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By Bill Bumgarner
Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee

NEW ORLEANS - At just eight years old and then again as a 13-year-old high school freshman, John Fourcade learned about the execution of an about-face. On his first day of practice on the West Bank playgrounds his coach pegged him as a defensive lineman but by the end of that first workout Fourcade had been switched to quarterback. That switch to quarterback proved to be effective - he went on to an exceptional career at the high school, college and professional levels.
 
Fourcade will be one of four standout local sports figures to be inducted into the Allstate Sugar Bowl's Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday, August 4 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Each year's Hall of Fame class is selected by the Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee, a group of current and former media members who annually recognize a variety of award-winners, including the Hall of Fame, the Corbett Awards and the Eddie Robinson Award. The group also selects the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month each month.
 
A total of 23 individuals, including this year's Hall of Fame class, and three teams will be honored at this year's banquet.
 
Entering Shaw High School, coach Joe Zimmerman designated Fourcade as his starting quarterback, a role he would secure for the next four seasons. "Here I was, just 13 and playing against men," Fourcade recalled. "I had never seen players with beards."
 
The suffering for the 1974 Eagles' roster began immediately and did not abate. Shaw endured an 0-10 finish, but the influx of talent promised better days. Two seasons later, Shaw finished 9-1 and advanced to the Class 4A quarterfinals to face Covington High School. The Eagles were down 7-6 when Fourcade went down with an injury. He would return to the game for one play as the holder on a field-goal attempt but it was not enough as the kick sailed wide.
 
As a senior, Fourcade engineered an 8-2 season and a subsequent berth in the state semifinals on the road against the South Lafourche Tarpons and its quarterback, Bobby Hebert. Late in the game, Fourcade completed a scoring pass that was nullified by a penalty for crossing the line of scrimmage. The Tarpons prevailed 27-23 and were named state champions one week later.
 
Fourcade closed his prep career by being recognized as the All-Metro co-MVP and the Class 4A All-State MVP. And he became the subject of a national recruiting manhunt.
 
"At first, I really wanted to go to Alabama and play for (Coach) Bear Bryant," Fourcade recalled. "But on my official visit there assistant coach Mal Moore told me that I would not start until I was a junior. Coach Bryant was angry but that kind of soured me on Alabama. My next choice was LSU. So, I told assistant coach Barry Wilson that I didn't want to hear that I had to wait for two years. But Coach (Charlie) McClendon told me I would be behind Steve Ensminger and David Woodley until I was a junior."
 
"My third choice was Ole Miss," Fourcade continued. "Coach (Steve) Sloan was young and a fresh face in coaching with an offense that was identical to the one at Shaw. College was so different from Shaw because there were 85 players on the roster from all over and you had to fend for yourself. All I wanted to do was play. My brother Keith was there but the losing made things worse."
 
Despite the lack of overall team success, Fourcade made a long-standing mark on the Ole Miss record books. In four years in Oxford, he accounted for 6,713 career yards, surpassing Archie Manning in that category - a record which stood until Eli Manning's days with the Rebels. Although Ole Miss finished 5-6, 4-7, 3-9 and 4-6 while Fourcade was a Rebel, he was a two-time All-SEC selection and the MVP in the Senior Bowl.
 
"John had a linebacker mentality," Coach Sloan told Rebel Nation Magazine. "We were always good offensively, but we weren't quite as good defensively to match it up. I consider it an honor to have coached him."
 
After his standout collegiate career, he would play in Canada and the USFL, before getting an NFL opportunity with his hometown New Orleans Saints in 1987. In four seasons with the Saints, including during the NFL strike, he played in 24 games and threw for 14 touchdowns.
 
Even with his success at the collegiate and professional levels, Fourcade's career thoughts rarely drift far from his days at Shaw. "Those were great times when all of us were buddies. We all played football and other sports together and went out together, never on your own. And we all lived on the 'Best Bank'."
 
For his accomplishments at every level of football as well as coaching and playing throughout the United States and Canada, Fourcade has been elected to the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame.
 
"I am thrilled and excited," he said. "I thought about this at times and I wondered if I would ever get in. I'm just glad to be alive."
 
Now 57, Fourcade works on Saints radio broadcasts for ESPN.
 
The Greater New Orleans Sports Awards Committee began in 1957 when James Collins spearheaded a group of sports journalists to form a sports awards committee to immortalize local sports history. For 13 years, the committee honored local athletes each month. In 1970, the Sugar Bowl stepped in to sponsor and revitalize the committee, leading to the creation of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in 1971, honoring 10 legends from the Crescent City in its first induction class. While adding the responsibility of selecting Hall of Famers, the committee has continued to recognize the top amateur athlete in the Greater New Orleans area each month - the honors enter their 62nd year in 2018. To be eligible, an athlete must be a native of the greater New Orleans area or must compete for a team in the metropolitan region.
 
The Allstate Sugar Bowl has established itself as one of the premier college football bowl games, having hosted 28 national champions, 93 Hall of Fame players, 49 Hall of Fame coaches and 18 Heisman Trophy winners in its 84-year history. The 85th Allstate Sugar Bowl Football Classic, featuring top teams from the Big 12 and the SEC, will be played on January 1, 2019. In addition to football, the Sugar Bowl Committee annually invests over $1.6 million into the community through the hosting and sponsorship of sporting events, awards and clinics. Through these efforts, the organization supports and honors nearly 100,000 student-athletes each year, while injecting over $2.5 billion into the local economy in the last decade. For more information, visit www.AllstateSugarBowl.org.
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By Alex Sims, OleMissSports.com

SEC Release

ATLANTA - Three locker room leaders will represent the Ole Miss football team alongside head coach Matt Luke on Tuesday,  July 17, at SEC Media Days.

Senior quarterback Jordan Ta'amu, senior center Sean Rawlings and junior defensive tackle Josiah Coatney will head to the Omni Atlanta Hotel and CNN Center to speak with the media ahead of the 2018 season.

Ta'amu was thrust into the starting quarterback role midway through last season and excelled once his number was called. Overall, the Pearl City, Hawaii, native made five starts and threw for 1,682 yards and 11 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He brings a 3-2 record as a starter into the 2018 season.

Rawlings anchors one of the top offensive line units in the country going into 2018. He started every game last season except for one, missing the Rebels' meeting with Arkansas due to injury. With Rawlings leading the offensive front, the Ole Miss attack recorded one of the most prolific seasons in program history.

Coatney returns as the leader up front on the Landshark defense. He was third on the team in tackles last season, tallying 65, including 8.0 tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. The Douglasville, Georgia, native added two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble in a productive sophomore campaign. 

Luke and the three student-athlete representatives will meet with the media on Day 2 of the event, along with players and coaches from Arkansas, Florida and Georgia.

Five Takeaways From The Grove Bowl

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Ole Miss held its annual Grove Bowl on Saturday, marking the culmination of spring football as the team breaks for the summer until the resumption of fall practice. On a wet and chilly afternoon inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the defense held the offense to 21 points and won the scrimmage as it was spotted 27 points to begin the day.

Several players were held out as a precaution to some minor but nagging injuries and the coaching staff was able to get a look at some younger and inexperienced players. Here are five takeaways from the game and Ole Miss' spring football season overall.

1. Newcomers at running back
Matt Luke admitted on Saturday that he feels a great deal better about the running back position at the end of the spring than he thought he would at the beginning. Scottie Phillips and Isaiah Woullard are a pair of newcomers that have stood out throughout the entirety of the spring as this unit tries to replace the likes of Jordan Wilkins, the program's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2009. Phillip is a shifty back who has flashed breakaway speed at times during the spring. He had nine carries for 40 yards in the scrimmage and the top-rated junior college back in the country looks poised to become a heavy contributor next fall.

"They really stood out starting in the first week," Luke said. "You saw some flashes of Scottie out there today. You saw his burst. You saw some toughness from Isaiah Woullard. He is a smaller guy but he always falls forward. I am really pleased with the running backs."

It will likely be replacement-by-committee to some degree in terms of replacing Wilkins. D'Vaughn Pennamon - who did not participate in spring ball due to injury - and Eric Swinney are the most experienced backs on the roster. Armani Linton is continuing his transition to the offensive side of the football and Phillips and Woullard have been stood out.

"I have been really impressed with the running back room this spring," defensive end Ryder Anderson said. "They really have blown everyone away. They have shown a lot of really good things."

It will be interesting to watch to see if anyone emerges as a bell cow-type back for the Rebels and also how the carries are divided next fall. Phil Longo has some intriguing and versatile options there.

2. Jordan Ta'amu Being "The Guy"
Though we didn't see a lot of the receiving corps in this scrimmage, Ta'amu's chemistry and timing looked pretty good for the most part with his wide receivers. He hit D.K. Metcalf on a 53-yard deep ball for a touchdown that resembled many of the team's quick-striking scores a year ago and then found him again on a short, back-shoulder fade a couple of drives later in the back right corner of the end zone.

"Our timing is becoming great," Metcalf said. "Jordan is a leader and a quarterback that can handle anything."

Ta'amu says he's taken an active role in trying to become more of a leader as he enters the fall knowing this is his offense and his team.

"I know this team has my back," Ta'amu said. "I want to be a leader and an example for other guys out there, being a vocal leader. It is going well for me right now."

Ta'amu was 12-20 for 190 yards with three total scores with the final one coming on the ground with a 10-yard keeper in the second half.

3. Tight ends
Dawson Knox sat out the spring as he nurses a foot injury that plagued him early last year. It opened the door for Ole Miss to try to find a second or third option there and Octavious Cooley has been a name the coaching staff has repeatedly spit out as a guy who has impressed this spring. Luke said Cooley has gotten control of his weight and has had as good of a spring as anyone on the team.

"I love Cooley," Ta'amu said. "He is a big target and is a great blocker. I am glad to have him alongside Dawson Knox."

Luke and Longo have both hinted at using more two-tight end sets next year as Cooley continues to emerge. Longo would like to see his conditioning improve so he can be on the field for a longer stretch of time in an an offense that hinges on tempo.

"Cooley is a bright spot from the spring," Longo said. "He has done a lot to get himself going. I think he made a lot of plays this spring. He is a big boy making a lot of plays this spring. He is a great blend of physicality inside the box. I think both he and I would tell you he needs to get in better shape so he can handle six, seven or eight-play drives. When he gets tired he is not the same player. I think he feels the same way. He is a heck of a football player."

Gabe Angel and Alex Faniel also caught balls from this position in the scrimmage. Cooley had three grabs for 46 yards.

4. The linebackers
The coaching staff has been vocal all spring about the need for this position to mature and younger guys have started to make some plays. Mohamed Sanogo led the team in tackles with five on this day. Josh Clarke had a sack as did Donta Evans, Willie Hibbler and Brendan Williams.

Detric Bing-Dukes is an older player who the staff says has taken strides forward this year and he will most certainly be tasked with being a primary contributor at linebacker this fall.

"We saw some big improvement," defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. "You can visibly see Bing-Dukes got better. I like his commitment and attention to detail. His communication skills have really gotten better. I think the linebackers have improved a lot. We are young at that position. Josh Clarke is impressive, long and can make plays. I think they have a lot more knowledge of this defense. I think their first year they weren't as sure. I always tell them a great defense is a noisy defense."

McGriff said stopping the run has been priority number one this spring.

"The biggest goal has been to stop explore plays, particularly in the running game," McGriff said. "The second was to take away the deep ball. I think our guys have done a tremendous job of taking ownership in securing their gap and doing their responsibility."

5. Continuity
Last spring was a chaotic one in some senses as the Rebels were introducing new coordinators and systems on each side of the football. With both of them returning this spring, the Rebels were already ahead of where they had to start last year. It has made things easier on them and one can sense that with the way Longo and McGriff talk about guys picking up on things quicker and their instincts being better. It stems from not having to think as much about what they are doing and play more freely, something Luke has mentioned a lot.

"The spring this year was a lot different than last year because of the knowledge base," Longo said. "To have 37 players coming back with the knowledge of terminology and fundamentals lets them be able to turn around the guys who don't know it and coach them up. We have a lot of players coaching players right now. The progress has happened faster this year."

Corral Discusses Progress As He Settles Into Longo's System

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Matt Corral's first taste of spring football has gone by quickly. From the natural adjustments any kid going from high school to college has to make, to the amplified speed of the game to trekking across the country from California to Mississippi to start a new chapter of his life, he's taking it all in stride.

"Culture shock," Coral said with a grin. "But I love it here. The people are really nice and I love the football. I don't think it can get better than this."

He even admits it still doesn't all seem real sometimes.

"It was surreal to me at the beginning thinking that I am really in college and in the SEC," Corral said. "This is really happening. That blew over after a couple weeks and then I started to get into the groove of things, getting in the film room when I am supposed to and doing the extra stuff the coaches have asked me so I could have possibility of getting on the field in my freshman year."

The four-star All-American's commitment and eventual signing in December seemingly served as a a firm shove of momentum for Matt Luke's first recruiting class as permanent head coach. He arrived on campus in January as an early enrollee with the purpose of getting a head start in spring football. The first step? The speed of the game.

"The only adjustment is being smart and knowing what you have to do quickly is all it really is at this level of football," Corral said. "It's making quicker decisions, way quicker than you made in high school."

"I was always taught the game doesn't speed up. Of course guys are bigger and faster but you also have the same number of guys just as big and fast."

Corral thinks he has adjusted nicely to the quickness of the defense and the need for him to process reads quicker. He has some help, too. Corral is benefitting from throwing to one of the more dynamic receiving corps in the SEC. That alone has called for some adjusting on his part.

"It's ridiculous," Corral said. "The first week I was out there in seven-on-seven, my balls were a little off because I am not used to how big and fast they are. That closed-quarter speed they have when the ball is in the air is something I had to adjust to. It wasn't hard."

He's also gained assistance from entrenched starter Jordan Ta'amu, a guy whose 2017 story alone is enough to help Corral understand he must be ready at all times. The old cliché says the back-up quarterback is only one play away, but in reality that is precisely the case. Ta'amu has helped Corral with the playbook among other things, knowing he was once in the freshman's shoes and acknowledging the importance of having him ready next fall.

The uncanny sense of calmness Ta'amu exudes has rubbed off on Corral as well, much like it did to his teammates when Ta'amu was inserted as the starter late last season.

"I do see the calmness in Jordan," Coral said. "He is very poised and the way he carries himself on and off the field shows what type of person he is."


If something were to happen, Corral feels ready enough to step in despite just dipping his toes into the SEC pool.
"I feel comfortable," Corral said. "I don't feel any pressure. If I were starting the first game then I feel like I would be prepared. I know the guys behind me would help me gain that confidence."

