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Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' open date and return to action on Saturday, Sept. 27 against Memphis.
Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:50:18 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.
"We're coming off of a solid win last week against ULL, and any time you're going into an open week, you hope it come at a good time to work on some things that you're struggling with and also maybe to get your team fully healthy. In all candor, I wish the open week was a bit later and that we were continuing to play.
"We try to control the things we can control, so we're using this week on ourselves and to do some self scouting and to obviously prepare for our next game and do some recruiting. I like the chemistry and demeanor of our team right now, and hopefully we can maintain our focus on the process and not get caught up in being result-oriented all the time. I'm excited about where are at this point, but we have some very difficult games coming very soon."
On watching other games...
"I will watch every game I can physically do. We'll let our kids and coaches off Saturday. I'll do some family stuff that morning, I'm sure, and go a volleyball or something to watch my kids. The TiVo and DVRs will be running and I will try to catch every SEC game."
On the SEC Western Division...
"It's scary. I said in my press conference this week that I really believe that all seven teams could be considered Top 25 teams. I think they're all that talented. Whether or not the high rankings for all of us are really justified to this point, I don't know, it's still really early.
"The fact remains we may all be Top 10, Top 15, Top 20 teams, but we're going to beat each other up at some point. It doesn't mean you're not a quality team for sure, but it's inevitable that's going to happen. I've seen film on every one of these (SEC West) teams and I think all of them are tremendously gifted and well-coached. It's going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out."
NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., visited Ole Miss on Wednesday. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native spoke to various student groups, including the football team.
Stenhouse Jr. presented head coach Hugh Freeze with a firesuit, and Freeze presented him with an Ole Miss football jersey. Stenhouse Jr. also caught passes from Bo Wallace and threw passes into the target net at football practice.
Having a great day here in Oxford, MS http://t.co/K3TgExFiZq-- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (@StenhouseJr) September 16, 2014
Sept. 8-14, 2014
- Ole Miss captured the Magnolia Invitational this past weekend to improve to 10-0, its best start in school history.
- The Rebels downed UAB and Mercer 3-0 and then defeated Jacksonville State 3-1 after dropping the first set for the first time all year.
- Freshman Lexi Thompson was named the tournament MVP, while Ty Laporte and Aubrey Edie joined her on the all-tournament team.
- Thompson averaged 2.80 kills, 3.00 digs and 0.50 blocks and aces per set to lead the Rebels to the title. She tallied a career-high 18 kills, and a career-best 17 digs in the 3-1 win against Jacksonville State. With the Rebels dropping the first set for the first time all year, Thompson tallied 7 of her 18 kills in the second set, as the Rebels evened the match.
- Laporte finished the tournament with 28 kills and 9 blocks and hit .375. Edie posted 122 assists (12.2 per set), to earn her third straight all-tournament team honor.
- Ole Miss used a high-octane offense and suffocating defense to claim a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday.
- The Rebels (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) moved up from No. 14 to No. 10 in the Associated Press poll, their first top-10 ranking since week four of the 2009 season.
- The Rebel offense produced its second-highest scoring output of the Hugh Freeze era and accumulated 554 total yards in the rout.
- Bo Wallace completed 23 of 28 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns, notching his third straight 300-yard performance and the 10th of his career, which ties him with Eli Manning for the school record.
- Vince Sanders set career highs of eight catches, 125 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half.
- The Rebels have surrendered only two touchdowns to their opponents this year and rank fourth nationally with just 10.3 points allowed per game.
- The Rebel defense snagged three more interceptions against the Ragin' Cajuns and now leads the nation with eight this season.
- The Ole Miss soccer team went 2-0 on the week with a pair of shutout victories over Austin Peay (2-0) and Middle Tennessee (4-0) on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
- Junior forward Olivia Harrison led the Rebels against the Lady Governors on Friday with a pair of goals in a three-minute span. Ole Miss out-shot Austin Peay 18-7 on the road in Clarksville, Tennessee.
- Unlike Ole Miss' win over Austin Peay, the Rebels spread out the scoring against Middle Tennessee with four different goal scorers, including sophomore Georgia Russell's first career goal, and one goal each from Addie Forbus, Gretchen Harknett and Jennifer Miller.
- The two shutouts by senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick were her first two of the season and give her 19 for her career.
- Freshman Arianne Hartono won the Country Club of Little Rock Invitational on Sunday for her first title with the Rebels. In the final, she defeated Houston's top player, Desponita Vogasari, who is ranked No. 68 in the preseason ITA Singles Rankings.
- Before winning the singles title, Hartono teamed with junior Mai El Kamash to capture the doubles title in their first tournament together. The duo defeated 59th-ranked and the top-seeded duo of Arkansas, Yang Pang and Sasha Shkorupeieva, 8-6 in the final. On Saturday, Hartono and El Kamash took out the No. 2 seed from the University of Houston.
- The Rebels opened the 2014-15 season with the Memphis FedEx Intercollegiate (Sept. 8-9). Ole Miss took third-place with a score of 886 and Abby Newton claimed medalist honors. The third-place finish was Ole Miss' highest finish since taking runner-up honors at the UNC Tar Heel Classic in 2012-13.
- Newton's win at the Memphis FedEx Intercollegiate was the first individual title for the Rebels since Natalie Gleadall won the Cougar Classic in 2010.
- Several Rebels set new career marks at the tournament. Newton's second-round score of 68 was an 18-hole career-low, while her three-day tournament score of 210 was also a new 54-hole career low. Ole Miss' 886 is the sixth lowest total for the Rebels.
- The Ole Miss men's golf team claimed fourth-place at the Sam Hall Intercollegiate in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
- Junior Connor Davis finished the tournament with a career-low, three-round score of 208. He tied for fifth-place, which is a career-best for the two-year letterwinner.
- Senior Joe Lewis and sophomore Ben Wolcott fired career-low tournament scores of 212 and 213, respectively.
Men's Cross Country
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team grabbed a third-place finish in the Commodore Classic, besting both SEC rivals Mississippi State and Vanderbilt at the event.
- Just as in the first meet of the season, freshman Mark Robertson posted the best time for the Rebels. His time of 25:00.31 in the 8K was good for 10th overall in the field of 242 runners.
- The Rebels have a first-place and third-place finish on the season, while sending only a portion of the team to the meets.
Women's Cross Country
- The Ole Miss women's cross country team placed sixth in a field of 17 teams at the Commodore Classic.
- For the second time in as many events, Mary Alex England finished with the best run for Ole Miss. Her time of 17.23.33 in the 5K placed eighth overall of 260 runners.
After a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, Ole Miss moved up four spots to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll, released on Sunday.
Despite breaking into the top 10, the Rebels remain fifth among Southeastern Conference Western Division teams with Alabama (No. 3), Alabama (No. 5), Texas A&M (No. 6) and LSU (No. 8) ahead of them in the polls. Ole Miss plays each of the other four teams in five-week stretch starting with a home game against Alabama on Oct. 4.
This is the first time Ole Miss has been ranked in the top 10 since 2009, when the Rebels were ranked in the top 10 in the each of the first four polls before falling out after a loss to South Carolina.
Before 2009, the last time Ole Miss was ranked in the top 10 was 1970, Archie Manning's senior season, when the Rebels finished 7-4 and earned a berth in the Gator Bowl.
With Saturday's win over Louisiana-Lafayette, Ole Miss is 3-0 for the second straight year, the first time the Rebels have started 3-0 in consecutive season since 1971-72. When Ole Miss hosts Memphis in two weeks, it will seek its first 4-0 start since that 1970 season.
Senior cornerback Senquez Golson has come a long way since he was a freshman.
That season, he was most notably on the receiving end of a highlight reel juke from Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
Three years later, as part of a defense that has allowed just two touchdowns all season, Golson is making his own highlights, intercepting two passes, including one that he returned 59 yards for a touchdown, in a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
"This is, in my opinion, the first year that he decided he was really going to buy in," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Not that he was bad the last couple of years, but there's no question with the way he comes to work every day and the way he allows me to coach him, he's just a different guy and he's definitely more in.
"When somebody does that and has success on the field, it's rewarding when you see good things happen because a kid has decided to buy in."
After saying it before in past interviews, Golson believes he's finally playing the best football of his career. He already has three interceptions this season, tying his career high and giving him nine for his career.
Golson credited his maturation off the field for the change on the field.
"I was a senior this year and I wanted to go out with a tradition with the corners, the secondary and the defense," Golson said. "I wanted to try to lead them with the knowledge I have from four years and what we used to be and what we are now. I wanted to step up and be the leader that I'm supposed to be as a senior."
Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack told Golson he was going to get a pick-six this week, and he proved him right.
"I knew when I saw him jump it, he was going to take it away from the guy," Wommack said. "He's pretty fast, so there was probably going to be no catching him."
Wallace Keeps It Going
Senior quarterback Bo Wallace said he couldn't remember going as deep into a game without an incompletion as he did against Louisiana-Lafayette.
He completed each of his first 14 passes on the way to his third 300-yard passing game in as many games this season, completing 23-of-28 passes for 316 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He also tied Eli Manning for the school record with 10 career 300-yard passing games.
"He really made good decisions today," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "I was proud of him today. He keeps getting better and better, and hopefully we can keep that going."
Since the start of the second half against Boise State, Wallace has completed 80.5 percent (58-of-72) of his passes and thrown for 875 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.
"It's what I'm expecting out of myself," Wallace said. "I'm trying to get in a rhythm as soon as I walk out. Get in a rhythm, and I have felt good the past couple of games. I'm playing how I expect myself to play. I have to continue it each week."
Explosive Plays in the Run Game
One of the areas Freeze looked for improvement was to work out ways to effectively run the football.
Behind long touchdown runs from junior running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the first time this season, as the Rebels rushed for 214 yards on 35 carries, a season-high 6.1 yards per carry.
"It's better, but not where we need it to be totally, and we'll keep working on it," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We have to keep working. There were some good things today."
"We got a bunch of big plays and that's only going to help us in the long run," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said. "We need to get more consistent three and four-yard runs. That's the big things. You want it to be 2nd-and-6, not 2nd-and-10, but the backs did a good job of popping some big ones for us."
Three areas to watch as Ole Miss faces Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday.
Wearing the Bull's-Eye
After a 2-0 start with wins over Boise State and Vanderbilt, Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll, its highest ranking since 2009.
Many are already pointing to the matchup with No. 3 Alabama on Oct. 4 in Oxford, but two home games stand in the way, starting with Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday.
"There's no question in my mind the bull's-eye that will be on our chest for this week with the group from Lafayette will be huge," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We expect to get their best shot and we have to be prepared for it."
There's also a mutual familiarity from when Freeze was the head coach at Arkansas State in 2011, which was also Mark Hudspeth's first season at Louisiana-Lafayette.
"They didn't play their best the other night," said Freeze, referring to Louisiana-Lafayette's 48-20 loss to Louisiana Tech. "They turned it over and put them in bad spots, but I know we'll get their best, and just a couple years ago they either beat Florida or had them right to the wire.
"From being in that conference, I know how it is for those kids to get a chance to play in these arenas and these games. I know Mark will have them ready and it'll be a good game."
Developing Offensive Line Depth
From week one to week two, the false start penalties decreased from eight to two, while the yards per rush average increased from 2.1 to 3.6, but the coaches continue to want to see improvement from the offensive line as the season progresses.
Freeze said Ole Miss will continue its offensive line rotation against Louisiana-Lafayette, with sophomore tackle/center Robert Conyers and freshman guard Rod Taylor seeing extended action in reserve roles.
Freeze also mentioned Craig Frigo as a candidate for additional reps, but it remains to be seen if redshirt freshman offensive tackle Christian Morris has progressed enough to be game ready.
"He's got a ways to go," Freeze said. "The last couple of weeks, he's been with the scout team and hasn't been working the scheme that we're running. His technique is a ways away too because he hasn't played in a while. I'm glad we have him. We're going to bring him along because we could certainly use him before the year is over for sure, but he still has a ways to go."
Freeze Eyes Two Areas for Improvement
In addition to continuing to work out ways to effectively run the football to be balanced on offense, Freeze mentioned two areas where he wants to see improvement going forward.
Offensively, Freeze wants to see improvements in red-zone scoring, where the Rebels have scored six touchdowns and kicked two fields goals in 10 trips to the red zone through two games.
"In the red zone, sometimes you have to be hard-nosed to run it in, and if they load the box, we feel pretty good about throwing it up to Laquon (Treadwell)," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "It's going to be one of those things, where we're either going to pound it in there, or if they want to put a bunch of people in the box, we feel like we have receivers who can make some plays."
