boise State highlights from ESPN

VIDEO: Vine supercut of big hits from Keith Lewis, Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner

Plays that changed the game: Ole Miss, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Freeze keeps faith in uneven Ole Miss QB Wallace, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss defense flashes dominance against Boise State, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Turning Point: Treadwell's big drive rescues Ole Miss, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger

Winning Late, writes Jeff Roberson of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Player of the Game: Laquon Treadwell, writes Ben Garett of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

Uneasy feeling ends in good feeling for No. 19 Ole Miss, writes George Schroeder of USA Today

What we learned from Ole Miss 35, Boise State 13, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com

And in case you missed it, "Ole Miss Pulls Away Late, Wins 35-13" on OleMissSports.com and two posts on Ole Miss Blog: "Second-Half Surge for Rebel Offese" with Bo Wallace and Laquon Treadwell videos  "'The New Normal' on Defense" with Robert Nkemdiche and Cody Prewitt videos.


ATLANTA -- Boise State had been the highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 40.2 points per game dating back to the 2000 season. 

Highlighted by four interceptions, eight tackles for loss and big hits by several different players, the Rebels held the Broncos to 13 points in a 35-13 win in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game from Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

"The Rebel defense really made a statement and are really getting an identity," sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "You better get used to it. It's the new normal for us."

Boise State made three trips to the red zone, and the Ole Miss defense held the Broncos to just 10 points, including two trips when the game was very much in doubt in the first half.

"We talk about winning the critical areas, and those are third down, fourth down and red zone, and had our defense not won those critical areas tonight, we were fighting an uphill battle for sure, but those were big stops," head coach Hugh Freeze said.

With the game scoreless in the first quarter, senior cornerback Senquez Golson stopped a six-play, 51-yard Boise State drive with an interception in the end zone.

Later in the half, after Ole Miss went ahead 7-0, Boise State looked to answer and had the ball first-and-goal from the Ole Miss 1-yard line. The Rebels defense stonewalled the Broncos on three straight plays, including two tackles for loss, to hold them to a field goal.

"For a defense to stop a team in the red zone, especially a team as Boise is at scoring, that means a lot," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "That goes to show that we're never going to blink, we're always going to play the next play and we're really confident in each other and the coaches' game plan."

Prewitt, sophomore Huskie Tony Conner and junior defensive C.J. Johnson also had interceptions in the game, as the Rebels intercepted four passes for the first time since the 2011 season against Southern Illinois. For Prewitt, it was his 10th career interception after he led the Southeastern Conference with six interceptions last season.

The defense finished with just three sacks, but they created consistent pressure for much of the game, which helped lead to turnovers.

"I'm so excited to see our pass rush develop throughout the season," Prewitt said. "They're a really good group of athletes down there. Whenever they're going at the quarterback like they are, that's whenever we're going to start getting picks, fumbles and everything."


ATLANTA -- After an up-and-down first half, which included a touchdown and three interceptions, senior quarterback Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense found their stride in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter.

Leading 7-6 early in the fourth quarter, the Rebels faced 3rd-and-8 on the Boise State 43. The Broncos jumped offsides and Wallace took advantage, finding sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell for a 29-yard gain to the Boise State 14.

Two plays later, Wallace found Treadwell for a 14-yard touchdown pass, the first of four touchdowns the Rebels would score in the frame, as they went on to defeat Boise State 35-13 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game from the Georgia Dome.

"I felt like we could move it on him the whole time," Wallace said. "I was throwing interceptions and we were jumping offsides. They never stopped us the whole night. It was us stopping ourselves every time."

The coaches and players credited a silent count for helping eliminate some of the false starts and keep the offense on schedule and ahead of the chains, which paved the way for the offensive explosion in the fourth quarter that featured 28 points and 216 yards of total offense.

"With our scheme, because we go so fast, we were going on a quick count," said co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner of the change to a silent count. "They were getting lined up and they would shift and they would yell, 'shift,' so the line hears it and they think it's the quarterback. In the second half, we went to a silent count when we weren't listening for the snap count and we cleaned up the false starts."

"We went silent snap count and that slowed their movements and their shifting, and he was able to go through his reads without it having to be third-and-long and second-and-long," Treadwell said.

For the game, Wallace completed 25-of-36 passes for 387 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions, throwing for 239 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half. 

On the receiving end, Ole Miss had two receivers set career highs and finish with 100-plus receiving yards. Treadwell hauled in a team-high seven catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, while junior wide receiver Cody Core, making his first career start, had four catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

"We got in a rhythm," said Wallace of the second half. "The short passes got me in a rhythm and not trying to do too much. The first half, I was trying to do too much. The first game, I was trying to come out and do things I shouldn't have done. We got it together in the second half and had a good one."


Three areas to watch as Ole Miss opens its 2014 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State from Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

Contrast in Experience

Boise State has one of the youngest teams in the country with 67 freshmen and sophomores among the team's 105-player roster, and the youth is apparent along the offensive line compared to the deep and experienced Ole Miss defensive line.

Boise State returns just 26 starts along its offensive line, tied for the seventh-fewest in the nation. Entering 2014, Marcus Henry had started a team-high 12 games, followed by Rees Odhiambo (eight), Travis Averill (three), Steven Baggett (two) and Mario Yakoo (one).

With their two returning starters switching positions -- Henry moving from right guard to center and Odhiambo moving from right tackle to left tackle -- the Broncos are breaking in a new starter at each position along the offensive line.

Ole Miss returns 59 starts among its two-deep along the defensive line, led by Bryon Bennett with 21 starts, followed by C.J. Johnson (17), Robert Nkemdiche (10), Woodrow Hamilton (nine) and Lavon Hooks (2), not including Issac Gross (11) who may or may not play against Boise State. 

The Rebels also add FIU transfer Fadol Brown and mid-year enrollee Marquis Haynes, who have drawn rave reviews throughout fall practice.

First Live Look at Special Teams

Junior running back Jaylen Walton has served as the team's primary kick returner in each of the last two seasons. Outside of Walton, there are capable but unproven players in many key roles on special teams.

Redshirt freshman punter Will Gleeson has impressed throughout fall practice with his sky punt and coming-out punts, but he has not seen action in a game. 

Senior Andrew Fletcher, who converted both of his PAT tries in the two games he has played, and freshman Gary Wunderlich are listed as co-starters at kicker. 

Sophomore safety Anthony Alford is listed as the starting punt returner, and while he played in nine games with starts at quarterback for Southern Miss in 2012, he has not fielded a punt in game action.

Freeze has talked about the team's depth, and it will likely show on the special teams coverage and return units, but it will be the first significant action for many key players.

Freshman Impact

It might not have the star power of the 2013 signing class, but the coaches have raved about the depth of the 2014 class from top to bottom. Compared to years past, there are far fewer freshmen pressed into significant roles, with just five among the two-deep in Rod Taylor (RG), Marquis Haynes (DE), A.J. Moore (Huskie) Kendarius Webster (BCB) and C.J. Hampton (FS).

"This circus around recruiting now and the social media and everything that builds these kids up to be something so, so phenomenal -- they are good players, but when they get to the real world of this level of football, there are also a lot of good players here," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. "We hope that continues to where we don't have to play as many."

In addition to those five, Freeze also mentioned defensive back C.J. Moore, linebacker Demarquis Gates and perhaps wide receiver Markell Pack as freshmen who will get significant snaps in the season opener Thursday.

Look for the freshman impact on special teams, particularly early in the season.

For high school football players in Georgia, all roads lead to the Georgia Dome and the state championships. 

For a handful of Rebels, those roads lead home, as Ole Miss opens the 2014 season against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome on Thursday night.

"It's huge for me," said sophomore tight end Evan Engram, a native of Powder Springs, Georgia. "Playing in the Georgia Dome, our high school career, our state playoffs are in the Georgia Dome. We never really made it to state, so actually getting there and playing in front of a big crowd at home in front of my family, coaches and friends is a big deal for me."

The Ole Miss roster includes nine players from the Atlanta area that will return there for a homecoming of sorts, including three projected starters in Engram, junior cornerback Mike Hilton from Fayetteville, and sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche from Loganville.

"Any time you can go back home where people who you were raised with can come see you, it adds a little something I'm sure," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We recruit hard there, so hopefully some of those kids can come too. For our kids from that area, it means a lot to them to be able to go back home."

Nkemdiche, the headliner of the group and a first team freshman All-America selection, makes his return to the Dome, where he helped lead Grayson High School to a Class 5A state title as a junior.

"It's a great feeling getting to go back to the Georgia Dome," Nkemdiche said. "I started all four years of my high school (career) there, so it's great to go back and start one more is awesome. I want to try to finish there, too."

Engram was also a part of the Rebels' historic 2013 signing class, along with Nkemdiche, and became one of the first two true freshmen in school history, along with fellow sophomore Laremy Tunsil, to be named All-SEC. He missed part of last season with a high ankle sprain, but he's back to 100 percent and primed for a breakout season.

"Having Evan (Engram) down there and the matchups he creates with linebackers and things like that can be huge for us in the red zone this year," said senior quarterback Bo Wallace of Engram. "That's going to be huge for us if we can come away with touchdowns in the red zone."

Hilton, one of the elder statesmen of the group, will make his second trip to his home state in his college career, having played at Georgia as a freshman. He has bounced between cornerback and Huskie throughout his career, starting 16 games, but will likely play cornerback Thursday night.

"Mike Hilton is primarily at corner now," Freeze said. "Some of that would depend on what personnel we're facing. He's prepared to play both, depending on the personnel we get. You'll see him at both before the year is over."

Two freshmen are also expected to see significant action in linebacker DeMarquis Gates, a Hampton native, and cornerback Kendarius Webster, a Stockbridge native. 

Gates has impressed from the start of fall camp and will likely play a role on special teams, while Webster has been pressed into action as the primary backup at field corner with injuries in the secondary.

"He can run, he's physical, he's tough, and he's smart," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of Gates. "He didn't play last year, so I really wasn't expecting what we have been getting from him. Each and every day, including today, he has shown up, so that's a good thing for us."

"I'm really impressed (with Webster)," Hilton said. "I played him in high school, so I knew how he would play. He's really going to help us in the long run. He's still young. He's going to be a really good one for us."

Rebel Nation is known for traveling well, and the season opener is no different, especially for the family and friends of the Atlanta area players.

"I had to fight for tickets to get some people in," Engram said. "I have a lot of people buying them and a lot of people sending me 'good luck' texts, saying they'll be watching. Hopefully I see a couple of 'Go Evan' signs. It will be fun."

ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy asked each of the 65 coaches from the Power Five conferences to describe their team in one word

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's word? Relentless.

The same can be said of the Ole Miss defense. 

And it starts up front with the defensive line, headlined by sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and bolstered by the return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and the additions of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes.

"With Coach (Dave) Wommack, since we have been together, we have been an attack defense that's going to create pressure," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "If you can do that with just your front four, a four-man rush, and still have the ability to pressure in multiple ways, that's the perfect combination for us."