That said, he knows there is a lot he needs to improve on and work towards between the spring and the fall.

"It is just a matter of you knowing the playbook like the back of your hand," Corral said. "The playbook is simple. It is good because it works, but it is similar to what I ran in high school. A little different because some concepts don't work in the SEC that do in high school, but it is very similar."

Luke acknowledge his freshman quarterback has made great strides and thinks he could step into game action to run the offense in a limited capacity right now if needed.

"You can see the lightbulb go off a little after eight or nine practices," Luke said. "When you get out there in a game with people watching it is a little different, but the knowledge is definitely increasing.

He's also grateful that Corral will have ample time in the offseason to develop further.


Ole Miss has its spring game on Saturday in which the format will be similar to recent years with the defense being spotted 27 points and the offense trying to catch them. Corral and Ta'amu will see a lot of reps as Matt Luke hopes to get off around 80 or 90 snaps in the scrimmage.

"The good thing is he has two more practices, then a summer and an entire fall camp to get even better," Luke said. "The arm talent is there. It is just more of being able to function without thinking. You don't play as fast when you are having to think. The talent is definitely there and you see him making strides. That is encouraging."

Luke Talks Weekend Scrimmage, Pleased With Progress

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Ole Miss is now nearing the culmination of spring football with the Grove Bowl being just over a week away, and the Rebels dabbled into some live football action this past weekend with a controlled scrimmage in which the coaches stayed on the sideline and the offense and defense squared off against each other. Matt Luke wanted to see where his team stood more than two weeks into spring ball.

"We did some situational stuff with some red zone, third down and stuff but really we just put the ball down and played to see where we were," Luke said. "There were a lot of positives and also a lot of stuff we need to get cleaned up. We slowed down today and really honed in on some stuff. The tempo, going fast, we wanted to slow down today. Try to teach some stuff and get guys' fits right and getting them chasing the ball."

The offense dominated early during the red zone portion of the scrimmage. Phil Longo's squad gassed the defense with an up-tempo pace. The defense weathered the storm and made a couple of plays on the later drives. Luke is beginning to understand that, as a head coach, he is going to be concerned with one side of the football no matter what, but he was pleased to see both sides go at one another.

"I think the offense started out really strong in the scrimmage early on in the red zone. In the third down period they were really good," Luke said. "I was happy to see the defense fight back and get some turnovers in later drives. I am learning quickly as head coach you are not going to be happy in spring ball. You are going to be upset one way or another. I did like the ebb and flow of practice. It was good to see the defense fight back."

Ole Miss has some veteran starters sidelined for spring ball as a precaution towards some nagging injuries. None of the bumps and bruises will affect the team heading into the fall but nonetheless has kept some guys off the field this spring. It's forged an opportunity for some younger players to get experience as this team tries to add depth, particularly on the defensive side of the football.

Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said last weekend he would like to see his defense play with more confidence. Luke thinks this is part of the learning process as these young players get used to the speed of the game.

"The little things are lacking because they are thinking and still trying to process what they are doing," Luke said. "They don't see the formation or the intricacies. They know what to do they just don't understand yet. You are trying to get them to understand so they can play instinctively and aren't out there thinking."

Luke thinks it will eventually click as the cerebral part of the game turns into instances and allows them to play freer and faster.

"I think it is mainly the younger guys," Luke said. "We have a lot young guys out there with three defensive linemen out. The young linebackers are showing flashes and the only way you get those guys ready is to put them out there in the fire. That is kind of the growing pains but you have to put them out there to learn."

Ole Miss has dealt with a couple more injuries this week as A.J. Brown tweaked a knee trying to get into the end zone in the scrimmage. Luke doesn't think it is serious but is not taking any chances as Brown has been limited early on this week.

"I like the competitiveness. That is why he is who he is. He was trying to score. You like to see that," Luke said.

Greg Little is dealign with a tight back and is limited also.

Overall, Luke knows this team has a long way to go as do most teams in the spring, but he is pleased with the progress as this team wraps up the spring.

"I think there are some signs that we are," Luke said. "The kids are pushing one another and there is a sense of togetherness, not so much offense and defense. That is what we are trying to get accomplished."

Rebels To Hold Pro Day For 11 Participants

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At Ole Miss' Pro Day on Tuesday March 27, 11 Rebels will go through drills and workouts with the hope of catching the eye of NFL scouts and teams.

A pair of offensive linemen in Daronte Bouldin and Rod Taylor will be on the field as well as Breeland Speaks and Marquis Haynes, who became a formidable duo on the Ole Miss defensive line this past season. Running back Jordan Wilkins and kicker Gary Wunderlich will also be on display for teams on Tuesday.

Below is a full lists from Ole Miss' 2017 team who will be participating in tomorrow's Pro Day.

The event is closed to the public, but fans are encouraged to follow along on Twitter (@OleMissFB) beginning at 9:30 a.m. 

FULL LIST
Daronte Bouldin
DeMarquis Gates
C.J. Hampton
Marquis Haynes
A.J. Moore
Herbert Moore,
Ty Quick
Breeland Speaks
Rod Taylor
Jordan Wilkins
Gary Wunderlich

Fans Show Off Skills Inside Vaught at Year of The Fan Pro Day

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OXFORD, Miss. - Nearly 200 fans from all over made their way inside the gates of Vaught Hemingway-Stadium and onto Jerry Hollingsworth Field to compete in the first-ever Fan Pro Day as part of Ole Miss' Year of the Fan initiative.
Kids in eighth grade and under, Ole Miss students, as well as adults over the age of 22 made their way around 10 different drill stations set up across the field and put their NFL Combine-like football skills to the test.

The events consisted of a 40-yard dash, cone drill, field goal competition, punt c­­­atch, quarterback competition, shuttle run, tackle dummy obstacle, vertical jump, hot dog eating contest and a cooler pull and dig.

Nat Dean and his son, Drew, of Water Valley, made a pitstop on their way home from a baseball tournament in Southaven to let Drew flash his skills on the gridiron.

"I think this is really neat," Nat said. "I think it is a great way to get fans engaged by getting to be on the field and all of the festivities ."

Drew's favorite drill?

"Probably the 40-yard dash," he said as he pointed to his scoresheet that showed a quick time.

Nat said it was Drew's first time getting to be on the field.

"They get a feeling of being big time by playing on a surface where big time athletes play," Nat said. "I think it's cool for them to get to experience that.

Kelly and her daughter, Kailey, drove more than six hours all the way from Vancleave, Mississippi, to come partake in the fun. Kailey said the vertical jump was her favorite station.

Barrett Hopkins and his son, Hayden, trekked down from Ripley for them both to go through the gauntlet of drills. Hayden was partial to the quarterback throwing drills as he ran around on the field for the first time.

"This has been really cool," Barrett said. "We have always wanted to come down onto the field."

Barrett caught a ball on the jugs machine and decided to retire on top.

"I caught one and walked away," he said with a grin.

Contestants times and scores at each drill flashed across the video board as kids ran through the drills and pummeled some tackling dummies.

The nearly two hour event allowed the fans to emulate the athletes they've watched for so many years inside Vaught-Hemingway as well as gave them an early taste of Saturday afternoons next fall.

Swinney Emracing Leadership Role Among Rebel Running Backs

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When Eric Swinney looks around the running back group meeting room, he can quickly see he's now the oldest guy in the room. That comes a leadership role he's beginning to embrace.

He's now taken it upon himself to mentor some of the younger running backs that Matt Luke has been bullish on throughout spring ball.

"It's different taking on a leadership role," Swinney said. "I am trying to help the new guys out like Isaiah and Armani (Linton), even Scottie. Telling them to study the playbook, get in the film room and getting the calls even when they are not on the field."


Luke said after practice on Tuesday the two biggest surprises of the spring have been newcomers Isaiah Woullard and junior college transfer Scottie Phillips. Swinney tends to agree with his head coach.


"They're learning the system really fast and making plays, man. Isaiah is quick an strong. Scottie is making big time plays and they're going to do well for us," Swinney said.

Swinney's a guy who's endured a pair of catastrophic leg injuries, the second coming on his first touch in game action after surviving the first in the Rebels' 2016 season opener against Florida State. It forced him to sit out a second straight college season.

Last year, Swinney finally got back onto the field, carrying the football 41 times for 195 yards. It was a start, and more importantly, Swinney began to feel like his old self again.


"I am not really adjusting to it, but I feel like I am getting back to myself a little bit when I am out there," Swinney said.

He says he's put on more weight and has become a more deliberate back as a result of the injuries. Aside from that, he doesn't feel any major lingering effects anymore. He's healthy again.

"Everything feels like it has balanced out," Swinney said. "My body is feeling great. I am taking care of myself. Just learning how to take care of my body has really helped me."

Swinney's enjoyed seeing some newcomers emerge around him. Between he and D'Vaughn Pennamon, he hopes this team will begin to compile some depth in the backfield. Phillips and Woullard's emergence will only add to that.

"We're working well together," Swinney said. "We're competing out there just working every day and getting in the film room. We're trying to make this team better."

Ole Miss is now on the back end of of spring practice as the culmination nears with the Grove Bowl in two weeks. The Rebels are banged up and have held some guys out of practice as a precaution. It's allowed some of the younger players to get more reps, like Ben Brown on the offensive line. He's been working with the first team the last couple of days.

"It helps out a lot," Brown said. "It's a lot faster paced for sure. There are a lot of very talented players. I am just happy to be getting the reps."

Brown got adjusted to the speed of the college game as a freshman last year as he redshirted and the coaching staff is hopeful he will be a contributor this fall to pad the offensive line depth with the departure of Daronte Bouldin and Rod Taylor. Depth up front helped the Rebels battle some attrition on the offensive line last season and kept the running game afloat late in the season.

"I feel really prepared," Brown said. "Getting to learn from the older guys has been a big time help."

Rebels Return to Spring Practice

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Ole Miss returned to the practice field after a week-long hiatus during spring break. The Rebels are now in the second half of spring football, culminating with the Grove Bowl on April 7.

"There may have been a couple of mistakes from the layoff, but the energy was good," head coach Matt Luke said of the team's return to the field. "I thought they were physical. They had good session with weights yesterday to kind of get back into the swing of things and I thought it was a good practice."

Luke was bullish on two positions in particular, the running backs and the linebackers, two spots the Rebels have holes to fill from departures from the 2017 team and also two positions with some of new faces that will need to contribute next season. He was pleased with how the linebackers have been playing downhill against the run and the consistency of their reads.

"I really like that they're taking on Coach Sumrall's personality and playing physical," Luke said. "I saw a couple of physical plays that I haven't been seeing. Them playing down hill against the run and being physical. Josh Clarke made a really good play blowing up a play in the hole. There are some really good things going on, but obviously a long way to go and plenty to improve on."

On the other side of the football - one of the positions the linebackers have been tasked with neutralizing - Luke had high praise for newcomer Scottie Phillips at running back before the team departed for spring break. He hasn't changed his tune since on the the number one junior college running back in the country.


"I was cautiously optimistic before they got there but now, Scottie broke another long run towards the end of practice. We are really really pleased with them," Luke said.

The Armini Linton project at running back took a small setback as he's been dealing with a hamstring injury. But Luke and the staff saw enough of the former defensive back to feel confident about keeping him on the offensive side of the football for the foreseeable future. Linton played running back in high school. While the concept isn't completely foreign, he's using the spring to learn the playbook and various blocking and running reads.


The Rebels return D'Vaughn Pennamon and Eric Swinney at this position, two guys who have game experience and a decent bit of SEC touches. Luke knows what he as in them. He wants to use spring ball to see what guys like Phillips and Isaiah Woullard bring to the table, as well as the newly-transformed Linton.

"They have to keep coming," Luke said. "They've made some mistakes but they keep coming along. Swinney has been solid. He knows what to do. We want to see some of those new guys."

Ole Miss has a number of guys banged up through offseason surgeries and the natural attrition that comes in the football offseason. It's allowing other guys to get more reps in practice as the Rebels attempt to build depth next fall. Tight end Octavious Cooley is a one player who has benefitted from increase practice time with Dawson Knox being sidelined with a foot injury.


"Looks like he has his weight in check and looks like he is in the best shape he has been in since he has been here," Luke said. "That has really helped him become more consistent by not just making one good play, but several in a row. We are really pleased with that."

Luke envisioned possibly playing Cooley and Knox at the same time next season.


"It gives us the flexibility to play some 12 personnel with he and Dawson out there at the same time. It is really exciting to see him playing the way he is," Luke said.

The same is true on the defensive line with Benito Jones and Qaadir Sheppard nursing injuries. None of the injuries will affect guys going into fall camp, so the staff is framing it as a positive in the sense that they can focus on getting younger players ready to contribute next fall.

"It's the same thing with Ross (Donelly) and Sincere (David)," Luke said. "They are getting more reps than they've ever gotten before and it's making them better. It will get us depth when Benito (Jones) and Qaadir (Sheppard) come back. It will just make us better."

Luke Discusses 2018 Team as Spring Practice Arrives

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The focus will be on players and not plays, Ole Miss head football coach Matt Luke proclaimed at his Tuesday press conference opening spring football, referring to how valuable the 15 practices the Rebels get are to developing younger players and building depth heading into the fall.

"We have a nice mix of experience yet are also focusing on some young guys and new guys getting quality reps and building depth," Luke said. "We really want to get these young guys reps to see what they can do."

While Luke noted the staff will expand on new schemes implemented last year on each side of the football, the continuity of having the same coordinators still in place will put them further along and leave more time for developing young talent.

"Since we kept the same systems we are going to be much further ahead from a schematic standpoint so we want to get these young guys who either redshirted or were on scout team last year some reps and work on building our depth," Luke said.

Luke went over who of the returning players will and will not participate in spring practice based on various offseason surgeries and injuries. Below is a list of where the players stand:

OFFENSE
Out: Dawson Knox, D.K. Buford. D'Vaughn Pennamon
Limited: Alex Givens, Demarcus Gregory (knee), Scottie Phillips, Sean Rawlings.

DEFENSE 
Out: Austrian Robinson, Benito Jones, Qaadir Sheppard
Limited: Ken Webster (groin), C.J. Miller

"They have minor injuries from training the last month and will be limited to start. It is nothing serious," Luke said of the limited participants. He also noted that he does not fear anyone missing time in the fall despite being held out for the spring.

This spring season will give the coaching staff a glimpse at a couple of players at new positions, like Armani Linton, who will transition from safety to running back in an effort to build depth with the departure of leading rusher Jordan Wilkins.

