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Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

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Somehow, the college football regular season is already halfway in the books. With that, many publications released their midseason All-America lists. There's a common theme to each of them at the TE position. Evan Engram.

Engram was selected as the midseason First-Team All-America TE by ESPN, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Sports on Earth and Sporting News.

It's not surprising that Engram was basically a unanimous choice as he's been dynamic this season in the passing game. He's easily the best receiving tight end in the country. His 98.3 receiving yards per game ranks seventh among all Power 5 pass catchers and is more than 30 yards more than the next Power 5 TE. 

He was also named to All-SEC teams by ESPN and SEC Country.


Special Olympics MS - Students at the University of Mississippi are partnering with Special Olympics Mississippi athletes in the 2016 season of SO College unified flag football, which will culminate in the Unified Egg Bowl, a unified sports flag football event designed to bring together Mississippians over their most divided sports rivalry.

Tomorrow (October 19) at 7 p.m., the students and athletes who are competing in the SO College Ole Miss league will host their championship game at the Blackburn-McMurray Outdoor Sports Complex on Insight Park Avenue. Selected athletes from these teams will represent Ole Miss as the Unified Rebels in the Unified Egg Bowl on November 14 at MSU.

The Unified Rebels will face the Unified Bulldogs of MSU in the third annual Unified Egg Bowl in Starkville on November 14 at the intramural fields on Stone Blvd.

The Unified Egg Bowl also features a Fan Fundraising Challenge, pitting fans of MSU and Ole Miss against each other to see who can raise the most money for Special Olympics Mississippi. The fan competition raised more than $15,000 over its first two years.

Jordan Sims Graded as Best SEC Guard of Week 7 by PFF

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Pro Football Focus grades players on a 1-100 scale, and Ole Miss' Jordan Sims was graded out by PFF as having the best performance of any guard in the SEC in week seven. His grade of 81.0 against the Razorbacks was the second-highest of any SEC lineman on the All-Week Seven team.

The full team can be seen here


Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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There's another SEC road game this week. This one means a lot to our people. They'll let their players know about the history of the matchup between Ole Miss and LSU.

The Arkansas game was frustrating. Ole Miss has to improve to get ready for an LSU team that is super talented. Their offense has rolled up big numbers in the last two games. They're very talented on offense. Defensively, they've always been one of the best in the country. LSU is one of the better teams in the country. It's a great opportunity, and they have to show resolve. They have a lot of work to do this week. They're excited about going to play LSU.

Freeze has reached out to Orgeron several times. They spoke last week. He's indebted to Coach Orgeron because he gave him the opportunity to come to Ole Miss. Freeze's career might not have happened the same way without that opportunity. Orgeron has always been good to him. Orgeron is the most passionate coach that Freeze has ever been around. He came to work every day with that same drive. 

Orgeron seems different with his approach from when he was at Ole Miss, and it's working for him. They've played two games and looked really good.

LSU is playing with great passion. They're multiple on offense now while staying balanced. Their run game has always been good, but they're using their talent at WR now.

Night games on the road in the SEC are all difficult. It's no different in Baton Rouge. They have passionate fans, and it's a large stadium. When it's hard to communicate and when they give energy to the home team, it makes it difficult. 

The team has to prepare like Leonard Fournette is going to play in this game after missing two weeks.

The receivers have played well. It just happened that drops happened in critical times. Sometimes, drops happen. Over the season, the position has been a strength for the team. They were not happy with themselves after the game.

Ole Miss had three critical third downs against Arkansas where a missed tackle gave Arkansas the first. It wasn't always the linebacker fits, but they were inconsistent at times.

The West is extremely strong and deep and talented. It's getting better as the season goes on. 

You find out a lot about your kids after the start to this season. This is a bit foreign when the high expectations are not met early on in the season. You have to go answer the bell. A lot of teams are in the same situation as Ole Miss. Ole Miss has proven that it can win, and it's proven that it can lose. Finding a way to motivate when those losses come is a difficult challenge. Ole Miss has to rally and respond. It's what the school expects and the people deserve.

When you play the quality of teams that Ole Miss has played, you can lose. It doesn't mean you didn't play well all the time. The offense has been good outside of some turnovers. 

He thinks that they had recruited really well under Orgeron when he was at Ole Miss. The staff thought they were close to turning the corner, but they didn't win enough games in the last season. 

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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There's another SEC road game this week. This one means a lot to our people. They'll let their players know about the history of the matchup between Ole Miss and LSU.

The Arkansas game was frustrating. Ole Miss has to improve to get ready for an LSU team that is super talented. Their offense has rolled up big numbers in the last two games. They're very talented on offense. Defensively, they've always been one of the best in the country. LSU is one of the better teams in the country. It's a great opportunity, and they have to show resolve. They have a lot of work to do this week. They're excited about going to play LSU.

Freeze has reached out to Orgeron several times. They spoke last week. He's indebted to Coach Orgeron because he gave him the opportunity to come to Ole Miss. Freeze's career might not have happened the same way without that opportunity. Orgeron has always been good to him. Orgeron is the most passionate coach that Freeze has ever been around. He came to work every day with that same drive. 

Orgeron seems different with his approach from when he was at Ole Miss, and it's working for him. They've played two games and looked really good.

LSU is playing with great passion. They're multiple on offense now while staying balanced. Their run game has always been good, but they're using their talent at WR now.

Night games on the road in the SEC are all difficult. It's no different in Baton Rouge. They have passionate fans, and it's a large stadium. When it's hard to communicate and when they give energy to the home team, it makes it difficult. 

The team has to prepare like Leonard Fournette is going to play in this game after missing two weeks.

The receivers have played well. It just happened that drops happened in critical times. Sometimes, drops happen. Over the season, the position has been a strength for the team. They were not happy with themselves after the game.

Ole Miss had three critical third downs against Arkansas where a missed tackle gave Arkansas the first. It wasn't always the linebacker fits, but they were inconsistent at times.

The West is extremely strong and deep and talented. It's getting better as the season goes on. 

You find out a lot about your kids after the start to this season. This is a bit foreign when the high expectations are not met early on in the season. You have to go answer the bell. A lot of teams are in the same situation as Ole Miss. Ole Miss has proven that it can win, and it's proven that it can lose. Finding a way to motivate when those losses come is a difficult challenge. Ole Miss has to rally and respond. It's what the school expects and the people deserve.

When you play the quality of teams that Ole Miss has played, you can lose. It doesn't mean you didn't play well all the time. The offense has been good outside of some turnovers. 

He thinks that they had recruited really well under Orgeron when he was at Ole Miss. The staff thought they were close to turning the corner, but they didn't win enough games in the last season. 

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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Hugh Freeze said that the team enjoyed the off-week. There was a lot of work to be done though with things like recruiting while also improving and getting the team healthy. Ole Miss continues to be in the hunt for some of the top high school players. The bye week is not really a break for coaches will practices and recruiting. 

The SEC has changed, but it's just as tough as ever. The offenses are much different than they used to be. The offenses and skill guys give anyone a chance to make a comeback. Games are never over. 

Ole Miss is playing another one of the top teams in the nation in Arkansas. Arkansas' offense reminds Freeze of the Rebels. Arkansas is extremely gritty. They get that from their coaches and quarterback Austin Allen. He will stay in the pocket and take hits while still throwing the ball accurately. Watching Austin Allen is very similar to watching Brandon Allen. 

Arkansas has been a problem for Ole Miss over the last couple years. They have to get the team ready to play well in a tough environment. The last two games have been completely different. Ole Miss couldn't score and wasn't mentally there after losing Treadwell for the season in the 2014 game. Last year, it was a shootout where Ole Miss thought it had the game won a few times.

Freeze doesn't think players look back at games from previous years. It doesn't help prepare if that's what the focus is on. Their focus will be on a plan that will succeed against this Arkansas team.

Third down will be important against Arkansas to stay on the field and keep Allen off the field. 

Arkansas tries to make you make mistakes on defenses. Last year, they were able to have success against that. They try to bend, but not break much like Ole Miss' defense does. 

Fadol Brown will try to play this week, but they won't know how he is until they practice again.

Freeze and Kelly to be Featured on SEC Film Room

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Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and starting quarterback Chad Kelly will be appearing on SEC Film Room on SEC Network to break down the Memphis game with former Georgia QB David Greene. 

The show will first air on SEC Network at 6:30 tonight (October 5) with a rerun following at 9:30. On Thursday, it will be on at 8:30 a.m., and 1 p.m. It will also air on Friday at 12:30 p.m, and Saturday at 8 a.m. 

It's a 30 minute show where players and coaches break down plays and explain why certain decisions were made. 

Ole Miss Puts Away Tigers to Head into Bye Week

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With 3:36 left in the third quarter, Ole Miss had allowed Memphis to march down the field for a 99-yard touchdown drive to pull the game to within one score. A three possession lead had been diminished to six points. 

This time, there were no self-inflicted wounds to let momentum swing too far into their opponent's favor. Ole Miss quickly went 65 yards capped off by a Chad Kelly touchdown pass to Evan Engram. The defense then forced a three-and-out on the Tigers' next possession and the Rebels added another touchdown. Memphis' comeback attempt was successful snuffed out.

The Rebels had an answer each time the Tigers made a push to get back in the game, finishing Memphis off 48-28. 

"I'm really happy to get this one over with," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "They are a very dangerous football team that will win a lot of games. They're very talented. I give credit to our kids. We've had a very emotional September. For us to come out tonight and take care of business against another undefeated team, I'm really pleased."

The Ole Miss offense once again was clicking from the very beginning, piling up over 600 yards against a defense that had allowed 27 points over their first three games.

"Offensively, we answered when we needed to," Freeze said. "We were efficient for most of the night. We were very balanced which makes us pretty good."

The Rebels were able to have real success on the ground, especially in the second half when they piled up over 200 yards rushing. Both Akeem Judd and Eugene Brazley eclipsed 100 yards, the first time the Rebels produced two 100-yard rushers since 2014. For Ole Miss under Freeze, 150 yards on the ground has been the magic number. When the Rebels eclipse that mark like they did tonight, they're 32-3 since 2012. 

"We worked really hard on a plan to rush the ball against these guys," Freeze said. "They do a lot of different stuff. You can always be one play behind against them because they're so multiple in what they do. We worked very hard on a check system that would get us into the soundest play against them."

Ole Miss' defense was able to return to their opportunistic form, forcing Memphis into four turnovers on the game. Ole Miss finished on the right side of the turnover margin for the second game in a row, this time +3. When Ole Miss wins the turnover battle since 2014, they're now 12-1. 

"Turnovers always impact the game," Freeze said. "It was nice to see. We've been on the other end of that twice this year where the turnovers cost us games."

Ole Miss gets a very valuable bye week to rest some injuries and have a week to help younger players become more comfortable in the system.

"We have a lot of kids out," Freeze said. "Some are not coming back, obviously. For some of the younger kids, we can quit game planning for half of the practice and just work on technique and our eyes being in the right place. We won't have long practices but half of them we can work on some stuff."

After the week of rest, the Rebels jump right back into the gauntlet that is the SEC with road trips to Arkansas and LSU. 

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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Freeze said there were some really good things after watching the film. The quarterbacks played really well. They were efficient at running the ball. On the negative side, they weren't good on third down. That was caused some by the scoreboard.

They were really good no third down on defense and forced two turnovers. They gave up too many rushing yards and need to work on fits more, but they didn't allow explosive plays. It was Ole Miss' best, complete game. They didn't give up the momentum at any time like they did in the other games. 

Memphis is an explosive offense that will test Ole Miss again. Ole Miss excited to play Memphis. They're a confident team that has put up some crazy numbers offensively. Freeze expects the fans to take it up a level in the first night game of the season at home. He challenged the fans to make it a difficult atmosphere for Memphis. Revenge as a motivator is very helpful in getting ready to play. Freeze wants to prepare as much as possible for a good football team. They won't get into what happened last year. The game will have their full attention.

There are a lot of young players in Ole Miss' secondary. They haven't played much football. The coaches have worked hard with them so they don't give up explosive plays. They weren't as disciplined as they need to be, but it was much improved. They keep getting better.

The defense works best with Gates and Caldwell at stinger and Mageo and Bing-Dukes at MLB. 

McDowell had his best game of his career. He improved his status in the rotation. His effort was really good. 

Pennamon had a good game on Saturday. Freeze was impressed with how he ran. That will earn him more snaps.

Freeze expects Montrell Custis and Carlos Davis to both be available on Saturday.

Rebels Weren't Letting Another Slip Away

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Ole Miss once again raced out to an early lead against a top-15 opponent. This time, against No. 11 Georgia, they didn't let the game slip away. Or even come close to becoming a competitive game. Instead, it looked like the two teams didn't belong on the same field together. 

"We had really good work in practice, but we were not emotional," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "My gut told me all week that its a great sign. They're disappointed. They're ticked, and they'll be ready to go."

They were ready to go. The Rebels played a near flawless game after an emotional game last week, easily dispatching the Bulldogs 45-14. Ole Miss put up the first 45 points of the game to never give Georgia a chance. The Rebels scored on its first drive and continued the onslaught throughout the first half to build the largest halftime lead since the 2008 Egg Bowl at 31-0. 

"I have tremendous respect for the Georgia Bulldogs and their program," Freeze said. "Kirby (Smart) is going to do a great job. I can't think of many times in my lifetime where a team has done that to Georgia."

Georgia isn't a team that's accustomed to being blown out like the Rebels did to them. Since 2004, they had only trailed by more than two scores at halftime 10 times. The 31-point loss was Georgia's worst since 2011. 

Chad Kelly and the offense shredded the Georgia defense, putting up over 500 yards for the second-consecutive week. The big stat, though, was that Kelly turned the ball over zero times. The mistakes that plagued the Rebels for two games this season didn't exist on Saturday. 

"Everybody wants to make it out to be great strategy by the opposing coaches or us," Freeze said. "The reality is that if we don't turn the ball over, we don't talk about all the strategy. That's what happened to us in both of those game."

The success on offense wasn't limited to throwing the ball in the air. Ole Miss racked up 180 yards on the ground. Since Freeze took over, Ole Miss is now 31-3 when rushing for at least 150 yards. 

"I love running the football," Freeze said. "It sets up our pass, and you have to have the appearance that you're willing to run it. I've said all along that I thought we could before the year is up. Today we were efficient enough that I knew we were balanced."

The defense returned to its opportunistic Landshark form, forcing freshman quarterback Jacob Eason to turn the ball over twice. Getting off the field had been an issue for Ole Miss, but it wasn't against Georgia. The Bulldogs finished 4-for-16 on third down conversions, and a couple of those came late in the game. 

"We had some different things in the backend that I don't think he's seen," Freeze said. "Our guys collapsed the pocket on him early on. It was a good plan by (defensive coordinator) Dave (Wommack) and his staff."

The win was Ole Miss' eighth against a top-15 team since Freeze took over in 2012. In that time span, only Alabama and Stanford have more. 


Ole Miss and Georgia coaches will be wearing special arm patches on Saturday in honor of the American Football Coaches Association's Coach to Cure MD program. The partnership is to raise funding and awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Currently, there is no cure for the disease.

This is the ninth year coaches have joined together for this cause. The program has raised more than $1.2 million for the cause. 

Fans can learn more by visiting 

Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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Ole Miss fans can take pictures with the Heisman Trophy before the Georgia game from 8 a.m. until kickoff outside of the north side of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. 

Former Rebels Romaro Miller and Todd Wade will also be present for autograph sessions and a Chalk Talk session with ESPN's Neil Everett. Miller will sign autographs from 9 until 9:30. The Chalk Talk begins at 9:30 with both former players, and then Wade will sign from 10 until 10:30.

Fans can also cast a vote in Nissan's official ballot for the Heisman and win prizes in interactive games.

Ole Miss-Alabama Highest Rated Daytime Game of the Year

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Ole Miss football continues to be a the center of the college football world. In game one, the Rebels and Seminoles broke the ESPN streaming record. Now in week three, the Ole Miss and Alabama game is the highest rated daytime game of the season.

More than that, it doubled up the CBS week three game from last season. Few teams have had more eyes on them this season than Ole Miss through three games. 

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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Freeze saw a lot of great things on the film but is disappointed to let another lead slip away. There are mistakes being made on the defensive side, especially with 3rd down and explosive plays. They have to fix turnovers on offense. You can't give great teams like Alabama 14 points and turn the ball over.However, they played a lot of young kids that competed and played their hearts out. Putting up 500 yards on an Alabama defense is special, but have to fix turnovers.

Teams needs a boost from the crowd on Saturday as they have another tough game on Saturday against Georgia. Freeze wants Rebel Nation to get their sleep on Friday and be with the team on Saturday. 

Kirby Smart has done a great job, and this will be another great task for them. They have to figure out how to finish games. They knew September was going to be tough. They're playing with a ton of energy and confidence. They have great players. That program believes they're supposed to win. Last week gave Jacob Eason a lot of confidence, and he's coming into his own. He's got a big arm and all the tools. Ole Miss has to keep eye discipline and stay in its fits to slow down Georgia's talented running backs.

The team doesn't like to set goals besides competing on the current day. Becoming relevant creates expectations that create winning celebrations and disappointing losses. This month, they've had the disappointed losses. Freeze is glad the team is relevant and in the fight. They have a chance to beat some of the nation's best. They have to grow up and finish games, but he's proud of where the program is. Week-to-week, they prepare to win.

When you play great teams, they can come back and beat you. Ole Miss gave both of those teams opportunities by making mistakes that led to them making plays. Alabama and Florida State have some of the best players in the nation and no lead is really safe.

Engram making the decision to come back was the right thing to do. He's boosted his stock by coming back. Engram is a tough matchup, and he's worked hard to get to where he's at.

Victor Evans should be back. Fadol Brown is doubtful and a long-term issue. Brazley is okay and didn't have a concussion.

The time of possession wasn't a big problem on Saturday. When the team slows down, they're not nearly as efficient. When they go fast, they're more efficient but score quickly. When conventional wisdom is to slow down on offense, they haven't been very good like before halftime on Saturday. 

Coaching, technique, and assignments have to improve to improve 3rd down defense. Scrambling QBs have hurt them, but they have to get off the field. They should get better with every rep.

Mistakes Cost Rebels Despite Comeback Effort

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At the 5:28 mark in the fourth quarter, Jonathan Allen grabbed a Chad Kelly pass and took it 75 yards from the end zone. It ended a drive that was looking to pull the game back to one score and instead gave Alabama a three-score advantage.

It was the second time the Alabama defense scored off of turnovers, not to mention another touchdown added by the Crimson Tide's punt return unit. The Rebels are a young team, and it was almost expected the ending would be nondescript. 

Instead, the Rebels put together two quick scores with an onside kick sandwiched in-between to make the game one score. Ole Miss made mistakes to see a first half lead disappear, but it wasn't due to a lack of effort. 

"I'm proud of our football team," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We're so shorthanded on defense right now, but I was pleased with the effort. We're playing a lot of young kids in a lot of areas. They competed."

Ole Miss finished with a negative turnover margin, which is something you can't do against the Tide. Alabama is 62-2 since 2008 when it finished with a positive turnover margin. 

"The margin of error for winning and losing in this league is so small," Freeze said. "You can't turn it over and give 14 points and expect to beat many teams, especially Alabama."

Everyone knew when this year's schedule was released that the opening month was brutal. It doesn't ease up either, with No. 16 Georgia heading to Oxford next week. The Rebels still have a long season ahead and are adamant about bouncing back while getting some players back from injury like defensive linemen Victor Evans and Fadol Brown to help bolster the front seven.

"The leadership of this team is what I think it is, I expect them to respond like they always have," Freeze said. "You depend upon the leadership in the locker room. We're competing at a high level. The schedule we're playing is a tough one. Injuries haven't been our friend either."

Ole Miss played the best team in the nation and lost. While it's disappointing now, the season aheads holds many opportunities to put this loss behind them.

"I'm excited to get back on the field with those guys," Freeze said. "I love the fight and the effort. We have to get some things corrected and a get a few guys back."

SEC Nation Headed to the Grove

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SEC Network's traveling pre-game show, SEC Nation, will be making its third appearance in The Grove on Saturday before the Ole Miss-Alabama game. 

The show takes place on The Grove stage from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and airs on SEC Network. Campus parking lots and SEC Nation's "The Pit" open at 7 a.m. for those that want to be close to the action. 

After SEC Nation ends, the pregame festivities don't slow down. The Walk of Champions follows at 12:30 with the Pride of the South's Grove show taking place a half-hour later. 

The band takes the field at 2:10 with the national anthem taking place at 2:15. Then, kickoff at 2:30 for Ole Miss' first SEC game of the year against the defending national champion. 

The show's prior visits to The Grove were in 2014 for Ole Miss-Tennessee and 2015 for the Arkansas game. 

Week One Snap Counts for NFL Rebels

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Former Rebels racked up nine starts and 637 snaps in week one of the NFL season. 

  • Bradley Sowell (SEA) - Started at LT. 82 on offense, 3 on ST
  • Michael Oher (CAR) - Started at LT. 73 on offense, 5 on ST
  • Jermey Parnell (JAC) - Started at RT. 72 on offense, 5 on ST
  • Donte Moncrief (IND) - Started at WR. 68 on offense, 1 on ST
  • John Jerry (NYG) - Started at RG. 56 on offense, 3 on ST
  • Bobby Massie (CHI) - Started at RT. 56 on offense, 2 on ST
  • Eli Manning (NYG) - Started at QB. 56 on offense
  • Laremy Tunsil (MIA) - Started at LG. 53 on offense, 3 on ST
  • Mike Wallace (BAL) - Started at WR. 44 on offense
  • Robert Nkemdiche (ARI) - 15 on defense, 6 on ST
  • Kendrick Lewis (BAL) - 3 on defense, 16 on ST
  • Brandon Bolden (NE) - 15 on ST
  • Laquon Treadwell (MIN) - DNP
  • Cody Core (CIN) - Inactive
  • Channing Ward (TB) - Inactive
  • Gerald Rivers (HOU) - IR
  • Jamarca Sanford (NO) - IR
  • Senquez Golson (PIT) - Injured

Rebels Handle Business, Turn Attention to the Tide

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Vaught-Hemingway showed off its nice facelift, but the game on everyone's mind wasn't taking place in the stadium this week. Next week the atmosphere will be a little bit different as Ole Miss goes for three-in-a-row against the Crimson Tide.

Ole Miss did what was necessary on Saturday against Wofford. The Rebels put the Terriers away early and coasted to an easy 38-13 victory with a lot of players getting on the field.

The Rebels faced a triple-option offense and a solid FCS team on a short week and handled the game in a business-like manner. Maybe it wasn't memorable, but those are the type of wins quality programs can accomplish. 

"Preparation was very difficult, especially for their offense," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We couldn't practice cut-blocking. We lost a full night's sleep on Tuesday with plane rides back. It was a difficult week, and our kids came out with an edge to take control of the game."

Physically, the turnaround was difficult, but it's more impressive how focused Ole Miss was after an emotional loss just five days ago. The offense scored on its first five drives of the game, never letting Wofford hang around. 

"We're glad to get a win in our home opener in the new and improved Vaught-Hemingway," Freeze said. "I believe that's going to be a nice place to play in Saturday afternoon with one of these SEC rivals we have coming up in the near future."

We'll see just how much louder the Vaught is next week when the No. 1 ranked team in the nation rolls into Oxford. With an attendance of 64,232, Saturday was the largest crowd to ever watch a football game in Mississippi. Ole Miss-Alabama will undoubtedly surpass that number.

"It's a great opportunity," Freeze said. "It's not one we've been afraid to take on before. We kind of relish that opportunity. I have no idea how it's going to go, but we've got them at home. We have great respect for their program and what they've done. We look forward to getting ready for them."

The Rebels will need Chad Kelly to carry over his efficient play from Saturday. He fired off three first half TD passes and didn't turn the ball over. Ole Miss was also able to generate some offense on the ground, picking up 174 yards and averaging more than five yards a carry. 

Unfortunately, Ole Miss didn't escape the game injury-free. D.K. Metcalf suffered a broken foot on his second quarter TD catch. He'll likely miss the rest of the season and receive a medical redshirt. He had emerged as a weapon, especially in the red zone. 

Ole Miss Had Chances Despite the Lackluster Play

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Ole Miss fell to Florida State in one of the most bizarre games I've ever seen. Ole Miss was dominating both lines of scrimmage in the first half. The offense was clicking and the defense was stuffing the Seminole game-breaker Dalvin Cook at the line.