"This camp, we have shown so much progress in the D-line," Nkemdiche said. "We're getting after the quarterback every day. (Wommack) is so much more comfortable. He's sending us four guys and letting his guys cover."

Much is expected from Nkemdiche in his sophomore campaign after recording 34 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 8.0 tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries in his freshman All-American season. He bounced between defensive end and defensive tackle but has found a home at defensive tackle this season.

"I expect really big things from him," Kiffin said. "The world is going to be really surprised when they see him play on Thursday night. I would be shocked if he didn't take over the game, from a 3-technique standpoint and what a 3-technique can do in a game. I would be shocked if he doesn't. He's that good. We have guys in place around him to be really good on defense. This year he's really matured."

"He's definitely found his way in college football," Johnson said. "His get-off is probably second to none. He's going to acquire a lot of attention, and everybody knows that. It makes us raise our level of play because we know what they're going to give him. We're going to have to step and pick up the slack a little bit."

The defensive line looks to improve the pass rush after experiencing a decline in sacks from 38 in 2012 to 20 in 2013, in addition to taking pressure off the secondary. 

The defensive backfield is arguably the deepest and most experienced unit of the defense with a combined 96 starts among the five starters on the depth chart, led by the Southeastern Conference's lone returning All-American in senior safety Cody Prewitt.

"I feel better about the secondary than I have in three years," Wommack said. "I'm really pleased with the guys. We have some guys who can cover. We have some smart guys and can create different packages with those guys. This is one of better defensive teams that have been around the last couple of years."

"Having C.J. (Johnson) back takes our pass rush to a whole new level," junior defensive back Mike Hilton said. "We know if we can hold up on the back end and make the quarterback hold it the pass rush from the front four can be something special."

With the depth, experience and promise of more aggressive play-calling, the sky is the limit for the Ole Miss defense in 2014.


Like defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin has been pleased with his players throughout fall camp, particularly the depth bolstered by the return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and the addition of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes.

"I don't think it's any secret that we have some depth there," Kiffin said. "We finally have the numbers we want at all four positions. I have been really pleased with the guys. For the most part, it's been guys I thought we could count on. Marquis Haynes is a guy who has surprised as a freshman, but he was here in the spring, so it's no surprise. Him and Fadol (Brown) have both been coming along really well."

One area he looks for marked improvement is the pass rush after a decline in sacks from 38 in 2012 to 20 in 2013. Wommack said earlier this week that they would like to get back to bringing pressure (five or more players) 35-40 percent of the time after bringing pressure around 27-28 percent this past season.

"With Coach (Dave) Wommack, since we have been together, we have been an attack defense that's going to create pressure," Kiffin said. "If you can do that with just your front four, a four-man rush, and still have the ability to pressure in multiple ways, that's the perfect combination for us. I think we're there right now. We obviously haven't done it in a game. There are a lot of variables that go into it. You still have to win first down and be able to get them in passing situations, get a lead, and a lot of those things come late in the game when teams are playing from behind."

In addition to depth, Kiffin also noted the position flexibility along the defensive line, as he looks to play at least eight players in the season opener. 

"This year, I challenged the guys to be able to play multiple positions," Kiffin said. "C.J. being able to do that gives us flexibility with Marquis. Bryon (Bennett) being able to do that gives us flexibility inside. John Youngblood, I can't say enough about him. He's a limited-rep guy. He knows the whole defense. He's going to get the job for us, so I can play him at multiple positions. It allows us to do a lot of things."

With the depth and experience at the position, Kiffin and the coaching staff might be afforded the luxury of redshirting the freshman trio of Victor Evans, Garrald McDowell and Breeland Speaks, who have all been practicing with the scout team this week.

"Early on, we had the split practices, and those guys got a ton of reps," Kiffin said. "All three of those guys I'm really happy with. I'm glad we signed all three of them. Victor is a really long guy, Gerrald is more of just a football player, and Breeland is a really big athlete right now. He needs to get his weight down a little but he gives us a lot of things in there. I'm very excited about those three guys' futures. With our depth, we probably won't need to use them right off the bat. That's a good problem to have."



NOTABLE

On Wednesday, head coach Hugh Freeze challenged a group of his backup wide receivers to step up alongside the top four players at the position, and from that group, freshman Markell Pack and redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe have emerged.

Pack joins sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo and junior Cody Core in the rotation at slot receiver, while Bledsoe joins sophomore Laquon Treadwell, senior Vince Sanders and Core in the rotation at outside receiver.

Sophomore Anthony Alford has continued to get reps at wildcat quarterback, in addition to backing up junior Trae Elston at Rover safety, while junior Jeremy Liggins is focusing on three packages where he will line up at tight end.

Freeze had a lot of praise for redshirt freshman Will Gleeson for sky punt stuff and his coming-out punts in Thursday's mock game, while senior Andrew Fletcher remains in the lead for field goal duties from inside 40 yards.

In the return game, junior running back Jaylen Walton, Elston and sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore are in the mix on kickoffs, while Pack and Alford are in the mix on punts.

QUOTABLE

Hugh Freeze on Jeremy Liggins: "We centered in on three packages for him in week one where he doesn't have to feel like he has to learn everything. He's concentrating on those three. He's getting better and better. He still makes some missed assignments. When he does it right, he's pretty good."

Freeze on C.J. Hampton: "He will back up Cody (Prewitt). We really like the way he's working with his attitude and the way he's coming on. He made some checks to some different looks that the scout team gave, so his reps will pick up even more. We have to make sure he's ready."

Freeze on injuries: "Issac is coming on. He put a helmet on today and did some running around. Monday will be a big test for Issac to see where he is. Mentally, he understands what we're doing. That's the good thing. Collins Moore has a shot. We'll know Monday. They're going to turn him loose tomorrow. Even though it's an off-day, he's coming in and let him run around some and see how he is. He can't practice until school starts because he's not in the 105. He's getting treatment, but Pat feels like he's way ahead of schedule. We'll check him out Monday and see what he does."

Chris Kiffin on Marquis Haynes: "He's a guy right now who can do it all. He's 230 pounds and we move a lot. C.J. (Johnson) has gotten away with playing 230 here for a number of years... Marquis is going to play all downs for us, not just the third down, starting off."

Kiffin on Robert Nkemdiche: "I expect really big things from him. The world is going to be really surprised when they see him play on Thursday night. I would be shocked if he didn't take over the game, from a 3-technique standpoint and what a 3-technique can do in a game. I would be shocked if he doesn't. He's that good. We have guys in place around him to be really good on defense. This year he's really matured."

The return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and additions of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes have changed the face of the defensive line, but freshman All-American Robert Nkemdiche remains front and center. 

With a season of experience under his belt, it's been a different experience for the former consensus No. 1 recruit this fall.

"I know the playbook so much better," Nkemdiche said. "I'm so much more chilled out. I'm not freaking out right now. I'm not nervous. My head's on straight, and I'm ready to have a huge game.

"I had a really good camp. I was focused. I'm bringing it every day, 100 percent, no matter what. I'm ready for the season and to have a really dominant season."

Beside Nkemdiche at defensive tackle has been a rotation of senior Bryon Bennett and junior Woodrow Hamilton with junior Issac Gross out due to injury.

"You lose quickness in there," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of missing Gross. "But kudos to Bryon Bennett because I have never seen him play as well as he's playing right now, across the board. He has some size, quickness and been super in there for us. I have been really pleased with him, but it affects your depth.

"Woody's issue has been staying out there on the field. When he stays out on the field, he's a really good football player. He's extremely tough to block. He's not just an anchor. He has some quickness and he can move around. He fits our scheme really well."

With the depth and experience on the defensive side of the ball, Wommack looks to rotate more players and be more aggressive this season. 

On the defensive line, Wommack said, they would like to play 8-10 players and get back to bringing pressure (five or more players) 35-40 percent of the time after bringing pressure around 27-28 percent this past season.

"This camp, we have shown so much progress in the D-line," Nkemdiche said. "We're getting after the quarterback every day. (Dave Wommack) is so much more comfortable. He's sending us four guys and letting his guys cover."

"We weren't able to do that last year because of the pass rush we didn't have and we lacked the corner play that we needed," Wommack said. "Boise is going to see some things they haven't seen in the last two years."


Haynes, Freshmen Show Out on Defense

Nkemdiche described Haynes as a physical freak. 

A former high jumper and 100-meter sprinter in high school, Haynes enrolled in January and broke into the two-deep early in the fall camp and has remained there.

"He has a knack for the football," said Nkemdiche of Haynes. "He's a freak. He gets to the football no matter what. If he has a missed assignment, he's still going to get to the ball either way. I like him. He plays 100 percent every down. That's what I like about Marquis. He's going to be really good in the future."

Wommack noted his raw talent, speed and quickness, adding that he's done a good job learning what they have asked him to do. He might not start in the season opener, Wommack said, but in certain packages, he will certainly be at one defensive end spot.

In addition to Haynes, Wommack raved about a trio of freshmen in defensive back A.J. Moore, linebacker DeMarquis Gates and cornerback Kendarius Webster. With the injuries in the secondary, Moore has stepped up as the team's third Huskie and Webster is in the mix as the team's fourth cornerback.

"Both of those freshmen hit a ceiling and then they came back down," said Wommack of Moore and Gates. "Kendarius Webster, too. They pushed forward and have gotten smarter each and every day, and they're going to play for us this year.

"This freshman class was a hit across the board. From top to bottom, it was better than last year's class, if you want to say that. I know there were some stars in that class the year before, but top to bottom, I don't think we missed on anybody. We have some really good football players. Some of them, if we're not going to use them this year, we absolutely don't want to burn them, and we will make that choice later on."


NOTABLE

In individual and team drills open to the media, the first-team offensive line featured sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), junior Ben Still (C), junior Justin Bell (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT). Sophomore Robert Conyers also got some first-team reps at right tackle when Cooper moved from right tackle to left tackle.

When the offense showed sets with two tight ends in team drills, it featured sophomore Evan Engram lined up at a traditional tight end spot and in the slot, with senior Nick Parker also at tight end on the first team. 

Sophomore Matt Brown played a role similar to Engram, with sophomore Jeremy Liggins also at tight end on the second team.

Freeze said he's looking for at least one wide receiver to emerge from a group that includes junior Quintavius Burdette, redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe and freshmen Dayall Harris and Markell Pack.

Johnson, Brown and Haynes all got first-team reps at defensive end, with Nkemdiche and Hamilton at defensive tackle.

Brown, along with sophomore John Youngblood, got second-team reps at defensive end, with Bennett and senior Lavon Hooks at defensive tackle.

Senior Andrew Fletcher, Freeze said, remains in the lead for extra point and field goal duties from 43 yards and in, with redshirt freshman Andy Pappanastos and freshman Gary Wunderlich in competition to handle longer field goals.

In other special teams work, the first-team kickoff returners were junior running back Jaylen Walton and sophomore running back Mark Dodson. 