"He's just a big, talented athlete," Luke said. "When you have guys like that on the bus you just want to find the right seat for them. He is a very big athlete and is very intelligent. I think he can help us somewhere. He really came on last year on special teams. I think he needs to play somewhere and we are just trying to find the right spot."

Linton could move back to safety depending on how the transition goes, but Luke is optimistic this will be a good fit.

Brenden Williams moved from linebacker to defensive end and newcomer Vernon Dasher will move from linebacker to star, a hybrid linebacker with more coverage responsibilities.

Along with Linton, newcomer Scottie Phillips, who will be limited at the beginning of spring ball, is expected to immediately compete for playing time at running back. Phillips comes in as the number one rated junior college tailback in the country and will be thrust into a mix consisting of D'Vaughn Pennamon, Eric Swinney and D.K. Buford.

"Anytime you take a junior college player you are expecting him to compete for playing time," Luke said. "That's what we want to see. He is the number one junior college running back in the country. There is going to be a really good competition at running back."

Defensively, the number one priority will be developing linebackers, a spot in which Ole Miss lost leading tackler DeMarquis Gates and a position the Rebels were slightly thin at last season. Luke feels confident about veterans Detric Bing-Dukes and Willie Hibbler at this position, but after the addition of a recruiting class that brought in a slew of new linebackers he is excited to see what some of the younger guys have to offer at this position.

"Detric and Willie will start there, but really Mohamed Sanogo, Josh Clarke and Zikerrion Baker are the guys we want to see what they can do. It is going to be a huge spring for them," Luke said. "We have more guys coming from high school but they are not here yet. We really want to see what these young guys can do. I am cautiously optimistic about those guys because they have waited their turn. They have gotten stronger and have been in the system. I am excited to see them out there making calls and flying around."

Aside from that, Luke would like to put his stamp on this football team, something that was difficult to do in 2017 without an offseason to prepare. He wants to build on the momentum the end of the season brought and take full advantage of the 15 practices allotted to the team.

Luke, Players to Appear at SEC Media Days 2018

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The SEC announced its schedule for its annual SEC Media Days which will take place July 16-19 at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke and three players that have not yet been selected will appear on day two of the festivities on Tuesday July 17. Arkansas, Georgia and Florida are the the other three schools that will appear with Luke and the Rebels that day. Last year Ole Miss sent. Marquis Haynes, Shea Patterson and Javon Patterson as its three player representatives. Javon Patterson is the only one of the three returning to the program fort the 2018 season.

During the four-dayevent, the Hall of Fame will be home to the coaches' primary press conferences and serve as the live broadcast headquarters for both ESPN and the SEC Network.  The Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center, which is connected to the Hall of Fame, is the host hotel for the event and will house Radio Row and other media interviews and activities.

This will mark the first time this event has been held outside Birmingham, Alabama since 1985.  Below is the full schedule of appearances.

MONDAY, July 16
Kentucky - Mark Stoops
LSU - Ed Orgeron
Texas A&M - Jimbo Fisher
 
TUESDAY, July 17
Arkansas - Chad Morris  
Florida - Dan Mullen
Georgia - Kirby Smart  
Ole Miss - Matt Luke
 
WEDNESDAY, July 18
Alabama - Nick Saban
Mississippi State - Joe Moorhead
Missouri - Barry Odom
Tennessee - Jeremy Pruitt
 
THURSDAY, July 19
Auburn - Gus Malzahn
South Carolina - Will Muschamp
Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

Football Welcomes 11 Mid-Year Enrollees

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2018 Spring Full Roster

Ole Miss had a total of 11 January enrollees that have begun taking classes and will participate in spring football practice.

Six of these players signed during the early singing period and moved to Oxford a month later. The other five are mid-year walk-ons.

Jacob Carter
James Coley
Jack Cooper
Matt Corral
Vernon Dasher
Ryan Drew
DeMarcus Gregory
John Lewis
Hal Northern
Scott Phillips
Isaiah Woullard

The group is headlined by Army All-American quarterback Matt Corral, who will get a head start in learning Phil Longo's and will have the opportunity to observe Jordan Ta'amu next fall. He's joined by wide receiver DeMarcus Gregory out of Duncan, S.C.

Vernon Dasher is an impact player at linebacker, a position of great need for the Rebels and Hal Northern is a physical interior defensive lineman that coaching staff is excited about.

Ole Miss opens the season next fall in Houston against Texas Tech.

SIDE NOTE: A few returning Rebels will sport new numbers this spring. Victor Evans (4), Mohamed Sanogo (7), Austrian Robinson (12) and Zikerrion Baker (14) all have switched jersey numbers.

A Closer Look: Special Teams

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Top Performers: Gary Wunderlich (17-21 FG made. Long of 49), Jaylon Jones (31 kick returns, 25 yards per return, one TD)

Returning in 2018: Luke Logan (So., 1L), (Isaac Way., SQ), Patrick Nasiakta (So., SQ), Jack Propst (So., 1L), Cole Becker (Fr., RS), Kamden Darney (Jr., SQ)

Newcomers in 2018: TBD

Losing from 2017 Team: Gary Wunderlich (graduation), Will Gleeson (graduation)

Looking back at 2017: The Ole Miss special teams was pretty solid on most fronts in 2017. Senior Gary Wunderlich made 17-of-21 field goal attempts, a feat even more impressive considering he battled a nagging groin injury for much of the year. Luke Logan went 2-for-3 in his absence. Wunderlich further cemented his legacy as one of the greatest kickers to play at Ole Miss. He was 64-of-77 for his career and is the all-time leading scorer in program history.

Will Gleeson averaged over 41 yards per punt and had three punts of over 50 yards. The Rebels returned just seven punts on the season for an average of 6.7 yards and Jaylon Jones took a kickoff return 97 yards for a score in the season opener against South Alabama. The Rebels weren't overly dynamic in the returning game, but were really good in all three phases of the kicking game. The task next season will be replacing two of the better specialists the team has had in recent memory in Gleeson and Wunderlich.

Looking ahead to 2018: Ole Miss' biggest challenge next season with regards to special teams will be replacing the likes of Gary Wunderlich and Will Gleeson. Wunderlich was one of the most accurate kickers in program history, and in a world of shaky college kickers, was a tremendous asset to the Rebels the last four years because of his consistency, particularly late in games. The most likely candidate to replace Wunderlich is Luke Logan, who made 2-of-3 field goals when Wunderlich was injured with a long of 25 yards. The rising sophomore will also likely retain kickoff duties. Last season he had 25 touchbacks in 76 attempts.

Gleeson also departs after a season in which he averaged 41.5 yards per kick. His likely successor will be sophomore Mac Brown who got his feet wet last season with five punts for a total of 211 yards. That is good for 42.2 yards per kick and his long was 54. It is a small sample size, but that will likely make the coaching staff feel a little bit better about the punting situation going into next season.

Jaylon Jones returns and will presumably handle the kickoff duties once again. A guy to look out for on both punt and kickoff returns is newcomer Elijah Moore. The speedy slot receiver flipped from Georgia to Ole Miss during the early signing period and Matt Luke noted his speed will be a unique weapon the Rebels have not had in a while both in the slot and as a punt returner. How Moore will impact the team as a freshman will get clearer during fall camp, but he's certainly an intriguing guy to keep an eye on.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Safeties

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Top Performers: Zedrick Woods (64 tackles, four break ups, four deflections) C.J. Moore (51 tackles, three interceptions) 

Returning in 2018: Zedrick Woods (Sr., 3L) Jaylon Jones (Jr., 2L), Cam Ordway (Sr., 3L), C.J. Moore (Sr., 3L), Armani Linton (Jr., 2L), A.J. Harris (Fr., RS), C.J Miller (So., 1L)

Newcomers in 2018: Cameron White (Fr., Madison Miss.)

Losing from 2017 Team: A.J. Moore (Graduation), C.J. Hampton (Graduation)

Looking back at 2017: If last year proved anything, it is that Zedrick Woods is the backbone of the Ole Miss secondary as a whole. The junior had four pass break ups, four deflections and 64 tackles on the season. Three of Ole Miss' top six tacklers in 2017 were safeties and four ranked amongst the top 10. C.J. Moore was right behind woods with 51 and three interceptions. This was overall a pretty solid group on the back end of the Rebels' defense. This unit helped hold opponents to 214 yards passing per game and just seven yards per attempt, meaning it was a little harder to hit receivers over the top of this secondary.

Jaylon Jones made a seamless transition from corner to safety, recording 34 tackles and a pair of break ups and deflections. The good news for the Rebels is that the majority of this group returns in 2018 to help solidify what should be a competitive pass defense with the entire two deep on the depth chart returning at cornerback.

Looking ahead to 2018: The loss of A.J. Moore at the star safety position definitely hurts Ole Miss, but outside of that they should feel pretty good with what they have returning in 2017. Woods, C.J. Moore and Jones should be a pretty formidable trio and the team also returns Cam Ordway. C.J. Miller is a young player the coaching staff is really high on and a guy that is expected to be right in the thick of the rotation going into fall camp.

The Rebels have the offseason to find a replacement for A.J. Moore and have a couple of solid options to do so. Miller will be the most interesting guy to keep an eye on throughout the spring and into fall camp, but Wesley McGriff and the defensive staff have to feel pretty confident in what they have coming back next season.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Cornerbacks

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This is the eighth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Myles Hartsfield (29 solo tackles, 14 assisted tackles, 43 total tackles, two interceptions four TFLs), Ken Webster (21 solo tackles, eight assisted tackles, 29 total tackles), Javien Hamilton (20 total tackles, three INTs)

Returning in 2018: Webster (Sr., 3L), Hamilton (Sr., 1L), Hartsfield (Jr., 2L), D.D. Bowie (So., 1L), Montrell Custis (Jr., 2L)

Newcomers in 2018: Kedrion Smith (Fr., Palm Beach, Fla.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Jalen Julius (Transfer)

Looking back at 2017: The first thing that really comes to mind when thinking of the Ole Miss defensive backs in 2017 is the resurgence of Ken Webster. The rising senior overcame a gruesome leg injury in the 2016 season opener, leaving some questioning whether he'd ever get back to full strength. Webster did that and then some this season. He had 29 tackles in 10 games and had a pair of break ups and passes deflections. Webster didn't get thrown on a whole lot, and that is certainly good news for the Rebels.

Outside of that, Javien Hamilton, a junior college transfer playing his first division one season was really good for the Rebels too. He had three interceptions five pass break ups and eight deflections. He was a tremendous addition to what was still a relatively young secondary last fall. Throw in Myles Hartsfield playing well in his first full season of starting and this was a pretty solid group.

The good news? Everyone in this group returns again in 2018.

Looking ahead to 2018: Given the fact the Rebels return their entire two deep depth chart at cornerback from a year ago, this group should be strong again in 2018. Ole Miss will have the senior leadership of Webster on the field with upperclassmen Hartsfield and Hamilton alongside him. The only loss in this group is Jalen Julius, who is transferring, but all starters return next season and Julius' role with the team at full strength would have been unclear. If Ole Miss can stay healthy, they should feel pretty good about they match up to most opponents' vertical passing game. Not to mention, it can't hurt this group goes up against the likes of D.K. Metcalf, Damarkus Lodge and A.J. Brown in practice on a daily basis.

The secondary as a whole picked off just eight passes in 2017, two of which came in the season finale against Mississippi State. It will be interesting to see how that number compares to the total next season with so much experience coming back on the outside at cornerback. The team should feel pretty good about where it stands at this position in 2018.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Linebackers

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This is the seventh of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: DeMarquis Gates (112 tackles, 2 sacks, 10 TFL)

Returning in 2018: Willie Hibbler (Jr., 2L), Josh Clarke (Fr., RS), Donta Evans (So., 1L), Zikerrion Baker (Fr., RS), Brenden Williams (Jr., 1L), Detric Bing-Dukes (Sr., 3L), Mohamed Sanogo (So., 1L), Jack Raborn (Sr., 1L), Ryan Labanc (Fr., RS)

Newcomers in 2018: Vernon Dasher (Jr., Coffeyville, Kan.), Jaquez Jones (Fr., Tuscaloosa, Ala.), Jonathan Hess (Fr., Vestavia Hills, Ala.)

Losing from 2017 Team: DeMarquis Gates (Graduation), Tayler Polk (Graduation)

Looking back at 2017: The Rebels struggled to stop opponents from running the football with consistent success, especially early on in the season. When running backs got into the second level, it was off to the races a lot of times. That being said, they did improve throughout the season and were partially the reason why the Rebels were playing their best football at the end of the season.

The team did not have much depth or experience at this position outside of DeMarquis Gates, who was phenomenal in his final season. Gates led the team with 112 tackles and the next closest player was 55 tackles behind him. He played with two injured shoulders and flew all over the field. Gates' legacy at Ole Miss will eventually be one of the all-time greats to play linebacker and rightfully so. Walk-on Tayler Polk will also be remembered favorably for his play in the final games of his career. He led the team in tackles in two of the last three games. Polk, admittedly, was not the biggest or fastest player on the field, but played with a high motor, overcame some fairly steep odds and had a fine career.

That said being said, Ole Miss struggled at this position because of a lack-of-depth and experience.

Looking ahead to 2018: Ole Miss lost both starting linebackers from the 2017 squad and doesn't return a lot of experience in 2018. To his credit, Matt Luke addressed this the best way he could once he found out he got the job. He signed three linebackers in the early signing period.

There are some younger guys on this team that got some experience last year with Donta Evans being the first that comes to mind. Ole Miss desperately needs Detric Bing-Dukes to take on a greater role as a senior just as they need guys like Brenden Williams, Willie Hibbler and Mohamed Sanogo to develop quickly. It's hard to completely fix this position in one offseason, but Luke is doing all he can and has some interesting options going into the spring.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Defensive Line

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This is the sixth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Breeland Speaks (27 solo tackles, 40 assisted tackles, 67 total tackles, 10 TFLs, two sacks), Marquis Haynes (27 solo tackles, 18 assisted tackles, 48 total tackles, 11 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, three forces fumbles)

Returning in 2018: Victor Evans (Sr., 3L), Markel Winters (Sr., 1L), Shawn Curtis (Jr., 2L), Amani Johnson (Fr., RS), Ryder Anderson (So., 1L), Qaadir Sheppard (Jr., 1L), Charles Wiley (So., 1L), Garrald McDowell (Sr., 3L), Josiah Coatney (Jr., 1L), Austrian Robinson (Jr., 2L), Ross Donelly (Sr., 3L), Sincere David (Fr., RS), Benito Jones (Jr., 2L), Jordan Hebert (Sr., 2L)

Newcomers in 2018: James Williams (Fr., Jackson, Miss.), Jalen Cunningham (Fr.,Odenville, Ala.), Hal Northern (Jr., Senatobia, Miss.), KD Hill (Fr., Eufaula,Ala.), Quinten Bivens (Fr., Waynesboro, Miss.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Breeland Speaks (NFL Draft), Marquis Haynes (Graduation), Herbert Moore (Graduation)

Looking back at 2017: The 2017 Ole Miss defensive line was the strongest part of a defense that struggled to stop the run early in the season, but improved dramatically down the stretch. Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks anchored this unit and were the Rebels' two best pass rushers. Junior college transfer Josiah Coatney had 65 tackles on the interior defensive line. The Rebels were deeper on the defensive line than they were on any position on the field. It got contributions from Ryder Anderson and Victor Evans on the outside at defensive end and Ross Donnelly and Austrian Robinson on the interior at defensive tackle.

