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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
March 31-April 6, 2014

Baseball
- Ole Miss picked up its second sweep in SEC play with three wins over the Auburn Tigers this past weekend, including a doubleheader sweep Saturday.
- Left-handed pitcher Christian Trent posted a complete-game shutout of the Tigers on Saturday. It was his first complete game and his first shutout as a Rebel.
- Austin Anderson hit a three-run home run Friday night in the 13th inning to propel the Rebels to an 8-5 win over Auburn in the series opener.
- Right-handed pitcher Sam Smith picked up his fourth win of the season and fellow right-handed pitcher Josh Laxer snagged his fourth save in the finale against the Tigers, a 5-1 win.

Football
- Ole Miss capped its physical, competitive spring practice season with the 2014 Regions Bank Grove Bowl on Saturday. Using a modified scoring system, the offense edged the defense 15-12 for the victory.
- Rising junior running back I'Tavius Mathers had the highlight of the day with an impressive 96-yard run. He finished the day with four carries for 121 yards.
- Rising senior quarterback Bo Wallace led the Ole Miss offense, going 10-21 for 152 yards with a touchdown. Battling for the second-string job at quarterback, redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade each had strong moments Saturday. Buchanan went 6-10 for 100 yards, including a 45-yard completion to rising sophomore running back Mark Dodson. Kincade finished 5-8 for 57 yards and a score, and also logged six carries for 38 yards.
- Graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford was named this year's Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner, becoming the first ever two-time recipient. He will wear Mullins' No. 38 jersey this fall.
- Rising senior wide receiver Collins Moore received the Eli Manning Award (most improved offensive player of the spring), and rising senior defensive back Cliff Coleman earned the Jeff Hamm Memorial Award (most improved defensive player of the spring).

Women's Golf
- The Ole Miss women's golf team hosted its annual Rebel Intercollegiate last weekend and closed the tournament in 10th-place. Abby Newton and Stani Schiavone led Ole Miss with a three-round score of 222 and finished tied for 20th.
- The Rebels 10th-place finish was their third consecutive top-10 finish, and their final round score of 286 was the best round of golf for Ole Miss this spring. Additionally, Stani Schiavone fired a closing round 4-under-par 68, which tied for the lowest round of the day and was her best round this season.
- The Rebels will take some time off before heading to the 2014 SEC Championships. Ole Miss will compete for the SEC title and a spot in the NCAA Regionals April 18-20 at the Greystone Country Club in Birmingham, Ala.

Track & Field
- Sophomore Nathan Loe broke his own school record in the hammer throw (210-3), and Ole Miss athletes collected 13 event titles at the Mississippi College Twilight Invitational on Friday evening.
- Other highlights for the No. 12 ranked Rebel men, who only sent a portion of the team to the meet, included Robert Semien winning the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.15 that matches his season best. Other wins went to Max Holman in the 1500 meters (4:02.18), Ian Carter in the 5000 meters (15:23.77) and Marcus Franklin in the discus (151-11).
- The Rebel women were led by long jumpers Kierra White, Kennadi Bouyer and Shari Russell, who finished 1-2-3 with some big jumps. White leaped to a season-best 20-1.75 that will rank her among the top 25 nationally. Bouyer posted a mark of 19-6.25 and Russell 19-5.25. White now ranks No. 8 in Rebel history, while Bouyer joins Russell on the list of the top-15 long jumpers all-time.
- Ole Miss is back in action Friday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the Alabama-Mississippi Border Clash featuring Alabama, Auburn and Samford against Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Southern Miss.

Women's Tennis
- The No. 24 Rebels went 1-2 last weekend, falling to No. 40 South Carolina 4-2 and No. 7 Florida 4-2, before shutting out Arkansas-Pine Bluff 6-0. The Rebels did not drop a single game in the win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Ole Miss concluded its home schedule 8-4.
- Junior Julia Jones came up with the biggest win of her career, defeating No. 23 ranked Alex Cercone of Florida for her sixth win in a row. She is now 24-9 overall and 11-4 at No. 3 singles. She has not dropped a set in her 24 wins.
- Erin Stephens has won eight in a row, including beating nationally-ranked Belinda Woolcock of Florida in straight sets to keep the Rebels' hopes alive in the match.
- The Rebels are at Texas A&M Friday night followed by a trip to face Missouri on Sunday to close out the regular season.

Men's Tennis
- The Rebels went 0-2 last weekend, falling to No. 40 South Carolina 4-2 and No. 15 Florida 4-1.
- Nik Scholtz suffered his first loss at No. 1 singles in the match against South Carolina, but rebounded nicely on Sunday to post his 10th win at No. 1 singles.  He is one win away from 20 for the year.
- The Rebels close out their home schedule this week beginning with a tripleheader against Arkansas-Pine Bluff Wednesday at 10 a.m. On Friday, the Rebels will welcome No. 10 Texas A&M and celebrate Senior Day for the Rebels' lone senior Johan Backstrom. The match begins at 2 p.m., and there will also be a celebration of Coach Chadwick's last home weekend with fans receiving a commemorative Billy Chadwick Stadium Cup. Sunday, the Rebels will host Alcorn State in a doubleheader at 10 a.m.

Rising junior running back I'Tavius Mathers turned in the highlight of the Grove Bowl Saturday with a 96-yard run before he was caught from behind by rising sophomore defensive back Kailo Moore to prevent him from scoring the touchdown.

"He's made some plays," offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "He made a move yesterday in practice, one of the best I have seen. He put a safety, sat right on his back to score a touchdown. 

"The other thing is, you saw on the long play today, the only guy who caught him today was Kailo, who's a sprint champion. He obviously has some speed. He's deceptive. People think because he's stockier that he's not as fast as he really is."

Rising sophomore Mark Dodson also had a solid game with two carries for 10 yards and two catches for 69 yards with a 24-yard touchdown catch from redshirt freshman DeVante Kincade. Rising sophomore Jaylen Walton, who did not play Saturday, as well as redshirt freshmen Eugene Brazley and Jordan Wilkins will also figure in the mix at running back.

"These guys are all making big runs," said Werner of the running backs. "That puts a lot of pressure on whoever that starter is. You better be healthy and you better produce. Otherwise, someone behind you is going to step in."

Backup Quarterback Battle To Continue Into Summer

Rising senior quarterback Bo Wallace was 10-of-21 for 152 yards with a 25-yard touchdown to rising sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell during the goal-line session. 

Offensive coordinator Dan Werner noted he took a big step this spring, while the battle for the second-string job continues between redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.

Buchanan was 6-of-10 for 100 yards, while Kincade was 5-of-8 for 57 yards with a 24-yard touchdown pass to rising sophomore running back Mark Dodson.

"It's neck and neck," said Wallace of the competition behind him. "One will have a good day, and then the other one will have a good day. They're both two different players, though, so situationally you can see both of them. It's a tight battle, and those guys are competing."

"I like the way those guys are playing right now," Werner said. "We still have long way to go to get them game-ready, but I'm really pleased with both of them. Jeremy Liggins comes in and you can see that he can get physical in the short-yardage-type stuff. He can keep on progressing, too. It will be interesting to see what happens throughout the summer and summer camp."

Transfers, Mid-Year Additions Change Look Of Defense

Two transfers, defensive back Anthony Alford and defensive lineman Fadol Brown, and three mid-year additions, defensive back C.J. Hampton, defensive end Marquis Haynes and linebacker Christian Russell, bolstered the Rebels on the defensive side of the ball in the spring. 

Haynes punctuated his first spring with seven tackles and two sacks in the Grove Bowl Saturday. He looks to help improve the pass rush, as does rising senior C.J. Johnson who returns after missing the last nine games last season due to an ankle injury.

"It starts with C.J.," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of the pass rush. "Just having him back defensively is huge. Not having him for eight or nine games last year really hurt our defense. His pass rush and ability makes a huge difference to what we want to do. Carlos Thompson has made vast strides in pass-rushing situations. 

"Marquis (Haynes) is another guy, who it hasn't clicked with, but his motor runs so hard. Sometimes when he's going the wrong place, he's still athletic enough to do the right things. Robert (Nkemdiche) and Bryon (Bennett) have important. I don't think there's any question our pass rush has improved."

Moore, Coleman Named Most Improved Of Spring Practice

When asked about who surprised during the spring, rising senior wide receiver Collins Moore was the first player Freeze mentioned. Moore, who stepped in for an injured Vince Sanders, was presented with the Eli Manning Award for the most improved offensive player during the Grove Bowl festivities.

"He has always made plays for us," Werner said. "We just weren't sure where he would fit in because we have so much talent at wide receiver. Because of an injury this spring, he got to step in there and play, and he made a bunch plays for us all spring. I was proud of him."

On the other side of the ball, rising senior Cliff Coleman, who has settled in at the Huskie position, was presented with the Jeff Hamm Memorial Award for the most improved defensive player.

"He's not the best athlete on the team, but he's smart and he's gotten stronger," Wommack said. "Those two things. He makes very few mistakes, and physically, you're not going to throw him around out there. When you play guys like Laquon Treadwell and Evan Engram, those guys will run you over, knock you around and catch the ball. Cliff's got himself strong enough that he can defense those type players."

Graduate student linebacker Deterrian Shackelford will wear Chucky Mullins' No. 38 jersey for the second time in his Ole Miss career, but for the first time in Saturday's Grove Bowl, he wore it during a game. 

The first non-senior to win the award in 2011, Shackelford also became the first-two recipient of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.

"It's a blessing," Shackelford said. "It's the first time something like that has happened at this university, so I'm honored and blessed that the coaching staff and the people who had a part in this selection process picked me to represent Chucky Mullins with that honor.

"My junior year, I didn't think I had a possibility of winning either, so both of them caught me off guard. I'm overwhelmed. I never imagine going to a university and having this much of an impact, especially having as much of an impact as I have had not being on the field. Growing up, you always think your impact is going to be making sacks and touchdowns, but to see that in a different view, I have certainly been blessed to be in that situation."

Shackelford was awarded a sixth year of eligibility after he missed the entire 2011 and 2012 season due to knee injuries. Despite his absence on the field, he remained a team leader on and off the field. He played both linebacker and defensive end last year and found a home at middle linebacker this spring.

Raised expectations were a common theme throughout the spring coming off an 8-5 season and a Music City Bowl victory, which he and his teammates have embraced entering the summer leading up to the season opener against Boise State on Aug. 28 in Atlanta.

"I don't feel like it was an unrealistic expectation," Shackelford said. "It was all realistic. The things that we can do this year are no dream. There's no, 'Maybe, we can do it; maybe we can't.' 

"We know we have the pieces to the puzzle and we can do it. The time is now. We feel a sense of urgency. We put ourselves in a great position. We have a lot of veterans coming back. We can do a lot of big things, but we have to stay humble and we have to keep working. In spite of all the hype and all of that, we have to stay humble and continue to work. We can go far."

In his latest three-round "Grade A" draft, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper slots former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief to the Indianapolis Colts with a second-round pick (59th overall). A "Grade A" draft is less of a mock draft and more of a look at where players are valued and team needs. Instead of projecting picks, Kiper makes each pick based on who is gone and who is available.

"It's depressing that there's no first-rounder to be had in 2014 for the price of Trent Richardson, but in Moncrief I've added a potential weapon in the passing game and in Bradford I get a productive, high-energy talent at outside linebacker," Kiper wrote. "Moncrief has very good size at 6-2, 221 pounds, and offers plenty of explosiveness, too. He ran 4.40 at the combine and also jumped nearly 40 inches with his vertical. Given the recent injury history of Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks, you really can't take the weapons for granted. Moncrief has a shot to be good."

For ESPN Insider subscribers, here's the link to the full article, "Kiper's 'Grade: A' draft"

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (March 24-30)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
March 24-30, 2014

Track & Field
- The No. 12 Ole Miss men claimed three event titles at the prestigious Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, highlighted by junior Sam Kendricks' world-leading pole vault.
- Kendricks easily won against an elite field of pole vaulters with his mark of 18-8.25 that ranks No. 1 in the world. He attempted to break his own school and meet record when the bar was raised to 19-1, but he was unable to clear that enormous height.
- Senior Ricky Robertson won the high jump with a season-best leap of 7-6 that ranks him No. 1 in the NCAA and No. 2 in the world this year.
- The distance medley relay team of freshman Robert Domanic, senior Montez Griffin, freshman Will Spiers and freshman Sean Tobin won with a time of 9:39.51 that ranks them No. 2 in school history. They also won that race to claim an SEC title during the indoor season.
- Another strong performance came from junior Phillip Young, who placed fifth in the triple jump with a mark of 51-2.75 that ranks him No. 7 in the NCAA. He also ranks eighth nationally in the long jump.
- The Rebels return home this week to host the Ole Miss Invitational on Saturday. Former Rebs and current pros Brittney Reese and Isiah Young are expected to compete alongside the collegians.

Women's Golf
- The Ole Miss women's golf team picked up its second consecutive top-5 finish by taking fifth-place at the Aunenue Spring Break Classic in Hawaii. Junior Stani Schiavone led the Ole Miss contingent with an 11th-place finish for her second consecutive top-15 finish.
- Kaitlin Voll, competing as an individual, recorded her first career top-20 finish, closing the weekend in 16th. She fired three straight rounds of 75, which ties her career low for 18, and her three-day total of 222 is a new career low for 54 holes.
- The Rebels will host their lone home event this weekend as they host the 2014 Rebel Intercollegiate. Ole Miss welcomes 17 teams to the Ole Miss Golf course this weekend for the sixth annual event.

Women's Tennis
- The Rebels are knocking on the door of the top 25, as they moved up to No. 26 in last week's ITA Rankings.
- The Rebels defeated Mississippi State 4-2 to win their 25th in a row against the Bulldogs. After dropping a close doubles point, the Rebels picked up straight set singles wins at 3-6.
- With the win, the Rebels improved to 11-5 overall and 5-4 in the SEC. It marked the team's fourth straight SEC victory and fifth win overall in their last six matches.  
- Erin Stephens got the party started by winning her sixth in a row to put the Rebels on the board against State.
- Mai El Kamash has won seven straight and is 11-3 on the season at No. 4 singles.
- Iris Verboven clinched the MSU win and improved to 8-0 at No. 6 singles.  She has now clinched two of the last three SEC wins for the Rebels.
- The Rebels host South Carolina on Friday at 3 p.m., followed by a doubleheader with Florida and Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sunday beginning at 11 a.m., to close out the regular season home schedule.

Baseball
- Ole Miss is 21-8 on the season and returns home for four games this week, including a weekend series against the Auburn Tigers.
- Senior infielder Austin Anderson leads the Rebels at the plate, hitting at a .368 clip with a team-leading 25 runs scored.
- Junior outfielder Braxton Lee leads the Rebels in swiping bases, stealing successfully on 11-of-14 attempts this year.
- Ole Miss has 20 home runs this season, three shy of the total mark set through 62 games in the 2013 season.

Football
- Ole Miss wrapped up its third week of spring practice with a competitive scrimmage Saturday.
- The defense edged out the offense in the scrimmage, thanks mostly to a series of big turnovers forced by the "Landshark" D. Among them were a pick six by Cody Prewitt and fumble recoveries for touchdowns by Serderius Bryant and Bryon Bennett.

Men's Tennis
- The Rebels went 3-1 last week, sweeping Jackson State three times and then losing a tight match to No. 17 Mississippi State, 4-2 on Sunday.
- The Rebels won the doubles point for just the fourth time all season and the second time in SEC play.  
- Nik Scholtz has won 10 in a row since mid-January and is 9-0 at No. 1 singles, 4-0 in the SEC.  Seven of his matches have not finished, including Sunday's match where he was serving for the win in the third set.
- The Rebels are on the road this weekend at South Carolina and Florida.

Softball
- Ole Miss moved to 19-18 on the season and 3-9 in SEC play after falling on the road at UT Martin and in a three-game set at South Carolina.
- Junior pitcher Lauren Lindsey, starting her second game of the season, pitched a career-high 6.2 innings in a 3-2 loss at UT Martin. She allowed just one earned run and struck out three.
- Ole Miss got a lead early and plated five runs in each game of Saturday's doubleheader at South Carolina, but could not cool off the Gamecocks' bats and dropped a pair of games. Ole Miss lost game one 9-5 and fell in game two 13-5 (6).
- Sophomore designated player Madi Osias led the Rebels offensively in game one with her first career grand slam, while freshman catcher Courtney Syrett led the Rebels offensively in game two, going 2-3 with a season-high two RBIs and a season-high tying two runs scored. She also hit the first home run of her career.
- Senior first baseman Londen Ladner led the Rebels in their series finale Sunday at South Carolina by going 2-4 with four RBIs, one run scored and one home run. It was the fourth game this season in which Ladner has driven in four or more runs. Ole Miss lost the finale 7-6.
Freshman defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche

Freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell

Football, men's basketball and women's basketball hype videos for the 2013-14 season.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (March 17-23)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
March 17-23, 2014

Track & Field
- The Rebels began the 2014 outdoor season inside the friendly confines of the Ole Miss Track & Field Complex on Saturday, and produced a few record-breaking performances to kick off the season in strong fashion.
- Junior All-American Sam Kendricks broke his own facility record in the pole vault yet again with a mark of 18-2 to crush the field of competitors.
- Senior All-American Ricky Robertson was back in action for the first time since 2012 and returned in good form by tying his own facility record in the high jump at 7-5, easily winning the meet. He also placed fifth in the long jump with a mark of 23-6.75.
- Sophomore Nathan Loe, a transfer from Illinois, made his Rebel outdoor debut a memorable one by setting a school record in the hammer throw with a mark of 202-1. He bested the previous record of 201-7 by Stacy Andrews in 2003.
- Freshman indoor All-American Jalen Miller also had a memorable outdoor debut, winning the 100 and 200 meters, and anchoring the victorious 4x100-meter relay team. His time of 10.29 (that beat such competitors as Olympian Isiah Young and All-American Mike Granger) ranks him No. 6 on the Rebels' all-time outdoor chart.
- Ole Miss is back in action this week at the Texas Relays in Austin, Wednesday-Saturday.

Baseball
- Ole Miss improved to 21-4 on the season with a perfect 4-0 week that included a series sweep of Missouri - the only sweep in SEC play this week.
- The Rebels posted two come-from-behind wins to bring the season total to nine come-from-behind wins to date.
- Ole Miss also improved to 8-1 in one-run games this year with a pair of 4-3 wins this past week.
- Sikes Orvis hit three home runs on the weekend to bring his season total to a team-leading six home runs.
- Ole Miss has 19 home runs through 25 games this season. The Rebels only hit 23 total home runs all of last season.

Softball
- Ole Miss went 3-1 for the week and improved to 19-14, 3-6 SEC. The Rebels won a mid-week home game against Louisiana Tech before then winning an SEC home series over Arkansas.
- The Rebels opened the week Wednesday with a 3-0 victory over Louisiana Tech in which pitchers Carly Hummel, Shelby Jo Fenter and Madi Osias combined to throw a no-hitter. It was the sixth no-hitter in program history, and the first combined no hitter in Ole Miss history. In all, Ole Miss retired the first 19 batters of the game in order.
- The Ole Miss bats started hot and stayed hot throughout the Rebels' series-opening 11-4 victory over Arkansas on Friday evening. Each of the Rebels' first four batters in the lineup hit home runs, and 10 of the Rebels' 11 runs in the game came with two outs away.
- Trailing 5-0 in game two against Arkansas, Ole Miss rallied to score 13 runs in four innings to win 13-6 Saturday afternoon. Ole Miss entered the bottom of the third inning trailing Arkansas 5-0, but rallied to plate four runs in the third inning, two runs in the fourth and fifth innings, and then another five runs in the sixth inning.
- Ole Miss faces UT Martin on the road Tuesday before traveling to South Carolina for an SEC road series against the Gamecocks.

Women's Tennis
- The Rebels went 2-0 last weekend, beating Arkansas 4-2 and LSU 4-1. The Rebels improved to 10-5 overall and 4-4 in the SEC.
- The Rebels have now won three in a row in the SEC and four of their last five matches overall. They have also won three straight against LSU.
- Julia Jones earned her 20th win of the year in the win over LSU. She also teamed up with Zalina Khairudinova for their 13th win in doubles.
- Iris Verboven improved to 7-1 in dual matches and 7-0 at No. 6 singles.
- Mai El Kamash won twice to improve to 10-3 at No. 4 singles. She has won six matches in a row.
- The Rebels continue on the road at arch-rival Mississippi State Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.

Football
- An energetic scrimmage witnessed by fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium capped the Rebels' second week of spring practice on Saturday.
- Trae Elston broke up a pass on the last play of the organized scrimmage, helping the defense defeat the offense, 15-14.
- Ole Miss is scheduled to practice four more times this coming week, highlighted by another Saturday morning session open to the public.

Men's Tennis
- The Rebels went 1-2 last week, losing to No. 4 Southern California 5-2 before defeating Arkansas 4-2 and falling to LSU 4-1.
- The Rebels have now won 27 straight matches against Arkansas.
- Nik Scholtz has won eight in a row and improved to 7-0 at No. 1 singles, 4-0 in the SEC. He continued his winning ways last week, knocking off the No. 11 ranked player against USC and then winning twice over the weekend.
- The Rebels face Jackson State on Tuesday before hosting arch-rival Mississippi State on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.

Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (March 3-10)

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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review
March 3-10, 2014

Baseball
- Ole Miss improved to 14-2 on the season with a series sweep of UALR this past weekend that included the team's fifth walk-off win of the season.
- The Rebels moved up to No. 12 (USA Today/Coaches) in the national rankings with the release of the latest national polls Monday.
- Freshman infielder Brantley Bell paced the Rebels with a .533 performance at the plate, including the game-tying run and game-winning hit vs. UALR on Friday night.
- Junior right-handed pitcher Sam Smith improved to 3-0 on the season with his quality start against UALR on Sunday to clinch the series sweep.

Softball
- Ole Miss completed a long, arduous week of softball last week. The Rebels opened the week by splitting a doubleheader in Salt Lake City on Monday, followed by a doubleheader sweep at home Tuesday before opening SEC play Friday at Gainesville, Fla., where the Rebels took one of three against the No. 1 ranked Florida Gators.
- Senior pitcher Carly Hummel had a fantastic week. Hummel threw the first perfect game in program history Monday in a 5-0 win over Utah State, and followed that performance with a three-hit, complete game shutout victory at No. 1 Florida. For her work, Hummel became the first Rebel to be named SEC Pitcher of the Week since 2009.
- Hummel finished the week with a team-high 20.0 innings of action, throwing a complete game in each of her three appearances. She posted a team-best ERA of 0.70, struck out a team-high 27 batters and walked just two. Her perfect game Monday is the only such performance in the SEC this season, and was just the fifth no-hit performance in Ole Miss history.
- Ole Miss' 2-0 victory at No. 1 Florida on Friday was its first win over a No. 1 ranked opponent since 2007, and was just the program's second ever such victory.
- Ole Miss has now won its SEC opener each of the past three seasons, including back-to-back seasons with SEC-opening wins over top-15 ranked opponents. The Rebels opened the 2013 season with a 3-1 win at No. 15 Kentucky.

Men's Basketball
- Ole Miss knocked off Vanderbilt 65-62 on Senior Day on Saturday. Senior guard Marshall Henderson, who was honored before the game, scored 11 second-half points as the Rebels erased a 12-point second half deficit to knock off the Commodores.
- Head coach Andy Kennedy picked up his 170th career win at Ole Miss and moved past Florida's Billy Donovan and Alabama's Wimp Sanderson for the third-most wins in SEC history by a coach in his first eight years in the league at one school.
- Henderson extended his own SEC record with a 3-pointer in his 64th-straight game
- The Rebels earned the No. 6 seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament. Ole Miss will be looking to defend last year's title as it opens play Thursday vs. the winner of the Mississippi State-Vanderbilt matchup.

Women's Basketball
- The Ole Miss women's basketball team advanced to the second round of the 2014 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament with a thrilling 63-62 win over Arkansas in opening round action Wednesday. The win was Ole Miss' first win in the SEC Tournament since the 2010 Tournament.
- Ole Miss concluded the 2013-14 season Thursday with a 70-54 loss to Auburn. Ole Miss concluded the season with a 12-20, 2-14 SEC record and advanced to the second round of the SEC Tournament. The loss marked the end of the collegiate careers for Valencia McFarland, Kenyotta Jenkins and Diara Moore.
- McFarland concludes her collegiate career as Ole Miss' No. 6 scorer with 1,655 career points. She also landed a spot on Ole Miss' single-season assists list. Her 201 assists in 2013-14 are the third most in a season at Ole Miss.

Men's Tennis
- The Rebels split the weekend, downing No. 13 Tennessee 4-1 and then falling to No. 16 Georgia 4-0 on the road.
- The Rebels have now won four straight against Tennessee. It also marked the first time this year for the Rebels to come back and win after losing the doubles point.
- William Kallberg knocked off No. 21 ranked Hunter Reese of Tennessee to clinch the win. It marked Kallberg's best win of the year and his best since a win over the nation's No. 3 ranked player his freshman year.
- The Rebels continue their road swing this weekend at No. 18 Vanderbilt and No. 22 Kentucky.

Women's Tennis
- The Rebels split a pair of matches this past weekend, defeating Tennessee 5-2 and then losing to No. 11 Georgia 5-2. The victory over Tennessee marked the Rebels third straight win against the Lady Vols in Oxford.
- In the win over Tennessee, freshman Zalina Khairudinova earned her best win of the season, upsetting No. 55 ranked Eve Repic at No. 1 singles.
- Khairudinova and Julia Jones are 10-2 on the year overall, 7-2 at No. 3 doubles.
- The Rebels continue their five match homestand with a midweek match against VCU Wednesday at Noon. On Friday, the Rebels will host No. 7 Vanderbilt at 3 p.m. followed by No. 22 Kentucky on Sunday at noon.

Men's Golf
- The Ole Miss men's golf team competed at the Querencia Cabo Intercollegiate hosted by Southern Methodist University at the Los Cabos Querencia Golf Club in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
- Freshman Ben Wolcott led the team with a three-round score of 220. Wolcott finished in a tie for 18th place, marking his second top-20 finish of the season.
- As a team, Ole Miss finished the tournament tied for 10th place with Lamar University. The Rebels posted a three-round total of 898.
- The Rebels will be back in action March 14 at the Chris Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Ga.

Football
- The Ole Miss football team began spring practice on Tuesday and totaled three workouts in the first week before spring break.
- Among the new faces to the team this spring are high school early enrollees C.J. Hampton (DB), Kendrick Doss (QB) and Marquis Haynes (DE) and junior college transfers Jeremy Liggins (QB/TE) and Christian Russell (LB).
- Also enjoying the spring are Anthony Alford (DB) and Fadol Brown (DE), who are preparing to play this fall after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules.
- Ten players, assistant coach Tom Allen and team chaplain John Powell are doing mission work in Haiti during spring break. Among the players on the trip are Justin Bell, Serderius Bryant, Ryan Buchanan, Deterrian Shackelford and John Youngblood.
- The Rebels will return to the practice fields after spring break on Monday, March 17.
- Practices that will be held at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and open to the public are slated for March 22, March 29, April 4 and April 5 (Grove Bowl).

Long-time Ole Miss athletic trainer Leroy Mullins will be inducted into the Southeast Athletic Trainers' Association Hall of Fame later this month. He will be recognized at the organization's annual clinical symposium March 14-16 at the Crown Plaza Ravinia Hotel in Atlanta, with an awards luncheon scheduled for March 15 at noon.

Mullins held a variety of positions in his 29 years with the Ole Miss athletic department, including head athletic trainer, director of insurance and wellness and the director of sports medicine. 

He is best remembered for his on-field care and treatment for Chucky Mullins, who had his career at Ole Miss come to a tragic end Oct. 28, 1989 when he broke his neck while making a tackle against Vanderbilt, which left him paralyzed from the neck down.

"You did not take anything for granted," said Leroy of that day. "You go to the practice field every day, or go into a ball game, and then it would come to an end. You leave there and go back to your training room and you have bruises and things of that nature that you have to take care of, but that day with Chucky, I couldn't do anything more. It was beyond my control. It was beyond my hands, and I had to turn it loose and put in the good Lord's hands. I believe the good Lord had a plan for Chucky, and he honored that plan. And Chucky's life is being honored today. The handicap scholarship fund that was established in Chucky's name is still helping students go to school. Chucky's memory will never die, and I hope that The University of Mississippi continues to keep that alive because he united the university in so many different ways.

"That was the big case of my career. That's the case that I'm remembered the most for. I will never forget it. It changed my life. It changed my children's lives. I can remember telling my family that night after he got hurt that we would never be the same."

Senior Bo Wallace returns at quarterback and will go through spring drills for the first time since 2012, having missed spring practice last year recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

"I feel like strength-wise, I'm a lot better than I was at the end of the year," Wallace said. "It's not exactly where I want it to be. From the time period I have had to get it right, I feel good about it. I have been throwing. Every day, I stay an hour or an hour and 15 minutes extra working on shoulder stuff and mobility stuff. I know I have put in the work, so I trust that it's going to get better."

"He said he feels as good as he has felt in two years," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll see how that goes. He didn't get to do any offseason training last year and that showed as the year went on and his arm strength deteriorated some. We're confident that it should be stronger, and hopefully it will stay consistently strong."

Behind Wallace is a four-way battle for the backup quarterback position between redshirt freshmen DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan, along with sophomore Jeremy Liggins and freshman Kendrick Doss.

"Jeremy and Kendrick are both eager to learn and ask a lot of questions," Wallace said. "Ryan and DeVante are coming on. They're starting to know it better. It's going to be fun to watch."

"I would say no one is ahead of the pack," Freeze said. Based on last year, there were some things that DeVante does naturally better than Ryan, and there are some things that Ryan does naturally better than him, and we didn't have the other two here."


A few other notes from practice:

Sophomore Kailo Moore, listed as a running back, practiced with the cornerbacks Tuesday. Freeze said he expects him to stay there, and he may run certain packages offensively.

"He is going to play some field corner this spring to see how he adjusts there," Freeze said. "He's all for that. He's kind of wanted to do that for a while."

With the departure of Donte Moncrief, sophomore Laquon Treadwell will move to outside receiver, and fellow sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo will move to inside receiver. Senior Vince Sanders, junior Cody Core and senior Collins Moore will also work at outside receiver, with juniors Quintavius Burdette and Quadarias Mireles moving from cornerback to inside receiver.

Both Treadwell and Adeboyejo excelled in their new roles Tuesday, as well as sophomore tight end Evan Engram, who participated in position drills with the wide receivers.

On the offensive line, redshirt freshman Christian Morris (Achilles) and senior Aaron Morris (ACL) will be out for the spring, and sophomore Austin Golson (shoulder) will be limited this spring. 

The first-team offensive line Tuesday consisted of sophomore Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, junior Justin Bell at left guard, junior Ben Still at center, redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin at right guard and sophomore Robert Conyers and redshirt freshman Davion Johnson splitting time at right tackle.

"That's the spot we're hurting the most at," Freeze said of the offensive line. "We're looking forward to a spring where we look and we have two full depth charts and replacements for those. Right now, we have full one, and we will use some walk-ons to make up the second one."

Senior Carlton Martin, listed as both an offensive lineman and defensive tackle, and junior Channing Ward, listed as both a defensive end and tight end, will stay on offense for spring practice, Freeze said, and that they could immediately go back to defense in summer workouts and not miss a lot.

"He will help us get a two-deep offensive line and also make sure he's getting a chance to contribute in his senior season," Freeze said of Martin. "He's one of our strongest players. We have a little more depth inside on the defensive line, so he's jumped in, and we'll see how he does this spring."

"We will see how he will adjust to that," Freeze said of Ward. "We are trying to make we get him into a good position to contribute to this football team a lot."

Other position changes include sophomore Jeremy Liggins who will split time between quarterback and tight end, senior D.T. Shackelford, who will start at Mike linebacker and junior Chief Brown who will move from safety to Huskie

Sophomores Anthony Alford and Fadol Brown, who both sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, are expected to step in and compete for playing time this fall. Alford ran with second-team defense at safety, while Brown ran with the first-team defense at defensive end.

"I feel like I can help the team out now and play a role as part of the defense," Alford said. "I just come out and work hard every day and everything else will take of itself."

In the return game, Freeze mentioned junior running back Jaylen Walton, sophomore running back/cornerback Kailo Moore, sophomore safety Anthony Alford, junior safety Trae Elston and redshirt freshman Eugene Brazley as options at kickoff returner. Freeze mentioned Alford, as well as sophomore wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo as options for returning punts.

Photo Gallery

A total of 25 scouts representing 22 NFL teams were on hand at Ole Miss' annual Pro Day Monday, including former Rebel Von Hutchins, now with the Oakland Raiders organization. Donte Moncrief, who participated in the 2014 NFL Combine, did not participate in all of the drills Monday. He measured in and then ran routes and caught passes in position drills.

Pierce Burton, who started at right tackle in all 26 games of his Ole Miss career, said he made the most of his opportunity Monday. He said he ran in the 5.1 range in the 40-yard dash and benched 225 pounds 26 times.

"I'm just trying to make an NFL team," Burton said. "That's what it's all abut. I have been hearing late rounds to priority free agent, so I hopefully I held my status today."

Barry Brunetti, who played in 29 games with two starts at quarterback, went through workout drills and then participated with the running backs and receivers during position drills. He said he has heard safety, running back, slot receiver and maybe even tight end as possible positions for him at the next level.

"I had personal records in some of the tests," Brunetti said. "I didn't get a chance to throw, but I got a chance to show some of my versatility at receiver and show that I can catch the ball. I have been working at running back and some receiver, but mostly running back. That was one of my first times through at receiver. Overall, I had a good day."

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

Scouts from five NFL teams, as well as a coach from one -- Philadelphia Eagles wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell -- watched 18 players work out at Ole Miss' pro day Monday. The workouts took place indoors and on field turf.

Donte Moncrief, who participated at the NFL Scouting combine, was among the 18 players who worked out, but three others looked like they were good enough to bring to camp as free agents.