The second-team kickoff returners were sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore and junior safety Trae Elston. Redshirt freshman running back Eugene Brazley and junior running back I'Tavius Mathers also worked with the kickoff returners.

The kickoff return units also included freshman defensive back A.J. Moore on the first team and Gates on the second team. 

Other notables on the kickoff return units included junior defensive end Channing Ward, redshirt freshman running back Jordan Wilkins, senior linebacker Keith Lewis and sophomore safety Anthony Alford on the first team.

QUOTABLE

Hugh Freeze on Robert Conyers: "Robert is very, very valuable to us and will play three positions. He may be one of the most valuable pieces of us offensively because he can grasp all three of them and do them well."

Freeze on the center position battle having named Ben Still the starter: "They're pretty even and knowing that we're going to rotate Robert at all three on various possessions, it gives us a little more flexibility, but they're about equal. Robert probably needs to concentrate on both tackle positions between now and then and it gives the ones more reps with Ben."

Freeze on Fahn Cooper's action at left tackle: "He's athletic. It depends on who you're playing and what the matchups are. It's always about matchups. No matter who we put there, there are guys in this league, sometimes you're going to cringe when you get in too many one-on-one's, if you're not able to run the ball some. If they know you're throwing it, I don't care who we put out there. It's difficult, so you have to be balanced. That's been our whole goal since we have been here."

Freeze on Issac Gross, who missed practice with a neck injury: "Issac had the procedure yesterday to get some kind of shot that we think will help speed up the recovery and hopefully cure. We should know Monday if he will be ready to go for Boise."

Robert Nkemdiche on improvement: "Something that can make me stronger as a player is knowing the playbook a lot better. Last year, I feel like I had all the tangibles to be great, but I didn't know the scheme as well. I was out there about 50 percent. I didn't know what else to do. I was trying to go out there and make plays. This year, knowing the playbook a lot better and being more mature as a player and having an SEC season under my belt helps me because I know what to expect now."

Nkemdiche on returning to Atlanta for the season opener against Boise State: "It's a great feeling going back to the Georgia Dome. I started all four years in high school there, so let's go back and start one. We want to try to finish there too."

Dave Wommack on Mike Hilton practicing at both Huskie and cornerback: "Any time you have to double-train somebody, you lose a little something. You can't get totally focused on one thing, but he's a veteran and been here for two years and knows it better. You couldn't do it with a young guy for sure."

Wommack on the secondary: "I feel better about the secondary than I have in three years. I'm really pleased with the guys. We have some guys who can cover. We have some smart guys and can create different packages with those guys. This is one of better defensive teams that have been around the last couple of years."

The dean of Southeastern Conferences quarterbacks and the league's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns, senior Bo Wallace is as healthy and confident as ever, and he's also assumed a more vocal leadership role on the team.

"I feel like it's my team," Wallace said. "It's my offense. I have said in years past that I have to be more vocal. This year, I have done a lot better job of letting those guys know that I care about them and I want to be around them and I want those guys playing hard."

After playing through shoulder pain and fatigue for much of his first two years as the Rebels' quarterback, he has not noticed any flare-ups with his shoulder through fall camp.

"I have no pain at all," Wallace said. "Last year, I wouldn't really have pain, but I had days when I didn't feel great, but I feel really good now."

In front of Wallace, junior Fahn Cooper has earned the starting job at right tackle, while the battle for the starting job at center continues between junior Ben Still and sophomore Robert Conyers, with both players getting first-team reps in Monday's practice.

"Conyers and Still are still right there battling for the center job and I feel good with either of them about snaps and protections, so I feel like we have some guys who can play and be alright there," Wallace said.

"They are about tit-for-tat," Freeze said. "I'll let Matt (Luke) meet with those kids. They're both going to play. Both Ben and Robert have earned the right to play. Who gets the majority of the snaps will probably be sorted out after the first few games."

Do-It-All Hilton Adds Flexibility to Defense


When sophomore Tee Shepard and junior Carlos Davis went down with season-ending knee injuries, it meant a larger and perhaps less defined role for junior Mike Hilton. 

The one-time high school running back standout has started 16 games in his career, with 10 at cornerback, five at Huskie and one at free safety, including nine at cornerback this past season. 

He has bounced between cornerback and Huskie during fall camp but has now turned most of his attention to cornerback with the injuries to Shepard and Davis. 

"I had a full summer to really get my technique down and work with Coach (Jason) Jones on small things and get a better feel because I switched in the middle of the season," Hilton said. "Having this full summer has really helped me."

In Monday's practice he ran with the first-team defense at cornerback, opposite senior Senquez Golson, and second-team defense at Huskie, behind sophomore Tony Conner.

"(The coaches) make sure I'm on top of everything," Hilton said. "I watch film with the corners one day and go watch it with the Huskies to make sure I'm not making too many mistakes and make sure I can handle it."

Despite the injuries, it's one of the deepest and most experienced secondaries that defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has had in his three years at Ole Miss. With that experience, Hilton said he expects a more aggressive defense and more blitzes.

"Having C.J. (Johnson) back takes our pass rush to a whole new level," Hilton said. "We know if we can hold up on the back end and make the quarterback hold it the pass rush from the front four can be something special."

Rebels Begin Boise Prep


White jerseys with numbers representing Boise State players dotted the scout-team offense and defense, as Ole Miss has turned the page in advance of the season opener against the Broncos.

One challenge of preparation is the unknown with a first-year head coach in Bryan Harsin and two-first year coordinators in Mike Sanford on the offensive side and Marcel Yates on the defensive side. Some of the preparation is based on Boise State film, while other preparation is based on film from the coaches' other previous experiences.

"It's definitely difficult on the offensive side because the (defensive) coordinator that has been hired has not been a coordinator before, so you're not sure," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I'm sure he will take something from everywhere he has been, like all of us have done. We're not quite sure what his flavor is, so that's a bit difficult. 

"Offensively, with their head coach being an offensive guy, even though I know he's not going to coordinate it, you have an idea of what they will be like. We're going to study the places that the offensive coordinator came from also. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but it happens."

Harsin was a graduate assistant (2001) and tight ends coach (2002-05) under Dan Hawkins before assuming the role of offensive coordinator and quarterback coach (2006-10) under Chris Peterson. He was most recently the co-offensive coordinator at Texas (2011-12) and head coach at Arkansas State (2013). Sanford most recently spent three seasons as a running backs coach at Stanford (2011-13). 

"You don't know what to expect," Hilton of preparation for Boise State. "We can watch film on Arkansas State, which is where he came from, but he can still throw something new in there. We watch Boise to see how their players are and see how physical receivers and running backs are. It's a challenge, but I feel like we can handle it."

On the defensive side, Yates was a cornerbacks coach (2003-05) under Hawkins before taking over the entire secondary (2006-11) under Peterson, and then serving as a co-defensive coordinator at Texas A&M (2012-2013).

"We have an idea of what we think they're going to do," said senior quarterback Bo Wallace of preparation for Boise State. "Study some years past and a little bit of A&M stuff and try to play fast. What we don't know, hopefully our tempo can help us in that area."

Steele Picks Ole Miss to Finish 9-3, Tied for Third in SEC West

ESPN Insider Phil Steele projects Ole Miss to finish 9-3 overall and tied for third in the SEC standings with LSU (9-3) and behind first-place Alabama (12-0) and second-place Auburn (10-2). He projects Georgia (11-1) to win the SEC East and meet Alabama in the SEC title game. Here's more from Steele on Ole Miss:

The Rebels welcome back QB Bo Wallace (3,346 passing yards in 2013) and their top two rushers, I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton (1,086 yards combined). I rank Wallace and backup Ryan Buchanan is the 11th-best QB unit in the country. Even better? What they don't have: South Carolina, Georgia or Florida on the docket. Since they avoid the East's big three, I have the Rebels as clear underdogs against only the West's big two, LSU and Bama (the A&M and Auburn games rate as toss-ups in my book). Ole Miss, talent-wise, is not far behind the Tigers or the Tide and could make a run to the SEC title game. In fact, I have the Rebels as my No. 6-rated surprise team in the country.

For ESPN Insider subscribers, here's the link to the full article, "Projecting the final SEC standings"

More from ESPN: The SEC has plenty of playoff possibilities, and Ole Miss is one of four teams that could make a magical run from outside the top 10, writes Edward Aschoff

NOTABLE:

Sophomore Laquon Treadwell and senior Vince Sanders got first-team reps at outside receiver, with junior Cody Core, redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe and freshman Dayall Harris also in the rotation.

Core also got first-team reps at slot receiver, with sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo, junior Quintavius Burdette, freshmen Markell Pack and Sammie Epps also in the rotation.

Sophomore Evan Engram got a majority of first-team reps at tight end, with senior Nick Parker,  and sophomores Jeremy Liggins and Matt Brown also in the rotation.

Junior C.J. Johnson, sophomore Fadol Brown, and freshman Marquis Haynes all got first-team reps at defensive end, with sophomore Robert Nkemdiche and junior Woodrow Hamilton at defensive tackle. 

Sophomore John Youngblood and junior Channing Ward were second-team defensive ends, with seniors Bryon Bennett and Lavon Hooks at defensive tackle.

The five players who ran with the first-team defense in the secondary have combined to start 96 games in their career: Senior safety Cody Prewitt (28), junior safety Trae Elston (20), senior cornerback Senquez Golson (20), junior cornerback Mike Hilton (16) and sophomore Huskie Tony Conner (12).

Hilton also ran with second team at Huskie, where he was joined by sophomore Derrick Jones and freshman Kendarius Webster at cornerback and sophomore Anthony Alford and freshman C.J. Hampton at safety.

In special teams work, the first-team kickoff returners were junior running back Jaylen Walton and sophomore running back Mark Dodson. The second-team kickoff returners were sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore and junior safety Trae Elston. 

The kickoff return units also included freshman defensive back C.J. Moore on the first team and freshman linebacker DeMarquis Gates on the second team.

QUOTABLE:

Hugh Freeze on field goal kicker: "We feel like we know who's ahead at this point, but it's a bit too early to tell who's going to be the guy. Right now, I would say (Andrew) Fletcher is the guy. Fletcher would kick short-to-medium field goals. All of them, on a given day, have done their share. He's probably been the more consistent on those. If it was a longer (field goal), it would be one of the other two (Gary Wunderlich or Andy Pappanastos)."

Freeze on rotating players on defense: "Any time you can rotate two-deep, you're better off. I'm all for rotating and keeping players fresh so they can play at a high level."

Freeze on Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo at slot receiver: "As soon as one runs a route, the other one is coming in. Cody has probably had a little more consistent camp with everything that is asked of him there, but we're excited about the year Quincy could have also."

Bo Wallace on Fahn Cooper: "He's good. He's physical. He plays hard and he's one of those kids, when you get into them, he will do anything in the world for you. The big thing for me has been to get into Fahn and let him know that I can care about so he wants to protect and wants to lay it on the line."

Wallace on Cody Core: "He has that confidence. This is his third year. He knows the speed of the game. He's confident. We have him learning both inside and outside. He knows he's going to play so he has to perform every single day."