Both Haynes and Speaks had big games in Ole Miss' memorable Egg Bowl win on Thanksgiving night, a fitting end to a productive season as well as the last game of their Ole Miss careers.

Looking ahead to 2018: On the surface, it would appear that Ole Miss has some holes to fill on the defensive line, particularly on the outside. The departure of Speaks and Haynes means the Rebels will have to find a way to replace 12.5 sacks and 112 tackles. That's quite a lot. They were two of the best players on the 2017 defense and replacing them will be tough. Victor Evans does return with a decent amount of experience, as he was a starter when healthy. He only played in five games in 2017. Ryder Anderson and Qaadir Sheppard -- who battled injuries for most of the season -- will see their roles increased dramatically next season. Markel Winters will also be in the mix as well. Anderson in particular showed promise last season and it was hard to gauge Sheppard's effectiveness due to him being injured. At least one of these names will need to become a formidable pass rusher for the Rebels next season.

The prognosis on the interior is a little better. Benito Jones is a former top-100 recruit that battled a shoulder injury for most of the season and his production was hindered as a result. Coatney, as mentioned earlier, was really good for the Rebels last year. Behind them is where Ole Miss will need to develop some depth. Sincere David redshirted a year ago as he tries to make the transition from offensive to defensive lines. Ross Donnelly and Austrian Robinson got some playing time last fall and will likely take on greater roles next season.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Offensive Line

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This is the fifth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Returning in 2018: Greg Little (Jr., 2L), Sean Rawlings (Sr., 3L), Javon Patterson (Sr., 3L), Ben Brown (Fr., RS), Samuel Plash (Fr., RS), Peyton Cox (Fr., RS), Alex Givens (Jr., 2L), Chandler Tuitt (So., 1L), Jordan Sims (Sr., 3L), Bryce Mathews (So., 1L), Royce Newman (So., 1L), Tony Gray (Fr., RS), Eli Johnson (So., 1L)

Newcomers in 2018: TBD

Losing from 2017 Team: Jack DeFoor (transfer), Daronte Bouldin (graduation), Rod Taylor (graduation)

Looking back at 2017: The Rebel offensive line was a pretty solid unit in 2017, particularly considering some of the attrition it endured throughout the season. The Rebels struggled to run the football early in the season, but eventually hit their stride. The offensive line helped Jordan Wilkins become the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2009. Greg Little is on the fast track to becoming an NFL left tackle and guys like Sean Rawlings, Jordan Sims, Alex Givens and Javon Patterson are all battled-tested and were good for the Rebels in 2017.

With the number of guys the coaching staff was able to redshirt, Ole Miss should feel pretty good about its depth at this position next season.

Looking ahead to 2018: This offensive line unit should be even stronger for Ole Miss in 2017. It returns every starter with the exception of Rod Taylor at right tackle. The loss of Daronte Bouldin will hurt because of his versatility and the flexibility he gave offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr., but Jordan Sims and Sean Rawlings have experience playing multiple positions. For example, Sims played center in a couple of games when Rawlings was injured.

This will be a starting unit of all upperclassmen who have played a lot of football together, with the exception of rising sophomore Royce Newman, who will presumably take over Taylor's duties at right tackle. The coaching staff is excited about the future of some of the guys that were able to redshirt last year like Ben Brown, as well as rising sophomores Chandler Tuitt and Bryce Matthews. The Rebels also get backup center Eli Johnson back from an ACL injury.

The argument could be made that this will be Ole Miss' most stable unit on either side of the football aside from the wide receivers. This is a group with a lot of seasoned veterans that will help the Rebels immensely at the line of scrimmage next season. It will help the Rebels immensely at the line of scrimmage next season.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Tight Ends

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This is the fourth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Dawson Knox (10 catches, 324 yards)

Returning in 2018: Knox (Jr., 2L), Octavious Cooley (Jr., 2L), Michael Howard (Jr., 2L), Jacob Mathis (So., SQ), Gabe Angel (So., 1L), Nick Haynes (So., SQ)

Newcomers in 2018: TBD

Losing from 2017 Team: Ty Quick (graduation)

Looking back at 2017: Evan Engram left a crater-sized hole to be filled here as the Rebels entered fall camp, and no one was realistically expecting for Engram's production to be matched or even close to it. But Dawson Knox was really good for Ole Miss when he was on the field.

Knox caught 24 balls for 321 yards in 10 games for the Rebels. He injured his foot in fall camp and missed the first two games of the season, but came back when the Rebels were at Cal. Knox's production in the first half at Auburn was really where he presence was felt in the offense for the first time. He provided a large target over the middle of the field for both quarterbacks and was pretty sure-handed.Knox played quarterback in high school and won a slam dunk competition as well. He's a really good athlete and being 6-foot-4, 250 pounds doesn't hurt either.

Octavious Cooley appeared 10 games and caught four passes, but Knox saw most of the snaps at this position.

Looking ahead to 2018: This position should look similar to last year if Knox is healthy. He won't be a focal point of the offense necessarily and isn't being asked to be given the talent at wide receiver. But Knox will be a significant part of the Phil Longo's offense and a productive one at that. His size and athleticism make him pretty versatile and are another way Ole Miss can beat opponents in the vertical passing game. He will be a reliable target for Jordan Ta'amu again in 2018.

Elsewhere, Michael Howard and Octavious Cooley are back and should see some time at tight end too. Howard is used a lot as a blocker and Cooley showed signs last year. It will still be Knox's job primarily in 2018.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

Luke Named Grand Marshal of Biloxi's Mardi Gras Parade

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Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke will return to home to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in February. Luke was named the Neptune Parade Grand Marshal and will lead the Krew of Neptune's annual Mardi Gras Parade.

The parade is scheduled for Feb 10 at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Biloxi.

It's been quite the year for Luke, who was named permanent head coach of the Rebels in November and was recently featured on ESPN's Coaches Film Room during the college football national championship game as a part of ESPN's Megacast coverage of the event.

A Closer Look: Wide Receivers

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This is the third of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performers: A.J. Brown (75 catches, 1,252 yards, 11 touchdowns), DaMarkus Lodge (41 catches, 698 yards, seven TDs) & D.K. Metcalf (39 catches, 646 yards, seven TDs)

Returning in 2018: Brown (Jr., 2L), Lodge (Sr., 3L), Metcalf (So.,1L), Braylon Sanders (So., 1L), Floyd Allen (Sr., 1L), Jared Farlow (Fr., RS), Josh Ricketts (Fr., RS), Kam White (Fr. RS,) Alex Weber (Sr., 3L), Drake Beck (Fr., RS), Garrett Styles (Fr., RS)

Newcomers in 2018: Demarcus Gregory (Fr., Duncan, S.C.), Elijah Moore (Fr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Markell Pack (Graduation), Van Jefferson (Transfer), Tre Nixon (Transfer).

Looking back at 2017: The heartbeat of Phil Longo's air raid offense was undoubtedly found on the perimeter at wide receiver. In 2017, Ole Miss boasted one of the nation's most talented receiving corps, compiling an average of 328 receiving yards per game and 14 yards per catch.

A.J. Brown took the SEC by storm. Brown ranked first in the SEC and 10th nationally with his Ole Miss single-season record 1,252 receiving yards. Brown, the 2017 Connerly Trophy winner, hauled in an SEC best 11 touchdowns, tied for the most in a single season by an Ole Miss player.

DaMarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf also put up big numbers of their own with both hauling in seven TDs and tallying more than 640 receiving yards apiece.

The receiving corps totaled a remarkable 11 plays of 50 plus yards and 30 of at least 30 yards. Ole Miss was dynamic in the passing game and hit its stride as an offense when the running game came along in the latter part of the season. The ability to have Lodge, Metcalf and Brown on the field at the same time equated to a match up nightmare for opposing defenses. Ole Miss relied more on its receiving corps than any other position on the field and the gifted group delivered.

Looking ahead to 2018: Ideally, Ole Miss would like 2018 to mirror 2017 in terms of the production and involvement of the receiving corps in the offense. One could make the argument the Rebels will rely even more on this group due to the loss of Jordan Wilkins in the backfield and the running game being a little uncertain.

It will be interesting to see how sophomore Braylon Sanders -- a guy the coaching staff has been high on -- is incorporated into the offense next season. Will he have more of a role and if so how much bigger is that role? It seems unclear right now given that the Rebels return three of their top four receivers, but still an interesting prospect to keep an eye on. Newcomer Elijah Moore is also another interesting guy to watch next year because of his speed. Matt Luke said he could potentially be a dynamic punt returner for the Rebels and also gives them a speedy option in the slot. It's worth reiterating that slot receiver Van Jefferson will not be back next season.

When Shea Patterson went down with a knee injury against LSU, Jordan Ta'amu slid in and made a smooth transition at signal caller. He showed good chemistry with the wide receivers quickly and his 14-play, 71-yard game- winning drive at Kentucky, capped off by a well-placed ball to D.K. Metcalf showed his uncanny calmness in big moments. Given the reaction of the team after the game, that moment showed them a lot about Ta'amu.

If the last five games of the 2017 season were any indicator, Ta'amu and the Ole Miss receiving corps will be dynamic in the passing game again in 2018.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Quarterbacks

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This is the second of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Jordan Ta'amu (115-of-173, 1,682 yards, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions)

Returning in 2018: Ta'amu (Sr., 1L), Jason Pellerin (Jr., 2L), Alex Faniel (Fr., RS), Grant Restmeyer (So, SQ), Graham Lindman (Sr., SQ)

Newcomers in 2018: Matt Corral (Fr., Long Beach Poly, Calif.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Shea Patterson (Transfer)

Looking back at 2017: With all the adversity hurled in its path last season, one of the more remarkable things Ole Miss was able to do was make a seamless transition at signal caller halfway through the season. When Shea Patterson's knee buckled in the first half against LSU, a play that would result in him missing the remainder of the season with a torn PCL, Ole Miss coaches called upon junior college transfer Jordan Ta'amu to right the ship.

The junior quarterback stepped in and led Ole Miss down the field to kick a field goal before halftime, and later led a scoring drive in the fourth quarter in a loss to the Tigers. It was the beginning of a transition that saw Ta'amu add a spark to the Ole Miss offense. He completed 66 percent of his passes, tossed 11 touchdowns and threw just four interceptions over a five-game stretch that saw him compile 1,682 yards. Phil Longo's offense became more cohesive upon Ta'amu's insertion. He was a direct runner and consistently made good reads in a system that hinges on run-pass options. His uncanny composure surfaced when he led a game-winning drive against Kentucky in Lexington. Ta'amu led the Rebels to a 3-2 record that culminated with an Egg Bowl win. More so than anything, he provided a sense of security in a season and offseason littered with uncertainty.

Looking ahead to 2018: This is Ta'amu's offense going into next year. His five-game audition showed he is a good fit in Longo's offense and has a knack for making the big play when his team needs one. He will have another offseason to progress as a passer and returns a plethora of talent at wide receiver. Ta'amu will also go into the spring and summer with the advantage of knowing he is the guy.

One of Matt Luke's first splashes as permanent head coach came by signing four-star quarterback Matt Corral. The Army All-American is a tremendous arm talent and gives Ole Miss something to build around in the future. He'll arrive on campus this month and participate in spring practice. He'll be a viable option should Ta'amu get injured, but it is certainly the latter's offense to control in 2018. 

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Running Backs

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This is the first of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Jordan Wilkins (155 carries, 1,011 rushing yards (6.5 avg.), nine rushing TDs, 26 receptions, 241 receiving yards, one receiving TD)

Returning in 2018: D'Vaughn Pennamon [injured] (Jr., 2L), Eric Swinney (Jr., 2L), D.K. Buford (Sr., 3L), KeShun Wells (Jr., SQ)

Newcomers in 2018: Scottie Phillips (So., Jones County JC, Mid-Year Enrollee), Isaiah Woullard (Fr., Mid-Year Enrollee)

Losing from 2017 Team: Jordan Wilkins (Graduation), Eugene Brazley (Graduation)

Looking Back at 2017: Running the football was an issue for Ole Miss in the first month of the season and Phil Longo's offense struggled to gel as a result.

But as the Rebels got deeper into the season -- and got past the likes of Alabama and Auburn on their schedule -- the team found a way to resurrect the running game. Ole Miss rushed the football for 380 yards on 132 attempts in its first five games of the season last year. Over the final seven games of the season, the Rebels ran for 1,227 yards on 238 touches that was good for 5.15 yards per carry.

There were a number of factors that contributed to this. It naturally took some time for Longo to find out what calls worked best with his personnel. Some of it was simply the opposing run defenses Ole Miss faced in the back end of its schedule. Some of it was Jordan Ta'amu stepping in at quarterback when Shea Patterson went down with an injury. The offense became more cohesive with Ta'amu and it was clear his decision making in the running and passing game helped out. A lot of it was just how good Jordan Wilkins was for the Rebels down the stretch. Wilkins ran for 1,011 yards in his final season as a Rebel on 155 carries and scored nine times. He battled through a painful planter fascia injury in his foot and was key in helping Ole Miss find some semblance of balance in an offense loaded with receiving talent on the perimeter.

As a team, Ole Miss' 2017 running game as a whole could be labeled successful. The team rushed for 1607 yards, good for 4.3 yards per carry and 19 touchdowns. Wilkins was the first 1,000-yard rusher since Dexter McCluster in 2009.

Looking Ahead to 2018: It begs the question: What will the Rebels look like at this position next year? With an offense that hinges on run-pass-options, it is certainly an important one. The departure of Wilkins is a big loss. There's no getting around that given that he accounted for 41 percent of the team's carries and 62 percent of the yards. The Rebels also lose a speedy back in Eugene Brazley, who was used sparingly last year and tallied only six touches. Ole Miss does bring back D'Vaughn Pennamon and Eric Swinney-- essentially carried what was left of the rushing workload behind Wilkins. Pennamon carried the football 53 times for 227 yards while Swinney ran 41 times for 209 yards. Both were pretty highly regarded recruits coming out of high school, but have not yet been asked to shoulder much of the weight of the running game yet in their careers.