Donte Moncrief, WR: Moncrief was weighed and measured (6-foot-2 3/8, 219 pounds) and did position drills only. Scouts said that he looked very, very impressive.

Jeff Scott, RB: Scott measured in at 5-6, 165 pounds, and posted times of 4.49 and 4.47 in the 40-yard dash. He'll probably be a free agent.

Michael Marry, LB: Marry (6-2 1/4, 256 pounds) ran a 4.96 in the 40. He also posted a vertical jump of 30 inches and a broad jump of 9 feet, 4 inches. He'll be a free agent only.

Charles Sawyer, CB: Sawyer (5-10 7/8, 186 pounds) ran a 4.56 in the 40 and posted a vertical jump of 37 inches and a broad jump of 9 feet, 2 inches.

Stay tuned to NFL.com's Gil Brandt and NFL.com's pro day reports for more from Ole Miss pro day. The NFL Draft is May 8-10.

Aspiring #NFLRebels get their chance to show out in front of the scouts on Monday at Ole Miss' annual Pro Day. A total of 19 recently-departed Rebels will participate in the skills circuit, including a few that are more than a year removed from their time in the Red and Blue. Donte Moncrief, who put on a show at the NFL Combine last week, headlines the tentative list below, although he will not compete in every drill. While Moncrief is the most likely to get drafted, there are several others with a great opportunity to play at the next level and can improve their stock on Monday. Pro Day is closed to the public, but OleMissSports.com's Austin Miller will be on hand to describe the action.

2013 Seniors participating:
Barry Brunetti
Pierce Burton
Tyler Campbell
Dehendret Collins
Terrell Grant
Jordan Holder
Ja-Mes Logan
Mike Marry
Emmanuel McCray
Donte Moncrief
Andrew Ritter
Charles Sawyer
Jeff Scott
Evan Swindall
Cameron Whigham

Others:
Nick Brassell
Louis Covington
Enrique Davis
A.J. Hawkins


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Former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief measured in Friday and went through workout drills Sunday in Indianapolis at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. He was rated a top performer in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump. He ranked among the top three at his position in each of the three drills. The NFL Draft is May 8-10.

Results:

Height: 6-foot-2

Arm length: 32 3/8 inches

Weight: 221 pounds

Hands: 9 1/8 inches

40-yard dash: 4.40 second (t-3rd among wide receivers, 4th among all players)

Bench press (Reps At 225 Pounds): 13

Vertical jump: 39.5 inches (t-3rd among wide receivers, t-5th among all players)

Broad jump: 132 inches (1st among wide receivers, t-2nd among all players)

3 cone drill: 7.02 seconds

20-yard shuttle run: 4.30 seconds

Video courtesy Ben Love, Publisher, TigerSportsDigest

Former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief met with members of the media Friday in Indianapolis at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine. Moncrief said he met with the Miami Dolphins Thursday and plans to meet with four more NFL teams.

He also measured in Friday at the combine. He came in at 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, with an arm length of 32 and 3/8 inches and a hand size of 9 and 1/8 inches. 

The combine will be held Saturday through Tuesday, and it will be televised live exclusively on the NFL Network. Moncrief is one of 48 receivers invited to the combine, and they are scheduled to work out Sunday along with quarterbacks and running backs. 

Rebels In Football All-Star Games

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Written by Lauren McMillin, Athletics Media Relations student assistant

Since the conclusion of the 2013 football season and the Music City Bowl victory, eight Rebel seniors were invited to participate in college all-star games across the country.

Beginning on Jan. 11, Emmanuel McCray played for the National team in the Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, S.C. A native of Jackson, Miss., the left tackle started every game as a junior and was a part-time starter as a senior.

A week later, on Jan. 18, Ja-Mes Logan represented the Rebels in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla. A wide receiver for the East team, Logan caught three passes for 23 yards. The senior from Houston, Texas finished his Ole Miss career tied for seventh in school history with 136 career catches and 12th with 1,734 receiving yards.

On the same day, Tyler Campbell, Mike Marry and Charles Sawyer played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif. All three played on the American team, with Marry posting four tackles and Campbell making five punts for 216 yards.

A three-year starting linebacker for the Rebels, Marry, a native of Clearwater, Fla., had 233 career tackles and finished among the SEC's active leaders with 23.0 career tackles for loss.

Campbell, from Little Rock, Ark., was a four-year starting punter for the Rebels and ranks second in school history with a career average of 44.6 yards per punt.

Sawyer, a cornerback from Miami, Fla., had 28 career passes defended and eight career interceptions while with the Rebels, placing him among the SEC's active leaders.

To finish the all-star game series, Jeff Scott, Evan Swindall and Pierce Burton played for the American team in the College All-Star Bowl on Feb. 14 in Greenville, S.C.

Scott, a native of Miami, Fla., is one of the school's all-time leaders in rushing yards (2,297), all-purpose yards (3,668), rushing touchdowns (17) and 100-yard rushing games (nine).

Swindall, the Rebels' starting center for each of his last 33 games in an Ole Miss uniform, has twice been on the Rimington Trophy's watch list, and at the conclusion of the 2013 season was recognized as Ole Miss' Most Valuable Senior by the coaching staff and honored during a ceremony by the Jackson Touchdown Club. The LaFayette, Ga., native helped the Ole Miss offense to two of its highest scoring seasons ever over the last two years.

Burton started at right tackle in all 26 games of his Rebel career. A native of Sacramento, Calif., Burton helped produce two of the top three seasons in Ole Miss history in total yardage.

These seniors, along with junior NFL Draft entrant Donte Moncrief, will hope to get selected in the upcoming NFL Draft, May 8-10, or be picked up by an NFL team as a rookie free agent. Moncrief is among 48 wide receivers invited to participate at the NFL Scouting Combine this weekend, Feb. 22-25, in Indianapolis.

Key Spring Dates

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The spring athletics season has official kicked off, and here are a few key dates that won't show up on the usual team schedules. You will be hearing tons more about these events in the coming weeks, but consider this your save the date.

March 5 - Football spring practice starts
March 31 - Rebels Choice Awards
April 5 (AM) - 25th Annual Chucky Mullins Courage Award Ceremony Presented by the M-Club
April 5 - Grove Bowl
April 13-18 - BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip



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Ole Miss landed back-to-back top-15 classes for the first time in school history dating back to the first recruiting rankings in 2002. It was a consensus top-20 class, ranked as high as No. 14 (247Sports.com). Here are a few related National Signing Day links to videos and stories:

VIDEO: Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze talks National Signing Day, Jeremy Liggins with CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman on Signing Day Live

VIDEO: Ole Miss tight ends coach/offensive recruiting coordinator Maurice Harris talks National Signing Day with the Clarion-Ledger's Courtney Cronin

Mississippi's Freeze happy with haul, writes David Brandt from the Associated Press

Ole Miss locks down top area talent, get top-15 class, writes Hugh Kellenberger from the Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss fulfills needs with 2014 recruiting class, writes David Collier from the the Daily Mississippian

Change of heart: Rebels bolster secondary by swaying Shepard, leading with the signing-day flip of signee Tee Shepard from Mississippi State to Ole Miss, writes Parrish Alford from the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Freeze: '14 class 'better top to bottom,' writes Neal McCready from RebelGrove/Rivals.com

2014 Signing Day Guide Download, a comprehensive introduction to the entire signing class, from Jeffrey Wright of RebelGrove/Rivals.com

Role Definition, answering the question what position signee Jeremy Liggins will play at Ole Miss, writes Ben Garrett from the Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com

And in case you missed it, Rebels Land Back-To-Back Top-15 Classes on OleMissSports.com and 'Bjork: It Lifts The Entire Athletics Program,' with Athletics Director Ross Bjork recounting the day that was for Ole Miss football, on Ole Miss Blog.



The Southeastern Conference announced today its annual football media days will be held July 14-17, remaining at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. The event will expand to four days in 2014, beginning Monday, July 14 and concluding Thursday, July 17.

Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss contingency will be in the Magic City on the final day and grouped with Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky.

ESPN will continue to have an expanded presence at the event, with the SEC Network officially launching in August. A more detailed daily schedule, rotational breakdown and student-athletes attending will be available later this summer. The listing of coaches below does not indicate the order of appearance each day.

Beginning with the 2014 event, institutional media guides will only be made available in electronic format, with the annual SEC publication available both via traditional and electronic means.

The previous three SEC Football Media Days all drew over 1,000 attendees, with an all-time high of 1,239 for the 2013 edition last summer.


2014 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE

MONDAY, July 14

Commissioner Mike Slive

Auburn - Gus Malzahn

Florida - Will Muschamp

Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

 

TUESDAY, July 15

Mississippi State - Dan Mullen

South Carolina - Steve Spurrier

Tennessee - Butch Jones

Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin

 

WEDNESDAY, July 16

Steve Shaw - SEC Coordinator of Football Officials / Justin Connolly - SEC Network

Arkansas - Bret Bielema

LSU - Les Miles

Missouri - Gary Pinkel

 

THURSDAY, July 17

Alabama - Nick Saban

Georgia - Mark Richt

Kentucky - Mark Stoops

Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze

 

Ole Miss landed back-to-back top-15 classes for the first time in school history dating back to the first recruiting rankings in 2002. It was a consensus top-20 class, ranked as high as No. 14 (247Sports.com). 

The 27-player signing class included 14 high school and junior college All-Americans and five consensus four-star prospects, as well as offensive lineman Rod Taylor, who is listed as a 5-star prospect by 247Sports.com and a 4-star prospect by the other three major recruiting services.

After head coach Hugh Freeze's signing day press conference, I caught up with Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork to recount the day that was for Ole Miss football.

On the importance of signing day to the football program and the athletic program as whole:

"This day is really about the whole cycle of a football program, where you have fall practice, then you have the season, then you have the postseason, and then you go into signing day, and then you go into spring practice. This is another way to sell the program at the highest level. We know we have to get players, and so our coaches go out and do that. 

"To me, it's part of the big cycle of college football, and it becomes another holiday mixed in with all of the things that we do to run a high-level football program. The attention and coverage is great, and it lifts the entire athletic program to see what our staff has done the last two years to recruit at the highest level."

On this year's class compared to last year's class:

"Last year was so different and so unique because of the connections we had with the number one player overall, number one offensive lineman and number one receiver. It's different, and what's great about today is we had no surprises. 

"The less drama you can have on signing day, the better. We had a couple of battles at the end, but the less drama, the better. To me, today was perfect, and this is how you want it to go every year, where you're recruiting a high level but you have no surprises in a negative way. Our staff did a great job."

The madness of National Signing Day returns on Wednesday, and while there isn't as much media focus on Ole Miss as last year, things seem to be shaping up nicely for the Rebels. As of Monday morning, the latest rankings have Ole Miss' 2014 class as high as No. 11 (247Sports) and consensus top-15 (ESPN #15, Rivals #15, Scout #15, 247Composite #13). After assembling a top-10 group a year ago, it would mark the first time in school history to record back-to-back top-15 signing classes. Below is a breakdown of how the Rebels have fared since recruiting rankings first emerged 13 years ago.


ESPN Rivals Scout 247 247Composite
2013 5 7 10 4 8
2012 NR 40 58 44 46
2011 25 19 20 19 20
2010 25 18 15 NA 38
2009 22 18 17 NA 17
2008 NR 29 38 NA 70
2007 NR 27 31 NA 20
2006 14 15 15 NA 8
2005 NA 30 29 NA 18
2004 NA 45 39 NA 41
2003 NA 38 32 NA 28
2002 NA 33 26 NA NA


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VIDEO: Rebel Parents

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The 2013 college football season came to a close last Monday, as Florida State defeated Auburn, 34-31, in the Vizio BCS National Championship game. Ole Miss finished the 2013 season with an 8-5 record, capped by a 25-17 win over Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Ole Miss and head coach Hugh Freeze open the 2014 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State and first-year head coach Bryan Harsin at Atlanta's Georgia Dome on Aug. 28. Other key upcoming dates between now and the season opener include National Signing Day on Feb. 5 and the Grove Bowl on April 5. Here are a few way-to-early top 25's and where the Rebels are ranked:

Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs), Bleacher Report: 17th

If Ole Miss can patch up its offensive line, it could be scary. That's an enormous if, with more than half of the group moving on, but it doesn't hurt to have gifted left tackle Laremy Tunsil locked in for at least two more seasons. Yes, the unbelievable crop of youth will be a year older, and the defense won't lose much. Offensively, Donte Moncrief will have to be replaced at wideout, but Laquon Treadwell is poised to pick up the slack, and then some. Can Bo Wallace be more "Good Bo" than "Bad Bo" next season? If yes, then this could be the year Ole Miss surges.

Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID), Fox Sports: 17th

QB Bo Wallace returns for his senior season to lead an offense that should be very explosive. But it's the defense that might well have Rebel fans on their feet screaming, "Hotty Toddy." With a forgiving schedule -- Vanderbilt and Tennessee as the SEC East opponents, and Alabama and Auburn both coming to Oxford -- could this be the year the Rebels finally contend for the SEC West?

Martin Rickman (@martinrickman), Sports Illustrated: 19th

All those blue-chip recruits from National Signing Day 2013 are a year older, a year wiser and a year stronger. Early playing time was invaluable to those guys, and even in a tough season, Ole Miss impressed with wins over LSU and Texas. The schedule doesn't get any easier in '14, but the Rebels should be ready.

Why this ranking could be flawed: Dr. Bo could be mistaken for a real doctor and asked to help assist a birth in a limo, like that one The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode. Rattled after another Egg Bowl loss, coach Hugh Freeze could start to see eggs everywhere, a phobia that hampers his game-planning ability.

Mark Schlabach (@Mark_Schlabach), ESPN.com: 20th

After going 8-5 this past season, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze can look forward to talented freshmen such as defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, safety Tony Conner and receiver Laquon Treadwell being older and wiser in 2014. Unfortunately, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M aren't leaving the SEC West anytime soon. Ole Miss will have to replace three starting offensive linemen as well as junior receiver Donte Moncrief, who announced he's turning pro. Quarterback Bo Wallace is coming back for his senior season, after throwing for 3,346 yards with 18 touchdowns this past season. The Rebels might lose only two defensive starters: end Cameron Whigham and linebacker Mike Marry. Ole Miss opens the season against Boise State in Atlanta and they'll play Alabama and Auburn at home. The Rebels will play difficult SEC road games at Texas A&M and LSU.

Jerry Hinnen (@JerryHinnen), CBSSports.com: 24th

The Rebels didn't quite live up to their billing in 2013, but if Hugh Freeze can coax some further improvement from Bo Wallace, a defense that returns up to 10 starters and is absolutely loaded with developing stars -- end Robert Nkemdiche and safety Tony Conner among them -- could lead Ole Miss back into the SEC west's top half.

Game MVP Bo Wallace and head coach Hugh Freeze meet with members of the media after Ole Miss' 25-17 win over Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl.

In the regular season finale at Mississippi State, junior quarterback Bo Wallace was 26-of-40 for 182 yards with three interceptions and a lost fumble. A month later, Wallace responded to that adversity in a huge way, as he helped lead Ole Miss to a 25-17 win over Georgia Tech in the Franklin American Mortgage Company Music City Bowl and the program's first eight-win season since 2009.

"I have said that there's no way we would be sitting here with 15 wins, including two bowl victories, in two years had Bo not been here with us," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I knew from watching him prepare that the way we ended the season didn't set well him, nor did it for me. I liked the way he prepared and I'm proud that he was able to have the game he had today."

"Going into this game, I knew I needed to have a good one," Wallace said. "But at the same time, sometimes I try to make too many plays. All day, I was thinking, don't try to make too many plays; just make the plays that are there, and that's what I did today in getting the ball to those receivers. They can run after the catch and make the stats look pretty."

The Pulaski, Tenn., native threw one touchdown and ran for two more on the way game MVP honors. Wallace finished the game 22-of-32 for 256 yards, as well as a career-high 86 yards rushing on 13 carries. He also set the Ole Miss single-season records for completions and total yards, which were both previously held by Eli Manning.

"I wanted to get the win first," Wallace said of the game MVP honors. "I knew that if I had a good game, we would probably win the game. Like I said, I tried not to press too much out there. I knew the plays would come if I made the plays that were there."

Junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief led the Ole Miss receiving corps with six catches for 113 yards and a touchdown, his fifth game with 100 or more receiving yards this season. Wallace also credited his senior-laden offensive line, with four senior starters in offensive tackles Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton, offensive guard Jared Duke and center Evan Swindall. 

The unit allowed just two sacks and helped Ole Miss outgain Georgia Tech, 221-151, on the ground. The Yellow Jackets entered the game ranked in the top 10 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense, and the 221 rushing yards were the second-most allowed they allowed this season.

"That was their best day as far as getting set to get the tempo going and rolling," Wallace said. "I felt really comfortable back there. That was probably as comfortable as I have been all season. We had a lot of seniors up there. They all did a great job, and I'm glad they get to leave on a good note."


Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze

On preparing for Georgia Tech: "Preparing for them is a whole different animal from what we have seen this year. We didn't have anyone on the schedule that was remotely similar to them offensively, so it's a great challenge. Even though we have had extra time, and our kids have done as good a job trying to prepare as we can, there's no way we can simulate the speed at which they do it. Hopefully, we can adjust to the speed of the game before too much damage is done. If you watch them, they're very good at jumping out on top because of how well they do what they do.

"Defensively, they remind me a lot of some of the teams we have played. They are very, very sound and make you earn every point you get. They give up very few big plays, have a tremendous pass rusher who gives you problems and they stop the run, and those are the teams we have struggled with this year when they stop the run."

On the importance of the game: "Particularly at this stage of where we are in our program, I don't want make too much or too little of one game. This is one game, and it's important, and I know both teams are going to want to win. It would certainly be very advantageous for us to win. It will help us in the offseason and help us have a different feeling in the way we ended the season. It helps us in recruiting. But at the same time, it is just one game, and we're playing a quality opponent. You want to play in these games, but you can be beaten by those teams. There's no way we're going to define ourselves by whether this game goes our way or the other way."

On freshman tight end Evan Engram: "He was sore this morning. He's going to give it a go. We'll see how healthy he can be. We have not asked him to block a five technique yet in too extreme conditions. That will happen Monday, and I'm not sure how he will do. It's good to have him back. We changed some when we lost him so it's good to have him back. He's going to push through it. How many snaps he can really go? I don't know. He has not played in eight to nine weeks now. That's a lot of time off."


Ole Miss junior quarterback Bo Wallace

On preparing for Georgia Tech: "We're prepared. We have had a little more time to prepare for them, and we have taken advantage of it. I'm just excited to go play the game."

On playing close to home: "It's fun. I love Nashville. I love Tennessee. I live 40 minutes from here, so I will have a lot of family and friends here. I'm excited about it, and I grew up going and watching the Titans play, so it will be cool to play in their stadium."

On the offensive line injuries: "It hurts to have Laremy (Tunsil) out and have Aaron (Morris) and those guys out. We have had to deal with that all year. We have some new things going into the run game that we're excited about.

On the importance of the game: "It's huge. It gives us momentum into recruiting and gets the bad taste out of our mouths from the Egg Bowl. We really need to win this game."

More from defensive coordinator Dave Wommack

On preparing for the Georgia Tech option attack: "It's still a little disadvantage because they do thousands and thousands of reps and we've had somewhere around 450 reps. Our guys have really taken on the challenge and are looking forward to it. We're going to execute really well."

On how Georgia Tech differs from when he was on staff there: "They've changed a little bit. There are a few more formations, but the basis of it, the true triple option and the trap option and that kind of thing, is the same. They throw it a little bit more than they used to with this quarterback, as far as tendencies are concerned. It's a bowl game. You can expect anything."

On what they have gained preparing for Georgia Tech: "We have gotten a lot out of it from the standpoint of learning to play cut blocks better. We're putting our eyes in the right place. All those things carry over. Tackling, too. It's still football for us. Our guys have really taken a hold of what we're wanting to do and executing."




Ole Miss fell 17-10 in overtime to intrastate rival Mississippi State, but the Rebels' one score provided a special moment for two of the team's unsung players.

Down 7-0 with 31 seconds left in the first half, Ole Miss called its third and final timeout to force a Mississippi State punt and try to score some points before halftime.

Mississippi State punter Baker Swedenburg stood deep in the Bulldogs' end zone and bobbled the snap. And then, two Ole Miss players just made plays.

Junior wide receiver Collins Moore beat his man off the line and took the ball right off Swedenburg's foot in the end zone, and senior wide receiver Terrell Grant pounced on the ball for the touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 26 seconds left. 

It turned the momentum in the Rebels' favor, as they drove 81 yards on 17 plays on the opening drive of the second half, capped by an Andrew Ritter 22-yard field, to take a 10-7 lead. Head coach Hugh Freeze called it a "huge lift" and "big special teams play."

"(Linebackers/Special Teams) Coach (Tom) Allen came up with a great scheme this week," Moore said. "I told Terrell Grant that if I was the one to block the punt that I wanted him to be one to recover it and hopefully score a touchdown, which we did, because this will the be last time he will play Mississippi State being a senior."

"It was a great feeling," Grant said. "It changed momentum, which we needed. (Collins and I) had been talking about it all day. It was a great moment, and I'll remember it forever, but I wish we could have won. I would have rather not have the touchdown and win than have the touchdown and lose."

 For those two role players, despite the loss, those five seconds will last a lifetime.

Moore has 13 career catches for 189 yards and a touchdown, while for Grant, it was the first time he touched the ball in his four-year Ole Miss career, having seen action in 24 games on special teams and as receiver.

"Everything that Coach Freeze preaches about -- playing for the guy next to you -- that's all that was going through my mind, that I made a dream come true for one of my teammates," Moore said.

"Having a peace of mind and understand that God has his ways. I stuck with it," Grant said. "I love the game of football. I could have transferred, but I love Ole Miss and I love my teammates. They helped me the most. That's what helped me." 

One of the core values for the Ole Miss football program is mental toughness. With a rivalry game in a hostile environment, it will carry a greater importance. 

"You're going into a hostile environment, and that's the biggest thing," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "When you're playing here, you have your home-field advantage. When you're playing there, it's a hostile environment and nobody likes you. It's kind of you versus the whole stadium."

One challenge is the weather, with the temperature expected to dip into the 30s, maybe the upper 20s, which is something similar to what they faced in the 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri this past Saturday. Head coach Hugh Freeze said they have to be mentally tough to handle it.

"I did not think we handled the weather well the other night," Freeze said. "I don't talk about those things a lot, but I did talk to our team about it today. I didn't think we handled it really well, particularly when we got behind."

Another challenge is the 55,000-plus fans at Davis Wade Stadium, with the sound of cowbells. Each of the past two days, Ole Miss has had cowbell sounds, along with the usual loud music for road games, piped into practice in the Manning Center.

"We better get used to that," Freeze said. "I'm not sure how that process is going there with the regulations that they have on them. I'm certain in this game we will hear some."

"Barry (Brunetti) said that it's one of the toughest places he has played, so that's what I'm anticipating," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said, referring to Brunetti's start at quarterback in the 2011 game at Mississippi State.

Length, Size In Mississippi State's Front Seven


Freeze had praise for the Bulldogs' front seven, led by sophomore linebacker Benardrick McKinney and junior defense end Preston Smith. McKinney and Smith are tied for the team lead with 2.5 sacks. McKinney also leads the team with 61 tackles, while Smith leads the team with 6.5 tackles for loss.

"Their length and size of their front, they are one of the longer defenses you will face," Freeze said. "Their linebackers are tall, and their front is huge. It is difficult to win one-on-ones, so you have to create double teams, and their linebackers are good at running around and making plays. In the passing game, they do a great job of spot-dropping, and they're so long, that those windows to throw in don't stay open very long. 

"You have to take care of the ball. They're great at getting turnovers, and when you turn the ball over, you're not nearly as good. We have to be balanced, so we can be effective in throwing. The last thing you want with who we are is to get into a situation where they know we have to throw."

Another player to note in the front seven is freshman defensive lineman Chris Jones, who has started three games for the Bulldogs, two at defensive tackle and another at defensive end. He leads the team with nine quarterback hurries, ranks second with two sacks and tied for third with five tackles for loss.

"Any time that you're a freshman playing in this league, you better be pretty good," Luke said. "The biggest thing is adjusting to the speed of the game in this league. Any time you are able to do that as a freshman, it's good."

Wallace, Other Health Updates

Wallace battled flu-like symptoms in the 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri this past Saturday. He is close to 100 percent, Freeze said Tuesday.

"He still felt some lingering effects this morning," he said. "We'll get him off his feet today and hopefully get him back to 100 percent. He went through everything in practice, but he felt a little weak today."

Also on the health front, Freeze said he doesn't think senior cornerback Charles Sawyer (various injuries) will be able to go, and senior running back Jeff Scott (thigh bruise/bone spur) is questionable like he was Monday.

The Egg Bowl returns to Thanksgiving night for the first time since 2003, which is also the last time Ole Miss won in Starkville. 

Thursday's game is the 110th meeting of one of the nation's most-played rivalries and the 86th "Battle of the Golden Egg," as the two schools stated playing for the trophy in 1927. The Rebels (7-4, 3-4 SEC) look to defend the Golden Egg and improve their bowl standing, while the Bulldogs (5-6, 2-6) are playing for bowl eligibility.

"The Egg Bowl intensity is always going to be about as high as you get in a given game," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "With them having to win to a bowl like we were last year, if it's possible to ratchet it up a little more for your kids, particularly your seniors, that's something that will do it if it's possible. You don't have to have that to make this game feel emotional. But if there's anything that would make it more, it would be those factors."

"I know they're going to play hard against us," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "Their backs are against the wall. We know how that feels. They're in the same situation as we were last year. They're going to come out and play, so we have to be ready for them."

Keeping The Momentum

Freeze said they gained considerable momentum after last year's Egg Bowl win. That win clinched bowl eligibility and a berth in the BBVA Compass Bowl, which may have been a determining factor for several recruits in their decision.

And on National Signing Day, Ole Miss landed a consensus top-10 signing class, which included eight Mississippi prospects, headlined by Huskie Tony Conner (Batesville) and cornerback Derrick Jones (Eupuroa).

The Rebels look to reclaim the Egg Bowl and continue to build momentum with a win Thursday night.

"I have seen it work both ways," Freeze said of the recruiting impact of winning the Egg Bowl. "There's not any recipe you can put on it. I know that it doesn't to win, and it's going to help you with some. But by the time February rolls around, there are a lot of things that have occurred, people have made decisions and relationships have been built. It's not the only factor, but it doesn't hurt, and it will help in some cases."

Wallace Feeling Better


Wallace was back at practice Monday and said he is at the end of his flu-like symptoms he suffered from in Saturday's 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri.

"There won't be any effect at all," Wallace said of any lasting effects. "Tomorrow, I'll be almost 100 percent almost."

Despite the fatigue and feeling awful, Wallace was was 26-of-42 for 244 yards with an interception. 

"It was awful," Wallace said of Saturday. "I knew I was going to attempt to play. It was just hard to focus Saturday on what I had to do at the hotel, when I was just worried about trying to feel. I played OK. Definitely, I could have played better. It's something I'm not proud of."

Looking Back, Looking Ahead: Wallace-to-Moncrief

In last year's meeting, the Ole Miss offense exploded for 24 unanswered points in the second half to take a 41-17 lead, as the Rebels went on to win 41-24 and clinch bowl eligibility. 

Wallace was 15-of-22 for 294 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. His favorite target was junior Donte Moncrief who had seven catches for a career-high 173 yards and three touchdowns.

"They're a little different than they were last year," Freeze said of Mississippi State's coverages. "They will still do some of the same stuff, but the percentages are different."

A year later, Wallace ranks third in the SEC in total offense (286.0 yards per game) and fourth in passing (264.4 ypg), while Moncrief ranks top 10 in the SEC in receiving (72.8 ypg), receptions (4.5/game) and receiving touchdowns (5).

"We showed them some looks that we didn't show earlier in the year," Wallace said of last year's meeting. "We will have a few new wrinkles in this week just like every week, and hopefully we will able to score some point on them."

Uncertainty At Quarterback For MSU


For Mississippi State, sophomore quarterback Dak Prescott ranks fifth in the SEC in total yards (251.6 yards per game) and leads the team in both passing (171.3 yards per game) and rushing (80.2 ypg). 

However, Prescott has missed the last two games due to injury and is listed as the backup on this week's depth chart to freshman quarterback Damian Williams, who is 14-of-27 for 186 yards with an interception this year. Williams also scored the game-winning touchdown with a 25-yard scamper in a 24-17 win over Arkansas last week.

Senior quarterback Tyler Russell, who has started the last two games, is not listed on the depth chart, having been replaced by Williams in each game due to injury. All this uncertainty at quarterback presents a different challenge to Ole Miss this week.

"I really don't know exactly what's going on," Freeze said. "I know they have been resting Dak, and the other two have played in the last few game. I saw where Tyler left the game last weekend at the end. I don't know what the significance of that is. We have to prepare for all three I think. Fortunately, two of the three are very similar and do the same things, and the other is still similar. They are like watching us on film. They do most of the same stuff that we do. You don't like not knowing, but that's the situation we're in, so we have to prepare for all three."

The Bulldogs are averaging 438.0 yards per game, which ranks ninth in the SEC and would also break the school record of 422.0 yards per game set in 1982. Another weapon in the offense is junior wide receiver Jameon Lewis, who leads the team with 49 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns, to go along with three rushing touchdowns and three passing touchdowns.

"They want to run the football and then play-action pass, just like our offense does," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "It's an advantage for us, and both defenses, because we get to see this type of thing all the time. We have to prepare for it all."

Ole Miss had its four-game winning streak snapped with a 24-10 loss to No. 8 Missouri on Saturday night. The 24th-ranked Rebels now face a quick turnaround as they travel to face intrastate rival Mississippi State on Thursday night in Starkville.

"We're obviously disappointed that we didn't have a chance to win it at the end," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "They are a very good football team; they take you out of a lot of things. They are excellent up front on both sides, so I give them credit. We needed to play a good game, and we didn't play well enough. We had missed opportunities in the red zone.

"We have to put it past us and move forward. Everything has to be expedited with the short week, and I told our kids tonight we don't have the luxury of tomorrow being the day we put it in the trash; we have to put in the trash tonight, move forward and put it behind us."

The story of the game was red zone conversion. Missouri scored on all four trips for 24 points, while Ole Miss scored three points in its three trips that included a blocked field goal, a 30-yard field goal by Andrew Ritter and a turnover on downs.

"It's impossible to beat a top-10 team when you get in the red zone and don't score touchdown or points," Freeze said. "We had the blocked field goal, then a drop and a bad call on the reverse. If you don't score points in the red zone against that team, you aren't going to win."

The Rebels, now 7-4 with a 3-4 record in SEC play, will look to improve their bowl standing as they prepare for their regular season finale at Mississippi State. On the other sideline, the Bulldogs (5-6, 2-5) will be playing for bowl eligibility coming off Saturday's 24-17 overtime win over Arkansas.

"They are a good football team," Freeze said. "They are so good up front that they can be in any game. They will be very emotional, not only because it is the Egg Bowl, but because they're playing for extra practice and a bowl game. We better kid our kids ready. It's always important when you play that game. With their backs against the wall, they will have their team ready, so we have to get ready."

"It's difficult, but it's football," junior linebacker D.T. Shackelford said of the quick turnaround. "The amount of weight on this game will override those days we will not have. With a lot of guys from Mississippi, it shouldn't be that hard to get fired up for this game. We know what's on the line, and they know what's on the line also."

Head coach Hugh Freeze meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

Ole Miss is the only school in the upper half of the SEC statistical rankings in every major offensive and defensive category. This week, the Rebels face one of their toughest tests on both sides of the ball in No. 8 Missouri. 

The Tigers defense ranks second in the SEC and 14th nationally in rushing defense (111.9 ypg). Missouri has held opponents under 150 rushing yards in all but one game (Georgia), while the Ole Miss has been held under 150-yard mark four times this year, including each of their three losses.

"They're one of the best rushing defenses in the nation," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It presents a challenge for us. We're not near as good offensively when we can't run the ball. It puts us a bit in a disadvantage in having to protect against a D-line like this, especially. There's a premium on being able to run it."

"The strength of their team is up front," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "We know that, and that's probably going to be where the game is won and lost."


Offensive line coach Matt Luke meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

On the defensive line, senior defensive end Michael Sam leads the league and ranks sixth nationally with 10 sacks and also leads the league and ranks fifth nationally with 16 tackles for loss. On the other side, junior defensive end Kony Ealy, ranks fourth in the SEC with 6.5 sacks and leads the team with 13 quarterback hurries.

"They provide probably the biggest challenge we have had all year from top to bottom," Luke said. "They're good in every spot. It's not like they have one guy you can focus on. (Sam) has the most sacks, but the other ends provide their own challenges. One of them is faster; one of them is bigger, and they're two inside guys are good, so you can't slide your line a certain way and protect against one guy."

It's not only the personnel, but also their scheme and movement, which presents a great challenge for the Ole Miss offensive line, both in run blocking and pass protection.

"They do a good job of movement," Luke said. "They're never in the same place. They move about every snap. They're a moving front and don't let you double-team because they're constantly moving, twisting and mixing up the front and making it tough on you. 

"Nothing is ever easy, and you always have to figure something out. You can't just do your assignment; it's always movement, so that's a unique challenge for us."

Jones, Wommack Prepare For Missouri Tall, Speedy Receivers


Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

On Monday, junior cornerback Senquez Golson compared the Missouri group of receivers to playing against three or four Mike Evans from Texas A&M. 

In the Oct. 12 meeting against Texas A&M, the Ole Miss defense, notably Golson, held Evans to a season-low 46 yards on four catches and without a touchdown, but Missouri presents a different challenge this week with all four of its starting receivers listed at 6-foot-2 or taller.

Sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham and senior L'Damian Washington (6-foot-2), who each have 500-plus receiving yards and nine touchdowns, are listed at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-2, respectively. For the Rebels, Golson and sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton are listed at 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-8, respectively.