Defensively, Freeze wants the defense to continue to limit explosive plays. He has said on more than one occasion, he's confident in the defense if the opponent has to drive the length of the field consistently.
Through two games, the Rebels have allowed just eight plays of 20 yards or more, which has helped lead to allowing just 8.0 points per game, which ranks fifth in the NCAA and second in the SEC.
"We stopped the run primarily and we got some pressure on the quarterback and we didn't give up explosive plays and I think that's key for us this year," Freeze said after a 41-3 win over Vanderbilt. "We want to make people drive to earn points and I think we did that well."
Rebel Nation goes into its home opener Saturday excited for the return of football at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, but also saddened by the loss of one of its most renowned voices.
Stan Sandroni, 64, passed away of a heart attack late Wednesday. In his 26th season with the Ole Miss Radio Network, he handled the football sideline reports and Locker Room Show until his passing. He touched the lives of so many people.
So saddened to hear of the loss of Stan Sandroni. A wonderful Rebel & better man. Prayers to Glenda, Christopher & all of RebelNation.— Carol Ross (@coachcarolross) September 11, 2014
Man what's a player of the game without getting interviewed by STAN... Jesus blessed us with an ANGEL... You will be missed dearly...-- Deterrian (@Shack_Attack99) September 11, 2014
Amazing to hear how so many were touched by Stan Sandroni. It was an honor to work with him. Prayers from all in #RebelNation for his family-- Kyle Campbell (@CampbellKyle) September 11, 2014
RIP Stan Sandroni. Great Rebel but better person. Will miss his voice on Fall Saturdays.-- Walker Jones (@walkerj29) September 11, 2014
Saddened to hear ab the sudden & tragic passing of Stan Sandroni. He loved Ole Miss sports & treated me so well every time I talked w/ him-- Brett Basham (@brettbasham) September 11, 2014
Prayers and wishes to Stan Sandroni's family. He was a great talent and an even better guy.-- Ron Rychlak (@rrychlak) September 11, 2014
Out heartfelt condolences go out to the Ole Miss community on passing of sideline reporter Stan Sandroni. Been a rough week in Mississippi-- Scott Stricklin (@stricklinMSU) September 11, 2014
Mississippi lost two great assets in college football this week in Jack Cristil and now Stan Sandroni. Very sad Knew Stan's voice as a child-- Todd Wade (@ToddWade71) September 11, 2014
Thoughts and Prayers towards Stan Sandroni's family. It was a pleasure knowing you and thank you for all you have done for @OleMissSports.-- Robert Ratliff (@rbratliff) September 11, 2014
"@nathan_hanson84: Can the state of MS get a RT for losses of 2 great broadcasters in Jack Cristil MSU and Stan Sandroni OM. Rough week."-- Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) September 11, 2014
I am still having a hard time with the realization that Stan Sandroni is gone. He had such a great heart for others. Praying for his family.-- Coach Allen (@Tom_Allen44) September 11, 2014
Unbelievably saddened by the passing of an amazing Rebel. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Sandroni Family. Stan you will be missed.-- OleMissAthFoundation (@OleMissAF) September 11, 2014
Very sad to hear about Stan Sandroni. He and his wife Glenda have been great to our family. Please pray for his family at this hard time.-- Chris Kiffin (@Chris_Kiffin) September 11, 2014
What a week. MSU loses Jack Cristil and now OM has lost sideline Stan Sandroni. Heaven will have an Egg Bowl broadcast team like no other-- Steve Robertson (@ScoutSteveR) September 11, 2014
Thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts on the passing of Stan Sandroni. His loss is overwhelming right now but so is your show of love.-- David Kellum (@RebVoice) September 11, 2014
#OleMiss lost a legend last night. Long-time sideline reporter Stan Sandroni has passed away. He was one of a kind.-- Rebel Sports Radio (@RebelSportRadio) September 11, 2014
Sad to hear of the passing of Stan Sandroni - a mainstay on the Ole Miss Radio Network the last 28 year. Thoughts & prayers to the family.-- John Hartwell (@john_hartwell) September 11, 2014
So saddened by the passing of Stan Sandroni. Kind-hearted man who will be greatly missed. Prayers for his family.-- Joey Jones (@joeyjones3) September 11, 2014
Thoughts and prayers to the Sandroni Family. Stan was a true Rebel and will be missed by all. So sad.....-- Keith Carter (@KeithCarterOM) September 11, 2014
Sad day for #RebelNation. Stan was a great Rebel, as many of us grew up listening to his voice from the sidelines. He will be surely missed-- Paris Buchanan (@paris_buchanan) September 11, 2014
Did a Google image search for Stan, third result was this photo. Looks about damn perfect for this week. http://t.co/k6VPQf5LM4-- Hugh Kellenberger (@HKellenbergerCL) September 11, 2014
Saddened to hear about the passing of Stan Sandroni. Praying for his family during this time. Great guy who loved what he did.-- Chris Buttgen (@cbuttgen) September 11, 2014
Just finished 9/11 memorial run with #OleMiss ROTC & thought about our friend Stan Sandroni throughout. He will be missed dearly by all!-- Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) September 11, 2014
Our thoughts & prayers are with the folks at @OleMissNetwork & the family & friends of sideline reporter Stan Sandroni, who has passed away.-- SiriusXM College (@SiriusXMCollege) September 11, 2014
Sad news today for the Ole Miss family. Stan Sandroni died. http://t.co/yxu8JVkQIA-- Wright Thompson (@wrightthompson) September 11, 2014
Stan Sandroni will always have a starring role in my best memories of Ole Miss Football. RIP.-- OMRebelNation.com (@OMRebelNation) September 11, 2014
Heartbroken. First boss -- the man who hired me after 27 news directors said no-- passed away. Rip Stan Sandroni. http://t.co/ygpmB1ReBq-- Hoda Kotb (@hodakotb) September 11, 2014
Heartbroken to hear of Stan Sandroni's passing. Don't have the words. REBELNATION, pray for Glenda and Christopher. He was a great Rebel!!-- Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) September 11, 2014
Thank God for all the times I spent on sideline with Stan Sandroni. I captured his last time on Saturday! RIP Stan.. pic.twitter.com/dufqnxvQUP-- Angie (@rebel4ever) September 11, 2014
The @OleMissNetwork has lost our sidelines man, Stan Sandroni. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers. We are heartbroken.-- David Kellum (@RebVoice) September 11, 2014
Tonight, we lost an #OleMiss legend, a wonderful husband and an adoring father in Stan Sandroni. Prayers for peace to his family.-- Richard Cross (@RichardCrossH2H) September 11, 2014
Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' home opener Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and will be televised on the SEC Network.
Freeze's time on the call begins at the 1:04:35 mark. For the full SEC teleconference, go here.
I was really excited to see some improvement from week one to week two in a lot of areas. We certainly have a long way to go, but I did think we got some really good play out of some key positions like quarterback and our wide receivers, and our offensive line certainly took a step forward. We still have a ways to go, like I said, and defensively we continue to play really well, holding an opponent in this conference under 200 yards. It was a solid, solid day, and our special teams were solid. We played a pretty complete game. I'm excited about that, and hopefully we can get back up and do the same thing this Saturday against a very talented Lafayette team.
On Bo Wallace's performance since the first half against Boise State...
"If you take the first half out, I think everybody would say he's been phenomenal. The second half of the game and the two-and-a-half quarters he played at Vandy were as solid as I have seen him play. He was pressing quite a bit in the first half (against Boise State) and tried to force some throws down the field. We really haven't changed anything about the way we prepare him. He's settled in and hopefully will continue to understand that we have a quality defense and that he doesn't have to force things offensively, take what we have, try to keep us on schedule and that it's OK to punt. Hopefully he keeps that mindset moving forward. He certainly has played really well the last game and in the second half of the Boise game.
On Bo Wallace's maturity...
"There's no question he's much more mature. He never got rattled or showed any signs of being down. He just wanted to get the next possession going. He handled it well, and our team handled it well. We were all encouraging him. He's very resilient. To be a quarterback in this league and have some of the tough losses that you have some times and to get some of the criticism, you have to be resilient, and he's very much that."
On the 2014 schedule...
"I don't have enough power to control any of the scheduling. I wish I did. I assure you, if I had a say in it, absolutely it would be broken up some because that's going to be a murderous stretch to go through with those quality teams. I wish we could break it up, but unfortunately I have no control over that. We have to control what we can and that's preparing to play the best we can. It would be nice if it was broken up some."
On the team and where he wants the team to improve...
"Our team has great chemistry and is very hungry. Those are the two things. I love our staff. There are no egos. We all want to do the best we can here in mentoring young men, first in life, and then hopefully win some football games with them. I like our team as far as that goes.
"We have to continue to work out ways to effectively run the football to be balanced on offense. We have to improve our red-zone scoring of touchdowns, and defensively we have to continue to make sure we don't give up the big plays. I think our defense is talented enough that if people have to drive the length of the field consistently on us we're going to win some of those battles. In the past, we have given up some big plays. We haven't yet this year, and hopefully that will continue."
Former Ole Miss football player Jody Hill has partnered with Square Books in Oxford to launch his book, "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect," celebrating the life and impact of his Ole Miss teammate Chucky Mullins.
Hill will be signing copies of his book on Friday starting at 5 p.m at Off Square Books in Oxford. Billy Brewer, who was Hill and Mullins' head coach at Ole Miss, will also be in attendance at the event that will kick off the release of the book.
For more information, visit Hill's website here.
What members of the Ole Miss family are saying about "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect":
"My former player Jody Hill has written a firsthand account of the life and legacy of our beloved Chucky Mullins. This is not hearsay, but the direct feelings offered by family, friends and teammates. Every Rebel needs to read this, He got it right!"
Cooper Manning, former Ole Miss football player
"My Ole Miss teammate Jody Hill has written a heartfelt tribute to his teammate Chucky Mullins. Although Chucky and I never played together, Jody has helped me to better understand and appreciate Chucky's impact upon so many. I recommend this read to everyone who has a love for Ole Miss or Chucky Mullins. I think you will find it to be an inspiration"
Carver and Karen Phillips, Mullins' guardians
"We were fortunate enough to be blessed by sharing our lives with Chucky. We believe this book will be a blessing to many others as they learn more about this very special person. Chucky has encouraged many through his motto: 'Never Quit.' We pray that each one who reads this book will also be inspired by Chucky's story."
From week one to week two, head coach Hugh Freeze and offensive line coach Matt Luke are generally pleased with the progress along the offensive line.
The number of false start penalties went from eight to two, while the ground game improved from 34 carries for 71 yards, a 2.1 yard per rush average, to 50 carries for 180 yards, a 3.6 yards per rush average.
"They were prepared this week and there was some good and some bad," Freeze said Monday. "We have to continue to work on them understanding what we are facing and getting better at their technique, but there were a lot better things up front against a good defensive line."
"There was some improvement from week one to week two, and I want to continue to see improvement as we go forward," Luke said. "That's the key on any team."
Sophomore offensive tackle/center Robert Conyers missed Tuesday's practice with a hip flexor, but Freeze expects him to practice tomorrow and play on Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette.
In his absence, junior Fahn Cooper got additional reps at right tackle, where he started each of the first two games with Conyers playing some behind him. Cooper was flagged for three penalties against Vanderbilt, including a holding penalty that resulted in a touchdown being called back.
"I was disappointed in those penalties because they cost us a touchdown and we had to settle for a field goal," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "Anytime you take points off the board, you're not pleased with that, but I do think for sticking a guy in there coming out of junior college without the benefit of spring practice, he's going out there and battling and doing well for what he has been asked to do.
"He's going to keep improving as the experience happens. I remember when Pierce Burton went through some of those same growing pains."
Behind Cooper and Conyers, the coaches are also bringing along redshirt freshman Christian Morris, who recently received a hardship waiver from the NCAA. He and redshirt freshman Davion Johnson split reps at No. 2 left tackle behind sophomore Laremy Tunsil.
"He looked good," Luke said. "He's rusty. He's probably a few pounds overweight just from not getting him as many reps on the scout team. He's rusty. We worked him in with the 2's some today and we're going to bring him along slowly. It's obviously good to have that extra body to get in there some. I don't know if he's quite game ready yet, but we're working toward that for sure."
Like Cooper, Luke expects freshman offensive guard Rod Taylor to improve as he gets more reps in practice and gets more experience in games. He and junior offensive guard Craig Frigo both saw extended action against Vanderbilt
"I was pleased," Luke said. "He played physical. He got beat on a pass rush right before the half, but I was pleased with him. He was out there bouncing around with a lot of energy. He played really physically and had some pancakes. He showed his ability and showed what we thought he could be."