Pennamon suffered a leg injury against Texas A&M and his timeline for returning is not clear. Swinney is no stranger to injuries himself. This was his first healthy season in Oxford after enduring two catastrophic knee injuries the previous two seasons. Matt Luke and his staff were able to reel in the top junior college running back in the country in Scott Phillips, who signed in the December signing period and is expected to contribute next fall. Phillips, who is a mid-year enrollee, ran for 1,122 yards on 222 carries at Jones Country Junior College last season and Ole Miss is hoping he will get acclimated to the division one level quickly.

This trio is who Ole Miss will primarily look to replace the productions Wilkins gave them. There isn't a lot of experience between them, but Pennamon and Swinney do have 115 carries between them in their careers and have a couple years of experience in the program. Phillips is a talented, powerful back at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds. The Rebels have some intriguing options to fill the void Wilkins leaves, but it is undoubtedly a big one at that.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

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Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke will participate in ESPN's Coaches Film room during Monday night's national championship game between Georgia and Alabama.

The Coaches Film room is part of ESPN's MegaCast for the championship game that includes 20 different productions of the game. These alternative productions will be available across at least 10 different platforms and all will be available on the WatchEspn App. Luke will be joined by numerous head coaches from across the country including the the likes of Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, Colorado State's Mike Bobo, Kevin Sumlin and former Ole Miss head coach and current Duke head coach David Cutlciffe among others. Luke played his final collegiate game for Cutcliffe 1998.

It is the fifth edition of this MegaCast that includes the Coaches Film room and has been popular enough that ESPN offered the broadcast during the two playoff games for the first time. The coaches will watch the game together and discuss the various intricacies of the game like breaking down X's and O's and sharing their insight. It will be broadcast on ESPNNEWS and will feature limited commercial breaks. Luke will also be on the Coaches Film Room Pregame show on ESPN2.

Kickoff between Georgia and Alabama is slated for 7 p.m.

NFL Rebels: Adeboyejo's Christmas Surprise

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The waiter began removing the clean plates and silverware from the three empty seats on the white cloth. There was no need for them. The only chair occupied at this four-person table at Sonny Lee's Hunan Taste restaurant in Owings Mills, Maryland, was the one Ravens' wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo sat in.

Here he sat nearly 1,400 miles away from home trying to make a living and a name for himself in the National Football League, left alone on a frigid Christmas Eve with nothing but a few somber thoughts that come naturally with being alone during the holiday season. It had been an adventurous, yet trying rookie season in which he battled a PCL injury that's prevented him from suiting up in a regular season game. Adeboyejo wasn't selected in the NFL draft. He signed as an undrafted free agent this spring.

He made a splash in training camp and regularly stood out in the eyes of the coaching staff. He tried to play through the pain of the injury during preseason games and was not as effective as a result.

"It has been a long year," Adeboyejo said. "It took a toll on me, mentally just not being able to perform."

Life on an NFL practice squad isn't necessarily a glamorous one. It is a group of ten players that practice with the team throughout the week but are not eligible to be active on gameday. They fall under a different salary threshold as well. Practice squad players are required to be paid at least $7,200 per week with most teams trying to stick near that minimum. It is all the physical rigors of playing in the NFL without the thrill of game action.

Out of the corner of his eye a few tables away, Scott Steinberg noticed the server hauling off the plates and Adeboyejo sitting alone. It was a depressing enough sight to call him into action.

"He sits down and I can see there is no one else joining him," Steingberg said. "I'm like gosh, it is Christmas Eve. No one is allowed to eat alone on Christmas Eve. That is just not acceptable."

Steinberg was dining with his wife, his son and his in-laws. He contemplated with them about inviting Adeboyejo to their table. His son Jake was a bit embarrassed at first and thought they might be bothering a man with some headphones in looking for some peace and quiet. That was not the case. Who wants to be alone on Christmas Eve? Steinberg walked over to the party of one and extended an invite.

"He was like 'Oh yes, absolutely. Thank you' and made a beeline to our table," Steinberg said.

He noticed Adeboyejo's Ravens' stitched cap with a number on it. Aside from a Google search to see who this number 16 was, Steinberg knew nothing about Adeboyejo other than he looked like a lonely soul in a new city missing his family.

"I was thinking about my kids and my life," Steinberg said. "Just out of college I moved to a city where I didn't know anyone and had a lot of meals by myself. It really does stink."

The Steinberg family is Jewish. They do not celebrate Christmas in any way. They don't have lights strung outside their home and they don't open gifts under a tree. But they respect and understand the traditions of Christmas and that comes from being around loved ones during the holiday season.

"A holiday is a holiday," Steinberg said. "We wanted him to feel like he had family even though we had just met. We just wanted him to feel like he was one of us in our family."

So here in this Chinese restaurant sat a Jewish family of mostly Penn State graduates with a 22-year-old Texas native that graduated in the heart of SEC Country. They were from different parts of the country with different backgrounds and had known Adeboyejo for all of two minutes. What did they talk about?

College football, of course.

"We believe the Big Ten is the best conference in the country," Steinberg said. "We believe Penn State is the best place to see a game. We are huge college football fans. Oxford and State College are probably very similar in terms of how a Saturday feels in terms of the excitement and the crowds in a small town."

It turns out, they quite a few things in common. Jake is a senior in high school and is a soccer player. He would like to play college soccer. Adeboyejo gave him some encouragement regarding recruiting, noting that he was a late-blooming recruit and was exploring other options until Ole Miss came into the picture towards the end of the process.

"I kind of talked to him about how I was in the same boat," Adeboyejo said. "I was not really recruited at first, but I just put my head down and kept working. I told him that is all he can do - keep working, so when the opportunity does come, you'll be ready for it."

The two also discussed their love of video games like FIFA Soccer. They discovered they can't play against one another because Adeboyejo operates the sticks on a Playstation 4 while Jake is team Xbox.

The Steinberg's peppered Adeboyejo with questions about football and life in the NFL. After they got home, they searched his highlights and realized Adeboyejo was a part of one of the more iconic college football plays of the last couple of years, a 66-yard juggling touchdown catch that bounced off two players in a win over Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"We went home and my son googled it," Steinberg recalled. "We were like 'Oh my God. He's THAT guy. That is crazy!"

Being regulars at Sonny Lee's, they helped him order and gave him food recommendations around town as they passed around egg rolls. The two parties told stories of their backgrounds and their life paths. Scott is a Philadelphia native and works in finance. His wife Amy is a contractor in cybersecurity for the federal government.

"It was great," Adeboyejo said. "We talked about a lot of different things. We got to know each other. We learned about the type of things we do."

Adeboyejo talked about his family and how they haven't been able to come visit much being so far away and with him being sidelined with an injury for most of the year.

As they got up to go their separate ways at the end of the nearly 90-minute meal, they felt like old friends.

There's a tradition at Sonny Lee's. Towards the front door of the restaurant there's a bowl of uncooked rice. On the way out, a guest grabs a handful of rice and tosses it over their shoulder for good luck. The Steinbergs did so and insisted Quincy follow suit. He didn't think much about it.

The new friends took a couple of photos and went their separate ways. Quincy returned to the grind of being on the practice squad in the NFL.

Two days later, the day after Christmas, Adeboyejo was asleep when his phone buzzed. He recognized number. It was Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. Adeboyejo was about to get a late Christmas present. He was being promoted to the 53-man roster. Adeboyejo is going to suit up for his first official NFL game this Sunday.

"I just had to be patient. I know it's a numbers thing at times," Adeboyejo said. "I got the call. It was a dream come true."

Adeboyejo's newest fans were pretty excited at the news a well.

"We are taking full credit," Steinberg joked, referencing the rice tossing. "We were just thrilled for him. He is just such a nice person and so friendly. We were just really happy for him."

Adeboyejo has certainly had quite an eventful week. It all began with a random act of kindness from a stranger he previously knew nothing about. It was a small offering, but certainly one that lifted Adeboyejo's spirits when being alone during the holiday season can easily dampen them. He realized a dream and made a couple new friends in the process.

"It was a very small gesture," Steinberg said. "It is not like it put us out of our way. The most important thing is we found out how nice of a kid he is. He has a big heart. We met a nice person and whether he plays for the Ravens or not, it doesn't really matter. It was great for us to have that opportunity."

Gates Recognized at Jackson TD Club Dinner

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JACKSON, Miss. -Days after playing his final game in an Ole Miss uniform, Gates made his way to down to Jackson to be presented with the Jackson Touchdown Club's Most Valuable Senior Award Monday night.

The award is exhibited to the most outstanding leader on each team and is selected by the coaching staff. Gates accepted the award at the River Hills Tennis Club.

The senior linebacker played this year through a slew of injuries including two battered shoulders. He compiled 114 total tackles and was the first Ole Miss player to record 100 tackles in a season since Patrick Willis.

He finished his decorated career with 282 total tackles and six sacks. Gates played in at least 11 games every year he was on the team. He has led the team in tackles each of the last three seasons.

Luke Ready for Opportunity at 'Dream Job'

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Matt Luke & Family

OXFORD, Miss. - Matt Luke gripped the podium and grinned toward a crowd of media after being introduced by Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Ross Bjork as Ole Miss' next head football coach. With tears in his eyes, the 41-year-old turned to his right to thank his wife and two kids. He also turned to his left to thank Bjork and Chancellor Dr. Jeff Vitter for an opportunity that fulfilled his dream.

At some point after Ole Miss' 31-28 win in the Egg Bowl last Thursday night, some time during the more than five-hour long window Bjork sat in a room with Luke - a period that spanned from Friday to Saturday night - Bjork decided that the head coach he'd been searching for since late July was sitting in front of him and had been for the last five months.

"I really saw the beginning of a culture change," Bjork said. "That was pretty impressive. And the fact, ultimately, that he stuck in there and won in the end and never gave up is a huge sign that this coach is pretty special."

His Ole Miss connections aside, Luke sold Bjork on a plan, a vision for his alma mater's football program that is trying to navigate through a period of NCAA-infused turmoil, something made a search for a coach even murkier than it already was.

"It is impossible to quantify how much angst and uncertainty that our NCAA case has impacted our fans, let alone a coaching change in July," Bjork said. "I take ownership in everything that happens in our program, good and bad. I am sorry that our great University and the Ole Miss family have endured so much. This is a first step towards moving forward and the next step is one day closer."

Bjork seemed set that Luke was the man to help Ole Miss find more stable ground. He made it clear on Monday that Luke's plan was the most detailed, impressive and plausible of the eight candidates he engaged with. Bjork said the search was extensive and exhausted all reasonable options.

Luke had the benefit of a four-month long interview on the field, but he wasn't selected because it felt like the safe choice. It was what was said in that room on campus between them in those two days, the plan Luke outlined to Bjork on Friday night and reinforced after a night of sleep on Saturday, is what earned him the keys to his dream job at 41-years-old and just 12 games of experience under his belt. By Sunday morning, Bjork consulted with Vitter and went through the other possible avenues. By the early hours of that afternoon it was clear to them they'd found their man.

"I talked about my vision for this program," Luke said. "To me, building and changing this culture, the NCAA is not going to affect that. We've been through a lot of adversity, and we're going to come through this no matter what. But it's going to take hard work, discipline and toughness."

It is a hire that may be perceived as a gamble by some, but after months of instability, Luke sold Bjork on his workman-like mentality and a desire to rebuild this program from the ground up, including its battered image.

"He will evaluate our current program and make the necessary changes," Bjork said. "He will bring accountability, structure and continue to change the culture in the program. His tough-minded, no-nonsense attitude, his blue-collar approach, his non-stop year round work ethic is exactly what we need for our program. Coach Luke improved our team from last year, despite only having one week to prepare for the job."

Luke realized a dream on Monday. He can permanently move into to the office a few doors down from where he stood grasping the podium with excitement. It will come with challenges. He is coaching in the toughest division in college football against the best coaches in the profession. The looming NCAA sanctions, no matter how light or severe, will serve as one as well. That hasn't deterred him from believing in the plan he sold Bjork on.

"Ole Miss sells itself, and there are people who want to be at Ole miss," Luke said. "There is some uncertainty. People are waiting to see what happens. But there is a lot of interest and we're going to be right there either way. We only have 12 seniors. We only have 14-17 scholarships based on attrition for this class. We're going to be fine in this class."

It also hasn't intimidated him into trying to be someone he is not.

Luke's final days as a player at Ole Miss in 1998 saw him play the role as a translator between David Cutcliffe's new staff and his team in preparation for a bowl game after Tommy Tuberville's abrupt departure following the Egg Bowl.

He played with a severe MCL injury and stood in the offensive and defensive huddles trying to foster communication between his team and the unfamiliar staff. It was those three weeks of bowl practice that forged his desire to become a coach.

Luke has spoken with Cutcliffe, Tuberville and many of his other mentors in the recent days as he's tried to process what has been handed to him. They all had a similar message. They told him to be himself and that it was good enough because he was ready. That's all Luke has tried to do from the beginning when he stepped to the plate with his university in a tight spot. It was good enough to be the glue that held the program together despite a season that was set up for failure. It was good enough to give him a fair shot at landing the job. Ultimately, it was good enough to earn it.

"From the very beginning of this on July 20th to right now, I've held true to that and I've been myself," Luke said. "The beauty of it is that I've been raised under a lot of good head coaches and I've had a lot of great experiences. I've tried to take the best from every single person I've been around, put that in with my love for Ole Miss, and you have your own coaching style."

Bjork bought into Luke's vision and the two will be seen as steering this ship together. For the last six months, he's searched all over to find the right fit for the Rebels. He thinks he has found one in Luke's four-month long interview.

"The players believe in him," Bjork said. "Envision, with a full offseason to recruit, make the right adjustments, we can see that his plan will translate to success."

Brown Shines in Return to Starkville

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A.J. Brown - 2017 Egg Bowl

STARKVILLE, Miss. - A.J. Brown gathered his teammates in the visitors tunnel in the moments before Ole Miss took the field on Saturday night at Davis-Wade Stadium in the Egg Bowl. He swatted their shoulder pads and told them to lock in. He took his helmet off so they could see his face and delivered a message to his team that portrayed how he felt about the next 60 minutes.

This game meant more to him. Brown grew up miles from the stadium. He chose Ole Miss over his hometown Bulldogs, a decision that spurned criticism and chiseled a chip on his shoulder.