"Most of the time you have one guy who is 6-5 guy, but to have several like they have is unusual," cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said. "All three, they can run and catch the football. It's going to be a good challenge for us."

"We can't make them any taller," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "There's nothing we can do about that. We have to go with what we got and work the fundamentals to try to challenge those guys."


Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

Another cornerback in the mix for Ole Miss will be freshman Derrick Jones, who made his college debut at No. 1 Alabama and has started three games since then. At 6-foot-3, he can help the Rebel defense match up against Missouri's tall receivers.

"After recruiting, I hoped he was going to be a safety, but I'm glad to have him as a corner," Wommack said. "I didn't realize he had the kind of hips and speed that he has. A lot of times long guys like him struggle with change of direction, but he's got all those things. He will make a bunch of money someday."

There's a different air surrounding this week's primetime showdown with No. 8 Missouri, the Rebels' first top-10 test since a 27-24 win over then-No. 6 LSU back on Oct. 19.

"It's a huge week for us," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We get to see how good we are. We had some games that we felt like we didn't play as well in that we could have been in, but this is our redemption game that we can go back and see how good we are."

"In the weight room yesterday, it was crazy," junior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "No one was talking or doing anything. We're telling each other this a game that no one should have to get you amped for. You should be motivated and feel that urge to do what you can do.

The Rebels (7-3, 3-3 SEC) have won four straight, having eclipsed 500 total offense yards in each of the four games, including a school-record 751 against Troy this past Saturday. They also re-entered the BCS and Associated Press polls at No. 24.

The Tigers (9-1, 5-1 SEC) rank in the top three in the SEC and top 20 in the nation in both scoring offense (41.3 points per game) and scoring defense (20.2). Other than their loss to South Carolina, none of their wins have been decided by less than 15 points.

"I don't know that having to win the game will answer the question, 'Are you really a top-25 team?'" Freeze said. "But if we go out, compete and have a chance to win it, that's what we're asking for right now out of our kids in Year Two. 

"Let's go find out where we stand and how we match up with the elite in the nation right. Hopefully, we'll be in it at the end and see. With the schedule we have played, looking back on it, we have had our share of tests, and this will be another one Saturday night."

When asked about keys to the matchup, Freeze mentioned two specifically: running the ball effectively and eliminating explosive plays in the passing game.

"We're pretty good when we can run it and mix in the play-action pass and the stuff we like to do off our run game," Freeze said. "When we're not running it -- you look at the Alabama and Auburn games -- we're not the same team. 

"(Cornerbacks coach) Jason Jones put together a reel of their explosive receivers play, and it's quite impressive, so we have a tall task there. If we can eliminate those and are able run the ball the ball effectively, that will go a long way in helping us be in this game.

The Challenge On Defense

Senior James Franklin is listed as the starter at quarterback for the Tigers this week, having missed the last four games since suffering a shoulder injury against Georgia on Oct. 12. 

Franklin averages 225.3 passing yards per game and has thrown for 14 touchdowns with just three interceptions. His backup, redshirt freshman Maty Mauk, averages 95.1 passing yards per game and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions.

"There's not much difference in the two quarterbacks, so that's the good thing," Freeze said. "They are going to be who they are. They have done the exact same things with their second guy that they do with their first guy, so it's not like you're preparing for two different schemes. They have confidence in both of them and have good reason to."

The Tigers also have a talented group of receivers, led by sophomore Dorial Green-Beckham and senior L'Damian Washington who each have 500-plus receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Each of their four starting receivers are listed at 6-foot-2 or taller, with Green-Beckham at 6-foot-6 and Washington at 6-foot-4. 

Ole Miss junior cornerback Senquez Golson compared it to playing against three or four Mike Evans from Texas A&M. Both he and sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton said it's about playing physical with the tall, speedy receivers from Missouri.

"That's a physics problem that we can't solve," said Freeze of their height. "It's a concern for sure because there are times where their guys are more able to make a play on the ball than some defensive backs they have faced. That is a great concern and something that we have to try to figure out what the best answers are when those cases arise."

The Challenge On Offense

One of the keys to the game, Freeze said, is Missouri's ability to stop the run. The Tigers rank second in the league and 14th nationally in rushing defense (111.9 ypg). In earlier losses to Alabama and Auburn, Ole Miss rushed for 46 and 124 yards, respectively. 

In recent games, the Rebels have run the ball better, including a season-high 382 yards against Troy, and Freeze credited the offensive line progressing and being more multiple, while senior offensive linemen Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray credited continuity and working better with double teams.

"Very few people have been able to line up and just run the ball effectively on them to keep you off balance, and then they get you one-dimension and those ends are quick and cause trouble in the backfield for you," Freeze said. "We have to try to find a way to run the ball effective enough so that we can be who we are and want to be and keep them thinking we're balanced, which we have been as of late."

Missouri also does a great job of generating pressure and forcing turnovers, and it starts with their defensive line. 

The Tigers lead the league in sacks and rank third nationally with 34 sacks, as well as lead the league and rank seventh nationally with 17 interceptions. It's a great challenge for junior quarterback Bo Wallace, who after throwing 17 interceptions last year, has only been picked off five times through 10 games this season.

"Sometimes the pressure is causing some of it, but they do a great job also of mixing up their coverages and causing you to want to be greedy," Freeze said. "If you're not patient against them, because they're going to make you go 8, 10, 12-play drives to get points and they're very good in the red zone. In most of their games, they're ahead and forcing you to throw a lot, and they're stopping the run, so the sacks are coming because when they get you in a position where they know you have to throw, their guys are very good at that."

"I have to be sharp every week, no matter who we play," Wallace said. "We play in probably the best conference in America. Every week, we're going to play against guys who can go get the ball and great defensive backs. There are great defenses in this league, so it's the same every week."

Their defensive line is led by a talented duo at the ends. Senior Michael Sam leads the league and ranks sixth nationally with 10 sacks and also leads the league and ranks fifth nationally with 16 tackles for loss. On the other side, junior Kony Ealy, ranks fourth in the SEC with 6.5 sacks and leads the team with 13 quarterback hurries.

"They do a lot of movement, so it will be a unique challenge for us," Burton said. "It's not just like I'm watching a defensive end every time. The defensive end is going to be slanting. They're doing run-game twists on first down. We haven't seen that all year except for SEMO. That's a really unique thing to see."

"They are very talented," McCray said. "They are slated as one of the best in the SEC. They play pretty hard and all have pretty good motors. It's not just about outstanding ability, they all play as a good unit."

Freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell caught a short pass from junior quarterback Bo Wallace, made six Troy defenders miss and dove into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown. It was the start of a historic day for the Ole Miss offense, as the Rebels rolled up a school-record 751 total yards in a 51-21 win over Troy Saturday.

"When he caught it, I saw so many people around him, in my mind, I'm thinking what are we going to call next knowing that he's going to get tackled there," offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "I'm thinking in my game plan we're about the 10- or 15-yard line, and then he kept breaking tackles and then he gets closer and closer, and then he pops it in for the touchdown. As an offensive coordinator, you love that because you set down the game plan and smile for a little bit."

The 751 total yards eclipsed the previous record of 623 vs. Auburn in 1951. It was also the highest in the SEC this year and fifth-most in league history. It was a balanced attack with a season-high 382 yards on the ground and 369 through the air, with completions to nine different receivers, while seven different players rushed at least once.

"Offensively, we broke a school record in total yards," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "That's always good and means you're doing something right. We broke it in the third quarter, so it was a good day. We finished today, as far as our 1's and 2's, and now it's time to move on to the next one."

"We talk to our guys every week about it doesn't matter who we're playing; we got to make sure that we play as well as we can and prepare the same way every week," Werner said. "They came out with a game plan and understood it. They did a great job and were really efficient, especially in the first half."

Wallace continues to move up in the record books and now ranks fourth all-time in career passing yards (5,658) and career total offense yards (6,280). He completed 17-of-26 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

"In JUCO a couple of times," said Wallace of playing in a game where the offense eclipsed 700 total offensive yards. "It was pretty ridiculous. It took me back to those days. I think we ran the ball a little more today."

Treadwell led the receiving corps with four catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns, as he set freshman records for receiving yards (477) and touchdown catches (5) in a season. Fellow freshman Quincy Adeboyejo caught his first career touchdown, a 24-yard reception from Wallace.

"He's so physical that he reminds me of a young Michael Irvin," said Werner of Treadwell. "That's how Michael played. Michael wasn't a huge burner but he knew how to get open, had very strong hands, and when he caught the ball, he out-physicals you, and that's what Laquon does."

Ole Miss has won four straight, as it enters its final two games at home against No. 8 Missouri and at Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night. The offense has surpassed 500 total yards each of the last four games and five times this year, including Saturday's historic output.

Missouri, the Rebels' next opponent in Saturday's primetime showdown on ESPN, enters the game ranked third in the SEC in scoring defense (20.2 points per game) and leads the league with 34 sacks.

"The speed off their edge is tremendous," Freeze said. "They are very sound and athletic on the back end. Their front is as good as we have faced athletically, particularly on the ends."

"I watched a couple of games on the TV when we had late games," Wallace said. "Everybody talks about their defensive line. They have two good quarterbacks, so we have to be ready to put up points."

Tony Dungy, who won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, visited campus Wednesday. He spent time with head coach Hugh Freeze, spoke to the team and signed the equipment room Wall of Fame.

"He's one of my heroes," Freeze said. "It's a special time for him to come. He spent about an hour with me in my office and then spoke to our team for about 20 minutes. I'm honored to have a man that stands for what he stands for and has done this job at the highest. Hopefully that helps and inspires us to finish strong.

His message? Choose the narrow gate. The wide road is what most folks go on.

"The whole theme of his books is there are very few uncommon people, therefore success won't be enjoy by the common man," Freeze said. "He challenged us to be uncommon in the way we do things, particularly the little things."

Scott Bolsters Backfield

Senior running back Jeff Scott, the team's leading rusher, has been sidelined since the Texas A&M game with a bone spur. He has had two good days of practice in a row and is expected to return Saturday against Troy. 

"He's doing good," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "The last few days, he's looked great. We're going to try to bring him along slowly for the game on Saturday. We'll have a couple of packages to get him involved. Just do what he can do and not try to run him into the ground right off the bat.

He will also resume his punt returning duties, Freeze said Wednesday.

"He had a good day today," he said. "That's two days in a row. And unless something sets him back between now and then, I feel like he will do that for us."

Scott has rushed for 434 yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries this year. Behind Scott, sophomore running back I'Tavius Mathers has 370 yards and two touchdowns on 60 carries, while fellow sophomore running back Jaylen Walton has 329 yards and five touchdown on 70 carries.

"I think that's the whole idea that we're trying to get here at Ole Miss, especially in the running position back position room," Nix said. "We want competition. We want guys to come out and every day and in every rep in practice and in individual work and during the course of the game. I don't know that it helped speed his recovery up but it made him anxious to get out and make plays.

Freshman Mark Dodson, who set career highs with seven carries for 57 yards and recorded his first career touchdown against Idaho, will also remain in the mix at running back.

"Mark has shown he can do a little bit of everything, be an inside guy and an outside guy," he said. "And again, it's about getting different packages to get them all involved in the game."

Familiar Foe In Troy

Saturday marks the first ever meeting between Ole Miss and Troy in football, but Freeze and some of his assistants have coached against the Trojans when they were at Arkansas State. 

When Freeze was the offensive coordinator in 2010, the Red Wolves lost 35-28 on the road, and then with Freeze as head coach in 2011, the Red Wolves won 45-14 at home to win the Sun Belt Conference title outright and finish undefeated in league play with a perfect 8-0 record.

"Very little," said Freeze, of how Troy has changed since he was at Arkansas State. "It's a new defensive coordinator but it's very similar. They maybe play a little more man. I went back and watched my two years against them, and it's still similar."

Troy leads the Sun Belt Conference in passing (324.4 ypg) and total offense (47.5), which rank 15th and 23rd nationally, respectively. The Trojans also rank second in the league and 35th nationally in scoring offense (34.6).

"They always have offensive weapons that are scary," Freeze said. "They've been able to put up points against anybody they have played this year with the exception of one team. They are a scary team offensively because they are going to spread you out and they are athletic. (Corey Robinson), he's one of nation's leaders in passing yards. I have played against him and know he can throw it, so we'll have a challenge there for sure."

"When they had the other quarterback, (Deon Anthony), they changed quite a bit because they were running some of the same stuff that our offense runs with a little more option and so forth," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, who also served as Arkansas State defensive coordinator in 2011. "They tried to do a little bit of that for a game or two, but they're more similar to what they were two years ago with (Corey) Robinson play quarterback."

Robinson holds 11 Troy and Sun Belt Conference career records, including both the school and league marks for passing yards, passing touchdowns and total yards. His 24 300-yard passing games leads all active players in the NCAA.

"He's got a quick release," Wommack said. "He's thrown for a lot of yards in his career and his high school. He's had his ups and downs at times, he's been banged around, he's been inconsistent at times, but he is dangerous from the standpoint of having a great arm and a quick release."

Ole Miss is bowl eligible for the second straight year under head coach Hugh Freeze after a 34-24 win over Arkansas this past Saturday. The Rebels are also 6-3 for the first time since 2009, when the started 8-3 before finishing with a 9-4 record. As excited as they are about being bowl eligible and the 6-3 start, the coaches and players are not satisfied.

"I like that the expectation level has risen," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "They're not just satisfied with getting six wins but trying to build this program to where we all want it to be.

"It's a sense of accomplishment," sophomore offensive lineman Justin Bell said. "It shows that we're better than we were last year. We're not where we want to be but we're far from where we used to be."

Ole Miss continues with its fifth of six straight home games, as the Rebels (6-3, 3-3 SEC) step out of Southeastern Conference play on Saturday for its first ever meeting with the Troy Trojans (5-5, 3-3 Sun Belt). 

"I don't think it a challenge of focus," Luke said. "We have to focus on us and getting better. That's the main thing. We want to finish going up, and to do that, each game has to be improvement. And there are certainly a lot of areas of improvement from the Arkansas game, and that's a good thing. Our goal is to focus on us, get better and finish these three games playing our best football."

"Our mindset is so much on nine wins that we know we have to be prepared to play and reach that goal," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said.

Wallace, Passing Game In Focus


After a stat correction from Saturday's game against Arkansas, Wallace is now credited with a career-best 416 passing yards and 428 total yards, which both rank No. 2 in school history, to go along with three touchdowns. He also ranks top 25 nationally in total offense (283.2 ypg) and passing (264.8 ypg).

He moved into fifth place in school history in career total offense yards (5,942), passing Jevan Snead and Archie Manning this past Saturday, and sixth place in career passing yards (5,386), fourth in passing touchdowns (36) and second in 300-yard passing games (7). 

"It was a goal of mine to do that," said Wallace, of his place in the record books. "It's surprised some people that it's happened so early, but I'm a confident. I think I'm the best when I walk out there, whether I am or not. 

"I just got to keep improving. There are so many things I can still get better at. Last offseason, I didn't really get a chance to get better physically. This year, I'm really excited about the offseason to do that."

Led by Wallace, the Rebels finished with a season-high 428 passing yards and eclipsed 500 yards for the third straight game and the fourth time this year. They had two receivers with over 100 receiving yards for the first time since 2003. 

Ole Miss has four receivers with over 200 receiving yards for the year, not including freshman tight end Evan Engram who is out for the year with an ankle injury. 

"We're really fortunate to have all of those guys," Luke said. "Coach Heard does a great job. Those guys play hard and are very unselfish. There are times e have asked them to block on the perimeter, and they have done that. It's good to see those guys step up and make plays."

Freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell has a team-high 49 catches for 424 yards and three touchdown, followed by junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief with 41 catches for a team-high 647 yards and team-high five touchdowns. 

Senior Ja-Mes Logan has 35 catches for 496 yards and three touchdown, and junior wide receiver Vince Sanders has 10 catches for 204 yards and a touchdown, to go along with a team-leading 20.4 yards per catch.

"I'm not looking at who I'm throwing to," Wallace said. "We have great receivers everywhere. When I make a read, I don't care who it is." 

"As receivers, we feel like we're the group of this team that gets everybody going," Sanders said. "When we make a play, the offense flows. When don't make plays, the offense struggles. As a group, we feel like the group goes through us."

Treadwell Among Nation's Best, Tunsil Honored



Treadwell, who caught a game-high passes for 39 yards and a touchdown against Arkansas, now has a team-high 49 catches for 424 yards. His 5.4 catches per game leads SEC freshmen and ranks third among freshmen nationally. It also ranks fifth in the SEC and 56th nationally.

"You look at him and he looks like an NFL receiver right now," Wallace said. "He's done a great job. He can get so much better. He probably has the best hands on the team, him and Donte, probably. He'll work on his route-running and mature. His body will get better. You guys are going to have a lot of fun watching him."

Another freshman, Laremy Tunsil, was honored as SEC offensive lineman of the week, as he helped Ole Miss to the second-most passing yards in school history and the third straight game of 500-plus total offense yards.

Tunsil has played in every game and started six at left tackle, and he is one of two true freshmen in the nation to be his team's full-time starting left tackle.

"Not when he's a five-star who comes in, looks the way does and works the way he does," said Wallace, of a lack of trust with a freshman left tackle. "I trust him as much as everyone else up there."

"The proof is in the pudding," Bell said. "You see his footwork. He's a natural-born athlete. I was amazing especially comparing my freshman year to how he is now. It's great and it only gets better from here. He does everything pretty well. There's always room for improvement. He does everything pretty well. He hits his landmark, shoots his hands, and most importantly, he keeps his feet moving."

Bowl Projections For Now Bowl-Eligible Rebels

After Saturday's game against Troy (11 a.m., ESPNU), Ole Miss plays its sixth of six straight games at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and finishes the seven-game home slate with with a primetime showdown against No. 9 Missouri on Nov. 23 (6:45 p.m., ESPN). The Rebels wrap up the regular season on Thanksgiving night against intrastate rival Mississippi State (6:30 p.m., ESPN).

In this week's bowl projections, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards and CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm all have the Rebels in the Music City Bowl, while SI.com's Stewart Mandel has them in the Gator Bowl.


After Ole Miss took a 20-10 lead into halftime, the momentum swung in favor of Arkansas after an interception, a touchdown-scoring drive and a defensive three-and-out to start the third quarter.

Now leading 20-17, senior quarterback Barry Brunetti converted a 3rd-and-1 from the Ole Miss 15 with a 4-yard run. Two plays later, junior quarterback Bo Wallace found senior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan for a 75-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 27-17. 

"We put it in after the first series of the second half," said Freeze of that play. "I told our guys to go over and draw one up in the dirt kind of, and that was the Ja-Mes touchdown."

"On that drive, we had to go out and put something together and at least get a field goal, or something, because we couldn't let them have any more momentum than they had already gained," Wallace said. "I was really close to not throwing it. Ja-Mes wasn't really telling me what he was going to do, but once I saw him go the next time, I just laid it up and he was able to run under it."

It turned the momentum back in favor of Ole Miss, and the Rebels went on to win 34-24 to gain bowl eligibility for the second straight year under head coach Hugh Freeze.

Wallace completed 26-of-33 passes for a career-high 407 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Wallace's 407 yards passing is the fifth-highest total by a quarterback in Ole Miss history, and it was his second career 400-yard passing game.

Behind Wallace, the Rebels finished with a season-high 419 passing yards and surpassed 500 total yards for the third straight game and the fourth time this year.

"Bo's day was phenomenal," Freeze said.

"It seems like every year we get on a roll around this time, so we have to go back in to work tomorrow and keep that going," Wallace said.

The Rebels completed passes to seven different receivers, and had two receivers with over 100 receiving yards for the first time since 2003. Junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief had a season-high seven receptions for a season-high 149 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown catch, while Logan had five catches for 110 yards and a touchdown.

"I was trying to think back to the teams that I have had at other schools, and it certainly wasn't to this level," said Freeze, of the Ole Miss receiving corps. "I would venture to guess, having followed Ole Miss football for a long time, that our group can arguably be put up with the best receiving corps through its history. They're up there."

"I have said all year what I think," Wallace said. "I may have caught some flak for it. ... I want to say it, but I'm not going to say it, so we'll let that go, but I think they're great players."


Head coach Hugh Freeze meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

Robert Nkemdiche will return against Arkansas, having missed the LSU and Idaho games after suffering a hamstring injury against Texas A&M. The freshman defensive lineman has played in and started six games, recording 15 total tackles (11 solo) and four tackles for loss.

"He looks really good," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "He looks quick and light on his feet. We just got make sure he's 100 percent. He's still feeling it a little bit out here. He's down 15 pounds. I don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing, but he looks really quick out here. It's just him picking up the mental side again."

Nkemdiche will move inside to defensive tackle, where he started against Alabama, while junior Bryon Bennett will remain outside at defensive end, where he started the last three games.

"That's the plan with who we got right now with C.J. (Johnson) being out for the year and Bryon doing a good job out there," Kiffin said. "Maybe that's Rob's future, so that's where we're at right now.

"He's physical enough. He gives those guys problems inside because of how quick he is, and he's not afraid to get physical. It's just natural for him."

Nkemidche and the Ole Miss defense will be tasked with an Arkansas offense that has rushed for at least 200 yards in six of nine games and average 211.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the SEC. The Razorbacks also lead the league and rank fifth nationally allowing just 0.78 sacks per game.

On the offensive line, Arkansas has opened each of the last four games with the same five starters, including a pair of freshman guards in Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, who have started each of the last five games.

"They look like freshmen that are getting better every game," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, of Kirkland and Skipper. "They didn't play them as much early in the season. Both of them are going to be really good football players. You see them make mistakes at times, but they're getting better every time."

Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with members of the media following Tuesday's practice.

'We're not afraid to use any of the four'

With senior running back Jeff Scott out each of the last two games with a thigh bruise, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton have carried the load on the ground for the Rebels.

Mathers carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards against LSU, then notched his first career 100-yard rushing game with 138 yards on 14 carries, including a career-long 64-yard run for a touchdown, against Idaho.

Walton rushed for two touchdowns in both games, as he set career highs with 19 carries for 106 yards against the Tigers, then rushed 11 times for 86 yards against Vandals. With those four scores, he now leads the team with five rushing touchdowns this year.

"They took the bull by the horns, so to speak," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "It's never been about their ability. They had just been waiting for the opportunity to get on the field and show what they could do. 

"I'm glad a year ago they got the little experience that they did, so right now, they don't any type of stage fright, and the big lights don't bother them at all. They just go out and perform to their capabilities and do the things they could always do."

The Idaho game was also an opportunity for freshmen Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore, as Dodson set career highs with seven carries for 57 rushing yards and recorded a 30-yard touchdown catch, the first score of his career.

"He earned the right to get some looks," said head coach Hugh Freeze, of Dodson. "I'm not afraid at all to play him. He'll probably get a carry or two."

"He's had more excitement and enthusiasm about practice," Nix added. "Not that he didn't have it all year but you could see more of a bounce in his step. I feel like he has a real shot of helping us out on Saturday."

The status of Scott for Saturday remains uncertain, but Freeze is confident about his other four running backs.

"I like the way they're going about their business," he said. "They're taking the chances they have been given and made the most of it. All four of them have looked good in some things this week. We're not afraid to use any of the four. Jeff, I'm not sure. We'll have to make that call tomorrow."

Running backs coach Derrick Nix meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

Tunsil, Golson Continue To Progress

Freshman offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson have played in every game this season, with Tunsil starting five games at left tackle and Golson playing extensively at guard.

"Laremy has played solid the entire time," Freeze said. "He's really special. It's a little easier to play on the edge. We threw Austin in the middle in that first game, and there is a lot of different things happening in there. It's been more of a process, but he's improving and not making as many mistakes."

Offensive line coach Matt Luke has also been pleased with Tunsil and Golson.

"He does a lot of things well," said Luke, of Tunsil. "He can get bigger and stronger, but technically, that's what makes him special. He does a lot of things naturally. He's good with his hands and has a really good base with his lower body. He's a natural pass protector. We're very fortunate to have him. He's playing really well overall."

"He's probably not the prototypical guard," said Luke, of Golson. "He's more of tackle, but because of the seniors we have at tackle, he has stepped in there for us and played it well for 40-50 snaps a game at least.

Tunsil's emergence at left tackle, where he has started each of the last four games, has allowed senior offensive lineman Emmanuel McCray to move around and contribute at both tackle position, left guard and tight end, when the Rebels are in their six offensive lineman set.

A strong Arkansas defensive line is led by senior defensive end Chris Smith, who is tied for second in the SEC and tied for 13th nationally with 7.0 sacks. As a team, the Razorbacks rank third in the SEC and tied for 27th nationally with 22.0 sacks.

"They're very good," Luke said. "Their front four collectively is as good as we have seen. 86 (Trey Flowers), 42 (Smith), 91 (Darius Philon), 54 (Byran Jones), all those guys are good players. I have been very impressed."

Offensive line coach Matt Luke meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

As excited as they were about the open week, head coach Hugh Freeze said they're equally as excited to get back to playing this week against Arkansas. It's the fourth of six straight home games and will be the Rebels' first game of the year with a kickoff earlier than 5:30 p.m.

"To be at home again is always nice," Freeze said, as before the open date there were three straight home games and after the open date there will be three straight home games. "We're looking forward to getting an early kickoff. That's something we haven't had this year," Freeze said. "We've enjoyed the ones we've had, but it's always nice to get a variety." 

"I'm so glad that we have an early kickoff," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We wake up and go play, instead of having to sit in the hotel room all day and watch games, so yeah I'm excited about these morning kickoffs."

Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3 SEC) had won back-to-back games over then-No. 6 LSU and Idaho entering the bye week, while Arkansas (3-6, 0-5 SEC) won their first three games, but have lost six straight, including most recently a 35-17 loss to No. 8 Auburn.

"The off week came at a good time, and hopefully we won't be very rusty at all, but we'll continue to improve, as I thought we had the last couple of weeks," Freeze said. We're playing a very scary football team to me. If they ever convert drives, they'd be very, very dangerous. They control the time of possession, and they run the football extremely well." 

"They're a lot better than a lot people think they are," Wallace said. "They're close to coming through and win some games, and they're still playing hard. If you watched the Auburn game, you could tell they're still playing hard. They'll be a tough test."

Offensively, Arkansas is led by a dynamic running back duo of freshman Alex Collins (98.8 ypg) and sophomore Jonathan Williams (79.6), who rank fourth and seventh in the SEC, respectively. 

As a team, the Razorbacks have rushed for at least 200 yards in six of nine games and average 211.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the SEC. Arkansas also ranks fifth in the SEC in time of possession (30:51), including 34:14 time of possession against Auburn.

"They are closer than people realize, and they scare you," Freeze said. "If you have one or two turnovers, you may not see the ball again. Last week, Auburn, which is somewhat similar to us in a tempo offense, only had 21 snaps in the first half."

"That's frustrating for me when I have to sit over there for so long, and they're just running the ball," Wallace said. "You just have to stay on the phone with Coach Werner and get what him and Coach Freeze are thinking about and keep all the guys up on the sideline."

More Depth, Flexibility On Defense


Ole Miss has been hit hard with injuries this year, with three starters out for the year in junior offensive lineman Aaron Morris (ACL), junior defensive end C.J. Johnson (ankle) and freshman tight end Evan Engram (ankle). Several other key players missed either LSU or Idaho game, or both. 

Entering this week, however, Freeze said they're as healthy as they've been in a while, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.

"Still questionable are Charles Sawyer and Jeff Scott," Freeze said. "I think everyone else will be ready, except for those out for the year, like C.J. Johnson, Aaron Morris, and Evan Engram. Carlos Thompson is still on the doubtful list. The off week came at a good time. Hopefully we won't be very rusty at all and will continue to improve as I thought we had the last couple of weeks." 

Among those expected to return are three defensive starters in freshman defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton. 

"All of the people who played and contributed whenever everyone was gone, it helps them and help us as a defense because it gives them confidence when they come into the game," junior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "They give us more depth on defense."

Their expected return, Freeze said, gives them not only more depth but also more flexibility on defense. 

"Robert gives us better depth and some flexibility to move people around up front," Freeze said. "Denzel was our leading tackler last year and hopefully to have him healthy for a stretch of games will pay great dividends. Hilton, I thought was maybe the most-improved player on our defense. We do a lot of things with him. He can play our nickel, our corner and anywhere in six-defensive back formation. All those guys give us some flexibility." 

Bowl Implications For Both Teams

A win over Arkansas would make Ole Miss bowl eligible for the second straight year under Hugh Freeze. 

In this week's bowl projections, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards both have the Rebels in the Music City Bowl, CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm has them in the Gator Bowl and SI.com's Stewart Mandel have them in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

"It's exciting," Wallace said. "We were 5-3 at this same point, so the first step is being bowl eligible, and then building on that. Any time you can get that sixth win, it's a big game and a big week."

On the other sideline, for Arkansas, it has to win out in its final three games at Ole Miss, at home against Mississippi State and at LSU to become bowl eligible. 

"They have to win these last three games to get into a bowl game, and they feel like we were in the Mississippi State game last year," Bryant said. "They're going to bring it and do everything in their will to win this game."


 

Concussions and other head injuries have gained more attention and emphasis in recent years in college and professional football. To help address these problems, The University of Mississippi recently launched a new Ph.D. program with a neuroscience component, the university announced on Oct. 30.


One of only three programs of its kind in the nation, the UM curriculum is designed to train professionals to help those with traumatic brain injuries recover better. The new special education doctoral program trains educators to use therapies that incorporate mathematics, language and other subjects to speed and improve recovery.

The new special education Ph.D. has multiple components: one helps students learn how the brain works, while other sections of the curriculum deal with literacy, diversity and behaviors. Neurosciences are studied in all areas of the new program.

"We're going to be able to really draw a lot of students nationally because of the Ph.D. with the neuroscience component," said Roy J. Thurston, UM assistant professor of special education. "Some other universities have master's degrees in neuroscience, but the only other doctorates I know of are at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Harvard University."

Chancellor Dan Jones, who is a medical doctor, has been a leader in the movement to understand and prevent concussions in sports. In 2012, he was appointed to chair a Southeastern Conference working group on concussions. He said he is happy that the university's faculty is engaged in addressing the issue through the new program.

"I am pleased that our faculty are providing leadership in the field of education, especially in the area of educating those with traumatic brain injury," Jones said. "This is another great example of University of Mississippi faculty seeking opportunities to transform lives through education and service."


Thurston, who set up the UM Ph. D. program, did his research is in cognitive rehabilitation of those with traumatic brain injuries and also in neuroscience applications to education. The therapies taught in the program could be particularly useful as it relates to college and professional football.


"When people pursue this degree, they can go work not just in K-12 education systems; they can work in rehabilitation and also hospital situations," Thurston said. "Because there are so many brain injuries now and the survival rate is huge compared to what it used to be, they really need cognitive rehabilitation. We look at how we're going to get these people back to school, back to competitive employment, get their lives back together."

The therapies taught in the program could be particularly useful as more emphasis has been placed in recent years on head injuries in college and professional football. Officials have pushed to limit the number of injuries through better helmet technology and rules changes designed to make the game safer. But injuries still occur, and advancements in figuring out how to treat them continue.


The SEC working group on concussions, which Jones chaired, announced an update in May, having reviewed the Concussion Management plans of all SEC member institutions and conducted an extensive review of studies, practices, and literature on concussions. The Group remains in existence and will continue to review research, identify best practices and standards of care, disseminate information to SEC member institutions and develop educational strategies. 


"There is much work to be done, and while the Conference has a role to play, prevention and treatment of concussion injuries is a national concern that needs and deserves a coordinated national effort," SEC Commissioner Mike Slive stated. "For this reason, the Presidents and Chancellors will make a formal request that the NCAA take the lead in organizing and spearheading a national research effort and examining possible revisions to playing rules in football and other sports.

"The Group's objective was and is to help member institutions in their respective efforts to safeguard the health and welfare of student athletes. The Group gathered information about concussions, identifying best practices and standards of care, as well as provided information about such practices and standards to team physicians, trainers, athletic directors, and coaches of SEC member institutions. 


The Ole Miss football team currently uses the IMPACT test, which is part of the testing used when an athlete shows any symptoms or signs of a concussion, such as linebacker Serderius Bryant who suffered a concussion against Texas A&M earlier this season.


"Every single athlete that comes in here, as part of the pre-participation physical exam, everybody has baseline screening for cognitive and motor skills," said Shannon Singletary, Senior Associate A.D. for Health and Sports Performance.

"We do balance testing. And we do cognitive testing, both on and off the computer. They do IMPACT testing, which is on a computer, and it tests hand-eye coordination, cerebral input and memory, among other things.

"On the front end, we give all our athletes an education sheet with the symptoms of concussions. We also post them in their locker rooms. If you have any of these, you must report these symptoms to the athletic trainer. Once those symptoms are reported, then we can go back and test them again on those tests and compare them to their baselines. No athletes who have concussion symptoms during a game are allowed to go back into the game until we feel 100 percent that those symptoms have been resolved, and there has been a period of healing."



Ole Miss is 5-3 for the second straight year, as it enters its second bye week of the year before a final four-game stretch starting with Arkansas on Nov. 9 from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The previous stretch of games included three straight losses, then back-to-back wins over then-No. 6 LSU and Idaho.

"We could easily have a couple more wins, and we could easily have a couple more losses," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "You're mind usually concentrates on the ones you let get away, but you have to move on from those.  Winning the last two games has helped tremendously with that.  I believe we have gotten better at mostly every spot."

"(5-3 this year) feels a lot different because we have been through the meat of our schedule," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said "But at the same time, every SEC team is great, and we know we can't take a week off, or somebody will come up and beat you."

Entering the bye week, Freeze said he does think they can get quite a few of players back who didn't suffer season-ending injuries.