Core, Others Not Surprised by His Fast Start
After setting career highs with four catches for 110 yards and two touchdown against Boise State, junior wide receiver Cody Core followed it up with four catches for 85 yards and another touchdown against Vanderbilt.
"I wouldn't say I saw it coming, but I knew something was going to come if I kept working hard," said Core of the start to his season.
In his new role as the team's No. 1 slot receiver, he's already set career high with his two-game season totals of eight catches, 195 yards and three touchdowns. He's averaging 24.4 yards per catch and he is tied for first nationally with five receiving plays of 20 yards or more.
"It's his first chance and first opportunity," Freeze said. "He didn't all of a sudden become talented. It's time now with Ja-Mes (Logan) and Donte (Moncrief) gone, it's time for a kid in the program to step up now and have his chance, and he's used that."
"I've always thought he could be a good player for us," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "I think it's just his opportunity. He's surprised me with how well he is (running) after the catch. He made some good moves after the catch in the Vandy game. I've always known he was able to play ball. It's really not a huge surprise."
Sept. 1-7, 2014
- Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the USA Today Coaches poll after its dominating 41-3 victory at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
- It was the Rebels' largest margin of victory against an SEC opponent since beating Mississippi State 45-0 in 2008.
- Ole Miss ranks fifth in the nation in scoring defense (8.0 ppg) and second nationally with five interceptions.
- Ole Miss outgained Vandy 331-76 in total offense at halftime and finished 547-167. The Rebels also piled up 34 first downs -- the most in a game under Freeze.
- Vanderbilt didn't get past midfield against the Rebels until the final couple minutes of the third quarter, and the Commodores had to settle for a field goal after recovering DeVante Kincade's fumble at the Ole Miss 5 in the fourth quarter.
- The Rebels captured the Memphis Invitational this past weekend, defeating Memphis (3-2), Arkansas State (3-1) and UT-Martin (3-1) to win their second consecutive tournament title to open the year.
- Junior Nakeyta Clair, sophomore Aubrey Edie and junior Ty Laporte were named to the All-Tournament team, while Clair earned Most Valuable Player honors for the second week in a row.
- Clair finished the tournament with 55 kills, nine blocks and hit .463. She posted double-digit kills in all three matches, including a career-high 20 in the win over UT-Martin. Laporte finished with 13 blocks (1.00 bps) and equaled her career-best (eight) in the win against Memphis. Edie tallied 149 assists (11.40 aps).
- The Rebels are 7-0 to start the year for the first time since the 2007 season. They are also the only SEC team still undefeated on the season.
- For the weekend, the Rebels averaged 14.00 kills per set and 1.85 blocks per set. In the tournament finale, the Rebels hit .312 to defeat UT-Martin 3-1.
- Senior Cara Fisher was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Week last week for her performance at the Buffalo Classic.
- Olivia Harrison tallied her first career hat trick, including the golden goal, to give Ole Miss a 3-2 double overtime win over Minnesota on Friday.
- Harrison scored two goals in three minutes Friday night against the Gophers to tie the match for the Rebels.
- Harrison and sophomore Addie Forbus had two of the three hat tricks recorded by an SEC team this weekend following Harrison's performance on Friday night.
- Jessica Hiskey tallied her third goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Memphis on Sunday night as the Rebels went undefeated on the weekend.
The No. 15 Ole Miss football scored early and often defeating Vanderbilt 41-3 in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. The Rebels return home for its home opener against Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, the first of three home games also including Memphis (Sept. 27) and No. 2 Alabama (Oct. 4). Here are a few Ole Miss-Vanderbilt related tweets and links to audio, videos and stories:
AUDIO: Ole Miss-Vanderbilt highlights from the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network
VIDEO: Ole Miss-Vanderbilt highlights from ESPN
Ole Miss QB Wallace rebounds, makes better decisions, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger
Turning Point: Ole Miss sets tone with timely turnovers, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger
It's hard not to think about Alabama bout, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger
Three Rebels from Midstate have happy homecoming, writes Sam Brown of The Tennesseean
This week's win more satisfying, writes Parrish Alford of The Daily Journal
Looking forward, writes Ben Garrett of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
What we learned from Ole Miss 41, Vanderbilt 3, writes Craig Stephenson of AL.com
What we learned in the SEC: Week 2, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com
Won today's game by 38. R.I.P Chucky Mullins.-- Quincy Adeboyejo (@QuincyA18) September 7, 2014
In the Music City since March 2013 we've won an SEC championship & 3-0 in football games. Nashville you've been great for #OleMiss Thanks!-- Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) September 7, 2014
Must say Ole Miss was pretty impressive. A Hotty Toddy to everyone.-- Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) September 7, 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After a 28-point explosion in the fourth quarter to pull away from Boise State in the season opener, the Ole Miss offense delivered a message loud and clear in a 41-3 demolition of Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Ole Miss rolled up 34 first downs and 547 yards of total offense, averaging 6.2 yards per play and converting 10 of its 15 third-down attempts. The Rebels scored on seven of their first eight drives, with the one exception being their fifth drive that ended the first half.
"They gave us exactly what we thought," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We had a good game plan, and guys were running wide open the whole night. Guys made some plays after the catch, and we put up some yards."
Wallace led the way with perhaps the most complete game of his Ole Miss career, completing 23-of-30 passes and shredding the Vanderbilt defense for 320 yards and a touchdown. It was his second straight 300-yard passing game, the ninth of his career, which is one shy of tying Eli Manning's school record.
Between the second half of the Boise State game and the first half of the Vanderbilt game, Wallace completed 31-of-39 passes for 488 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The 488 yards would have shattered Archie Manning's school-record 436 yards against Alabama in 1969.
"He didn't make any bad decisions, or anything that was even close," co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said.
With a 34-0 lead halfway through the third quarter, Wallace made way for redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, who combined to lead the Rebels on a 13-play, 68-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Kincade, his first career touchdown.
"That was fun for me," said Wallace of watching the game from the sideline. "I was watching Ryan warm up and I was laughing at him because I could tell he was a little nervous. It was good. They did a really good job."
The quarterbacks completed passes to eight different receivers. Five receivers caught at least four passes, led by sophomore tight end Evan Engram with career highs in receptions (7) and yards (112) and junior wide receiver Cody Core who hauled in his third touchdown catch of the season.
The Rebels also got the running game off the ground, rushing for 180 yards on 50 carries, a 3.6 average, after being held to 71 yards in the season opener against Boise State.
"We have to continue it," said Wallace of the start of the season for the offense. "There are some things we have to clean up. The defense is doing a great job in getting us the ball where we can run some plays. There's always something to clean up, so we'll watch the film tomorrow, and I'm sure we won't feel as good about it as we do right now."
Three areas to watch as Ole Miss travels to Nashville for its SEC opener against Vanderbilt from LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.
Rebels Look to Get Ground Game Rolling
The coaches challenged the players this week after Ole Miss rushed for just 71 yards on 34 attempts (a 2.1 yards per rush average), and had no gains of 20 yards of more. The Rebels also look to clean up their penalties, as they committed seven false starts in the first half alone against Boise State.
For Vanderbilt, it will be its second game after switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defensive alignment under its new coaching staff. In their first game, the Commodores allowed 4.3 yards per play, including 3.2 yards per play on the ground, and held Temple to 2-of-17 on third-down conversions.
"We made the adjustments at halftime and did much better in the second half," said Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke on Tuesday. "We can play more physical and obviously play better. That's the goal. You have to go out there and go to work and get your mistakes corrected. You kind of have a sick feeling even though you won the game, and you want to try to get that corrected going into game two."
Commodores Seek Consistency at Quarterback
After playing three different quarterbacks in a 37-7 season-opening loss to Temple, Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason said he is looking for consistency at the position against Ole Miss.
Sophomore Patton Robinette, graduate student Stephen Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary are all listed as co-starters on the depth chart this week, and Mason said he would not announce the starter publicly prior to the game.
Robinette started the game against Temple, completing 4-of-6 passes for 38 yards, while Rivers earned the most playing time, completing 12-of-25 passes for 186 yards and an interception.
"You go through the process of evaluating and you want to see what you see in practice measure up to what you see on game day," said Mason in his weekly press conference Tuesday. "We don't have the consistency at the position that you'd like but I needed to see all three guys in order to see where we are."
Rivalry Feel, NFL Atmosphere in SEC Opener
It's a rivalry born out of competitiveness, but that's what Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have become in recent years. There have been notable exceptions, but it's been a closely contested series, with 10 of the last 15 meetings decided by eight points or less.
Two years ago, Vanderbilt erased a 17-point second-half deficit, and rallied to win 27-26 in Oxford. Last year, in Nashville, Ole Miss snapped the Commodores' three-game winning streak in the series with a 39-35 win behind a late 75-yard touchdown run from Jeff Scott.
Saturday marks the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams and the game will be played inside LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. With a large Ole Miss contingent in the Nashville area, it might resemble a neutral-site to a pro-Ole Miss crowd.
"They tend to get up extremely high for us," said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze of Vanderbilt. "It means a lot being in such close proximity in recruiting. We recruit a lot of the same kids in the Tennessee area. It means a lot to both programs. It's been every competitive and they have always played us tough up there for whatever reason."
Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. CT at Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans.
For the full SEC teleconference, go here.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason (starts at 24:58 mark)
"Our football team is coming off a tough loss versus Temple. We found out a lot about ourselves in terms of who we are offensively, defensively and on special teams. The quarterback situation has been definitely resolving itself. We're working though the process of making sure that our schemes fit what their skill sets are.
"In terms of our offensive line, we're working toward getting on track and doing what we do. It will be great to get Jerron Seymour back. Ralph Webb ran extremely well. The tight ends were very productive. In terms of the run and pass game, we need to make sure that those guys have opportunities for touches. We had a young receiving core group grow up in front of our eyes. That's where we are offensively.
"Defensively, we're looking at how we played. This group is definitely capable of doing great things. We have to keep being about the work at hand. Our focus is sharp and narrow, just in terms of the opponent in front of us. We're going to face a really good Ole Miss team. Our defensive unit has a tough task ahead. Our front has to continue working toward stopping the run, being able to set edges on the perimeter and playing from the top down in the secondary."
On the team's bounce back since the loss to Temple...
"They have done exactly what they needed to do and that's make the corrections, re-focus, understand who they are and understand more or less what we need to in order to be the team that we want to be. That's a day-to-day focus and day-to-day commitment. We work toward dominating the day. The practices have been physical and fast. That's the way we like it and that's the way we need to be."
On the offensive tempo of Ole Miss...
"Ole Miss is going to be much faster than Temple. They can go at a much faster pace and they have several speeds. They can go from a regular tempo, to a NASCAR tempo, to a warp-speed tempo. The ball is being hiked with anywhere from 20-28 seconds left (on the play clock). You have to know and understand what their mechanics are, and once you know their mechanics, you have to make sure you get lined up, get your calls in, structure your defense and play fast."
On a rivalry feel in games against Ole Miss...
"On Saturday, we looked at a little bit of Ole Miss in terms of preparing these guys, and some of the veterans got up and talked about the rivalry between the two schools, what it is and how tight it's been. That's where your leadership has to come out and give you a chance to understand the scope of the game. Not only is it an SEC opponent, but it's a rivalry game. There's always a little more on these rivalry games, but it also helped us understand where we need to go and what the level of intensity is going to be. With Ole Miss having a decent fan base here in the Nashville area, it's going to be a great crowd. We're excited and looking forward to it."
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (starts at 58:12 mark)
"We're excited to come away with a win last week against Boise in the Chick-fil-A (Kickoff) Classic. Let me take a moment to say what a wonderful organization Chick-fil-A is for our sport and the partnership they have with the SEC. Those guys are super people and run a first-class deal, so we were excited to represent our conference there and come away with a win.
"Our defense played extremely well for most of the game, as did our special teams. Offensively, we struggled the entire first half, but we settled (down) in the second half and played much better, so hopefully we can continue improving in all areas this Saturday up in Nashville."
On a rivalry feel in games against Vanderbilt...
"I've only been back here for two years, but we've had two phenomenal games with them. When I was an assistant here, we had some good ones also, so it's been more the competitiveness of the games when we played them. They tend to get up extremely high for us. It means a lot being in such close proximity in recruiting. We recruit a lot of the the same kids in the Tennessee area. It means a lot to both programs. It's been every competitive and they have always played us tough up there for whatever reason, and most of the time here (in Oxford) also."