The start was exactly what Ole Miss needed to knock off Florida State. The Rebels had put all the pressure on redshirt freshman Deondre Francois in his first start to make plays. It turns out he did.

A late drive in the second quarter from Francois and Florida State pulled the game back to two scores, and not much good happened from that point on for Ole Miss.

Obviously, Ole Miss wanted to win this game, and the way the game played out made the loss even more devastating from an emotional standpoint. Florida State was able to exploit some flaws of Ole Miss' team, but they are one of the most talented teams in the nation. Ole Miss' secondary looked disastrous at times after Ken Webster's injury, and Ole Miss never established anything close to a successful running game. Regardless, it's still not time to panic about this season yet. 

Ole Miss turned the ball over four times, and Chad Kelly did not have a game to remember by his standards. Given that scenario, most would have predicted Ole Miss would be lucky to keep it within four scores. Instead, the Rebels still had opportunities late in the game. 

The fact is, Ole Miss didn't play their best game by any stretch. They could not have played much worse in the third quarter. They turnovers immediately handed Florida State the lead and kept the defense out on the field. More than that, those turnovers gave FSU short fields and never let Ole Miss' DL truly pin their ears back on passes since the Seminoles' comeback was gifted to them. Still, the point remains that if Kelly hits Quincy Adeboyejo in the fourth quarter when he was open down the sideline, Ole Miss cuts the FSU lead back to two with the XP pending. It's very much a game at that point. 

Another key to remember about Ole Miss is Monday night proved that the Rebels' defensive line is the real deal. Breeland Speaks, D.J. Jones, Marquis Haynes, Issac Gross, and Victor Evans all especially gave Florida State's talented offensive line fits all night. Francois was pressured on nearly 30 percent of his drop backs, eight percent higher than the average for quarterbacks in week one. A defensive line like that makes it easier for the young guys in the secondary to get there feet under them in the coming weeks. 

Ole Miss-Florida State Officially Sold Out

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The game that's possibly the most anticipated matchup of week one is now officially a sell out. In fact, demand to get in the stadium to watch Ole Miss and Florida State is so high that Florida Citrus Sports released a small number of standing room only tickets.

"The interest in this game has been extraordinary, and we're excited to pack the house on Monday night," Florida Citrus Sports chief executive officer Steve Hogan said. "Florida State and Ole Miss have put Orlando at the center of the national conversation leading up to Labor Day. We can't wait to kick this game off in front of a capacity crowd and a national television audience on ESPN."

Capacity for Camping World Stadium is 65,000. The game will likely break the stadium's post-reconstruction attendance record of 63,113, set during last season's Citrus Bowl featuring Florida and Michigan.

For the fans still contemplating making the trip to Orlando, tickets are available on Stubhub as well as the standing room tickets on Ticketmaster. 

Ole Miss-Florida State Watch Party in The Grove

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If you can't make it to Orlando, you can still watch Ole Miss' season opener for the 2016 season with fellow Rebels in The Grove. The Student Activities Association is holding a watch party in The Grove for the Ole Miss-Florida State Labor Day showdown.

Attendees are invited to bring tents and chairs to make it a normal Grove affair. Setup can begin at 5 p.m. on Monday. There will also be giveaways and promotional items available. The game kicks off at 7 p.m.

ESPN to Hold Pregame Show Before Ole Miss-FSU

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Orlando Sentinel - ESPN plans to expand its coverage of the Florida State-Ole Miss game on Labor Day night with a one-hour live pregame show from Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

Rece Davis, Desmond Howard and David Pollack will anchor the show which will be called 'College Football Countdown' from 7-8 ET. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Samantha Ponder will call the game which kicks off at 8 and will be aired on ESPN.

The show will be from the concourse level of Camping World Stadium.

Ole Miss and Florida State were already going to be the focal point of the sports world on Labor Day, but now the showdown will be showcased to an even larger extent with College Football Countdown. The last time ESPN held a pregame show on location before an Ole Miss game, the Rebels knocked off No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

Football season is almost here.

Facing Florida State's Dalvin Cook

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Florida State's Dalvin Cook is a first-round talent, a Heisman candidate, and a potential game-breaker on any run. So yes, he's really good. In camp, a defense can only get so much tackling practice because of the fear of getting a player injured. In week one, Ole Miss faces one of the country's biggest home run threats at the running back position. He rattled off 22 rushes last season that picked up 20 yards or more, the most in the nation.

If Ole Miss doesn't tackle well, it will be a long, long night. Cook is a rolling ball of butcher knives that is incredibly difficult to bring to the ground. He ranked third among Power 5 backs in yards after contact per rush last season with 3.2 yards. For comparison, Leonard Fournette was at 2.8, Derrick Henry was at 2.4, and the Power 5 average was 2.1.

"The guy we're facing week one, this guy's special," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He's in a different league, and you've got to get him on the ground in a lot of space. They create a lot of good plays to get him in space."

It's not breaking news that in any game, the team that consistently wins up front nearly always wins. Against Florida State though, it's even more important for the Rebels. No one was better when he got through the line of scrimmage untouched last year than Dalvin Cook. He averaged a Power 5-best 12.6 yards per rush.

It's worth nothing that FSU returns the entire offensive line that paved the way for him to pick up nearly 1,100 yards BEFORE contact. Not only is he tough to bring down, the Seminoles are talented up front to give him lanes.

The Rebels have to be especially strong at containing the edges. Most of Cook's explosive runs come when he is able to bounce off-tackle and get in space. He averaged 8.0 yards per rush on off-tackle runs, picking up 1,089 of his 1,689 total rushing yards on the season. When he was kept between the tackles, his per rush average fell to a still-high 6.6 yards. The main thing is he had 14 fewer rushes that picked up 10 or more yards.

Ole Miss was very solid against the run last season, holding teams to 3.3 yards per rush. In regards to keeping off-tackle runs in check, the Rebels were third among Power 5 teams. It's important for Ole Miss to kick off the season in that same form because there's no easing into 2016 for the Rebels.

Chad Kelly Named All-SEC by ESPN

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ESPN - After leading the SEC in passing yards (4,042), passing yards per game (310.9) and touchdowns (31) last season, Kelly is easily the best quarterback in the conference.

Kelly has already been named first team All-SEC by the media and has been selected to numerous preseason watch lists. Now he adds ESPN's All-SEC team to his preseason accolades. 

In his first year starting, Kelly broke 14 single-season records and led Ole Miss to its first Sugar Bowl since 1970 I broke down his 2015 season in some detail here last week.  


Before Ole Miss kicks off against Florida State in one of the most anticipated showdowns of week one on Monday (Sept. 5), country music star Brad Paisley will perform a free concert on Sunday, September 4 for fans in Downtown Orlando outside of City Hall. 

The free concert is scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m. ET at City Commons Plaza/Seneff Arts Plaza (400 South Orange Avenue).

"If you like big-time college football and country music, Downtown Orlando is the place to be on Labor Day weekend," said Florida Citrus Sports CEO Steve Hogan. "We're excited to host Brad Paisley on the night before the inaugural Camping World Kickoff game and add even more to the experience for fans of FSU, Ole Miss, and the Orlando community."

This isn't the first time Ole Miss Athletics and Brad Paisley have been connected, as he performed on campus as part of The Pavilion's grand-opening in January.

Ole Miss legend Archie Manning will be featured on an episode of Raycom Sports' Emmy Award-winning series 'Havoline Football Saturdays' on Saturday, August 13. The show is hosted by Tim Brando. 

The episode will air on Saturday on WHPM in Hattiesburg at Noon and WLOX in Biloxi at 4 p.m. On Sunday, it will air in Meridian on WGBC at 10:30 a.m. Complete local listings are available at 

During the episode, Brando takes a trip to New Orleans to talk with Archie about Ole Miss football, his Super Bowl MVP-winning sons, and the state of college football.

PFF - 7.Ole Miss

Despite sending three first-round picks to the NFL, Ole Miss is loaded up once again with talent. They boast the SEC's top returning quarterback in Chad Kelly and one of the nation's best receiving tight ends in Evan Engram. WR Damore'ea Stringfellow should improve upon his 76.0 overall grade with more targets now that Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core are off to the NFL. On defense, defensive ends Fadol Brown and Marquis Haynes are a formidable pair while DT D.J. Jones assimilated well to SEC competition last year as a JUCO transfer, landing him a spot on the PFF 101 at number 51. On the back end, CB Kendarius Webster ranks third among returning SEC corners at 79.6 while safety Tony Conner returns after playing only 163 snaps last season - he was excellent as a sophomore in 2014 at 79.2. Multiple years of strong recruiting have put Ole Miss into reload mode.

On media day, Freeze was asked about the presence of a few scouts at practice. "(They're looking at) football players. We have a few here."

Ole Miss' five draft picks in 2016 was the most from the program since the NFL moved to the current seven-round format, yet Ole Miss is still loaded with talent because of the job Freeze and his staff have done on the recruiting trail. Even after losing Core and Treadwell, the WR position seems to be in even better shape than last year and is definitely deeper. 

I put together a breakdown a week ago that shows what percentage of starts Ole Miss returns in terms of production. Every category except OL starts is more than 50 percent, and the OL still returns several guys that have played many meaningful snaps. 

Practice Observations from August 8

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Ole Miss held their first practice that was open to the media on Monday. Here are a few quick takeaways from a practice without pads. Most of my time was spent watching the offensive side of the ball:

As always, I'm going to keep an eye on the offensive line most of the time. Without shoulder pads on, it's tough to take much away. Those don't go on until Thursday. However, what stands out is the tackle position's future. While there is some inexperience there now, with freshman Greg Little, RS-freshman Alex Givens, freshman Royce Newman, freshman Bryce Mathews, and redshirt sophomore Sean Rawlings, there is more depth at the position than there has been in a long time. Ole Miss seems set at the position for the foreseeable future.

Speaking of, Givens is a key to the team this year. Rawlings proved he can hold his own against SEC quality competition last season, starting the first seven games of the season at RT. If Givens can provide some stability at LT, it removes the burden off of Greg Little immediately having to step in and play. There has been a lot of optimism surrounding Givens all offseason. 

I'm very bullish on the interior of the offensive line especially this year. Patterson played a lot of valuable snaps as a true freshman, Conyers is one of the better centers in the league, and Sims was probably the most effective guard last season and one of the most undervalued players on the team. 

When the Rebels first went through offensive drills, the initial first team was Givens, Patterson, Conyers, Sims and Rawlings upfront with Adeboyejo, Stringfellow and Jefferson out wide. Engram, Judd and Kelly rounded out the initial first team of camp with Wilkins and Zettergren also getting snaps with the ones. Jefferson received steady praise from the coaches during spring practice about how he handled his redshirt season and offseason. Freeze mentioned today that Jefferson is the best route-runner on the team.

Rod Taylor was taking snaps at LT with the second team. Greg Little was the third to get reps at LT. Both of them along with Givens will be in contention for the LT two-deep.

Ole Miss can always use someone that can receive punts. Tre Nixon spent some of the early portions of practice snagging punts off the Jugs machine.

Ole Miss is stacked at the WR position. There are mounds of talent at the position. Even without Treadwell or Core, Ole Miss will be just fine there.

Jersey Numbers Released for Football Newcomers

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

1 - AJ Brown, WR

2 - Deontay Anderson, DB

4 - Tre Nixon, WR

8 - Rommel Mageo, LB

11 - Greg Eisworth, DB

13 - Grant Restmeyer, QB

14 - DK Metcalf, WR

15 - Octavious Cooley, TE

15 - Myles Hartsfield, DB

16 - Jacob Mathis, TE

17 - Jaylon Jones, DB

17 - Jarred Gray, DB

20 - Shea Patterson, QB

26 - Jarrion Street, RB

28 - D'Vaughn Pennamon, RB

35 - Donta Evans, LB

43 - Detric Bing-Dukes, LB

54 - Jack DeFoor, OL

61 - Eli Johnson, OL

68 - Chandler Tuitt, OL

71 - Bryce Matthews, OL

72 - Royce Newman, OL

74 - Greg Little, OL

83 - Gabe Angel, TE

86 - Walker Rynd, WR

87 - D.J. Forte', DL

88 - Ty Reyes, DE

89 - Korbin Harmon, DE

90 - Jack Propst, LS

92 - Josiah Coatney, DL

92 - Luke Logan, K

95 - Benito Jones, DT

95 - Isaac Way, K

96 - Mac Brown, K

97 - Qaadir Sheppard, DE

98 - Charles Wiley, DE

99 - Justin Charette, K

Rebel Notables from the First Week of NFL Camp

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

Donte Moncrief, Colts

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

Laremy Tunsil, Dolphins

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

Laquon Treadwell, Vikings

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

Robert Nkemdiche, Cardinals

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

Senquez Golson, Steelers

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

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

Fahn Cooper, 49ers

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

Bobby Massie, Bears

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

Bradley Sowell, Seahawks

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

Vaught Ranked No. 30 CFB Coach of All-Time

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Ole Miss at Media Days 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Eyes on Kelly

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

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

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

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

Defensive Line Still a Strength

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

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

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

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

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

Scenes From the Day

Sandroni.jpgBy Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

This weekend, the School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi will name former Rebel football player Todd Sandroni their 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

From 1987-1990, Todd Sandroni stalked the football field as a free safety for head coach Billy Brewer, helping lead the Rebels to back-to-back bowl appearances his junior and senior seasons. In 1989 the Rebels defeated Air Force in the Liberty Bowl to post an 8-4 record, while the 1990 Rebels took on Michigan in the Gator Bowl to end a 9-3 year.        

A second team All-SEC selection as a freshman in 1987 by the Associated Press, Sandroni was named to the first team as a sophomore in 1988 by vote of the league's coaches. The free safety was also selected as a member of the Ole Miss Team of the Century.        

Sandroni, a Shaw, Miss.,native, excelled in the classroom as well as on the football field. Selected as an Academic All-SEC honoree all four years of his career, Sandroni earned first team Academic All-America honors as a senior. He was also awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship and was named as the recipient of the CBS/Toyota Leadership Award and the National Association of Collegiate Athletics Director's Award/Disney Scholar Athlete Award.

Join alumni and friends of the pharmacy school as they celebrate this achievement with Todd and his family at the Pharmacy Weekend Awards Banquet April 16 at 6:00 p.m. at The Inn at Ole Miss Ballroom. Reserve your seat by registering online or call Faith in the alumni office at (662) 915-2322 to register over the phone.

Watch Six Rebels at NFL Combine on NFL Network

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Who doesn't enjoy seeing their favorite Rebels suit up on Sundays and represent Ole Miss in the National Football League?

Well, there are about to be a few more NFL Rebels to watch on TV this fall.

The Path to the Draft for six recently departed Ole Miss players begins in earnest this weekend at the 2016 NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Seniors Fahn Cooper, Cody Core and C.J. Johnson will be joined at the combine by early draft entrants and projected top picks in Robert Nkemdiche (highlight video), Laquon Treadwell (highlight video) and Laremy Tunsil (highlight video).

For those unfamiliar, the combine is where the top draft-eligible college players are invited to show off their skills in a variety of strength, conditioning and football-related drills. NFL scouts and team personnel also gather the top prospects' official measurements like height, weight, wingspan and hand size, as well as conduct interviews.

The combine takes place Friday-Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts. It will air live exclusively on the NFL Network each day.

The 2016 NFL Draft will take place April 28-30 at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.

Tunsil, a junior left tackle, is widely considered a candidate for the Tennessee Titans' No. 1 overall selection. If that happened, he would make Ole Miss the 17th school to produce multiple No. 1 overall NFL Draft picks. Eli Manning was the top choice in 2003. Fellow juniors Nkemdiche (defensive tackle) and Treadwell (wide receiver) are also strong candidates to be selected in the first round.

Here is a breakdown of when to watch each Rebel work out on the NFL Network:



Jersey #

Group start time

Group #


Fahn Cooper

12 OL

8:10 a.m. CT



Laremy Tunsil

48 OL

10 a.m. CT



Cody Core

11 WR

8:10 a.m. CT



Laquon Treadwell

41 WR

10 a.m. CT



Robert Nkemdiche

42 DL

10 a.m. CT



C.J. Johnson

16 LB

12 p.m. CT


 Ole Miss Twitter Watch.jpg

The Southeastern Conference today announced Kickoff '16, its annual football media days, will be held July 11-14 at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and selected players (TBA) will visit with the regional and national media audience on the final day in Hoover - Thursday, July 14. The Rebels will be in a rotation with LSU and South Carolina.

A more detailed daily schedule with full television information, rotational breakdown and student-athletes attending will be available later this summer.

The SEC Network and ESPN will once again be on site to bring SEC Media Days to a national audience.

SEC Football Media Days has drawn over 1,200 attendees each of the last three years. Only five times since 1992 has the SEC Media Days predicted champion proceeded to win the SEC Championship, with Alabama being the last in 2014.

The 2015 season was a historic one for the SEC, as the league not only won its eighth national championship in the last 10 years, but also went 9-2 in the postseason to become the first league in college football history to win nine postseason games.

Ole Miss played a large part in the SEC's success, winning the Allstate Sugar Bowl 48-20 over Oklahoma State in the first "Champions" edition of the Sugar Bowl between the SEC and Big 12.


MONDAY, July 11
Auburn - Gus Malzahn
Florida - Jim McElwain
Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

TUESDAY, July 12
Georgia - Kirby Smart
Mississippi State - Dan Mullen
Tennessee - Butch Jones
Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin

Alabama - Nick Saban
Arkansas - Bret Bielema
Kentucky - Mark Stoops
Missouri - Barry Odom

LSU - Les Miles
Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze
South Carolina - Will Muschamp

Rebels Rule NCAA Stats, SEC History

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Last week, I wrote this story about the 64 school records and numerous program firsts that Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss football team accomplished in 2015.

Today let's take a closer look at where the Rebels' season stacked up in the national statistical rankings and the all-time Southeastern Conference record books.

Ole Miss had one of the nation's most dynamic offensive attacks in 2015, ranking top 10 in scoring (40.8 ppg), total offense (517.8 ypg) and passing (334.7 ypg).

The Rebels produced the fourth-most passing yards (4,351) and fifth-most total yards (6,731) in a season in SEC history. That goes back to 1933!

QB Chad Kelly ranked top 10 nationally in six statistical categories, most notably total offense (349.4 ypg), points responsible for (246), passing yards (4,042) and passing touchdowns (31). Kelly's 4,042 passing yards are third-most in a season in SEC history, while his 4,542 total yards are also third-most. He passed Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Eli Manning, and others on his way to those lofty totals. Only Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel has ever had more total yards in a season than Kelly, among SEC players.

Kelly's favorite target, Laquon Treadwell, also had a fantastic season in the stat books. Treadwell tied for 12th nationally with his 11 touchdown catches and ranked 21st in receiving yards per game (88.7) and receptions (6.3). He was the SEC leader in touchdown catches and receiving yards.

Remarkably, Treadwell finished his three-year career with the all-time Ole Miss record in catches for a game, season and career. He ranks top 15 in SEC history for catches in a game and top 10 for catches in a season and career.

See the full breakdown below.

Ole Miss Statistical Ranks in 2015

Offensive Category Stat NCAA Rank SEC Rank
Scoring Offense 40.8 8 1
Total Offense 517.8 10 1
First Downs 341 10 1
Passing Offense 334.7 10 1
Passing Efficiency 157.7 14 2
Passing Yards per Comp. 13.68 30 3

Defensive Category Stat NCAA Rank SEC Rank
Tackles for Loss 8.1 7 3
Defensive Touchdowns 4 t8 t1
4th Down Conversion Defense 30.4 8 3
Passes Intercepted 15 t23 2
Rushing Defense 127.1 23 4
Punt Return Defense 5.94 32 2
Sacks Allowed 1.46 33 4
Turnovers Gained 23 t38 3

Offensive Player, Category Stat NCAA Rank SEC Rank
Kelly, total offense 349.4 7 1
Kelly, points responsible for 246 t7 1
Kelly, points resp. for per game 18.9 8 1
Kelly, passing touchdowns 31 t9 1
Kelly, passing yards 4,042 10 1
Kelly, passing yards per game 310.9 10 1
Kelly, passing efficiency 155.9 13 2
Kelly, yards per pass attempt 8.83 13 2
Kelly, completions per game 22.9 17 2
Kelly, completion percentage 65.1 19 4
Kelly, yards per completion 13.56 30 5
Treadwell, receiving TDs 11 t12 1
Treadwell, receiving yards 1,153 21 1
Treadwell, rec. yards per game 88.7 21 1
Treadwell, receptions per game 6.3 21 2
Core, yards per reception 17.4 33 5
Wunderlich, scoring 9.2 t19 t3
Wunderlich, FGs per game 1.46 28 6

Defensive Player, Category Stat NCAA Rank SEC Rank
Haynes, sacks 0.77 t19 t3
Haynes, tackles for loss 1.3 32 4
Elston, interceptions 4 t35 t4
Elston, passes defended 1.4 t18 t1
Hilton, passes defended 1.2 t28 3
A.J. Moore, fumbles recovered 2 t26 t3

Ole Miss in the SEC Record Books

Total Offense, Season (6,731) - 5th
Total Offense per Game, Season (517.8) - 6th
Passing Yards, Season (4,351) - 4th
Passing Yards per Game, Season (334.7) - 10th
Pass Completions, Season (318) - 10th
First Downs, Season (341) - 4th
First Downs by Passing, Season (182) - t5th
Most PATs, Season (66) - t8th
Interception Returns for TD, Season (4) - t8th
Most Points, Game (76 vs. UT Martin) - t12th
Most Points, Game (73 vs. Fresno State) - t16th
Most Points, Two Teams in OT Game (105 - Ole Miss vs. Arkansas) - t3rd

Chad Kelly, Total Offense, Season (4,542) - 3rd
Chad Kelly, Total Offense per Game, Season (349.4) - 5th
Chad Kelly, Total Offense per Play, Game (10.6 vs. Arkansas) - 7th
Chad Kelly, Touchdowns Responsible for, Season (41) - t7th
Chad Kelly, Pass Attempts, Season (458) - 15th
Chad Kelly, Pass Completions, Season (298) - 9th
Chad Kelly, Passing Yards, Season (4,042) - 3rd
Chad Kelly, Touchdown Passes, Season (31) - t13th
Laquon Treadwell, Receptions, Game (14 vs. Memphis) - t13th
Laquon Treadwell, Receptions, Season (88) - t9th
Laquon Treadwell, Receptions, Career (202) - 7th
Laquon Treadwell, Receiving Yards, Season (1,153) - 20th

What They're Saying in 2015

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Ole Miss Football is one of five programs in the nation to make back-to-back New Year's Six bowl games and will play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl (Jan. 1, 2016) for the first time since 1970. The Rebels are the only team to defeat Alabama in the regular season each of the last two years.

With such success comes a bevy of media coverage from the Southeastern region and the nation.

Here are some snippets of the top comments on Ole Miss Football by a variety of media members, coaches and personalities in 2015.