"I'm confident that Mike Hilton will be back, as well as Isaac Gross being healthy," Freeze said. "Charles Sawyer, we'll hold out this week and Denzel Nkemdiche, we held out the other night, and I see no reason for him to not be ready.  Robert Nkemdiche and Jeff Scott, I'll need to wait until next Monday to better answer that, but we're hopeful on them. Carlos Thompson, I am doubtful on, we're getting concerned on his nerve not firing in his arm, so hopefully we can catch on soon and he'll be back in a couple of weeks."

Preparation for Arkansas will start on Thursday, Freeze said, and they will get in an extra practice on Sunday night.

"This week will certainly help that because we'll need those guys for this stretch run that we have coming up with the three SEC games and the one out of conference game," Freeze said. "It gives us coaches a lot of time to start self-scouting us, and give us a jump start against Arkansas and scouting other opponents, as well as plan what we would like to add, take out or just plan a little differently.  We'll also get a chance to look at some young guys in practice too, and get us some depth."

A win over Arkansas would make the Rebels bowl eligible for the second straight year under Freeze. In this week's bowl projections, Greg Ostendorf from ESPN has Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl, while Jerry Palm from CBS Sports has them in the Gator Bowl.

"We all want to win these games, and let all that care of itself," Wallace said. "We know if we win these games, we'll be in a big-time bowl. And that's our goal. Our goal is not just getting to a bowl game this year; it's going to a big bowl game. It's taking that next step for our program."


"A few guys talk about it but not too often," junior defensive tackle Bryon Bennett said. "We try to keep a narrow focus and not look at the big picture. We know a lot of our remaining games are home, which is always an advantage for us with the energy and excitement."


Wallace, Brunetti Improve Decision-Making



Last year, Wallace threw 22 touchdown passes compared to 17 interceptions. Through eight games year, he has thrown 11 touchdowns to three interceptions. His interception ratio (interceptions per pass attempt) improvement from last year to this year ranks second in the SEC and sixth nationally.


Wallace also ranks fifth in the SEC and 31st nationally in total offense (266.2 ypg) and 5th in the SEC and 36th nationally in passing (247.0). His backup, senior Barry Brunetti, has completed 12-of-15 passes for 129 yards and five touchdowns in his last five games.


"It's been an on-going endeavor since last spring," Freeze said. "I think Dan Werner has done a really nice job of decreasing the package so there is no question of what to do and a clear understanding of what your read should be.  As the year has gone on we continue to cut back to make sure we put ourselves in position to take care of the ball and there should be no reason for us to not have great understanding of exactly what you're supposed to do and when.  


"I have to give a lot of credit to Dan Werner, as well as those two kids (Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti).  We must always take care of the football, and we've done a good job putting an emphasis on that also.  We've also been able to run the ball, which is a huge thing for anyone that understands what our offense is like.  When you're able to run the ball it gives you a little more time to throw, and the decisions become better."


Wallace's improved decision-making has even been apparent to him mid-play during games this year.


"It's just better decisions," Wallace said. "There have been a couple times rolling out, especially against LSU, I was thinking middle of the play, 'Last year, I probably try to fit the ball in there,' but then continuing to run and try to do as much as I can without trying to do too much. That has really helped me out."


Bennett Settling In At Defensive End



After playing the first five games, including two starts at defensive tackle, junior Bryon Bennett has started each of the past three game at defensive end, due in part to a season-ending injury to junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, as well as injuries to freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and junior defensive end Carlos Thompson.


"He likes defensive end," Freeze said. "He's played two really solid games there. He's a physical guy. His motor turns up out there, it seems like. Moving forward, it will be interesting for us to look at what the best combination is and how to go about getting our best players on the field. I have been as pleased as I have been in my year and a half with him."


In the last two games, Bennett has three tackles including a solo tackle and a tackle for loss. With Bennett at defensive end, the defense has recorded five sacks in those games, including a season-high three sacks against LSU.


"It's exciting," said Bennett, of defensive end. "There's more room to roam around. I have to back further off the ball to make sure I'm not offside. Other than that, it's a lot of fun."


Bennett said took about two or three practice to adjust to playing defensive end. He gave credit to senior offensive tackles Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton, as well as freshman offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, whom he faced in practice. The two biggest adjustments, he said, were his positioning and how he rushed the passer.


"I have to make sure I maintain my outside presence," Bennett said. "To pass rush, I have to run a lot more. Inside, it's a few steps and then you make a move. On the end, you have to run the edge and make sure the quarterback can't bounce outside the pocket."

The Ole Miss offense racked up 572 yards of total offense, including 292 on the ground, as the Rebels rolled to a 59-14 win over Idaho on Saturday. It was the most total yards and points by an Ole Miss team in the Hugh Freeze era.


With senior Jeff Scott out with a thigh bruise, the sophomore tandem of I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton carried the load at running back for the second-straight game. 


Freshmen Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore also saw action, as Dodson set career highs with seven carries for 57 rushing yards and recorded his first career touchdown with a 30-yard reception from senior quarterback Barry Brunetti.


"They're all competing, and we'll sort it out," Freeze said. "We'll try to have some packages and keep them fresh for all of the guys that are healthy. Those two guys, along with Dodson and Kailo, they all did some good things tonight. I'Tavius and Jaylen certainly looked solid."


Mathers, who carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards in last week's win over No. 6 LSU, notched his first career 100-yard rushing game with 138 yards on 14 carries, including a career-long 64-yard run for a touchdown.


Against LSU, Walton led the way for the Rebels, as he set career highs with 106 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns. On Saturday, he rushed 11 times for 86 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was his second straight game with two rushing touchdowns, and he now leads the team with five rushing touchdowns this year.


When Scott returns from the injury Ole Miss will have three running with more than 300 yards rushing this season. Scott leads the team with 434 yards on 53 carries and two touchdowns, followed by the sophomore tandem.


Mathers is second on the team with 326 yards on 48 carries and two touchdowns, and Walton, who now leads the team with five touchdowns, has 321 yards on 64 carries.


"We're going to sit down and talk about it because those guys have done a really good job," said offensive coordinator Dan Werner of Mathers and Walton. "I was really pleased, and I know Coach Freeze is too. We have to see. They will play and definitely get some snaps."


Among the players who don't normally see significant playing time, Dodson and Moore stood out for Freeze.


"The first guy that jumps out at me would be Dodson," Freeze said. "He showed some explosion and physical runs. He has to take care of the ball better. Kailo showed some good burst on swing route. We think both of them are really good players. We have some good players at that spot."


Through the first seven games of the season, Ole Miss has played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to Sagarin's ratings. The Rebels (4-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) continue to their six-game home stand over seven weeks, as they welcome FBS Independent Idaho (1-6) for Homecoming this Saturday, with a kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. on CSS.


"We got to put it away and move forward," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "The gauntlet that we have gone through, it's taken a toll on us some physically and mentally. We certainly need to continue moving in the right direction in all areas. We got a team coming in this week that I'm sure will nothing to lose playing in an SEC home and have a chance to make some noise, just like many teams did last weekend. We don't want to be on the other end of that, so we have got to regain our kids' focus and elevate our concentration to do the little things right."


"It's going to make us a better team at the end of the year, just going through that stretch and playing such good competition," senior offensive lineman Emmanuel McCray said. "But we have to go out there and play every Saturday either way, no matter who we're playing, but it's good to get it out of the way. That was a tough, tough stretch."


Idaho is coached by Paul Petrino, who is in his first year as a collegiate head coach, having previously served as offensive coordinator at Louisville, Arkansas and Illinois. The Vandals' lone win was a 26-24 victory over winless Temple on Sept. 28, but did have close 45-35 loss to current No. 22-ranked Northern Illinois on Sept. 24.


"On game day, the team felt a little bit sleepy," said McCray, of Ole Miss' 31-13 win over Southeast Missouri. "We came out slow. We learned the lesson from that game and Auburn that we have to start fast, and we have to be passionate, no matter who we're playing. We have to be high energy because that's our identity. We play with passion, and we let that carry over on the field."


"As big as (the LSU win) was for us and the fan base, if we could go out there and don't show up against Idaho, that win doesn't really mean a lot," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We know who we're playing this week, and we'll prepare just like they're any other team."



Wallace Has 'Best Game' Of Ole Miss Career



Junior quarterback Bo Wallace completed 30-of-39 passes for 346 yards, his third-straight 300-yard passing game, as the Ole Miss offense racked up 525 yards of total offense in the 27-24 win over No. 6 LSU.


"Bo played his best game he's played since he's been here," Freeze said. "I can only find two things to complain about, and hopefully we can get those cleaned up, and him play an even more complete game. Dan (Werner) did a great job with him all week making sure he understood our plan exactly."


"We needed a game like that," Wallace said. "We put up a lot of points against A&M. We knew that we were going to have to put up a lot of points with the defense and the injuries that they had. Everybody prepared, we got the game plan down early in the week, and then everybody executed.


The Rebels converted 11-of-18 third downs on Saturday, including two third downs on the game-winning drive, capped by senior kicker Andrew Ritter's 41-yard field goal. Facing 3rd-and-6, Wallace ran for six yards, then facing 3rd-and-9, Wallace connected with senior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan for a 13-yard completion.


"We had to do something," said Wallace, of the final drive. "We couldn't leave it in the defense's hands again. We couldn't leave it anybody else's hands. We had to go down and score, and that's exactly what we did."


Wallace passed Archie Manning on the Ole Miss career passing yards list into seventh-place all-time (4,784), 187 passing yards behind Mark Young for sixth place. He also ranks fourth in the SEC in total offense (278.9 ypg) and fifth in passing (255.7 ypg).


Along the way, Wallace has also picked up the nickname Dr. Bo, which he said he knew about on Monday.


"Yeah, I am aware of it," Wallace said. "It came for a video game or something like that, so yeah I am aware of it... It's cool, I guess."


Engram Out For Season, Parker's Role To Increase


Freshman tight end Evan Engram underwent season-ending surgery on Monday, Freeze said, to repair his high ankle sprain. The Powder Springs, Ga., native ranked fourth on the team in receptions (20), third in receiving yards (265) and second in touchdowns (3). His 20 catches rank seventh-place all-time by a freshman in Ole Miss history. 


"We lost Evan Engram for the year, which is a tough loss for us. He was on track to be a freshman All-American. He's a tremendous kid and was very important to our scheme. We don't have another one like him who can win some one-on-ones in space and do the blocking that we were asking him to do. Everyone knows the situation we are in at that position, so that's a difficult loss. And it's even worse because you know what these kids put in. He's such a great kid and going to be a tremendous leader for this program for years to come."


"It's going to change a little bit because he was that guy that we could go 11 personnel and do a lot of different things with, flex him out and things like that," said Wallace, of the loss of Engram. "Of course, it's going to change. It hurts me a little bit, not having him to stretch the field, but Nick Parker caught a touchdown, so he has to get prepared to play this week and be ready to go."


Senior Nicholas Parker, who caught a 3-yard touchdown pass against LSU, his first career reception and touchdown, is now listed as the starter at tight end. Seniors Jack Nuismer, Parker's backup on this week's depth chart, and Justin Bigham have also seen action in six games this year.


"Nick is a joy around this program," Freeze said. "He is loved by his teammates. He makes people laugh and goes to work every day. He's a local kid. So when he caught that touchdown, there was a lot of excitement and joy for him. His role will increase some, but we're different with him. He doesn't do some of the things that Evan could do, but he can do some things, so we'll certainly start using him more. And probably Justin Bigham and maybe (Jack Nuismer), those will be the three guys you will see right now."


Senior kicker Andrew Ritter hit a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left to give Ole Miss the 27-24 victory over No. 6 LSU, its first win over a top-10 ranked opponent since 2009. 


Moments later, amid the postgame celebration, the ESPN cameras found senior offensive linemen Jared Duke and Patrick Junen carrying a Gatorade cooler and looking for head coach Hugh Freeze.


"With two seconds left for the kickoff, we were just a little bit concerned," Duke said. "Obviously, everyone was. They had the big lateral play and stuff. We weren't going to do it then. We were going to wait until the game was secure. We got the Gatorade container and couldn't find Coach Freeze at all. 


"There were students on the field and everything. It was just madness after the game for sure. Eventually, we did find him. Watching ESPN and everything, they singled us out while we were just kind of standing there. We were actually waiting on Coach to get done with an interview. It's funny. It's laughable. I have received a lot of tweets, which have been real funny."


For offensive linemen such as Duke and Junen, it was a rare moment in the limelight, as they helped Ole Miss rack up 525 yards of total offense in the win. In their respective four-year careers, Duke has played in 41 career games with 11 starts, including six starts at right guard this year, while Junen has played in 40 career games with 11 starts.


"They found us," said Duke of the ESPN cameras. "It wasn't exactly what we had in mind when we were planning on giving him the Gatorade bath. We wanted Gatorade because you had to see the green. Absolutely. You can't just pour water on him. It was completely spur of the moment."


Like Duke said, they found Freeze. It just took a little while.


BXCMt_WIIAAjKF3.jpg

Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian


"We found him right away," Duke continued. "We figured he was at the 50-yard line, but we didn't want to interrupt any big moments or the coaches' meeting, so we waited, then he went to straight to an interview, so we had to wait a little bit longer, but it was funny. Everyone was laughing about it."


Undoubtedly both Ritter's kick, as well as the few seconds of Duke and Junen carrying the Gatorade cooler, will go down in the rich history of the Ole Miss-LSU rivalry.


"I hope it's Ritter's kick," said Duke, of what people will remember 10 years from now. "I don't want to take anything from that. 


"And I was telling Coach (Matt) Luke afterwards, 'Man, I hope this doesn't find its way 30 years down the line when I'm at a job, and it shows up every now and then in the workplace. I'm a little worried about that. It will probably happen, and it will be funny then, too."










In head coach Hugh Freeze's first season at Ole Miss, the Rebels gained bowl eligibility with a 41-24 win over in-state rival Mississippi State, then rolled to a 38-17 win in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Pittsburgh.


A year later, after a consensus top-10 recruiting class, Freeze and the Rebels won a pair of road games at Vanderbilt and Texas, but Saturday's 27-24 win over No. 6 LSU marked a signature victory of a different kind. It was Ole Miss' first win over a top-10 foe since defeating then-No. 8 LSU in 2009.


But Ole Miss had been close under Freeze. 


In last year's meeting in Baton Rouge, La., the Rebels lost a 41-35 shootout to then-No. 8 LSU, and just last week, the Rebels lost a 41-38 heartbreaker to then-No. 9 Texas A&M in Oxford, but Saturday proved to be a breakthrough for the program.


"I couldn't be more proud of that and those kids to go through what they've been though, with the injuries and the outside world having their opinion of things," Freeze said. "In the back of your mind, you always wonder as a coach if you can get a team ready to do things like this when you're shorthanded and coming off an extremely disappointing loss."


"I was really emotional," said junior quarterback Bo Wallace, who passed for over 300 yards for the third straight game.  "I almost lost it. I almost cried. It felt like everything was lifted off of us. It was just an emotional time. I'm so excited for our guys and our defense, for them to play the way they did with the starters they had out."


With 3:15 left in a tied 24-24 game, Ole Miss had the ball on its own 15-yard line. As part of a 14-play, 61-yard drive that included two third-down conversions of 3rd-and-6 and a 3rd-and-9, the Rebels had driven the ball to the LSU 24. 


It was a shot at redemption for senior kicker Andrew Ritter, whose 29-yard field goal was blocked earlier in the quarter with a chance to make it a two-possession lead for Ole Miss, and he drilled the 41-yard field goal to give the Rebels a 27-24 lead with two seconds left on the clock.


"I'm happy for Andrew Ritter," Freeze said. "He asked to be redshirted his senior year last year to come back. That kick will make memories for a lifetime for him, to beat one of your biggest rivals, to recapture the Magnolia Bowl for Ole Miss. I'm glad it worked out for him."


"It felt really good," said Ritter of the kick off his foot. "You know when you hit a good ball, and you know when you hit a bad ball, and when I hit that ball, I knew I hit it good."


With injuries all over the place, the Ole Miss defense held LSU well under its 41.4 points per game average and pitched a first-half shutout, the first time the Tigers had been shutout in the first half since a 21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS National Championship. 


"Dave (Wommack) and his staff did a great job with preparing those kids, being so shorthanded and having to shorten practices because of that," Freeze said. "I sat in on their meetings this week more than I ever had before, and the plan he had I thought was really good."


That first half also saw three interceptions, including two in the end zone, of LSU senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who led the SEC and ranked fourth in the nation in pass efficiency and had thrown 15 touchdowns compared to two interceptions entering the game.


"They were huge," said Freeze of the interceptions. "It kept our crowd alive and in the game. It kept the lead and momentum with us, and it gave our kids on defense more confidence."


"They came at critical points in the game," said junior safety Cody Prewitt, who intercepted his team-high fourth interception Saturday. "Those were huge, huge plays. It turned the game for us. They were big plays for us instead of big plays for them. That's what you have to do. You have to make those kind of plays in critical moments in the game, and we really did that."


On the other side of the ball, led by Wallace, the Ole Miss offense eclipsed 500 yards of total offense for just the second time this season. Wallace completed 30-of-39 passes for 346 yards, and passed Archie Manning on the Ole Miss career passing yards list into seventh-place all-time.


And in the place of injured senior Jeff Scott, sophomore Jaylen Walton rushed 18 times for a career-high 105 yards and a career-high two touchdowns.


"We lined up and we ran the football against a really good defense," Freeze said. "... I have great confidence in Jaylen and (I'Tavius Mathers). I see them every day and think they're very talented. Jaylen does some things in the zone game that are pretty special. He has a little hesitation move and quick acceleration. He did really well tonight and protected the football."


In the win-loss column, Ole Miss improves to 4-3 and 2-3 in Southeastern Conference games with a home game against Idaho next week, a bye week, then a final four-game stretch of the regular season, but Freeze also looked at the bigger picture.


"There are some really good recruits in that locker room and we had some really good ones here last weekend that see we're really close, and we could use a little help because we're not where we need to be depth-wise at certain spots," Freeze said. "My mind always goes to that.


"We didn't make plays the other night to win it at the end. And tonight, we did. We made the catch on third down. We made the kick. We made the pass breakup or interception. No question, it helps us in recruiting, which will help us ultimately get where we all want to go."


Head coach Hugh Freeze meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

After going through a "laundry list" on injuries in Monday's weekly press conference, head coach Hugh Freeze had some good news on Wednesday with the possible return of defensive tackle Issac Gross and linebacker Temario Strong.

"It looks like we might get Issac (Gross) and Temario (Strong) back," said Freeze after practice on Wednesday. "Temario surprised us today and was moving around quite a bit better than what they expected. We might get him back. Those are the only two I expect at this point to get back."


Ole Miss was hit particularly hard on the defensive side of the ball, where it is expected to be without starting defensive ends Robert Nkemdiche and C.J. Johnson, as well as starting cornerback Mike Hilton and backup defensive end Carlos Thompson.


"We ain't got but so many," said Freeze Tuesday of defensive line. "We're going to play four down linemen. I really don't know who is playing exactly where right now."


Bryon Bennett, listed as a co-starter at defensive tackle with Carlton Martin, also got some reps at defensive end in practice this week, opposite senior defensive end Cameron Whigham.


"It was fun," said Bennett of defensive end, where he also started against Texas A&M last week. "I played a little in high school, but there's still a lot to get used with adjustments and stuff... There's more reading. It's more fun going against the tackle.


"It's a next-man-up attitude. Everybody is excited for the game and wants this win. We're trying to stay fresh, stay healthy and be ready for the game." 


Defensive lineman Bryon Bennett meets with members of the media following Tuesday's practice.

Starting running back and leading rusher Jeff Scott was held out of practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and Freeze said Wednesday that he doesn't expect him to play on Saturday. The running back position would then fall on I'Tavius Mathers (22 carries, 137 yards for the season) and Jaylen Walton (34 carries, 129 yards).


"I feel good," said Freeze Wednesday of Mathers and Walton. "Both of them have proven they're ready to have that responsibility that comes their way. I have been pleased with their performance and think we'll be fine there."


"I feel like we can pick it up," said Mathers Wednesday. "We always have to be ready. I just have to play my role."


The injuries have also affected the special teams units, such as punt return, where Freeze said Wednesday that wide receiver Korvic Neat would return punts in Scott's absence, with Trae Elston as his backup. 


Cornerback Carlos Davis, who Freeze called "a great cover guy," will be back this week, and the possible return of Strong will also help the special teams units, but Freeze said Tuesday it did take a hit this week, and they're going to have to call on guys to play even more snaps because of injuries.


The injuries may also affect tempo, as Freeze said the Rebels will likely use a similar strategy to last week against Texas A&M.


"We managed the first half not going tempo to try to limit the opportunities that Texas A&M had and get to halftime in the game, and it worked," said Freeze Tuesday. "We were probably more patient than we would be, but it worked, and it gave us a chance at the end. We will probably manage the tempo similarly this week."


 
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with members of the media following Tuesday's practice.

Offensive line coach Matt Luke meets with members of the media following Wednesday's practice.

Six Rebels Make Phil Steele Midseason All-SEC Teams

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Six Ole Miss Rebels were named to Phil Steele's Midseason All-SEC Teams on Wednesday, including first-team picks Serderius Bryant (linebacker) and Cody Prewitt (defensive back).

Senior Jeff Scott made the second team as a punt returner, while third-teamers were junior Donte Moncrief (wide receiver), freshman Evan Engram (tight end) and senior Andrew Ritter (kicker).

Bryant, a junior from Sanford, Fla., leads the SEC and ranks eighth nationally with 11.0 tackles per game. He has 55 tackles in five games as the starter at stinger linebacker and was recently named to the Bednarik Award Watch List for the nation's top defensive player.

Prewitt, a junior from Bay Springs, Miss., is second on the team with 35 tackles and first with three interceptions and eight passes defended. He is tied for the SEC lead with 1.33 passes defended per game and tied for second in the SEC with 0.5 interceptions per outing.

Scott would lead the SEC with a 19.6-yard punt return average if he had enough to qualify. In addition to being one of the league's top rushers, the Miami, Fla., native returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown against Texas and was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week. He is on the Paul Hornung Award Watch List for the nation's most versatile player.

Moncrief was a preseason All-SEC second team pick by Phil Steele and a third-team selection by the media outlet after last season. The Raleigh, Miss., native leads the team in receiving yards (358) and touchdown catches (4). He is on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List for the nation's top receiver.

Engram, who hails from Powder Springs, Ga., has enjoyed a fantastic rookie season with 18 catches, 237 yards and three TDs through the first six games. He is second among SEC freshmen in receiving yards per game (behind teammate Laquon Treadwell) and first in touchdown catches.

In his first season as the team's placekicker, Ritter has made seven of nine field goals with makes from 42, 42, 44 and 52 yards. The strong-legged kicker from Jackson, Miss., also has booted touchbacks on 22 of 35 kickoffs.


Coming off a heartbreaking 41-38 loss to then-No. 9 Texas A&M this past Saturday, Ole Miss plays its third top-10 ranked opponent in four games with No. 6 LSU. The Rebels will try to snap a three-game losing streak, as they also deal with a lot of injuries, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.


"(Sunday), I thought was pretty good, and I know our coaches how we will handle it, said head coach Hugh Freeze of the team's confidence. "And talking to Coach Jackson this morning, he was pleased with the attitudes they had in workouts (Sunday). I just keep coming back to my experience with these kids, and they bounce back and will fight. And that gives me confidence to walk out there tomorrow with the same swagger we hope to have every Saturday."


"We're still confident," quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We played a tough schedule, but we're not using that as an excuse. We're 3-3, and we have a big game this weekend."


Among the injured players is junior Serderius Bryant, who left the Texas A&M game after being carted off on a stretcher. Bryant, Freeze said, suffered a concussion, then rejoined the team in meetings on Sunday and has started the concussion protocol to return.


On the field, Bryant had recently been added to the Bednarik Award Watch List and leads the SEC and ranks eighth nationally with 11 tackles per game, including a team-leading 12 tackles and forced fumble against Texas A&M.


"I'm extremely proud of him," Freeze said. "He runs the ball as passionately as any kid that we have, and he's a sold tackler once he gets there. He finishes plays. To lose him not only in that game, but to be without him going forward, if that's the case, it would be a big hit to us. 


"He's responsible for a lot of tackles, and I'm proud of him as the person he has become, on and off the field. He is making much better decisions for himself and how he goes about living, with academics and the social responsibility we're trying to get out kids to understand. I'm proud of the year he is having."



Freeze called it a "laundry list" of injuries, and it includes Aaron Morris, who was already out, starting running back and leading rusher Jeff Scott, starting defensive ends Robert Nkemdiche and C.J. Johnson, starting nose tackle Issac Gross and starting cornerback Mike Hilton.


Also among the injured is backup linebacker Temario Strong, backup quarterback Barry Brunetti, backup safety Chief Brown and backup defensive end Carlos Thompson.


"The other injuries, you see other teams go through it, and unfortunately we joined the ranks with them," Freeze said. "... It's part of the game. You hate it for the kids and you fear that because of our depth issue, we won't be able to adequately represent the progress we're making against these top teams. That's part of the game, like I said, and we won't blink. We will get the ones we have ready that can play, and I know they will compete with great passion for university Saturday evening."


"It's tough," said Wallace of the injuries. "You feel bad for the guys, but at the same time, we still have a long season and we have to be prepared to paly this week. There a lot of defensive guys out, so offensively, we have to put up some points."


When asked about who is out for Saturday's game, Freeze said "most of them."


"Not sure about Barry," Freeze said. "I don't know that he injured it any worse than it was, so hopefully he will be fine. Issac will try to go, I'm sure. I doubt Temario will make it, Robert no, Serderius I'm not sure, C.J. probably not, Carlos definitely not, Hilton doubtful. We have a challenge ahead of us."


If something should happen, and Bo Wallace nor Brunetti would be available, Devante Kincade would the guy to get to the nod, Freeze said. If Brunetti is out for Saturday's game against LSU, Freeze said he would not have a guaranteed package for Kincade, like has had for Brunetti, but they would have him ready to play.


"Devante is the guy we have said would get the nod to go should something happen," Freeze said. "We'll get him prepared to go, and again, you always struggle with what's in the best interest in the kid. But we also have to look at what's best for our team with six games left to play. We're inching forward in our progress in getting better and having chances to win, and we probably wouldn't hesitate to put him in if that's what's best for our team.


"The only way that Devante would be the backup is if I felt like we didn't have Bo nor Barry available. We're certainly not, at this point, not going to burn a redshirt on a young man that I don't know if, at this point, would be further ahead of either one of them in game-type situations."


How ready is Kincade?


"I would be comfortable with Devante doing some things," Freeze said. "We have yet to see how he is going to respond in front of 62,000 against a rival of your school. I don't know if that's fair to him to expect miracles. I think he's going to be a very good player, and I wouldn't hesitate to put him in if that's what's best for our football team."



The upset bid fell short, as No. 9 Texas A&M hit a 33-yard field goal as time expired to win 41-38 over Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night.


"Obviously we are very disappointed for our kids," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "They fought their guts out and played their hearts out against a very good football team and had their chances to win. It really boils down to we had a chance to make some play and didn't, and they did. There were a lot of things that could have happened but didn't."


The Rebels (3-3, 1-3) took a 38-31 lead with 6:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, as Bo Wallace hit Jaylen Walton on a wheel route down the Ole Miss sideline that went 50 yards for a touchdown.


Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies (5-1, 2-1) answered right back and tied the game at 38-38, then after its defense forced a three-and-out, Manziel orchestrated another drive, capped by the game-winning field goal.


"We were up in the game, and at that point, the game should have been over," safety Cody Prewitt said. "That's on the defense. We made too mistakes and didn't tackle well in the first half. They made plays where we didn't."



In the shootout, the Ole Miss offense had five passing touchdowns, three by Wallace and two by Barry Brunetti. They completed passes to nine different receivers, led by Laquon Treadwell, who a caught a team-high eight passes for 77 yards and his first two career touchdowns.


Wallace completed 22-of-36 passes for 301 yards, his second-straight 300-yard passing game, giving him five for his career, which is second in school history behind Eli Manning. And Brunetti, who had previously thrown just one career touchdown pass, completed 3-of-4 passes for 28 yards and his first two touchdown passes of the season. 


Then, on the other sideline, the story for Texas A&M was Manziel, who led the Southeastern Conference and ranked sixth nationally in total offense, averaging 360.6 yards per game. On Saturday, he completed 31-of-39 passes for 346 yards and rushed for 113 yards. He finished with two total touchdowns, both on the ground, including the game-tying touchdown.


"It's extremely hard to contain him," Prewitt said. "We had a great scheme lined up, and he was still able to make plays. He's a tremendous athlete. The way he extends plays really takes a toll on you. That was the biggest thing. Even though the coverage was fine, he was able to make plays where not many people could."


"He's a beast," said Brunetti of Manziel. "He's just good. He's a different type of dude. I have never played against a guy like that. We knew going into the game that A&M had a great offense. We knew we had to score, but we also knew our defense would step up, and they did. They stepped up. Manziel is a good player, and A&M has a great offense."



And the Ole Miss defense stepped up with two big second-half turnovers, which gave the Rebels a chance. Leading 21-17 late in the third quarter, Texas A&M was driving at the Ole Miss 10-yard line, then Keith Lewis intercepted a Manziel pass in the end zone. 


After a Texas A&M field goal and a game-tying Ole Miss touchdown, Serderius Bryant forced a Manziel fumble, which Trae Elston recovered. Three plays later, the Rebels took their first lead of the game on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to Treadwell.


"I thought the plan we had worked, and gave us a chance," Freeze said. "We want to formulate a plan that gives us a chance in the fourth quarter to win the football game. We had the ball and had a chance. We didn't get it done."

Ole Miss continues its six-game home stand as it welcomes No. 10 LSU next Saturday with a kickoff set for 6 p.m. The Tigers improved to 6-1 and 3-1 in SEC play on Saturday with a 17-6 win over Florida.

"It's hard to bounce back," Brunetti said. "We got to try to get these young guys to bounce back because they haven't been through this. Most of the older guys like me, we have been through it when things weren't good. We can bounce back. We have a long season and a lot to play for."



The first two questions of head coach Hugh Freeze's weekly press conference centered on Texas A&M quarterback and last year's Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.


In last year's game, Manziel accounted for 320 yards of total offense, 191 through the air and 129 on the ground, and two total touchdowns, one each through the air and on the ground, as Texas A&M erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to win 30-27 in Oxford.


Through five games this year, Manziel leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally in total offense, averaging 360.6 yards/game. He also averages 9.59 yards/play, which ranks second in the league and ninth nationally, and 36.1 percent of his offensive plays have resulted in a gain of 10 or more yards.


"You have to be multiple," Freeze said of defending Manziel. "You can't just give him one thing. There are no bad coaches in this league, and they have tremendous players, so they will make adjustments, if they get a beat on what exactly you're doing. We did have a good plan and we contained him for the better part of three quarters, but the fourth quarter, he showed why he won the Heisman Trophy.


"We will look at last year very closely and use what we think was very good and try to mix in some new stuff. We were able to create some turnovers last year, which I think was big, so hopefully we can have a repeat of that performance and contain him a bit. You're not to going to stop him but hopefully contain him and give us a chance to be in it late in the game."


A large part of the defensive game plan last year involved sophomore Mike Hilton, who made his first career start against Texas A&M last year. From his dimeback position, he spent most of the game spying Manziel and had three solo tackles, including two sacks and a forced fumble.


"We're going to have someone spy Manziel this game," junior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "Mike Hilton did a great job with that last year. Hopefully, we're going to put him back on him this year. Our corners and defensive backs are going to have to step up this week because they're going to throw the ball to Mike Evans a lot. He's a great, very tall receiver, so we're going to have to make some plays on Mike Evans."


"The coaches are going to think of a different type of scheme this year," Hilton said. "We have a whole year under our belt watching him, so we're going to have more defensive packages set for him."



One of those packages might include a 3-3-5 defensive look the Ole Miss defense showed some against Auburn, with Bryant and sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche on the field at the same time, along with senior linebacker Mike Marry. 


Bryant has started the last four games at Stinger linebacker and leads the SEC and ranks ninth nationally with 10.8 tackles/game, while Nkemdiche returned from injury against Alabama and led the Rebels with nine tackles and recovered a fumble last week against Auburn.


"That package went pretty well," Bryant said. "The coaches told us they were going to put something else in this week that we're going to run. They want to try to get me and Denzel on the field at the same time. We're both playmakers, and we're both fast and have speed. They want to try to get to playmakers on the field at the same time.


"When me and Denzel are on the field together, Denzel takes on blocks better than me, so he plays down close to the line, and I'm free to roam back at Stinger linebacker about six yards off the line and read the ball, and wherever it goes, I go to the ball."


Along with scheme, players said it's as much, if not more, about winning 1-on-1 battles and just making plays when defending Manziel and the Texas A&M offense.


"Don't overdo anything," Hilton said. "Play your game. If you get a chance to get him on the ground, make sure you get him on the ground because he can make plays. Everybody knows it. You got to make a play when it happens."


"It's physically, you got to make a play," sophomore safety Trae Elston said. "If you play athlete on athlete, the best athlete is going to make the tackle, so that's what he have to do against him."



Both Freeze and Hilton noted that Manziel has played a lot more in the pocket this year compared to last year. And his passing numbers are up, from yards per game, to completion percentage, to pass efficiency.


Through five games this year, Manziel ranks second in the SEC and 14th nationally in passing offense (297.8). He also leads the SEC and ranks eight nationally in completion percentage (71.4) and ranks second in the SEC and fifth nationally in passer rating (188.06).


"You notice that he doesn't mind standing in the pocket longer," Freeze said. "I thought he was a good thrower last year, too. We were hoping he wasn't, but when you faced him live, you realized he was. He certainly does not mind standing in the pocket longer this year. They have worked on that to minimize some of the hits that he takes and him developing as more of a complete quarterback. You can tell work has been put in on him doing that."


"You have to let it come to you," Hilton said. "You have to be conservative. Everybody knows how he plays. He has actually played a lot more in the pocket this year. He still has the ability to escape and make plays happen. We have to sit back and let him come to us and make a play when it happens."