On playing at LP Field and whether it will seem like an Ole Miss home game...
"It will be my first experience playing them there. In our bowl game, we certainly traveled well to (LP Field). Our fans always travel well, so I expect to have a very good representation there. It would be nice if it does, but I'm not sure if it will or not."
On Cody Core separating himself from other receivers and earning a start against Boise State...
"Probably after the second week, he was the most consistent that we had. We were playing him outside for the first two weeks, but he kept showing up. He's an intelligent young man, so we started moving him inside some, hoping to get the return of Collins Moore who could play outside, and we needed more depth inside with a bigger body besides just Quincy (Adeboyejo). We moved him there and he picked it up very quickly and continued to be the most consistent performer throughout camp.
"I couldn't be more pleased for his success. Everyone knows about the tragedy that he went through in losing his mother who was very young and was a super lady who influenced many people as a schoolteacher. Our team was so ecstatic for him to have success in his first game."
In case you missed it, The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 1
Vanderbilt played three different quarterbacks in a 37-7 season-opening loss to Temple, with sophomore Patton Robinette getting the start and graduate student Stephen Rivers earning the majority of the playing time, as he completed 12-of-25 passes for 186 yards to lead the Commodores.
Vanderbilt was limited to 4.41 yards per play and committed seven turnovers that directly led to 27 Temple points. Robinette, Rivers and redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary are all listed as co-starters entering Saturday's game
"You can't just go off that one game," Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said Tuesday. "I totally don't expect to see that offense this week. Our players are mature enough to know it's not going to be like that."
For Ole Miss, junior defensive tackle Issac Gross practiced Tuesday after missing the season opener against Boise State. While he did not know his official status, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said Gross practiced well and he fully expects him to be back for Saturday's game against Vanderbilt.
The coaches are also excited about the return of junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche. An All-SEC second team selection last season, Nkemdiche is expected to split time at Stinger linebacker with senior Serderius Bryant. There may also be third-down and 4-3 packages with both of them on the field.
"Last year, after the knee injury and surgery after the Vanderbilt game, I don't know that he ever recovered," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. "He always had a little gimp in his leg, and I don't see that during fall camp. I see a kid who is hungry to play and hungry to prove himself again.
"He has gone through everything with us, and he's ready to play. It's just a matter of getting the game plan down this week. He and Serderius (Bryant) will split time at that spot. I'm sure we'll have a third-down package for both of them on the field. We're excited to have him back."
Sophomore Derrick Jones had been listed as the No. 3 boundary cornerback behind junior Mike Hilton and senior Cliff Coleman each of the past two weeks. It might be something, it might be nothing, but Jones worked with the wide receivers during the portions of Tuesday's practice open to the media.
"There's great competition there (at cornerback)," Freeze said Monday. "The other guys are playing really well, not that he didn't play well. We'll need him before the year is up, but the great thing about football is you get to compete. We certainly try to play the best kids out there, and we love Derrick. I expect him to play a lot of football for us before his time is over.
"Right now the others, Senquez (Golson) and Kendarius Webster and those, are playing pretty solid. There are some things Derrick is better at than they are. They didn't really threaten us, but if we get in the red zone against big receivers you'll see Derrick. There are certain things he has to continue to improve on."
Adjustments Along the Offensive Line
In Monday's press conference, Freeze challenged the offensive line after Ole Miss rushed for just 71 yards on 34 attempts, a 2.1 yards per rush average, in a 35-13 win over Boise State.
"We didn't play physical, and that's a result of the stemming and noise that was being made," Freeze said Monday. "We jumped offsides so many times. You know what we're saying to them, and they think they better not jump offsides so they were a little tentative. We got it fixed at halftime, but it was still not physical in the second half in the run game."
It appears the offensive line has answered that challenge in the practices since the Boise State game last Thursday.
"We made the adjustments at halftime and did much better in the second half," offensive line coach Matt Luke said Tuesday. "We can play more physical and obviously play better. That's the goal. You have to go out there and go to work and get your mistakes corrected. You kind of have a sick feeling even though you won the game and you want to try get that corrected going into game two."
Luke also noted some possible changes and the challenge of developing chemistry with playing different players in different spots along the offensive line.
"It will take a little while, but everyone has to do their job and step up and handle their job," Luke said Tuesday. "That will occur. We'll look at (Robert) Conyers at center some more and Fahn (Cooper) playing more and you're going to see Rod Taylor some at guard because the heat will be a factor and it will be important to keep some guys fresh."
"We'd never really played beside each other, but at the end of the day, we trust each other and that's the most important thing," junior offensive guard Justin Bell said Tuesday. "I feel like we got things clicking. We have worked real hard on this week, feeling each other out. I expect big things out of us."
Aug. 25-31, 2014
- No. 18 Ole Miss opened the 2014 season with a 35-13 win over Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
- The Rebels led 7-6 entering the fourth quarter when senior quarterback Bo Wallace and the offense exploded for 28 fourth-quarter points to cruise to victory.
- Wallace passed for 387 yards and four touchdowns, and receivers Laquon Treadwell and Cody Core both set career highs and went over 100 receiving yards.
- The Rebel defense picked off the Broncos four times, including Cody Prewitt's 10th career interception that ranks him top 10 in school history.
- Logging his first start, junior wide receiver Cody Core finished with four catches for a career-high 110 yards and his first two career touchdowns.
- Ole Miss kicked off the Steven McRoberts era this past weekend by winning the Buffalo Classic. The Rebels defeated Canisius, Siena, Lehigh and Buffalo all by 3-0 scores to capture their first tournament title away from home since 2007.
- The Rebels started the year 4-0 for the first time since 2007 and swept their first four matches for the first time since 1984.
- Melanie Crow, Aubrey Edie and Nakyeta Clair were named to the All-Tournament Team, while Clair earned Most Valuable Player honors.
- The Rebels averaged 15.0 kills per set, led by Crow, who posted 46 kills for an average of 3.83 kills per set. Crow came up with several big kills in Sunday's win over Buffalo to stave off the Bulls and also added 13 blocks, 7 service aces and hit .320 for the weekend.
- Clair finished the tournament with 42 kills and 13 blocks and hit .381, while Edie tallied 149 assists (12.42 per set).
- The Ole Miss men's cross country team opened the 2014 season on a high note, tying for first at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic. Three runners finished in the top 10 for the Rebels.
- In his first event as a Rebel, freshman Mark Robertson recorded the best time for Ole Miss in the four-mile run. His time of 20:07.74 was good for second overall in the event.
- The first-place finish was against a field consisting of four regionally ranked teams.
- The Rebel women's cross country team finished third in the Twilight Classic, ahead of two other regionally ranked teams.
- Sophomore Mary Alex England's fifth-place finish in the 5K led the way for the Rebels.
- Of the 10 Rebels who competed in the opening event, five were freshmen and four were sophomores.
- Sophomore Addie Forbus turned in her first hat trick and added two assists to help the Rebels defeat Louisiana-Lafayette 5-1 on Sunday.
- Junior Jessica Hiskey added a pair of goals against Louisiana-Lafayette as the Rebels improved to 2-1-1 on the season.
- The Rebels split on the weekend, dropping a road contest at Louisville 1-0 on Friday before picking up the win over the Ragin' Cajuns to close out play in week two of competition.
The SEC Storied documentary "It's Time," centered on the the inspirational friendship between former Vanderbilt football player Brad Gaines and former Ole Miss football player Chucky Mullins, will premiere on Tuesday on the Vanderbilt campus and will debut on Thursday at 7 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.
"It's time is a film about two people whose lives change in one football play," said Fritz Mitchell in his director statement. "Before Oct. 28, 1989, Brad Gaines and Chucky Mullins had never heard of each other. After that day, they would be bonded in friendship and they would never be the same again."
From the ESPN MediaZone press release:
On October 28, 1989, Ole Miss defensive back Chucky Mullins hit Vanderbilt running back Brad Gaines in the back and separated him from the ball. While Gaines was uninjured, Mullins suffered a broken neck on the play, leaving him a quadriplegic. But in that heartbreaking moment, a friendship was born that lasted another two years, until Mullins died of a blood clot in a Memphis hospital room, with Gaines at his side. "It's Time" will chronicle the inspirational journeys of these two men brought together by tragedy.
Here are some more clips from ESPN:
1.) Great season-opening win by the Ole Miss football team. Was it always pretty? No. Does it matter? Not really. At the end of the day, the Rebels are 1-0, which is a fact half the teams in the country cannot say.
2.) He plays a position that doesn't always (OK, ever) get a whole lot of attention, but can we please give a shout out to Will Gleeson? The Punter from Down Under was a beast Thursday night against Boise State. Not only did he punt for distance, he also punted with precision, landing three of his four punts inside the Broncos' 20-yard line, including a 70-yarder that stopped at the 7.
3.) Here's a nice story on Gleeson from Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger from back on Aug. 10. Check it out.
4.) We had read and heard about the Ole Miss defense throughout fall camp, but when they're going against the Ole Miss offense there (obviously) aren't any big hits so as to prevent injury. Well, my guess is those defensive players had a little energy built up. There were some absolutely massive hits Thursday from a number of folks. Check out this Vine showing three of the bigger hits: https://vine.co/v/MlV2vObKAxE.
5.) In camp, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said he expected really big things from sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche. The former consensus No. 1 overall recruit didn't disappoint. While his stats weren't necessarily eye-opening, if you watched the game you saw how much attention he drew from the Broncos, which thus freed up his teammates for three sacks and 10 tackles for loss. I really liked this quote from Nkemdiche after the game: "The Rebel defense really made a statement and are really getting an identity. You better get used to it. It's the new normal for us."
6.) Senquez Golson had a big-time game for the Rebels against Boise State. The senior from Pascagoula, Mississippi, made a game-high tying eight solo tackles, including one tackle for a loss and he also had a key interception in the end zone.
7.) Speaking of that interception in the end zone, the key to the game may have been the Rebels' defense bending but never breaking in the first half. Boise State had two drives stall inside the Ole Miss 5-yard line. In total, the Broncos ran seven plays inside the Ole Miss 5 and came away with just three points. If Boise State scores two touchdowns there the whole game could have been different.
8.) Stop me if you've heard this before: Cody Prewitt picked off a pass. The first team All-American picked up right where he left off a year ago when he led the Southeastern Conference with six interceptions.
9.) While there wound up being a lot of good that came from Thursday's game, there were also a couple head scratchers. Fourteen penalties is a whale of a number, first game or not, and that's surely something Coach Freeze and the rest of the Rebel coaching staff will be focusing on prior to their next game at Vanderbilt. Of the 14 penalties, half came as a result of false start calls ... in the first half.
10.) Ole Miss will also look to kick start its running game its next time out. Ole Miss finished the day with 34 rushes for just 71 yards and a touchdown. I, for one, believe the Ole Miss running back corps is a position of strength and the remainder of the year will be a different story.
11.) Here's a fun fact: With Thursday's win, Ole Miss Football is now 8-0 all-time in the month of August.
12.) Did you see Josh McCoy's photo gallery of the football game? Do yourself a favor and click here to check it out: http://www.olemisssports.com/view.gal?id=164946. He's the best photographer in the biz, folks. You can also follow him on Twitter at @OleMissPix.
13.) What a great weekend for the Ole Miss volleyball team as it kicked off the Steven McRoberts era in grand fashion by going 4-0 in Buffalo, New York, at the Buffalo Classic.
14.) The Rebels didn't drop a set throughout the entirety of the tournament. The Rebels' 4-0 start is their best start since 2007, and it's their first time opening a season without dropping a set in their first four matches since 1984. Wow. The volleyball team will play in three matches next week (Sept. 5-6) in nearby Memphis, Tennessee, before hosting two tournaments in back-to-back weekends Sept. 11-12 and Sept. 18-20.
15.) The Ole Miss soccer team also continued its strong start to the year with a 1-1 weekend that saw it bounce back from a 1-0 loss at Louisville on Friday with a 5-1 win over Louisiana-Lafayette at the Ole Miss Soccer Stadium on Sunday. Love seeing a team respond from its first loss with five goals and a victory.
16.) The soccer team is now 2-1-1 after facing four tough opponents to open the season. Come on out to support your Rebels this upcoming week for two home games against Minnesota and Memphis on Sept. 5 and Sept. 7, respectively. It's a fun environment and the team really feeds off a strong crowd.