What They're Saying about the Ole Miss Rebels in 2015

"It's already going to be exciting just because it's New Year's Eve, and New Year's is always great in New Orleans. But now to have my Rebels playing for the Sugar Bowl makes it even more special. I think that we'll see a heavy amount of red in that stadium. You're probably talking about 80 percent of Ole Miss fans just from the ticket sales and the people that plan on coming down."
-Deuce McAllister, Ole Miss legend (Dec. 12)

"We've been waiting 46 years so Livvy, and I and Cooper, all the Mannings, Eli ... well, I haven't asked Peyton yet, but we're all pretty doggone excited ... I'm so happy for the Ole Miss family. A lot of my teammates, we're kind of feeling old when people say it's been 46 years since Ole Miss was in the Sugar Bowl."
-Archie Manning, Ole Miss legend (Dec. 10)

"I'm proud of Chad (Kelly) for the way he's handled everything bouncing back from a hiccup or two. He's done it right. He's become a better football player and a better person, a good leader. He's provided a lot of inspiration, especially late in the year."
-Archie Manning, Ole Miss legend (Dec. 10)

"He's gotten better as the year has gone on. He's one of those players you want to watch at quarterback because he's not one of those that's just an athletic lift, he's an emotional lift to the team as well. The way that he plays the game, the ferocity he plays the game with, you see him diving for end zones and making great throws. He has excellent wide receivers on the outside and Oklahoma State's defense hasn't been as good as advertised."
-Robert Smith, ESPN - on Chad Kelly (Dec. 6)

"I like the way they played this year. They had their ups and downs, but they're very physical at the point of attack. I want to see how that Big 12 offense goes against the SEC defense."
-Mark May, ESPN - on Ole Miss' front seven (Dec. 6)

"The people I talked to said Ole Miss' players were as good as any in the SEC. The question was if (Chad) Kelly was going to be able to step up and play - he did, and he answered the bell."
-Mack Brown, ESPN (Dec. 6)

"I think what (Chad Kelly) does outside of their offense is where he presents problems. He brings improvisational skills."
-Dan Mullen, Mississippi State Head Coach (Nov. 23)

"They're a good team. They're a good defense. They play hard. They have some big guys. They've got some NFL prospects on that defense."
-Dak Prescott, Mississippi State Quarterback (Nov. 23)

"Chad Kelly is an NFL quarterback and one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation."
-Booger McFarland, SEC Network (Nov. 22)

"(Chad Kelly) might have the best arm in this conference. He can attack any part of the field."
-Gary Danielson, CBS Sports (Nov. 21)

"I think he's one of the best offensive linemen in the country. He's excellent at protecting the passer, and I think he's been very good in the run game. All the qualities you look for in an offensive lineman, he certainly shows those characteristics."
-Arkansas Defensive Coordinator Robb Smith - on Laremy Tunsil (Nov. 3)

"You can tell they're a veteran football team by the way they've handled their composure this season. To be 7-2 and control your own destiny in this league says something about who they are."
-Bret Bielema, Arkansas Head Coach (Nov. 2)

"Ole Miss is playing really, really well. They're quarterback plays extremely well, when he's hot they're hot."
-Bret Bielema, Arkansas Head Coach (Nov. 2)

"In the Auburn game last year, Laquon Treadwell suffered that horrific injury. On Saturday, he caught the game-clinching touchdown pass against the Tigers. Karma, baby. The Rebels SEC title dream is still alive."
-Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports (Nov. 2)

"You wondered if Treadwell, who broke his leg and dislocated his ankle, would ever be the same and he's not. He may be even better."
-John Saunders, ESPN Sports Reporters (Nov. 1)

"He might be the best player in college football."
-Dave Pasch, ESPN - on Laremy Tunsil (Oct. 31)

"Offensively they have weapons and a quarterback that can get them all over the field in many different ways. Been putting up lots of points and you can see why on tape."
-Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Head Coach (Oct. 20)

"Obviously Treadwell is healthy and a big playmaker for them. He's very explosive. They have plenty of guys on the outside that can exploit you if you're not in the right spot."
-Justin Fuente, Memphis Head Coach (Oct. 12)

"Hugh Freeze knew he was taking a chance with (Chad) Kelly, but so far everything is coming up aces for both of them in Oxford. He's a very confident quarterback. He has confidence in his arm and arguably the best wide receiver group in all of college football."
-Todd Blackledge, ESPN (Oct. 3)

"Robert Nkemdiche is the best player in the SEC. He looks like Ndamukong Suh."
-Mike Greenberg, ESPN (Sept. 21)

"It's almost like this is an expectation. There's a different vibe from Ole Miss with Hugh Freeze now that he's been here and been able to establish himself with some recruiting classes. They came in here expecting to win ... This isn't just 'wow they just beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa,' this kind of win brings this football team together and they become a serious contender in the west of the SEC."
-Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN (Sept. 19)

"Chad Kelly was playing in his first SEC game, but it was hard to tell. The nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly showcased a powerful arm and no fear in throwing for 341 yards and three touchdowns - with zero interceptions."
Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports (Sept. 19)

"I thought they played a really good game and have a really good team. I think they deserved to win this game, and they outplayed us."
-Nick Saban, Alabama Head Coach (Sept. 19)

"This kid (Robert) Nkemdiche for Ole Miss is a beast. Alabama can't do anything with him. Don't know for sure, but he's looking like a Top-2 pick"
-Stephen A. Smith, ESPN (Sept. 19)

"To me all eyes are on the most intriguing player this week in college football, Chad Kelly, the Ole Miss quarterback. He has a huge arm and he's got moxie to him, but we know he had some off the field issues. This is a road start in a really tough place to play against arguably the deepest and most talented defensive line in the country, and that's a tall order. We'll see how he manages things."
-Bruce Feldman, Fox Sports (Sept. 15)

"Last year everybody got over the fact that (Ole Miss) beat Alabama, but if they do it again this year the conversation needs to start about where Hugh Freeze is taking this program."
-Marcus Spears, SEC Network (Sept. 14)

"Kelly has been great for Ole Miss. They have looked better than anyone in the SEC so far as a total team. Here comes 'Bama."
-Booger McFarland, SEC Network (Sept. 13)

"You see All-Americans all over the field. They have excellent players who are very well coached and they're very explosive. Both sides of the ball have tremendous speed."
-Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State Head Coach (Sept. 7)

"Ole Miss just threw a TD to Robert Nkemdiche which should be banned for the sake of opposing defenses. My goodness that was frightening."
-Peter Burns, SEC Network (Sept. 5)

"Lack of confidence is not in Chad Kelly's profile. Kid is slinging it early for Ole Miss."
-Peter Burns, SEC Network (Sept. 5)

"When Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche scores, it's not really fair to call it a "fat-guy" touchdown. The 296-pound junior is mostly muscle, which was evident on his 31-yard touchdown on a swing pass in the No. 17 Rebels' 76-3 blowout of FCS opponent Tennessee-Martin."
-Mark Schlabach, ESPN (Sept. 5)

Seniors Shine, Records Broken in Magnolia Bowl

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By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

After a bounce that didn't go their way against Arkansas, the Rebels knew tonight was a must-win situation. No. 22 Ole Miss knocked off rival No. 15 LSU 38-17 in a top-25 matchup to stay in contention to win the SEC West.

Quarterback Chad Kelly continues to play elite football, hitting his receivers and fighting for yards on the ground. The signal caller eclipsed Eli Manning's record for total touchdowns in a single season. Kelly threw for two touchdowns and added a pair on the ground.

"Kelly has done really well all year," said Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze. "I think the thing he's done well the last two games is that I do not think he has had a turnover. That is the key. He is a talented kid and we have a good scheme for him that he understands. He works hard to understand it."

"A few weeks ago we started breaking up our play calling a little differently, and I think that has helped us. I think Dan Werner has done a great job and Kelly is one of the hardest working quarterbacks I have coached."

Senior Jaylen Walton scored in his final game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and juniors Evan Engram and Laquon Treadwell found the end zone too. Walton punched one in early in the first quarter on a two-yard run. Treadwell added an 11-yard scoring grab in the second quarter, and Engram iced the game late in the third quarter on a 36-yard screen pass from Kelly. Engram caught five balls for 58 yards and Treadwell had four catches for 58 yards.

Despite being on the field longer, the defense rose to the occasion. The tenacious Landshark D limited the Tigers to 17 points, forcing two interceptions and two fumbles. They forced pressure all night, sacking the quarterback once and forcing pressure five times. They especially came through in the red zone, only allowing one score on three visits. Mike Hilton led the defense with three pass break-ups and nine tackles, including a tackle for loss.

The seniors continued to shine for the Rebels as linebacker Christian Russel intercepted LSU quarterback Brandon Harris late in the second quarter. The Rebels took advantage, scoring on the first play of the drive on a fade from Kelly to Treadwell.

Ole Miss heads to Starkville Thanksgiving weekend to face in-state rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.

"It means everything," said Hilton, another senior team leader. "Everyone knows how important the Egg Bowl is. They're going to come in with a chip on their shoulder. We're going to come in with a chip on our shoulder too. It's going to be a fight."

The Rebels need to beat Mississippi State and need an Auburn win over Alabama in the Iron Bowl next weekend to clinch the SEC West. The Rebels and Bulldogs will face off at 6:15 p.m. on ESPN2.

Drama Rules The Day at Vaught-Hemingway

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By Brandon Lee, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

Drama in front of a sold-out crowd of 60,680 between the No. 18 Rebels and Arkansas? It was that and a whole lot more in a back-and-forth Saturday night knockdown, drag-out SEC West matchup.

A near 1,200 combined total yards.

Time of possession in which Arkansas dominated 41:03 to Ole Miss' 18:57.

But that's just scratching the surface of what went down in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

A blocked field goal as regulation time expired, and then what looked to be a sure Rebel victory when Arkansas faced a fourth-and-25 from the 40-yard line wasn't enough as the Hogs escaped Oxford and stunned the home-standing Rebels.

"It is an extremely difficult way to end the game," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I hurt for our kids, for our coaches, our fans and our administration. You put so much into this deal and then you lose a game like tonight that comes down to the wire. It is very difficult and gut-wrenching. It will test everything about you."

The two teams combined for 14 drives in the second half and overtime. Ten of them resulted in touchdowns. Arkansas had three drives lasting longer than five minutes and six more that were 3-plus minutes. Ole Miss finished with just one over the three-minute mark, but scored on eight of 12 total drives.

Outside the dramatic ending, that was the name of the game as neither team could defend the opposing offense. In 24 combined drives, each side punted just three times.

Both quarterbacks put up 350-plus passing yards with one rusher over 100 yards on the ground. Both teams were perfect in the red zone (Arkansas 5-of-5, Ole Miss 7-of-7).

Penalties were also limited with six combined for just 42 yards, but the biggest one of the night and potentially all season came in the Hogs' overtime possession. After a touchdown, Bret Bielema elected for the 2-point play. The (first) attempt was no good as Marquis Haynes sacked Brandon Allen, but a facemask penalty gave the Hogs new life and another attempt at the eventual game-winner.

"They were struggling to stop us also," Freeze added. "I haven't seen the film yet, but there was a facemask call that seemed like it was the right call. It was a very difficult way to end the game. It doesn't surprise me, though."

Despite the loss, Ole Miss put together some notes for the record book in the offensive sprint to the finish. The Rebels' 590 yards were the most against an SEC team in the Hugh Freeze era. Chad Kelly, who had three passing TDs and three rushing TDs, extended his single-season school record with his seventh 300-yard passing game. He also threw a touchdown pass in his 10th-straight game, fourth-most in school history.

Laquon Treadwell went for 132 yards and a score, his school-record fifth straight with 100 receiving yards and a touchdown. He also posted his sixth 100-yard receiving game of the season to take over sole possession of the single-season school record.

Next up, the Rebels take a much-needed bye week to prep for a showdown versus LSU Nov. 21 in Oxford.

Rebels Dominate In Prime-Time Spotlight

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By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

It wasn't pretty, but the Rebels got the job done.

No. 23 Ole Miss and No. 15 Texas A&M combined for seven turnovers, but a dominant defense and a balanced offense led to a 23-3 win for the Rebels.

"I'm extremely proud of our kids and coaches," said Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze. "During adversity in life, you find out a lot about people, everyone, you find out who is really who. That is what we challenged our kids with this week. We said if you play out of love and passion for 60 minutes, then that will be good enough at the end of the day for us."

It certainly was enough.

Quarterback Chad Kelly threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns as Ole Miss (6-2, 3-1 SEC) defeated Texas A&M (5-2, 2-2 SEC) in the only top-25 matchup of the week to become bowl eligible for the fourth straight season. Kelly's favorite target, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, hauled in five passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. This was Treadwell's third consecutive game with at least 100 yards and a touchdown.

Having All-American left tackle Laremy Tunsil back helped establish a rushing attack that was absent last week. Running back Jaylen Walton led the ground game with 97 yards. The Rebels combined for 230 yards rushing. Tunsil continually gave Kelly time in the pocket and was constantly seen 10 yards down the field blocking defenders he engaged with at the line of scrimmage.

"I can't tell exactly, but having him back and having everyone in their regular spot that we planned on having them at the start of the year helped our offense rush against a defense that hasn't given up much this season except their previous game," noted Freeze. "I believe part of that being because of Laremy's return."

Ole Miss took an early lead on a 7-yard pass from Kelly to tight end Evan Engram, who surprisingly scored his first touchdown of the season. Engram broke the school record for receiving yards by a tight end tonight.

"It is a blessing and all glory goes to God, 100 percent," said Engram after the game. "The people he has put me around in this great community is truly a blessing and an honor. So much talent, especially at the tight end position, has come through this university, and I hope they approve of me taking the reins and holding the record."

The Rebels took a 7-0 lead into a very sloppy second quarter. Gary Wunderlich connected on two field goals, from 41 and 30 yards to bring the Rebel lead to 13. Then things started to get entertaining.

It started with a 57-yard touchdown pass from Chad Kelly that would get called back due to a personal foul penalty on Ole Miss. The very next play, Aggie defensive end Myles Garrett would tip an intended screen pass to himself and intercept it. The Aggies would take over, but settled for a field goal to make the score 13-3.

On the next drive, Ole Miss would go three-and-out. On the punt, highly touted Aggie freshman Christian Kirk fumbled, and the Rebels would take over on the Aggie 24-yard line.

On the first play of the drive, running back Jordan Wilkins rushed for 9 yards into the red zone, only to fumble on the way down. The Aggies would recover on their own 14-yard line with 1:21 remaining in the half.

Texas A&M's first play, a pass from Allen, was intercepted by Rebel cornerback Kendarius Webster. Ole Miss was unable to punch it in and had to settle for a 22-yard field goal from Wunderlich to take a 16-3 lead as time expired going into the half.  

Halfway through the third quarter, Kelly found Treadwell deep for a 58-yard touchdown pass for the final score of the game.

The Rebels head to the Plains to take on Auburn (4-3, 1-3 SEC) next week for a Halloween matchup. The game will kick off at 11:00 a.m. CT and will be broadcasted on ESPN.

Ratings, Exposure Huge for Ole Miss-Alabama

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Conner_091915_JM.JPGOle Miss' historic win over Alabama last Saturday was not only popular with members of Rebel Nation, it was among the most-watched college football games of the year.

The Rebels' thrilling 43-37 victory over the Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium was the highest-rated game of the week across all television networks, earning a 4.6 overnight rating. The rating is up 254 percent to the 2014 comparable television window and is the third-highest overnight rating of the 2015 season across ESPN.

The instant classic was WatchESPN's most-streamed college football game of the week and the product's second-most streamed regular season college football game ever. It achieved an average minute audience of 128,000 users, 615,000 unique viewers and 35,700,000 live minutes viewed. Additionally, the stream was up 485 percent in average minute audience, 328 percent in unique viewers and 666 percent in live minutes viewed compared to last season's similar window (USC at Boston College).

It's not the first time ESPN has benefitted from a big-time showdown between Ole Miss and 'Bama. College GameDay appeared in The Grove for last year matchup, and it was the most-watched episode of the 2014 season for the popular pre-game show.

Ole Miss is the talk of college football this week. Numerous outlets have pegged Hugh Freeze's squad as a playoff frontrunner, and the Rebels were the headline story on nearly every sports website over the weekend.

The Rebels look to improve to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in SEC play when Vanderbilt visits Vaught-Hemingway Stadium this Saturday. Kickoff is 6 p.m. CT, televised by ESPNU.


Rebels Pass First Test in Search of Playoff Berth

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By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

The road to the College Football Playoff includes many tests along the way. The Ole Miss Rebels (3-0, 1-0 SEC) just passed their first, proving that they are a legitimate contender after knocking off the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide for a second straight year with a 43-37 triumph.
Quarterback Chad Kelly showed that the production of the offense from the first two games wasn't a fluke. He connected on 18 of 33 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns in a hostile road environment, leading the Rebels' tempo offense to 43 points, their most ever in Tuscaloosa.
The offense would take advantage of turnovers and turn them into points, scoring all 17 of their first-half points off turnovers. The Crimson Tide fumbled the opening kickoff, resulting in a field goal by Gary Wunderlich. The defense later picked off Alabama quarterback Cooper Bateman and recovered another fumble on a kickoff to score 14 points in the second quarter.
The whole game could be summed up in one play made in the third quarter by Kelly. He would tip a bad snap high in the air to himself, lob up a pass up for grabs in the area of wide receiver Laquon Treadwell as he narrowly avoided a sack, had the ball tipped off an Alabama player's helmet and land in the hands of wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo, who scampered 66 yards to the end zone to extend the Rebels' lead to 14.
Two more field goals from Wunderlich, from 34 and 45 yards out, extended the lead to 20 with 3:57 remaining in the third quarter. Wunderlich would finish the night a perfect 3-for-3 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points.
Alabama scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a touchdown that they would score after recovering an onside kick following a Derrick Henry touchdown run. That would be negated by an excellent closing effort by the Rebels.
What appeared to be a penalty turned into a 73-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cody Core. Kelly would also lob a beautiful fade to Treadwell, who snatched the ball from the Alabama defender. Those 14 fourth-quarter points and a dehydrated Landshark defense would be enough to hang in to close out the game. 
"We were definitely exhausted," said Rebel head coach Hugh Freeze. "It was a four-quarter battle. We were gassed. Defensively, we were struggling to stop them. Offensively, I was scared to open it up to much, but we made enough plays in a very difficult environment against a really good football team.
"It was absolutely electric in here. And you could tell that they wanted us back from last year. It was a pretty wild atmosphere."
Similar to last year, Ole Miss was able to defeat the Crimson Tide despite being out-gained in total yards. The Crimson Tide passed for 288 yards and rushed for 215. The Rebels passed for 341 yards, but were held to only 92 yards rushing. This wouldn't matter, as timely plays from Ole Miss would guide the team to victory.
"The only thing I told them before the game was that you don't have to be anything that you are not; you are good enough to win," noted Freeze. "We don't need to be anything special, just be who you are and you'll be good enough to win."

The Rebels look to keep up their reputation as a final four candidate next week as they continue SEC play at home against the Vanderbilt Commodores (1-2, 0-1 SEC).

Kelly Makes Statement in Big Rebel Win

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By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

There is no doubt who the starting quarterback is anymore. Chad Kelly has solidified the starting role after his effort today. The gunslinger tossed four touchdowns for 346 yards and added a touchdown on the ground in a 73-21 victory.

"Chad Kelly is the starter," said head coach Hugh Freeze. "I said yesterday, to the ESPN crew, that the job is his to lose. Chad has certainly done nothing to put himself out of the job, so he is the starter. I expect that to continue."

Kelly was able to make big plays all game because of great pass protection and his physical receivers, who bodied the Bulldog secondary all night. Quincy Adeboyejo led the Rebel receiving core with five receptions for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Cody Core hauled in six catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Laquon Treadwell proved he is past his injury, as he snagged five balls for 73 yards.

Kelly started off the game hot. He was responsible for five touchdowns in the first half, the most in the SEC since Johnny Manziel did it in 2012. Kelly connected on 18 of 22 passes for 305 yards and four scores in the half, while also running for 24 yards and another TD.

The Rebels scored four touchdowns of 20 yards or longer, including two pick-sixes. Kelly flashed his arm strength, connecting with Adeboyejo late in the first quarter for a 50-yard touchdown pass, and again early in the second quarter from 44 yards out. Free safety Trae Elston picked off the Fresno State signal caller and returned it 38 yards for a touchdown halfway through the third quarter. Fellow defensive back Chief Brown had the final points of the game on a 22-yard interception return. The Rebels now have three pick-sixes in two games.

DeVante Kincade will still be involved in the offense. His ability to run will be a threat to opposing defenses. He led the team in rushing with 48 yards, averaging 12 yards a carry.

It seems as though Freeze might look to keep Robert Nkemdiche in a few offensive packages as well. The defensive tackle lined up at fullback again this week, this time powering his way into the end zone from 1 yard out. That would be the second career touchdown for Nkemdiche.

The Landshark defense flew to the ball all game, making big play after big play. To go with the three picks, the defense chalked up 10 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a sack.

Ole Miss looks to polish up this week as they hold a 2-0 record heading into SEC play. They will look to knock off Alabama (2-0) on the road at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Alabama rolled through Wisconsin in a neutral-site season opener 35-17 and defeated Middle Tennessee 37-10 in week two.

Big Plays Highlight Season-Opening Win

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Offense, defense and special teams. Ole Miss dominated all three aspects of the game as the 15th-ranked Rebels routed UT Martin 76-3 in the season opener. The 60,186 fans, mostly dressed in white, anticipated an exciting start to the 2015 season.

The offense exploded, racking up 662 total yards. In his Rebel debut, starting QB Chad Kelly threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran one in for the Rebels. Quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, who have been in competition for the starting job this offseason, also had big games. Buchanan completed 4 of 6 passes for two touchdowns. Kincade also hit 6 of his 7 targets for 55 yards and a touchdown. Head coach Hugh Freeze was pleased with the effort of his starting quarterback.

"I thought Chad Kelly's performance was really solid," Freeze said. "Kelly did miss a touchdown throw, and probably could have thrown one a little bit better on the fade to Laquon Treadwell early in the game, but outside of that I think he had a solid day. We will get back to watching film, but I felt pretty good about him out there."

The quarterbacks hit 11 different receivers today. One of those receivers was defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, who caught a 31-yard touchdown on a play-action pass coming out of the backfield. The 6-4, 296-pounder lined up at fullback, sneaked into the flat, caught a ball from Buchanan, and tiptoed down the sideline for his first touchdown of his career. Laquon Treadwell caught four balls for 44 yards in his debut since his injury.

"Treadwell looked explosive, but it was an average performance," Freeze noted.  "It was really good seeing Laquon get tackled and be able to bounce back up, but he just has to get back out there and get some more plays."

The offense was balanced, with 338 yards on the ground. Jaylen Walton scored the first points of the game on a 60-yard scamper early in the first quarter on the first play of the second drive. He would finish the day with two touchdowns. Sophomore Eugene Brazley and redshirt-freshman D.K. Buford both added touchdowns on the ground.

The defense was effective, as they held the UT Martin offense to 290 yards and three points. Trae Elston intercepted UT Martin quarterback Jarod Neal and took it 93 yards to the house. The Landshark defense negated the Skyhawks on third down as they only converted 2 of 17 third-down conversions.

The special teams looked great for the Rebels after a shaky start. After the 60-yard run by Walton, the Rebels showed they aren't scared to go for two. They opened their first PAT in a swinging gate formation. A direct snap to the up-back fell just short of the goal line. They would bounce back from an effort from Robert Nkemdiche, as he plowed through the line and blocked a 23-yard field goal attempt. Punt returner Carlos Davis also had a nice play off of a rugby-style punt. He eluded a defender a split second after fielding the bouncing ball, and took it 58 yards into UT Martin territory, which would lead to six.

Freeze was pleased with the effort of his team.

"It was a good first day for us. (UT Martin head coach) Jason (Simpson) is a great friend of mine. The score was a little top-sided. I told him afterwards that I am not sure what I could have done differently and he was great. To be excited for all of our young kids to get in and make plays, and to see them enjoying the game of football, it is very rewarding."

The Rebels look to continue improving this week as they get set to kick off next Saturday against the Fresno State Bulldogs. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN or ESPNU.

Preseason All-America football teams continue to roll in, and Ole Miss has been well represented each time.

Today, the Sporting News unveiled its preseason All-America first and second teams, which includes a total of four Rebels.

OT Laremy Tunsil and DT Robert Nkemdiche both made the first team. WR Laquon Treadwell and TE Evan Engram were named to the second team.

All four had previously made preseason All-America teams, in addition to DB Tony Conner.

Other preseason awards so far:
- Athlon
- Phil Steele
- CFB Matrix

Individual preseason accolades continue to pile up for the Ole Miss football team as college football magazines look toward the 2015 season.

Athlon Sports is the latest magazine to release its preseason all-conference teams, June 10; the magazine named nine Rebels All-SEC for the upcoming season.

Four Rebels earned first team accolades with a pair on each side of the football. Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and tackle Laremy Tunsil represented Ole Miss on the first team offense, while safety Tony Conner and tackle Robert Nkemdiche were first team defensive honorees.

The complete list of Rebels on Athlon Sports' Preseason All-SEC teams can be found below. For the a list of previous preseason accolades by the 2015 Ole Miss Rebels, click here.

Athlon Sports All-SEC

1st team: Laquon Treadwell - WR
1st team: Laremy Tunsil - OL
1st team: Robert Nkemdiche - DT
1st team: Tony Conner - DB
2nd team: Evan Engram - TE
3rd team: Marquis Haynes - DE
3rd team: Mike Hilton - DB
4th team: Issac Gross - DT
4th team: Denzel Nkemdiche - LB

The start of summer heat and vacations is also the start of another tradition - preseason college football magazines.