Manziel's favorite target in last year's game and again so far this season is 6-foot-5, 225-pound sophomore Mike Evans. The two connected for a 32-yard gain on 3rd-and-19 from the Texas A&M 3-yard line, as the Aggies rallied to win last year in Oxford.


A Freshman All-SEC selection last year, Evans leads the SEC and ranks third nationally in receiving yards (138.2 ypg). He also leads the SEC and ranks second nationally in yards per reception (24.7). He has also accounted for 10 plays of 30 or more yards, which leads the nation, including four plays of 40 or more yards.


"Everybody wanted us to copy Alabama's plan against A&M, and I wanted to show them on tape where 270 yards came from," Freeze said of Evans. "It was a guy going up and just making a play, which he's very good at. We saw that on 3rd-and-19 last year at our place. Senquez had perfect coverage on him, and he just went up over him. 


"We have got to think through that. We have thought about a lot of crazy things, trying to think out of the box a little bit on who we might put on him in some situations that can compete for a jump ball with him, so we're thinking along those lines. Certainly, even if you have him covered, there's no guarantee that he's not going to make the play." 


Who might the Rebels put on Evans? The Rebels' two starting cornerbacks, Hilton and junior Senquez Golson, are listed at 5-foot-8 and 5-foot-9, respectively. 


Senior Charles Sawyer, who also plays a lot at cornerback, is listed at 5-foot-11. Freshman Derrick Jones, at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, who switched from wide receiver to cornerback earlier this season, might also figure is some situations.


"You have to be physical with him right before he gets up in the air because he uses his body a lot, so you have to get your body into him before he does," Hilton said. "And if you know you can't get a pick, separate his hands, so he won't catch it."



No. 24 Ole Miss rallied in the second half and got to within five, 27-22, early in the fourth quarter, after Bo Wallace connected with Donte Moncrief for two touchdowns. Auburn later added a field goal with just over three minutes left, and Ole Miss had a final chance down one possession, but the comeback fell short, as the Tigers held on for a 30-22 win at Jordan-Hare Stadium.


"It was a disappointing loss," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I thought they were well prepared and they were a great football team, but we had out chances. And certainly, we can't give them points off turnovers like we did and we have to score touchdowns when we get the opportunity. We had the ball three times with chances to take the lead and then could not protect... There are little things that they did better than us tonight."


Quarterback Bo Wallace completed 25 of 48 passes for a season-high 336 yards with two touchdowns and two interception. It was his fourth career 300-yard passing game, which is second-most in school history behind Eli Manning. However, he was also sacked six times, including back-to-back plays on the Rebels' final offensive possession.


"We lost a lot of one-on-ones," Freeze said of protecting Wallace. "When you feel like you have to abandon the run a little bit, they certainly can tee off and that happened a lot. We certainly feel like we got beat quite a few times.


"They played a lot of man-to-man coverage just like everyone has done here lately. We had people open. We did drop some balls and made some good plays here and there, but you have got to protect. We did not protect very well."



"Anytime you give up that many sacks, it goes back to down and distance, and us being behind the chains a lot in 3rd-and-long situations," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "I thought we had an opportunity to win the game (on the last drive), and we just didn't get it done. We got to get back to work."


On the other sideline, quarterback Nick Marshall led all players 14 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed 11 of 17 passes for 93 yards.


"He had a phenomenal first half," Freeze said of Marshall. "He is an athletic guy, and we struggled to contain him at time. I thought we did a better job in the second half on him. He is a good player, and they make you defend the entire field. They have a player back there like him that is hard to defend."


For Ole Miss, Saturday marked the third straight road game and the fourth out of the first five games of the seasons. The Rebels return home for six straight home games over the next seven weeks starting with No. 9 Texas A&M and last year's Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.


"We look forward to going home," Freeze said. "The road does not get much easier but at least we will have our people behind us and pulling for us like we have experienced on the road. We will keep fighting, I know, but that's a hurting locker room right now, and it is disappointing."


Head coach Hugh Freeze recaps Wednesday's practice, discusses the possibility of inclement weather for Saturday's game at Auburn and updates the health status of quarterback Barry Brunetti, defensive end C.J. Johnson and defensive tackle Bryon Bennett.

Offensive coordinator Dan Werner previews Auburn's defense, looks back on quarterback Bo Wallace's game against Alabama and discusses the role of running back I'Tavius Mathers in the offense. 

Wide receivers coach Grant Heard discusses Vince Sanders and his return from injury, Laquon Treadwell's progression and assesses the blocking of the wide receivers.

 

There are a lot of connections and similarities, as No. 24 Ole Miss prepares for its third straight road game of the season on the Plains against Auburn.


Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn served as Arkansas State's head coach in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and both teams run similar up-tempo offenses.


"We certainly can look just alike offensively, if we wanted to," Freeze said of the two offenses. "We'll be able to simulate their looks very efficiently for our defense. But having said that, both of us can change a lot during the course of a week, and he has two weeks to do whatever he is going to do. He will dress things up and add some wrinkles that we haven't seen.


"We are very, very similar in the things we do offensively, so it can help prepare us. You never know exactly what to prepare for. We'll show them that our defense wants to see, but there will be something that we don't cover that we will see Saturday night."


Freeze and Malzahn met when they were high school coaches and they traveled in the same circles of clinics and speeches. Their relationship grew when they were both assistants in the SEC in 2006. At that time, Freeze was the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach at Ole Miss, and Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas.


"It is somewhat eerily similar the paths we have shared many times," Freeze said. "We wish we were not in the same half of this conference, which would be nice. We would see each other just every so often and be able to help each other, but that's not reality, so we have to go and play.


"During the offseason, we would communicate quite a bit. Before this week, we would text maybe once a week, maybe a phone call, depending on who he's playing, and who I'm playing, we may talk some, without compromising each other's plan of any type. That's not real frequent. It's more of a texting, 'Good luck,' or "How are you doing?' deal."


Aplin Reunites With Two Former College Coaches


Another connection between Freeze and Malzahn is former Arkansas State quarterback and current Ole Miss administrative intern Ryan Aplin, who joined Freeze's staff after a very successful college career under Freeze and then Malzahn.


A two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Aplin led the Red Wolves to back-to-back conference championships in 2011 and 2012 and completed his four year-career with more than 25 combined single-game, season and career school record and as the conference's all-time leader in completions, passing yards and total offense.


"I like to hire good people who played for me," Freeze said of hiring Aplin. "I like to take care of those guys. When Ryan's NFL deal fell through this year, it was a no-brainer. If I had a quality control spot open, I would certainly want him here, just like I hired Ben Aigamaua who played for me also, and I will continue to try to hire good people that know what we do and the core values of our program."


As an intern, Aplin works with co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Dan Werner charting data, analyzing film and performing other administrative duties. 

"I had a conversation with Ryan early this week," Freeze said. "I know he's very close to both out us, and I don't want him to feel uncomfortable at all in anything that's going on. I'm sure Gus has changed everything from when Ryan was there. But at the same time, we had changed some things, too. 


"People, though, who work or play for you for a while, there's only so much you can change. They still can probably tell if it's run or pass. Now, if you can do that in time to make calls, I don't know. We won't put Ryan in that position. We're going to move him down from the press box to the field in this game. He'll be involved in helping us this week for sure, but we want him to feel good about the way that everything goes about."



'They Remind Me A Lot Of Us Last Year'


Inheriting a team that went 3-9 last season and winless in the SEC, Malzahn has Auburn off to a 3-1 start this year, with home wins over Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi State. The Tigers' only loss was in their last game at then-No. 6 LSU, as they enter this week coming off a bye.


"They remind me a lot of us last year," Freeze said. "They are a vey, very hungry team that plays with great emotion, energy and passion. That's doesn't surprise me at all with Gus' leadership. They're off to a great start and have been very, very good at home, and we have to go there for another road trip in a hostile environment on a Saturday night. That's a big game for both schools sitting at 3-1. He will have them ready.


"He's got them playing extremely hard, and you face an offense that is very balanced in rushing and passing. They give you a lot of looks, motions and smoke and mirrors, and they are very efficient at what they do. Defensively, Ellis is one of the best in the business and is very, very multiple. You have to prepare for most anything."


Offensively, the Auburn rushing attack ranks third in the SEC with 232.2 yards per game, led by junior running back Tre Mason with 84.5 yards per game and four touchdowns. First-year quarterback Nick Marshall is 60-of-103 for 809 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions, and ranks sixth in the SEC in total offense with 239.3 yards per game.


R. Nkemdiche At Defensive Tackle


Having lined up primarily at defensive end in the first three games of the season, freshman Robert Nkemdiche moved inside for most of the game against Alabama. Freeze was overall pleased with the move, but it may not be permanent.


"We'll continue to look at where it's best to put him from week to week," Freeze said. "I wouldn't say it permanent. We'll look at what we're facing.


"He did fine. He made a few mistakes, but so did everyone. He graded out around 82 percent. He only had a few missed assignments. He made several tackles. He is very strong and tough to move around. He played real solid for a game of that magnitude against that offensive line in that arena."


Bouncing Back


Coming off the 25-0 loss at No. 1 Alabama, it was about learning from the loss, then putting it in the trash and preparing this week for Saturday against Auburn.


"One of the things about our program that I hope our kids see is that our coaches don't blink," Freeze said. "You have to play the next play. Yesterday, all of us didn't like losing. But again, it had been a while since we had lost compared to a few years back.


"We came into the team meeting. Sunday is about the truth. We told the truth about the offense, the defense and the special teams, and we put it in the trash and then went out and practiced with a lot of energy. I was real pleased with everyone's spirit."



The No. 21-ranked Ole Miss defense spent nearly 40 minutes on the field and held tough for most of the game, as the Rebels fell 25-0 to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.


Outside of two long touchdown runs, a 68-yarder by T.J. Yeldon and a 50-yarder by Kenyan Drake, the Ole Miss defense allowed just nine points, three first-half Cade Foster field goals.


"We're real proud of their effort," head coach Hugh Freeze said of the defense. "On the two long touchdown runs, we let a guy get free to make a play and missed a tackle. It had to be frustrating to be on that side of the ball because we couldn't' get life in us because we could not produce any points."


Senior cornerback Charles Sawyer and sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche returned from injury, while freshman Derrick Jones made his college debut after switching from wide receiver to cornerback. Another change was freshman Robert Nkemdiche who moved inside to defensive tackle for most of the game, having previously lined up primarily at defense end.


Junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, who started for the third straight game, led the team with nine tackles, and freshman Huskie Tony Conner tied a career high with seven tackles. 


The Ole Miss defense forced three first-half fumbles, none of which were recovered, and Alabama went into halftime leading 9-0.


"It's aggravating," junior safety Cody Prewitt said of the fumbles. "We had three opportunities to get a turnover at a crucial point in the game, and we weren't able to capitalize. It's aggravating whenever that happens. You can't just stay thinking about that. You have to play the next play."


Yeldon broke his 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to extend the Alabama lead to 16-0, then the Ole Miss defense forced a turnover on the first play of the fourth quarter to temporarily turn the momentum in the game. 


Bryant tipped an A.J. McCarron pass right into the arms of Prewitt for his third interception of the season, and the Rebels took over at the Alabama 31. 



On the ensuing drive, Ole Miss converted a 4th-and-2 on a 5-yard run by senior running back Jeff Scott, but the Rebels were then unable to convert on 4th-and-10 from the Alabama 18, and the Crimson Tide took over on downs and wrapped up the win.


"We're a lot better than we were last year," Prewitt said. "We made fewer mistakes than we did last year. We definitely still have some work to do. We haven't lost any confidence whatsoever. We know that this was the number one team in the nation, and they're number one for a reason. And we knew that we would have to play an almost perfect game, and we know we made some mistakes. 


"Our confidence is not broken. We are going to go in and fix the mistakes tomorrow, and have our heads held high going into Auburn."



Vote For Your Rebels

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Ole Miss is represented on a number of early watch lists for major college football awards this year.

And some of those awards have a fan voting component, so we need Rebel Nation to show how much you support our players!

Fan voting is already open for three awards in particular - the Davey O'Brien Award (nation's best QB), the Biletnikoff Award (nation's best receiver) and the Paul Hornung Award (nation's most versatile player). Fans can cast their vote for those awards as often as once per day.

Here is a complete list of Rebels on watch lists, as well as links to vote:

Maxwell Award (nation's best player) - Bo Wallace
Davey O'Brien Award (nation's best quarterback) - Bo Wallace - VOTE NOW
Manning Award (nation's best quarterback) - Bo Wallace
Biletnikoff Award (nation's best receiver) - Donte Moncrief - VOTE NOW
Lombardi Award (nation's best lineman or linebacker) - Denzel Nkemdiche
Nagurski Trophy (nation's best defensive player) - Denzel Nkemdiche
Butkus Award (nation's best linebacker) - D.T. Shackelford
Lott IMPACT Trophy (nation's best defensive IMPACT player) - D.T. Shackelford
Rimington Trophy (nation's best center) - Evan Swindall
Paul Hornung Award (nation's most versatile player) - Jeff Scott - VOTE NOW

Also, you can cast your vote for Hugh Freeze for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year - VOTE NOW

Head coach Hugh Freeze meets with the media after Wednesday's practice.


Doctors told sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche that a return for Saturday's game at No. 1 Alabama was possible. From there, it was rehabbing two or three times a day and doing everything possible to be back after suffering a torn meniscus during the season opener against Vanderbilt.


As early as Monday, when Nkemdiche did drills with linebackers coach Tom Allen, he realized it was possible. When he came into the training room on Tuesday morning, it wasn't swelling, then after practice on Tuesday, he came back this morning, and there was no swelling. 


After practice on Wednesday, both he and head coach Hugh Freeze were confident that he will make the trip to Tuscaloosa.


"I felt good," Nkemdiche said. "I felt better than I did yesterday, and it looked great this morning. it's exciting because I feel like tomorrow morning, it's going to feel better than it did today."


"He looked good" Freeze said. "He didn't have much swelling today. If that is the case tomorrow morning, we will put him on the travel squad."

Nkemdiche, an All-SEC performer last season, led the team with 82 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions, and it's not just that production, but the overall depth at the linebacker position, where the Rebels have missed him this season.


"We have missed him a lot," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "In some spots, we don't have much depth. When that happened, we had to move a guy that was playing Mike linebacker over to Stinger linebacker. D.T. (Shackelford) had to catch up on all the things that we got a thousand reps on."


In Nkemdiche's absence, Bryant has started the last two games at Stinger linebacker and leads the team with 26 tackles and four tackles for loss.


"We knew all along that through fall camp that was one of our strongest two-deep positions with those two guys there," Wommack said. "We actually created some defensive packages so they would both be on the field at the same time because Serderius has come so far. Having them both back would be huge for us."


Last season, led by Nkemdiche, Ole Miss ranked second in the SEC, tied for 11th in the nation, with 38 sacks. Through three games, the Rebels have just four sacks, which is a by-product of defensive scheme. 


Wommack said they have played a lot more zone coverage and haven't pressured as much as in the past. As a result, they haven't given up as many big plays, an area of emphasis this season. 


Through three games, Ole Miss has allowed 32 plays of 10+ yards, which is the second fewest in the SEC and tied for 14th fewest in the nation, and just 9 plays of 20+ yards, which is tied for the second fewest in the SEC, tied for 20th fewest in the nation.


Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with the media after Tuesday's practice.


Sawyer Adds Depth At Corner


After missing games against Southeast Missouri and Texas, senior cornerback Charles Sawyer is back and will play Saturday. He adds depth and will split time at boundary corner with sophomore Mike Hilton. He also gives them more versatility and will help in nickel and dime situations.


"Charles is doing good," cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said. "He's back and flying around, making plays in practice. We're looking forward to having him back. He gives us that much depth there at the cornerback position.

"In the Texas game, Mike (Hilton) and Senquez (Golson) played pretty much every snap. At times, they got winded, but with Charles being back, you can put him in the game, and you can rest either Senquez and Mike and try to keep fresh guys on the field."

Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones meets with the media after Wednesday's practice.


Hooks, Jones Progress At New Positions 


Freeze and his staff introduced two position changes last week, with junior Lavon Hooks now splitting reps between his original position, defensive tackle, and his new position, tight end, and moving from freshman Derrick Jones from wide receiver to cornerback.


Hooks is listed as a third-team defensive tackle behind juniors Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett and has also gotten reps at tight end, where the 6-foot-4, 302-pounder played some in high school.


"He is learning," Freeze said. "He is swimming a bit at TE, so we kind of scaled back for this week, but we do have one package for him. He understands that and gives us a different look. 

"This year, he will work on both offense and defense unless something changes. In spring, we'll make a call one way or the other."

Jones is listed as a co-backup at boundary corner with senior Dehendret Collins behind sophomore Mike Hilton, with senior Charles Sawyer also in the mix at both field and boundary corner. Freeze said Jones has been looking really good, and defensive backs coach Jason Jones likes his size at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds.


"The size and speed that he has, that's what you want at corner," cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said. "We made the move a couple of weeks ago. The bye week, we had a chance to throw him in there and give him a ton of reps. He's coming along and doing a great job. I'm looking forward to seeing him out there and see what he can do."

Offensive coordinator Dan Werner meets with the media after Wednesday's practice.


Alabama's Blitzes


In Monday's press conference, Freeze said Alabama head coach has been on the cutting edge of defense, from new wrinkles every game, to multiple defenses, to the exotic blitzes that he likes to draw up on certain downs.


Offensive coordinator Dan Werner talked more about those blitzes and how tempo on offense can help counter them. 

"You can tell that they're communicating every play," Werner said. "As soon as a guy motions, they're going to change their coverage because they want to be in a certain look for every single formation and every single personnel group, so there's a lot of stuff going on with what they do. 

"The thing that we want to do is obviously play fast because it makes them think about those checks a lot faster."


Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

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Freeze_101312d_JM.jpgOle Miss Fans, I have a question: Is Hugh Freeze the Coach of the Year?

If your answer is yes, then you have a chance to make your voice heard, as the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year voting opens today.

You can visit www.CoachoftheYear.com and www.Facebook.com/LMCoachoftheYear to cast your votes.

The only way that Coach Freeze can win the prestigious award is if YOU, the Ole Miss fan base, goes and wins the voting poll.

Freeze has led this Ole Miss program to a 10-6 record since taking over after a 2-10 season just two years ago. Ole Miss is off to a 3-0 start this year, which has not happened since 1989, and is looking to reach even greater heights.

Archie Manning is the host of the Coach of the Year program, so the Ole Miss spirit should be as strong as ever. Hotty Toddy and Go Rebels!

Last season, two weeks removed from a 66-31 loss to Texas, Ole Miss hung tough at then-No. 1 Alabama, briefly leading early in the second quarter, but the Rebels fell to the Crimson Tide 33-14 at Bryant-Denny Stadium. 


A year later, as it prepares for No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, No. 21 Ole Miss is 3-0 for the first time since 1989 and rides a five-game winning streak, which includes come-from-behind road wins against Vanderbilt and Texas already this year.


"Last year, we didn't know what to expect," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "This year, we're confident and we feel like we can play with anybody. 


"I was frustrated last year just because we were so close, and people were saying we were so close. I was ready to start winning those games. Now, we're starting to do that and win those close games, down at halftime and being able to come back into games. We have a pretty mature team, and hopefully we can go out, not make mistakes and win a football game."


A win against Alabama, Wallace said, would take them to that next level and put them in a chance to play for something big this year. For head coach Hugh Freeze, the motivation is clear, and it's one similar to the one entering the Texas game two weeks ago.


"What should motivate us, and I think will, is an opportunity to go stand in front of the measuring stick right now and prove that you deserve to be there. That's what we'll focus on. If it does go our way, it would certainly be a huge boost to our program and move us a few steps forward quicker than anybody thought, including myself."


Stopping The Run


Looking back on last year, defensively, Freeze said they were one of the few teams that felt like they stopped the run against Alabama, holding the Crimson Tide to 125 yards on 34 attempts, well below their 227.5 yards per game, which ranked 16th in the nation.


"They're going to play two or three tight ends, Freeze said. "They force you in committing so many to the box, so they can stop the run. They want to take a shot over your head. They've got quality receivers that can do that. Of course A.J. (McCarron) has proven what he is to that offense. He's a winner and he's proven that through the course of time. They just put you in a position where you're going to have to win one-on-ones. 


"That what this game ends up being about most of the time: How many one-on-ones did you win? Our kids are going to have to win some of those. We're not going to stop them the whole night. Hopefully we can score enough points and stop them enough that we have a shot in the fourth quarter. Our kids will play the entire 60 minutes and see what happens."


Through three games, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said, running the football remains an emphasis for the Alabama offense, which ranks 85th in the nation in total offense, averaging 370.7 ypg, and 91st in rushing offense, averaging 132.0 ypg. Sophomore T.J. Yeldon, who has 273 rushing yards on 49 attempts, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, leads the rushing attack for the Crimson Tide.


"I haven't seen much of a difference," Johnson said of Alabama's offense. They still want to try to run the football, so they can dictate the tempo. I think they're throwing the ball a lot, just because they have great back and some pretty good receivers that can make you pay. You have to pick your poison against them."

 

Talking Tempo, Matching Up With Alabama's Defense


Much like the fast-paced, up-tempo offenses, which, right now, are cutting edge, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has done the same thing defensively, Freeze said, adding new wrinkles every game, switching between a 3-4 and 4-2-5 formation and giving you every look you can imagine.


"It's very multiple," Freeze said of Alabama's defense. "They're very physical up front. You have a difficult time consistently having drives on them. That's the thing that stands out game after game, even the game against Texas A&M. You don't put on the film and see a consistent drive without having a big play or a phenomenal one-on-one play.


"Physically they're very good and they're not going to make the mistake that allows you to have many explosive plays. That's been the staple of their defense. They're going to stay in the right position. Very rarely  do you see explosive plays. We've got to find a way to create those, or find a way to stay in and convert on third and shorts to stay on the field."


Last year, in a 33-14 loss in Tuscaloosa, Ole Miss managed two sustained drives, one of 13 plays for 75 yards, another of 16 plays for 70 yards, but two is not enough to win against that type of team, Freeze said.


Through three games, Alabama ranks 56th in the nation in total defense and 83rd in pass defense, having allowed 373.0 total ypg through three games, including 250.3 ypg through the air. But both statistics are due in large part to Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Johnny Manziel's historic day against the Crimson Tide. He threw for 464 yards and ran for another 98 yards, as the Aggies with 628 yards of total offense in a 49-42 loss in College Station.


Manziel is a difference-maker, yes, but there are similarities between the Texas A&M and Ole Miss offenses. Part of that is tempo, where Ole Miss and Texas A&M rank second and third, respectively, in the SEC behind Missouri. The Rebels average 79.3 plays of offense per game, which ranks 20th in the nation, while the Aggies average 76.75 plays per game, 28th in the nation. 


Last year, opponents ran an average of 59.8 plays of offense against Alabama, and this year, opponents have ran an average of 58.7 plays. In last year's 33-14 loss to Alabama, Ole Miss ran 68 plays of offense, while Texas A&M ran 77 plays last year and 71 plays this year against the Crimson Tide.


"We're going to go our tempo in any game we play," Freeze said. "We have it ready. I would love to say that we're going to do it a lot, but you have got to win first down to do that. They were able to win first down a lot. Even though we're similar schematically, us and A&M, at a lot of things, you don't treat us the same if you're defending us because of who is taking the snap for them."


"We can put points on them," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We can put points on anybody. We have to show up and play. It's the same thing every week. That's stay on schedule, control the tempo and don't have any turnovers. We're winning first downs on most drives. Even if we don't win first downs, we have been pretty good on second downs. As long as we're staying schedule with third and short, and third and medium, we're having good drives."


Wallace also showed a lot of confidence in his group of receivers, which will be bolstered this week with the return of junior Vince Sanders, who suffered a broken collarbone during fall practice. Last season, he played in every game with 12 starts and finished with 39 receptions for 504 yards and two touchdowns, including a career-high seven receptions for 46 yards against Alabama.


"He went through a full practice yesterday," Freeze said of Sanders. "We'll incorporate him in just like we would anybody. He will be ready to go. You will probably see him, Laquon, Ja-Mes and Donte all out there at the same time some. We'll rotate them and keep them fresh. We love having him back. He gives us another threat for sure.


"It's exciting, and glad to have him back," Wallace said. "It seems like he's been gone forever. He was catching balls yesterday and looked good running routes. I'm excited to have him back."






ESPN College Gameday might not be coming to Ole Miss this week, but Ole Miss will be going there, as alumna Melissa King (@Dent4DA) won this week's AT&T #BeTheFan challenge. As the winner, she will receive a VIP trip to this week's ESPN College Gameday in Fargo, N.D., on the campus on North Dakota State. 


"I have never been to Fargo, so I get to see a part of the country that I have never seen," King said. "And of course, I get to see the hosts of College Gameday, which is fantastic. I will get to see a behind-the-scenes tour of how everything is set up and how everything works. It's going to be a wonderful experience. And I get to see a different kind of football and a different kind of tailgating from what we're used to in the Grove."


The contest asked participants to submit photos or videos via Instagram, Twitter or Vine showing their game day ritual or superstition. Her winning video is of her dog Jedi, a rescued Maltese Mix, raising his two front paws like the motion for a touchdown.



As part of the VIP trip, she will receive backstage access to meet with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard, tickets to the game and the opportunity to represent Ole Miss during the broadcast while holding the Twitter Sign of the Week. 


She will also be entered to win the Grand Prize trip to Pasadena, Calif., for the 2014 BCS National Championship game.


"I can't be more proud that I get to represent Ole Miss and our university," she said. "I won this competition because it was Ole Miss that the judges picked, and it's humbling that not only I won, but I also did it while I was also representing Ole Miss. 


"And now I get to Fargo and meet people who work in college sports on a national level and get to promote the good that is Ole Miss and be a representative of Rebel Nation and show that we're back in the football game."


King, originally from Madison, Miss., is a 2007 Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College graduate with a degree in Business Administration. She is now a practicing attorney living outside Atlanta, with her own firm specializing in Family Law and Estate Planning.


She went to one Ole Miss game last year and has already made plans to go to the Ole Miss-Auburn game in a few weeks. While she doesn't get to go back to Oxford as much as she would like to, she hopes next season she will be a season ticket holder. She also hopes ESPN College Gameday will soon visit Ole Miss.


"It's a perfect time to go, and if I can get in a good word to get College Gameday to come to the Grove, I will absolutely do it," she said. "I think it's time. They need to be there. I was an Ole Miss ambassador and got plenty of students to come to Ole Miss, so I'm going to do my best to get those guys to see us."


Head coach Hugh Freeze recaps the day of practice, looks ahead to Alabama and discusses the play of some of the freshmen.



Through three games, Ole Miss ranks fourth in the SEC in total offense (490.0 ypg) and fifth in scoring offense (38.0 ppg). The Rebels also rank second in the SEC, 25th in the nation, averaging 79.3 offensive plays per game. Offensive coordinator Dan Werner discusses quarterback junior Bo Wallace's progress, looks ahead to Alabama and assesses where the tempo has been relative to their expectations.


Ole Miss pitched a second-half shutout in a 44-23 win over Texas. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack looks back on those halftime adjustments, looks ahead to Alabama and assesses the progress of freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche.


Last season, junior quarterback Bo Wallace led the nation by throwing an interception once every 22 passing attempts. Through three games and 87 attempts this season, Wallace has yet to throw an interception, which is tied for the third-most attempts without an interception in the nation.


"I want to keep that going as long as possible," Wallace said of his interception-free streak. "You have freak plays during the game. Those are going to come, but I can't make foolish interceptions like I did last game."


Wallace credits not only his health from undergoing clavicle surgery in January and regaining his arm strength the last week or so, but also his early struggles during fall camp.


"Coach Freeze and Coach Werner being in there with helping me with it," Wallace said. "During fall camp, I had that mindset change where I was struggling at the start, so I think that struggle kind of helped me with the way I'm playing right now."


Despite resting for much of the second game against Southeast Missouri, Wallace ranks 9th in the league in passing (216.0 ypg), 6th in total offense (256.0 ypg) and tied for 3rd in points responsible for (44), and the team also ranks 4th in total offense (490.0 ypg).


"I look at the differences in Bo's and LSU's guy (Zach Mettenberger)," Freeze said of SEC quarterbacks. "Those guys have elevated their game to join guys like (A.J.) McCarron, (Johnny) Manziel and the other ones that were already really good. 

"We're putting so much emphasis on quarterback play, functioning and taking care of the ball in the system in which we're asked to run. I know how hard we worked at it, and I'm sure others have done the same. It seems to be that it's been raised to another level."

"When we get up-tempo, as long as we're executing, it's hard to stop, especially if we get rolling on first down and stay on schedule," Wallace said. "People say defenses are going to catch up to it and things like that. Well, we're just going to get better at it. We know we're not where we need to be right now, and we're just going to keep getter better at it, so hopefully they don't catch up to it. 


In that same vein, as Freeze said Monday, the game has changed, whether we like it or not. 


You look at total offense, where Ole Miss averages 490.0 yards per game on offense, and it ranks 4th in the SEC, but just 33rd in the nation. And defensively, where the Rebels allow 332.7 yards per game, and it also ranks 4th in the SEC and 35th in the nation.


"These offenses are making you defend from sideline to sideline, all 53 yards, on every play, whether it's an inside run play or not, and then you add the tempo and rule changes, the defense can only do certain things," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "It definitely has been advantageous for the offense, and the stats prove that. It's hard to totally stop the offenses you are seeing now. 


"The high schools are doing it more and more, and the kids are so athletic, and now they are coming up in these systems. It's hard to defend the 53-yard field that we have when you use it on every play. That's why I love what we do, and it gives us a lot of options."


Different Mentality For Scott




Senior running back Jeff Scott set career highs with 243 all-purpose yards, including 164 yards on 19 carries, to go along with a thrilling 73-yard punt return for a touchdown and was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Week.


For the season, Scott ranks among the conference leaders in rushing (6th/110.0 ypg), yards from scrimmage (7th/122.0 ypg) and all-purpose yards (5th/151.7 ypg). 


"Coach Freeze, he's been on us, and I had to get my priorities right," Scott said. "My junior and senior year, I knew my talent was being limited here. I wanted to be a great player overall, and I wanted people to like me for what I did on the field and off the field. This is my senior year, and this is it for me. I wanted to go out on top.


Schematically, a large part of Scott's success has been the read-option with quarterback Bo Wallace, who has noticed a different mentality this year from Scott.

"Last year, the first thing he's going for is the sideline, and he's going to jump out of bounds," Wallace said. "This year, you're seeing his toughness and him wanting to make big plays. He's become a great blocker for us, and he's becoming a really smart football player."


Making Special Teams Special


Special teams helped turn the tide in Saturday's win over Texas, from senior Andrew Ritter's career-long 52-yard field as time expired in the first half to cut the lead to 23-17, to Scott's 73-yard punt return for a touchdown, which extended the Rebels' lead to 37-23.


In Monday's press conference, Freeze also noted the blocking on that punt return from Scott, particularly redshirt freshman linebacker Temario Strong.


"There were several key blocks on (Jeff Scott's) punt return," Freeze said. Bobby Hill made a good one, which looked like it could be bad at the time, but watching it, it was definitely in the side and not in the back.


"Then, Temario Strong finished a guy off as good as you will ever see. Temario had a phenomenal game on special teams. He was physical and full speed and did a great job. I'm really glad to see him take that next step. We've been pushing him to do that" 


Led by Scott, Ole Miss leads the SEC and ranks third in the nation in punt return average (29.7 yards per return). The Rebels are also one of just two SEC teams, along with Alabama, and one of 14 teams in the nation with a punt return for a touchdown. Ole Miss also ranks second in the SEC and 25th in the nation in opponents' punt return average (3.75 yards per return).



Head coach Hugh Freeze talks Wednesday's practice, an injury update on junior wide receiver Vince Sanders and the opportunity Saturday presents for the program.

Co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner talks about new Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, the Longhorns' personnel and the Rebels' preparation for Saturday.

Sophomore running back Jaylen Walton talks about last year's game against Texas, including his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and looks ahead to Saturday's matchup in Austin.

Preparing For Texas

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Head coach Hugh Freeze discusses what he expects with new Texas defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, who replaced Manny Diaz after their loss to BYU, 40-21, in Provo, Utah. Robinson was a co-defensive coordinator for the Longhorns in 2004, which ended with an 11-1 record and the Longhorns' first BCS Bowl and Rose Bowl win over Michigan. 


That season, Texas held its opponents to 320.1 yards per game (23rd in the nation) and 17.9 points per game (18th in the national). He most recently served as the defensive coordinator at Michigan from 2009-10 after four years as the head coach at Syracuse from 2005-08.


Wallace 'Overwhelmed' Last Year Against Texas


Through two games, junior Bo Wallace has completed 39 of 62 passes for 471 yards with two touchdown and no interceptions. Last Saturday against SEMO, Ole Miss scored on all four of Wallace's drives -- three touchdowns and a field goal -- before he rested the rest of the game. 


"I don't think we're at all where we need to be," Wallace said. "This week is a huge test for us. We're focused in. Everybody is excited about it, especially being in the rankings. We have a huge test, so we have a lot of work to do this week."


This week, the test is Texas, coming off a 40-21 loss to BYU, and Wallace said Texas probably feels like their backs are against the wall with the media scrutiny surrounding the team.


"It's frustrating," Wallace said of the change in defensive coordinator. "We were in meetings when we found out yesterday. We talked about it then, and the coaches are going to get a plan together of what they want me to look at and things like that."


In last year's 66-31 loss to Texas, Wallace completed 13 of 24 passes for 178 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions, and he described the feeling as "overwhelming."


"It was my first game against a big-time college football team," Wallace said. "I have played in big games now, and I know what to expect. I'm excited about it."


After last Saturday's win over SEMO, offensive coordinator Dan Werner said Wallace is light years ahead of where he was entering last year's game against Texas. On Monday, Wallace and Freeze said more of the same.