The No. 18 Ole Miss football team won the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game defeating Boise State 35-13. The Rebels move into Southeastern Conference next week with a road test at Vanderbilt from Nashville's LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. The Commodores are coming off a 37-7 home loss to Temple on Thursday night. Here are a few Ole Miss-Boise State related links to audio, videos and stories:
AUDIO: Ole Miss-Boise State highlights from the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network
VIDEO: Ole Miss-Boise State highlights from ESPN
VIDEO: Vine supercut of big hits from Keith Lewis, Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner
Plays that changed the game: Ole Miss, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com
Freeze keeps faith in uneven Ole Miss QB Wallace, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger
Ole Miss defense flashes dominance against Boise State, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger
Turning Point: Treadwell's big drive rescues Ole Miss, writes Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger
Winning Late, writes Jeff Roberson of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Player of the Game: Laquon Treadwell, writes Ben Garett of The Ole Miss Spirit/Scout.com
Uneasy feeling ends in good feeling for No. 19 Ole Miss, writes George Schroeder of USA Today
What we learned from Ole Miss 35, Boise State 13, writes Mike Herndon of AL.com
And in case you missed it, "Ole Miss Pulls Away Late, Wins 35-13" on OleMissSports.com and two posts on Ole Miss Blog: "Second-Half Surge for Rebel Offese" with Bo Wallace and Laquon Treadwell videos "'The New Normal' on Defense" with Robert Nkemdiche and Cody Prewitt videos.
ATLANTA -- Boise State had been the highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 40.2 points per game dating back to the 2000 season.
Highlighted by four interceptions, eight tackles for loss and big hits by several different players, the Rebels held the Broncos to 13 points in a 35-13 win in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game from Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
"The Rebel defense really made a statement and are really getting an identity," sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. "You better get used to it. It's the new normal for us."
Boise State made three trips to the red zone, and the Ole Miss defense held the Broncos to just 10 points, including two trips when the game was very much in doubt in the first half.
"We talk about winning the critical areas, and those are third down, fourth down and red zone, and had our defense not won those critical areas tonight, we were fighting an uphill battle for sure, but those were big stops," head coach Hugh Freeze said.
With the game scoreless in the first quarter, senior cornerback Senquez Golson stopped a six-play, 51-yard Boise State drive with an interception in the end zone.
Later in the half, after Ole Miss went ahead 7-0, Boise State looked to answer and had the ball first-and-goal from the Ole Miss 1-yard line. The Rebels defense stonewalled the Broncos on three straight plays, including two tackles for loss, to hold them to a field goal.
"For a defense to stop a team in the red zone, especially a team as Boise is at scoring, that means a lot," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "That goes to show that we're never going to blink, we're always going to play the next play and we're really confident in each other and the coaches' game plan."
Prewitt, sophomore Huskie Tony Conner and junior defensive C.J. Johnson also had interceptions in the game, as the Rebels intercepted four passes for the first time since the 2011 season against Southern Illinois. For Prewitt, it was his 10th career interception after he led the Southeastern Conference with six interceptions last season.
The defense finished with just three sacks, but they created consistent pressure for much of the game, which helped lead to turnovers.
"I'm so excited to see our pass rush develop throughout the season," Prewitt said. "They're a really good group of athletes down there. Whenever they're going at the quarterback like they are, that's whenever we're going to start getting picks, fumbles and everything."
ATLANTA -- After an up-and-down first half, which included a touchdown and three interceptions, senior quarterback Bo Wallace and the Ole Miss offense found their stride in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Leading 7-6 early in the fourth quarter, the Rebels faced 3rd-and-8 on the Boise State 43. The Broncos jumped offsides and Wallace took advantage, finding sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell for a 29-yard gain to the Boise State 14.
Two plays later, Wallace found Treadwell for a 14-yard touchdown pass, the first of four touchdowns the Rebels would score in the frame, as they went on to defeat Boise State 35-13 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game from the Georgia Dome.
"I felt like we could move it on him the whole time," Wallace said. "I was throwing interceptions and we were jumping offsides. They never stopped us the whole night. It was us stopping ourselves every time."
The coaches and players credited a silent count for helping eliminate some of the false starts and keep the offense on schedule and ahead of the chains, which paved the way for the offensive explosion in the fourth quarter that featured 28 points and 216 yards of total offense.
"With our scheme, because we go so fast, we were going on a quick count," said co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner of the change to a silent count. "They were getting lined up and they would shift and they would yell, 'shift,' so the line hears it and they think it's the quarterback. In the second half, we went to a silent count when we weren't listening for the snap count and we cleaned up the false starts."
"We went silent snap count and that slowed their movements and their shifting, and he was able to go through his reads without it having to be third-and-long and second-and-long," Treadwell said.
For the game, Wallace completed 25-of-36 passes for 387 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions, throwing for 239 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half.
On the receiving end, Ole Miss had two receivers set career highs and finish with 100-plus receiving yards. Treadwell hauled in a team-high seven catches for 105 yards and a touchdown, while junior wide receiver Cody Core, making his first career start, had four catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
"We got in a rhythm," said Wallace of the second half. "The short passes got me in a rhythm and not trying to do too much. The first half, I was trying to do too much. The first game, I was trying to come out and do things I shouldn't have done. We got it together in the second half and had a good one."
Three areas to watch as Ole Miss opens its 2014 season in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game against Boise State from Atlanta's Georgia Dome.
Contrast in Experience
Boise State has one of the youngest teams in the country with 67 freshmen and sophomores among the team's 105-player roster, and the youth is apparent along the offensive line compared to the deep and experienced Ole Miss defensive line.
Boise State returns just 26 starts along its offensive line, tied for the seventh-fewest in the nation. Entering 2014, Marcus Henry had started a team-high 12 games, followed by Rees Odhiambo (eight), Travis Averill (three), Steven Baggett (two) and Mario Yakoo (one).
With their two returning starters switching positions -- Henry moving from right guard to center and Odhiambo moving from right tackle to left tackle -- the Broncos are breaking in a new starter at each position along the offensive line.
Ole Miss returns 59 starts among its two-deep along the defensive line, led by Bryon Bennett with 21 starts, followed by C.J. Johnson (17), Robert Nkemdiche (10), Woodrow Hamilton (nine) and Lavon Hooks (2), not including Issac Gross (11) who may or may not play against Boise State.
The Rebels also add FIU transfer Fadol Brown and mid-year enrollee Marquis Haynes, who have drawn rave reviews throughout fall practice.
First Live Look at Special Teams
Junior running back Jaylen Walton has served as the team's primary kick returner in each of the last two seasons. Outside of Walton, there are capable but unproven players in many key roles on special teams.
Redshirt freshman punter Will Gleeson has impressed throughout fall practice with his sky punt and coming-out punts, but he has not seen action in a game.
Senior Andrew Fletcher, who converted both of his PAT tries in the two games he has played, and freshman Gary Wunderlich are listed as co-starters at kicker.
Sophomore safety Anthony Alford is listed as the starting punt returner, and while he played in nine games with starts at quarterback for Southern Miss in 2012, he has not fielded a punt in game action.
Freeze has talked about the team's depth, and it will likely show on the special teams coverage and return units, but it will be the first significant action for many key players.
It might not have the star power of the 2013 signing class, but the coaches have raved about the depth of the 2014 class from top to bottom. Compared to years past, there are far fewer freshmen pressed into significant roles, with just five among the two-deep in Rod Taylor (RG), Marquis Haynes (DE), A.J. Moore (Huskie) Kendarius Webster (BCB) and C.J. Hampton (FS).
"This circus around recruiting now and the social media and everything that builds these kids up to be something so, so phenomenal -- they are good players, but when they get to the real world of this level of football, there are also a lot of good players here," head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday. "We hope that continues to where we don't have to play as many."
In addition to those five, Freeze also mentioned defensive back C.J. Moore, linebacker Demarquis Gates and perhaps wide receiver Markell Pack as freshmen who will get significant snaps in the season opener Thursday.
Look for the freshman impact on special teams, particularly early in the season.
For high school football players in Georgia, all roads lead to the Georgia Dome and the state championships.
For a handful of Rebels, those roads lead home, as Ole Miss opens the 2014 season against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic at the Georgia Dome on Thursday night.
"It's huge for me," said sophomore tight end Evan Engram, a native of Powder Springs, Georgia. "Playing in the Georgia Dome, our high school career, our state playoffs are in the Georgia Dome. We never really made it to state, so actually getting there and playing in front of a big crowd at home in front of my family, coaches and friends is a big deal for me."
The Ole Miss roster includes nine players from the Atlanta area that will return there for a homecoming of sorts, including three projected starters in Engram, junior cornerback Mike Hilton from Fayetteville, and sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche from Loganville.
"Any time you can go back home where people who you were raised with can come see you, it adds a little something I'm sure," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We recruit hard there, so hopefully some of those kids can come too. For our kids from that area, it means a lot to them to be able to go back home."
Nkemdiche, the headliner of the group and a first team freshman All-America selection, makes his return to the Dome, where he helped lead Grayson High School to a Class 5A state title as a junior.
"It's a great feeling getting to go back to the Georgia Dome," Nkemdiche said. "I started all four years of my high school (career) there, so it's great to go back and start one more is awesome. I want to try to finish there, too."
Engram was also a part of the Rebels' historic 2013 signing class, along with Nkemdiche, and became one of the first two true freshmen in school history, along with fellow sophomore Laremy Tunsil, to be named All-SEC. He missed part of last season with a high ankle sprain, but he's back to 100 percent and primed for a breakout season.
"Having Evan (Engram) down there and the matchups he creates with linebackers and things like that can be huge for us in the red zone this year," said senior quarterback Bo Wallace of Engram. "That's going to be huge for us if we can come away with touchdowns in the red zone."
Hilton, one of the elder statesmen of the group, will make his second trip to his home state in his college career, having played at Georgia as a freshman. He has bounced between cornerback and Huskie throughout his career, starting 16 games, but will likely play cornerback Thursday night.
"Mike Hilton is primarily at corner now," Freeze said. "Some of that would depend on what personnel we're facing. He's prepared to play both, depending on the personnel we get. You'll see him at both before the year is over."
Two freshmen are also expected to see significant action in linebacker DeMarquis Gates, a Hampton native, and cornerback Kendarius Webster, a Stockbridge native.
Gates has impressed from the start of fall camp and will likely play a role on special teams, while Webster has been pressed into action as the primary backup at field corner with injuries in the secondary.
"He can run, he's physical, he's tough, and he's smart," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of Gates. "He didn't play last year, so I really wasn't expecting what we have been getting from him. Each and every day, including today, he has shown up, so that's a good thing for us."
"I'm really impressed (with Webster)," Hilton said. "I played him in high school, so I knew how he would play. He's really going to help us in the long run. He's still young. He's going to be a really good one for us."
Rebel Nation is known for traveling well, and the season opener is no different, especially for the family and friends of the Atlanta area players.
"I had to fight for tickets to get some people in," Engram said. "I have a lot of people buying them and a lot of people sending me 'good luck' texts, saying they'll be watching. Hopefully I see a couple of 'Go Evan' signs. It will be fun."
ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy asked each of the 65 coaches from the Power Five conferences to describe their team in one word.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's word? Relentless.
The same can be said of the Ole Miss defense.
And it starts up front with the defensive line, headlined by sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and bolstered by the return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and the additions of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes.
"With Coach (Dave) Wommack, since we have been together, we have been an attack defense that's going to create pressure," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "If you can do that with just your front four, a four-man rush, and still have the ability to pressure in multiple ways, that's the perfect combination for us."
"This camp, we have shown so much progress in the D-line," Nkemdiche said. "We're getting after the quarterback every day. (Wommack) is so much more comfortable. He's sending us four guys and letting his guys cover."
Much is expected from Nkemdiche in his sophomore campaign after recording 34 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 8.0 tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries in his freshman All-American season. He bounced between defensive end and defensive tackle but has found a home at defensive tackle this season.
"I expect really big things from him," Kiffin said. "The world is going to be really surprised when they see him play on Thursday night. I would be shocked if he didn't take over the game, from a 3-technique standpoint and what a 3-technique can do in a game. I would be shocked if he doesn't. He's that good. We have guys in place around him to be really good on defense. This year he's really matured."
"He's definitely found his way in college football," Johnson said. "His get-off is probably second to none. He's going to acquire a lot of attention, and everybody knows that. It makes us raise our level of play because we know what they're going to give him. We're going to have to step and pick up the slack a little bit."
The defensive line looks to improve the pass rush after experiencing a decline in sacks from 38 in 2012 to 20 in 2013, in addition to taking pressure off the secondary.
The defensive backfield is arguably the deepest and most experienced unit of the defense with a combined 96 starts among the five starters on the depth chart, led by the Southeastern Conference's lone returning All-American in senior safety Cody Prewitt.