One of the first to produce a magazine every year is Phil Steele, whose 2015 version includes about as many Ole Miss representatives as any other school on his preseason All-America and All-SEC teams.

Leading the way are a quartet of Rebel juniors - TE Evan Engram, OT Laremy Tunsil, WR Laquon Treadwell and DT Robert Nkemdiche - on Phil Steele's All-America first or second teams.

A total of 11 Rebels dot Phil Steele's four All-SEC squads, including those four All-Americans on the first team.

The other preseason prognostications that have been released are from CFB Matrix, which similarly has four Rebels on its All-America squads (with Tony Conner instead of Treadwell).

See the full lists below.

Phil Steele All-Americans
1st team: Evan Engram - TE
1st team: Laremy Tunsil - OT
2nd team: Laquon Treadwell - WR
2nd team: Robert Nkemdiche - DT

Phil Steele All-SEC
1st team: Laquon Treadwell - WR
1st team: Evan Engram - TE
1st team: Laremy Tunsil - OL
1st team: Robert Nkemdiche - DT
2nd team: Tony Conner - DB
3rd team: Aaron Morris - OL
3rd team: Denzel Nkemdiche - LB
3rd team: C.J. Johnson - LB
3rd team: Will Gleeson - P
4th team: Marquis Haynes - DE
4th team: Markell Pack - PR

CFB Matrix All-Americans
1st team: Evan Engram - TE
1st team: Laremy Tunsil - OT
1st team: Robert Nkemdiche - DT
2nd team: Tony Conner - DB

CFB Matrix All-SEC
1st team: Laquon Treadwell - WR
1st team: Evan Engram - TE
1st team: Laremy Tunsil - OL
1st team: Robert Nkemdiche - DT
1st team: Tony Conner - DB
3rd team: Javon Patterson - OL
3rd team: Marquis Haynes - DE

Nation's No. 2 DL Unit (CFB Matrix)
Nation's No. 5 WR Unit (CFB Matrix)
Nation's No. 10 DB Unit (CFB Matrix)

Football Signees Report for Summer Classes

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Although they will not begin competing for the Rebels until the fall, several members of the 2015 signing class have arrived at Ole Miss to begin their college journey this summer.

The first of two summer sessions offered at the University of Mississippi began Wednesday.

Among the players who made up the top-20 nationally ranked 2015 Ole Miss signing class and have arrived on campus are prep All-American wide receivers Van Jefferson and DaMarkus Lodge, as well as highly rated running back Eric Swinney and tight end Willie Hibbler. On the other side of the ball, signees like DBs Montrell Custis, Armani Linton and Cameron Ordway look to make an impact for the Landshark defense.

Fall classes begin August 24.

Below are the 2015 newcomers who have enrolled in the first summer session. There could be additions to this list within the next week.

Montrell Custis
Ross Donelly
Alex Givens
Willie Hibbler
Michael Howard
Van Jefferson
Armani Linton
DaMarkus Lodge
Cameron Ordway
Jason Pellerin
Austrian Robinson
Eric Swinney
Zedrick Woods

More on Steelers' Selection of Golson

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Ole Miss added to its already strong NFL presence with the selection of All-America cornerback Senquez Golson, who was drafted in the second round (56th overall selection) by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday night.

He became the second player drafted under head coach Hugh Freeze and the highest Ole Miss draft pick since Dexter McCluster was drafted in the second round (36th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010.

Golson, the Rebels' first consensus and unanimous All-American since 2008, led the SEC and finished second nationally with a school record-tying 10 interceptions. ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper called it one of the best picks of the first and second rounds. 

"That's one of the best picks of the second round," Kiper said. "Senquez Golson is an interception supreme. He had 16 career picks. He's a kid who's pound for pound one of the best football players in this draft. He has wide receiver hands. 

"This kid is a heck of a football player. He's spunky, he will hit you, and when there's an opportunity to get a turnover, he's not going to drop the football. He's going to come away with the interception and get you the turnover and get you possession of the football."

Kiper's colleague's, fellow ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Todd McShay, shared high praise for Golson.

"For a smaller corner, he will support the run," McShay said. "He's tough, he's physical, he's aggressive, he's everything you look for. You wish he was bigger and longer, but he plays to his potential and ability, and he's not afraid to mix it up."

Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake noted his "unusual ball skills" and toughness, among attributes that met the criteria to become a second-round pick.

"He is a ball-hawking type of corner," Lake said. "He has very good quickness, very good anticipation and awareness, and we are looking forward to having him in the building."

Looking ahead to tomorrow, fellow All-America defensive back Cody Prewitt, a projected third or fourth-round pick by before the draft, is the fourth-best safety available, according to McShay, and the 10th-best safety available, according to Kiper.

Here's more on Golson:

Here's more draft analysis from NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock, who rated Golson as the No. 8 cornerback and No. 62 overall prospect in the draft:

"Golson is a corner who is only 5-foot-8 and 176 pounds, but what separates him is his ball skills. He played minor league baseball. The question is, how much does size matter? Golson is one of the best pure zone corners I've seen." 

Here's what ESPN had to say about Golson on their draft tracker:

What he brings: He's a much better run defender than you'd expect given his small stature, and is fearless in attacking ball carriers. His cover skills are excellent, with his explosiveness and quickness, but he can get exposed by bigger receivers at times.

How he fits: The Steelers fill another big need on defense with Golson. After notching just 11 interceptions last season, they needed to find a playmaker in the back end. Golson, who has excellent anticipation skills and production (9 INTs in 2014), will help upgrade them in that department.

VIDEO:'s highlight reel of Golson

VIDEO: ESPN's Path to the Draft with some of the top plays by Golson

The Ole Miss team of head football coach Hugh Freeze and Sean Tuohy turned in a strong showing at the 2015 Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament at Reynolds Plantation outside Atlanta on Tuesday.

The duo tied for for seventh place at 7-under par with the Ohio State team of Urban Meyer and Jeff Logan. They finished two shots back of the four teams that met in the playoff, including the eventual winners, the Georgia Tech team of Paul Johnson and Jon Barry, who won the tournament for the second straight year and the fourth time in the last five years.

With their seventh-place finish, Freeze and Tuohy won $30,000 in scholarships and charity. Freeze also won the long drive competition Monday, bringing their total winnings at the event to $35,000 to benefit the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson.

The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge is the country's premier head coach and celebrity charity golf event featuring NCAA head coaches and former athletes and celebrities from the same school competing against their rivals for a share of a $520,000 scholarship purse.

In addition to the $520,000 charity and scholarship purse, another $113,305 was generated for charitable organizations including the American Diabetes Association. Over the last nine years, the event has contributed a total of $5.3 million in scholarship and charity, helping make the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl college football's most charitable bowl game.

Check out the official release and photos, both courtesy the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl:

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Freeze Wins Long Drive Competition

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Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze took home the long drive title at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament Monday. 

He won the competition with a 287-yard drive, besting Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez, who finished in second place with a drive of 273.3 yards. With the win, Freeze received $5,000 to benefit the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson.

Freeze will team with Sean Tuohy and compete in the tournament round Tuesday. The duo and the 12 other university teams will play for a share of $500,000 in scholarships and charity, including a $125,000 first-place prize.

The tournament will be broadcast on ESPNU in August and December. Specific air dates will be announced this summer.

Check out the official release and photos, both courtesy the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl:


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Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze will team with former All-SEC basketball player Sean Tuohy to represent the Rebels for the fourth straight year and compete for a share of the $520,000 total purse in the ninth annual Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament April 26-28.

The nation's premier head coach and celebrity golf event will be held April 26-28 at the Reynolds Plantation resort on Lake Oconee outside Atlanta. Over the past eight years, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge has provided $4.7 million in scholarship and charitable contributions.

Freeze and Tuohy finished 7-under par for fifth place last year, their best finish in three years of competition at the event. In their three years of competition, Freeze and Tuohy have combined to earn $85,000 in scholarship funds for Ole Miss. Team Ole Miss has appeared in the Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament every year since 2009, earning a cumulative $147,500 in scholarship funds for the Rebels. 

The Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge main event features pairings that include a university head coach and a celebrity or former athlete from the same school competing in a two-man scramble over 18 hotels. The tournament will be broadcast on ESPNU in August and December. Specific air dates will be announced this summer.

The 13 university teams will be vying for the $125,000 first-place prize, with all teams receiving a portion of the $520,000 scholarship purse. Freeze and Tuohy are paired with the N.C. State team of Dave Doeren and Terry Harvey in Group Five.

The field of competitors for the featured event is scheduled to include: 

Alabama: Nick Saban, Mark Ingram

Arizona: Rich Rodriguez, Kenny Lofton

Auburn: Gus Malzahn, Bo Jackson 

Cincinnati: Tommy Tuberville, Kevin Huber

Clemson: Dabo Swinney, Steve Fuller

Georgia Tech: Paul Johnson, Jon Barry (2011, 2012, 2014 winners)

Maryland: Randy Edsall, Scott McBrien

Mississippi State: Dan Mullen, Fred McCrary 

North Carolina: Larry Fedora, Roy Williams 

NC State: Dave Doeren, Terry Harvey

Ohio State: Urban Meyer, Jeff Logan

Ole Miss: Hugh Freeze, Sean Tuohy 

South Carolina: Steve Spurrier, Sterling Sharpe (2008, 2009 winners)

For a full list of pairings and more information on the event, visit

VIDEO: Ole Miss Football Season Tickets Promo

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Quarterbacks Make Final Case of Spring Practice

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At one point, co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said, all three quarterbacks had completed around 66 percent of their passes, a testament to how close the competition has been this spring. Going into the Grove Bowl, Freeze said one had a slight lead, but even that might have changed after the game itself Saturday.

"After one drill I'd like that one, after the next drill I'd like that one," Freeze said. "So, I go back and forth. In the totality of spring, going back before today, I would say that Ryan Buchanan had a lead in my mind. That certainly doesn't mean that he is going to be the starter. After today I will go back and watch the film and put it with our cumulative stats and everything else that we are judging on them. We will see where it is after today. 

"Again, even if we say that he has the lead, it is so minute and so small and so far from being over. That is everything being transparent and that is how I felt today. I might feel differently come Monday. I will watch the film this weekend and we will see." 

Junior quarterback Chad Kelly had the best statistical day of the group, completing 9-of-19 passes for 104 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Sophomore quarterback DeVante Kincade was 9-of-18 for 93 yards and also rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries, while fellow sophomore quarterback Ryan Buchanan was 5-of-16 for 49 yards with an interception.

"I feel like I really improved since the start of camp," Buchanan said. "Like I have said from the beginning, being behind Bo, you don't get as many of the first-team reps and don't go against the first-team defense. This spring, we had a chance to do that, and gradually I feel like I improved with my decision-making.

"I feel like I have made improvements, but I know for a fact that I can do way better," Kincade said.

Earlier this spring, Freeze said he expected the competition to continue into the middle of fall camp, but if it stays as close as it appears to be right now, it might continue into the season itself.

"If they are as close as they are now, I could see us going a couple games making sure we have done due diligence in naming a starter," Freeze said. "But, I do not want to do it beyond that or even if that. It wouldn't shock me to go into week one planning to give them all reps to look at how they do when the lights come on. We won't go too long like that. I don't mind playing a couple, but you need to have a guy that is your guy when the time comes." 

Revamped Running Game

Ole Miss returns its two leading rushers from last season in senior running back Jaylen Walton (106 carries, 586 yards, five touchdowns) and sophomore running back Jordan Wilkins (52 carries, 361 yards, one touchdown), but the Rebels appear to have made some changes in the ground game.

"We tweaked a few things," Werner said. "We got some ideas from some other teams that run similar offenses and it's been really good for us."

Despite just 10 healthy offensive linemen by the end of the spring, one of the areas where Freeze was most pleased this spring was the running game, and it showed in the Grove Bowl. 

Wilkins led the way with six carries for 62 yards, highlighted by a 28-yard run, but sophomore Eugene Brazley and redshirt freshman Akeem Judd had their moments as well. Walton even threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow on a halfback pass.

"We have a bunch of good backs," Werner said. "They're in a situation where they have so many guys who are really good players that they have to compete. When you get a chance to run the ball, you better make a good run."

Jones, Hampton Among Spring Surprises

Freeze has said they are searching for more consistency at the wide receiver position, but when asked earlier this week who has been the biggest surprise of spring practice, the first name that came to his mind was junior wide receiver Derrick Jones.

Jones credited another year in the program and the confidence of playing on just one of the ball for his breakout spring. In the Grove Bowl, he led the Red team with three catches for 35 yards.

"It gives me a lot of confidence, knowing that I'm going to be in this spot and keep working at one position, and not wondering if I'm going to be a cornerback or a receiver," Jones said.

Sophomore defensive back C.J. Hampton was another name that Freeze mentioned as players who have impressed this spring. After a year learning behind All-American safety Cody Prewitt, Hampton is now competing for playing time at free safety, and he was named the most improved defensive player of the spring.

"Cody was on hard me last year," Hampton said. "He wanted me to learn. He always said I was good enough and that I had to learn it fast. I learned it, and I'm rolling with it now. I still talk to Cody a lot now."

Hilton, Mullins Share Similar Story, Spirit

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Former Ole Miss head coach Billy Brewer almost did not sign Chucky Mullins, whose memory has been honored with the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.

Nate Wayne, a four-year letterman for the Rebels and the 1997 recipient of the award, who was a special guest at this year's ceremony, shared a similar story of how his high school coach convinced Coach Brewer to offer him a scholarship.

Fittingly, this year's winner, senior defensive back Mike Hilton, followed a similar path to Ole Miss.

Then a 5-foot-9, 175-pound athlete from Sandy Creek High School in Fayetteville, Georgia, Hilton was not the highest-profile football prospect. 

Hilton was a 247Sports composite three-star prospect, the No. 71 ranked player in Georgia by and the No. 78 running back in the nation by But something about him grabbed the attention of one coach, which made all the difference.

"I almost did not sign him," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I almost messed it up. He had some academic issues at first and he was undersized. I had three weeks to recruit him and I was not sure that he was going to make it. Matt Luke went to one of their practices. They had five Division I players on that team, and he said there was no question who the alpha dog was on the field and that we had better take this kid."

Since stepping on campus in the fall of 2012, Hilton has been a key contributor on Ole Miss defense, playing in 36 games with 28 starts, including a start at every position in the defensive backfield. He led the Rebels with 71 tackles last season, to go along with 4.0 tackles for loss, three interceptions and seven pass break-ups.

Hilton started the spring at Rover safety, before suffering a broken thumb that ended his spring practice. But come the fall, Hilton will be one of the leaders on the Ole Miss defense, wearing Mullins' No. 38 jersey, whether it's at that Rover safety position, or one of the other starting spots in the defensive backfield.

"I have always been undersized, so I knew I had to put forth that extra effort," Hilton said. "You have to have the mentality to do what you have to do on and off the field, and I have been able to do that. I'm thankful for the coaches to give me an opportunity to come out here and do what I do and also show what I can do off the field."

Speaking about Mullins, Freeze said the one thing he keeps coming back to is something that Tea Southerland, the 1992 winner of the award, said. Southerland said it was one of the highest honors he'd ever received, which Freeze said is a great statement, but the statement that followed really grabbed him. He said, "I wonder if Chucky would say they got the right guy."

Freeze said the one thing he knows that the right kind of people have is the ability to finish. That doesn't mean you don't stub your toe or you fall down, but they finish. Hilton, Freeze said, is the one guy they kept coming back to represent the spirit of Mullins.

"We have made our kids understand that if you get award this award, it's a big deal," Freeze said. "It's the highest award that our program gives, and it comes with a lot of responsibility. This year, out staff had a difficult selecting it, not because we couldn't the one, but because we had five who were all deserving. That's a good sign for our program."

"When I put that 38 on, nothing else mattered, said Wayne, who also enjoyed an eight-year professional career in the NFL. "It wasn't just about me. It was about my wife, my daughter, my family, my Ole Miss family and Chucky. At that point, I realized that every decision I made didn't just affect me. It affected everyone involved with me. If it wasn't for that mentality, who knows where I would be today."

Three and Out: Grove Bowl Edition

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

Can Someone Emerge in the Quarterback Battle?

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

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

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

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

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

Physical Play on the Outside

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

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

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

It should be fun to watch on Saturday.

Battle in the Trenches

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

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

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

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

Long But Rewarding Journey For Shepard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Players Ready to Take on Bigger Roles in Year Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grove Bowl to be Featured on SEC Network Platofrms

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The SEC Network will air every SEC spring football game with multiple viewing opportunities on both television and the network's digital platforms. All 12 spring football games will be carried live and in full on SEC Network + with additional coverage on SEC Network Alternate.

On Saturday, April 11 and Saturday April 18, SEC Network Alternate will carry whiparound coverage between the multiple games being played, including the Grove Bowl on April 11. Every spring game will also have multiple airing during the week on SEC Network.

The Grove Bowl, scheduled for April 11 at noon, will be broadcast live on SEC Network+, and it will later be broadcast on the SEC Network on Sunday, April 12 at 5:30 p.m. Chris Cotter and Greg McElroy will be on the call and Kayce Smith will be on the sidelines.

The network's coverage of spring football will also include "SEC Network: 2015 Spring Football Tour," a school-dedicated series on series on Southeastern Conference football teams, which will include coaching interviews, practice football and news of the day over multiple shows.

Ole Miss will be the location highlighted as part of the series on Tuesday, April 7 at 10 p.m. CT with hosts Kayce Smith and Booger McFarland.

For a full schedule of both the spring games and the SEC Now: 2015 Spring Football Tour, click here.

Freeze, Players Talk Quarterback Competition

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Through the first seven spring practices, or three weeks since the start of spring practice on March 3, there does not appear to be any separation between sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade and junior college transfer Chad Kelly. 

Whether you talk to head coach Hugh Freeze, or one of the quarterback competitors, they all have one overarching goal for the position: consistency.

"We're charting every single throw, and it's really close between all three," Freeze said. "It really depends on the day. Ryan has had his great days, Kincade has done well at times, and so has Chad. We're compile it all after this week and look at it again, but it's really close."

"All of them look great," sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell said. "It's still a learning process for them. They don't have a lot of experience going live against the first-team defense and doing all the things we do every day, but they all look good and they're all making plays."

Every snap and every series, Buchanan and Kincade said, it's a challenge to stay consistent and do the little things right to separate themselves in the quarterback competition.

"I feel like I have gotten progressively better each camp from fall to spring the last couple of years," Buchanan said. "The biggest thing is you have to do it life. I can sit in meetings and know exactly where everything is supposed to be, but you have to make on-the-second decisions when you're out there."

"Every day, you have to bring it, no matter where you are," Kincade said. "Anywhere you go, it's going to be a competition. You have to bring your 'A' game every time you're on the field."

Every practice, they face a defense that boasts seven returning starters from the nation's No. 1 scoring defense. 

They're also short-handed on the offensive side of the ball with only eight healthy offensive linemen as well as injuries to sophomore wide receiver Markell Pack and senior wide receiver Cody Core, joining Treadwell and senior wide receiver Collins Moore, who were already being held out.

"We can force our defense to be in some vanilla looks and we look a lot better then," Freeze said. "When they're who they want to be, it's been quite challenging to have successful plays for sure."

Injuries and Opportunities Along the Offensive Line

The Rebels were already without a trio of offensive linemen at the start of spring practice and the injury list has only grown longer three weeks into it.

"We're struggling to just stay healthy," Freeze said. "We're losing kids to some freak injuries that have certainly made reps more difficult. That's part of the game. 

"On the offensive line, we're down to about eight guys. It's a struggle. There are a lot of good looking ones standing on the sideline. At receiver, Markell (Pack) and Cody (Core) are hurt. Laquon (Treadwell) and Collins (Moore) are already out. We're facing some adversity right now offensively."

By name, according to Freeze, junior Laremy Tunsil, senior Aaron Mooris, sophomore Daronte Bouldin, junior Robert Conyers, sophomore Christian Morris, junior Talbot Buys, sophomore Davion Johnson and redshirt freshman Sean Rawling are offensive lineman that have been ruled out for spring practice.

The eight healthy offensive lineman, Freeze also said by name, are senior Justin Bell, freshman Javon Patterson, senior Ben Still, junior Jeremy Liggins, senior Fahn Cooper, redshirt freshman Jordan Sims, sophomore Rod Taylor, junior Jacob Feeley, and redshirt freshman Tyler Putman.

"We have who we have for spring," Freeze said. "Hopefully, Markell and Cody are not out significantly long. On the offensive line, it doesn't look like we will get any of them back for spring."

Freeze praised the effort of the younger and less-experienced players, stepping up and having to go a lot of reps with the first-team and second-team offenses. Of the injured offensive linemen, Freeze said he is hopeful they will be ready for summer workouts.

Those injuries along the offensive line have also presented an opportunity for younger players, such as Patterson, an early enrollee, and Liggins, who has moved to offensive tackle.

"He's getting all the reps he wants," said Freeze of Patterson. "He's having to go with the one's some and the two's some. He's getting all the reps he wants. All of them are. I'm really pleased with him. He's going to be a really good player. I'm really excited about him."

"It's going really well," said Freeze of Liggins. "He has really good feet. He's picked it up as well as I would have hoped. There are times, just like with any offensive lineman, where you get these strange looks that you really didn't work on in individual work that may be moving a little fast for him. That's not just him. That's all of them. I really think he's a talented kid there."


Freeze, on the defense: "Defensively, I'm really, really pleased. I think we have a chance to be really good on that side of the ball. Certainly, it's going to make us better going forward having to practice against the speed and length that our defense plays with."

Freeze, on Saturday's scrimmage: "It's been a very physical spring thus far. I'm hoping that Saturday, when we get there, we will have enough healthy guys to have a quality scrimmage to see if we have made some significant improvements because we have spent an enormous amount of time on technique and individual work."

Freeze, on quarterback Chad Kelly: "I'm really pleased with everything he's done to this point. It's a process. I'm very aware that any of these young men can make a decision that's wrong. He's got very little rope to do that with, but i'm really with him to this point. He studies film. He's a competitor. He's a team guy. That's been my experience with him thus far."

Freeze, on cornerback Tony Bridges: "He's a long, athletic corner and he's physical. Him and Tee Shepard, they're both playing really well at corner right now. They're a little too aggressive sometimes, particularly when they're on an island. They're very aggressive and long."

Freeze, on wide receiver Laquon Treadwell: "We're probably going to hold him out. He goes through all the one-on-ones and routes versus air, but we haven't put him in any team situation yet."

Freeze, on linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche: "Denzel is having a really good spring. Really solid. He's fine. He's 100 percent."

Treadwell, on Kelly: "Chad is competing. He's learning and he's making plays. Every day, he's competing and that's going to help the team a lot."

Buchanan on the quarterback competition: "They're tracking each throw and each decision, and I know I have to make the most out of every single snap and every single series I go in and do the best I can."

Buchanan, on Kelly: "He has a great arm. He can spin the ball really well. He's getting used to the playbook and getting used to having to make decisions against our defense, but he's good. He's a good quarterback."

Kincade, on the quarterback room: "It's fun competing. I love competing. If he makes something good happen, I tell him. If I make something good happen, he tells me, and we tell Ryan the same. We all share with each other."

Prewitt, Golson Among Standouts at Pro Day

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The Manning Center played host to 16 former Ole Miss players, including NFL Scouting Combine participants Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson, attempting to make a lasting impact on the 27 NFL teams represented at Pro Day on Thursday.

Prewitt, a projected second-round pick by, was not pleased with his performance at the combine, where he ran a 4.60 40-yard dash and recorded 11 bench-press reps of 225 pounds. He improved both marks at Pro Day, as he posted times of 4.47 and 4.46 in the 40 and recorded 12 reps on the bench. His 4.46 mark would rank third among safeties and tied for 10th among all defensive backs at the combine.

"It ate me up," Prewitt said of his combine performance. "It aggravated the crap out of me. I still think I can do better in the 40, but I think today was a lot closer to what I think I can run."

After putting on a show at the combine, Golson, a projected fourth-round pick by, only participated in two testing drills at Pro Day. One those drills was the bench press, where he improved his number of 225-pound bench press reps from 15 at the combine to 16 at Pro Day. Overall, he was pleased with his performance at Pro Day.