Wallace on backup quarterbacks: "They're good. DeVante (Kincade) has to stay out of negative plays, but his physical abilities are crazy. Ryan (Buchanan) is really starting to learn the offense and know where to go with the football. You can tell in practice that Ryan has done really well."

Wallace on the defensive line: "They're phenomenal. It's unlike anything I have ever seen. Robert (Nkemdiche) draws so much attention that it frees up C.J. (Johnson), Fadol (Brown) and Marquis Haynes coming off the edge. They're going to be one of the best in the SEC, no doubt."

Mike Hilton on working on his press coverage: "I think I'm able to run with everybody. I can get underneath their pads and get my hands on them because I'm short and most receivers are tall."

Hilton on Kendarius Webster: "I'm really impressed. I played him in high school, so I knew how he would play. He's really going to help us in the long run. He's still young. He's going to be a really good one for us."

Hilton on Kailo Moore: "He's who has really impressed me the most. Coming from running back, you're not used to opening up your hips and stuff like that. The thing that helps him the most is his speed. Not too many people are going to beat him deep. He will help."

In case you missed it, Fins Up (Part 1) from last year:


Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed that junior cornerback Carlos Davis suffered a torn ACL and will likely have surgery Monday. 

Davis joins sophomore cornerback Tee Shepard and junior safety Chief Brown on the list of players expected to miss the 2014 season. Freeze also noted Davis has not used his redshirt year, so they will use it for him this year.

"We have lost arguably our top cover corner (in Tee Shepard), and Carlos, I believe without a shadow of doubt was our best special teams guy, both coverage units and return guy," Freeze said. "It hurts."

"Any time you lose somebody like Tee, that's a big hit," junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said. "Carlos, too. He was really going to help us a lot on our dime team. Those are two guys who really could have helped our football team a lot. For us to lose them, not that we don't have guys, and that's great, but it would have been better if we had those two."

With Davis out, freshman wide receiver Markell Pack, junior safety Trae Elston and sophomore safety Anthony Alford are all in the mix to return punts. It might also mean larger roles on special teams for younger players such as freshman Huskie A.J. Moore and freshman cornerback Kendarius Webster.

Ole Miss was also without junior Issac Gross on Friday, who briefly returned to practice earlier this week after being held out with a neck strain.

"He's still dealing with the neck," Freeze said. "He came back out, and it kind of flared up again. We're taking our time to make sure he gets it well. (Head athletic trainer) Pat (Jernigan) and them have a protocol that they're going to take him through, and they think they can improve it doing this if we can hold him out for a few more days. That's the plan there."

"We're missing him a lot," said Johnson of Gross. "Issac is a guy in the middle - especially when we go against an offense that runs a lot of spread and inside-zone stuff - who can get up and disrupt the timing of the blocking scheme. He can rush a little bit. He's a really big hit for us. We need him to hurry up and get back."

Senior Bryon Bennett ran with the first-team defense in place of Gross, beside sophomore Robert Nkemdiche, along with Johnson and freshman Marquis Haynes at defensive end. The second-team defensive tackles were junior Woodrow Hamilton and senior Lavon Hooks.


Updating the Backup Quarterback Battle 

Redshirt freshman quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, Freeze said, split the majority of snaps in Thursday's scrimmage, so it was a good look into the backup quarterback battle.

"Ryan had a good scrimmage," Freeze said. "Bo (Wallace) did not take many snaps. DeVante had some really, really exciting, good plays. He had some on the other end of the spectrum also, so we have to keep bringing him along. He definitely brings a different element to us. But they have both improved."

Freeze noted Buchanan is ahead of Kincade in the passing game, adding that Kincade needs to improve his decision-making.

"I'm trying to work on pocket presence and stay in the pocket more because I know I have the ability to run, so I'm trying to make sure I stay in the pocket more and deliver better throws," Kincade said.

Freeze said he does not plan on naming a true backup quarterback in advance of the season opener against Boise State on Aug. 28.

"It would depend on what we're needing at that moment," Freeze said. "Each has different strengths. We'll do everything with both of them, but it would depend on the scenario to which they go in."

For both players, with their respective redshirt years behind them, their preparation has been different this season.

"My mental aspect is I prepare as if I'm the starter," Buchanan said. "I know I'm not the starter, but any second Bo can roll an ankle, get a concussion or something, so I have to be ready for whenever they call that play and always keep the drive going and never take a step back."

"It's a big difference from last year," Kincade said. "I remembered I would come out and put my helmet down and cheer on the guys. Now, I have to have my helmet ready any time the offense goes in, so it's a big difference."


 

NOTABLE:

In the individual and team drills open to the media, the first-team offensive line consisted of sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), junior Ben Still (C), junior Justin Bell (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT).

The second-team offensive line consisted of redshirt freshman Davion Johnson (LT), junior Craig Frigo (LG), sophomore Robert Conyers (C), freshman Rod Taylor (RG) and redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin (RT). 

Different combinations along the offensive line also included Cooper at left tackle, Taylor at left guard, Frigo at right guard and Conyers at right tackle.

With the injuries in the secondary, freshman A.J. Moore ran with the second-team defense at Huskie, sophomore Kailo Moore got some second-team reps at cornerback and senior Cliff Coleman got some second-team reps at free safety.

In special teams work, Coleman, freshman safety C.J. Hampton and sophomore Derrick Jones were on the first-team punt return blocking the gunners. A.J. Moore, junior defensive back Mike Hilton and freshman cornerback Kendarius Webster were on the second-team punt return in the same role.

QUOTABLE

Hugh Freeze on Collins Moore, who has been held out with knee injury: "He's moving around well. He's starting to do things in the pool. We will be glad to get him back for sure. We need a little extra depth there at receiver."

Freeze on other players who stood out from Wednesday's closed scrimmage: "Victor Evans had a great scrimmage. Breeland Speaks, too. He's batting balls. He's a space-eater and he's tough. Those young kids stood out. Rod Taylor is coming on. Robert Conyers continues to do some good things and come on, as does Ben Still. Akeem Judd stood out. He made some really explosive, powerful runs. We had several kids stand out. DeMarquis Gates keeps showing up, as did the Moore twins. They're probably all going to have to play now."

Freeze on Cody Core: "Cody is so important to us because he's learning both inside and outside. He has to play for us to give us some depth, and he's doing it well. He makes very few missed assignments. He's physical and can catch it. He's very important to us."

Freeze on Quincy Adeboyejo: "He's still inconsistent in ball-catching, particularly in traffic. We have to continue to improve that. We love his skill-set and we love him as a kid. We have to continue to improve his consistency in ball-catching."

Ryan Buchanan on what he looks to improve: "We go tempo, we get into the red zone, and then sometimes you have to slow it down and be smart with it. Make smart decisions. Making completions are the biggest thing in the red zone."

Buchanan on understanding of the playbook: "I feel pretty good on paper. It's different trying to go full-speed, when you have blitzes to pick up and be able to know in that split second."

Buchanan on the offensive line: "They have improved since week one. With our defense, they like to send a lot of different blitzes, so they're really getting a tough look. They're picking up on it, and they're trying to improve each practice."

C.J. Johnson on the defense: "The defense has progressed well. We have really gotten after the quarterback a lot. I hate that we lost Tee and Carlos. Those are big hits for the defense, especially with the secondary, where we thought we had a lot of depth, but some young guys are going to have to step up and play now."

Johnson on Marquis Haynes: "He's done a really good job learning our defense and learning what to do and being coachable. He's come a long way and he's going to help us a lot."

Johnson on Robert Nkemdiche: "He's definitely found his way in college football. His get-off is probably second to none. He's going to acquire a lot of attention, and everybody knows that. It makes us raise our level of play because we know what they're going to give him. We're going to have to step and pick up the slack a little bit."

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.

QUOTABLE

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."


 

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."


NOTABLE

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.

QUOTABLE

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."


NOTABLE

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."

QUOTABLE

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."

The Rebels practiced in full pads and held their first live session of fall camp on Tuesday. 

The defense had dominated the previous competitions, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said, but the offense got the better of the defense in the live session, as sophomore tight end Evan Engram made a big-time catch on the last play to win it.

On a related note, freshman Sammie Epps has moved from tight end to the slot to add some size and physicality to the position. The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder joins sophomore Quincy Adebojeyjo, who moved inside to the slot in the spring, and freshman Markell Pack, who has mostly worked in the slot during fall camp.

"We have said all along that O-line, receiver and tight end are our depth issues, and as we get more into practice, you notice that we're a little thin in the slot, particularly with a bigger body that can do some of the things Laquon (Treadwell) did in our run game and screen game," Freeze said. "We decided for (Sammie's) freshman year to move him there. I don't know if he will remain there throughout his career. We'll see how his body develops."

"(Sammie) seems to be really trying to learn it," Adeboyejo said. "He's staying after and he's trying to get it. He's coming along. He will be pretty good. He's a big, strong guy, so he can make a lot of mismatches."

With Epps' move to the slot, senior Nick Parker and junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins are the primary backups at tight end. Parker saw action in 11 games with three starts at tight end, catching two passes for 11 yards and a touchdown, while Liggins has moved to tight end from quarterback.

"He's coming along nicely," said Freeze of Liggins. "He still makes mistakes mentally. Physically, he mixes it up a lot better than I anticipated. He's a physical blocker, which is something we really need. He's a threat doing other things when he's on the field for us too. We ran a little quarterback stuff with him yesterday, and he looked pretty good at that."

Adeboyejo Transitions to the Slot

Sophomore Quincy Adeboyjo moved from outside receiver, where he rotated with Donte Moncrief and Vince Sanders, among others, to the slot, where he looks to replace sophomore Laquon Treadwell, who moved to outside receiver.

From the slot position, Treadwell led the team with 72 catches and was second on the team with 608 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Adeboyejo caught just seven passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, but coaches and players have said he is poised for a breakout year and a similar uptick in production.

"He gives us a threat there who can do things with the ball in his hands that are a little different than what we have had," Freeze said. "He's quick-twitched and he can run. He has to continue to improve his ball-catching. He still has too many that are not natural catches for him that he should make. We'll continue to work at that."

The transition has gone well, Adeboyejo said, having also worked in the slot during spring practice. Coaches and players have also praised his route-running and ability to stretch the field vertically.

"Going from outside to inside, I know both of them," Adeboyejo said. "I still know most of the outside stuff. When I'm in there learning, just because I play slot, I don't just look at the slot. I try to look at all of the routes, so if I have to go outside one day, I would still know what I have to do."

"His route-running is really good," Freeze said. "He's one of our better ones at getting in and out of breaks and any kind of double moves. He's a strider too. If he gets in the open field, he's a guy who is tough to corral. We're excited about him."

Alford Ready to Contribute in Variety of Ways


Sophomore Anthony Alford does a little bit of everything.

When SiriusXM College Sports Nation Camp Tour visited Ole Miss on Monday, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack called Alford one of the best two or three athletes on the team.