"I knew there were a lot of eyes on me," Brown said. "I just wanted to keep my cool, avoid the pushing and shoving and play my game.

His coach knew this would be a unique day for him.

"I knew he was going to be emotional coming back home," Matt Luke said. "I told him let's go out and enjoy this. We have 60 minutes left together, let's just go out and enjoy this."

The sophomore wide receiver made his presence felt from the time the clock began to run. He caught a 50-yard pass on the second play from scrimmage that set up an Ole Miss touchdown a play later. He caught a 77-yard deep ball for a score from Jordan Ta'amu that gave the Rebels a boost in momentum after Mississippi State narrowed the gap. The sophomore wide receiver caught six passes for 167 yards and the one touchdown in an emotional return to Starkville. He helped Ole Miss reclaim the Golden Egg Trophy.

"It was really huge," Brown said. "This wasn't just me. This was for the seniors."

Brown didn't practice this week while dealing with a hamstring issue. He wanted to be ready for this game.

"I was really antsy all week," Brown said. "I just wanted to do something."

The 77-yard touchdown looked like a sure overthrow out of the hand of Ta'amu. Brown jolted forward with a burst of speed, somehow caught up to the football and raced to the end zone.

"I thought he overthrew me," Brown said. "I didn't know what to think. I just knew I had to run. I don't know how I caught the ball."

Luke shared the same viewpoint while the football was in the air. He did not think there was any way Brown was going to be able to catch up to it.

"I thought it was overthrown with me me standing on the sideline," Luke said. "He wanted it and he just went and got it."

He relished the silence of the stadium after his touchdown catch and acknowledged this was something he'd been thinking about for two years, a return to Starkville where he made his decision to come to Ole Miss.

"I knew I was going to come back here," Brown said. "I thought about it a lot and it felt great."

 Brown was overjoyed in the mob of players trying to put their hands on the Golden Egg trophy.

"We were really excited about this win," Brown said. "We had to get the Egg Bowl back."

The proverbial chip on Brown's was fueled by some of the things he heard from people back home. It motivated him to muster the performance he had. It's one he will remember for some time to come.

"I had a chip on my shoulder coming into this game being from Starkville," Brown said. "It felt great. It really did."

Mock Draft Roundup

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Mock drafts aren't so much an exact science as a game of educated guessing. That becomes even more the case when they're stretched out past the first round, but the mocks can give a sense of how Ole Miss' potential draft picks are viewed. A total of seven Rebels are mentioned in various mock drafts across the internet to be selected this weekend during the NFL Draft.. To no one's surprise, the group is headlined by Evan Engram. He's currently a fringe first round pick because teams are very intrigued by his athleticism and ball skills. 


Evan Engram: No. 22 on Kiper's Big Board. 2nd Round, Pick 3 (NFL.com). 2nd Round, Pick 3 (ESPN McShay & Kiper). 2nd Round, Pick 3 (DraftWire). 2nd Round, Pick 7 (FoxSports). 2nd Round, Pick 23 (CBSSports). ESPN's Todd McShay also listed Engram as his best route runner, the No. 5 best fit for today's NFL, and one of the players with elite intangibles. 


D.J. Jones: No. 151 on Kiper's Big Board. 5th Round, Pick 20 (FoxSports). 6th Round, Pick 5 (NFL.com). 6th Round, Pick 30 (DraftWire). 7th Round, Pick 34 (CBSSports).


Damore'ea Stringfellow: No. 193 on Kiper's Big Board. 7th Round, Pick 15 (DraftWire). 7th Round, Pick 26 (CBSSports) Priority Free Agent (NFL.com)


Chad Kelly: No. 268 on Kiper's Big Board. 6th Round, Pick 11 (NFL.com). 6th Round, Pick 17 (DraftWire). 6th Round, Pick 25 (CBSSports)


Fadol Brown: No. 198 on Kiper's Big Board. Priority Free Agent (NFL.com)


Tony Conner: 7th Round, Pick 12 (DraftWire)


Quincy Adeboyejo: 7th Round, Pick 18 (NFL.com)

NFL Releases Official Pro Day Numbers

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The NFL released some of the official numbers from Ole Miss' Pro Day last week. We knew Ole Miss players impressed last week, but now the numbers are official. 


Quincy Adeboyejo's improved vertical jump from the combine will only help him, as it shows he has the explosion and quick twitch that NFL teams look for. His Pro Day vertical was 37 inches. 


Fadol Brown shaved a little time off of his combine 40-yard dash at Pro Day, coming in at 4.88 seconds. That's moving for someone weighing 280+ pounds. His 4.48-second short shuttle also shows great quickness for someone his size.


Evan Engram didn't have much to prove at Pro Day, as he couldn't have had a better workout at the Combine. Still last week, he flashed his ball skills and did very well in positions workouts. Like Engram, D.J. Jones didn't have much to prove after a good Combine showing. Jones did add three reps to his bench press, increasing his total to 28 reps of 225.


Damore'ea Stringfellow probably had the most important workout of any Rebel at Pro Day. His 40-yard dash time of 4.60 shows he's fast enough, given his style of play. In general, his workout was very, very well-rounded with 17 bench reps and a 10-foot-10 broad jump. 


Carlos Davis definitely put himself on the NFL radar as well. He ran a 4.37 40 and logged a 36-inch vertical. He also showed off quickness with his a 4.26-second short shuttle and a 6.92-second three cone. 

New Offensive Coordinator, Same #WRU

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By Steven Oubre, Ole Miss Athletics


Head coach Hugh Freeze has branded Ole Miss as Wide Receiver University since arriving to Oxford. Despite the new faces and system installed, It appears that tradition will continue into 2017. 


The receivers shined on perfect spring day at the 2017 Grove Bowl at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as the offense edged the defense 31-29 Saturday. 


Led by A.J. Brown, Van Jefferson and D.K. Metcalf, the trio combined for 15 receptions, 357 yards and three touchdowns. The most improved offensive player of the spring, senior Marquell Pack, flashed his speed and hands, making a diving catch for an explosive play. Freeze was proud of the performance of his receiving core but expects more out of his defense.


"You want to high-five your receivers and say 'Man, great job.'," said Freeze. "But we can't give up explosive plays. So it's very difficult for a coach to leave a scrimmage every felling really good."


The outing did not come easy for the talented group. Offensive coordinator Jeff Longo's new system took some getting used to, but the receivers showed they are buying in to the process.  


"In those first seven or eight practices, you see a ball land, and the receivers aren't on the same page," said Freeze. "But there's a partnership there. (Longo) has great confidence that they're going to make plays in those 50-50 balls. He's going to put them there. It just takes reps. They have to have a ton of reps together this offseason to make sure they're on the same page."


Quarterback Shea Patterson looked comfortable delivering the ball, completing 70 percent of his passes for 341 yards and a pair of touchdowns despite the limited play calling.


"He's settled in and everybody knows that," said Freeze. "He gives them a confidence. It's taking him a little while too, because everything is new. All the verbiage, the type of drops you have to take, the checks in the run game, you have to learn all that. Today the call list was small, and he had a good understanding of it. I thought he was really efficient, and that gives people around him confidence."


With Jason Pellerin's move to tight end, Jordan Ta'amu fills in as the second-string quarterback this spring. The transfer from New Mexico Military Institute was able to get it going, scoring a touchdown through the air and the grown for the offensive unit. Ta'amu's 74-yard heave to Jefferson cut the lead to five, and a 1-yard sneak into the end zone gave the offense the lead. 


Although it was business as usual for his offensive unit, Freeze looks forward to the challenge of learning a new system for the first time.


"The challenge is I have to learn all of the new terminology so that I can be involved. That's been a challenge because I've used my terminology since high school, but we needed it. It was time for us to have a change in signals and terminology, so that has been good for me too."


WRU and the Rebels kickoff the football season at home September 2 against South Alabama. 

Ole Miss Pro Day Participants

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At Ole Miss' Pro Day on Monday, April 3, 23 Rebels will take part with the intention of catching the eye of an NFL team. 


The Rebel quartet of Evan Engram, Quincy Adeboyejo, Fadol Brown, and D.J. Jones that impressed at the NFL Combine will have another try to better their numbers from a month ago. Engram, in particular, performed as well as anyone at the Combine and has even started to garner some first round buzz in mock drafts. 


Players that had stellar Rebel careers that will be at Ole Miss' Pro Day but didn't get a chance to make an impression at the Combine include Chad Kelly, Antonio Conner, Issac Gross, and Damore'ea Stringfellow. Kelly, who is still on the mend from an ACL injury suffered in the late stages of the season, will throw. 


The event is closed to the public, but fans are encouraged to follow along on twitter (@OleMissFB) beginning at 10 a.m. 


Full list:

Quincy Adeboyejo

Justin Bell 

Tony Bridges

Fadol Brown

Quintavius Burdette

Terry Caldwell

Antonio Conner

Carlos Davis

Evan Engram

Will Few

Issac Gross

D.J. Jones

Derrick Jones

Akeem Judd

Chad Kelly

Jeremy Liggins

Rommel Mageo

Collins Moore

Kailo Moore

Damore'ea Stringfellow

Temario Strong

Hunter Thurley

John Youngblood

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The 2017 Regions Bank Grove Bowl will kick at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 8 on SEC Network. On the call will be the talented commentating team of play-by-play man Joe Tessitore, color commentator Greg McElroy, and sideline reporter Laura Rutledge. 


April 8 will be a full day in Oxford. The annual Chucky Mullins breakfast will be held prior to the Grove Bowl kickoff while Rebel baseball faces Alabama at 4 p.m.


This spring, ESPN and SEC Network are giving the SEC's spring games an unprecedented amount of coverage. For the second consecutive year, every Spring Football Game played in the Southeastern Conference will be nationally televised by an ESPN network. 

Rebels Excel at NFL Combine

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The NFL Combine is a big stage that offers an even bigger opportunity to make an impression on NFL front offices before the draft in late April. It's safe to say the Rebel quartet of Evan Engram, D.J. Jones, Quincy Adeboyejo, and Fadol Brown all took advantage of the opportunity. 


Evan Engram hasn't been a secret over the past four seasons to any college football fan. He's been unguardable and a matchup nightmare for every defense Ole Miss faced. He really emerged on the NFL radar at the Senior Bowl, but he followed it up with a spectacular combine performance. He turned in a strong effort in the position drills while clocking the fastest 40-time of an TE at 4.42. The 40 was the highlight, but his broad jump and three-cone drill were also very impressive. It's hard to believe that an NFL team won't view a playmaker with those measurables as an instant boon to the offense and worth a first-round selection. He has the production and the athleticism that makes decision-making on draft day easier.


D.J. Jones plays inside at DT, which isn't the most flashy of positions. He was flashy at the combine. What he did at his side was remarkable. Weighing in at 319 pounds, Jones, nearly broke into the 4.9s with his 5.04 40-time. That ranked seventh among DTs, but each ahead of him came in at a smaller weight. His broad jump was the sixth-best, with those ahead also being lighter like in the 40. That athleticism at that size is rare and has to be appealing to NFL teams.


Quincy Adeboyejo is very fast. His 4.42 40 ranked ninth of all the skill position players at the combine. He proved that he's more than straight-line speed as well. His three-cone drill time of 6.73 seconds ranked sixth-best among all of the skill players. At 6'3", Adeboyejo has the speed and quickness to be an outside-deep threat that an NFL team believes they can use to their advantage.


Fadol Brown struggled with a foot injury throughout the 2016 season, but there's no doubting that he's an athletic specimen. Brown measured in with the sixth longest arms of any defensive lineman. That might seem trivial but keeping offensive lineman away is of vital importance. An arm's length for Brown is a long way. He also showed good explosion by turning in a 34" vertical and 4.94 40-time at 273 pounds.

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With Ole Miss beginning spring practice, the focus begins to turn to the 2017 football season. Coincidentally, the SEC released the schedule for 2017 Football Media Days today as well.


Ole Miss will be featured on the final day of the four day event, with head coach Hugh Freeze being the penultimate coach to take the podium on July 13. 


Media Days will take place July 10-13, held again at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. Auburn and South Carolina are also taking the podium on the final day with Ole Miss. 


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.


MONDAY, July 10

Arkansas - Bret Bielema

LSU - Ed Orgeron

Tennessee - Butch Jones

 

TUESDAY, July 11

Florida - Jim McElwain

Georgia - Kirby Smart  

Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

Miss. State - Dan Mullen

 

WEDNESDAY, July 12

Alabama - Nick Saban

Kentucky - Mark Stoops

Missouri - Barry Odom

Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin

 

THURSDAY, July 13

Auburn - Gus Malzahn

Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze

South Carolina - Will Muschamp

Four Rebels Invited to the NFL Combine

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Four Rebels will head to Indianapolis to take part in the NFL Combine in hopes of bolstering their draft stock and adding to Ole Miss' already strong NFL presence. Quincy Adeboyejo, Fadol Brown, Evan Engram, and D.J. Jones will have the opportunity to shine in front of the of all the NFL front offices and scouts that will be present on March 3-6.


Engram, after leaving the Senior Bowl as one of the top performers of the event, will  be a hot name at the Combine as he continues to up his draft stock. That's not to say Adeboyejo and Jones didn't take advantage of their all-star game appearances. At the Combine, Adeboyejo's 40-yard dash time will be interesting as few are faster when he gets going. 


Brown's biggest reason for missing out on the all-star game circuit was the foot injury that held him out for some of the season. When he became healthier later in the season, no one could question his impact or athleticism. That athleticism gives him a chance to really turn heads in the Combine setting.


In general, the SEC dominated the list of combine invitees. The conference combined for 68 invites, the most of any conference. 


For the Rebels that did not receive invites, Ole Miss will hold a pro day in April to give them a platform to impress. Of course, it also gives the four that did receive invites a chance to improve on their performances. 

Rebels Focus on Defense on Signing Day

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Ole Miss' defense needed a shot in the arm after a 2016 season to forget. It began by retooling the defensive staff, bringing in Wesley McGriff to take over the defense along with new hires on the defensive staff. It continued on Wednesday when the Rebels signed a class with an obvious eye towards revitalizing the Landshark defense. 


Of the 21 recruits in Ole Miss' 2017 signing class, 14 are on the defensive side of the ball. Eight of those 14 are ranked as four-star prospects, so Hugh Freeze and company succeeded in adding talent and depth to that side of the ball.


"We addressed a lot of needs that we have. That's what signing day should always be about," Freeze said. "Defense was the priority of the class, to get it fixed."