"I am way more prepared, and I have been in big games," Wallace said. "I have played against the great athletes like we're going to play against Saturday. I feel much more comfortable with it."


"Bo has played in some pretty big games at good places in this league in the year and a half since Texas last year, so all that experience has got to better prepare him for Saturday at Texas," Freeze said. "And that's the same for the rest of our team. I feel confident that we're better prepared. Does that mean the results will follow? I don't know. I'm confident we're better prepared mentally and physically."



Added Motivation For Both Teams



On the Ole Miss side, it's the motivation from last year's 66-31 loss to Texas.


"It was quite embarrassing to be honest," junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said. "They pretty much came in and beat us like a drum. We had a lot of missed assignments. We weren't as physical, and we didn't play real well in the first half. It was just a bad game. We played a bad game."


"It's a huge motivator, just like playing Vanderbilt, who we lost by one to last year, and we really wanted to beat them," senior offensive tackle Pierce Burton said. "Now, we have turned our focus to Texas. Any team that we lost to last year, we have a real chip on our shoulder when we play them this year."


For Texas, it's last week's 40-21 loss to BYU. Defensively, Texas allowed 550 rushing yards on 72 attempts, a 7.6 yards per carry average, and four rushing touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, the Texas offense converted just 5 of 17 third-down attempts and 0 of 3 fourth-down attempts.


"We know we're going into a hostile environment, and those guys are going to be playing with a chip on their shoulder to play better from last week, so we have to be prepared," Johnson said.


"I expect them to be very emotional in front of their home crowd," Freeze said. "They will raise their game, and I expect to see the best that they can be. It won't be hard to get our guys up. They understand. We challenge them after the game the other night, and they will be anxious to get ready for this game and give them their best shot."


Other Notes & Quotes


Defensively against SEMO, Ole Miss allowed 13 points and 252 yards. Freeze was generally pleased with the defense, and the game plan entering Saturday's game against Texas centers on not allowing easy scores and stopping the run.


"We've got to quit allowing the easy scores. We allowed two that resonate on my mind. We had one of those the other night. Hopefully we can stop the run, that'll be our goal going in. We were not able to do that last year against them. We've got to be able to stop the run and not give up the easy score. They have some weapons and a lot of speed. They can also certainly throw it over the top of you any time. Hopefully we get a couple turnovers and we don't give up the easy play."


Sophomore Mike Hilton moved from Huskie to boundary corner, where he started last week against SEMO. This week, he is again listed as the starter there, opposite junior Senquez Golson at field corner. 


"Hilton played a good game the other night except for one play," Freeze said. "His eyes got bad, and he didn't get a read route on a kid, but he practiced at corner all of about three days. He had a solid game other than that one play."


Sophomore running back I'Tavius Mathers returned from an ankle injury last week against SEMO, and he rushed for 56 yards on four carries, including a 10-yard touchdown run.


"He gives us more of a physical back," Freeze said. "He made some good runs the other night. He's still not healthy. You can see that, when he tried to really make a cut. He's still not 100 percent, but hopefully he will be better this Saturday night than he was this past Saturday night. Certainly, we like his style. It's a little different and more physical. He's tough to bring down. He's a good complement to Jeff (Scott) and Jaylen (Walton)."


Rebels 2-0 Headed To Texas

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Head coach Hugh Freeze discusses Ole Miss' 31-13 win over Southeast Missouri State. He discusses the play of junior quarterback Bo Wallace, the return of sophomore running back I'Tavius Mathers and his personnel decisions. He also assesses his team's depth and looks ahead to next Saturday's game at Texas. Kickoff from Austin is set for 7 p.m. CT and will be televised on the Longhorn Network, as well as affiliates throughout Mississippi and Memphis.


Wallace Looks Back, Looks Ahead To Texas


Junior quarterback Bo Wallace only played four series against Southeast Missouri before seniors Barry Brunetti and Robert Ratliff finished the game, but they all resulted in points. Wallace helped lead the offense three touchdown and a field goal, as the Rebels staked a 24-0 lead early in the first half. In the process, Wallace threw his first two touchdown of the season after rushing for two touchdown in last week's 39-35 win at Vanderbilt. 


A 64-yard pass to freshman tight end Evan Engram, his first career touchdown, and a 67-yard pass to junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief highlighted the first half, as the Rebels took a 31-0 lead into halftime, its largest lead since a 31-0 lead against Mississippi State in 2008.


"I thought he started ho-hum," Freeze said of Wallace. "We got explosive there and looked pretty decent on some drive. He made some good decisions and some good throws. I struggled at halftime whether or not to come back with him. I know he gives us the best chance to win. I felt like we needed to get others reps because we are going to need some others before it's over."


But it's one of the throws Wallace didn't make that's going to stay with him from the win against Southeast Missouri.


"I'm not proud of myself. I'm proud that we put up points the whole time. The one that's really going to be with me the whole night is the throw to (senior wide receiver Jordan) Holder I missed because that kid deserves a touchdown, and I missed him on it, so that one will stay with me."


Wallace and the Rebels are 2-0 for the second straight season, but both he and his offensive coordinator Dan Werner think he is further along this year compared to last year, when he completed 13 of 24 passes for 178 yard with a touchdown and three interceptions.


And with the rematch against Texas next week, there's some added motivation for Wallace and Ole Miss after last year's 66-31 loss in Oxford.


"I'm a lot more experienced," Wallace said. "The game is a lot slower, but I still have a lot of work to do. I got a lot of work to do, and I got to get it done this week."


"Light years ahead," Werner said of Wallace this year compared to last year. "Last year at this time, he was still trying to learn the offense and tempo. He has a good feel for what we're doing now. He didn't have the sharpest day today, but he still hasn't thrown a pick."

Engram Continues To Impress

In his college debut last week against Vanderbilt, freshman tight end Evan Engram caught five passes for 61 yards, and tonight against SEMO, he found the end zone for his first career touchdown. He finished with two catches for 70 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown catch.

"Evan is solid," Freeze said of Engram. "He's getting better and starting to understand what we're doing. And we're starting to understand what we can do with him and play to his strengths. He didn't get a lot of snaps tonight, but he had a good night when he was in there."

"When he came here to our camp, we really liked him, but he was a little undersized, so we wanted to see how he would do," Werner said, "He lit up the camp and made play after play. We ended recruiting him hard, got him, then he gained weight. Never did we think he could come in and be the player that he is right now. We felt like down the road in a couple of year, he would get bigger and be ready to go. He's a big-time player."

Bryant Fills In, Secondary Changes

Junior Serderius Bryant got the start at Stinger linebacker in place of injured sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, and he responded with career highs and team highs of 15 tackles, including eight solo tackles, and a tackle for loss.

"His assignments were solid," Freeze said. "Serderius is a good player. Him and Keith Lewis are good players. We need to stay healthy there. I don't think the linebackers had many breakdowns."

The Ole Miss defense also had four new starters in the secondary with junior Senquez Golson and sophomore Mike Hilton at cornerback, sophomore Chief Brown at Rover safety and freshman Tony Conner at Huskie.


"I think there was a bust on their second touchdown when our guys rotated the wrong way," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "I don't think were a lot of busts in the game. It was a fairly simple game plan, and there weren't many mental errors."






Family and football. Fathers and sons. A scrapbook of memories, which come alive on the screen through home video, game footage and candid, personal interviews with members of the Manning family and those whose lives they touched.


It was a special night in Oxford, as the ESPN Films documentary, The Book of Manning, premiered Friday at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the Ole Miss campus. The event also raised $100,000 to benefit the Friends of Children's Hospital, which supports the Blair E. Batson Hospital for children.


"I'm really honored to be here and flattered that Ole Miss wanted to make an event out of this," Archie said of the premiere. "I'm excited that the benefactor will be Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson, which is part of the University Medical Center. It's going to raise a lot of money for them and help the sick children of Mississippi get well and get home.


"We are really flattered and indebted for the turnout that we had. We're always glad to be on campus and be around the Ole Miss family, so it's a great night for us."


Earlier in the day, Ole Miss Director of Athletics, Ross Bjork, announced the "building phase" of the Forward Together Campaign, and later at the film's premiere, it was also announced that Ole Miss Athletics will name the newly renovated Indoor Practice Facility the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.


"Unbelievable," Archie said of the facilities. "The meeting room, the dining facility, the dressing room, the weight room. I saw SEC Commissioner Mike Slive and said we have got it going here. What we have here is Alabama-type stuff, and what they have been able to accomplish is the paramount thing in our conference right now. We have some great facilities."


MY TAKE ON THE FILM: The Book of Manning is a special tribute to a special family, which follows the Mannings through both their prosperity and adversity, from Archie's father, Elisha, to Archie, to Archie's three sons, Cooper, Peyton and Eli. 


It strikes a balance between their respective personal and professional lives, and their relationships, as the most powerful moments of the film are interviews with them talking about one another. And, other than video of Eli's verbal commitment to Ole Miss, what drew the most reaction was home video of football games in the Manning backyard. 


All of the games and moments you expect are in the film, such as Eli's commitment mentioned above, with context and supported by photos, videos and interviews. And each of their respective stories, all their own, is given careful attention, both individually and as part of the Manning family.


In the end, the story comes full circle and leaves you with a satisfied feeling of completeness, with Eli winning a January bowl game at Ole Miss more than 30 years after his father, Archie, did just the same.


The film premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN.

 
Head coach Hugh Freeze talks special teams, Southeast Missouri State defense

 
Co-Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Dan Werner talks Bo Wallace, running game

As Ole Miss enters game week against Southeast Missouri State, the Rebels will be tasked with replacing two starters in junior offensive guard Aaron Morris and sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche.


"We didn't experience injuries last year very much, but now right off the bat we're faced with adversity with Aaron Morris being done for the year," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "The worst part of our game is to see how much effort they put in during the offseason and then they get to go play in front of everyone and to get that news is not easy."

Morris, Freeze said, does have a redshirt available, so hopefully they can get him a medical redshirt and still have two years to play.

In his absence, four players -- seniors Patrick Junen and Jared Duke, sophomore Justin Bell and freshman Austin Golson -- will rotate at guard. Senior Emmanuel McCray, who got the start at left tackle, will also work inside, with freshman Laremy Tunsil's impressive college debut at tackle.


"Laremy graded extremely high after the Vanderbilt game, and Austin was about average," Freeze said of the freshman offensive linemen. "Austin's effort was phenomenal, he pulled the wrong way a couple of times but those are things a normal freshman will do, especially while playing inside.  Inside a lot of things can go on and he's only been taking reps there for about a week and a half, but I was real pleased with his effort and focus."

Nkemdiche's injury, Freeze said, not season-ending, so they feel like he will be back, best case four weeks, worst case six weeks. Juniors Keith Lewis and Serderius Bryant will fill his spot at Stinger linebacker.


Lewis, the Rebels' starting Wolf linebacker, played mostly in 4-3, nickel and dime defensive sets, while Bryant sat behind Nkemdiche on last week's depth chart at Stinger linebacker


"It's the loss of the leadership and the loss of a very bright individual, but we have that in me and (Bryant) as well," Lewis said. "Me and (Bryant) combined can make up for the loss."


Senior D.T. Shackelford, who returned from a two-year absence due to knee injuries, played both linebacker and defensive end and will now focus solely on linebacker while Nkemdiche recovers from injury.


"I was pleased, we've shuffled him around a lot," Freeze said. " By the end of the opening week I would like to be settled on exactly where guys will play, and now with the injuries we have to move guys around again. He made a few mistakes on his fits but he played with phenomenal effort and now that he's beginning to settle in I think he'll be fine."

Cornerback Shuffle


Sophomore Quintavius Burdette and senior Dehendret Collins got the start at field and boundary corners, respectively, against Vanderbilt. Going forward, Freeze said they will keep moving guys around and hopefully getting some guys, like senior Charles Sawyer and junior Senquez Golson, healthy.


"I think everybody that watched the game saw that when Senquez Golson can go we are much better," Freeze said. "We were trying kids that had never played snaps, and I think they're going to be good.  We have to get Charles Sawyer healthy, and we'll try moving guys from the husky over to the boundary corner."

Freeze said Golson (hamstring) looked good in practice Monday and that Sawyer (shoulder) is closer to getting healthy as well.

"Right now, I feel like I don't any limitations," Golson said of his hamstring injury. "I mean I'm not feeling 100 percent, but I feel like I'm good enough to go... It was sore. I think I just had to loosen it up a little bit. The first deep ball that I had against Matthews was the first time I had opened up and ran in two or three weeks. After that play, I had more confidence and was good to go."

In addition to getting healthy, there will also be movement at the position this week.


Collins, whose eyes, Freeze said, "were pretty bad at times" at cornerback against Vanderbilt will move back to Huskie, where he played last season. 


Sophomore Mike Hilton, who got the start at Huskie, will move to cornerback, where he played some last season and also got some reps at during fall practice. Freeze also noted sophomore Anthony Standifer and freshman Bobby Hill as other options at cornerback.


"We got some changes to make and figure out who we have where," Golson said of the cornerback position. "We had Mike Hilton and Tony Conner at the same spot. We need both of those guys on the field at the same time."


Freshmen Impress


Freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell was named SEC Freshman of the Week after leading Ole Miss in receiving with nine catches for 82 yards in his first college game. His nine catches were an Ole Miss freshman record and most by a Rebel since Mike Espy had nine against Auburn in 2005.


Treadwell hauled in a pass on three straight players and four to of five in one stretch in the third quarter, including a one-handed grab.


"That's him," Wallace said of Treadwell. "That's why he was the number one receiver recruit in the nation. That's what he does. He's not just terribly fast, but he has great ball skills, and you just have to give him a chance."


The play immediately after that stretch, which ended in the Rebels' second touchdown, Wallace completed a nine-yard pass to freshman tight end Evan Engram, who finished with five catches for 61 yards, which were both second-most on the team. 


"He's a stud," Wallace said of Engram. "He had a great game, and he just has to keep building on that. He's a huge playmaker in our offense. He creates mismatches for us. 


Engram, along with junior Donte Moncrief, also made the key block to spring junior running back Jeff Scott on his 75-yard, game-winning touchdown run with 1:07 left.


"As soon as he was here in 7-on-7, we saw how good of a receiver he was going to be. As small as he was, I was kind of worried about his blocking, but as you saw against Vanderbilt, he did a great job."


Holder Makes His Mark


A former walk-on, senior wide receiver Jordan Holder ran with the first-team during most of camp, worked his way on to the two-deep, and then quickly made an impact this season, catching a 4-yard pass from Wallace on the first offensive play of the game against Vanderbilt.


"I looked up and had to pinch myself for a second because Bo just slung it right at me," Holder said of the catch. "I'm happy that I caught it and got that out of the way, so we could play."


That 4-yard pass was also the first in his career, and he finished the game with three catches for 20 yards, having previously played in just two games. He played significant snaps in the slot, along with Treadwell and Engram.


"Whenever I was sticking with 1's during most of camp," Holder said of when he realized he was going to play this year. "That's when I kind of knew. I never wanted to get my hopes up because I had been there before the past couple of years, but I just stuck to it, and it finally worked out for me."


At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Holder was asked about what he brings to the wide receiver position, and Holder noted his physical abilities, but also his awareness and knowledge of coverages.


"I may not look as fast as I am, but I definitely think I am deceptive with my speed, and my quickness and hands," Holder said. "You got to catch everything that comes your way.


"When you do it as long as I have been here, you pick things up that most people may not know, as far as if a blitzer is coming, or a safety is dropping down on top of you. Things like that, seeing what coverages are, so you know how to run your routes."


Holder was also a unanimous selection for one of five available scholarships for walk-on players, Freeze said last week. But when his name was called, he gave the scholarship to fellow senior and walk-on tight end Justin Bigham.


"It was a definitely an honor," Holder said. "It was something I always wanted to earn and work for. I was just happy to get it. What I did for Bigham, I was happy I was able to be in that position to help him out because he's a great guy and he's earned it just as much as I have, or anybody else has, so he deserved it.


"He was sitting right beside me when they announced mine, and they never called his name. I felt sick to my stomach because we started off together, and I definitely wanted him to have one." 


Jeff Scott put his foot in the ground about the Ole Miss 45 and made one defender miss, as he sprinted for a 75-yard touchdown to give Ole Miss a 39-35 lead with 1:07 left in the game. 

"Once Bo gave me the ball, I started getting to the corner, I was like, 'I got to make something happen.' Donte (Moncrief) sealed it, and I hit the seam," Scott said of the run.

"I'm so happy for Jeff because he's really bought into our program," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Scott. "He's one of my favorite guys... All we needed at that point was a field goal. I saw what they did on the first play of the drive and I knew that we could get a good run play. He executed on the play and put us up for good.

The senior from Miami, Fla, finished with 138 yards on 12 carries, his eighth career 100-yard game. Vanderbilt had a final chance on the ensuing drive, but junior safety Cody Prewitt intercepted a pass off Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews' hands with 26 seconds left.

"I think it's a huge confidence booster," Scott said of the win. This is a huge step for us going into the next game." 


Freshmen Make Immediate Impact 

Junior quarterback Bo Wallace's favorite target of the night was freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who caught nine passes for 82 yards in his first college game, the most catches by an Ole Miss player since Mike Espy had nine against Auburn in 2005. Another freshman, tight end Evan Engram, was second on the team with five catches for 61 yards. On the offensive line, freshmen Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson played significant snaps at tackle and guard, respectively.

"Big-time kids who stepped up under the lights on national TV," Wallace said of Treadwell and Engram. "They're going to be great players, and you're going to have a lot of fun watching them for three or four years."

On the other side of the ball, freshman Huskie Tony Conner intercepted a pass on his first career defensive to set up a 30-yard field goal by senior Andrew Ritter. Consensus top recruit Robert Nkemdiche got the start at defensive end and finished with two tackles, including a tackle for loss, but also made a big play on special team with an 11-yard run on a fake punt.

"I think they're freshmen," Wommack said of Conner and Nkemdiche. "It's good for them to have their first games under their belt, and there's a lot to work on for those guys, but there is for everybody right now."

In all, 13 Rebels, including nine true freshmen made their college debuts in the game, including two starters in Treadwell and Nkemdiche.

"Number one, they're great kids," Freeze said of the freshmen. "I can't stress how good of kids Laquon, Tony, Laremy and Robert are. Maybe you're concerned they have too much ego. Not at all. They're like sponges. They'll compete and win.

"Laquon, he didn't play like a freshman. Neither did Laremy. Neither did Austin Golson. Neither did Tony Conner."

Parting Shot

Freeze, on what the win can mean for the program: "It's just one win... At Arkansas State my first and only year as head coach there, we hadn't won a road conference game in forever and we were coming off some losing seasons. We went to Western Kentucky, where (Ole Miss Athletics Director) Ross (Bjork) was, and we won a game similar to that, one we probably shouldn't have won. Dang, if our kids didn't get great confidence and run the table in the conference that year. I'm not saying we're ready to do that, but tonight has to give us some confidence."

 

Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 high school recruit in the nation last year, is slated to start at defensive end, opposite junior C.J. Johnson, in his first college game.

His position coach, Chris Kiffin, and the other coaches are confident in Nkemdiche, and if anything, they will have to guard against his emotions and overexcitement.

"What we have been battling all fall camp is the notion that he feels that he has to make every play," Kiffin said. "We're trying to get him to play within the defense. Especially going out in the first game, I can't fathom the amount of pressure on him outside of all the other stuff. If he can just understand to go out and play the game like he has the last four weeks, then he will be fine.

"He's done a great job for a young guy coming in and having to learn the defense," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "There have been some issues with him jumping offsides, but you would rather have that then have a good who's sitting back. He's eager to play, very excited. Robert is as advertised."

Nkemdiche came a long way during fall practice, Kiffin said, from when he ran the first-team defense as early as Aug. 5, to entering his first college game.

"I was impressed with him picking up the defense like he did," Kiffin said. "He still has mistakes, obviously, but throwing him in right away, I think it was perfect for him. There was no, so to say, learning curve. The first two weeks, he was thrown in there, and we coached on the run.

"He would stay after meetings, just him and I, to go over that film, and then slow down and coach. Let him go full speed on the field, make a quick correction here and there, then in the film room, explain why he was doing something wrong and how it needs to be done."

Kiffin said Nkemdiche's technique "has varied," and "it's been up and down," but having gone back to watch film of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's freshman season, he said he saw a lot of the same things -- natural athleticism and making plays -- from Nkemdiche.

"I have seen both of them doing the wrong thing a number of times and making plays," Kiffin said. "So I'm not trying not to overcoach him. I want him to make plays and not play tentative. That stuff will come with experience."

A big challenge on Thursday will be getting Nkemdiche acclimated and handling the pressure of starting in his first college game.

"I talked to some of the older guys about it too, Cameron Whigham and C.J. Johnson," Kiffin said. "I got him rooming with C.J. Johnson on purpose the night before," Kiffin said. "I think that will be good for him, and out there as the game goes on, between plays and on the sidelines between series, those guys talking to him.

"It can't just be me every time. Those guys actually did it themselves. C.J. sees everything out there, so he's going to know if something is going on with Robert and let him know about it."

Freshmen In The Passing Game

Junior wide receiver Vince Sanders (collarbone) and senior Korvic Neat (knee) both suffered injuries during fall practice. With their injuries, freshman wide receivers Laquon Treadwell and Quincy Adeboyejo have taken on bigger roles in the Ole Miss offense.

Treadwell is slated to start at slot receiver, while Adeboyejo is a backup at one of the two outside receiver spots but will likely figure in the rotation on Thursday.

"Coming into the year, receiver was probably our deepest position," Wallace said. "And right now, we have two guys out, so recruiting those two guys definitely helped.

"Laquon is a big body. He helps you as a quarterback because defenders can't get around him to make a play on the ball. Quincy is a good route-runner. He's a little banged up right now, but he still looks good running around out there."

Another freshman, Evan Engram, is listed as a starter and expected a big role at tight end after losing seniors Ferbia Allen and Jamal Mosley from last year.

"He's going to really, really good," Wallace said. "He's one of the guys who's going to be a really good players. He's going to play a big role. He's a great receiving tight end. He's a mismatch for us, so he's going to play a big role for us."

Update On Mathers, Freshman Running Backs

Sophomore running back I'Tavius Mathers, who was listed as co-backup with fellow sophomore Jaylen Walton behind senior Jeff Scott, is about 80 percent, head coach Hugh Freeze said on the weekly teleconference on Wednesday.

"We think he's going to have a special year. He's put on some more weight. He's a physical runner for us, and he has some twitch to him, too. We think he's going to be a special back. He was hampered for quite a bit of camp with an ankle.

"I would say he's about 80 percent right now, so I don't know that tomorrow night you will see the true I'Tavius Mathers that you are going to see the rest of the year, but we're confident that once he gets back to 100 percent, he's going to be an important factor to our offense."

Also, on the weekly teleconference on Wednesday, Freeze was asked specifically about redshirting freshman running back Jordan Wilkins, one of three freshman running back in the mix for playing time, along with Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore.

"I would never decide to redshirt anyone this early, just because you never know," Freeze said. "I don't make up my mind this early to do that. I would like to redshirt him (Jordan Wilkins). He's going to be a good player, too. We just happen to have good depth at that position.

"We have got six guys that I believe are good players and would love to get to try to make it through the season with four of them and redshirt two. But again, it's too early to tell that."

Football Adds New Walk-Ons

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Now that classes have begun, the Ole Miss football team has added a few new members to the team. Eight non-scholarship players are now officially Rebel student-athletes.

They are:

21 - Darrius Henderson, WR
33 - Nathan Vanderburg, RB
34 - Tayler Polk, LB
39 - Kyle Fowler, K
42 - Amon'Ta Coffee, OL
42 - Grant Warren, K
60 - Chad Smith, LS
83 - Will Gleeson, P

None of them will dress out for tomorrow's opener at Vanderbilt, but you never know who might come out of nowhere to make an impact during the season.

Up-to-date Ole Miss Football Roster

When asked about his confidence in regard to different positions, head coach Hugh Freeze said the area that concerns him the most is the secondary.

Both cornerback positions were listed with co-starters -- junior Senquez Golson and sophomore Quintavius Burdette at Field corner, and seniors Dehendret Collins and Charles Sawyer at Boundary corner. With both Golson (hamstring) and Sawyer (shoulder) returning from injury, cornerbacks coach Jason Jones feels confident about those four players at the position.

"Starting out at fall camp, we didn't have a lot of depth at the position, but we got some guys back the last couple of weeks, and those guys are now practicing and executing the game plan," Jones said.

"I have four guys that are experienced and mature and can help us. I want to keep all of them fresh. It's supposed to hot on Thursday night. And at times, Vanderbilt can tempo you. The more depth you have, the more guys you can play, and so the fresher they will be."

Burdette, who ran with the first-team defense for most of fall camp, earned the start at Field corner, Freeze said Monday.

"It makes me feel great," Burdette said of getting the start. "It makes me feel like I have to go out there and prove myself even more now." 

"He improved his game a lot," Sawyer said of Burdette. "He's making plays on the ball. He's getting the calls. He's understanding the defense. He's just making plays."

A converted safety, Burdette said he feels more comfortable with the defense. He also said he has learned a lot from facing junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief every day in practice, whether it was he or Moncrief making a play.

"After a play, we would go back and talk about it and see what he was thinking during the play, or if I wasn't doing something right, he would tell me," he said. "It taught me to be more patient as a defensive back, and how to make plays against a wide receiver of his size and quality."

On the injury front, Freeze and staff are confident about the status of senior cornerback Charles Sawyer (shoulder) and junior Senquez Golson (hamstring). Sawyer is prepared to play both cornerback positions, Freeze said, while Golson will come in at Field corner, and then they will see how the game goes.

"Charles, he's been going now for at least a couple of weeks," Jones said. "We may practice non-contact to try and take care of each. He's out there laying out for balls and banging around with Donte and things like that. I'm not concerned about him at all. 

"Senquez, even though he was injured, he was still getting conditioning in with Coach Jackson on the side. His conditioning shouldn't be a big problem. Both of those guys should be good to go for Thursday."

At the safety position, sophomores Trae Elston and Chief Brown were listed as co-starters at Rover safety, with junior Cody Prewitt at free safety. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said he thinks of all three as starters who will all play about the same number of snaps.

"It's a battle between all three of them," Wommack said. "I have called them all starters to them in person. Chief has the ability to play both sides. Hopefully, between the three of them, we can keep them fresher than they were last year."

Crowded Backfield

Ole Miss has six players vying for playing time at the running back, including three freshmen in Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins. Running backs coach Derrick Nix feels great about the overall depth of the position.

"We feel like we have choices at the position, which is always good," Nix said. "If something happens to Jeff (Scott), we have guys who are capable of going in and bringing some of the same skill set that he brings to the table. But most importantly, we have guys with more experience than last year.

Nix said they haven't finalized it all the way which running backs will travel to Nashville, and that guys are still competing every day.

What is probably set in stone, Nix said, is Scott, the team's leading rusher last season, then sophomore running back Jaylen Walton. After that, he said, there is a question mark about what they are going to do.

Sophomore I'Tavius Mathers, who was listed as co-backup with Walton behind Scott, has returned to practice since suffering an ankle sprain, but his status for Thursday remains uncertain.

"He did well in practice yesterday," Nix said. "We're going to evaluate him more today to see what he looks like. As the week goes on, we'll see how he progresses and then determine if he will play or not on Thursday."

That question mark also includes potential redshirts, which Freeze said they're considering for sure, adding that there's no way they can say at a position like running back exactly what will happen, such as injuries.

Ole Miss released the game notes for Thursday's season opener at Vanderbilt (8:15 p.m. CT, ESPN), which included an updated depth chart. A few notes and observations:

Three freshmen -- tight end Evan Engram, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and defensive end Robert Nkemdiche -- are listed as starters. Four other freshmen are also on the two deep as backups: left tack Laremy Tunsil, right tackle Austin Golson, wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo and Nickel (Huskie) Tonny Conner.

Three positions are listed with co-starters, including both cornerback positions: Field corner (Quintavius Burdette, Senquez Golson), Boundary corner (Dehendret Collins, Charles Sawyer) and Rover safety (Trae Elston, Chief Brown).

Three positions are listed with co-backups: center behind Evan Swindell (Robert Conyers, Ben Still), running back behind Jeff Scott (Jaylen Walton, I'Tavius Mathers) and defensive tackle behind Bryon Bennett (Lavon Hooks, Carlton Martin).

On the offensive line, Aaron Morris is listed ahead of Jared Duke at left guard, and Justin Bell is listed ahead of Patrick Junen at right guard.

Nick Parker, now wearing No. 34, is listed as the backup tight end behind Evan Engram, and Jordan Holder, now wearing No. 21, is listed as the backup wide receiver behind Laquon Treadwell but ahead of Collins Moore. 

Barry Brunetti, as expected, is listed as the backup quarterback behind Bo Wallace.

Woodrow Hamilton is listed as the starter at nose tackle ahead of Issac Gross. 

D.T. Shackelford is listed as the backup defensive end behind C.J. Johnson and the backup Wolf linebacker behind Keith Lewis. 

Cameron Whigham is listed as the other backup defensive end behind Robert Nkemdiche, with Carlos Thompson third team behind C.J. Johnson and D.T. Shackelford, and Channing Ward third team behind Robert Nkemdiche and Cameron Whigham. 

At the other linebacker spots, Serderius Bryant is listed as the backup Stinger linebacker behind Denzel Nkemdiche, and Temario Strong is listed as the backup middle linebacker behind Mike Marry. 

Mike Hilton is listed as the starter at Nickel (Huskie), then Tony Conner, then Cliff Coleman.

Jaylen Walton and Kailo Moore are listed as the kickoff returners. Jeff Scott is listed as the starter at punt returner ahead of Trae Elston.

The story with the offensive line continues to be its depth.

Earlier in fall practice, offensive line coach Matt Luke said they should have eight or nine players ready to go this season, and that depth is taking shape on the practice fields, as senior Patrick Junen returned to full-speed practice on Monday.

"Right now, we're probably looking at three tackles and maybe four guards, so seven, then you always have got to have another center ready, so seven or eight is a fair number," Luke said Tuesday of the offensive line rotation.

Ole Miss returns both of its starting tackles from last season, seniors Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton, at left tackle and right tackle, respectively. Luke said he expects them to be leaders this season, as they both enter year two as starters.

"For us to be good this year, our seniors have to play like seniors," Luke said. "I expect them to be leaders and role models for those young guys. Laremy (Tunsil) is going to play some, so they have to be able to handle that and help mentor him to be the player that he can be.

With McCray out due to a family issue, Tunsil earned first-team reps at left tackle in Saturday's scrimmage, and head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday that Luke said Tunsil graded out better than any freshman he has ever coached in a scrimmage. Tunsil also drew similar praise from one of his teammates.

"Laremy is a class act," McCray said. "He's definitely a talented kid. He has to keep a level head, learn how to practice harder and play hard when he's tired. As far as the fundamentals, there are little things here and there, but for him to be a freshman and as talented as he is, he will be just fine."

There has been a lot of competition at both guard positions, with junior Aaron Morris, senior Jared Duke, sophomore Justin Bell, senior Patrick Junen and freshman Austin Golson all getting reps there.

At right guard, Junen missed most of the spring and the first two weeks of fall practice due to injury, so Bell got most of the first-team reps there. On Tuesday, Junen got first-team reps due to Bell being held out with a minor back issue.

"He missed most of the spring and sat out," Luke said of Junen. "That's always hard. The good thing is he's played a lot of football. I don't think it will take him long once we get into the flow of the season. Obviously, conditioning is going to be an issue. He's not ready to play a full game yet. Hopefully, by the third or fourth game, he will be."

"Without a doubt," Luke said of Bell making a strong case to be the starting right guard. "He's been there, day in and day out. He's a great kid. He's competing his butt off. It's very, very important to him. I am very comfortable with Justin playing, if we had to start today."

Senior Evan Swindall returns at center, but behind him, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers and sophomore Ben Still have split reps there.

"I have still have got a few days to decide between (Robert) and Ben," Luke said. "They are going back and forth, splitting all those reps. It's a battle. I would say, right now, they're about even. I would feel comfortable with either going in there and fighting and competing. Obviously, we want Evan to get the majority of the reps, but he's always one play away, so they have got to be ready to play."

'Back Into The Swing Of Things'

After missing most of the spring and first two weeks of fall practice due to toe and wrist injuries, senior offensive guard Patrick Junen returned to full-speed practice on Monday.

"It was very frustrating," Junen said of missing practice. "Seeing my fellow seniors out there, guys who I have been here for four years with, going through it and not being out there with them, it's super frustrating. I'm finally getting back into the swing of things and trying to get back on the line."

After losing seasons in 2010 and 2011, then last year's 7-6 season, Junen said there's much more excitement going into this season.

"It's a great feeling seeing Coach Freeze come in and build a program that's winning," Junen said. "It's very exciting to be a part of that and be able to be there at the beginning of the transition and go through it."

Protecting Wallace, Increasing The Tempo

As Ole Miss prepares for Vanderbilt, senior offensive tackle Emmanuel McCray said they're not letting the preseason hype and expectations get in their mind at all, especially on the offensive line.

"We gave up too many sacks, and we had a lot of little things that we could have fixed," McCray said. "Toward the middle and end of the season, we honed in on the little things and did them better. We're trying to pick off where we left off and get better from there."

One of those things, McCray said, is protecting junior quarterback Bo Wallace, who underwent offseason clavicle surgery.

"With him coming off the surgery, we're taking it personal already, just because we already kind of feel responsible for last year's injury," McCray said. "You definitely don't want to see your quarterback hurt. And with the quarterback situation that we have, we never know who's next after Bo. We don't know that right now, so we need to keep him healthy as possible."

Another of those things is tempo, which the offensive linemen have talked about throughout fall practice.

"We feel faster," McCray said of the tempo. "We're still getting into tempo shape. It's looking pretty good. We're definitely ahead of schedule, but we're not where we want to be. We had a couple of guys who were out with injuries and surgeries, like (Patrick) Junen and Aaron (Morris) that still got to get in shape. But for the most part, we're moving faster and looking better."