"There are a lot of questions when you got a 5-8 corner that catches 10 interceptions, Golson said. "A lot of people want to get their eyes on me and see if everything matches up with the numbers.

"They have asked me, 'What makes you think you can play in the league?' You go back to my freshman to my senior year, every week I played against first-round, top-10 picks. I played against Odell (Beckham, Jr.). I played against Mike Evans for two or three years. I played against Amari Cooper and Sammie Coates, all the top receivers that are going to come out this year, I have film against all those guys."

Both Prewitt and Golson went through defensive back drills with New York Jets defensive backs Joe Danna. Golson said he has private workouts or visits scheduled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.

"It was fun," said Golson of working with Danna. "You get an idea of how NFL coaches think and how they want us do things. I was happy for that opportunity."

Other standouts at Pro Day were Deterrian Shackelford, who benched 225 pounds 33 times, which would have ranked second among linebackers and ninth among all players at the combine, and Carlos Thompson, who posted a 38-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-3 broad jump. He ran the 40 in 4.75 and 4.77 seconds and recorded 21 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.

Pro Day was also an opportunity for Bo Wallace to impress NFL scouts after not receiving an invitation to the combine. Wallace said he felt healthy and threw the ball well in a scripted positional workout put together by former NFL quarterback John Beck.

"I wanted to show I'm talented enough to compete with the guys that were brought into the combine," Wallace said. "I was upset I wasn't there and it pushed me and motivated me. I felt like I had as good of a day as I could have."

Here's an update with some official numbers from's Gil Brandt:

Representatives from 27 NFL teams, including a defensive backs coach from the New York Jets, were present to see 16 players work out at Ole Miss' pro day on Thursday.

The workout was held indoors and run on FieldTurf.

Cornerback Senquez Golson (5-foot-8 3/4, 180 pounds) had 16 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and a time of 11.93 seconds in the 60-yard shuttle (staying on the rest of his numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine). Golson -- who made a pivotal interception in Ole Miss' upset of Alabama in October -- was very fluid in the positional workout and displayed great ball skills.

Free safety Cody Prewitt (6-2 3/8, 208) ran much better at his pro day than he did at the combine in the 40-yard dash, posting times of 4.47 and 4.46 seconds (he ran 4.6 in Indianapolis). He also performed 12 strength lifts. Prewitt also showed good ball skills during his positional workout.

Quarterback Bo Wallace (6-3 5/8, 211) ran the 40 in 5.1 and 5.07 seconds. He had an 8-foot-8 broad jump. He went through a scripted positional workout and did an adequate job doing so. Wallace's workout was put together by former NFL quarterback John Beck.

One relatively unknown prospect was really impressive to the scouts present at Ole Miss' pro day.

Defensive end Carlos Thompson (6-4 1/4, 252) ran the 40 in 4.75 and 4.77 seconds. He had a 38-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-3 broad jump. He did the 20-yard short shuttle in 4.54 seconds and the three-cone drill in 7.51 seconds. Thompson recorded 1.5 sacks in limited playing time while at Ole Miss, but might have had so impressive of a pro-day workout that he could get drafted as a pass-rushing prospect. At worst, Thompson will be a priority free-agent pickup for an NFL team following the 2015 NFL Draft.

The scouts at hand were treated to a big breakfast and lunch.

Stay tuned to's Gil Brandt and's Pro Day reports for more from Ole Miss Pro Day. The NFL Draft is April 30-May 2. 

Golson, Prewitt Headline Pro Day Participants

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NFL Scouting Combine participants Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt are among 18 former Ole Miss players expected to go through Pro Day workouts in hopes of realizing their professional football dreams. More than 25 representatives from 22 different teams were on hand for last year's Pro Day that featured future third-rounder Donte Moncrief of the Indianapolis Colts.

Golson and Prewittt are expected to be joined by 12 other recently-departed Rebels, including Serderius Bryant and Bo Wallace, as well as four players more than a year removed from their time in the Red and Blue. Golson and Prewitt, who both impressed at the combine, may not compete in every drill at Pro Day.

A reminder that the event is closed to the public, but we will have complete coverage on the official site. Official times and results will be posted on in the days following Pro Day.

2014 Seniors participating:

Bryon Bennett

Serderius Bryant

Cliff Coleman

Will Denny

Senquez Golson

Lavon Hooks

Lakedrick King

Keith Lewis

Carlton Martin

Nicholas Parker

Cody Prewitt

Deterrian Shackelford

Carlos Thompson

Bo Wallace


Nick Brassell

Tyriek Gracia

Uriah Grant

Jamal Mosley

Johnson Embraces New Role, New Challenges

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Ole Miss welcomes back seven starters from the nation's No. 1 scoring defense, but two of those starters, seniors C.J. Johnson and Mike Hilton, will be starting the spring at different positions, with Johnson at Mike linebacker and Hilton at Rover safety.

"This is a different team with a different group of players with different talents," Johnson said. "The key for us is how do we build on what he had last year. We have a lot of young guys stepping in and trying to fill roles, so they have to understand what it takes to get to where we were last year."

Johnson was originally recruited as a linebacker and began his Ole Miss career at the position, before moving to defensive end, where he has played for the last three-plus years. He and coaches talked about a move to linebacker after the bowl game and then closer to National Signing Day.

"I wanted to try something different," Johnson said. "The coaches knew I knew the playbook really well and they knew me sitting in the defensive line meetings for install the first couple of days would be completely boring for me, so we decided to try the move."

The most senior member of the Ole Miss defense, Johnson said he knows pretty much know what everybody in front of him is doing, and he also draws on his high school and early college experience playing linebacker, but there's still a lot to learn.

"With the multiple things we do, you have to be able to do a lot of different things, so it's going to be a challenge for me," Johnson said. "It feels familiar and it feels good. A lot comes with the position, being the quarterback of the front of the defense and getting everybody set and lined up, knowing the checks and formations. It's going to be a big learning process for me, but I'm ready for it." 

As a defense, despite ranking among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, Johnson said they need to give up fewer big plays to improve as a defense. In their meeting yesterday, Johnson said, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack brought up that they were two plays away from an 11-1 record with a case to play in the College Football Playoff.

Those two plays, Johnson said, were a pair of dropped interceptions, one in 35-31 loss to Auburn and another in a 10-7 loss to LSU. He also mentioned a sack that he missed on a third down against LSU, after which the Tigers drove down the field and scored.

"You look at the games we lost, and we didn't get turnovers and we gave up too many big plays," Johnson said. "If we eliminate the big plays and we get more takeaways, we'll be a better defense."

Familiar Spot for Hilton

The coaches have shown a similar type trust in Hilton, who has started a game at every defensive backfield position, including two career starts, both last season, at Rover safety. 

"I feel like it's another good move for me," Hilton said. "Once again, it show the trust the coaches have in me and my ability go out and produce on the field."

His move to Rover safety leaves a two-deep at cornerback that will likely include juniors Tony Bridges, Kailo Moore, Tee Shepard and freshman Kendarius Webster. It also shifted senior Trae Elston from Rover safety to free safety, where he will look to replace three-plus year starter Cody Prewitt.

"Free safety is more in the box and has more run support responsibility, while the Rover safety has more coverage responsibility and has to be able to tackle in the open field," Hilton said. "I feel like it's a good spot for me because open-field tackling is one of my best assets." 

Hilton is learning under first-year safeties coach Corey Batoon, a member of head coach Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss staff since the beginning, who was recently promoted to assistant coach for safeties and special teams coordinator in January.

"He's a strategist," said Hilton of Batoon. "He wants everything down perfect. He wants you making the right steps and everything. I feel like he will put us in the right position to make plays; we just have to go make them."


Johnson on returning to linebacker: "The game has slowed down for me a lot. I pretty much know what everybody in front of me is doing, as opposed to coming in as a freshman when you know absolutely nothing. Right now, I'm getting adjusted to the drops and coverages."

Johnson on his playing weight: "I was trying to lose weight to get down to a weight where I could run and play fast, and over the weekend, I came in Monday at around 246. I have to drop a little weight, but I felt fine yesterday running."

Johnson on the move to linebacker preparing him for the NFL: "I don't really know, I don't really get involved in all that. I try to come to work every day, do my job and play to my strengths as a football player."

Johnson on leadership: "It kind of feels weird being the oldest one out there and being the person that everyone looks up to. It's something I'm ready to embrace."

Hilton on the defense's identity: "I feel the identity of the defense is the same. We still have guys like C.J., myself, Trae, Issac and all those guys on the defensive front. We feel like we have that same Landshark mentality and the mentality to be one of the top defenses."

Hilton on Tee Shepard: "He looks really good. He's holding up and playing well. He's running full speed and everything. He's looking good. He's ready."

Hilton on Tony Bridges: "He's really quiet, but he's really coachable. He's even come up to me and asked questions. He's really coachable. He works with Coach (Jason) Jones a lot. He's good be a good one for us."

Hilton on the younger players: "Breeland (Speaks) has shown dominance up front. He's put on some weight, but he's still able to move. Victor (Evans) is coming off the edge a lot better. Those two I'm really looking forward to seeing this year."

Quarterback Competition Begins in Earnest

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Ole Miss began spring practice Tuesday, and for the first time under head coach Hugh Freeze, the Rebels will have a starting quarterback not named Bo Wallace. With the graduation of Wallace, sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, as well as junior college transfer Chad Kelly, will split equal reps this spring.

"We're going to be very thorough in our evaluations by charting every single drill that they do," Freeze said. "We'll look at stats from those. It's going to a very competition three-man deal. They will be in a constant rotation, and everyone will get equal reps with the 1's and the 2's. The main thing you want to see is who can handle hard coaching and who can understand what we're trying to get accomplished with what we have called and then being able to execute and take care of the ball, which is always a priority."

It's the first true quarterback competition in Oxford since the 2012 season, when Wallace beat out Barry Brunetti for the starting job. In that case, Freeze did not name Wallace his starting quarterback until two days before the Rebels' season opener against Central Arkansas, and it may a similar case this season between Buchanan, Kelly and Kincade.

"It would probably have to be so clear-cut for me to do that this spring, knowing the personalities of who I'm dealing with and the time between now and fall," said Freeze of naming a starting quarterback in the spring. "A lot of dynamics play into that. It's probably not going to be a clear-cut decision at the end of spring and will continue through summer workouts. It's time for that room to be the leaders of this team. With that, comes some responsibility, and we have them to understand that throughout summer workouts."

Changes on Defense

Freeze had already announced one position change during his National Signing Day press conference. That change was moving Jeremy Liggins to offensive tackle, although he will likely continue to play some tight end and "Wildcat" quarterback. But there are also changes on the other side of the ball.

The changes on the defensive side are familiar, but they are notable. Freeze announced that senior Mike Hilton, who has started a game at every defensive backfield position, will start the spring at one of the safety positions, as they try to find the best rotation in the defensive backfield.

"We think we he have a lot options (in the secondary)," Freeze said. "We're going to start Tony (Bridges) and Tee (Shepard) at cornerback and start Mike Hilton at one of the safety positions, knowing that he's played them all and can do that. If we think there's a better rotation, we won't hesitate to move them around"

Freeze also said that senior C.J. Johnson will get a look at Mike linebacker, a position that Freeze called their biggest question mark right now. Johnson was originally recruited as a linebacker and began his Ole Miss career at the position, and he will join senior Christian Russell and junior Temario Strong in looking to replace Deterrian Shackelford and Keith Lewis.

"We are going to see this spring," said Freeze of Johnson playing Mike linebacker. "I don't know (how he will perform), it is hard to say. I know he can run and tackle. I know he is smart and really understands the defense. It is a different role, playing there. But that's where we are going to put him and see how it goes this spring. We can always move him back down to the defensive line. We are going to see how he performs this spring."

D. Nkemdiche, Treadwell Return from Injury

The Rebels will be without a trio of offensive linemen in junior Laremy Tunsil and senior Aaron Morris, two returning starters, as well as sophomore Daronte Bouldin, but the Rebels will welcome back a talented trio of players in junior wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, senior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and junior cornerback Tee Shepard.

"I expect Denzel and Quon, both, to be back," Freeze said. "Denzel, right away. Quon, after spring break. He will do some things but not a lot this week. Robert Conyers will go after spring break also. The others, Daronte (Bouldin), Aaron (Morris), and Laremy, will not participate in spring practice. Tee will be full-go. Carlos Davis, we'll see where is after spring break."

With the injuries along the offensive line, it is a great opportunity for freshman offensive lineman Javon Patterson, an early enrollee, who was rated a five-star prospect and listed as the No. 1 offensive guard in the nation by

"I told him yesterday that we he will get all the reps he wants, and then some," Freeze said. "It's going be good for him. He's going to get plenty of reps. i'm really excited about him. He's exactly the type of student-athlete you want. He's a great kid, first, and he's going to be an outstanding player. Getting him enrolled early and getting an extra spring with him will be big for him. He will get plenty of reps to get looked at this spring."

Freeze, Rebels at SEC Media Days on July 16

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The Southeastern Conference announced today Kickoff '15, its annual football media days, will be held July 13-16, remaining at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. The event will continue to be four days in 2015.

The 2014 edition featured an additional fourth day to the event, and it will remain the same for the 2015 edition. Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss contingency will be in the Magic City on the final day, Thursday, July 16, and grouped with Georgia and LSU.

ESPN will once again bring SEC Media Days to a national audience, with the SEC Network making its debut at the event to close out a historic first year for the newly launched network. The network will have live coverage all four days.

A more detailed daily schedule with full television information, rotational breakdown and student-athletes attending will be available later this summer.

The previous four SEC Football Media Days have drawn over 1,000 attendees, including over 1,200 attendees each of the last two years.


MONDAY, July 13

SEC Commissioner

Auburn - Gus Malzahn

Florida - Jim McElwain

Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

TUESDAY, July 14

SEC Coordinator of Officials - Steve Shaw

South Carolina - Steve Spurrier

Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin

Miss. State - Dan Mullen

Tennessee - Butch Jones


Alabama - Nick Saban

Kentucky - Mark Stoops

Arkansas - Bret Bielema

Missouri - Gary Pinkel


LSU - Les Miles

Georgia - Mark Richt

Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze

VIDEO: The Flagship Football Promo

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Golson, Prewitt Compete at NFL Combine

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The defensive backs, including former Ole Miss players Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, participated in on-field workouts at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine on Monday in Indianapolis. Looking ahead, Ole Miss will hold its annual pro day on March 5 (closed to the public), and the 2015 NFL Draft will be held from April 30-May 2.

Golson and Prewitt went through measurements, medicals and interviews, as well as the bench press portion of workouts Sunday, before going through on-field workouts Monday. Golson showed out and improved his draft stock in the on-field workouts, drawing praise for his ball skills and other tools from NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock, among others.

"This guy is so fun to watch," said Mayock on NFL Network's coverage of the combine. "Baseball player. He was drafted in the eighth round by Boston. He's a small corner who had 10 picks. He tracks a ball in the air like the center fielder he was. He's 5-foot-8 and 1/2 inches, 176 (pounds), short arms, but he tracks the ball as well as any corner I have seen in the last five years."

Golson ran an official 4.46 40-yard dash, tied for 10th among all defensive backs, and posted a 6.81 time in the three-cone drill, tied for ninth among all defensive backs. He also showed off his ball skills in the gauntlet drill, reportedly recording no drops in two attempts in the drill. His draft profile compares him to Brent Grimes of the Miami Dolphins.

"He's a kid I really like," Mayock said. "He ran a 4.5. He might be short at 5-foot-8 and 1/2. I keep talking about his baseball skills and how they translate to tracking the ball. He had 10 interceptions this year. A lot of teams are going to knock him his size. He's a quick-footed corner with tremendous ball skills. When has vision on the quarterback, the ball is his."

Here's more on Golson:

Prewitt ran an official 4.60 40-yard dash, and he was rated a top performer in the broad jump and 60-yard shuttle workouts. His 125-inch mark in the broad jump was tied for third among safeties and tied for 10th among all defensive backs. His 11.44 time in the 60-yard shuttle was fourth among safeties and 12th among all defensive backs.

Prewitt was also among a list of 12 players who impressed in combine interviews. His draft profile compares him to Phillip Thomas of the Washington Redskins.

"This is a hard evaluation," Mayock said. "He looks really good. He's 6-foot-2, 208 (pounds). He played a lot of good football, 41 starts in the SEC. He had 12 career interceptions and over 200 career tackles. All the numbers and production are there. Evaluating him on tape, I don't think he tackles as well as he should given his height, weight and speed."

In his latest top 10 ranking of prospects at every position, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Prewitt as his No. 6 safety on the board. Prewitt was also among the players who just missed the first-round cut in the latest NFL Draft Big Board from senior analyst Rob Rang.

In the latest prospect rankings from CBS Sports, Prewitt is the No. 1 free safety and No. 61 overall prospect, a projected second-round pick, while Golson is the No. 13 cornerback and No. 104 overall prospect, a projected third-round or fourth-round pick.

Here are the complete NFL Scouting Combine results for Golson and Prewitt:



Rundown of Ole Miss Future Football Schedules

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Ole Miss and Cal will play a home-and-home football series in 2017 and 2019, the schools and ESPN announced Thursday. It marks the Rebels' first matchup with a Pac-12 school in football and will be only the program's second visit to the Golden State, having traveled to Fresno State in 2011.

With the addition of Cal, Ole Miss now has matchups against other Power Five schools in seven of the next 11 years:

2016 vs. Florida State in Orlando

2017 at Cal

2019 vs. Cal

2022 at Georgia Tech

2023 vs. Georgia Tech

2024 at Wake Forest

2025 vs. Wake Forest

The neutral-site matchup against Florida State marks the first time the Rebels will play a power-five conference team in the regular season since a home-and-home with Texas in 2012 and 2013.

Ole Miss continues to work toward finding matchups for the 2018, 2020 and 2021 season, which would satisfy a new Southeastern Conference strength-of-schedule component that requires all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis, a component that goes into effect in 2016.

Here's a rundown of other scheduling news:

Ole Miss announced the dates for the Rebels' nonconference opponents for 2016:

Sept. 5 vs. Florida State in Orlando

Sept. 10 vs. Wofford

Oct. 1 vs. Memphis

Nov. 5 vs. Georgia Southern

Ole Miss also announced the movement of nonconference matchups of a road game at Memphis, from 2017 to 2019, and a home game against Tulane, from 2017 to 2019, and the addition of nonconference matchups, all home games, against Tennessee-Martin (2017), Southeastern Louisiana (2019) and Tulane (2025).

The road game at Memphis in 2019 marks the fourth game of a four-year contract to renew the football series, a series resumed with a home game in 2014 and will continue with a road game in 2015 and another home game in 2016.

For more, check out Ole Miss Future Football Schedules.

What They're Saying: National Signing Day

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Head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff landed a top-15 class for an unprecedented third straight year Wednesday. Including mid-year enrollees, the 22-member class boasts 18 players rated a four-star prospect or higher by at least one recruiting service, the most in program history, including the seventh and eighth five-star prospects signed under Freeze.

As of Thursday morning, the major recruiting service rankings currently list Ole Miss at No. 15 (, No. 16 (, No. 17 (247 Composite), No. 19 (ESPN) and No. 21 (

Here are some National Signing Day links related to the signing class as a whole:

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze on Ole Miss' 2015 recruiting class via

VIDEO: Mississippi Teams Capitalize on Success via SEC Network

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze on troubled QB Chad Kelly: Players deserve second, third chance via

VIDEO: Ole Miss' Chris Kiffin talks D-Line, defensive backfield depth in 2015 via Courtney Cronin from the Clarion-Ledger

Rebels weather hectic final few days of recruiting, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Roller coaster day for Rebels, writes Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal

Ole Miss: 2015 Signing Class, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss Rebels QB Chad Kelly can rewrite story, writes Greg Ostendorf from

Why troubled QB Chad Kelly is worth the risk to Hugh Freeze, writes Bruce Feldman from

Here are some related National Signing Day links to stories related to individual signees:

Doral Reagan's Shawn Curtis changes mind, signs with Ole Miss, writes Veronika Quispe from the Miami Herald

Former Pitt commit surprises by inking with Ole Miss, writes Riley Blevins from the Clarion-Ledger

South Aiken's Rasool Clemons signs with Ole Miss, writes Kyle Dawson from the Aiken Standard

Linton overcomes trials to become coveted recruit, writes Courtney Cronin from the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Sandy Creek's Eric Swinney talks about heading to Ole Miss via WSB

Can Swinney help Ole Miss at running back? writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Riverside defensive end Joe Anderson signs with Ole Miss, writes Andrew Lopez from

Winter Garden West Orange slot receiver Jalen Julius picks Ole Miss over Notre Dame, writes Alicia DelGallo from the Orlando Sentinel

Ole Miss lands potential return specialist in Julius, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: DaMarkus Lodge commits to the University of Mississippi via WFAA

DaMarkus Lodge reveals why he picked Ole Miss in exclusive with Bleacher Report, writes Damon Sayles from Bleacher Report

DaMarkus Lodge give Ole Miss a big win on signing day, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger named Ole Miss and DaMarkus Lodge the best fit in their National Signing Day Award

Scout's Take: DaMarkus Lodge to Ole Miss Rebels, writes Gerry Hamilton and Tom Luginbill from ESPN Insider ($)

Ravenwood's Jefferson signs with Ole Miss, writes Sam Brown from the Tennessean

Prewitt Caps Impressive Week at Senior Bowl

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Former Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt capped an impressive week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, with a game-high five tackles in the game itself Saturday. His former teammate, cornerback Senquez Golson sat out the game with a hamstring injury.

As of the latest prospect rankings from CBS Sports on Wednesday, Prewitt is the No. 54 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 1 free safety and a projected second round pick, while Golson is the No. 68 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 8 cornerback, and a projected second-to-third round pick.

Prewitt is on the fringe on first-round status, garnering a top-50 ranking on big boards according to Rob Rang from and Joel Klatt from Fox Sports.

The 2015 NFL Scouting Combine will be held from Feb. 17-23, and the NFL Network will provide extensive coverage of the event. The 2015 NFL Draft will be held from April 30-May 2.

Cody Prewitt has raised his draft stock at the Senior Bowl, writes Ross Jones from Fox Sports

Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt's stock is on the rise.

Prewitt followed up his interception in Tuesday's practice by showing great instincts and closing speed on Wednesday. He blew up an oncoming reverse, and Jaguars coaches ran onto the field to congratulate him.  

Prewitt, who says he patterns his game after that of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, is the No. 45 overall player on FOX Sports 1 NFL insider Joel Klatt's big board and has the potential to creep into the first round.

"I like to think I pick up on things really well, and it allows me to play really fast," Prewitt said after practice. "I take a lot of pride in my football IQ."

To add even more intrigue, the 6-foot-2, 212-pounder is at the Senior Bowl with his Ole Miss teammate, cornerback Senquez Golson.

Golson, who once turned down a $1.35 million signing bonus from the Boston Red Sox to instead play college football, has finally dedicated himself to the gridiron despite Ole Miss spring baseball gearing up.

"I'm really proud of him. He has come a long way, and honestly we have come a long way together," Prewitt said. "And to be sharing this experience together has been a real blessing for us."

Golson, of course, led the SEC with 10 interceptions and made a major impact for Ole Miss' defense this past season.

The duo is coming off a banner year, leading the Rebels to their first season finishing ranked since 2009. 

Here's more on Prewitt from Klatt:

Prewitt displays a quality understanding of the game as he is rarely out of position against complicated route combinations. I was most impressed with his ability to adapt to the new game by avoiding big hits and penalties when he sees exposed receivers.

Here's more from on Prewitt from Tony PaulineNFL Draft Analyst for

Prewitt came to Mobile and ended the notion that he's a run-defending safety who struggles in coverage. Today, he made several nice plays on passes including an interception in the end zone as well as a break-up in the middle of the field. Prewitt's solid play in coverage the past few days will enhance his draft stock.

Senquez Golson has met with the Cleveland Browns, writes Matt Miller, NFL Draft Lead Writer for Bleacher Report

The Cleveland Browns were very interested in Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson, and I've spoken with sources close to both sides who say they've spent a lot of time with him this week.