Linebacker, in particular, is a position group where it's obvious that the Rebels improved greatly on Wednesday. Ole Miss signed five linebackers, highlighted by four-star recruits Josh Clarke, Breon Dixon, and Mohamad Sanago. 


"Linebacker was a place we needed to improve," Freeze said. "Time will always tell, but I think we have quality individuals there, first ... I know we have length. That's something we haven't had enough of."


Ole Miss also added four four-star recruits in the defensive secondary in D.D. Bowie, Javien Hamilton, and C.J. Miller, and Kam'ron White. While they're athletic, they also possess a vital, yet often overlooked trait for defensive backs: ball skills.


"I've come to the conclusion that if kids are picking the ball on Friday nights, they're probably not going to intercept it on Saturday nights," Freeze said.


On the other side of the ball, the Rebels return many of the snaps from last season. Therefore, the need wasn't as great in this recruiting cycle. The Rebels still added some depth to the quarterback room behind Shea Patterson in Jordan Ta'amu and Alex Daniel.


The offensive class was highlighted by four star recruits Tony Gray on the offensive line and Braylon Sanders at receiver. Both will join position groups that return impressive amounts of talent. 


"We met a lot of needs," Freeze said. "We're excited to go to work with these young men that have chosen our program."

The Senior Bowl always offers players a chance to improve their draft stock by performing well against some of the best players in the nation. Evan Engram took advantage of that opportunity. NFL Network's draft expert Mike Mayock named Engram as one of the 10 standouts from the last week in Mobile.

Mayock expects the Ole Miss TE to be at least a second round and to impress at the NFL Combine. 

Rebels Impressing at East-West Shrine Game

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NFL eyes are always set on college all-star games, so they provide an opportunity for players to greatly increase their stock. At the East-West Shrine Game, Quincy Adeboyejo and Tony Bridges are taking advantage of that opportunity. Adeboyejo, in particular, has been stealing the show. 


NFL.com's Mike Mayock on Adeboyejo: "He's about 6-foot-3 and he's got length. He's got a little more suddenness than what I saw on tape. He's shown an ability this week to catch the ball in traffic."



Tunsil Named AFC East Rookie of the Year by ESPN

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Miami Dolphins offensive lineman and Ole Miss' former blind side protector Laremy Tunsil was named AFC East rookie of the year by ESPN. The award was voted on by the four reporters covering the teams in the division. Three of the four selection Tunsil.


Tunsil started 14 regular season games and one playoff game, split up between left guard and left tackle when Dolphins' starter Branden Albert missed time with an injury. Tunsil's play turned a weakness of the Dolphins last season into a strength. The Dolphins ranked among the top 10 teams in the league when rushing to the left of the center. 


Despite playing out of position at left guard, where he had never played before, Tunsil did not allow a sack from the inside all season. Even more impressively, he was able to play at such a high level despite battling a shoulder injury throughout the season. When he did get time at left tackle, he showed the skill that Ole Miss fans grew accustomed to when he was in red and blue. 


It's only a matter of time before the Dolphins move on from Albert at left tackle and insert Tunsil as their starter there for the next decade. 

Three Rebel Coaches Among Top-20 Recruiters Nationally

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Ole Miss football bolstered its coaching staff by adding coaching that are well known for their ability to bring in talent by recruiting at a high level. 247Sports.com ranks the top recruiters each year, and three of the top-20 in 2016 currently are employed by Ole Miss.


The Rebels added the No. 4 recruiter in the nation in Bradley Dale Peveto as well as the No. 20 recruiter Jacob Peeler. Matt Luke, who often doesn't get enough credit as a top-tier recruiter, ranks No. 7. No offensive line coach ranks higher than Luke in the rankings.


Ole Miss is tied with Florida State and Alabama for the most with three coaches ranking in the top-20. 

Longo Named FCS Coordinator of the Year

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Football Scoop - Ole Miss' new offensive coordinator Phil Longo was named the FCS Coordinator of the Year by FootballScoop.com. The award is selected by former winners of the award, which shows the respect other coaches have for Longo's coaching ability.


Sam Houston State was able to run through the regular season undefeated and reach the FCS Quarterfinals in large part due to Longo's offense. The Bearkats averaged nearly 50 points per game while racking well over 500 yards per game.


It's one thing to move the ball from the 20-yard line to the 20-yard line, but Longo's Bearkats excelled at finishing drives in the red zone. More than 80 percent of drives that made it to the red zone ended in a touchdown. 


Sam Houston State was dynamic through the air, finishing ranked second in the FCS in passing offense (368.3 ypg). However, the Bearkats rushing attack was not to be discounted. Longo's squad ran for nearly 200 yards per game as well. Sam Houston had more than 4,500 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in 2016. No FBS team accomplished that.


While working inside of Longo's offense, nine Bearkat starters received All-Southland honors. 

New Coordinators Help Address Critical Areas

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Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze had specific deficiencies that he wanted his coordinator hires to address. On offense, he wanted to improve the rushing attack, third down efficiency, and red zone scoring. On defense, Freeze wanted his new coordinator to have a record of stopping the run, limiting explosive plays, and keeping teams out of the end zone in the red zone. Phil Longo and Wesley McGriff were hired because they fit those criteria. 

Ole Miss' offense has been dynamic in many categories since Hugh Freeze arrived in Oxford. Longo will look to continue that success while also filling some voids that have hampered the high-powered Rebels from being a truly great offense. 

The Rebels struggled to find balance on offense, many times leading to drives stalling out in the red zone. Since Longo took over as Sam Houston State's offensive coordinator in 2014, only one team in all of Division 1 football scored more red zone touchdowns. The Bearkats found the end zone in the red zone 145 times. 

While Longo runs a variant of an "Air Raid" offense, he's not bashful about running the football. Sam Houston had more than 4,500 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in 2016. No FBS team will accomplish that in 13 games this season. 

Sam Houston State converted on 47 percent of opportunities this season on third down in 2016. In the FBS, that would have ranked 19th in the nation. Ole Miss ranked 65th this season on third down at 40 percent. The best way to help out a struggling defense is to keep the offense on the field, and that was something Ole Miss didn't do enough of this year.

As for Wesley McGriff and the defense, it's easy to see how Freeze decided to go in that direction. Ole Miss' defense really struggled in 2016, and McGriff brings a track record of limiting some of the weaknesses. 

In 2015 before McGriff arrived, Auburn's defense struggled in the areas Freeze mentioned as wanted his defensive coordinator to improve. 

McGriff Effect

Auburn Defense Before and With McGriff

        2015 2016

YPG         405.2 348.4

Rush YPG 182.7 124.8

Plays of 10+ 190 144

Red Zone TD % 51.0 34.2


Check, check, check. While McGriff doesn't have prior coordinator experience, every big name on the defensive side of coaching has to get an initial opportunity. Ole Miss' defense needed new energy after the poor 2016 season, and it seems like McGriff will bring just that.

Haynes' Return a Boon for Ole Miss Defense

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Ole Miss' defense will look for 2017 to be very different than 2016, but the Rebels will return a very important piece to make that happen in Marquis Haynes. Haynes announced on Wednesday that he will return for his senior season. 

"After talking with my parents and Coach Freeze, it's best that I return to school and play my senior season as an Ole Miss Rebel," Haynes posted on Twitter. 

Haynes has been a constant presence in opposing backfields during his first three seasons, racking up at least seven sacks in each of them. The only other Power 5 players that can say the same since 2014 are likely first-round selections in this year's NFL Draft Myles Garrett (Texas A&M) and Derek Barnett (Tennessee). 

Even if the standard is lowered to five sacks in each of the last three seasons, Alabama's Jonathan Allen is the only Power 5 player to join the club. Haynes has been as consistent as anyone at getting to the quarterback. 

With Haynes returning, the Ole Miss defensive line looks to again be a strength for the team. D.J. Jones and Fadol Brown are big losses, but Haynes, Breeland Speaks, and Benito Jones are a very experienced, talented core for the new defensive coordinator to build around upfront. 

While the Ole Miss defense had issues in 2016, the defensive line was a consistent force. Ole Miss ranked 10th among Power 5 schools in pressuring the quarterback. Obviously, Haynes was a big part of that as the Rebels' best pass rusher. 

Haynes had three fewer sacks this year than last season, but sack numbers don't really tell the story. Ole Miss faced nearly 200 fewer pass attempts in 2016 than in 2015. And now, Haynes has one more season of making life difficult for offensive tackles and quarterbacks.

Archie to Receive Gold Medal from NFF on Tuesday

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Ole Miss legend Archie Manning will be receiving the National Football Foundation (NFF) and College Hall of Fame Gold Medal on Tuesday, December 6, at the 59th NFF Annual Awards Dinner. 

The highest and most prestigious award presented by the National Football Foundation, the Gold Medal recognizes an outstanding American who has demonstrated integrity and honesty; achieved significant career success; and has reflected the basic values of those who have excelled in amateur sport, particularly football. 

Archie will also be presiding over the Hall of Fame ring ceremony for this year's inductees as NFF Chairman. 

Fans can watch live streams of both the NFF Annual Awards Dinner (http://es.pn/2fShU5i), starting at 7 p.m. CT, and the morning press conference (http://es.pn/2eCZRmg), starting at 8 a.m. CT, on ESPN3.

Rebels' Most Valuable Senior: D.J. Jones

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Jones,DJ_091716_JM.JPGDefensive tackle D.J. Jones has been recognized by the Jackson Touchdown Club as the Most Valuable Senior on the Rebels' football team.

He will be recognized with the award tonight during the C Spire Most Valuable Senior Program at the River Hills Club in Jackson, but will be unable to attend while recovering from an elbow injury he sustained in the Egg Bowl.

A native of Greenville, South Carolina, Jones has anchored the Ole Miss defensive line as a starter in all 12 games this season. He finished the year with 30 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 2.0 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and three quarterback hurries. He had a standout game in the win over Memphis, recovering a fumble and making his first career interception.

In two seasons since transferring from East Mississippi Community College, Jones racked up 69 tackles, 8.5 TFLs and 6.0 sacks, while playing in every game with 14 starts.

Jones is known as one of the Rebels' strongest players, boasting the ability to bench press 430 pounds and squat upwards of 700 pounds. At an even 6-foot and weighing 321 pounds, he also has a 31.5-inch vertical jump and can dunk a basketball.

The Jackson Touchdown Club has been presenting the Most Valuable Senior awards every year since 1946.

Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

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The 2016 season began with high hopes and expectations. Those are the things that accompany a No. 12 preseason ranking. Instead, it became a season of injuries, what-ifs, close calls and disappointments. Instead of championships, the season came to a close with a losing record in a lopsided Egg Bowl loss. 

In a way, the Egg Bowl encapsulated the season. Ole Miss was able to survive the first half and fortunately head to halftime down only by a touchdown, 27-20. That was despite settling for two field goals and having a pass intercepted in the end zone. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze emphasized on Monday how this game would be a shootout and that Ole Miss had to score touchdowns in those scenarios. 

Still, after missing those opportunities, Ole Miss was very much in the game. The defense delivered a hard to come by three-and-out to start the third quarter, and Ole Miss marched down the field. Once again, the red zone proved hazardous. Mississippi State stuffed Akeem Judd on 4th-and-1. Instead of a game-tying drive, the Rebels came away with nothing, and Mississippi State dominated from that point on. 

Four Bulldog touchdowns and many rushing yards later, the game, and the season, came to a jarring end. Ole Miss failed to find any answer, staying scoreless in the half. The game was a 60-minute synopsis of what the season has been like for Ole Miss. Once again a second half doomed the Rebels. Instead of taking advantage of an opportunity, the Rebels were unable to do so. That leads to a five-win season. 

It's a shame that is the brutal conclusion to the season, especially for a senior class that meant so much to the program and raised the standard expected from the players that put on the Ole Miss uniforms. It was inconceivable that Ole Miss missed a bowl at the beginning of the season. Obviously, it happened. As someone that has been around Ole Miss football for years, that's a culture change from just a decade ago. 

The seniors didn't get an opportunity to finish though, because sometimes that's how football goes. Ole Miss played a difficult schedule, didn't stay healthy and let close games get away from them. That's how their college careers end, as unfortunate as it is for the players that helped carry Ole Miss back to New Orleans. 

Now the onus falls on the underclassmen to not let this become anything but a blip on the radar on a long-term scale. Leaders like Chad Kelly, Evan Engram, Issac Gross, and John Youngblood are out of eligibility. Now, it's up to the young guys to take over leadership roles and come back next year with a renewed vigor and not let a season like this happen again.

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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It's Egg Bowl week. That should be enough motivation for the players and coaches. The game means an extraordinary amount to this university and theirs. Ole Miss has faced adversity, but now they have a chance to go to a bowl game with a win against their rival. Their offense will be a challenge. Ole Miss has to score TDs in the red zone when they get opportunities. It could easily be who scores the most touchdowns. They have a good scheme and their QB makes them efficient in the run game. It's going to be a great atmosphere as the Ole Miss fans show up to help the Rebels defend the Egg Bowl. 

Ole Miss is a beat up team. John Youngblood talked to the team this year. He can't play though. Evan Engram and Issac Gross are both questionable for Saturday. Sean Rawlings and Robert Conyers will try to go. They need the young guys on the team to realize how important this game is because Ole Miss will need them against State. 

Shea Patterson is where any freshman would be in this situation. He had a great game against A&M, but there were things he didn't understand. Some of those things carried over against Vandy, but he also had about 10 drops. He missed some too, but those drops could have made his game very different. There were a lot of good things he did on Saturday, but he still has a ways to go. He got out of the pocket at times when he didn't have to. He was anxious. More reps would be the answer to that. The best teacher is experience. 

It's the coaches' job to get the team ready for this game regardless of the team's record coming in. It's going to be a battle. The players have to place a premium on preparation. 

Ole Miss didn't respond very well to Vandy's defensive change after the success on the two early scoring drives. 

Stringfellow had his hand stepped on during practice last week, which affected him against Vandy. It wasn't a normal game for Ole Miss' WRs. 

Ole Miss has to win first down against State because of how difficult stopping a running QB is on third and manageable.

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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Freeze said that it was good meeting with the team yesterday. A lot of good things happened with a lot of improvement in a lot of areas. To go on the road to Kyle Field, there was a lot of great things about the game. The defense deserves a lot of credit. They played a really good game. It was overwhelmingly joyous for him to see the players have so much fun in the locker room after the game. When you're having a difficult season, it's really good to see the people have fun that are with you in this journey. 