One of the position battles both head coach Hugh Freeze and defensive coordinator Dave Wommack discussed after Saturday's scrimmage is Rover safety, where Freeze said sophomore Chief Brown is pushing sophomore Trae Elston.

"Chief will have a much bigger role than he had last year," Wommack said after Saturday's scrimmage. I see Chief as a starter who can play both either Rover or free safety. I really haven't decided who will start yet. Chief might be a starter in the first game."

Elston started nine game at Rover last season and finished fifth on the team with 61 tackles, along with six pass breakups, a sack and a fumble recovery.

"He's done well," Wommack said of Elston. "He knows the defense, inside and out. He's a physical guy. I kind of worry about the targeting rule with him, but he's just got to play smart in that area. I like Trae Elston. He's a good football player." 

Elsewhere in the secondary, at cornerback, senior Charles Sawyer has practiced, including some team drills, but has not participated in live contact drills. Injuries to Sawyer (shoulder) and junior Senquez Golson have given opportunities to other players at the position.

"I don't think we have been able to totally fix that because the injuries (Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson) to the two guys who have the most experience," Wommack said. "It was good situation for us that Bobby Hill and Anthony Standifer and some others got more reps than they would have gotten. We have to get those other guys back to have better depth in the secondary"

Sophomore Quintavius Burdette and senior Dehendret Collins continue to run with the first-team defense, and Wommack has been pleased with the play of both.

"Burdette has tried to go against #12 (Donte Moncrief) every time out here, and you get better every day that you do that," Wommack said. "He's had some rough days because of that, Donte is one of the best players in the nation at wide receiver. Burdette is a competitor. He's grown up, and I don't see him put his head down like he used to last year. I'm excited about him. 

"Collins has been very solid to me. I wish we could have played him at corner last year. We didn't have enough guys, and we were trying to get speed on the field. I think we absolutely have him in the right spot now. He's tough, he's physical, and he's a competitor. He does everything we need that corner to do." 

Earlier in fall practice, sophomore Mike Hilton, who has gotten first-team reps at Huskie, also got some reps at corner, but Wommack said on Saturday they are training him, at this time, to play corner. Behind Hilton at Huskie, freshman Antonio Conner has gotten reps, including some first-team reps alongside Hilton in passing situations.

"He's going to play a lot," Wommack said of Conner. "He'll play in the first game. He has been exceptional, especially for a freshman, assignment-wise," Dave continued. "He has a physical nature and is a natural playmaker."

Up front, freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross both practiced Saturday, and junior defensive end C.J. Johnson is expected to practice Monday. Wommack said he feels good about the depth there, when everyone is healthy, and sees a big role for Nkemdiche.

"He is going to play a lot," Wommack said of Nkemdiche. "We are going to keep those guys fresh by rotating them. I see him absolutely in the two-deep."

Developing Depth At RB, Offensive Line

Compared to last season, offensive coordinator Dan Werner feels better about the depth at both running back and offensive line.

It's a crowded backfield, led by senior Jeff Scott, who rushed 846 yards last season, and bolstered by a trio of freshmen in Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins. When asked on Saturday, Freeze said sophomore Jaylen Walton, right now, holds the No. 2 running back spot behind Scott.

On the injury front, Moore returned from concussion symptoms earlier this week, while sophomore I'Tavius Mathers (ankle) is out of his boot, and while he may not practice Monday, Freeze said he is close.

"Last year at this time, we had to move Randall Mackey to be the backup tailback," Werner said after Saturday's scrimmage. "This year, we have six or seven guys there. During the scrimmages, we're rolling them in and out. A guy knows if he doesn't make a right read or doesn't make a hard run, he's probably coming out and there's somebody else going in with a smile on his face." 

There has been a lot of competition on the offensive line in fall practice, notably at left guard, where both junior Aaron Morris and senior Jared Duke have gotten first-team reps. 

At other guard position, sophomore Justin Bell and senior Patrick Junen were listed as co-starters on the preseason depth chart. With Junen out, Bell has gotten most of the first-team reps, but Junen is expected to practice Monday. 

Earlier in fall practice, offensive line coach Matt Luke said they should have eight or nine players ready to go this season, and Werner shared the same sentiment on Saturday.

"Last year at this time, we had five, maybe six guys that could play," Werner said. "This year, we've got about eight or nine, with Patrick Junen out right now. But from what I hear, he'll be back next week. Any time you have that many guys playing, it's just human nature you're going to play a little bit harder. You've got somebody behind you." 

In the previous Saturday scrimmage, junior quarterback Wallace completed 6 of 11 passes for 125 yards with an interception. Throughout this past week, the coaches said they were pleased with Wallace, and it continued on Saturday.

"All of the quarterbacks looked better," Werner said. "I thought we protected the football better. We still have some issues with that, which has been kind of our camp motto - protect the ball. I thought for the most part (Bo) made good decisions, and we scored a lot of touchdowns. He completed a lot of balls, so I was pleased." 

As for the freshmen, along with the three running backs, Laquon Treadwell continues to impress at slot receiver, where he has gotten most of the first-team reps, and drew praise from Freeze after Saturday's scrimmage. 

Quincy Adeboyejo is in the rotation at outside receiver, along with junior Donte Moncrief, senior Ja-Mes Logan and sophomore Cody Core.

"He's a guy that was a big-time recruit but not as high as a couple of (others)," Werner said of Adeboyejo. "But, man, he came out right away and showed he's really fast, he's really explosive. He understands how to get into zones and make plays. He's another guy that will play a bunch." 

On the offensive line, Laremy Tunsil has gotten most of the second-team reps at left tackle and earned first-team reps in Saturday's scrimmage with senior Emmanuel McCray out due to a family issue. Austin Golson has gotten second-team reps at both right guard and right tackle.

At tight end, Evan Engram, tights ends coach Maurice Harris said earlier this week, has separated himself some as a pass-catcher. Also at the position, Christian Morgan, who enrolled at Ole Miss in January, is expected to practice on Monday, as he recovers from a knee injury.

"If he goes through the next two weeks and feels like he can function," Freeze said of Morgan playing this season. "We're missing a lot of body types like his, if nothing else for short-yardage and special teams. I would like to see him play."

When asked about the tight end position after practice, head coach Hugh Freeze said they don't have any one player right now -- at this point -- who can do everything they want out of the position. Four players have split reps between the first-team, second-team and third-team offense.


"It's more play-specific," tight ends coach Maurice Harris said of the position. "We have to get the right kind of guys to do the specific task that we ask them to do. If we run the ball, Jack (Nuismer) is doing a good job, as well as Nick Parker. When we pass the ball, Evan (Engram) has separated himself some, along with Matt Brown. We have to get some consistency there, and these guys have to hone in on what we are doing."


Engram caught two touchdown passes in a live session of practice last night, Freeze said, while Harris mentioned a jump ball catch Engram had in the corner of the end zone over freshman safety Derrick Jones. Harris also raved about Engram's speed, his agility, his play-making ability and strong hands, adding that he plays fast.


"Evan is a physical kid," Harris said. "He's just light right now. He's 224 pounds, which is a lot heavier than when he came in at 209 pounds, but he's just light. I think he's physical enough to get the job done. I feel confident that he will."


Another interesting player at the position is Parker, who switched from running back to tight end. Of the four players, he has the most game experience, having appeared in seven games last season, mostly on special teams.


"I've been pleasantly surprised by Nick," Harris said. "The question was his physicality. Would he able to get in there and block, drive his feet, shoot his hands and finish blocks? And he's doing that. He needs to work on his route-running, but his pass-catching has been really good."


Injury Updates


At cornerback, senior Charles Sawyer (shoulder) returned to practice, including some team drills, but did not participate in live contact drills. Junior Senquez Golson (hamstring) ran again today, his second day of running, which Freeze said is "a good sign."


On the defensive line, freshman defensive Robert Nkemdiche (groin) was held out, but Freeze said he is "good, progressing really nicely." Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson was held out a tight Achilles, and Freeze said "the last thing you want to do with a tight Achilles is make him push through it right now." Freeze also noted sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross (sports hernia) has practiced every day and "seems to be doing well."


On offense, Freeze said senior offensive lineman Patrick Junen (toe, wrist) is "really close and expects to see him start practicing next week." Freshman running back Kailo Moore (concussion symptoms) was back yesterday, and Freeze noted he "took a lot of carries today," and sophomore running I'Tavius Mathers (ankle) is now out of his boot, "so his situation is progressing," Freeze said.



2013 Fall Sports Player Posters

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One of our primary objectives in the Athletics Marketing Department is to personalize our student-athletes. Every summer we get the opportunity to reset and prepare for the upcoming seasons. Our graphic designer Dan Pellegrino does a great job of creating a style that highlights the details of the athlete and the sport. Below are our first set of player posters for 2013. Big thanks to our photographer Josh McCoy (@olemisspix) as well. Stay tuned as more will come out each season.

Hotty Toddy
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Junior quarterback Bo Wallace was 6 of 10 for 125 yards with an interception in Saturday's scrimmage. He said he felt he had three good practices entering Saturday's scrimmage, adding that he was disappointed in his read on the interception.


The defense had a pair of interceptions in the scrimmage, one by sophomore safety Chief Brown of senior quarterback Barry Brunetti, the other by junior safety Cody Prewitt of junior quarterback Bo Wallace. Freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche was held out of Saturday's scrimmage with a strained groin, but defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said he has been pleased with his progress in fall practice. Wommack said he feels good about 20 players knowing the defense, inside and out, that they could put in game, particularly at linebacker and defensive line. In the secondary, Wommack said it's about senior cornerback Charles Sawyer and junior cornerback Senquez Golson getting healthy, and younger players there getting better with their eyes.


Offensive coordinator Dan Werner said they didn't handle the rainy conditions very well, adding that they will get a lot of teaching out of the scrimmage before they return to the practice field for two practices on Monday. The lone scoring play in the scrimmage was an 8-yard touchdown pass over the middle from Brunetti to junior tight end Nick Parker.

Freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell continues to make plays in the slot. He separates well, runs good routes and has shown an ability to catch the ball in traffic and also gain yards after the catch.


A couple of plays that stood out for him in team drills included a pair of touchdown grabs, one on a corner route throw from freshman quarterback Devante Kincade, the other on a swing pass from junior quarterback Bo Wallace.


"He's just getting more comfortable," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Treadwell. "He starts understanding things more. Quincy, also, made some good plays. I think the more comfortable they get, the faster they feel like they can play. And I think they see now how vital they are to us and how they fit into things. I thought they both had good days."


Kincade himself continues to impress and has gotten a lot of reps with the second-team offense and even a few with the first-team offense during fall practice.


"I'm real excited about him," Freeze said of Kincade. "I think he's going to be a really good player, and he wants to. He studies hard and works hard. He wants to be a leader."


A couple of notable plays from team drills included a long run by sophomore running back Jaylen Walton, then back-to-back completions from Wallace to Treadwell that resulted in a touchdown. 


On the defensive side, junior linebacker Keith Lewis had an interception in a red-zone drill, and junior linebacker Serderius Bryant delivered a big hit on freshman running back Jordan Wilkins.


In the 3-2-6 defensive look similar to yesterday, there were similar changes in personnel. Lewis replaced senior Mike Marry at linebacker, but also sophomore cornerback Anthony Standifer was an extra defensive back on the outside and moved sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette from outside to inside alongside sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton.


"I'm still concerned," Freeze said of the cornerback position. "We're real thin there. We really need to get Senquez and Charles back, and we're working hard toward that. But at the same time, you know you got to have some depth.


"I think we may have to consider moving Cliff (Coleman) back out there a lot more than we have. I think (Anthony) Standifer has had a good week, and I like his length, particularly in the red zone."


Conyers Gets Second-Team Reps At Center


Redshirt freshman Robert Conyers, who has worked primarily at right tackle, got second-team reps at center behind senior Evan Swindall.


"It's a little new, just trying to get used to it," Conyers said of the move. "I went from tackle to center, and just trying to get on the field, whichever way Coach Luke uses me."


Conyers said the move was prompted this past summer by offensive line coach Matt Luke.


"Coming in, Coach Luke told me to be ready to play everything," he said. "And this past summer, Coach Luke told me to start snapping. Back in workouts, I would go with Evan Swindall to get it right. Now, it's time to step up and starting it a little bit. It's just learning how to get the snaps down."


The biggest adjustment, Conyers said, is just the snapping and getting the ball right, adding that blocking responsibilities also changes with the move from tackle to center.


"Dealing with the bigger guys," he said of the adjustment. "Trying to get over and making the calls right. At tackle, you're just seeing the edge pressure and the blitzes. But at center, you got to see everything, and you got to push the tempo of the ball. I think that's where I can help a lot is running up and pushing the tempo of the ball."


NOTABLE


In a punt coverage drill, sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette and senior cornerback Dehendret Collins remained the outside gunners. And freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche remained one of the three personal protectors, alongside senior linebackers Mike Marry and D.T. Shackelford.


Senior Jared Duke got first-team reps at left guard ahead of junior Aaron Morris for the second straight day. Freshman Austin Golson got second-team reps at both right guard and tackle.


Shackelford got reps at defensive end for the second straight day, primarily with the second-team defense.

Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson was a full participant in practice and ran with the first-team defense, opposite freshman Robert Nkemdiche. It should also be noted that both senior defensive end Cameron Whigham and junior defensive end Carlos Thompson were held out of practice.

"He seemed to handle it pretty well," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Johnson. "He is going to have to just play through some pain. The doctors were here and everything looks good with the repair, he is just going to have to push through some of it and get himself back into shape."

Behind Johnson and Nkemdiche, sophomore Channing Ward got second-team reps at defensive end, opposite senior D.T. Shackelford, who moved from linebacker to defensive end, where he played some as a sophomore in 2010.

"We are moving him around to several positions and he was solely at end today," Freeze said of Shackelford. "He plays with a wide open motor and that is something you have to have on the defensive side of the ball. He is a great leader and any time he is out there people rally around him. His quickness is a lot better than it was this spring. He feels good and is getting more and more comfortable."

In the secondary, sophomore Chief Brown got some first-team reps at Rover ahead of sophomore Trae Elston. In a third-down situational competition, the defense showed what looked like a 3-2-6 base defense.

The notable personnel changes from the 4-2-5 to the 3-2-6 on the first-team defense were junior Bryon Bennett as the only defensive tackle, junior Keith Lewis replacing senior Mike Marry at one linebacker spot and the addition of freshman Huskie Tony Connor, alongside sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton.

"He is learning quickly and plays very physical," Freeze said of Connor. "He is still like any freshman and his eyes are in the wrong place some times, but he is everything we thought he would be and will be a really good player for us."

Options On Offensive Line

Not including senior Patrick Junen who has been held out of fall practice while recovering from offseason surgery, eight different offensive linemen have gotten first-team reps.

"There are several competitions going on right now, and that's part of the good thing about this camp. Last year, guys didn't really get pushed. We have a lot of competition going on at every position, and guys battling for their spot."

One of those competitions is right guard, where Junen and sophomore Justin Bell were listed as co-starters on the preseason depth chart. With Junen out, Bell has gotten most of the first-team reps there throughout fall practice.

"He's doing well," offensive line coach Matt Luke said of Bell. "Justin is a great kid. He tries to please in everything he does. He's a student of the game. He's very intelligent. He's paid his dues. He's worked hard, and he's really doing a great job while Patrick has been out. He has some things to work on in pass protection, but he's done a good job."

At the other guard position, junior Aaron Morris had gotten most of the first-team reps, but senior Jared Duke ran with the first team on Thursday.

"That's one of the battles going on right now," Luke said. "Jared has had a great camp. He's a little bit heavy, but he's had an unbelievable camp."

When senior Pierce Burton was held out earlier in fall practice, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers and freshman Laremy Tunsil both got first-team reps at tackle, and they now work with the second-team offense at right tackle and left tackle, respectively, behind Burton (right tackle) and senior Emmanuel McCray (left tackle).

"Laremy is doing well," Luke said. "He's a very, very talented freshman. And he's working to learn some things right now, but he's doing some things really well."

Another freshman, Austin Golson, has gotten second-team reps at right guard and might figure in the rotation on the offensive line this season.

"I expected him to come in and be tough, and nasty and hard-nosed," Luke said. "He was learning the system early, so he wasn't playing quite as fast. These last two days, I have really seen a change in him as he's learned the offense."

NOTABLE:

The defense won both team competitions, including the third-down situational competition.

A couple of highlights from individual drills: Freshman safety Derrick Jones had an interception on a jump ball against freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. In the same drill, junior quarterback Bo Wallace connected with junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief on a fly route against sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette.

A couple of highlight from team drills: On the first play of the third-down situation competition, Wallace connected with Treadwell on a seam route between two defenders. Later in the competition, sophomore cornerback Anthony Standifer had an interception on a jump ball against sophomore wide receiver Cody Core.

In a full-team kickoff return drill, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, freshman running back Mark Dodson and sophomore safety Trae Elston were the deep men. Three other freshmen -- Derrick Jones, Laquon Treadwell and Jordan Wilkins -- also got reps on the front line of the unit.

QUOTABLE:

Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace's decision-making: "It was better, but we still got to get there, and we will continue to have some discussions watching film. He's being real coachable right now, which is a really good thing. He doesn't want to make mistakes any more than any other kid. His are much more noticeable because of the position he plays."

Freeze, on Wallace's shoulder: "I think that's just something he's going to have to work through. Ryan Aplin at Arkansas State had the same surgery, and he said it took him months to where his bicep and elbow area didn't hurt him. I think we're coming through it. I think he's getting better."

Senior D.T. Shackelford, on practicing at defensive end: "I enjoyed it. I played a lot there my sophomore year before I got injured so I felt comfortable at end. I don't care if I play linebacker or defensive end, I truly don't. I just want to be on the field and be able to contribute. I feel good at both. I'm just ready to play."

Luke, on offensive line rotation: "I would say we could play, right now in my mind, eight or nine offensive linemen. That's not to say I have eight or nine ready right now, but I think by the end of fall camp, we should have eight or nine guys ready to go."

On Tuesday, a large emphasis was placed on converting inside the Red Zone. Today, one of the team drills focused on covering at the goal line, with the ball placed at the 3-yard line. 


A couple of the big plays in the drill was a pair of touchdown passes, one from junior quarterback Bo Wallace to junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief, another from senior quarterback Barry Brunetti to redshirt freshman tight end Matt Brown. On the other side of the ball, redshirt freshman defensive end John Youngblood dropped into coverage and intercepted Brunetti.


Another part of this drill was the shift from a base 4-2-5 defense with the Huskie position, to a base 4-3 defense with the Wolf linebacker, where junior Keith Lewis got first-team reps, along with senior Mike Mary at middle linebacker and sophomore Denzel Nkemdiche at Stinger linebacker.


"I see him having a big role on this defense," linebackers coach Tom Allen said of Lewis. "Keith is one of those guys who from a size-speed ratio has the best combination of that and does an excellent job. I want to see him be a big third-down linebacker for us and be on all our money packages in situations like third-and-long. 


"I believe he's a very good inside linebacker and can play in all our packages. He's going to be a guy whose role I see expanding and be able to make plays for us on Saturday."


A freshman All-American last season, Nkemdiche started all 12 games at Stinger linebacker and led the team with 82 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interception. Allen said he looks for Nkemdiche to improve with his leadership, preparation and being the total package.


"Last year, I think he was a guy that just made a lot of plays on Saturday, and he did that consistently, but I would like to see him be the guy that leads our defense, on and off the field," Allen said. "His energy and effort is never in question, but just making he eliminates mistakes. Leadership is part of that. And off the field, being a guy who we look to as a model of doing the little things right every single day."


In the base defense with Huskie position, Lewis slides to middle linebacker on the second team, and junior Serderius Bryant has gotten second-team reps at Stinger linebacker. Allen said Bryant has probably made the biggest jump from last season to this season.


"I think his knowledge has really improved," Allen said. "And he's one of the guys who changed his body and committed to the program, in the way he takes care of himself, and it's showing on the field. He's a step quicker. He's always been talented athletically, but with his knowledge of what he's doing now, as well as being physically better, it's showing up on tape."


Senior D.T. Shackelford has missed the last two seasons due to knee injuries. He returned in the spring and has mostly worked with the second-team and third-team defense in fall practice but got some first-team reps today. For Shackelford, Allen, said it's more mental than physical, specifically reacting split-second on the field and confidence in his knee.


"We met last night at length, and he feels good," Allen said. "He feels like that his knee is strong, and when you watch him moving around, you can tell he's better than we was in the spring. But it's a process with him, and we're trying to bring him along."


Early Look At Special Teams


Through six practices, all four special-team units -- punt, kickoff, punt return and kickoff return --have gotten work. Senior punter Tyler Campbell and senior kicker Andrew Ritter both redshirted last season, and Allen is pleased with their performance in fall practice.


"Right now, we're in the beginning stages of the process of putting in all of them schematically," Allen said of special teams. "I'm please with our kickers. Tyler is a guy who's very talented, and Andrew Ritter is doing a really god job for us.


"We have a lot of guys back from last year that played as freshmen and sophomores. So we're getting them ready, the depth chart set with coordination with our travel squad is the challenge right now. I feel like we're making progress and we're trying to work on it every practice and getting better."


In kickoff coverage drills, from left to right, not including kickoff specialist Ritter, the first-team unit consisted of freshman running Kailo Moore, sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette, junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, junior Keith Lewis, freshman Huskie Tony Connor, redshirt freshman Temario Strong, sophomore safety Chief Brown, sophomore wide receiver Cody Core and sophomore Mike Hilton.


On Tuesday, senior running back Jeff Scott, senior wide receiver Korvic Neat and sophomore safety Trae Elston all got reps as the deep men in punt return drills, and Allen said, right now, Scott is their starting punt returner for sure. The competition at kickoff returner is more wide open.


"Jaylen Walton is very talented and he's gotten himself physically bigger and stronger," Allen said. "I'm excited about I'Tavius Mathers and what he can do. And Kailo Moore, he's a threat back there. There are going to be a few other guys competing for that spot, but we got some speed back there that give us a chance to get a good return."


NOTABLE:


Senior offensive tackle Pierce Burton participated in team drills and got first-team reps at right tackle, so freshman Laremy Tunsil got second-team reps at left tackle, with redshirt freshman Robert Conyers at right tackle.


In the team competition, the offense won 13-12, with the offense winning the decisive point by drawing the defense offsides. 


Some of the highlights from the team competition: For the offense, freshman quarterback Devante Kincade had a pair of touchdown passes, one to freshman Laquon Treadwell and another to freshman Quincy Adeboyejo. For the defense, junior safety Cody Prewitt and sophomore safety Trae Elston each had an interception. 


In that same drill, Kincade got some reps with the first-team offense, including a nice sideline throw to junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief and the touchdown pass to Treadwell.


QUOTABLE


Freeze, on sophomore safety Trae Elston: Trae is really athletic, really solid. We expect him to have a great year. He kind of got his nose bloodied a little bit last year as a true freshman. He got a lot of experience, so hopefully he has a great year."


Elston, on the cornerback position: "I think our twos and threes are doing very well. It will be better when Charles and Senquez come back, so we're just trying to get better.


Elston, on freshman safety Derrick Jones and freshman cornerback Bobby Hill: "The freshmen are looking very good, very quick and fast, learning very quicly. DJ is a good athlete. Bobby is a physical athlete. They're both very good."


Allen, on the linebacker position: "I think several of them have improved themselves physically, in the way their bodies are shaped, and that excites me. I think the knowledge of what we did in the spring, building off of last season, and having so many guys back, I think we are able to move forward and not take steps backward."

From individual drills, to 7-on-7 drills, to team drills, a large emphasis was placed on converting inside the Red Zone. One of the players that stood out was freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who showed a knack for getting separation, running good routes and catching the ball in the slot position.


"Laquon had a really good day," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "He's starting to understand things more. We're going to slow it down a little bit for them. Him and Quincy both, we're looking at them as having to play. When you install something new every day, it's tough on a young kid, so as they understand things more, they will get much more confident, and you saw that today with Laquon."


There's a lot of rotation at the wide receiver position in team drills, but Treadwell got a majority of the second-team reps in the slot, with sophomore Cody Core and freshman Quincy Adeboyejo outside. 


The first-team wide receivers, right now, are senior Ja-Mes Logan and junior Donte Moncrief outside, with senior Korvic Neat in the slot. Junior Collins Moore, who missed most of last season with injuries to both shoulders, has also gotten a lot of reps in the slot.


On the other side of the ball, with junior Senquez Golson and senior Charles Sawyer sidelined, senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette continue to run with the first-team defense at cornerback. 


When the defense added an extra defensive back, Collins moved inside, and sophomore Anthony Standifer got some first-team reps at cornerback. In the base defense, Standifer and freshman Bobby Hill got second-team reps there.


"Up and down," Freeze said of cornerback play behind Sawyer and Golson. "I think Dehendret has had a good camp. He gave up a touchdown in that red-zone competition, but I think he has had a good camp. I think Bobby Hill is going to be fine. He's just really young. 


"We need to get Charles (Sawyer) back. At field corner, Quintavius Burdette has a chance to be OK, and Standifer and Q(uadarias) Mireles, we need to bring them along. Everyone knows that's an area that we feel thin at."


Stable Of Backs


It's a crowded backfield for running backs coach Derrick Nix, with senior Jeff Scott, sophomores I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton and freshmen Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins splitting reps between the first-team, second-team and third-team offense.


Scott is the leader of the group, having led the team with 846 rushing yards on 197 attempts last years, but there's some definite competition behind him.


"It's going really well," Nix said of the running back competition. "The younger guys have come in and gave us some more energy, some more guys that can do a lot of things with speed and size. They're pushing Jeff Scott, and I'Tavius (Mathers) and Jaylen Walton really hard. 


"I have to brag on Mark Dodson. I think it was a big help for him to get in here early for the spring semester and going through spring football and summer workouts. He's light year ahead going through fall camp right"


For Scott, Nix said, it's about continuing to be a pro in everything he does, from perfecting his protection, to perfecting his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, to knowing exactly what's happening when the offensive line is blocking for him, which includes cutting up and running inside.


"Me and him sat down and watched four or five games and hone in on that part of his game," Nix said. "He's a guy who has always been the fastest guy on the field all through high school, and he always leans on that as his crutch. I'm trying to make him conscious about down and distance, and knowing what he needs to have to keep the chains moving."


The other two returners, Mathers and Walton, Nix said are "light years ahead" of where they were last year.


"Those two guys have shown tremendous improvement, just mentally," Nix said. "They have always had the running ability, but the fact that they know exactly what they're doing now, they're 10 years ahead of what they were doing last year. 


"They are so much more comfortable. You can see it when they get up and lined up, they know exactly what is happening, and they can become the players they were in high school again."


With Dodson participating in spring practice, the two newest players are Moore and Wilkins. Nix described Moore as home-run threat who can flip the field with his speed, while Wilkins is the biggest back of the group 6-foot-2, 200 pounds.


"Right now, he's an every-down back in my opinion," Nix said of Moore. "I think he can run the ball inside, on the perimeter, and he can catch the ball. Right now, I won't put a cap on what he can do. I think he's a guy who can go in and operate in every facet of our offense right now."


"From that injury that he had in high school, he's back 100 percent to me," Nix said of Wilkins. "He's cutting well. He's running the ball downhill. He's got a little bit of an AC sprain (in his shoulder) right now, but he's battling through that every day, showing some toughness and doing a really job so far."


NOTABLE:


With junior Carlos Thompson out, freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche ran with the first team for the second straight day, opposite senior defensive end Cameron Whigham. Behind them, sophomore Channing Ward and redshirt freshman John Youngblood got second-team reps there.


Senior Pierce Burton, who Freeze said is "really close" and "could have gone today," was held out, and freshman Laremy Tunsil got first-team reps at left tackle, with senior Emmanuel McCray at right tackle.


There was a lot of rotation at the guard position in team drills. Junior Aaron Morris got the majority of first-team reps at left guard, with sophomore Justin Bell at right guard, but senior Jared Duke and freshman Austin Golson also got some first-team reps at guard. Freshman Daronte Bouldin also moved up and got some reps on the second team at right guard.


In kickoff return drills, it was the same five players from earlier in fall practice, with sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, freshman running backs Mark Dodson and Kailo and sophomore safety Trae Elston rotating as the deep men.


In punt return drills, Elston was joined by senior running back Jeff Scott and senior wide receiver Korvic Neat as the deep men.


QUOTABLE:


Freeze, on running back position: "Jaylen and I'Tavius are probably a little ahead of the others, but Dodson, Kailo and Jordan are not far behind. Kailo is doing some things for us, as you get into a game plan, you might put him in some places to get him the ball in space.


"Any guy that we feel like we can line up and be very multiple, as far as whether we're going to throw it or run it, and bring him back (into the backfield) and do things, he helps the offense. Jeff can do that, too."


Freeze, on junior Senquez Golson's hamstring injury: "I'm always worried about injuries, yeah. It's a hamstring. You can push it, but if you don't get it well, you're going to be fighting it all year long, so we're just trying to get it well and then move forward from there."


Sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton, on cornerback play: "I'm out there with Quintavius Burdette most of the time. He's a really good athlete. He'll come up and hit. He can run. I feel comfortable. Dehendret at boundary corner, he played there, so I feel pretty comfortable with everyone."


Senior Dehendret Collins on switching from Huskie to cornerback: "I look at as I'm back home because I came here as a boundary corner. I started there, but they moved me because they told me they wanted to get the best players on the field, but now I'm back at home, so I look at it as I'm home."


Sophomore Jaylen Walton, on running backs being involved in the passing game: "We got so many personnels where we got to motion out into a slot, or line up in a slot. We got to learn so many different routes to run."

It took until the fourth day of fall practice, but freshman Robert Nkemdiche got the majority of first-team reps at defensive end today. 


"Carlos (Thompson) got a ding to the head," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I don't know what all is wrong with him, but I wouldn't be shocked to see (Nkemdiche on the first team) quite frequently," Freeze said. 

Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin has been pleased with Nkemdiche's progress through the first four days of practice and the work he's putting in outside of it.

"He's learning every day, staying after it, staying after getting work, staying after meetings and watching extra film," Kiffin said. "Like I have said before, he wants to be great."


Kiffin said one of the things he thinks about is balancing how much he works with Nkemdiche, relative to the other defensive linemen.


"I think about that every day, making sure the other guys don't feel like they're getting slighted," Kiffin said. "We got a couple of guys out here helping. But at the same time, we got to get him ready for opening night. He's going to take more attention because he's behind the 8-ball. 


"There are guys who have been here two years, so I can trust that they know it. Guys like Cameron Whigham, I'm limiting his reps because I know he knows it inside and out."


Among the things Kiffin said Nkemdiche needs to work on are his consistency, his first step and understanding pass sets, similar to what they worked on with sophomore defensive end Channing Ward last season. At the same time, Kiffin said he doesn't want to overcoach Nkemdiche.


"A guy like that, when you overcoach him, he made maybe three or four plays out here today he shouldn't had made because he did the wrong thing," Kiffin said. "You got to find the fine line right  there and let him play ball, and making sure he's doing it right and doesn't cost the team."


Defensive Line 'Further Ahead'


Kiffin said he can see the improvement in his overall unit, from where it was a year ago.


"I think the effort has been there," Kiffin said of his unit. "You can tell we're so much further ahead in the second year of the system, coming out of the spring. These guys know the defense like the back of their hand. 


"Obviously, tempo will always give us a problem, getting the signals and getting lined up. The effort and desire for these guys to get better has been there. I'm pretty pleased right now."


Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson was held out of team drills, but he participated in all individual drills today, as he recovers from a broken leg suffered in spring practice.


"He looks great, doing all of the individual stuff," Kiffin said. "And we gave him pass rush today, and he looks fine. The plan was to get him a couple reps of pass rush today, then maybe in a couple of days, get him into some team work. I think he's going to be fine all season. He looks great, running around and cutting. We just got to get him feeling the big bodies on him."


Kiffin also had praise for Channing Ward who has also gotten some first-team reps at defensive end. Ward played in 12 games at defensive end and on special teams, recording 21 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss last season.


"He looks a lot better, more focused," Kiffin said. "The speed of the game is just different for him now. I think he feels more comfortable with that but still has a ways to go to be consistent every day. He's making plays that he never made before. They're routine plays that take a little work, but he's showing a lot of improvement."


Carlos Thompson and Cameron Whigham also got first-team reps at defensive end, with redshirt freshman John Youngblood getting second-team reps there. Inside, sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross has been sidelined, but Kiffin said he feels good about the defensive tackle position.


"I feel really good about the guys working there, with Bryon Bennett and Lavon Hooks playing '3' technique and Woody (Hamilton) and Carlton (Martin) playing nose," Kiffin said. "Those guys are getting a lot of reps, and I don't think we're missing a beat. 


"Obviously, we don't have the explosiveness inside with Issac out, but those guys are playing heck out of the run. And we can find ways to get pressure on the quarterback, so I'm pleased inside."


NOTABLE:


Robert Nkemdiche also worked as one of the three personal protectors on the first-team punt coverage unit in a special teams drill, along with senior linebackers D.T. Shackelford and Mike Marry.


In the same drill, sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette and senior Dehendret Collins worked as the two gunners on the first-team punt coverage unit. Sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton and freshman cornerback Bobby Hill were the gunners on the second-team unit.


With senior Pierce Burton limited, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers got first-team reps at right tackle for the the third straight day. Freshman Laremy Tunsil also got first first-team reps at left tackle, with senior Emmanuel McCray switching from left tackle to right tackle.


Senior Patrick Junen has also been limited, so sophomore Justin Bell continues to get first-team reps at right guard. Freshman Austin Golson, who has worked primarily at tackle, got second-team reps at right guard.


In the secondary, Burdette, Collins and sophomore Anthony Standifer all got first-team reps at cornerback, with junior Cody Prewitt, sophomores Trae Elston and Chief Brown and senior Brishen Mathews getting first-team reps at safety. Hill and junior Quadarias Mireles continue to get get second-team reps at cornerback.