A two-sport standout out of Petal High School, Alford was selected in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays and signed a contract with the organization in June 2012 that allowed him to also keep playing football.

He started his college football career at Southern Miss, where he played in nine games with five starts at quarterback, as he led the Golden Eagles with 664 passing yards and rushed for 329 yards with eight total touchdowns.

After sitting out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules, during which time he played a key role on the scout team imitating the likes of Johnny Manziel and Nick Marshall at quarterback, he entered fall camp as the backup Rover safety behind junior Trae Elston, in addition to taking snaps at quarterback and returning punts in special teams drills.

"I love him in a lot of ways," Freeze said. "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."

"I think I can help with my athletic ability and my quarterback background," Alford said. "I know what's going on on that side of the ball. By playing on both sides of the ball, it helps me a lot with playing quarterback."

This past summer, he played summer ball in the Blue Jays organization, splitting time between the Bluefield Blue Jays (Rookie Ball) and Lansing Lugnuts (Class A). He hit a career-best .320 in 25 at-bats for the Lugnuts, before rejoining the Ole Miss football team.

"I had to get back in the groove because I fell behind a little bit being gone playing baseball during the summer, but I'm feeling good," Alford said.

Alford, who was ranked No. 6 among Blue Jays prospects by MLB.com entering the 2013 season, has three years remaining of football eligibility, and he's in no hurry to decide between the two sports.

"I feel like I haven't truly given football a shot," Alford said. "I don't truly know what I can do in football, so I won't know that for a year or two."

NOTABLE:

In the individual and team drills open to the media, the first-team offensive line consisted of sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), sophomore Robert Conyers (C), junior Justin Bell (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT).

Conyers also worked with the second-team offensive line at right tackle. He was joined on the team by redshirt freshman Davion Johnson (LT), junior Craig Frigo (LG), junior Ben Still (C) and redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin (RG).

Junior Channing Ward, who switched back to defensive end from tight end, ran with the first-team defense in the team drill. He was joined by junior C.J. Johnson at the other defensive end spot and sophomore Robert Nkemdiche and junior Woodrow Hamilton at the defensive tackle spots.

At linebacker, senior Deterrian Shackelford and junior Denzel Nkemdiche ran with the first team, with junior Christian Russell and senior Keith Lewis the second team. Sophomore Tony Conner ran with the first team at Huskie, with junior Mike Hilton on the second team.

Among the freshman defensive backs, other than Kendarius Webster who continues to work with the cornerbacks, C.J. Moore worked with the safeties, while A.J. Moore and D.K. Buford worked with the Huskies. Senior Cliff Coleman, who has played both cornerback and Huskie, worked with the safeties.

Junior cornerback Carlos Davis, who Freeze earlier said was the leader at punt returner, fielded punts in special teams work, as did junior safety Trae Elston and Alford. In the same drill, A.J. Moore got a piece of a punt.

QUOTABLE:

Freeze, on Denzel Nkemdiche: "I couldn't be more pleased with him and his attitude and leadership out there in practice thus far. He's always positive. He's kind of accepted what his punishment is, and he's gone through it very nicely."

Freeze, on the backup quarterbacks: "I'm disappointed, to be candid. They're not taking care of the ball well enough. Our timing is off. They seemed a little bit confused. I told (co-offensive coordinator) Dan (Werner) we have to get it cleared up mentally with them and get them playing faster. That's the way I feel after today's practice."

Alford, on being eligible to play after sitting out last season: "It's a lot different because it gives you something to look forward to. It makes me work harder because I'm actually motivated now than I was just going through the motions last year."

Alford, on missing playing quarterback: "I miss having the ball in my hand every play more than anything."

Alford, on the secondary: "I feel really confident. Like coach said, it's probably our first year having a true two-deep in the secondary at Huskie, Rover, free safety and corner. I'm really confident in knowing if one person goes down, we can bounce back and put someone else out there."

Adeboyejo, on Bo Wallace and adjusting to his stronger arm: "His arm is a lot stronger. Some balls we used to wait longer on, but now it's zipping in there. We have to get used to it. We do routes on air a lot. During the offseason, we did a lot of routes on air and we did a lot of 7-on-7. As we throw around with him a lot, it's getting easier and easier to get used to his balls zipping in a little faster than they had been."

Adeboyejo, on freshman wide receivers Markell Pack and Dayall Harris: "They're going to be really good. Markell is pretty fast. A lot of people say he's kind of like me. We both have dreads, so a lot of people think we look alike and run alike. Markell is going to be really good. Dayall, he's in the meeting room and he's asking coach question after question. He's really trying to learn it. That's a good thing coming in as a freshman trying to learn it off the bat."

The SiriusXM College Sports Nation Camp Tour visited Ole Miss on Monday, as Chris Childers and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik talked Ole Miss football live from the Manning Center. 

The three-hour show featured live interviews with athletics director Ross Bjork, co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, senior quarterback Bo Wallace, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior linebacker Serderius Bryant and senior safety Cody Prewitt, as well as pre-recorded interviews with head football coach Hugh Freeze and head baseball coach Mike Bianco. 

The show will re-air on Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. CT on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, channel 91 on satellite radios, on the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at SiriusXM.com. Here's a sample of the show with Wallace talking about being a senior leader and Freeze talking about the start of camp.

Here are some highlights from Chizik talking with Childers, as he previewed the upcoming season for Ole Miss:

On expectations: "The recruiting classes have been off the charts. Depth, you are finally going to see play a factor. That's probably one of the things why you see them in these SEC matchups, where they can't quite close on the deal on a Texas A&M or an Auburn. Now, all their young guys are gaining experience and gaining year. They have a lot of depth, and you are going to see it make a difference this year.

On Bo Wallace and cutting down on his turnovers: "If you look at some of the premier quarterbacks in the league who really had a chance to win their division -- the AJ McCarron's of the world, the Nick Marshall's and Connor Shaw's -- you're looking at guys who turned the ball over in air four or five times, and for Connor Show, one time. He has to be able to do that. He has to manage those games in the critical times. You're going to see a better Bo Wallace. I really do.

On veterans back on defense: "You have three years in Dave Wommack's system and you have nine starters coming back, and you have some other guys who have played a lot on top of that, not among the nine. You're going to see a very aggressive defense. I have always admired how hard they play. Dave keeps it simple enough, where they can just turn those guys loose and play. They're going to have to play well early and give the offensive line, which has a lot of new guys, time to gel and get better. The defense is going to be a critical element in the first four games of the year.

In between segments, I caught up with Chizik and he shared his thoughts on this year's Ole Miss team and the state of the program:

On season opener against Boise State: "It's cool for the players. I don't know if they train any harder or practice any harder, but certainly as the game gets closer, it has a whole new meaning to a player because it's opening in a pseudo bowl game. They will be excited about it. It's a national TV game and it's going to be one of the biggest games at the beginning of the season. It can be a great opening for Hugh and the football team to play a team like Boise, which has also had a lot of success in its openers, even going back a couple of years to its game against Georgia. The fan base, the players and everyone is going to be excited.

On continuity of staff: "It's night and day if you're trying to build a program, and every two years you're replacing coordinators or you're replacing recruiting coordinators. The kids feel good when they walk back into the building every day and they hear the same voice and the same message. Everyone is beating to the same drum.

On last year's freshmen now sophomores: "So many of the freshmen last year --and they were a very highly-touted class -- came in and had to play, probably more than they needed to play or should have played, when you're talking about freshmen. Hindsight obviously being 20/20, knowing that you had to do that, it certainly makes a better case for you the next year. There were so many guys last year that really had to do it when they were thrown in the fire early. It will pay huge dividends for all those guys this year.

On question marks along the offensive line: "It's going to be huge on the defense. The defense plays a part in that. It's a team game. It's the hardest to put 11 guys on one side and 11 on the other together, but ultimately 22 guys blend together, plus special teams. The defense's job is to buy time for your offensive line to get some experience and gain some confidence, to play together and to listen to the calls. The only thing that you can do with a young line is to give them that experience, game by game, and hopefully you're winning while you're doing it.

On going from the "hunter" to the "hunted": "I don't know if anything changes. There's an awareness there from the coaches and the players that when people play us they have to strap it on and play us for 60 minutes. They can't beat us in 58 minutes. They have to prepare and they have to play the whole game. In this league, they're learning that every week you're the hunted, no matter who you are. Now, they have experienced a great amount of confidence in some of the big games they have won, like the LSU game last year. It makes them very aware that everybody is going to be gunning for them."

On taking the next step as a program: "There's not a day that goes by here that Hugh is not telling his football team that there's one goal, and that's to win the SEC West and go to Atlanta. As you look back and watch the games they have played in the SEC West, there's probably not one guy in that meeting room who thinks that's not a reality, a possibility. They have played everybody tough and beat some of them. That's certainly the goal that they talk about on a daily basis.

On what to look for in first couple of games: "You always look for special teams play. You always look for coverage units and hidden yardage with field position. A lot of people overlook those things because they're looking for touchdowns, interceptions and long runs. That's huge in early games. The other thing is turnovers. You have to protect the ball and you have to try to get the ball back to your offense. Those are the things that every coach in America is going to look for in their openers."

Here are some more highlights from the live interviews on SiriusXM College Sports Nation:

Werner, on Bo Wallace: "The big thing with Bo is that he's sort of a gambler. He'll take his shots. You have to live with it and die with it. When he throws one in there, I'm up the press box and I just go, 'Oh, no,' but then it pops for a touchdown and everybody is happy.

"He makes the exact same throw four plays later and it gets intercepted, and now not so much. That's the thing that I've talked to him about. We have to cut down on those types of plays. We're not going to hit as many big plays, but we're going to keep the chains moving."

Wommack, on C.J. Johnson: "He's one of the leaders of the defense. They all rally around him."

Wommack, on Anthony Alford: "He's one of the top two or three athletes on the team."

Wommack, on Robert Nkemdiche: "We will move him around and use him in different packages, in different places."

Johnson, on being back healthy: "When I'm on the field, it's go-time. I'm ready to go."

Johnson, on season opener against Boise State: "We have a target on our back (as an SEC school). That's another part of the motivation."

Wallace, on last year's Mississippi State game: "It was really frustrating. I felt like we had a good plan for them. I felt like we were the better team. I still feel that way. To be out there, I felt helpless. I didn't know what to do, but I'm healthy now and excited for the year."

Wallace, on leadership: "For me, every guy on the team, when they ask, who wants to win more than anybody, a lot of them are going tell you it's me. That's a huge thing. Competing for those guys, they want to see you're going to put everything on the line every time you walk out there. That's huge for a leader. I'm a quiet, lead-by-example-type guy. I need to be more vocal as a senior and with it being my offense. I'm working on being more vocal."

Bryant, on being underrated: "I love proving people wrong. I got to have a chip on my shoulder because of my size."

Bryant, on the defense: "It's crazy how we all fly around on defense. Everyone's making plays."

Bjork, on his charge as athletics director: "Our job is to build and show progression."