Offensively, it was up and down. That was to be expected with a freshman quarterback out in that environment. They threw a lot of looks at him. He made a lot of plays. Five balls could have easily been caught that weren't, so the day could have been better. Shea handled himself well, and some playmakers made plays around him. Robert Conyers and Sean Rawlings are the heroes offensively. They go without attention. Neither felt good enough to play, but they bailed the offense out. They love this team and university and program. They went through a lot of pain to go above and beyond on Saturday.

Vanderbilt is very good. Playing a team led by Derek Mason is always difficult. They know what they're doing defensively, and they're getting better on offense. They want to run the ball, but they can throw it. Ole Miss needs to win on first downs to put Vandy in difficult situations. Mason has given Ole Miss' offense problems every year. They're fundamentally sound, and they're always in the right spots.

Benito Jones has gotten better and better every week. You don't have to worry about effort with him. He loves this place and will be a really great player. Deontay Anderson is coming on as well. A.J. Brown has great hands and continues to come on as well. He needs to block better, but he's progressing and competing. 

The defensive line has played well all year. They haven't cost the team this year. The defensive line played well on Saturday, but they've played well all year. D.J. Jones was a wrecking crew. A&M's center had problems all year. 

Freeze felt like the team had a chance to win every game left, and Shea Patterson gave the best change to win those games. The decision to pull the redshirt was for the seniors to finish their careers at Ole Miss in the best way possible.

Freeze hasn't seen better effort from a group as the offensive line has given this year. They're good kids that care about this program. They're willing to go the extra mile to make sure they do the part in Ole Miss being successful. 

In the second half, Ole Miss ran mainly four plays. They had different options, but it was the day one installation plays. They'll expand it some this week.

The team hasn't been bad in the red zone, but the team needs the offense to be excellent in the red zone. 

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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Freeze said the team is excited to win a game. It was a tough one. They spent a lot of time working on Georgia Southern's option attack, but they didn't show a lot of it. They had to change on the fly. They were able to put it away though. 


It's disappointing to see a senior's career end with injury. It's heartbreaking, and Ole Miss is indebted to them for their service to the university. John Youngblood has been a leader since he arrived. Chad Kelly wanted to rewrite his story, and he's done that. He's changed for the better. Freeze has watched him make an impact to others. They both played like they were indebted to this university. The way they played the game the right way and represented Ole Miss. Now they have to move on without them. It creates challenges and opportunities. Injuries have not been kind to Ole Miss this year, but that happens in football sometimes.


The team was good in the red zone, and they took care of the ball. There were few penalties, and they had explosive plays on offense. Defensively, there were too many explosive plays in the first half. The second half was the best half of the year. Ole Miss will need the defense to play well during the stretch. It was an outstanding game from Fadol Brown, who recorded 14 tackles. 


The blocked punt has to be fixed, but the coverage on punts was the best it has been all year. 


It was a slow start but solid effort. Now they have to play in a difficult place to play against Texas A&M. They'll face another SEC defensive front and they have playmakers on offense. It will be a difficult environment to play in without Chad or John. 


It's difficult to pull a redshirt off a player like Shea Patterson with three games left. All options are on the table. Markell Pack, Evan Engram, Jeremy Liggins were all mentioned as emergency options. He wouldn't rule out taking the redshirt off yet, but he hasn't decided yet. Jason Pellerin will get most of the reps. Shea is one of the most complete QBs that Freeze has seen as a freshman. 


Van Jefferson has a hip pointer. Robert Conyers is going to be what he is. He's suffered through a lot of injuries, and probably doesn't need to play a lot. Rod Taylor and Sean Rawlings are in a waiting game, but they couldn't go if the game was today.


With a week of practice, they can expand the offense more than it was on Saturday. However, it's not going to be like it was with Chad at QB. 


Chad had a difficult day yesterday. It was tough to hear. He said that God has a plan for him, and he'll work hard to come back stronger. He wanted to finish his journey here in a different way.


Freeze thinks that Chad will be remembered as one of the best competitors that have ever played here. He led the team to the Sugar Bowl, and Ole Miss fans won't forget that.


Freeze isn't content or happy with the season, but he's at peace. Maybe it's because of his faith or the the people he's around or being at this university. When you're in the SEC and have some turnovers and injuries, these years can happen. The team has three opportunities left. 

By Alex Sims, Ole Miss Athletics

The Ole Miss Rebels entered Saturday's meeting with Georgia Southern already shorthanded--then defensive captain John Youngblood went down. Then quarterback Chad Kelly went down. And suddenly, Ole Miss found itself fighting off a feisty underdog with one arm tied behind its back.

But even without perhaps the two strongest leaders on either side of the ball, Hugh Freeze's group found a way, holding off the Eagles in a 37-27 victory.

"We learn to celebrate the wins this season," Freeze said. "Everything is a fight. I'm proud of our young men today, shorthanded as we were, and the injuries that occurred today. It's a solid Georgia Southern team, give credit to them. I'm proud of our kids for fighting."

As the Ole Miss head coach said afterward, it has been that kind of year for the Rebels. The injury bug has spread across the field, forcing established starters to switch positions and freshmen to be thrust into action.

Youngblood was one of several players to make a transition, sliding from defensive end to Mike linebacker, but the move lasted just a few snaps. The senior was lost in the second quarter to a dislocated ankle, likely ending his season and his career as a Rebel.

"I don't know the extent of the damage," Freeze said. "Youngblood has been so much, obviously with the loss of his father. He's been a captain, a leader. It stinks to see kids go down to injuries like that to end their season. I don't see how he could (come back) from what I witnessed out there. He's just the model student-athlete. That's why they voted him a captain. It was by a landslide. He's meant a lot to the program."

With Youngblood out, the Rebels had to regroup to stop the tricky triple-option attack of Georgia Southern. But a 68-yard run by Matt Breida put the Eagles up 21-10 early in the second quarter. Then came the turning point. Tight end Hunter Thurley recovered a surprise onside kick attempt on the ensuing kickoff, and Kelly made the Eagles pay, punching in one of his two rushing touchdowns on the afternoon.

From there, the defense came together, walling off the end zone for the remainder of the game. Ole Miss scored 21 unanswered, capping the run with a 38-yard touchdown connection between Kelly and Evan Engram to make it 31-21 at the half.

Kelly did so with a different man snapping him the ball. Normally positioned at left guard, Javon Patterson shifted over and played his first ever game at center at any level. There were a few hiccups along the way for the sophomore standout, but as one of several players holding down new positions and new roles, Patterson knew his team needed him.

"You just have to make sure you can be versatile," Patterson said. "We have a great group of guys in there and anybody can step up. Young guys have had to step up early this year and they're doing a great job of doing that."

Just when it looked like all was right for the Rebels, adversity struck again. On Ole Miss' first drive of the second half, Kelly had a defender inadvertently roll up on his leg, tweaking his knee. He didn't return but stood on the sidelines for the remainder of the game. His status is uncertain going into next week, but the Rebels know they have a reliable option in redshirt-freshman Jason Pellerin.

Normally brought in as the quarterback of Freeze's jumbo package in short-yardage situations, Pellerin had full command of the Ole Miss offense. He finished with just 19 yards passing and an interception--but he nearly had two scores.

One deep ball landed in the hands of A.J. Brown, only to be stripped away by Darius Jones Jr. and ruled as an interception. Another glanced off the fingertips of Engram in the end zone. Nonetheless, Freeze was happy with the performance of Pellerin, and of course, happy that the Rebels came away 1-0 this weekend.

"We kept them out of the end zone the second half. That was big for us," Freeze said. "It allowed us, with Chad going down, to manage the game with Jason in the second half. I thought he did a nice job. I thought he managed the game well enough to get us to the end of the game with a victory. We'll take it. Our goal was to be 1-0 this week, and we accomplished that. Now we'll try to be 1-0 next week."

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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12210711.jpegAfter meeting yesterday and watching the film, our kids competed against one of the hottest football teams in the country. They needed a couple more plays. Freeze has zero frustration over effort, but he does over having a recurring problem with stopping the run. 

The team is determined, and the goal is to go 1-0 this week against a talented Georgia Southern team. Georgia Southern gets up to play big teams. Ole Miss has to score touchdowns against them in the red zone with the way the defense has been playing. 

Georgia Southern has talented skill players. They have concerning speed. They can pull and run out of any blocking scheme. Ole Miss has a lot of work to do to get honed in on stopping it. 

Rommel Mageo will start at the Mike linebacker this week. DeMarquis Gates has an MRI scheduled on his knee. He didn't play well on Saturday and wasn't moving well. 

A.J. Brown is getting better. He's going to be a phenomenal wide receiver. His deal is understanding the different leverages in coverage and how that changes a route. He doesn't have a great understanding of that just yet, but that's normal for young receivers. 

The offensive line injury situation is not good right now. Injuries have followed the team around this year. Sean Rawlings is in a boot. His injury hurt them in the red zone because Robert Conyers had to come in with a bad knee. Daronte Bouldin had a hip pointer and wasn't doing well yesterday. Rod Taylor came out of his boot, and they hope he can go on Saturday. It's hard to burn a redshirt so late in the season. 

The students help make the atmosphere in Vaught-Hemingway. However, it bothers him when the team comes out at halftime, and there are empty parts of the student section. He hopes those that leave reconsider. The students play the largest role making the atmosphere difficult to play in for opponents. He loves the student body but wishes they would stick around for the entire game. 

Greg Little and Alex Givens in their first starts both held their own and did very well against a very talented Auburn defensive line.

Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

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For most of the game on Saturday, Auburn's defense had no answer for Ole Miss' signal caller. Even his incompletions were on target. He threw for a school-record 465 yards while adding 40 yards on the ground to eclipse 500 total yards. 

This wasn't against a run-of-the-mill defense, either. Auburn was one of the best defenses in the nation, especially against the pass. The Tigers averaged fewer than 200 yards through the air. Clemson's Heisman candidate Deshaun Watson only managed 248 yards. 

"His performance (ranks) way up there, against that defense," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "They'd given up seven touchdowns all year and caused real problems for quarterbacks. Chad played really well. He battled and fought."

Ole Miss' offense places a large degree of responsibility on the quarterback. On Saturday, Kelly accounted for 89 percent of Ole Miss' yards on the night. Without Kelly playing at the level he was, Ole Miss would have struggled to stay in the shootout.

Ole Miss struggled to get much going with the rushing attack, which meant Auburn's defensive line had the advantage of pinning their ears back. Nearly every time he dropped back to throw, despite the pressure, he put the ball where it needed to be. 

"We were moving it almost at will against one of the better defenses in the country," offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "Nobody else has put up those kinds of yards or points against them."

Kelly's one real mistake came in the fourth quarter when Joshua Holsey jumped in front of a third-down pass. The play before, Ole Miss had what looked to be a touchdown, but Evan Engram was unable to haul it in.

"We work hard everyday," Kelly said. "Evan makes those catches in his sleep. On the turnover, I can't turn the ball over. Once again, it led to points. We just have to keep fighting."

It was a game where if only a couple plays go differently, Kelly's performance would be one of those that Ole Miss fans remember fondly for years. Really, it still should be. Archie's total yards record was also in a loss against Alabama. Maybe, it will be appreciated down the road. Right now though, it's a game where Ole Miss couldn't take advantage of their best player's best game.

"I hate losing more than anything," Kelly said. "I just want to win. That's all those guys wan to do is just win, too. We don't care about anything else, just winning."

Notes from Freeze's Press Conference

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It was not the outcome Ole Miss wanted on Saturday night. Life doesn't get any easier in the SEC West. Auburn is an outstanding football team and maybe the best defensive they've seen this year. Their rushing game is back to what they're known for. It's another great challenge. The team is glad to be back home playing in front of their fans in their stadium.

The team was disappointed that they didn't make enough plays. That's part of the life you live in this conference. The team has to rebound and leaders have to lead. It's easy to see you could lose games because of the talent of the teams they have played. Ole Miss can't afford to make some of the mistakes that they've been making, on both sides of the ball. 

Auburn is very talented, and they have a good system that makes you defend the entire field. They've committed to the run. They're physical and difficult to defend. Their defense gives them a lot of possessions because they don't give up anything. Their front six jump off the page. They're an issue for every team they play. 

When expectations aren't met, it's easy for frustration to build. Ole Miss is playing young kids at some spots. You have to embrace the expectations though. Ole Miss can't give teams anything because of the opponents' talent level.

Overcoming adversity isn't the easiest thing to do. Defensively, Ole Miss is searching for guys to take the leadership role. The offense has to score a lot of points to win and play better. The defense wants to do well. There were glimpses of it early against LSU. The level of play wasn't sustained, though.

The offense presses at times because of the pressure they feel to score every time they get the ball.

Greg Little gets better and better. It's was a tough environment to play in. When he settled in, he did well. He has a bright future.

Fadol Brown played 19 plays. He's determined to give what he can do this team.

Rod Taylor has a high ankle sprain. He's questionable for Saturday. Jordan Sims has been dealing with an ankle injury for a couple of weeks. He re-aggravated it against LSU. He's day-to-day.

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.

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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

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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. 

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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 http://www.coachtocuremd.org/. 

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.  

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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 FootballSaturdays.com. 

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

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

Fahn Cooper, 49ers

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

Bobby Massie, Bears

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

Bradley Sowell, Seahawks

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

Vaught Ranked No. 30 CFB Coach of All-Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ole Miss at Media Days 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Eyes on Kelly

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

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

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

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

Defensive Line Still a Strength

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

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

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

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

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

Scenes From the Day

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:

Day

Player

Jersey #

Group start time

Group #

Friday

Fahn Cooper

12 OL

8:10 a.m. CT

1

Friday

Laremy Tunsil

48 OL

10 a.m. CT

2

Saturday

Cody Core

11 WR

8:10 a.m. CT

4

Saturday

Laquon Treadwell

41 WR

10 a.m. CT

5

Sunday

Robert Nkemdiche

42 DL

10 a.m. CT

8

Sunday

C.J. Johnson

16 LB

12 p.m. CT

9


 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.

2016 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE

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

WEDNESDAY, July 13
Alabama - Nick Saban
Arkansas - Bret Bielema
Kentucky - Mark Stoops
Missouri - Barry Odom

THURSDAY, July 14
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.

ESPN_web_092015.jpgCBS_web_092015.jpgSI_web_092015.jpg

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

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

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

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

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

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

    Karen Holden said:

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

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

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

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

    Jack1492 said:

    Great year. I am proud of you all.
    Jack

    in post Drama Rules The Day at Vaught-Hemingway

    Hunter Comstock said:

    Strange things happen to Ole Miss football teams in games played on Halloween. I don't know if I can bear to watch this one or not.

    in post Rebels Dominate In Prime-Time Spotlight