"I feel better about the secondary than I have in three years," Wommack said. "I'm really pleased with the guys. We have some guys who can cover. We have some smart guys and can create different packages with those guys. This is one of better defensive teams that have been around the last couple of years."
"Having C.J. (Johnson) back takes our pass rush to a whole new level," junior defensive back Mike Hilton said. "We know if we can hold up on the back end and make the quarterback hold it the pass rush from the front four can be something special."
With the depth, experience and promise of more aggressive play-calling, the sky is the limit for the Ole Miss defense in 2014.
Like defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin has been pleased with his players throughout fall camp, particularly the depth bolstered by the return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and the addition of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes.
"I don't think it's any secret that we have some depth there," Kiffin said. "We finally have the numbers we want at all four positions. I have been really pleased with the guys. For the most part, it's been guys I thought we could count on. Marquis Haynes is a guy who has surprised as a freshman, but he was here in the spring, so it's no surprise. Him and Fadol (Brown) have both been coming along really well."
One area he looks for marked improvement is the pass rush after a decline in sacks from 38 in 2012 to 20 in 2013. Wommack said earlier this week that they would like to get back to bringing pressure (five or more players) 35-40 percent of the time after bringing pressure around 27-28 percent this past season.
"With Coach (Dave) Wommack, since we have been together, we have been an attack defense that's going to create pressure," Kiffin said. "If you can do that with just your front four, a four-man rush, and still have the ability to pressure in multiple ways, that's the perfect combination for us. I think we're there right now. We obviously haven't done it in a game. There are a lot of variables that go into it. You still have to win first down and be able to get them in passing situations, get a lead, and a lot of those things come late in the game when teams are playing from behind."
In addition to depth, Kiffin also noted the position flexibility along the defensive line, as he looks to play at least eight players in the season opener.
"This year, I challenged the guys to be able to play multiple positions," Kiffin said. "C.J. being able to do that gives us flexibility with Marquis. Bryon (Bennett) being able to do that gives us flexibility inside. John Youngblood, I can't say enough about him. He's a limited-rep guy. He knows the whole defense. He's going to get the job for us, so I can play him at multiple positions. It allows us to do a lot of things."
With the depth and experience at the position, Kiffin and the coaching staff might be afforded the luxury of redshirting the freshman trio of Victor Evans, Garrald McDowell and Breeland Speaks, who have all been practicing with the scout team this week.
"Early on, we had the split practices, and those guys got a ton of reps," Kiffin said. "All three of those guys I'm really happy with. I'm glad we signed all three of them. Victor is a really long guy, Gerrald is more of just a football player, and Breeland is a really big athlete right now. He needs to get his weight down a little but he gives us a lot of things in there. I'm very excited about those three guys' futures. With our depth, we probably won't need to use them right off the bat. That's a good problem to have."
On Wednesday, head coach Hugh Freeze challenged a group of his backup wide receivers to step up alongside the top four players at the position, and from that group, freshman Markell Pack and redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe have emerged.
Pack joins sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo and junior Cody Core in the rotation at slot receiver, while Bledsoe joins sophomore Laquon Treadwell, senior Vince Sanders and Core in the rotation at outside receiver.
Sophomore Anthony Alford has continued to get reps at wildcat quarterback, in addition to backing up junior Trae Elston at Rover safety, while junior Jeremy Liggins is focusing on three packages where he will line up at tight end.
Freeze had a lot of praise for redshirt freshman Will Gleeson for sky punt stuff and his coming-out punts in Thursday's mock game, while senior Andrew Fletcher remains in the lead for field goal duties from inside 40 yards.
In the return game, junior running back Jaylen Walton, Elston and sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore are in the mix on kickoffs, while Pack and Alford are in the mix on punts.
Hugh Freeze on Jeremy Liggins: "We centered in on three packages for him in week one where he doesn't have to feel like he has to learn everything. He's concentrating on those three. He's getting better and better. He still makes some missed assignments. When he does it right, he's pretty good."
Freeze on C.J. Hampton: "He will back up Cody (Prewitt). We really like the way he's working with his attitude and the way he's coming on. He made some checks to some different looks that the scout team gave, so his reps will pick up even more. We have to make sure he's ready."
Freeze on injuries: "Issac is coming on. He put a helmet on today and did some running around. Monday will be a big test for Issac to see where he is. Mentally, he understands what we're doing. That's the good thing. Collins Moore has a shot. We'll know Monday. They're going to turn him loose tomorrow. Even though it's an off-day, he's coming in and let him run around some and see how he is. He can't practice until school starts because he's not in the 105. He's getting treatment, but Pat feels like he's way ahead of schedule. We'll check him out Monday and see what he does."
Chris Kiffin on Marquis Haynes: "He's a guy right now who can do it all. He's 230 pounds and we move a lot. C.J. (Johnson) has gotten away with playing 230 here for a number of years... Marquis is going to play all downs for us, not just the third down, starting off."
Kiffin on Robert Nkemdiche: "I expect really big things from him. The world is going to be really surprised when they see him play on Thursday night. I would be shocked if he didn't take over the game, from a 3-technique standpoint and what a 3-technique can do in a game. I would be shocked if he doesn't. He's that good. We have guys in place around him to be really good on defense. This year he's really matured."
The return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and additions of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes have changed the face of the defensive line, but freshman All-American Robert Nkemdiche remains front and center.
With a season of experience under his belt, it's been a different experience for the former consensus No. 1 recruit this fall.
"I know the playbook so much better," Nkemdiche said. "I'm so much more chilled out. I'm not freaking out right now. I'm not nervous. My head's on straight, and I'm ready to have a huge game.
"I had a really good camp. I was focused. I'm bringing it every day, 100 percent, no matter what. I'm ready for the season and to have a really dominant season."
Beside Nkemdiche at defensive tackle has been a rotation of senior Bryon Bennett and junior Woodrow Hamilton with junior Issac Gross out due to injury.
"You lose quickness in there," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack of missing Gross. "But kudos to Bryon Bennett because I have never seen him play as well as he's playing right now, across the board. He has some size, quickness and been super in there for us. I have been really pleased with him, but it affects your depth.
"Woody's issue has been staying out there on the field. When he stays out on the field, he's a really good football player. He's extremely tough to block. He's not just an anchor. He has some quickness and he can move around. He fits our scheme really well."
With the depth and experience on the defensive side of the ball, Wommack looks to rotate more players and be more aggressive this season.
On the defensive line, Wommack said, they would like to play 8-10 players and get back to bringing pressure (five or more players) 35-40 percent of the time after bringing pressure around 27-28 percent this past season.
"This camp, we have shown so much progress in the D-line," Nkemdiche said. "We're getting after the quarterback every day. (Dave Wommack) is so much more comfortable. He's sending us four guys and letting his guys cover."
"We weren't able to do that last year because of the pass rush we didn't have and we lacked the corner play that we needed," Wommack said. "Boise is going to see some things they haven't seen in the last two years."
Haynes, Freshmen Show Out on Defense
Nkemdiche described Haynes as a physical freak.
A former high jumper and 100-meter sprinter in high school, Haynes enrolled in January and broke into the two-deep early in the fall camp and has remained there.
"He has a knack for the football," said Nkemdiche of Haynes. "He's a freak. He gets to the football no matter what. If he has a missed assignment, he's still going to get to the ball either way. I like him. He plays 100 percent every down. That's what I like about Marquis. He's going to be really good in the future."
Wommack noted his raw talent, speed and quickness, adding that he's done a good job learning what they have asked him to do. He might not start in the season opener, Wommack said, but in certain packages, he will certainly be at one defensive end spot.
In addition to Haynes, Wommack raved about a trio of freshmen in defensive back A.J. Moore, linebacker DeMarquis Gates and cornerback Kendarius Webster. With the injuries in the secondary, Moore has stepped up as the team's third Huskie and Webster is in the mix as the team's fourth cornerback.
"Both of those freshmen hit a ceiling and then they came back down," said Wommack of Moore and Gates. "Kendarius Webster, too. They pushed forward and have gotten smarter each and every day, and they're going to play for us this year.
"This freshman class was a hit across the board. From top to bottom, it was better than last year's class, if you want to say that. I know there were some stars in that class the year before, but top to bottom, I don't think we missed on anybody. We have some really good football players. Some of them, if we're not going to use them this year, we absolutely don't want to burn them, and we will make that choice later on."
In individual and team drills open to the media, the first-team offensive line featured sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), junior Ben Still (C), junior Justin Bell (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT). Sophomore Robert Conyers also got some first-team reps at right tackle when Cooper moved from right tackle to left tackle.
When the offense showed sets with two tight ends in team drills, it featured sophomore Evan Engram lined up at a traditional tight end spot and in the slot, with senior Nick Parker also at tight end on the first team.
Sophomore Matt Brown played a role similar to Engram, with sophomore Jeremy Liggins also at tight end on the second team.
Freeze said he's looking for at least one wide receiver to emerge from a group that includes junior Quintavius Burdette, redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe and freshmen Dayall Harris and Markell Pack.
Johnson, Brown and Haynes all got first-team reps at defensive end, with Nkemdiche and Hamilton at defensive tackle.
Brown, along with sophomore John Youngblood, got second-team reps at defensive end, with Bennett and senior Lavon Hooks at defensive tackle.
Senior Andrew Fletcher, Freeze said, remains in the lead for extra point and field goal duties from 43 yards and in, with redshirt freshman Andy Pappanastos and freshman Gary Wunderlich in competition to handle longer field goals.
In other special teams work, the first-team kickoff returners were junior running back Jaylen Walton and sophomore running back Mark Dodson.
The second-team kickoff returners were sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore and junior safety Trae Elston. Redshirt freshman running back Eugene Brazley and junior running back I'Tavius Mathers also worked with the kickoff returners.
The kickoff return units also included freshman defensive back A.J. Moore on the first team and Gates on the second team.
Other notables on the kickoff return units included junior defensive end Channing Ward, redshirt freshman running back Jordan Wilkins, senior linebacker Keith Lewis and sophomore safety Anthony Alford on the first team.
Hugh Freeze on Robert Conyers: "Robert is very, very valuable to us and will play three positions. He may be one of the most valuable pieces of us offensively because he can grasp all three of them and do them well."
Freeze on the center position battle having named Ben Still the starter: "They're pretty even and knowing that we're going to rotate Robert at all three on various possessions, it gives us a little more flexibility, but they're about equal. Robert probably needs to concentrate on both tackle positions between now and then and it gives the ones more reps with Ben."
Freeze on Fahn Cooper's action at left tackle: "He's athletic. It depends on who you're playing and what the matchups are. It's always about matchups. No matter who we put there, there are guys in this league, sometimes you're going to cringe when you get in too many one-on-one's, if you're not able to run the ball some. If they know you're throwing it, I don't care who we put out there. It's difficult, so you have to be balanced. That's been our whole goal since we have been here."
Freeze on Issac Gross, who missed practice with a neck injury: "Issac had the procedure yesterday to get some kind of shot that we think will help speed up the recovery and hopefully cure. We should know Monday if he will be ready to go for Boise."
Robert Nkemdiche on improvement: "Something that can make me stronger as a player is knowing the playbook a lot better. Last year, I feel like I had all the tangibles to be great, but I didn't know the scheme as well. I was out there about 50 percent. I didn't know what else to do. I was trying to go out there and make plays. This year, knowing the playbook a lot better and being more mature as a player and having an SEC season under my belt helps me because I know what to expect now."
Nkemdiche on returning to Atlanta for the season opener against Boise State: "It's a great feeling going back to the Georgia Dome. I started all four years in high school there, so let's go back and start one. We want to try to finish there too."
Dave Wommack on Mike Hilton practicing at both Huskie and cornerback: "Any time you have to double-train somebody, you lose a little something. You can't get totally focused on one thing, but he's a veteran and been here for two years and knows it better. You couldn't do it with a young guy for sure."
Wommack on the secondary: "I feel better about the secondary than I have in three years. I'm really pleased with the guys. We have some guys who can cover. We have some smart guys and can create different packages with those guys. This is one of better defensive teams that have been around the last couple of years."
The dean of Southeastern Conferences quarterbacks and the league's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns, senior Bo Wallace is as healthy and confident as ever, and he's also assumed a more vocal leadership role on the team.
"I feel like it's my team," Wallace said. "It's my offense. I have said in years past that I have to be more vocal. This year, I have done a lot better job of letting those guys know that I care about them and I want to be around them and I want those guys playing hard."