Prewitt, on returning all four starters in the secondary: "It means a lot to be coming back with the same four people in the back end. You can sense what the other guys are going to do and the reads they're going to make. It makes it easier to execute the game plan well."

Prewitt, on Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche: "It's really fun to watch them interacting with each other and the way they push each other. It makes all of us better."

Both coordinators have been pleased with the first couple days of practice as the Ole Miss football team looks to continue to develop more depth on both sides of the ball.

On offense, the discussion starts and ends with senior quarterback Bo Wallace, now more than a year removed from clavicle surgery and the rehabilitation that followed in 2013.

"It's like two different players," co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Werner said. "He's so far ahead. The key is obviously making it all the way through the season, but last year at this time, he was barely coming off rehab. Now, he's not only done with all of that, but he's worked to get his normal strength and maybe then some. He's gained some weight, gotten bigger. He's excited and can't wait for the season."

Running back remains a crowded position, where juniors I'Tavius Mathers (95 carries, 563 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Jaylen Walton (113 carries, 523 yards, 6 touchdowns) are the leading returners, but they are being pushed by sophomore Mark Dodson, redshirt freshmen Eugene Brazley and Jordan Wilkins, and junior college transfer Akeem Judd.

"Two years ago, we basically had one tailback, and he knew pretty much he was going to be the guy," Werner said. "There was nobody else. Now, there's six of them in there, and every one of them is a good player. They're all going to have to battle. If one guy has a bad day, he knows he's probably going to be dropping down."

One of the areas Ole Miss looks to improve is third-down conversion (46 percent, 5th SEC) and red-zone conversion (74 percent, 13th SEC), and part of that is conversion in short-yardage situations. Enter Judd, the biggest of the backs at 6-foot-0 and 220 pounds.

"Today, in the pads, we didn't get a really good look because we're still not going live, but I was pleased," Werner said. "I didn't think we would be impressed with him when we're just in t-shirts, but he made some really nice moves. I'm excited to see when we got live and he makes a nice move, but then gets north and south and runs over someone. That's why we brought him in."

One of the key positions, as far as depth, is offensive line, particularly on the edges. Werner has been pleased with the competition there, but depth remains a concern.

"I like the athleticism of the guys," Werner said. "They are battling. The whole key to that is staying healthy. The depth is the issue. We feel like we have six, seven, eight guys who can really play and help us. If we get a couple banged up, then we have problems."

Junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins, Werner said, can be a really good player at tight end, as he competes for playing time there alongside sophomore Evan Engram and freshman Sammie Epps.

"He's definitely a natural," Werner said. "You can tell him to block somebody, and normally it takes weeks to figure how and where you place your hands and all that, and he just gets into them. He's so strong. He's so physical. And he's so athletic to be able to catch the ball too. It's just learning it. When he will get to that point, nobody knows. We will find out."

On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said the depth is better than it's ever been and the talent level is up also. Two areas for improvement were defensive end and length at corner, and he's been pleased with the progress on both fronts.

"Defensive end, from last year, is a huge thing because we lost them all and we were thin," Wommack said. "We took care of a lot of that in recruiting and we add Fadol (Brown), and C.J. (Johnson) is back healthy and 100 percent. We added Marquis (Haynes) and some of those other guys. I see some good things out of the young guys. That's one thing. 

"And I wanted to see us get longer at corner and recruit longer at corner, and we have been able to do that. We need them to rise up and get some playing time. I love our corners. Some of them are short, and we wanted to get length at corner."

Among those younger players on the defensive line have been freshmen Breeland Speaks and Garrald McDowell.

"He got a little bit overweight, but he's kind of worked himself down," said Wommack of Speaks. "He's tough and he's a competitor. He's figuring out what college football is all about right now. There's no question he's going to be a factor here down the road. When, I don't know."

"He finds a way," said Wommack of McDowell. "He's a steady guy in there. He's tough. He's a competitor. He's really football smart on the field."

With length at corner, you look at sophomore Derrick Jones (6-foot-2, 182 pounds), as well as the additions of junior college transfer Tee Shepard (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) and Kendarius Webster (5-foot-11, 170). 

"He's improved a lot," said Wommack of Jones. "The biggest thing was, physically, he went against one of the best receivers in the nation all spring, and it made him better and made him see he that he had to get stronger. He got strong over the summer and he keeps on coming. I love his length."

"I don't think he's in shape all the way yet," said Wommack of Shepard. "I don't think he's had the conditioning he's needed, so he can't last very long, but the good, quality reps that I see from him are very positive. He has tremendous short-area quickness and has that knack that you want in your corner that's, 'Hey, send me the ball to me. I want the ball thrown to me.' We'll see the whole package here."

Overall, Wommack has been pleased with the freshman class, and no one has stood out more than DeMarquis Gates, a 6-foot-2, 211-pound linebacker from Hampton, Georgia.

"He can run, he's physical, he's tough, and he's smart," Wommack said. "He didn't play last year, so I really wasn't expecting what we have been getting from him. Each and every day, including today, he has shown up, so that's a good thing for us."

With media day behind them, Ole Miss practiced for the first time of fall camp Saturday on the practice fields. Head coach Hugh Freeze split the practice into two parts, with about 40 minutes devoted to getting reps for the younger players.

"It was good for the young group to get out early," Freeze said. "We finally have some kids, when we go two-deep, that are not getting enough reps. That has not been the norm, so we split practice this morning and went out early with the young guys. That will give them some confidence moving forward."

The first part provided a first look at the many players from the 2014 signing class, ranked as high as No. 14 by the major recruiting services.

"I really like the class that we just brought in," Freeze said. "There are a lot of talented kids in it. If we can do a good job of helping them understand how we want to do things and what there is to do, we have some guys who can perform in that class. I don't want them to get too far behind that they can't play fast."

At media day, Freeze said he was most anxious to see the punters and kickers, as the Rebels look to replace Tyler Campbell and Andrew Ritter, who both graduated following their senior year last season.

"I'm pleased with (Will) Gleeson," Freeze said. "He hit it well today. On one day, Andy (Pappanastos) had the best day, but Gary (Wunderlich) had some really good hits, particularly on the left hash. He struggled a bit on the right hash. Andy had the best day of those guys today. I'm pleased with Gary's punting too. We have two quality punters there in Will and Gary. We have a good battle that's going to happen for the PAT and field goal stuff."

Another position battle to watch on special team is punt returner, where the Rebels look to replace Jeff Scott and Jordan Holder, who handled most of those duties last season.

"Carlos Davis would probably be the guy, if we played today," Freeze said. "Anthony Alford and Trae Elston are other good possibilities also. Carlos is pretty natural back there."

NOTABLE:

In the individual drills, junior Ben Still, senior Chase Hughes and junior Craig Frigo all took snaps at center, with Still getting most of the first-team reps. 

The other four players on the first-team offensive line were sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), junior Justin Bell (RG) and sophomore Robert Conyers (RT).

The second-team offensive line consisted of redshirt freshman Davion Johnson (LT), redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin (LG), freshman Rod Taylor (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT), with Taylor also getting reps with the younger players in the first part of practice.

In special teams work, junior running back Jaylen Walton, sophomore running back Mark Dodson and sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore split reps returning kicks. Junior defensive back Mike Hilton, senior defensive back Cliff Coleman, freshman safety C.J. Hampton and sophomore safety Anthony Alford worked as gunners on punt coverage.

QUOTABLE:

Freeze, on newcomers who stood out: "Dayall Harris was phenomenal. Rod Taylor is going to be good. We knew that and believed that. He kind of cramped today and didn't quite get all the reps. All of those guys, Tee Shepard, (Damore'ea Stringfellow) is what we like in our offense, the twins from Bassfield (A.J. Moore and C.J. Moore) are super athletic and make us faster, Ken Webster is going to be a good player at corner. Offensively, (Sammie) Epps was solid. (Jeremy) Liggins, too. I'm excited about them."

Freeze, on the arm strength of senior quarterback Bo Wallace: "He's overthrown two streaks. We have never had that problem before. We have just hoped it has gotten there sometimes, so we kind of laughed about that today, so his arm is definitely stronger. We hope it sustains the course of the time and grind of the year."

The immediate goals for fall practice, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said, are developing more depth, particularly at key positions, and staying healthy.

"Staying healthy is a quandary in my mind because you need to be fast and physical but you have to stay healthy," Freeze said. "Now, we really feel like we have a team that can be good. Hopefully we can go from good to great. 

"The line that you worry about, particularly with us still having some depth issues, is how do you get done what you need to do and develop depth and create a competitive, juiced practice and still stay as healthy as you can. We have to create some more depth."

On a related note, Freeze also said everyone is academically eligible, and aside from junior defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton possibly being held out of some drills on day one, everyone is also healthy entering fall camp. 

Part of that good news included the clearance of sophomore Tee Shepard, a consensus four-star recruit out of junior college. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder brings an added dimension to a talented cornerback group, led by senior Senquez Golson, sophomore Derrick Jones and junior Mike Hilton.

"I expect Tee to come in and hopefully be a lockdown corner that we may have been missing," Freeze said. "He has the size, strength and speed, and he's physical. I love his demeanor. The guy smiles all the time. He's excited to be here. I like our depth at corner, and that's the first time I can say that. We have some good possibilities there."

"On defense, it's going to take turnovers," said Jones of getting to the next level as a team. "That is the big emphasis we have going into this camp, getting more turnovers, and getting the ball to the offense. We can be one of the top defenses in the country. We have the players and we have great coaches. We have to go out there and play like we know we can play."

One of those key positions as far depth is offensive line, where it starts with sophomore Laremy Tunsil, a freshman All-American, who will anchor the line at left tackle.

"Being a sophomore and being considered that, it's a blessing," said Tunsil of consideration as one of the nation's top offensive tackles. "Last year, I learned about adversity. When the game is not going your way, to try to think about the positive things."

To continue to build depth on the offensive line, Freeze said, sophomore Robert Conyers will work at offensive tackle and center, and freshman Rod Taylor will work at offensive guard and offensive tackle.

"We have to be careful with our offensive line," Freeze said. "We're OK inside depth-wise. On the edges, we're very, very thin. We have a special one in Laremy, and we hope he has a healthy and outstanding year, and we hope Fahn Cooper is exactly what we thought he would be. We have to start getting depth ready behind those guys."

"They showed out this summer," Tunsil said. "They did a pretty good job this summer. They're going to kill it this fall camp."


Passing Game Ready To Take Next Step

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, the Southeastern Conference's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdown, received the podium treatment at Ole Miss Media Days, and he appeared as healthy and confident as ever.

"I feel as good as I have ever felt, except that first year coming in," Wallace said. "I feel 100 percent. I feel a lot of zip on the ball, and I can push it down the field more. I'm anxious to go out there and start."

"He actually hurt my hand a couple of times playing catch," said sophomore wide receiver Treadwell, smiling and laughing. "But yeah, his arm has gotten very strong. He's making great decisions now. Last year, it was like, 'C'mon, Bo, throw the ball.' Now, he's zipping it and throwing it wherever he wants to put it, in any position."