Cody Prewitt tackles new ideas, writes Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal

Senquez Golson is determined to measure up for NFL, writes Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal

Cody Prewitt stands out in the South secondary at the Senior Bowl, writes Patrick Magee from the Sun Herald

Senquez Golson sat out the Senior Bowl due to a hamstring injury, writes Patrick Magee from the Sun Herald

VIDEO: Home is Ole Miss

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Prewitt, Golson Impress at Senior Bowl Practices

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 Photo Gallery

Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson will represent Ole Miss in the Senior Bowl, which will take place Saturday at 3 p.m. CT from Mobile, Alabama, and will be televised by the NFL Network. 

The duo have already had a busy week in Mobile, starting with the national football scouting weight-in on Tuesday morning. Golson came in at 5-foot-8.4 and 174 pounds, while Prewitt came in at 6-foot-2.1 and 211 pounds.

As of Wednesday, Prewitt is the No. 54 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 1 free safety and a projected second round pick, while Golson is the No. 68 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 8 cornerback, and a projected second-to-third round pick. 

Through the first two days of practice, they have impressed coaches, scouts and media members, among others. Senior Bowl practices continue Thursday with a walk-through Friday before the game Saturday.

Senquez Golson was tabbed the standout from Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice by Matt Bowen, NFL National Lead Writer and former NFL Defensive backs. Here's more from Bowen:

Golson doesn't have top-tier size at the cornerback position (5'9", 180 lbs); however, the Ole Miss product displays quick footwork and the transition speed (plant/drive) to close on the ball. A player with the hip flexibility to open and run, Golson was physical from a press-man position and looked comfortable playing off the ball in one-on-ones and team drills.

With defensive backs, I always watch for players who want to compete in drills. Do they finish plays? Can they recover versus the deep ball? And do they attack downhill (with speed) to the upfield shoulder in the three-step game? On Monday, that was Golson. The cornerback was aggressive with his technique and challenged receivers on every rep during the South squad practice.

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker will make Golson work hard this week, with a focus on technique. I played for Coach Walker back in Washington, and he is an excellent teacher. This is a great opportunity for the Ole Miss cornerback to continue playing good football in front of NFL scouts, general managers and coaches.

Matt Bowen had this to say about Cody Prewitt after Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice:

Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt displayed the range and ball skills to make plays from the middle of the field on Monday. And he will attack the ball in the vertical passing game.

Senquez Golson was one of nine standouts from Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice, writes Bucky Brooks, NFL Media analyst for

Golson lacks the ideal size to be a frontline starter as a pro, but DB coaches are quickly falling in love with the possibility of him filling a role as a nickel corner. The 5-10, 176-pounder displayed impressive footwork and short-area quickness in coverage, while also exhibiting outstanding instincts and awareness in coverage. He repeatedly made bang-bang plays on the ball in one-on-one and team drills, showcasing the playmaking skills that made him one of the top cover corners in the SEC. Although his slender frame could make him a liability against big-bodied receivers in the NFL, Golson's explosiveness and natural ball skills make him a hot commodity as a sub-defender.

James Walker, ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter, had this to say about Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt after Day 1 of Senior Bowl practice:

Keep an eye on Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson. He's undersized at 5-feet-10 and 175 pounds, but Golson played bigger than his size in the first day of practice. He made plays on the ball Tuesday that caught my eye. Golson looks comfortable playing man-to-man defense, which is a valuable commodity in the NFL. I'm curious to see him practice more throughout the week.

Speaking of Ole Miss, safety Cody Prewitt recorded the only interception in either practice Tuesday. Prewitt had an easy pick off Grayson, who floated the ball in coverage after being pressured. Prewitt also had a nice return of about 20 yards.

Ryan Mink, staff writer for, had this to say about Senquez Golson after Day 1 of Senior Practice:

Ole Miss' Senquez Golson is the shortest player at the Senior Bowl, measuring in Tuesday morning at 5-foot-8 ½ inches and a mere 178 pounds. The SEC's 2014 interceptions leader showed he's not afraid to throw his body around, however, as he went high to whack a 6-foot-6, 281-pound tight end in 11-on-11 drills, causing an incompletion.

Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley had this to say about Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson (via Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal):

"We're trying to get him to understand that we're teaching him our principles" said Bradley of Prewitt. "He's done a good job. He's lively and spirited and has some energy out there in meetings and some stuff. Sometimes, he's down. Sometimes, he's back. It's really like understanding two positions because there's a lot of technique involved with that, and he's handled it really well."

"Every team is looking for different traits at the corner spot," said Bradley of Golson. "... You look at these players, and he's going to have a fit for a team. That's what you're looking for. He has great quickness and great competitiveness. Some teams get caught up more in height, weight and length. For some teams, it's not an issue, and it's more about transition, coverage ability and ability to stay on top. Each team has unique traits that they're looking for."

Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker had this to say about Senquez Golson (via Patrick Ochs from the Sun Herald):

"You gotta play big," Walker said. "You can't make them taller. They have to be physical, be aggressive, play with urgency," he said. "Seeing details and having a high IQ helps because it helps them get to the play faster and compensate for their lack of size. ... There's a spot for little guys, they just have to play big."

Senquez Golson, a former eighth-round selection of the Boston Red Sox who turned down more than $1 million to attend Ole Miss, has officially decided not to play college baseball this spring, writes Patrick Ochs from the Sun Herald:

"It got to the point where I just need to focus on football," Golson said. "We tried to work it out to where I could try to play baseball, but I was just going to be missing too much time."

More on Golson's decision to not play college baseball this spring, writes Parrish Alford from the Daily Journal:

"I don't think I'm going to be able to play," Golson said. "I'm just missing too much time. I'm here all week. Then within the next two or three weeks we head to the combine. I've got training in between. There's just so much going on. I've been out of baseball a year. I just felt like I wasn't going to have the time to catch up."

Here's what Senior Bowl practice onlookers are saying about Prewitt:

Here's what Senior Bowl practice onlookers are saying about Golson:

Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 Rankings

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Ole Miss football finished the 2014 football season with a 9-4 record and a top-20 final national rankings in both polls. The Rebels come in at No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 19 in the Amway Coach Poll, their first final national ranking since 2009 and their highest final national ranking since 2008, when they finished No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the Coaches poll.

With the 2014 college football season officially in the books, various outlets looked ahead to 2015 and released way-too-early preseason top 25 rankings for 2015. Ole Miss featured prominently in these rankings, including two top-10 rankings, one as as high as No. 7.

Dennis Dodd, 7th

The Rebels weren't a one-hit wonder. Hugh Freeze gets back receiver Laquon Treadwell and budding superstar Robert Nkemdiche in the defensive line. The Landshark defense returns with a snarl. If Chad Kelly can keep his nose clean, Ole Miss might be better at quarterback with the departure of Bo Wallace.

Bryan Fischer, Mike Huguenin and Chase Goodbread, 7th

2014 final ranking: 19

Key returnees: DL Robert Nkemdiche, WR Laquon Treadwell, OL Laremy Tunsil

The skinny: The Rebels need to find a quarterback to replace the inconsistent Bo Wallace, but the quality recruiting classes coach Hugh Freeze has brought to Oxford should be starting to pay big dividends this upcoming season. There's a ton of talent that will eventually make its way to the draft, but it still might not be enough to get out of the loaded SEC West on top.

Paul Myerberg, USA Today Sports: 9th

Why No. 9? Because the Rebels improve with each passing season under Hugh Freeze. The offense may be more consistent with a new starter under center, particularly with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell back from injury. The defense will retool in the secondary without two all-conference picks, but the talent along the defensive line is undeniable -- and it's these contributors, led by Robert Nkemdiche, who set the tone for the entire defense. If they can stay healthy, the Rebels might sneak up and take the SEC West Division.

Mark Schlabach, 11th

2014 record: 9-4, 5-3 SEC

Returning starters: 10 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key personnel losses: QB Bo Wallace, S Cody Prewitt, CB Senquez Golson, LB Serderius Bryant, LB Deterrian Shackelford

Why they might finish higher: If you can somehow erase the Rebels' horrid performance in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl from your mind, the rest of the 2014 campaign was pretty memorable. The Rebels started 7-0 and were ranked No. 3 in the country before injuries started piling up. They're bringing back 18 players who started the bowl game, and star receiver Laquon Treadwell, cornerback Tee Shepherd and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche are coming back from injuries.

Why they might finish lower: There's no question Wallace had a roller-coaster career under center, but the Rebels don't have a replacement ready to go. Redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade are in line to replace him, although Clemson transfer Chad Kelly could be an option, despite his recent legal problems. There are some significant holes to fill on defense, after losing three of the top five tacklers and two stars in the secondary. Ole Miss' road schedule in 2015 isn't easy, with games at Alabama, Florida, Memphis, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports: 11th

The Rebels' Peach Bowl debacle obscured a season in which they beat 12-2 Boise State, 12-2 Alabama and 10-3 Mississippi State. The Rebels will be breaking in a new quarterback but should be deep with playmakers, provided WR Laquon Treadwell returns healthy. And a defense that dominated over the first half of the season should only be more talented.

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports: 13th

The Rebels are coming off their first season of double-digit victories since 1999. And the arrow on coach Hugh Freeze's team is pointing up, as this team has the pieces in place to finish among the top 10-15 nationally in 2015. Bo Wallace must be replaced at quarterback, but the new starter will benefit from the return at Laquon Treadwell at receiver. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is one of the best in the nation and is part of an offensive line that returns all five starters from the Peach Bowl depth chart. With the uncertainty at quarterback, the defense will have to carry Ole Miss - at least early on - in 2015. This unit allowed only 13.8 points per game in 12 regular season contests and should have one of the nation's top defensive lines. However, there's concern in the secondary with the departure of cornerback Senquez Golson and safety Cody Prewitt.

VIDEO: Ole Miss-TCU Motivational

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Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-TCU

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Three areas to watch as No. 9 Ole Miss plays No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the inaugural "New Year's Six" bowl game.

Containing Boykin, Handling TCU's Tempo

Ole Miss coaches and players have compared TCU junior quarterback Trevone Boykin to former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall, two quarterbacks who were each 2-0 against the Rebels in their respective careers.

The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and fourth-place finisher for the Heisman Trophy, Boykin ranks third nationally in total offense (363.0 ypg) and is also on pace to become just the third quarterback since 2009 to average over 300 yards passing (309.5) and 50 yards rushing (53.5).

"You just have to make sure you prepare on every play because he's always, you know, a broken tackle away or a throw away from a big play so we have to make sure that we're locked in on every snap," graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said.

The other key to the nation's statistically most improved offense in both total yards and scoring from last season has been tempo. TCU runs 79.9 plays per game, while Ole Miss opponents have averaged just 69.7 plays per game.

"As far as the layoff, I think our intensity has been good here," Freeze said. "I've been pleased with that. I have a concern about just how the conditioning will be when we hit the field against a tempo team like these guys, particularly it's just hard to simulate that over and over again, and particularly the closer you get and we've had a Christmas break and you get here. You certainly want to have fresh legs when the game starts.

"But the energy and the emotion that will be involved when it kicks off will no question have an impact early on with some fatigue issues probably. So we'll have to be smart, how we rotate our kids and I think everybody will regain that shortly into the game."

Young Receivers Called Upon

Sophomore tight end Evan Engram has drawn the most attention, and deservedly so, as Ole Miss will be without their top two receivers against No. 6 TCU, but a trio of young receivers will also have to step up to replace the production and leadership of sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and senior wide receiver Vince Sanders.

"Stepping up is a big thing for us," sophomore wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo said. "We've been instilling that in our heads since Laquon went down. And when Vince went down, we knew we had to compete even more."

An All-America second team and consensus All-SEC first team selection, Engram stepped up with a career-high 176 receiving yards in a win over Mississippi State in the regular-season finale, but against the Horned Frogs, the Rebels will likely also need contributions from some combination of Adeboyejo, junior wide receiver Cody Core, and freshman wide receiver Markell Pack.

"We know we're down some guys, but we have guys that are going to step up and fill that void," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said.

Rebels Ride Walton

Helped by a couple of long runs, Ole Miss had a breakout game on the ground, rushing for 205 yards in a win over Mississippi State in the regular-season finale. Sophomore Jaylen Walton led the way with a career-high 148 yards on 14 carries, including a highlight-reel 91-yard touchdown run.

"We made just a decision, going into the last game, that he's our best option," said Freeze of Walton. "Let's get the ball to 6 and we wanted to get him a certain number of touches and thought he ran extremely physical, made explosive plays, and we always knew he could and we believe the other can too. But we just made a decision that he's our most mature guy. He's had the most experience in our offense. He's good in the pass game. He's good in understanding protections."

Walton emerged as the leader of a crowded backfield, rushing for a career-high 583 yards and averaging a career-best 5.9 yards per carry this season. He also leads the team with seven total touchdowns. Freeze expects more of the same from Walton in the bowl game against No. 6 TCU.

"He produced really, really well," said Freeze of Walton. "We'll do the same tomorrow. I don't know that it's been so much that he's done anything different. I think he's always been that way. It's probably us just making sure he got the number of touches that he got."

Freeze, Patterson See Programs Rise

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Head coach Hugh Freeze has spoken often about the journey, and he called the program's appearance in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, the first of the "New Year's Six" bowls, a validation of their success earlier this season and how far they have come over the last three seasons.

"To be here in year three of our journey, I think, is validation for us," Freeze said. "You guys again that follow me know that I'm a big-picture guy, and I don't make too much of one win or too much of one loss. I don't think I can afford to do that where we are. I just stay on the big picture.

"And again, for us, in three years to have gone to three consecutive bowl games, and this year being a New Year's Six Bowl, I think, is validation enough that we're on the right track and we were very, very competitive."

Freeze's counterpart, TCU head coach Gary Patterson, has been on a similar but longer journey.

Patterson has led the Horned Frogs to eight 10-win seasons during his 14-year tenure that has spanned three conference affiliations, most recently the Big 12 Conference, where they have competed since the 2012 season. 

"I have a little bit different philosophy than a lot of people, being at TCU and being outside the circle for many years," Patterson said. "For all the things that had to happen, to just get into a Rose Bowl, where it had to be written in the bylaws that the Pac-10 team had to play for the National Championship. You had to be the highest ranked team, you had to go undefeated, all the things you had to do to get yourself in that point.

"And still I was sitting in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Friday night before playing the ball game, knowing if Boise State won, we were going to go undefeated, and we wouldn't play. We would be playing in the Las Vegas Bowl, which would have been fine. For us, we always take a standpoint of understanding. We're very appreciative of the way we get treated, what we're trying to get accomplished and the way our kids should play."

For Patterson and TCU, this is their third BCS-type bowl appearance, but their first as a member of the Big 12, having having appeared in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl and won the 2011 Rose Bowl as a BCS buster and member of the Mountain West Conference.

"This is where you want to be," Patterson said. "It gives you an opportunity to be greater access to get a chance to go play for a National Championship. And so to be honest with you, we probably had a couple teams back in '08 and '10 that probably were better than this team in some ways. They weren't thought of as such, and playing in this league would have probably made a difference."

Friends since they first talked in 2011, shortly after Freeze was named head coach at Arkansas State, their mutual admiration and respect was on display in the joint head coaches press conference, as they interjected and answer each other's questions, trading compliments for one another.

"Let me answer that for him, they're really good," interjected Patterson, referring to the Ole Miss defense. "He's just being nice to me. They played against a guy at Alabama who's really good. He's just being nice. They're really good."

"I should have answered his for him, that tempo offense, I don't know why I voted for tempo," replied Freeze, referring to the TCU offense. "I should have cried out against that stuff, man."

Patterson said both programs have an opportunity to use the matchup, one of only four matchups featuring two top-10 teams, as a springboard going forward to become the programs they want to become.

"I think as a university, as a program, I don't think we've touched the iceberg," Patterson said. "We've only recruited to the Big 12 for two years. So for us to be able to go forward and recruit and do things as we go forward, as we move down the road, I think, is going to be pivotal in how we do things. But I think we're going to just keep getting better players."

"I couldn't be more pleased," Freeze said. "I think I've said it this year. I think we're ahead of schedule and I think our kids will compete. But win or lose, I think validation has been made this year that we're on the right track."

Veteran Defenders Key Turnaround for Rebels

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The hallmark of the turnaround of the Ole Miss football program has been the Landshark defense, one that leads the nation in scoring defense and fewest touchdowns allowed, and it starts with the core group of veterans who have seen it all during their college careers.

From a 2-10 season in 2011, to the program's first nine-win regular season since 2003, the unit has steadily improved, from the league's statistically worst defense in 2011, giving up 32.1 ppg, to the ninth-best defense in 2012 (27.6 ppg), to the seventh-best defense in 2013 (23.7 ppg), to the best defense in the league and the nation (13.8 ppg) entering their matchup with No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Wednesday.

"When I look back, at the last few years, since I was a freshman, it's almost been a little overwhelming," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "Ole Miss was a dream of mine, and to see and to feel like I was a part of Ole Miss becoming what it is now and what it's going to be in the future has been a huge blessing for me. It's going to be one of those things that sticks with me for the rest of my life.

"I think I speak for all the seniors when I say that this means so much to us because we did come from so far down. I think it was 2-10 my freshman season, but at the same time I never lost faith in Ole Miss, I never lost faith in the program. It just made me want to work that much harder and when this new coaching staff came in, it rejuvenated us."

Four-year members of this year's senior class, such as Prewitt, have helped lead Ole Miss to three straight bowl games, the program's highest national ranking since 1972 and the program's highest final regular-season ranking since 1963, defeating No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Mississippi State in the process.

"People kept talking about Ole Miss as almost being there, almost there, that they almost won this game or almost won that game, and we got to the point where we want to get there," Prewitt said. "We want to be in the national run consistently. We want to create one of those elite programs like Alabama or Auburn.

"We don't want to be one of those teams when they see us on the schedule that they write us off, and that was the main thing for the seniors. We wanted lead a team that was not going to be a pushover anymore. We wanted to be an elite program in the nation."

And then there are those players like junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, also a member of the 2011 signing class, who will be playing his final college game with many of his close friends and teammates. He knows that game is important going into the 2015 season, but he's not ready to turn the page on 2014.

"It's emotional, man," Johnson said. "It's going to be as emotional for me like it is for them. Our class has been through so much. That 2-10 year took a lot out of all of us. Being around those guys, it's going to be really emotional for me. I don't really like talking about it. I'm not ready for it to happen. I'm definitely going to miss those guys."

A win over TCU would give the Rebels their first 10-win season since 2003 and perhaps their first top-five final ranking since 1962, when they finished No. 3 in the nation, but that has not been the core focus for the core group of veterans throughout bowl preparations.

"I feel like this program, me, Cody, Senquez (Golson), a lot of the seniors, we talked to each other before the season started and we told each other that it's not only about this year, but it's about the longevity of this program," graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "We want to come back one day and say we had an instrumental part in building something that was strong."

Ole Miss Football 2014: A Year in Review

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Ole Miss Seniors Prepare for Next Step

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For some of the Rebels' 21 seniors, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl will be their final football games. For others, such as Senior Bowl participants Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, it's the end of their college careers, but it might also be a springboard for a potential professional career.

Golson and Prewitt are projected second-to-third round NFL Draft prospects by, while quarterback Bo Wallace is a projected sixth-to-seventh rounder, and linebacker Serderius Bryant and defensive tackle Bryon Bennett are projected seventh-rounders to undrafted free agents.

The first consensus first team All-American and first unanimous choice since Michael Oher in 2008, Golson is ranked the No. 7 cornerback and No. 69 overall prospect, but he continues to weigh his options between playing baseball in the spring or focusing on preparing for the NFL Draft, ahead of the Senior Bowl on Jan. 24 and the NFL Scouting Combine that runs Feb. 17-Feb. 23.

"After the bowl game, I'm definitely going to be in contact with people trying to figure everything out," Golson said. "I don't know if I'm going to be in Oxford training, or anywhere else. I don't know exactly where I'm going to be, but I'm starting to narrow it down and getting everything situated. It's difficult because I have to get plans made, whether I'm going to train, or stay in Oxford and play baseball, or train, or something like that. I have been taking things slow and playing them by ear."

Prewitt became the first player to return to Ole Miss as a first team All-American since Patrick Willis in 2006, going on to earn second team All-American honors in his senior season. Despite fewer interceptions, he feels like he has improved his consistency this season. The No. 3 ranked free safety and No. 71 overall prospect, Prewitt might also see a change in position at the next level.

"I have heard outside linebacker some, but I have heard safety, too," Prewitt said. "I love playing football. Hopefully, I go to a team that would rather use me as a safety and thinks I can be used best as a safety, but if I go a team where a coach wants me to play linebacker and feels like I can be used best as a linebacker, I'm absolutely ready to do that."

Already the school's all-time leader in total offense, Wallace also has the opportunity to become the winningest quarterback in modern Ole Miss history, but he does not see Wednesday as the end of his football career. Wallace said he will move to Los Angeles after the bowl game and work with mechanics guru Tom House, with whom he worked this past offseason.

"I know scouts are interested," said Wallace, the No. 11 quarterback and No. 228 overall prospect. "Barney (Farrar) has told me about some teams. Coach Farrar deals with that, and we have talked. I know I'm going to have a shot, and that's all I can ask for."

Horned Frogs Learn Lessons from Baylor Loss

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Sixth-ranked TCU allowed 61 points in a 61-58 loss to then-No. 3 Baylor on Oct. 11, the Horned Frogs' lone blemish in an 11-1 season. 

Despite that outing, TCU ranks second in tackles for loss (8.4/game), second in interceptions (1.92/game), second in turnover margin (plus-18) and turnovers gained (36), fourth in opponents' third-down conversions (28.4 percent) and 17th in scoring defense (20.3 ppg).

"We learned to finish," said TCU senior cornerback Kevin White of what they learned from the loss to Baylor. "It's something we didn't do in that game. We had a lead, and we didn't finish the game. From that point on, we had to finish out every game, no matter what, whether we were up by 20 or down by 20. We had to finish."

The Horned Frogs see a similar challenge in No. 9 Ole Miss, despite the differences in scheme and injuries to three starters in junior offensive guard Aaron Morris, senior wide receiver Vince Sanders and sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

"As I watch them, I would compare them to a pro team," TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas said. "They do a lot of shifts and motions and whatnot, which forces you to be on top of your game in terms of where your eyes are."

"Looking at the tape, they have a lot of weapons," TCU junior safety Chris Hackett said. "Looking at Bo Wallace, he's a great quarterback. Playing in the SEC, they have a lot of competition week in and week out. They don't just have the one superstar player on their team. They're a good team as a whole."

On average, TCU opponents have run 74.1 offensive plays per game this season, including Baylor, which racked up 782 yards of total offense on 109 offensive plays, while Ole Miss has averaged 70.0 offensive plays per game, running more than 80 plays just once this season.

"It's not like we're going to change our scheme around just because Baylor did so well," Ole Miss co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "That's something they do every week, and they do a good job with it. There are things they do that we do also. So obviously, that's stuff we'd put in and maybe emphasize more than we usually do. We're going to run our offense, do what we do best and go fast and let these guys play and make plays."

Rest, Treatment Beneficial to O-Line

Ole Miss used the same starting five offensive linemen for each of the first seven games, all wins, before mixing and matching combinations against LSU, Auburn and Presbyterian, and then returning to full strength against Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Even then, sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil battled a right shoulder injury, while junior center Ben Still continued to push through a knee injury.

With some time off between the regular-season finale against Mississippi State and the start of bowl practices, the duo and the entire offensive line are in much better shape entering their matchup with No. 6 TCU.

"I'm getting old, man," Tunsil said. "Everything was hurting. Mainly, it was just my right shoulder, having a torn labrum, but I feel better since I have healed up and had some treatment."

"It's been good because I injured my knee against Tennessee, and it never really got back all the way, so it was a good time for some time off to get it back," Still said.

The Rebels, however, will be without junior offensive guard Aaron Morris, who underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL. In his place, junior Justin Bell will move from right guard to left guard, and freshman Rod Taylor will make his second career start, at right guard.

"He's caught on a whole lot," said Still of Taylor. "You don't have to say much to him. From day one to now, he's improved exponentially. It's great. You used to have to tell him everything. Now, we can trust him."

"He plays with passion and helps us out tremendously," said Bell of Taylor. "It makes it a more enjoyable experience, getting a young guy in there and knowing he's going to play 60 minutes, give it everything he has."

Engram Emerges as Leader of Receiving Corps

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When No. 9 Ole Miss faces No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Wednesday, the Rebels will be without each of their top two receivers in sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (leg, ankle) and senior wide receiver Vince Sanders (ACL).