After playing through shoulder pain and fatigue for much of his first two years as the Rebels' quarterback, he has not noticed any flare-ups with his shoulder through fall camp.
"I have no pain at all," Wallace said. "Last year, I wouldn't really have pain, but I had days when I didn't feel great, but I feel really good now."
In front of Wallace, junior Fahn Cooper has earned the starting job at right tackle, while the battle for the starting job at center continues between junior Ben Still and sophomore Robert Conyers, with both players getting first-team reps in Monday's practice.
"Conyers and Still are still right there battling for the center job and I feel good with either of them about snaps and protections, so I feel like we have some guys who can play and be alright there," Wallace said.
"They are about tit-for-tat," Freeze said. "I'll let Matt (Luke) meet with those kids. They're both going to play. Both Ben and Robert have earned the right to play. Who gets the majority of the snaps will probably be sorted out after the first few games."
Do-It-All Hilton Adds Flexibility to Defense
When sophomore Tee Shepard and junior Carlos Davis went down with season-ending knee injuries, it meant a larger and perhaps less defined role for junior Mike Hilton.
The one-time high school running back standout has started 16 games in his career, with 10 at cornerback, five at Huskie and one at free safety, including nine at cornerback this past season.
He has bounced between cornerback and Huskie during fall camp but has now turned most of his attention to cornerback with the injuries to Shepard and Davis.
"I had a full summer to really get my technique down and work with Coach (Jason) Jones on small things and get a better feel because I switched in the middle of the season," Hilton said. "Having this full summer has really helped me."
In Monday's practice he ran with the first-team defense at cornerback, opposite senior Senquez Golson, and second-team defense at Huskie, behind sophomore Tony Conner.
"(The coaches) make sure I'm on top of everything," Hilton said. "I watch film with the corners one day and go watch it with the Huskies to make sure I'm not making too many mistakes and make sure I can handle it."
Despite the injuries, it's one of the deepest and most experienced secondaries that defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has had in his three years at Ole Miss. With that experience, Hilton said he expects a more aggressive defense and more blitzes.
"Having C.J. (Johnson) back takes our pass rush to a whole new level," Hilton said. "We know if we can hold up on the back end and make the quarterback hold it the pass rush from the front four can be something special."
Rebels Begin Boise Prep
White jerseys with numbers representing Boise State players dotted the scout-team offense and defense, as Ole Miss has turned the page in advance of the season opener against the Broncos.
One challenge of preparation is the unknown with a first-year head coach in Bryan Harsin and two-first year coordinators in Mike Sanford on the offensive side and Marcel Yates on the defensive side. Some of the preparation is based on Boise State film, while other preparation is based on film from the coaches' other previous experiences.
"It's definitely difficult on the offensive side because the (defensive) coordinator that has been hired has not been a coordinator before, so you're not sure," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I'm sure he will take something from everywhere he has been, like all of us have done. We're not quite sure what his flavor is, so that's a bit difficult.
"Offensively, with their head coach being an offensive guy, even though I know he's not going to coordinate it, you have an idea of what they will be like. We're going to study the places that the offensive coordinator came from also. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but it happens."
Harsin was a graduate assistant (2001) and tight ends coach (2002-05) under Dan Hawkins before assuming the role of offensive coordinator and quarterback coach (2006-10) under Chris Peterson. He was most recently the co-offensive coordinator at Texas (2011-12) and head coach at Arkansas State (2013). Sanford most recently spent three seasons as a running backs coach at Stanford (2011-13).
"You don't know what to expect," Hilton of preparation for Boise State. "We can watch film on Arkansas State, which is where he came from, but he can still throw something new in there. We watch Boise to see how their players are and see how physical receivers and running backs are. It's a challenge, but I feel like we can handle it."
On the defensive side, Yates was a cornerbacks coach (2003-05) under Hawkins before taking over the entire secondary (2006-11) under Peterson, and then serving as a co-defensive coordinator at Texas A&M (2012-2013).
"We have an idea of what we think they're going to do," said senior quarterback Bo Wallace of preparation for Boise State. "Study some years past and a little bit of A&M stuff and try to play fast. What we don't know, hopefully our tempo can help us in that area."
Steele Picks Ole Miss to Finish 9-3, Tied for Third in SEC West
ESPN Insider Phil Steele projects Ole Miss to finish 9-3 overall and tied for third in the SEC standings with LSU (9-3) and behind first-place Alabama (12-0) and second-place Auburn (10-2). He projects Georgia (11-1) to win the SEC East and meet Alabama in the SEC title game. Here's more from Steele on Ole Miss:
The Rebels welcome back QB Bo Wallace (3,346 passing yards in 2013) and their top two rushers, I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton (1,086 yards combined). I rank Wallace and backup Ryan Buchanan is the 11th-best QB unit in the country. Even better? What they don't have: South Carolina, Georgia or Florida on the docket. Since they avoid the East's big three, I have the Rebels as clear underdogs against only the West's big two, LSU and Bama (the A&M and Auburn games rate as toss-ups in my book). Ole Miss, talent-wise, is not far behind the Tigers or the Tide and could make a run to the SEC title game. In fact, I have the Rebels as my No. 6-rated surprise team in the country.
For ESPN Insider subscribers, here's the link to the full article, "Projecting the final SEC standings"
More from ESPN: The SEC has plenty of playoff possibilities, and Ole Miss is one of four teams that could make a magical run from outside the top 10, writes Edward Aschoff
Sophomore Laquon Treadwell and senior Vince Sanders got first-team reps at outside receiver, with junior Cody Core, redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe and freshman Dayall Harris also in the rotation.
Core also got first-team reps at slot receiver, with sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo, junior Quintavius Burdette, freshmen Markell Pack and Sammie Epps also in the rotation.
Sophomore Evan Engram got a majority of first-team reps at tight end, with senior Nick Parker, and sophomores Jeremy Liggins and Matt Brown also in the rotation.
Junior C.J. Johnson, sophomore Fadol Brown, and freshman Marquis Haynes all got first-team reps at defensive end, with sophomore Robert Nkemdiche and junior Woodrow Hamilton at defensive tackle.
Sophomore John Youngblood and junior Channing Ward were second-team defensive ends, with seniors Bryon Bennett and Lavon Hooks at defensive tackle.
The five players who ran with the first-team defense in the secondary have combined to start 96 games in their career: Senior safety Cody Prewitt (28), junior safety Trae Elston (20), senior cornerback Senquez Golson (20), junior cornerback Mike Hilton (16) and sophomore Huskie Tony Conner (12).
Hilton also ran with second team at Huskie, where he was joined by sophomore Derrick Jones and freshman Kendarius Webster at cornerback and sophomore Anthony Alford and freshman C.J. Hampton at safety.
In special teams work, the first-team kickoff returners were junior running back Jaylen Walton and sophomore running back Mark Dodson. The second-team kickoff returners were sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore and junior safety Trae Elston.
The kickoff return units also included freshman defensive back C.J. Moore on the first team and freshman linebacker DeMarquis Gates on the second team.
Hugh Freeze on field goal kicker: "We feel like we know who's ahead at this point, but it's a bit too early to tell who's going to be the guy. Right now, I would say (Andrew) Fletcher is the guy. Fletcher would kick short-to-medium field goals. All of them, on a given day, have done their share. He's probably been the more consistent on those. If it was a longer (field goal), it would be one of the other two (Gary Wunderlich or Andy Pappanastos)."
Freeze on rotating players on defense: "Any time you can rotate two-deep, you're better off. I'm all for rotating and keeping players fresh so they can play at a high level."
Freeze on Cody Core and Quincy Adeboyejo at slot receiver: "As soon as one runs a route, the other one is coming in. Cody has probably had a little more consistent camp with everything that is asked of him there, but we're excited about the year Quincy could have also."
Bo Wallace on Fahn Cooper: "He's good. He's physical. He plays hard and he's one of those kids, when you get into them, he will do anything in the world for you. The big thing for me has been to get into Fahn and let him know that I can care about so he wants to protect and wants to lay it on the line."
Wallace on Cody Core: "He has that confidence. This is his third year. He knows the speed of the game. He's confident. We have him learning both inside and outside. He knows he's going to play so he has to perform every single day."
Wallace on backup quarterbacks: "They're good. DeVante (Kincade) has to stay out of negative plays, but his physical abilities are crazy. Ryan (Buchanan) is really starting to learn the offense and know where to go with the football. You can tell in practice that Ryan has done really well."
Wallace on the defensive line: "They're phenomenal. It's unlike anything I have ever seen. Robert (Nkemdiche) draws so much attention that it frees up C.J. (Johnson), Fadol (Brown) and Marquis Haynes coming off the edge. They're going to be one of the best in the SEC, no doubt."
Mike Hilton on working on his press coverage: "I think I'm able to run with everybody. I can get underneath their pads and get my hands on them because I'm short and most receivers are tall."
Hilton on Kendarius Webster: "I'm really impressed. I played him in high school, so I knew how he would play. He's really going to help us in the long run. He's still young. He's going to be a really good one for us."
Hilton on Kailo Moore: "He's who has really impressed me the most. Coming from running back, you're not used to opening up your hips and stuff like that. The thing that helps him the most is his speed. Not too many people are going to beat him deep. He will help."
In case you missed it, Fins Up (Part 1) from last year:
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed that junior cornerback Carlos Davis suffered a torn ACL and will likely have surgery Monday.
Davis joins sophomore cornerback Tee Shepard and junior safety Chief Brown on the list of players expected to miss the 2014 season. Freeze also noted Davis has not used his redshirt year, so they will use it for him this year.
"We have lost arguably our top cover corner (in Tee Shepard), and Carlos, I believe without a shadow of doubt was our best special teams guy, both coverage units and return guy," Freeze said. "It hurts."
"Any time you lose somebody like Tee, that's a big hit," junior defensive end C.J. Johnson said. "Carlos, too. He was really going to help us a lot on our dime team. Those are two guys who really could have helped our football team a lot. For us to lose them, not that we don't have guys, and that's great, but it would have been better if we had those two."
With Davis out, freshman wide receiver Markell Pack, junior safety Trae Elston and sophomore safety Anthony Alford are all in the mix to return punts. It might also mean larger roles on special teams for younger players such as freshman Huskie A.J. Moore and freshman cornerback Kendarius Webster.
Ole Miss was also without junior Issac Gross on Friday, who briefly returned to practice earlier this week after being held out with a neck strain.
"He's still dealing with the neck," Freeze said. "He came back out, and it kind of flared up again. We're taking our time to make sure he gets it well. (Head athletic trainer) Pat (Jernigan) and them have a protocol that they're going to take him through, and they think they can improve it doing this if we can hold him out for a few more days. That's the plan there."
"We're missing him a lot," said Johnson of Gross. "Issac is a guy in the middle - especially when we go against an offense that runs a lot of spread and inside-zone stuff - who can get up and disrupt the timing of the blocking scheme. He can rush a little bit. He's a really big hit for us. We need him to hurry up and get back."
Senior Bryon Bennett ran with the first-team defense in place of Gross, beside sophomore Robert Nkemdiche, along with Johnson and freshman Marquis Haynes at defensive end. The second-team defensive tackles were junior Woodrow Hamilton and senior Lavon Hooks.
Updating the Backup Quarterback Battle
Redshirt freshman quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade, Freeze said, split the majority of snaps in Thursday's scrimmage, so it was a good look into the backup quarterback battle.
"Ryan had a good scrimmage," Freeze said. "Bo (Wallace) did not take many snaps. DeVante had some really, really exciting, good plays. He had some on the other end of the spectrum also, so we have to keep bringing him along. He definitely brings a different element to us. But they have both improved."
Freeze noted Buchanan is ahead of Kincade in the passing game, adding that Kincade needs to improve his decision-making.
"I'm trying to work on pocket presence and stay in the pocket more because I know I have the ability to run, so I'm trying to make sure I stay in the pocket more and deliver better throws," Kincade said.
Freeze said he does not plan on naming a true backup quarterback in advance of the season opener against Boise State on Aug. 28.
"It would depend on what we're needing at that moment," Freeze said. "Each has different strengths. We'll do everything with both of them, but it would depend on the scenario to which they go in."
For both players, with their respective redshirt years behind them, their preparation has been different this season.
"My mental aspect is I prepare as if I'm the starter," Buchanan said. "I know I'm not the starter, but any second Bo can roll an ankle, get a concussion or something, so I have to be ready for whenever they call that play and always keep the drive going and never take a step back."
"It's a big difference from last year," Kincade said. "I remembered I would come out and put my helmet down and cheer on the guys. Now, I have to have my helmet ready any time the offense goes in, so it's a big difference."