Treadwell, the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year, moves outside to his natural position, where he looks to stretch the field and make more explosive plays in the offense.

"I worked on it last year, but this year I feel like I had to work on it more because I know that's what we're going to do with a healthy Bo and me moving to the outside," said Treadwell of stretching the field. "Quincy (Adeboyejo) is going to help that a lot because he's mismatch, also, because his route are so crisp that a lot of people can't guard him 1-on-1. He's showed that since day one."

"That's his natural position," said Freeze of the sophomore. "He's a physical blocker, which helps us on the edge. We'll continue to move him around but he will primarily an outside guy. Outside guys typically have the chance to make more explosive plays. He's excited to do that."

With his move outside, fellow sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo, Treadwell said, is poised for a breakout year in the slot.

"Quincy (Adeboyejo) is going to help that a lot because he's a mismatch, also because his route are so crisp that a lot of people can't guard him 1-on-1. He's showed that since day one."

With Moncrief now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Treadwell has not only moved outside, but he's also taken on a bigger leadership role among the wide receivers and the team in general.

"I stay around my teammates as much as possible because they are going to humble you," Treadwell said. "You can't read your press clippings. I try to keep working hard and leading the team."


Position Changes, Position Battles

After having worked at tight end during spring practice, Channing Ward is switching back to defense, Freeze said. Among the three "athletes" on the roster, freshman D.K. Buford will start at Huskie, freshman D.J. Moore will start at Rover or Huskie, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins will start at tight end.

"Jeremy is one of my favorite kids, even though he ripped my heart out at one point in the recruiting process," Freeze said. "He's such an athletic big guy. He is starting at tight end, but that doesn't mean that's where he will end up. He could play a lot of things. People like that certainly help your football team. We could move him around if we have some depth issues."

The backup quarterback battle continues, and it's in much the same place as it was when Freeze talked to the media at SEC Media Days, with redshirt freshman Ryan Buchanan ahead as a pocket passer and redshirt freshman DeVante Kincade ahead running the entire offense. 

In addition, Liggins and sophomore safety Anthony Alford, Freeze said, may also factor in helping fill Barry Brunetti's role from last season.

Freeze said he's most anxious to see the kickers because he's hasn't seen them all summer, as the Rebels look to replace Tyler Campbell and Andrew Ritter, who both graduated following their senior year last seasons.

"(Will) Gleeson has the edge right now, as far as the punting duties," Freeze said. "The kicking duties are wide open. I expect Andy (Pappanastos) and Gary (Wunderlich) to have a great competition for that. (Andrew) Fletcher, too. Nathan Noble will likely handle kickoff duties."

Transcript of Hugh Freeze and Bo Wallace's Ole Miss Media Day press conferences

Athletics Director Ross Bjork announces the renaming of Coliseum Drive as Chucky Mullins Drive, in recognition of the spirit and life of Chucky Mullins.

Bjork also announces "It's Time," a celebration of Chucky Mullins around the Sept. 26-27 weekend of the Memphis football game, which will include the football team wearing helmets with No. 38 decals on the side.


ESPN.com unveiled their rankings of the top 100 players in college football for the 2014 season. The players are also rated on a scale of 0-10 based on their expected contributions. The SEC leads all conferences with 30 players, and Ole Miss is second in the league with four players on the list.

Robert Nkemdiche: T-35th, 7.56

Rated the nation's No. 1 overall recruit in the 2013 class, Nkemdiche started 10 games, moving around from end to tackle to even running back last fall. He will stay at tackle this year and should improve on the two sacks and eight tackles for loss he registered in 2013.

Laquon Treadwell: T-39th, 7.50

His teammates believe he's better than Amari Cooper, and they're not far off. Treadwell finished third in the SEC with 72 receptions as a freshman, and he is expected to have an even bigger role as he moves outside to replace Donte Moncrief.

Laremy Tunsil: T-66th, 6.94

A likely future first-round NFL draft pick, Tunsil will anchor Ole Miss' line at left tackle. He started nine games there last season and allowed just one sack. Tunsil was the best prospect of the Rebels' historic 2013 recruiting haul last fall, and he should be even better in 2014.

Cody Prewitt: T-86th, 6.69

From underrated to All-American, Prewitt led the SEC and tied for seventh nationally with six interceptions last season. He also defended 13 passes and had 4.5 tackles for loss. Prewitt is a ball hawk but is physical enough to play in the box and stop the run.

On a related note, Bo Wallace was among ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach's 10 players outside the top 100 who might become household names before season's end.

In a league that doesn't bring back many experienced quarterbacks, Wallace might be the most explosive player returning under center. Last season, he threw for 3,346 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 355 yards with six scores.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said Wallace's arm strength dipped dramatically as the season went on, which was the result of shoulder surgery the previous offseason. Freeze said Wallace has added 15 pounds and is in better shape after going through the offseason strength and conditioning program, which he wasn't able to do before the 2013 campaign.

ESPN.com's SEC bloggers unveiled their rankings of the top 25 players in college football for the 2014 season. The criteria for each player include talent, stats and importance to his respective team. Ole Miss is tied with Alabama for the most players with four players on the list.

Cody Prewitt: 12th

After becoming the first Rebels safety in 40 years to be named a first-team All-American, Prewitt will accomplish something truly historic if he's able to go back-to-back. He clearly has the skill set to do it after leading the SEC and ranking seventh nationally with six interceptions in 2013. Prewitt possesses not only the ball skills that produced all those picks but also a hard-hitting style that makes him one of the SEC's top all-around defensive backs.

Laremy Tunsil: 15th

It's unusual for a true freshman offensive tackle to start in the SEC. And it's highly irregular for him to dominate. That is what Tunsil did for a good portion of last season, surrendering just one sack all fall while making nine starts. As if his second-team All-SEC designation in 2013 didn't make this clear, Tunsil is a special talent -- and his rise will only continue now that he has a full season under his belt. 

Robert Nkemdiche: 18th

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said Nkemdiche is a tackle all the way for the Rebels, although he's certainly athletic enough to play outside in certain situations. He plans to play at 285 pounds this season after playing closer to 300 as a freshman. He's also healthy after racking up eight tackles for loss last season and eager to prove that he can be as dominant as any interior defensive lineman in this league and maybe the country. 

Laquon Treadwell: 20th

All Treadwell did as a freshman was lead Ole Miss with 72 catches and earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors from the coaches. He's added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, and at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, will be even tougher to defend with his physicality, sure hands and run-after-the-catch ability. With Donte Moncrief leaving early for the NFL, Treadwell is moving from slot receiver to the Rebels' outside receiver spot and will get plenty of chances for big plays. 

Ole Miss football players will report to campus on Friday for the start of 2014 fall camp. 

Friday will also feature Media Day activities beginning with head coach Hugh Freeze's press conference at 2 p.m, which will be streamed live on OleMissSports.com's RebelVision, followed by interviews with assistant coaches and requested players.

The roster has been updated to include newcomer bios, jersey numbers and updated positions, heights and weights. 

Among them are sophomore defensive back Tee Shepard, wearing No. 2, and a trio of athletes in freshmen D.K. Buford and C.J. Moore, wearing Nos. 35 and 26, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins, wearing No. 15.

Here are four things to watch as the Rebels meet the press on Friday and open fall camp on Saturday:

Finding Best Five On Offensive Line

The Rebels have to replace three starters from last year who graduated -- left guard Jared Duke, center Evan Swindall and right tackle Pierce Burton. Laremy Tunsil, a freshman All-American and one of the first two Ole Miss freshmen to be named All-SEC, anchors the line at left tackle.

Junior Aaron Morris, Freeze said at SEC Media Days, should be ready to go day one, having missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL in the season opener against Vanderbilt. He will return at left guard, where he started all 13 games in 2012.

Junior Justin Bell started every game last season, with six at left guard and seven at right guard, where he is listed as the starter entering fall camp. Junior Ben Still and sophomore Robert Conyers are listed as the starter at center and right tackle, respectively, entering fall camp. 

Redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin, who got a lot of reps in spring practice, is another player to watch, as are newcomers Fahn Cooper, a second team NJCAA All-America selection, and Rod Taylor, an Under Armour All-America selection, whom Freeze raved about at SEC Media Days.

Second Time Around For Talented Sophomores

Last year's freshman class, headlined by four freshman All-Americans, are now sophomores, and they will have a huge role in defining how successful Ole Miss will be this season. The Rebels will also look for the fruits of the labor from another year in the offseason program with Paul Jackson.

For Robert Nkemdiche and Derrick Jones, it's the first full camp at their new positions, having moved to defensive tackle and cornerback, respectively, during their freshman seasons. For Laquon Treadwell and Quincy Adeboyejo, it's continuing in their transition to outside receiver and slot receiver, respectively. 

Backup Quarterback Battle To Continue

In addition to watching senior Bo Wallace, as it relates to his confidence and arm strength in fall camp, the battle behind him has continued into fall camp between redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. Since the start of fall camp last season, this has been a story line and it will undoubtedly continue, whether they continue to split snaps or one separates from the other. 

On a related note, it will be interesting to see where junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins, listed as an athlete, will work during fall camp and how he might contribute this season. ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach wrote that he will start fall camp working as a tight end, but he may end up contributing at any number of positions, including quarterback.

Making Special Teams Special

The Rebels return 15 starters on offense and defense, but they have to replace both their kicker and punter on special teams. Senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt freshman Will Gleeson are listed as the starters at placekicker and punter, respectively. The wildcard in the group is incoming freshman Gary Wunderlich, the nation's No. 1 kicker prospect, who has the potential to handle both duties.

There are a lot of options in the return game, with junior running back Jaylen Walton listed as the starter at kick returner and junior cornerback Carlos Davis listed as the starter at punt returner. A trio of sophomores in safety Anthony Alford, cornerback Kailo Moore and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo also figure in the mix.

Here are more of Coach Freeze's interviews in Bristol. Scroll down to the earlier post to hear him on Ivan Maisel's podcast.

Watch: Freeze on CFB Live

Watch: Freeze on the Paul Finebaum Show

Listen: Freeze on the Freddie Coleman Show

Listen: Freeze on SVP & Russillo

Photo Gallery: Hugh Freeze At 2014 ESPN SEC Car Wash

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze sat down with ESPN's Ivan Maisel for his podcast to discuss the upcoming season. Here are a few highlights from Freeze:

On Robert Nkemdiche at defensive tackle:

Robert stays about the same. He's at about 295 pounds. He fluctuates from 295-305 pounds. I have never seen a 295-pound man built like him. He has a six pack at 295 pounds. He's a special athlete, and we're excited. That's where he belongs long-term for his NFL career, if he stays healthy. We think he can be dominant inside. We will go to some 3-4 stuff, too, where he moves out some, but he will primarily be an inside guy.

More on Robert Nkemdiche:

Throughout the recruiting process, we always thought he would move inside. In the bowl game, he played inside the whole game and had his best game of the year by far. He was so active and disruptive against Georgia Tech in the bowl game.