In their place, sophomore tight end Evan Engram has emerged as a favorite target for senior quarterback Bo Wallace, hauling in five passes for a career-high 176 receiving yards, the fourth-most in a game in a game in Ole Miss history, in a win over then-No. 4 Mississippi State.

"Hopefully he will play the way he did against Mississippi State and we expect that, because he's so explosive and a guy that's a mismatch," Wallace said. "So we know we're down some guys, but we have guys that are going to step up and fill the void."

An All-America second team and consensus All-SEC first team selection, Engram leads all SEC tight ends with 651 receiving yards and 17.6 yards per catch. He is also tied for the national lead with 11 plays of 20-plus yards and six plays of 30-plus yards this season.

"He's not a tight end," TCU senior linebacker Tank Carder said. "He's a receiver. Those guys moving in and out of formations, get a lot of one-on-ones, and I compare him to probably a Jimmy Graham because of the way those guys use him. Sometimes he's outside, sometimes he's inside. He's very fast to me, when I watch him. He blocks very well. So he's a tight end mixed with a receiver, but he's amazing. He's probably one of the best tight ends I've faced this year and probably last year also."

Known more as a receiver, Engram said one of the biggest things he learned from getting hurt last season was dropping his feet when called on to block, adding that he feels a lot more confident and comfortable against defensive end and linebackers this season.

"That's the thing with this offense," Engram said. "It can be either one. They can throw me in there to be physical at the line of scrimmage and throw up a block and try to open up a run and then split me out wide and run a post down the field. This offense is very versatile. There's a lot of positions a lot of people can play."

Engram has had some of his biggest games on the biggest stage and against the best competition. In addition to a career game in the win over Mississippi State, Engram caught three passes for 71 yards against then-No. 1 Alabama and eight passes for 118 yards and a touchdown against then-No. 3 Auburn.

"It's the pressure," Engram said. "It's a different atmosphere. I'm just trying to help my team win, stepping up when my name is called. In the big games, they need everybody and everything clicking, and I'm part of that, so I have to show up and do my job. In the big games, that's when it's most important."

As sophomores, Engram and the historic 2013 signing class have grown into larger roles and helped Ole Miss to its first nine-win regular season since 2003 and its highest final regular-season ranking since 1963.

"Last year, all the freshmen were quiet and didn't know what was going on," Engram said. "As we started getting our feet wet in the SEC and playing in the big games in front of big crowds, we started getting more comfortable and definitely getting more experience."

When they signed on National Signing Day 2013, the Rebels were coming off a 7-6 season, capped by a win over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. From there, they have raised the program to national relevance, and with a win over the Horned Frogs, they move that much closer to their ultimate goal.

"When we all signed here, we wanted to help try to bring a national championship here," Engram said. "Last year, we had some injuries and we had a promising season, but some of those injuries hurt. This year, maybe if one or two plays went differently, we would possible have one loss and possibly looking at a playoff berth. 

"We're gradually getting to our goal. Coming in here and being a class that's turn the program is a huge privilege, but it takes a lot of work and dedication. We're so dedicated to helping turn things around. We're getting closer and closer."

The Next Step in the Journey

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From a 2-10 season, when many players from this year's senior class were freshmen, to perhaps the program's seventh 10-win season in program history, Ole Miss has climbed the ladder to national relevance, and a matchup with No. 6 TCU in the first "New Year's Six" bowl game is the next rung on the ladder.

"We went from Birmingham, to Nashville, and now we're in the Peach Bowl," senior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "It's rising. We're taking ladders. Instead of taking a step up, we're taking elevators and we're taking floors up."

"This is the first year of the Playoffs and we're really privileged to be here," sophomore tight end Evan Engram said. "It's going to be a fun feeling to have all eyes on us with everyone waking up to spend New Year's Eve watching us ball."

Ole Miss started the season 7-0 and rose as high as No. 3 in the polls, debuting at No.4 in the first College Football Playoff top 25 rankings, before finishing the season 9-3 and ranked No. 9 in the final College Football Playoff rankings.

After a 7-0 start, the Rebels lost three straight Southeastern Conference games, three of four games overall, before closing out the regular season with a 31-17 win over then-No. 4 Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl.

"We thought we could have done better, personally, and I know a lot of the other guys feel that way too," sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "We have to take every game, one game at a time. Sometimes during this past season, we started looking ahead and we started overlooking some games, and it caught up with us."

"We looked ahead against Arkansas, worried about Mississippi State," sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil said. "That's a big lesson learned. You can't overlook any team, not even the weakest team. You can't overlook a team. You see what Arkansas did to us."

A win over TCU, players have said throughout bowl preparations, would give the program confidence and momentum heading into the 2015 season.

"It's a big game for our program, so we want to get this 'W,'" Nkemdiche said. "This game is going to help set us up for next year and give us big things to look forward to."

"For our program that is on the rise, we feel like that's a big step for our program," junior cornerback Mike Hilton said. "This New Year's Six Bowl is going to be a good one. It could take our program to the next level."

Rebels Arrive in Atlanta to Begin Bowl Prep

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The Ole Miss football team arrived in Atlanta on Christmas Day, holding their first team meeting and enjoying Christmas dinner together ahead of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31.  

"It's been fun," sophomore tight end Evan Engram said. "There were a lot of warm welcomes. It's a great staff here. We had a great dinner last night and I got to spend some time in the game room with my teammates."

Academically, the football team posted their highest GPA in recorded history, and everyone is eligible to play in the bowl game.

"From where we were when I got here, to where we are now, I could not be more pleased with the progress that has been made there," head coach Freeze said. "A lot of credit goes to Derek Cowherd and his staff. Everyone is eligible, so that's a good thing and we're progressing nicely there."

Other than the season-ending injuries, which include junior offensive guard Aaron Morris, who underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL, Freeze said they're healthy going into the bowl practices in Atlanta.

"As far as the ones we have here, we're healthy," Freeze said. "We have a couple of issues with flu-like symptoms, which is always the case this time of year. One of my prayer requests this morning was that we would stay away from the sickness stuff."

As part of their first day in Atlanta, the players also received their bowl gifts, which included an Apple TV, a Fossil watch, a $300 Visa gift card, a Chick-fil-A gift card and a Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl football they can get signed and keep for themselves.

The team will enjoy a joint team welcome party with the TCU football team at the College Football Hall of Fame and later tour the museum. Other team activities this week include a team party at Andretti Indoor Karting and Games and a hospital visit to Scottish Rite Hospital.

"Because of the off time, it's almost like you're starting over again," Freeze said. "You're never quite sure what that means for each individual on the team. Playing an opponent of the quality of TCU in one of the "New Year's Six" bowls helps hold their attention. We'll see how practices goes."

"The hardest part is staying focused on the task at hand, which is the football game," Engram said. "We have a lot of events planned out for us this week. We get to hang out and we have a decent amount of free time. That's the main part, staying focused on on the task at hand, which is getting a 'W' in the Georgia Dome next Wednesday."

Wallace Looks to Make More History

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Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, like his head coach, stepped into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight games. 

Three years later, Wallace helped lead the ninth-ranked Rebels to their first nine-win regular season since 2003 and a berth in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, one of the "New Year's Six Bowls."

"I was just trying to come in and play and compete," Wallace said. "I came here because it was probably my best chance to play. For us to kind of turn it around, it's special."

Already the school's all-time leader in total offense and the first quarterback to defeat two top-five teams since Archie Manning in 1969, Wallace has a chance to make some more history with a win over No. 6 TCU in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 31 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

With a win, which would be his 25th as the team's starting quarterback, Wallace would pass Eli Manning as the winningest quarterback in modern Ole Miss history, and he would also become the first Ole Miss quarterback in school history to start and win three bowl games.

"I'm really kind of looking forward to practice and all that just because I know I'm not going to get to do it much longer," Wallace said. "I'm just taking advantage of every day. We're excited about going to Atlanta, to be going to a New Year's Six bowl and have a chance to get 10 wins and elevate this program to another level." 

Wallace said he's planning to train and pursue a potential professional career after the bowl game. Asked about his legacy, when his Ole Miss career is over, Wallace said it's not for him to decide but getting that milestone win is important to him.

"I don't know," Wallace said. "I really don't care. I mean, I do care, but everybody's going to have a different opinion. It is what it is."

TCU's Boykin Draws Manziel Comparisons

The Ole Miss defense has faced the likes of Alabama's Blake Sims, Auburn's Nick Marshall and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott, and now the nation's top scoring defense prepares for another unique challenge in TCU's Trevone Boykin, who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

The Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and an AP second team All-American selection, Boykin leads the league and ranks third nationally in total offense (363.0).  He is also on pace to become just the third quarterback since 2009 to average over 300 yards passing (309.5) and 50 yards rushing (53.5), joining a pair of Heisman Trophy winners Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel. 

"You can be in the right spot and have everything covered, and there's a 20-yard gain because of the ability of Trevone Boykin," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It makes them difficult to defend. Schematically, it isn't something you are just wowed by, but they have really good players. And then they have a dual threat quarterback that's very difficult to contain, and they do it at tempo." 

Ole Miss coaches and players alike have compared Boykin to Manziel, who led Texas A&M to wins over Ole Miss in 2012 and 2013. Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, a unanimous first team All-American selection, said this will probably be the most athletes they have played on one side of the ball this season.

"He's a very good athlete, and he improved his throwing as the season progressed," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "They take a lot of shots deep, so I can see a lot of similarities. Their passing game is very similar to Texas A&M as well. All of those guys came from the same background."

"Johnny would sit in the pocket a little bit more," junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said. "Trevone Boykin, he likes to get out of the pocket a little bit. And they do a lot more with him in the run game than A&M did with Johnny. They use a lot of empty personnel, so the way they run the football is kind of the same, but the way they use him in the offense is a little bit different."

Boykin has completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 3,714 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and he's also a threat on the ground with 642 yards rushing and eight touchdowns.

"Going into this game, you have to have really good pocket awareness," Johnson said. "It all comes down to the fundamentals of football. Spread offenses, they like to get you out in space and make you tackle. We're a good tackling defense. We don't give up many yards after the catch. We don't give up many big plays. We rush the quarterback. We stop the run. It's going to be a good challenge for us with all the stuff they present on offense. If everybody stays locked in on defense and we do what we have to do, I think we'll be fine."

Johnson to Return, Golson '50-50' on Baseball

When asked about underclassmen who requested an evaluation from the NFL's College Advisory Committee, head coach Hugh Freeze said junior defensive end C.J. Johnson may have but he's confident he will return for his senior season. Johnson said the same earlier in the week.

"Not really," said Johnson, when asked if he had thought about submitting paperwork to the NFL. "I'm planning to be back."

Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, once an eight round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, and now consensus and unanimous first team All-American, said he remains undecided on whether to play baseball for Ole Miss in the spring or focus 100 percent on preparing for the NFL Draft.

"I haven't really decided, probably going to decide more after the bowl game," Golson said. "I still don't know. It's definitely 50-50 right now."

A finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the national defensive player of the year, Golson leads the SEC and ranks second nationally with nine interceptions and has been a key cog in the nation's top-ranked scoring defense.

"With my success this season, football is definitely more attractive now," Golson said. "Three or four months ago, I was definitely going to play baseball, but it's a different situation now. I'm not sure exactly how it will play out, but I'm still thinking about it."

Good News on Injury Front

Head coach Freeze had good news to report on the status of Tee Shepard (toe), Denzel Nkemdiche (ankle) and Laqon Treadwell (leg, ankle), who all suffered season-ending injuries earlier in the season.

"Tee (Shepard) started running this week," Freeze said. "The injured area remains tender, but started his running, so when he gets back after Christmas, we will really pick up his rehab. Denzel (Nkemdiche) and Laquon (Treadwell) are off the scooters. Laquon is on one crutch, and Denzel is in just a boot. They're much more active, so things are progressing nicely. 

"We definitely expect Tee and Denzel to be back with us in the spring. Laquon is going to be right at that time, so we expect him to be in some of spring practice."

Rebels Ink Nation's Top JUCO Quarterback

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Ole Miss officially announced the signing of Chad Kelly, a NCJCAA first team All-American selection and rated the No. 1 quarterback in the nation by the all the major recruiting services. 

Kelly, the nephew of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, looks to step in and battle rising sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade for the opportunity to replace record-setting senior quarterback Bo Wallace, another former EMCC standout. 

"Bringing in a JUCO quarterback is something we gave a lot of thought to as far as creating the depth and competition we needed to," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We followed Chad throughout the year and we were very, very impressed with the job he did running the offense for East. Probably toward end of year, once I had some face-to-face conversations with him, he came to a couple games and then the official visit, and I did my home visit with he and his family after their championship game, and I was convinced he was the guy we wanted to go on. It was something that happened over time."

"When Ryan is confident and going through his reads, he's really smart with the football," Wallace said. "DeVante is a great athlete, great player, and he has a great arm. And I have watched Chad play. He's going to be a good player, too. He's a talented kid. He signed with Clemson out of high school, and then you watch him at East. He really ran that offense well. He threw a lot of touchdowns and not a lot of picks, so he should come in and definitely compete."

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Kelly completed 66.9 percent of his passes and threw for 3,906 yards with 47 touchdowns and eight interceptions, as he led East Mississippi Community College to a 12-0 record and the national championship. His 47 touchdowns was tied for the nation's lead and his 3,906 yards ranked second in the nation.

In limited action this season, Buchanan is 12-of-22 for 75 yards with an interception, while Kincade is 15-of-17 for 116 yards with a touchdown and has rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore tight end Evan Engram has seen a difference in them with the anticipated addition of Kelly.

"Our coaching staff, we recruit the best in the country," Engram said. "That's no shock to us. It's just going to better us and better this team, add more depth. We got to have depth in the SEC. That definitely starts a fire under them. I know Chad's a good quarterback, definitely, because he's coming here. We wouldn't be bringing anybody who's not good enough. That sets a fire under Ryan and DeVante. It's going to be an interesting battle."

Buchanan and Kincade have received a lot of reps with the number-one offense in bowl practices this week due in part to the coaches taking it easy with Wallace, who suffered a sprained ankle against Arkansas on Nov. 22.

"They have responded wonderfully," Freeze said. "They have had great practices the last few weeks, and I think both of those guys have bright futures. At this level, if you want to be great, you have to create competition. Both have responded really well. They're not concerned about the competition, and I don't think Chad is either. We'll get them all here in the spring and figure out what's best for the team."

Recapping Monday's Media Opportunities

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Ole Miss Details Stadium Expansion Plans

Ole Miss unveiled the master plan for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, which includes two phases of renovation and expansion. Scheduled for completion by the start of the 2016 season, the expansion will bring the seating capacity to 64,038, which will make Vaught-Hemingway Stadium the largest stadium in the state of Mississippi.

The first phase will be a renovation and expansion of the south end zone, with the addition of 30 luxury suites and 770 club level seats, for the start of the 2015 season. 

This phase will see a slight reduction in capacity, to around 59,000, which will be accommodated by reducing the visiting teams' allotments from 7,000 to 5,000.

The second phase will be a renovation and expansion of the north end zone that will include the completion of the stadium seating bowl, the installation of a new video board (104 feet wide by 49 feet tall) in the north end zone and the addition of 30-by-50 video boards in the north end zone.

Between the two phases, Ole Miss will be able to accommodate 5,500 more Rebels, once the stadium reaches full capacity. Bjork also announced the student section will increase from 8,200 seats to just over 10,000 seats and will move to the north end zone.

The master plan also includes flexibility for future expansion, whether that is a north end zone that mirrors the south end zone, or even a new press box box and upper deck on the west side. Speaking to that flexibility, Bjork said a possible future expansion on the west side could bring capacity to more than 70,000.

Two beneficial links from the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation: Changes (with seating charts for 2015 and 2016) and How does this affect me?

More on the Overall Master Plan

Including the renovation and expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss all have invested $175.75 million in total projects related to the Forward Together campaign, which has now reached $125 million in total cash and pledges.

As far as other notable projects, Athletics Director Ross Bjork the parking garage (not included in the $175.75 million) is scheduled to open in January, and the Pavilion at Ole Miss remains on schedule to open in December 2016.

Here's a breakdown with costs and timeline outlining the renovations included in the $175.75 million:

- Olivia & Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center

- Cost: $11.25 million

- Start date: March 2013

- Completion date: April 2014

- Pavilion at Ole Miss

- Cost: $95 million

- Start date: June 2014

- Completion date: December 2015

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium West Skyboxes

- Cost: $4.8 million

- Start date: January 2015

- Completion date: August 2015

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium South Endzone

- Cost: $15 million

- Start date: January 2015

- Completion date: August 2015

- Football Practice Field

- Cost: $2.5 million

- Start date: February 2015

- Completion date: September 2015

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium North Endzone

- Cost: $33 million

- Start date: December 2015

- Completion date: August 2016

- FedEx Academic Support Center & Starnes Athletic Training Center

- Cost: $3 million

- Start date: December 2015

- Completion date: August 2016

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Lighting and Audio System

- Cost: $2.2 million

- Start date: December 2015

- Completion date: August 2016

- Track & Field Complex

- Cost: $4 million

- Start date: Summer 2015

- Completion date: Fall 2016

- Gillom Sports Center

- Cost: $5 million

- Start date: February 2016

- Completion date: December 2016

Morris to Miss Peach Bowl

Ole Miss junior offensive guard Aaron Morris re-tore his ACL and will not play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, head coach Hugh Freeze announced Monday.

Morris suffered the same injury in the 2013 season opener against Vanderbilt and missed the remainder of the season. Freeze said Morris re-injured the ligament before the Mississippi State game, and he will have surgery Tuesday.

"He just wanted to finish and see how it went," Freeze said. "It wasn't a complete tear. There was just a little looseness in it and there was a partial tear. We made the decision with he and his mom to go ahead and get it fixed again."

Freeze said the anticipated recovery time is a bit longer with a second tear, but he's hopeful Morris will be back for the 2015 season.

"These things tend to be iffy," Freeze said. "It's kind of hard to say, but I sure hope so for his sake and for our team."

Without Morris, junior Justin Bell will move from right guard to left guard, and freshman Rod Taylor will get his second career start, at right guard.

"He improves every week," said Freeze of Taylor. "He loves to practice and loves to play. I'm really pleased with his practice. He's going to be a good one.

Allen to Take USF Defensive Coordinator Job

Linebackers coach Tom Allen has been hired as the defensive coordinator at South Florida, head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed Monday. Allen has been with Freeze since they were together at Lambuth in 2008. 

This is only the second coaching staff change under Freeze and the first since co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Wesley McGriff left for the New Orleans Saints after the 2012 season.

"You hate to lose people, but we rejoice with him that he's getting an opportunity to advance his career," Freeze said. "We're thrilled for him. (South Florida head coach) Willie (Taggart) is a friend of mine, and I'm happy those two will be joining together."

Freeze said he doesn't anticipate any other staff movements. As part of the new contract for Freeze, the salary pool for the Ole Miss football will increase by at least 25 percent, which will make Ole Miss in competitive in filling the position.

"That was the only thing I asked for," Freeze said. "Let's up that so we will remain competitive in this conference in that regard because I really like continuity. Unless a guy gets an opportunity, like a Tom Allen, where you get to run your own defense or offense. 

"You have to understand those moves. I took those chances, and I want others to get the same opportunity. I don't want to lose someone just because it's a lateral move and we're not competitive."

As far as timeline, Freeze said they will probably wait until after the first of the year, sometime leading up to the start of the next recruiting period on Jan. 15.

"There are great people out there," Freeze said. "There are great people in this building who have worked for me before. There will be no shortage of people wanting this job, so we'll have great candidates."

Strong Early Ticket Sales for Ole Miss

The Peach Bowl has sold out in 17 consecutive season, second only to the Rose Bowl in terms of consecutive sellouts, and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl President and CEO Gary Stokan expects an 18th straight sellout for this year's game between Ole Miss and TCU.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork said the school has sold around 17,000 tickets for the game, and he expects to have many more Ole Miss fans in attendance. The school sold its initial allotment and addition tickets for each of the last two bowl games in the BBVA Compass Bowl in 2012 and the Music City Bowl in 2013.

VIDEO: Ole Miss Football 2014 Season Highlight

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Bjork, Freeze Reach Agreement on New Contract

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Athletics Director Ross Bjork and head football coach Hugh Freeze reached an agreement on a new contract, they both announced on Twitter early Tuesday morning. Terms will be released as they are finalized and are expected in the coming days.

Freeze has led Ole Miss to a 24-14 record, including an 11-13 mark in the Southeastern Conference, over three seasons. The 13th-ranked Rebels finished the regular season with a 9-3 record, their most regular season wins since 2003, defeating No. 4 Mississippi State 31-17 on Saturday in the Egg Bowl.

Ole Miss started the season 7-0 and rose as high as No. 3 in the polls, its highest ranking since being preseason No. 1 in 1964, and defeated two top-five teams (No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Mississippi State) for the first time since 1969. Ole Miss also set a new single-season attendance record with 430,829 fans, which surpassed last year's record by more than 15,000.

What They're Saying: Ole Miss-Mississippi State

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

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State highlights from CBS Sports

VIDEO: Ole Miss bounces back, wins Egg Bowl from ESPN

VIDEO: Bo Wallace fights through injury for win from ESPN

VIDEO: On-field Celebration from Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit/

VIDEO: Hugh Freeze: 'It's a great night for the University of Mississippi' from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Bo Wallace discusses his legacy, Egg Bowl win from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Jordan Wilkins breaks down trick touchdown pass from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Evan Engram on Ole Miss' Egg Bowl win from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

VIDEO: Senquez Golson on containing De'Runnya Wilson from Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

Mississippi State's fairy tale run ends in thud as rival Ole Miss plays spoiler role, writes Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports

State of Mississippi's spotlight not leaving after Ole Miss Egg Bowl win, writes Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated

Mississippi State Bulldogs' playoff hopes dashed in Oxford, writes Edward Aschoff of

Freeze's game plan pays off for Ole Miss, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Wallace delivers golden performance in Egg Bowl, writes Rick Cleveland for the Clarion-Ledger

Leaving a Legacy, writes Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit/

Rebs use line play to reclaim Egg, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/

Wallace Cements Legacy with Gusty Performance

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If his legacy remained in doubt, senior quarterback Bo Wallace cemented it Saturday night in his final home game.

Playing with a sprained ankle he suffered last week against Arkansas, Wallace helped lead his team to a 31-17 win over No. 4 Mississippi State, his second win over a top-five opponent this season, becoming the first quarterback to accomplish the feat since Archie Manning in 1969.

"He couldn't practice any this week," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I told everyone you would have to chain him down to not play in this game. You would have to really chain him down. 

"For all the stuff he gets talked about, I hope this would cement his place in Ole Miss history as a quarterback who came and helped restore pride and returned us to relevancy. He won two Egg Bowls and at least two bowl wins, taking us to a third. I hope this cements his memory here by everyone in a positive light because he deserves that."

The school's all-time leader in total offense, Wallace completed 13-of-30 passes for 296 yards and added a touchdown run, rebounding from a four-turnover game in a 17-10 overtime loss to Mississippi State in Starkville last season.

"I have been thinking about this game since last year," Wallace said. "Every single day, I have thought about this game. It pushed me this offseason to work harder than I ever had. The crazy thing is, looking back, I'm kind of thankful for that game because it made me have a better season this season. That game drove me every single day."

Tightly taped up and given pain medicine to deal with the ankle injury, Freeze said Wallace never complained as he prepared this week and then played Saturday night.

"There was a little more motivation there," Freeze said. "He has wanted a shot at them again for a long time, 365 or whatever number of days it's been, and he prepared like it. Even though he was unhealthy, he spent a lot of time in the film room and made sure he felt good about the things we were going to call. He was locked in."

Despite the injury, Wallace was sacked only once, a credit to his much-maligned offensive line that helped pave the way for a 532 yards of total offense. He was also helped by career efforts from sophomore tight end Evan Engram and junior running back Jaylen Walton.

"Hats off to the O-line because I couldn't move back there and they kept guys off of me," Wallace said. "I told them the whole game, 'Keep doing what you're doing. You guys are playing great.' If it weren't for them playing as well as they did, I don't think I would have had a shot."

"It was unbelievable," said Engram of Wallace. "He's definitely one of the toughest players I have played with in my whole career. A lot of guys could have easily just milked the injury and sat on the sideline and not do anything, but that wasn't going to happen with him."