QUOTABLE:


Freeze, on quarterbacks behind junior Bo Wallace: "I think Devante is going to be really good, and I think Ryan has a chance also, once they get an understanding of what we're doing. Barry did some decent things today but also did some really bad things. Bo hasn't been that consistent either. It feels kind of like last year. We just have to manage the game and help them not make mistakes that really hurt us."


Sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, on his brother, Robert: "He's definitely dominant. He's a dominant player and definitely getting better. We just got to make sure he knows what do when he's out there and make sure he keeps getting better every day."


Kiffin, on sophomore defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton: "I just love Woody. I love his attitude, his work ethic. He's just a good ol' country kid that comes out here. The guy, he's still a pup. He's a 305-pound pup. I love being able to mold a guy that is so physically dominant. I can't say enough about him."

Junior wide receiver Vince Sanders suffered a broken collarbone during one-on-one drills Saturday and is expected to be out 6-8 weeks. Sanders started 12 games last season and finished with 39 catches (3rd on team), 504 receiving yards (2nd on team) and four touchdowns (2nd on team).


"It's certainly a blow," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Sanders' injury. "The guy knew everything we did, and he could do at a fast pace. And he had a great offseason. Hopefully, he only misses three games. We got that opening week early, so maybe he can be back for our fourth game.


"We have some good young kids, and they will get ready to play. Hopefully, we stay healthy and not lose anyone else from that spot."


Freeze said senior Ja-Mes Logan is prepared to play both outside and inside receiver. He also said they have to have four guys ready to play at outside receiver and mentioned Logan, junior Donte Moncrief, sophomore Cody Core and freshman Quincy Adeboyejo as players for that role.


"He is a smart kid out there on the football field," wide receivers coach Grant Heard said of Logan. "He can handle a lot. I can put him in any spot, and he'll know what to do. And he's' the ultimate team player, because it doesn't matter to him. He just wants to get out there and compete."


With Sanders's injury, senior Korvic Neat's role will increase in the slot, and two other receivers who will look to step up are sophomore Cody Core, who played mostly on special teams last season, and junior Collins Moore, who missed most of last season with injuries to both shoulders.


"I need Cody to be more consistent, but he knows what to do, but be more consistent making plays," Heard said. "He can be a guy that can be a big-play threat for us."


"Collins, I'm still trying to figure out and make sure he's good. He's trying to get back into the swing of things from missing spring, but he's out there and looking good. He knows how the offense runs, so he can do some things to help us, too."


The two freshmen, Adeboyejo and freshman Laquon Treadwell, Freeze said have got to get ready to play at outside and inside receiver, respectively.


"They pick things up quick," Freeze said of the freshmen. "They're quick learners. And of course, they have the skill level, which helps. I expect them to be very good players."


"They're freshmen," Heard said. "When things start going fast and get hectic, they make mistakes, but they are picking the offense really quick. And they're making plays out there, which is good to see. I think they're having fun. This offense is easy, but it's different for them. When things get hectic, they have to learn to slow it down in their minds."


NOTABLE:


Sunday was the first practice with shoulder pads.


Senior Pierce Burton was limited, so redshirt freshman Robert Conyers got some first-team reps at right tackle. Conyers is also getting reps at center behind senior Evan Swindall.


With senior Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson sidelined, senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette got first-team reps at cornerback for the second straight day.


On the defensive line, senior Cameron Whigham and sophomore Channing Ward got first-team reps at defensive end, and junior Bryon Bennett and sophomore Woodrow Hamilton at defensive tackle. 


Behind them, freshman Robert Nkemdiche, junior Carlos Thompson and sophomore John Youngblood got second-team reps at defensive end, and juniors Lavon Hooks and Carlton Martin at defensive tackle.


Five newcomers were among those who got reps in the back seven on the second-team defense, with freshman Tony Connor at Huskie, junior Quadarias Mireles and freshman Bobby Hill at cornerback, and sophomore Anthony Alford and freshman Derrick Jones at safety.


In a kickoff return drill, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, freshman running backs Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore and sophomore safety Trae Elston got reps as the deep men.


QUOTABLE: 


Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace: "We really saved him until the end of practice today, and he seemed to be fine. He wasn't complaining, or anything. We just have to take things slow."


Heard, on flexibility at wide receiver: "The good thing about this offense is once they know it, they can be put in anywhere. Ja-Mes, Donte, Cody, I can move around, and they can go in and fill that spot."

In his Media Day press conference, head coach Hugh Freeze said senior Charles Sawyer, along with sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross, were the furthest off, injury-wise. And junior Senquez Golson was held out of Saturday's practice after suffering a pulled hamstring yesterday. 


Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said they're trying to find two guys who are going to step up and be more consistent behind Sawyer and Golson on the two-deep, and with their two injuries, it's offered an opportunity to build depth at the position.


"He's out moving around, just trying to get him ready for the game," Jones said of Sawyer. "We know what we can do. He's been playing for a long time and has a lot of experience, so we're not going to rush him. With the [Vanderbilt] game a few weeks away, we can take time and develop these younger guys and develop some depth." 


With Sawyer and Golson sidelined, senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette got the bulk of first-team reps at cornerback. Both players are relatively new to the position, as Collins moved from Huskie during the spring, and Burdette moved from safety during the summer.


"We moved Dehendret, right at the end of spring, and he's done a great job for us," Jones said. "Him and Charles Sawyer, they are going to provide depth in the boundary. He's had two really good days.


"Q Burdette has been a great surprise for us. He worked hard all summer. You can tell. He came out to practice yesterday and today, and he's flying around, making plays for us. We're pleased with those two guys."


Two freshmen also got a lot of reps at cornerback, along with sophomore Anthony Standifer. Freeze said yesterday that Bobby Hill, one of the freshmen, will be a big plus, and Jones also had praise for Hill and the other freshman, David Kamara.


"Bobby Hill has done a great job for us," Jones said. "Right now, we have him working in the boundary. He's had two really good practices and I'm looking forward to him continuing to progress. I'm looking forward to him to contribute this year, so he will be guy that we will depend on.


"David is doing a great job for us also. He's in the field. We're still trying to see and make a decision about him. He's working hard, still learning coverages and things like that. We'll know more once we get pads and continue to practice."


Notable:


With senior Pierce Burton dealing with a lower back strain, senior Emmanuel McCray moved from left tackle to right tackle, and freshman Laremy Tunsil got reps at left tackle on the first-team offense. 


In some of the other offensive line drills, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers also got some first-team reps at right tackle, opposite McCray. Another freshman, Austin Golson, got second-team reps at left tackle.


The first-team defensive line consisted of junior Carlos Thompson and sophomore Channing Ward at defensive end, and junior Bryon Bennett and sophomore Woodrow Hamilton at defensive tackle.


Along with Bobby Hill at corner, freshmen Robert Nkemdiche (defensive end) and Tony Connor (Huskie) got reps on the second-team defense.


Quotable:


Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace: "His arm is hurting today, not where his shoulder was repaired, but his arm. To come out yesterday and throw a lot of balls, and come out today, it was sore, so we held him out about halfway through to try to get it well."


Freeze, on freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche: "He's physically gifted enough to play. It's all about, can he understand what we're trying to accomplish and what his assignments are. If he can get that, there's no question he can physically. They better be trying to get him ready."


Freeze, on freshman offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil: "He's as physically gifted as any freshman that I have seen, athleticism-wise. He's swimming right now with everything being installed. He's going to make mistakes, like any freshman, but he is a gifted player."


Freeze, on freshman tight end Evan Engram: "Evan is going to be a good one. Again, he's a freshman that is undersized at this point in his career, but he has got to play, and he's going to play. We just have got to be sure we ask him to do things that he can do."

Among the 105 players who reported yesterday for the start of fall camp were 23 first-year Rebels, and many have already made an impression on the coaches and returning players.


"I did get to see them this morning and liked what I saw," head coach Hugh Freeze said in his Media Day press conference. "I thought guys like Robert NkemdicheLaremy TunsilLaquon Treadwell and Tony Connor all looked really good. I came off the field thinking Quincy Adeboyejo is going to be a really special player. 


"Herbert Moore is a big guy and had a quick twitch. I am very excited about the young kids like  Daronte Bouldin out of Canton. I think we hit on all of them. I haven't had a staff meeting with defense guys yet, but I think Bobby Hill will be a big plus for us."


His position coach, Chris Kiffin, and one of his teammates, C.J. Johnson, also had praise for Robert Nkemdiche, his work ethic and how he has handled outside expectations.


"I don't think he thinks about the outside stuff as much as people think he does," Kiffin said. "He's really focused on being the best player he can be. He has a desire to be great. That's what I continue to say about him. And he has a motor like his brother. They just fly around, it's what they do. He has all the intangibles, but everything is going to be new for him."


"He's a hard worker," Johnson said. "It's hard to put those expectations on a freshman like that, but I think he has really embraced the opportunity. he understands the sense of urgency and knows he will be able to play a role on this football, and he has embraced that really well.


"His work ethic is second to none. He's a great guy. He goes out there every day, competes and works hard."


Of the freshman offensive linemen, senior offensive tackle Emmanuel McCray singled out Tunsil and freshman offensive tackle Austin Golson as guys who have stood out to him.


"All of the freshmen have good level heads," McCray said. "The mental aspect, they will be fine. Athleticism-wise, Laremy and Austin are ready to play I wouldn't just off the bat. With experience, they will be All-SEC kind of guys."


Some other freshmen, Freeze said freshman Evan Engram will be special at tight end and is the guy they have to get ready to play and ask him to do things they need him to do because they are thin at the position. 


Freeze also said he would like to redshirt both freshman quarterbacks, Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade, but one of them will have to be ready to play just in case. He added both had a lot of reps Friday, and he will continue to prepare both of them.


"It's going to take them a while to get into the playbook," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said of the freshman quarterbacks. "It's a tough playbook to understand, but at the same time, they're working hard. They came in right away and started working, so they'll get it down."


Wallace Continues Recovery


One of the biggest storylines of SEC Media Days for Ole Miss was junior quarterback Bo Wallace's recovery from clavicle surgery in January. He participated in seven-on-seven workouts, and Freeze said in his press conference, he is practicing, but they are charting every throw and try to keep it at 50 throws.


"It's good," Wallace said of the shoulder. "They're limiting my throws. I'm looking forward to next week, so I can condition my arm and get used to throwing all those throws, but it feels good though.


"They're giving me the reps that I feel like I need, that I want. I know that if there's a rep I don't feel good about, then I will get right back in. I'm still getting my reps. It's not really like I'm limited out there."


It's year two for Wallace as a starter, and he said it's night and day, this year from last year.


"Last year, I was in a competition, so I was having to worry about every rep, what the other guy is doing, what I'm doing," Wallace said. "Now, it's just going out there, playing and trying to get the team better, trying to get me better."


One Goal For Nkemdiche


When the players reported yesterday, sophomore Denzel Nkemdiche said it was a completely different feeling, with the locker room and the new faces, including his brother Robert, who he now shares a locker beside.


"It's something I have waited for forever, and something I had dreams about," Denzel Nkemdiche said of playing with his brother. "Seeing him out there with the number five jersey and with the team, I can sit back and thank god for everything that has happened. I'm truly blessed. 


"We're here now, so we have to take it to another level. Right now, we have one goal and that is to make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship."


In trying to get better this offseason, Denzel Nkemdiche described both his individual goals, and the goals his brother set to get ready for his first season.


"This offseason, I put an emphasis on putting on weight, and today, I weighed in at 210 pounds," he said. "I'm still moving fast, and I still feel explosive, so I'm definitely excited about that and looking forward to putting the pads on. No matter how well I know the position, I can still find things to improve on every day.


"His goal was to stay fast and stay strong. Throughout the summer, he put on weight and still able to run, learning the defense and progressing fast than incoming freshmen typically do. He knows the burden and pressure he has on him, so he's definitely excited about that."


Close-Knit Offensive Line


The Rebels return four starters on the offensive line, plus senior Patrick Junen, who saw action in all 13 games last year, and two of the seniors, Emmanuel McCray and Evan Swindall talked about the chemistry within the unit.


"We have always been a close-knit bunch," McCray said. "We have these guys that have experience, and it gives us a jump-start. They have been in this fast tempo for a while, but what we're working on now is getting into game shape. We have conditioned all summer, but it's something different about that tempo. It takes two or three days to get it going."


"We all hang out together," Swindall said. "We all understand each other. I don't even have to make some calls this year because we know what we're doing naturally."


Both McCray and Swindall admitted some of guys did gain a few pounds, but after the first day, they feel like they're in a good spot. 


"Some guys needed to put on weight like Robert Conyers and Ben Still," McCray said. "And other guys were injured, so that comes with the territory. Between camp and the strength and conditioning staff, we'll definitely get those pounds off before the season start."


Also, of note, Swindall said Conyers has been working with him at center, and Tunsil, Golson and Bouldin have been working at second-team left tackle, right tackle and right guard, respectively.


Other Quotables:


Chris Kiffin, on health of CJ Johnson and Issac Gross: "I expect both of them to be ready for Vanderbilt. They may be a little rusty, but I think we can get some full-speed reps a couple of weeks before, and I think they will be ready to go."


Emmanuel McCray, on putting on pads: "I haven't had a chance to go against Robert yet. I'm waiting on my opportunity, but I really can't wait until we get our pads on. That's a true test. These shirts and jerseys, you can only grab on cloth so long."


Nick Parker, on his move to tight end: "The coaches came to me about it. They wanted to ask me about it, and I said I would give it a try. As of right now, it's going good. I have to learn different techniques and get everything down, but I think I will get it."


Charles Sawyer, on being a leader in the secondary: "I'm going to coach them like Cassius Vaughn or Marshay Green coached me and help them learn from their mistakes."


D.T. Shackelford, on returning to fall practice: "I'm ready to get back to work. I'm ready to get back in there and playing like I'm capable of playing."


Bo Wallace, on Treadwell and Adeboyejo: "They're big, physical guys. They got to get used to the college game, the speed of it. A couple of times they're getting jammed outside, just from the physicality of playing against an SEC defense, but they'll get used to it and be ready to roll."

Preseason camp is rapidly approaching for the Rebel football program. Players report on Thursday, August 1, and the press will put them under the spotlight the following day at Rebel Media Day. Friday's 2 p.m. press conference will be streamed live on RebelVision, and our resident blogger Austin Miller will be all over the day's festivities so keep your browser on OleMissSports.com. As we mentioned in today's announcement of Meet The Rebels Day, one practice per day will be open to fans August 5-10, and below is the schedule of times. Of note, Tuesday, August 6 expects to be the first day in full pads. Fans should make their plans to return to campus on August 17 for Meet The Rebels Day. We're expecting our biggest crowd ever.

Monday, August 5, 9:45 a.m.
Tuesday, August 6, 9:45 a.m.
Wednesday, August 7, 9:45 a.m.
Thursday, August 8, 10 a.m.
Friday, August 9, 9:45 a.m.
Saturday, August 10, 12:15 p.m.


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Ole Miss Football 2012 Highlights from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

Ole Miss' 2012 season highlight video, which you can see above, was named FBS video of the year by FootballScoop.com. The six finalists were evaluated by a voting panel consisting of Andy Staples (Sports Illustrated), Adam Kramer (Bleacher Report), Chris Brown (Smart Football) and Brian Floyd (SB Nation), and you can read their comments on the video in the linked FootballScoop.com story.

Chris Buttgen, Ole Miss' assistant director of sports video, produced the video in collaboration with the Ole Miss Sports Production staff, led by Micah Ginn, director of creative services. 

Buttgen said his job primarily is to do the creative side of things, the post-production work for football, such as promotion videos, recruiting videos, motivational videos, position videos and even wedding videos. He also shot this Vine of head coach Hugh Freeze and the Ladies' Football Forum Locking The Vaught this past Saturday.

"Since I have more access to football I shoot a lot of stuff here in-house that a lot of people wouldn't see like meeting, and I'll mic up the coaches, and stuff like that," Butthgen said. "And on game day, we have another one of our staff members that shoot on the sideline, and I shoot the sideline and inside the coaches' box.

"I have full access to the locker room. I'm flying with the team, riding with the team, so I'll shoot some hotel stuff. Then Rebel Vision, the job they do and the equipment they have, between the cameras and the great shots, we combine our resources. You'll see my shot in their videos, and you'll see their shot in my videos."

Buttgen said they never got to watch the video as a team but have seen it on Twitter, and they love seeing it. Buttgen also said they showed it on their recruiting weekend and continue to show it to recruits. Rebel Vision released its most recent video, "More," on July 10, and Buttgen said they have some great videos on the way.

"We have done some green-screen stuff, and Micah has done some shoots," he said. "The preseason is when they really shine. They do a lot of preseason videos with ticket promotions and everything. The 'More' video that came out, we have several other kinds of videos that will be hitting the airwaves soon.

"The intro video this year for Vaught-Hemingway is going to be amazing, from what I can tell. I can't even see all of it yet because a lot of it was green screen. It's going to be real cool. I plan on taking my pregame motivations to a whole nother level. I got some new equipment coming in and I got some new ideas I heard about this year."

Ole Miss head man Hugh Freeze will be at ESPN's Bristol, Conn., headquarters on Monday for the annual SEC "Car Wash". Other coaches making the trip that day include James Franklin (Vanderbilt), Les Miles (LSU), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State), Gary Pinkel (Missouri), Mark Richt (Georgia), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M) and Nick Saban (Alabama), while the rest of the league's coaches will be at the World Wide Leader on Tuesday. A total of 50 college football head coaches from the ACC (July 29-30), Big Ten (July 31-August 1), Pac-12 (July 24-25) and SEC (July 22-23) will make the rounds in the coming weeks to discuss topics across multiple ESPN programs and platforms in a few hours. Below is a look at Freeze's tentative schedule for Monday. Make your plans to tune in.

10:00am    College GameDay
10:25am    Podcast-ESPNU CFB with Ivan Maisel
11:00am    GameDay Radio
11:15am    CFB Insider with Travis Haney
11:40am    SportsCenter
12:00pm    ESPN.com chat
12:20pm    Recruiting Nation
1:40pm    College Football Live
2:00pm    ITK/ Front Row
2:15pm    SVP & Russillo Radio Show
2:25pm    SportsCenter Tonight

Programs are live, and times are central.

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There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Ole Miss football contingent at SEC Media Days Tuesday. Coming off a 7-6 season followed by a top-five recruiting class, a lot was said about expectations for this upcoming season.

"The expectations that are coming now with our program, I'm very careful," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I told every group that I went to this spring, I tell our team quite often, unrealistic expectations, always produce frustration. I don't care in what area of life that you're in, if you have an unreal expectation and it does not come to pass, you get very frustrated."

"Our task in year two is to maintain the enthusiasm and energy from both our fans and our players and everyone that is involved in our program, as we continue to strive to be relevant in the SEC West. We have made strides. But, again, those young men we've recruited to help us with our depth issues, they're 18-year-old kids. How quick they'll adjust to this game and this league, you really don't know."

Speaking about the excitement surrounding the top-five recruiting class, Freeze said other teams in the Southeastern Conference have had that for five years, and those are the teams they are competing against. One class, Freeze said, is not the answer by itself, but just part of the process.

"Spring revealed to us that we're still not an SEC depth chart," Freeze said. "We went from being a decent football team to a less-than-average one when you had a few key injuries. Last year, we were so fortunate to not have any injuries.

"I look at our depth chart now, we have made improvements, but improvements with really young kids. How will they respond to this league? I don't know. I think we're a year away from being able to look at a depth chart and say 'we're pretty good there.'"

The number one area of concern in depth, Freeze said, is the offensive line, adding that players returning from injuries and offseason surgeries are also of concern. Freeze also mentioned defensive end, corner and safety as positions where the Rebels are thin.

"We feel like everybody is pretty well on track," Freeze said. "We have a physical summer with our strength coaches, and it has created some new things here and there, and exactly where we'll be in a few weeks when we start camp is kind of hard to tell.

"We know there will be some who will be limited when we start, but we sure hope by two weeks into fall camp that we will have all our critical members of our team to start getting ready for Vanderbilt."

Wallace Right On Track

Junior quarterback Bo Wallace had clavicle surgery in January, and he said he's participating in seven-on-seven workouts and expects to be ready for the start of fall camp.

"I'm in the last two weeks of the rehab," Wallace said. "Now, I'm just getting to throw every day to get ready for fall camp. It feels good -- I have all the confidence in the world in it. I'm just ready to get back out there and compete with my team."

Freeze said they also feel good about Wallace's recovery.

"He feels very good about where he's at in his progress," he said. "They've released him about four weeks ago to start tossing. Last week he began throwing full go. He's had some soreness, of course. But everything seems to be moving along very nicely."

Wallace completed 235 of 368 passes for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions last season, adding 390 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Freeze said to have an experienced quarterback in the SEC is "invaluable," but also said he expects Wallace to cut down on his turnovers.

"He kind of plays the game a little bit too free for me at times with the football," he said. "He'll be the first to tell you that. That's probably the biggest negative of him not going through spring practice, was the fact he didn't get quality reps against a live defense.

"I know that he understands and knows that. So now it's a matter of us, through fall camp, getting him prepared to take care of the football."

Wallace participated in the Manning Passing Academy last weekend, and he said he talked to Eli Manning about making better decisions with his feet and protecting the ball batter.

"We both said sliding is awkward as a quarterback, but I have to pick my spots," he said. "I don't want to go through another injury like this. I think I help the team more being out there healthy than trying to pick up one or two more yard and getting banged up.

"At the same time, I'm going to compete my tail off like I always do, and if I don't slide, I'm just trying to compete."

Looking Ahead To The Season Opener

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are two of the SEC's hottest teams entering 2013. The Commodores were 9-4 in 2012, their most wins in a season since 1915. Head coach James Franklin has also led Vanderbilt to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.

"That game in Nashville in August is going to be a difficult task because of the job that Coach Franklin and his staff have done at Vanderbilt," Freeze said. "They're returning quite a few guys. They're going to be a mature football team.

"They understand quite clearly what this game means. Our kids will, too. Am I crazy about opening with a conference opponent? That's probably not what you would always desire, but an opportunity to put us on national TV is something that I'm always in favor of."

Players report for fall camp on Aug. 1, and so begins year two of the journey for Freeze and the Rebels.
The circus known as SEC Football Media Days is here again, and with seven straight national titles in our collective pockets, I'm sure it will be bigger than ever. Festivities will be Tuesday through Thursday (July 16-18) at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham, and Ole Miss is part of Tuesday's opening-day lineup along with Florida, Missouri and South Carolina. The Rebels and Gamecocks are the evening pairing from 3:50 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. Commissioner Mike Slive will open Media Days at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Texas A&M, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Auburn and Arkansas are on Wednesday and LSU, Georgia, Alabama and Vanderbilt on Thursday. SEC Coordinator of Football Officials Steve Shaw will also speak on Wednesday.

Joining Coach Hugh Freeze in the Ole Miss contingency will be LB Mike Marry, WR Donte Moncrief and QB Bo Wallace. It was a very tough decision for us. We enjoy the luxury of having a number of student-athletes that represent our program well with the media. In particular, DB Charles Sawyer attended SEC Media Days last year and did an outstanding job, and he will continue to represent our program in a lot of other ways. Denzel Nkemdiche is an All-SEC LB that also handles himself very well with the media. It was close, but I am excited about the three we settled on.


A couple weeks ago, we gave you some early predictions and honors from the summer's preseason football publications, and since then, a few more of the previews have hit newsstands. Among those is the Birmingham News' 67th annual SEC Football Preview, which polls the league's 14 sports information directors for predicted finish and top players. Obviously I'm looking through Red and Blue glasses, but I had a couple more Rebels on my ballot than on the final honoree lists. Nonetheless, quite a few made Bham's All-SEC teams and even more graced Phil Steele's teams, including both Nkemdiches. Steele also named Denzel to his preseason All-America squads. Check it out below, and look for a complete recap of all the preseason magazines on the official site later this summer.

Phil Steele
National Rank: #28
All-America 4th team: Denzel Nkemdiche
All-SEC 1st team: Denzel Nkemdiche
All-SEC 2nd team: Donte Moncrief
All-SEC 3rd team: Aaron Morris, Robert Nkemdiche
All-SEC 4th team: Jeff Scott, Ja-Mes Logan, CJ Johnson, Mike Marry, Charles Sawyer, Jaylen Walton (KR)

Birmingham News
SEC Rank: West #4
SEC Best Linebacker #2: Denzel Nkemdiche
SEC Best Punter #2: Tyler Campbell
All-SEC 1st team: Denzel Nkemdiche
All-SEC 2nd team: Donte Moncrief, CJ Johnson, Charles Sawyer, Tyler Campbell



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Summer is approaching which means the magazine stands are starting to fill up with preseason football publications. I swung by the convenient store Wednesday, and it looks like Sporting News and Athlon won the war of getting their season previews out first. As you see below, Bo Wallace is featured on both of the regional covers, and both media outlets have the Rebels finishing fourth in the SEC West and pegged for a trip to the Music City Bowl. Here are more notables from the mags, and we'll keep you posted as more come out.


TSN13.jpgNational Rank: #25
Recruiting Rank: #7 (247Sports)
Bowl Prediction: Music City vs NC State
SEC Rank: West #4
SEC's Best Recruiter: Hugh Freeze
SEC's Top Impact Frosh: Robert Nkemdiche













Athlon13.jpgNational Rank: #33
Recruiting Rank: #6 (consensus)

Bowl Prediction:
Music City vs Georgia Tech
New Coach of 2012 #4: Hugh Freeze
SEC Rank: West #4
SEC LB Unit Rank: #3
SEC WR/TE Unit Rank: #5
All-SEC 2nd team: Donte Moncrief, Aaron Morris, CJ Johnson, Denzel Nkemdiche
All-SEC 3rd team: Cody Prewitt, Tyler Campbell

ADDITIONS FROM ONLINE EDITION
All-SEC 4th team: Jeff Scott, Issac Gross, Charles Sawyer






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It was exciting news this week as Rebel favorite Tom Luke returned to the Ole Miss football program as Assistant A.D. for Player Development. A second-generation Rebel and the brother of fellow Ole Miss standout and staffer Matt Luke, Tom quarterbacked the Rebels to some memorable wins in the early 90s. A few of those games along with many other great moments from the past are available for RebelVision subscribers in the "From the Vault" channel. There are game replays and classic coaches' shows from the 50s to the 2000s. Below are some of Tom Luke's games, and I highly recommend checking out the rest of the content From The Vault.

From The Vault: 1990 Mississippi State
From The Vault: 1990 Arkansas
From The Vault: 1990 Georgia

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The Rebels' uniform modifications for the 2013 football season were released during the BancorpSouth Grove Bowl.

Facebook Photo Gallery

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Injuries have riddled the Ole Miss football team this spring, and after evaluating the situation this week, the coaching staff determined a full scale scrimmage would not be an option for this year's BancorpSouth Grove Bowl. As a result, the format will be a mix of practice drills and scrimmage periods, and the script is below. Players expected to miss Saturday's action include Darone Bailey, Issac Gross, Chase Hughes, C.J. Johnson, Patrick Junen, Collins Moore, Christian Morgan, Aaron Morris, Vince Sanders, Charles Sawyer, Bo Wallace and Taz Zettergren, while Donte Moncrief and Ontario Berry will be limited in their participation.

FG/PAT
1-on-1 (QB, WR, DB)/ Insides (OL, DL, RB, LB)
Scrimmage (-35)
Red Zone 1-on-1 (QB, WR, DB)
Punt
Scrimmage (50)
Red Zone Skelly (7-on-7)
Scrimmage (+30)
Overtime (+25)

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Panama Trip Photo Gallery

Group_Panama.jpgTwo weeks ago, I wrote about a group of six Ole Miss football players who went on a mission trip to Panama over spring break.

They have since returned to Oxford and been knee-deep in schoolwork and football practices, but I was able to catch up with senior linebacker D.T. Shackelford, who shared his thoughts on the experience:

"It was life changing. To be able to influence others, it's just a blessing that God enabled us to use our platform to affect others in a positive way. That's something Coach Freeze stresses a lot - use your life for something positive and not anything negative. There are a lot of people in this town that look up to us."

I asked D.T. after this past Wednesday's practice what lessons he and the other guys learned from the trip.

"Gratefulness. I don't think it's a coincidence that I went. Being away from the game for two years, I have to be grateful that I don't struggle like some people in the places that we went. Gratefulness that I don't miss meals. Your perspective on life changes.

"We just finished practice and we're about to go eat a full breakfast and get a free education. Everything's basically free. All of us have cars. We're not missing meals. It's the little things you can take for granted that a lot of people around the world don't get on a daily basis."


Wesley Walls' Son Among Spring Walk-Ons

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Thumbnail image for Walls_Tulane_1988.jpgColton Walls, a sophomore linebacker who started his career at Clemson, is among the non-scholarship players to join the Ole Miss football team this spring.

Rebel fans will be quite familiar with his last name. Colton's father, Wesley Walls, was an All-America tight end/linebacker for the Rebels in 1988 and went on to a successful 14-year NFL career that included five Pro Bowl appearances. Just last week, Wesley was one of 77 players named to the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame.

Colton is the next in a long line of father/son combos to play for Ole Miss through the years. Names like Archie, Cooper and Eli Manning come to mind. And others, like Poole, Luke, Shows, Kinard. Current Rebel wide receiver Jordan Holder is the son of two-time Ole Miss captain Jamie Holder.

Spring practice starts this Sunday at 3 p.m. All practices are open to the public. Here's a link to the full spring schedule.

The up-to-date 2013 roster entering spring practice is online at OleMissSports.com. Other walk-ons joining the team this spring include DB Josh Gregory, OL Tyler Mt. Joy, RB Darryan Ragsdale and OL Park Stevens.

A long list of ex-Rebels are planning to work out for the NFL scouts at Ole Miss Pro Day on Thursday. Of the 21 former players putting their talents on display, 16 concluded their Rebel careers in the fall, while five wrapped up their time in the Red and Blue in a previous class. A reminder that the event is closed to the public, but we will have complete coverage on the official site. Also on Thursday, RebelVision subscribers can catch Coach Hugh Freeze's pre-spring press conference at 1 p.m.

2012 Seniors
Ferbia Allen
Jim Broadway
Terrell Brown
E.J. Epperson
Uriah Grant
H.R. Greer
A.J. Hawkins
Jason Jones
Joel Kight
Randall Mackey
Jamal Mosley
Ivan Nicholas
Gilbert Pena
Wesley Pendleton
Bryson Rose
Devin Thomas

Other Former Players
Enrique Davis
Derrick Herman
Jared Mitchell
Gerald Rivers
Justin Smith

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It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating a bowl win in Birmingham. Now that that and an historic signing day are in the rear view mirror, it's time to gear up for spring drills. The Rebels take to the practice field on Sunday, March 17, and a tentative practice schedule can be viewed here. Practices will be open to the public, but you'll need to skip work to make them. Weekday practices are planned for an 8 a.m. start, and outside of the first and last practices (BancorpSouth Grove Bowl on April 13, 1 p.m.). there is is only one other weekend practice planned (April 6, time TBA). This year's BancorpSouth Grove Bowl has free admission, so we hope to have our biggest crowd yet.

Fans have asked about our Pro Day, which is scheduled for March 7. The event is closed to the public, but we will have full coverage of the day on the official site. Among the events you will be able to attend this spring is the Rebels' Choice Awards, April 10 at 7 p.m. at the Ford Center. The show has moved to a Wednesday this year, and we will have more details in the coming weeks. Also changing days is the Chucky Mullins Courage Award banquet, which will now be a Saturday breakfast on the morning of the BancorpSouth Grove Bowl. Please make your plans to attend both events.

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Last Wednesday was not only National Signing Day but also National Ole Miss Day. With a recruiting class ranked as high as No. 2 nationally, the Rebels were the talk of the sports world, and the exposure our university experienced is still being felt. Quantifying the value of that publicity is extremely subjective, and while we are still trying to determine a figure we feel is accurate, we are certain that it was a multimillion dollar day for the Red and Blue.

ESPNU's daylong NSD coverage highlighted Ole Miss probably more than any other school. ESPN also picked up the U's coverage periodically, resulting in Coach Hugh Freeze conducting two live interviews on the morning Sportscenter. Freeze also did on-camera TV interviews with Fox News, CBS Sports Network, FSN and CSS. For radio, we received approximately 30 interview requests on and around signing day, half of which were national radio shows. Among those that we were able to find time to accommodate, Freeze appeared on Mike & Mike In the Morning, the Jim Rome Show, the Dan Patrick Show and SVP & Russillo.

The print media clips continue to roll in, and we have documented at least 50 different articles so far. Among the more interesting recounts of the Rebels' historic day came from Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples, who spent two days as a fly on the wall of the IPF war room. Check out his article along with other highlights of the media coverage of National Ole Miss Day below.

From an internal media standpoint, OleMissSports.com earned 770,000 page impressions on NSD, which was tops among the 150-plus schools on the CBSSports.com College Network, followed by Alabama, Tennessee, Notre Dame and Michigan. Our Signing Day Central was a huge hit, and credit goes to Joey Jones, Darrias Thomas, Ken Edwards, Dan Pellegrino, Micah Ginn and so many others from our media relations and creative departments. As Coach Freeze has said, this is the "new norm" so let's do it all over again next year.

Super Sunday has arrived, and our two Rebels are at the forefront of the media buzz. Here are some recent clips featuring Michael Oher and Patrick Willis, as they prepare to face off in Super Bowl XLVII.

Clarion Ledger: Former Ole Miss standout and 49er Patrick Willis' road to Super Bowl a tough one
Santa Rosa Press Democrat: For Willis, 'Blind Side' bonds that endure
Chicago Tribune: Super Bowl linebacker's success story one of inspiration
Associated Press: 'Blind Side' family relishes Big Easy Super Bowl
Montreal Gazette: From The Blindside to the Super Bowl
MemphiSport: Memphis native Michael Oher relishes first Super Bowl appearance for Ravens

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