On Laquon Treadwell and his ability and willingness to block:

It's very unusual in a young player. There are not many high school receivers who come in with the mentality that blocking is very important to them. Coaches will always tell them that, but for the kid to grasp that it's an important role for them on the team is not the norm. We could make a cut-up reel right now of his blocking last year that is absolutely way beyond a freshman in maturity. He will inspire those other receivers to block also. He enjoy it. He loves it. He gets a kick out of it. And he has gained some weight. He has gained another 10-15 pounds and will definitely be a great blocker for us.

More on Treadwell:

He's now moved back outside. He will play the outside guy where Donte (Moncrief) was last year. He should see more explosive plays. He had some, but in our stuff, he probably didn't get asked to do that a lot last year, but he will this year.

On cyclical world of college football and lack of star quality in the Southeastern Conference:

I don't (think the SEC takes a step back). If you just look at the way all of us have recruited, if the recruiting services are close to being right, there are a lot of players who are going to be on the field who we don't know about. Right now, there's not the star power that there has been the last couple of year, but it will be back very soon.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoop and Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze discuss the state of the SEC on College Football Live. Here a few highlights from Freeze:

On recruiting:

"We're a unique staff that has a core values that attracts a certain type of kid. We had the early opportunity to play for us because of what we inherited when we got there. Kids are drawn to that. And if you ever get a kid on our campus, we have a chance. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world, and our facilities have been upgraded to be top notch. They see the passion and love we have for what we do there. Hopefully, it transcended into helping them become the type of men they need to be in life."

On expectations:

"I'm determined that I won't let pressure definite how we go about doing things. I do know that we're good enough now to be relevant in the SEC West. What that means in the win-loss column, I have no idea, because no one is backing up, but we closed the gap to where we should in the factors of who wins this league."

All 14 Southeastern Conference football coaches will travel to ESPN's annual mid-summer football coaches "car wash" - in which guests appear across multiple programs and platforms over one day - at ESPN's Bristol, Conn., headquarters on Monday and Tuesday. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze is part of Monday's group.

The schedules for the coaches will include a mixture of interviews with more than 25 different shows and writers across ESPN's television, radio and digital media platforms. Below is Freeze's tentative itinerary for Monday (Times Central). Most of the interviews are taped, so I'll tweet during the trip when we know airtimes.

9:00 AM    SEC Network Talkbacks
9:15 AM    College Gameday / SEC Thematic Shoot
9:40 AM    Freddie Coleman Radio
9:50 AM    College Gameday Radio
10:00 AM    SVP & Russillo
10:10 AM    ESPNU podcast
10:22 AM    ESPN Films
10:40 AM    Roundtable
11:20 AM    SEC Film Room
11:40 AM    Digital Media
12:00 PM    ESPN Images
12:15 PM    ESPN.com Reporter
12:40 PM    CFB Live
1:40 PM    SportsCenter (Tape)
1:50 PM    Travis Haney

Follow me on twitter @CampbellKyle.

Ole Miss took its turn at the annual SEC Media Days on Thursday. Joining head coach Hugh Freeze was senior quarterback Bo Wallace, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and senior safety Cody Prewitt. Here are a few related SEC Media Days links to videos and stories:

Freeze explains common factor in SEC turnarounds, writes Chris Vannini of Coaching Search

Great expectations: Improved depth could lead to big things for Rebels, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Ole Miss football wants to prove it's a big ticket for Atlanta and beyond, writes Steven Godfrey of SB Nation

AUDIO: Ole Miss HC Hugh Freeze talks about getting back into football mode on SiriusXM Nation

Slighted QB Wallace ready to lead Mississippi, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

On his shoulders: Wallace 100 percent fit and ready to lead Rebels, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Bo Wallace just wants one healthy season, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Bo Wallace using snub for extra motivation, writes Ross Dellenger of The Advocate

Tough talk, big dreams for Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace in senior season, writes Geoff Calkins of the Commercial Appeal

Last shot for Bo Wallace to spurn doubters, get Ole Miss to new heights, writes Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated

AUDIO: Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace talks about the QB battles in the SEC on SiriusXM College Sports Nation

VIDEO: Bo Wallace aims to be the SEC's top QB, reports Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

C.J. Johnson is back, can make the Ole Miss D better, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss All-American safety Cody Prewitt still toils in obscurity, writes Gary Laney of AL.com

Denzel Nkemdiche back with Ole Miss Rebels after spring ban, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell in same class as Alabama's Amari Cooper, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

More from SEC Sports: 2014 SEC Media Days Wrap-Up






Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said on day one that his expectations were to make the program relevant in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.

With a full allotment of 85 scholarship players and more depth of both sides of the ball, Freeze said, Ole Miss should be just that and competitive in every single game this season.

"Obviously I can't control the health of players, injuries, turnovers, how your quarterback plays," Freeze said. "All of those factors will kind of determining the ending result of wins and losses. But there's no question in my mind we're a better football team today than we were in year one and year two and we should be very competitive."

The players also feel those expectations coming off back-to-back bowl wins in each of the last two seasons, as the Rebels enter year three of the Hugh Freeze Era.

"The basketball team has been able to do it," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "The baseball team has been able to do it. Our fans are hungry for our football team to go to Atlanta. We feel those expectations and we're working hard every day."

In addition to upperclassmen such as Wallace and senior safety Cody Prewitt, a first team All-American last season, last year's freshman class will have a huge role in defining how successful Ole Miss will be this season.

"I certainly hope that another year in the offseason program with Paul Jackson and being a college student-athlete, that the grind of what we ask them to go through is more common to them so that they are better equipped and better prepared to go through the grind of the season that we're going to ask them to go through," Freeze said.

"The guys last year, their biggest setback was the mental side of the game," Prewitt said. "They are extremely athletic. They wouldn't be here if they weren't. Last year, they made a lot of mistakes. The biggest difference I saw in the spring was a lot of those mistakes weren't there anymore. They really progressed mentally. That's what's going to make that class special and help the team."

Freeze Excited For Season Opener In Georgia Dome

Ole Miss will open the 2014 season against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Thursday, Aug. 28. The game, which will start the 2014 college football season, will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and be televised by ESPN.

"We get to open college football," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "All eyes will be on you on that Thursday night against a very good Boise program.

"So we're excited and hopefully embrace that opportunity and the magnitude it will have on expanding our brand nationally. You certainly know that could help. Hopefully we get a chance to embrace that opportunity and make the most of it."

Another Chip On Wallace's Shoulder

Dating back to his high school days at Giles County in Pulaski, Tennessee, senior quarterback Bo Wallace has always played with a chip on his shoulder.

Add another chip on Wallace's shoulder, as the three-year starter and the SEC's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns was voted third team All-SEC by league media, behind Auburn's Nick Marshall and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott.

"I have always had a chip on my shoulder," Wallace said. "I have always felt like I could play at this level. This is a familiar position for me. In high school, people were saying, 'You can't play in college.' In junior college, people were saying, 'You can't play in the SEC.' I have been able to put up numbers. I'm familiar with this place and I enjoy it."

Backup Quarterback Battle Continues

Behind Wallace, the battle for the backup quarterback position continues between redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. Head coach Hugh Freeze has been pleased with both options, and if the season started today, it would depend upon the situation.

"They both bring a little different skill set to us," Freeze said. "The good thing is they both have used their redshirt year, so I'm not afraid to throw them in for a series here or a series there to see exactly what they do."

"The big thing with DeVante is he has all the talent in the world," Wallace said. "He needs to not create as many negative plays. Ryan knows the offense and his arm has gotten a lot stronger this offseason. It's going to be a really good battle in the offseason."

Freeze also mentioned junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins and Southern Miss transfer Anthony Alford, who figures in the mix at safety, as wildcards who could possibly add to the quarterback position. Freeze had particular high praise for Liggins, who might end up contributing at any number of positions.

"He's done absolutely phenomenal work," Freeze said. "I couldn't be happier with Jeremy Liggins. He looks like a million bucks. He's running around. He's down to about 280 pounds. I don't know where I'm going to play him, but he's going to help us."

Prewitt Looks To Improve On All-American Junior Season

A first team All-American this past season, senior safety Cody Prewitt was one of three Rebels voted first team All-SEC by league media, along with sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Prewitt led the SEC and tied for seventh nationally with six interceptions. He also ranked second on the team with 71 tackles and first with 13 passes defended. Entering his senior season, he remains focused on all-around improvements and not to get complacent. 

"I missed a couple of balls I shouldn't have missed last year," Prewitt said. "I missed a couple of tackles I should have made last year. I made a couple of mental mistakes I shouldn't have made last year. It's the little things you can do to improve."

At 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, Prewitt has been labeled a physical player and a big hitter, and while he didn't shy away from that reputation, it's more about making plays and making a difference on the defensive side of the ball.

"I like to hit people," Prewitt said. "My style is to be aggressive. Whatever I can do to be aggressive. Anything I can do to start shift momentum for my team. Whether that's a big hit or an interception, if I can get my team pumped up, focussed and back into the game, that's what I want to do."

Once overshadowed, Wallace now finds himself more firmly in the spotlight after the departure of seven of the league's eight top passers. The dean of SEC quarterbacks, Wallace is the league's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

"Every quarterback is going to take that as a challenge," Wallace said. "The quarterbacks are not any less talented than the ones that just left. Every quarterback will take that as a challenge to go out there, put a lot of numbers up and win games for their team."

"He's matured quite nicely in the way he leads our team and the way he goes about our business. He feels finally healthy and confident. I really think he's at a point where he certainly has every avenue right now to step in and be one of the guys in this conference."

More than a year removed from clavicle surgery in January 2013, Wallace is as healthy and confident as his head coach and teammates can remember.

Wallace credits offseason workouts with mechanics guru Tom House for helping him regain his velocity, which he said fell off toward the end of last season. He also described the workouts as one of the best decisions he's made.

"We have talked about it and watched videos together," Freeze said. "Everything is giving him confidence. We're excited. Hopefully, the arm strength that he has right now will be sustained throughout the year because of a full offseason of rehab work and strengthening and specialists."

"I have been going against Bo for years now, so I have seen him at his best, and I have seen him at his worst," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "If you ask me, he should have been first team. Everybody is going to see that as soon as the season starts. He's really progressed mentally and physically in the offseason."

Wallace's confidence carries over to team goals for the Rebels, which were picked fourth in the SEC West by the league media, as he quickly and confidently answered that he would take a trip to the SEC Championship game over eclipsing Eli Manning's school record for career passing yards.

"Why can't we be a team that comes out of the West and makes some noise," Wallace said. "We're not saying, let's go to a national championship. We're going to take it one game at a time. Why not us? Why can't we have an impact like that and win a lot of football games.

"Going to Atlanta would cement your legacy forever being the first quarterback to be able to do it. I know I'm going to put up the numbers because Coach Freeze's offense is built for a quarterback to put up number. I know I can do that. It would be priceless to take this team to Atlanta."

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