Stepping into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games, Wallace has helped lead Ole Miss to national relevance, capped by his second Egg Bowl win and the program's first nine-win regular season since Eli Manning in 2003.

"I had to win this game," Wallace said. "I knew it. I talked to Quon (Laquon Treadwell) about it. I talked to a lot of guys about it. I had to win this game for what I want to be remembered for."

VIDEO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State Motivational 2

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VIDEO: Ole Miss-Mississippi State Motivational 1

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Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-MSU

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Three areas to watch as No. 18 Ole Miss hosts No. 4 Mississippi State in the regular season finale both teams Saturday.

Stopping State's One-Two Punch

Mississippi State boast the SEC's third-best rushing attack and two of the league's top six rushers in junior running back Josh Robinson (98.6 ypg) and junior quarterback Dak Prescott (81.0 ypg). The duo have also combined for 23 rushing touchdowns.

The SEC's leader in total offense, Prescott leads SEC quarterbacks and ranks fourth nationally among all quarterbacks in rushing yards, averaging 81.0 yards per game, and ranks second nationally with 12 rushing touchdowns.

Nicknamed "Bowling Ball" for his 5-foot-9, 215-pound stature and running style, Robinson ranks second in the SEC, averaging 6.6 yards per carry, including an SEC-best 6.8 yards per carry in league games.

In their lone blemish on the season, a 25-20 loss at No. 1 Alabama, the Bulldogs were held to 138 yards on 40 carries, a season-low 3.45 yards per carry. Forced to throw, Prescott attempted a season-high 48 passes, completing just 56.3 percent of his passes and throwing a season-high three interceptions.

"Whether he had a bad day or Alabama had a good day or maybe a little of both, that was a real big thing," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of Prescott. "They didn't let him be effective running for the most part. Every once in a while he got a play in that game. I thought they rattled him a little bit. He threw three interceptions and had a lot of pressure just with their basic stuff, what they do at Alabama."

Red Zone, Turnover Battles

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have combined for 18 wins, the most at the time of the matchup in series history, and one of the keys for both teams has been red-zone defense.

The Rebels rank third nationally, allowing opponents to score touchdowns only 38 percent of the time once they enter the red zone, while the Bulldogs rank lead the nation, allowing opponents to score touchdowns only 35 percent of the time.

This area made a clear difference in Mississippi State's wins over Auburn and Arkansas and its loss to Alabama. Mississippi State allowed a combined three touchdowns in 11 red-zone opportunities in the two wins compared to three touchdowns in five opportunities in the loss to Alabama.

Another key has been turnover margin, where Ole Miss ranks third in the SEC and Mississippi State ranks ninth, but the difference in the wins and losses is where the stat is key.

Ole Miss has a plus-11 turnover margin in their eight wins compared to a minus-3 turnover margin in their three losses, with a minus-5 turnover margin against Arkansas and the timeliness of the turnovers against LSU and Auburn proving to be a difference.

An opportunistic defense, Mississippi State was unable to force a turnover against Alabama on the way to a minus-3 turnover margin, compared to a plus-3 turnover margin in its 10 wins.

"The one thing that really stands out if you look at the three games is turnovers," said head coach Freeze, referring to the Rebels' losses to LSU, Auburn and Arkansas. "That's probably a direct correlation to us not having success. That'll be a big, big key."

Legacy on the Line for Wallace?

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace has led Ole Miss to some big wins in his career, defeating Mississippi State in 2012, LSU in 2013 and Alabama earlier this season, and Saturday's rivalry game with No. 4 Mississippi State presents another opportunity to cement his legacy.

The school's all-time leader in career total yards, Wallace has helped lead Ole Miss to national relevance, having stepped into a program that had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games.

Wallace has had his ups and downs, notably in his two previous Egg Bowls, completing 15-of-22 passes for 294 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-24 win in Oxford two years ago and then completing 26-of-40 passes with three interception and a lost fumble in a 17-10 overtime loss in Starkville last year.

With two games remaining in his career, it's premature to label his legacy, but his performance Saturday will likely play a role in how he will remembered, for better or worse.

"You hope people focus on all the good," said Freeze, when asked about Wallace's legacy. "He's led us to three consecutive bowl games. He's been very, very relevant in returning relevancy to this program in the conference and nationally. He's now become the all-time total offense owner of that record, passing the great Eli Manning. 

"Those are some great things. I think in time people will recognize that and he'll be remembered for those things. Hopefully he can add another two to it, win another bowl to it and get the Egg home."

The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 12

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Wommack, Rebels Prep for Prescott

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Battling injury, junior quarterback Dak Prescott came off the bench and helped rally Mississippi State to a come-from-behind 17-10 win in last year's Egg Bowl. He led a drive that ended with the game-tying field goal at 10-10 and then he ran for what proved to the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

This season, he has helped Mississippi State to a 10-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the latest College Football Playoff poll. He leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally in points responsible for, accounting for 36 total touchdowns and 216 points.

"They're a very good football team," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Dak Prescott makes them better than very good."

The SEC's leader in total offense averaging 327.7 yards per game, Prescott ranks third in passing (246.7 ypg) and sixth in rushing (81.0 ypg). His 23 passing touchdowns and 12 rushing touchdowns also lead the league.

With more experience and better health, Prescott has improved as a passer, upping his completion percentage (58.4 to 61.4) and his yards per attempt (7.3 to 8.8) from last year.

"I think the injury (last season) and the experience," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "That's the two biggest things. He got beat up in that Texas A&M game last year. You can tell he's an extremely tough kid. He fought through an ankle injury in that Arkansas game. He just keeps pushing through it. And he's throwing the ball much better. He knows where he's going with it."

"He is a major part of their program," graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It starts with him. It starts with the way he gets his guys to play. He can throw well, and he can also run the ball. That's always a big thing when you're faced with a quarterback that has a run threat also."

Prescott also combines with junior running back Josh Robinson for a powerful one-two bunch in the Mississippi State backfield. Robinson ranks third in the SEC in rushing yards (98.6 ypgs) in rushing touchdowns (11).

"I watched our game last year and some games from last year when he was playing," said Wommack of Robinson. "He has a low center of gravity. I thought we tackled him last year, but you better gang tackle him. There is one play that comes to mind against Kentucky where he broke eight tackles, spun this way and that way. It's a mindset with him. You can tell that he's determined to make positive yardage every time he touches the ball."

Alabama has had the most success defending Prescott this season, holding him to 56.3 percent passing for 290 yards with two touchdowns and a season-worst three interceptions in a 25-20 win for the Crimson Tide. Alabama also contained him on the ground, limited him to just 82 yards on 22 carries, a 3.73 yards per carry average.

"Whether he had a bad day or Alabama had a good day or maybe a little of both, that was a real big thing," Wommack said. "They didn't let him be effective running for the most part - every once in a while he got a play in that game. I thought they rattled him a little bit. He threw three interceptions and had a lot of pressure just with their basic stuff, what they do at Alabama."

Wallace 'Ready to Go'

As head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday, senior quarterback Bo Wallace is expected to play Saturday at home against Mississippi State.

 "He's been limited some, but you would have to chain him down to keep him from going in this game," said Freeze on the Southeastern Conference coaches' teleconference Wednesday. "He's getting better every do, so I anticipate him being ready to go."

Rebels Not Lacking Motivation in Rivalry Matchup

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Head coach Hugh Freeze called the Egg Bowl the most prized possession of this university's football program, and getting the Egg Bowl back should be enough motivation for his team entering Saturday's game against Mississippi State. 

An Independence, Mississippi, native, Freeze said he and his team have a clear understanding of how much this rivalry means to so many.

"I know this one is pretty intense and sometimes in my opinion it crosses the line to what is good and all of that," Freeze said. "I want to beat them as bad as they want to beat us, particularly two days out of the year -- this Saturday and then National Signing Day. Those are the two days I feel that way."

The rivalry means a lot of graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford, the most senior member of the team, who will be a part of his sixth Egg Bowl, playing in his third after missing the others due to injuries.

"Although it's a rivalry, you don't want to make it such a big deal that the players can't play," Shackelford said. "You want everybody even-keeled and ready to prepare throughout the week. Saturday is just a result of what you've done throughout the week."

It also means a lot to senior wide receiver Vince Sanders, not only because it's Senior Day for him and his fellow seniors, but also because he's one of 53 Mississippi natives on the team.

"It's the most important game of the year, especially with them being 10-1," Sanders said. "They're going to come in, after seeing our performance last week, and feel like it's going to be an easy win. All of our guys know the importance of this game. All the hard work we put in during the spring and summer, we work toward this game."

The Rebels met as a team on Sunday, the day after the 30-0 loss to Arkansas, and they about the game in Fayetteville and then put in the trash and moved on Mississippi State. 

The team watched a video with some clips from last year's game, a 17-10 overtime loss, and several players spoke up about the upcoming game, including junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior safety Cody Prewitt and injured sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.

"We've had time to meet and talk and discuss," Shackelford said. "I like the way this team is feeling going into this game. Of course, this is a game that doesn't take a lot of motivation to get up for."

Finishing Strong in Year Three

After starting the season 7-0 and rising as high as No. 3 in the polls, Ole Miss now sits at 8-3, losers of three straight Southeastern Conference games and relegated to a spoiler role against rival Mississippi State, which remains in SEC West and College Football Playoff contention.

"We worked hard all year to be in the playoff, so it's disappointing to us that we're not there," Sanders said. "Teams in front of us had the same opportunities we had and they made the best of them. We came up short a couple of games. You have to take your hats off to them because they did what they had to do. Overall, we're disappointed, but we're not going to let not being in the playoff affect how we're going to perform on Saturday."

Speaking to the media after the loss to Arkansas, Freeze said he told his team that he didn't like the way they finished year two -- losing its last two regular season games to Missouri and Mississippi State -- and he didn't like the way they played Saturday. 

On Monday, Freeze said they have to evaluate why the disappointments down the stretch have happened, whether it's depth or the energy you have to expend to compete in the SEC, but he's confident not only in the big picture, but also in getting his team ready to play Saturday.

"The big picture is I still think we're ahead of schedule," Freeze said. "We're disappointed but ahead of schedule. We have a lot to play for with pride on the line and eight or nine wins in the regular season." 

Wallace, Tunsil Expected to Play

Senior quarterback Bo Wallace suffered a sprained ankle against Arkansas, which caused him to miss two series, but he came back to play through the third quarter but sat for much of the fourth quarter.

Wallace has missed not a start during his three-year career, and he is not expected to miss his final regular season game, Saturday at home against Mississippi State.

"It would take a lot more than that to keep him out of this game," Freeze said. "He's hungry and wants to play in this game in a bad way. He's going to try to go no matter what. He's gotten better each day. Hopefully he'll be close to 100 percent."

Redshirt freshman quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, Freeze said, are getting more reps in practice in case they have to play. 

Speaking generally about injuries, Freeze said all of the players who made the trip to Fayetteville are expected give it a go against Mississippi State, including sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

"He looked really good for the first half but didn't play much after the shoulder popped out again," Freeze said. "He looked really solid in the first half. We'll give him a lot of treatment this week. We'll get him ready to go Saturday." 

Golson Named Finalist for Conerly Trophy

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Senior cornerback Senquez Golson, one of five finalists for the Bronco Nagurski Award, which honors the national defensive player of the year, will represent Ole Miss as one of 10 finalists for the C Spire Conerly Trophy, which honors the most outstanding college football player in Mississippi. 

For more on the finalists and the Conerly Trophy, click here.

"It's well documented with his turnaround and buy-in percentage and doing the little things right," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It's really pleasing when you see a kid do that and have success on the field. He's getting a lot of notoriety nationally with different types of awards that he might be up for. We're excited for him."

The Pascagoula, Mississippi, native leads the SEC and ranks second nationally with nine interceptions, one shy of tying the school single-season record. His 15 career interceptions is the most among active Division I FBS players and is tied for the fourth-most in school history.

Golson has helped Ole Miss lead the nation in scoring defense (13.5 ppg) and the fewest touchdowns allowed (16). Led by Golson, Ole Miss leads the SEC with 19 interceptions and 28 turnover forced.

His interception in the end zone with 37 seconds left sealed the win over No. 1 Alabama, and he returned one of his two interceptions against Louisiana-Lafayette for a 59-yard touchdown.

"We're ranked high in defensive categories and he's been one of the keys," Freeze said. "We've been able to feel like he could play on an island at times. He's made great plays for us, in particular the turnovers he's created. Obviously there are people up front that help us with that in the pass rush and things. He's made a lot of key plays for us through the course of our senior year."

The trophy will be awarded Dec. 2 at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. As was the case last year, fans can vote. Fan voting by C Spire will account for a weighted 10 percent of the voting with a statewide panel of media accounting for the other 90 percent.

Just as the media voters do, fans will vote for a first place, second place and third place winner. For more information, entry rules and qualification on fan voting, go to beginning Tuesday, Nov. 25.

Named after former Ole Miss great Charlie Conerly, the trophy has been given every season since 1996. Past Ole Miss winners include quarterback Stewart Patridge (1997), running back Deuce McAllister (1999), quarterback Eli Manning (2001, 2003), linebacker Patrick Willis (2006) and quarterback Bo Wallace (2012).

Here are a couple of stories from earlier this season on Golson:

Buy-In paying off for Golson, writes Austin Miller of (Oct. 8)

Golson makes most of potential in final season, writes Chase Parham of RebelGrove/ (Nov. 7)

Rebels' cornerback Golson blossom as senior after difficult journey, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal (Nov. 16)

Here an infographic from last week highlighting some of Golson's accomplishments:

Thumbnail image for unnamed.jpg

Rebels Unable to Overcome Slow Start

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas jumped out to a 17-0 in the first quarter and took advantage of six Ole Miss turnovers on the way to a 30-0 shutout win Saturday in Fayetteville.

"I was concerned all week, for whatever reason, that we weren't totally locked in," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "That showed at the beginning of the game. That's my fault. I have to make sure our kids are ready. It was a weird week for whatever reason. It's disappointing that we didn't start better."

Two of the Ole Miss turnovers came inside Arkansas' 20-yard line, as the Rebels were looking to get back in the game. Down 17-0 late in the first half, quarterback Bo Wallace had Ole Miss driving to the Arkansas 13-yard line before being intercepted in the end zone. 

Arkansas dealt a final decisive blow to the Rebels, as safety Rohan Gaines intercepted Wallace in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown, extending the Razorbacks' lead to 27-0 with 3:38 left in the third quarter.

"You can't turn it over the number of times we did and expect to win for sure," Freeze said. "I kept hoping we could get something good to happen and cut it to a score or two. Our defense would have played well enough to give us a chance, but we never did."

Playing with an ankle injury for much of the game, Wallace was 16-of-31 for 235 yards, accounting for 218 of the team's 316 total yards and breaking Eli Manning's school record for career total yards, but he turned the ball over four times with two interceptions and two lost fumbles. 

"He was hurting, but he was adamant he wanted to play," Freeze said. "He's had such a good career for us, and I felt like he was our best chance to get back in the game. He took us down the field a couple of times, and then we had the turnovers, which resulted in zero points, so we couldn't make a game of it."

The Rebels entered Saturday in contention for the SEC Western Division title, needing to win out and an Auburn win over Alabama, which made the loss, their third straight in league play, all the more disappointing.

"Our kids played hard until the end," Freeze said. "We didn't come out sharp for sure. We did some things that you can't do being an elite team. We have been a good team this year, but we haven't been elite at times. That's where we want to get to."

"It's tough, knowing what was in our grasp," tight end Evan Engram said. "That's what we thought about all week. That was our fuel. That was what we were working toward. For this to happen, it's tough. We had everything in our grasp. We were going to try to win out, play our best football, and see where it put us in the West and the Playoff. That's all pretty much out of the window."

After a 7-0 start and rising as high as No. 3 in the polls, Ole Miss now sits at 8-3, looking to finish the regular season on a high note, improving its bowl standing and playing spoiler to rival Mississippi State in the process.

"If you can't get up for that one, you probably don't need to be playing," linebacker Deterrian Shackelford said. "It's everything, it's the Egg Bowl. And for the seniors, it's Senior Day. If I have to motivate people for next week, they probably shouldn't be playing."

Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-Arkansas

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Three areas to watch as No. 8 Ole Miss travels to Arkansas in its final road game of the regular season Saturday.

Slowing the Hogs' Ground Attack

The extra week of preparation, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said, should prove beneficial to prepare for the scheme and personnel of Arkansas' run-heavy offense.

"They use unbalanced formations and shifts and motions," Wommack said. "They're not like an LSU where it's just pound you, but they have really good backs and a good line and they do some deception with it, too, and we have a great advantage to work on that stuff."

Looking at the numbers, it's no secret the Razorbacks' effectiveness in running the football and the Rebels' effectiveness in stopping the run will go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday's game.

Arkansas averages 302.6 yards per game and 6.38 yards per carry in its five wins compared to 163.2 yards per game and 3.29 yards per carry in its five losses. 

Ole Miss has allowed just 96.1 yards per game and 2.82 yards per carry in its eight wins compared to 256.0 yards per game and 5.07 yards per carry in its two losses.

"Just looking at what has occurred, this may not be our best matchup," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "You have to play it. You have to find a plan and get your kids in the right spot. Hopefully we learn something from seeing that (kind of offense against LSU)."

Starting O-Line Back at Full Strength

With the return of left tackle Laremy Tunsil and left guard Aaron Morris from injury, Ole Miss will have the same five starting offensive linemen that helped the Rebels to a 7-0 start.

The Rebels generated a season-high 640 total yards, including a season-high 402 rushing yards, in a 48-0 win over Presbyterian, and they look to build off the performance with their full complement of offensive linemen for Saturday.

"It was better last week against Presbyterian, but that's probably not comparing apples to apples," Freeze said. "It's hard to say. In the off week and Presbyterian week, we worked quite a bit on the inside run. It's been tough to run it on these guys for other teams."

Arkansas ranks fourth in the SEC in rushing defense (126.7 yards per game) and sixth in yards per carry allowed (3.76 yards per carry). In a 17-0 win over then-No. 20 LSU, the Razorbacks held LSU to 36 yards on 32 carries.

It starts up front with defensive linemen Trey Flowers and Darius Philon. Flowers is the active SEC leader with 41.5 career tackles for loss and is tied for third with 15.0 career sacks, while Philon leads all SEC defensive tackles with 9.5 tackles for loss this season.

"They have two of the better in the conference in 86 and 91, in Trey Flowers and Darius Philon," Freeze said. "Those guys are really special. Like I said, you look at their stats and they just held LSU, one of the best rushing teams in the conference, to 36 yards."

Passing Game Sans Treadwell

Playing without wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who suffered a season-ending leg injury against Auburn, Vince Sanders stepped up as the team's No. 1 receiver and responded with four catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in a 48-0 win over Presbyterian.

Derrick Jones, who moved back to wide receiver from cornerback, hauled in his first five career receptions for 55 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown.

"It went well," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "Obviously, we hate losing Laquon, but we always talk about next man up and wide receiver is one of our deepest positions, so the guys did step up, and Vince (Sanders) had a great game."

Saturday's game against Arkansas marks the first SEC game and the first road game for Ole Miss without Treadwell, and the Rebels will face a Razorback defense that allows just 22.2 points per game, including a shutout of then-No. 20 LSU this past Saturday.

In addition to the wide receivers, tight end Evan Engram also steps into a bigger role. Engram leads all SEC tight ends with 15.2 yards per catch and ranks third with 27 catches, 410 yards and two touchdowns.

"Evan (Engram) will be a critical, critical cog in the wheel for us, particularly with Laquon (Treadwell) going down," Freeze said. "We have to find ways to get him the football. He'll win one-on-ones, so he's been extremely valuable to us."

Rebels Ahead of Schedule in Year Three

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It's sometimes easy to forget where the Ole Miss football program was just three short years ago, when Hugh Freeze was interviewing for the head coaching position.

The Rebels had won just two games in 2011 and had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games. 

Three years later, No. 8 Ole Miss is 8-2 (4-2 SEC) and remains alive in the SEC Western Division race and the College Football Playoff discussion, but that was not the original plan, and Freeze is glad the Rebels have gone off-script.

"My original plan that I had, that I actually presented in my interview, was that we would be going to a bowl game this year," Freeze said. "The goal was to be very competitive and find a way to get enough wins to go to a bowl game. That was the original plan, but we're excited it didn't work out. I'm glad I was wrong."

Many of the seniors endured that 2-10 season in 2011, and their buy-in, doing the little things and holding the team accountable, Freeze said, has been a reason the turnaround has happened as fast as it has.

With two games remaining in the regular season, Freeze said they have talked about the possibilities at their fingertips and what they can go earn by finishing strong.

"It's kind of bittersweet that it's coming to an end," senior cornerback Senquez Golson said. "But we have a chance to finish as one of the best team in Ole Miss history. I'm ready to see what happens. I came in at 2-10, and for me to maybe leave 10-2, that would say a lot about where we came from over these few years and where the program is headed."

"Let's get No. 9," Freeze said. "Senquez is a little bit ahead of his coach there. I'm thrilled in year three for us to be were we are. It's way ahead of schedule. Of course, we want to finish strong. Anything above this now certainly expedites our journey a little faster, but you have to go earn it. The only thing I can think about is playing at Arkansas on Saturday and hopefully competing at a level that gives us a chance to win it in the fourth quarter."

Starting Five Back Together

Ole Miss had its starting offensive line back for practice this week, a group that helped the Rebels to a 7-0 start with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, left guard Aaron Morris, center Ben Still, right guard Justin Bell and right tackle Fahn Cooper.

Still missed the LSU game and played through injury against Auburn, while Tunsil missed the Auburn and Presbyterian games and Morris missed the Presbyterian game.

"It will be interesting to see him go back out and play after three weeks off," said offensive line coach Matt Luke of Tunsil. "He's anxious to get back out there, but he's practiced and tested out well. He's done everything. I look for him to be 100 percent, or close to it."

"He can't play receiver," said Bell, when asked if Tunsil had any limitations in practice. "If anything, that's probably his only limitation."

Behind the starting five, Robert Conyers gives Ole Miss options at center and tackle, having started the last three games at both spots, while Rod Taylor has gained valuable experience and earned his first career start against Presbyterian.

Luke said Morris and Bell will start, as they did through the first seven games, but he looks for Taylor to play as many snaps as both of them, giving Ole Miss a three-man rotation at the two guard positions.

"He's really come on, said Luke of Taylor. "Getting in there and playing, sometimes a light bulb goes off. The more you play, the better off you are. He's played really well the last two weeks against Auburn and Presbyterian. He graded out the highest of all the linemen, so I'm really proud of him and the development he has showed."

Landsharks Brace for Hogs Ground Attack

Arkansas is one of just two teams in the nation with two running backs to rush for 800-plus yards, boasting two of the Southeastern Conference's top five rushers. Junior Jonathan Williams ranks fourth averaging 93.2 yards per game, while sophomore Alex Collins ranks fifth averaging 88.6 yards per game.

Williams and Collins have benefited from running behind a massive offensive line averaging 328.4 pounds per player, larger than any NFL starting offensive line.

"We don't really look at size," sophomore defensive end Fadol Brown said. "I mean, you can look at guys like Issac Gross, who's been holding his own since his freshman year, and C.J. Johnson. I guess athleticism and movement makes up for some of the size."

Arkansas ranks fourth in the SEC averaging 232.9 yards per game and ranks third averaging 5.45 yards per carry, but they have had significantly more success in non-conference play than conference play. 

The Razorbacks average 151.8 yards per game and 4.00 yards per carry through five conference games compared to 354.5 yards per game and 7.13 yards per carry in non-conference game.

"It's the best run game we've seen all year long," Brown said. "Every game, they come with it. They just try to power you off the hole, pound you constantly and run the same plays over and over to try to get you out of the gap."

In its eight wins, Ole Miss allowed just 96.1 rushing yards per game and a 2.82 yards per carry average. In its two losses to LSU and Auburn, Ole Miss allowed 256.0 rushing yards per game and 5.07 yards per carry average.

Arkansas, like LSU and Auburn, emphasizes the run, so Brown and the Ole Miss defense expects their success to go a long way in determining the outcome of Saturday's game.

"This game is going to be on us and nobody else, just like the LSU game was on us," Brown said. "We have to be physical up front and dominate the line of scrimmage. If we don't do that, then we don't have a chance."

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