In the individual and team drills open to the media, the first-team offensive line consisted of sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), junior Ben Still (C), junior Justin Bell (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT).
The second-team offensive line consisted of redshirt freshman Davion Johnson (LT), junior Craig Frigo (LG), sophomore Robert Conyers (C), freshman Rod Taylor (RG) and redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin (RT).
Different combinations along the offensive line also included Cooper at left tackle, Taylor at left guard, Frigo at right guard and Conyers at right tackle.
With the injuries in the secondary, freshman A.J. Moore ran with the second-team defense at Huskie, sophomore Kailo Moore got some second-team reps at cornerback and senior Cliff Coleman got some second-team reps at free safety.
In special teams work, Coleman, freshman safety C.J. Hampton and sophomore Derrick Jones were on the first-team punt return blocking the gunners. A.J. Moore, junior defensive back Mike Hilton and freshman cornerback Kendarius Webster were on the second-team punt return in the same role.
Hugh Freeze on Collins Moore, who has been held out with knee injury: "He's moving around well. He's starting to do things in the pool. We will be glad to get him back for sure. We need a little extra depth there at receiver."
Freeze on other players who stood out from Wednesday's closed scrimmage: "Victor Evans had a great scrimmage. Breeland Speaks, too. He's batting balls. He's a space-eater and he's tough. Those young kids stood out. Rod Taylor is coming on. Robert Conyers continues to do some good things and come on, as does Ben Still. Akeem Judd stood out. He made some really explosive, powerful runs. We had several kids stand out. DeMarquis Gates keeps showing up, as did the Moore twins. They're probably all going to have to play now."
Freeze on Cody Core: "Cody is so important to us because he's learning both inside and outside. He has to play for us to give us some depth, and he's doing it well. He makes very few missed assignments. He's physical and can catch it. He's very important to us."
Freeze on Quincy Adeboyejo: "He's still inconsistent in ball-catching, particularly in traffic. We have to continue to improve that. We love his skill-set and we love him as a kid. We have to continue to improve his consistency in ball-catching."
Ryan Buchanan on what he looks to improve: "We go tempo, we get into the red zone, and then sometimes you have to slow it down and be smart with it. Make smart decisions. Making completions are the biggest thing in the red zone."
Buchanan on understanding of the playbook: "I feel pretty good on paper. It's different trying to go full-speed, when you have blitzes to pick up and be able to know in that split second."
Buchanan on the offensive line: "They have improved since week one. With our defense, they like to send a lot of different blitzes, so they're really getting a tough look. They're picking up on it, and they're trying to improve each practice."
C.J. Johnson on the defense: "The defense has progressed well. We have really gotten after the quarterback a lot. I hate that we lost Tee and Carlos. Those are big hits for the defense, especially with the secondary, where we thought we had a lot of depth, but some young guys are going to have to step up and play now."
Johnson on Marquis Haynes: "He's done a really good job learning our defense and learning what to do and being coachable. He's come a long way and he's going to help us a lot."
Johnson on Robert Nkemdiche: "He's definitely found his way in college football. His get-off is probably second to none. He's going to acquire a lot of attention, and everybody knows that. It makes us raise our level of play because we know what they're going to give him. We're going to have to step and pick up the slack a little bit."
The center and right tackle position battles have been two of the biggest story lines of fall camp, but as the Rebels prepped for their second preseason scrimmage Wednesday night, they are closer to solidifying the depth chart along the offensive line.
"It's starting to shape up," offensive line coach Matt Luke said. "Right now, there's still a pretty good battle going on at center with Ben (Still) and (Robert) Conyers, and then Conyers being able to move out and play tackle gives us some flexibility there. Rod Taylor has come on, understanding with more reps he gets. He's very talented. The more reps he gets, the better he's going to get there (at guard). Craig Frigo has been impressive. He can give us some depth there (at guard).
"The issue we have right now is tackle, trying to figure out the mixing and matching when we're subbing. In early games, you want to be able to play some guys, especially with our tempo, so the challenge right now is to figure out the best rotation."
The discussion along the offensive line starts with sophomore Laremy Tunsil, a freshman All-American, who will anchor the line at left tackle and has made a jump from his freshman to sophomore season.
"He's much more confident," Luke said. "I know it's hard to believe with a guy of that ability, but his ability level has really risen. I have been very impressed with him as a leader and his knowledge of the game. He's gotten a lot stronger. He's kept his weight right where it needs to be, in the 305-pound range. He's moving really well. I have seen the biggest improvement in his run-blocking, trying to finish people. He took the challenge to get stronger and finish in the run game."
Inside, juniors Aaron Morris and Justin Bell have been constants at left and right guard, respectively, with Taylor and Frigo the primary backups there. Morris, who missed all of the 2013 season and was limited in spring drills with an ACL injury, has showed no ill effects during fall camp.
"I have been impressed with him," Luke said. "He has a little tendinitis from coming back from the knee injury, but he's gone every rep of every single thing. He hasn't come out. I'm hoping he will continue to get in football shape as we go through this second big scrimmage of preseason."
There has been shuffling on the line with redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin moving outside to tackle and leaving Taylor inside at guard. Bouldin is battling fellow redshirt freshman Davion Johnson for the fourth tackle spot behind Tunsil, junior Fahn Cooper, who appears to have solidified the starting right tackle spot, and Conyers.
"He's doing well," said Luke of the move for Bouldin. "I have been very pleased. We tried Rod out there a little bit, but with a young guy, it's better to leave him at one spot. Maybe as the season progresses, we can play some more tackle. Daronte has been in the offense longer and knows the offense. He's done well out there on the edge. He's been a pleasant surprise at tackle because I had him slotted as a guard in my mind."
Overall, Luke said, they're a couple of guys away from being where they want to be depth-wise, but they are comfortable with six to eight players in the offensive line. One area he looks for marked improvement this season is the run game.
"Our line is built to get better in the run game," Luke said. "We're bigger and more physical. Fahn gives us some punch there at right tackle because he's a big, physical guy. The run game will be good. We'll be physical. We still have to continue to try to block No. 5 (Robert Nkemdiche). That's hard for anybody, but when he gets into those 1-on-1 match ups, we have to step up and protect and we have struggled to do that against him."
Ole Miss Ranked No. 18 in SI Preseason Poll
Sports Illustrated unveiled its preseason top 25 Wednesday, including its four playoff-bound selections in No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 Ohio State. In addition to Ole Miss at No. 18, other Southeastern Conference teams included in the top 25 were No. 7 Auburn, No. 11 South Carolina, No. 12 Georgia, No. 14 LSU, No. 20 Texas A&M and No. 22 Missouri.
Ole Miss had one of the SEC's best attacks at times last season, averaging 6.0 yards per play and a league-leading 78.3 plays per game, but execution was often a problem. The Rebels ended the year next to last in the conference in red zone efficiency (73.9%). That inability to finish kept Ole Miss from contending in the SEC West last season. Senior Bo Wallace holds the keys to coach Hugh Freeze's up-tempo offense. Sophomore receiver Laquon Treadwell and sophomore tight end Evan Engram should give Wallace plenty to work with through the air, while tailbacks I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, who combined for almost 1,100 rushing yards last year, will man the backfield.
For a complete scouting report on Ole Miss from Sports Illustrated, click here.
Hugh Freeze, on the status of Tee Shepard: "We are getting different opinions, but it doesn't look good. It is a rare injury that he could try to push through and get fixed after the season. However, there is the chance that scar tissue could form and affect him long term. We certainly think he has a career in football and we want to do everything we can to preserve that career. The final decision has not been made; we are waiting on one final opinion from one of the top doctors that deals with this injury every day, but right not it doesn't look promising."
Freeze, on Shepard's eligibility if he doesn't play this season: "He would have two (years) to (play) two (years). He's three (years) to (play) three (years) right now, but there's hopefully a basis for an appeal to get a year back. You can't do that until after his eligibility is done.
Freeze on Issac Gross: "He's fine. He was back yesterday at practice. He seemed to be his old self. He had a little neck strain, but he looked good yesterday at practice."
Freeze, on the offensive line: "We're pretty close to solidifying our depth chart. We worked a lot of combinations. We moved Daronte (Bouldin) to right tackle. We decided we're going to leave Rod (Taylor) inside. Davion (Johnson), Fahn (Cooper), Laremy (Tunsil) and Robert (Conyers) are getting work at tackle. Robert is going between center and tackle. There are going to be some guys who have to play two spots, but we're pretty close."
Jaylen Walton, on the running backs: "This is the most talented group because of depth. We're all young, all around the same class. I played against Mark (Dodson), I'Tavius (Mathers) and Jordan (Wilkins). All of them are going to be good backs."
Walton, on Akeem Judd: "Out of all the running backs, Akeem is the bruiser. He's the hard-nosed runner out of all of us. He's coming along, learning all the plays and all the assignment. He's picking it up pretty well."
Vince Sanders, on missing spring drills: "It was very frustrating. Any time you miss you wish you were out there with your guys practicing. It was frustrating, but I know I had to stay positive because I was looking forward to camp."
Sanders, on being overlooked: "I understand you can't get too caught up in the media. I have been here for a long time now and my name has never been up there because we had other guys. I don't let that get to me too much."
Matt Luke, on Sean Rawlings: "He's doing well. He's been doing some center and tackle. He has a similar body type to Conyers. As he grows, he will be in line with that. He's done well. He's picked up the offense. We would love to be able to redshirt him and Jordan Sims, if I can, but I don't know if I will be able to or not. We'll see how it goes."
Luke, on Craig Frigo: "He's exactly what you're looking for in terms of his demeanor in football. He's a tough guy. I asked him to play some tackle early on and he did that, but I see him contributing at guard, with him and Rod being able to sub for Aaron and Justin."
Sophomore defensive end Fadol Brown and sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore returned from their respective injuries, while sophomore Tee Shepard remains out with a toe injury. The results from Shepard's MRI performed on Saturday are being sent to Birmingham, head coach Hugh Freeze said, and there could be another update on his status as early as tomorrow.
"I'm always optimistic, but this is something that I'm not really familiar with," Freeze said. "It's a tendon on the bottom of his big toe. If it's completely torn, it definitely needs surgery. If it's not, there have been some who played through the year and then gotten it fixed. I just want to wait for the guys who do that all the time to tell us what they think."
Freeze remains confident in the depth at cornerback, a position bolstered by the return of Moore and the addition of freshman Kendarius Webster, who had previously been practicing in a green, non-contact jersey prior to Saturday's open practice.
It might also mean a larger role for junior Mike Hilton who has practiced at both corner and Huskie and senior Cliff Coleman who has practiced at both corner and safety.
"The guys who we have are definitely better, and Ken Webster is added to it, now that he can go," Freeze said. "He's going to be a good player. Kailo is back. ... That's one place where we have some capable guys."
One position where depth remains a concern, Freeze said, is offensive line, where there was some shuffling Monday. Freshmen Rod Taylor and Sean Rawlings were practicing at tackle, with senior Carlton Martin moving inside to guard.
In the center position battle, which has gone back and forth throughout fall camp, junior Ben Still and sophomore Robert Conyers split first-team reps, with Still receiving the majority of them.
Junior Fahn Cooper appears to be the backup at left tackle, if they were to be without sophomore Laremy Tunsil, as he took some reps at left tackle with the first-team offensive line, similar to Pierce Burton last season. In the same look, Taylor took reps at right tackle with the first team.
Freeze also mentioned tight end and wide receiver as areas of concern with depth. The wildcard in the wide receiver group is sophomore Damore'ea Stringfellow, a transfer from Washington, who has run half the time with the second-team offense, as Freeze and the Rebels await word on an appeal to be immediately eligible.
"There are some depth issues there," Freeze said. "We have to stay healthy. Some of those young kids, Sammie (Epps), Markell (Pack) and Dayall (Harris) are going to be good players. Will they be ready Aug. 28? I don't know. That's a good question, and we'll see. If String's appeal would come through, that would certainly help, but I really have no time frame to know when it would be coming and what the response would be."
Running back, similar to corner, is a position where Freeze feels they have quality depth, led by juniors I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, the team's two leading returners. Because of their experience, Freeze said you have to give a nod to them, but the other backs have also received their share of reps in practice.
"I'm pleased with all our running backs," Freeze said. "That's another place where we have quality depth. I'm not afraid to play any of them at this point. (Mark) Dodson is just like the rest of them. They're tit-for-tat in a lot of things. There are some that do some things better, but I wouldn't be afraid to play any of them."
Seven different offensive linemen received first-team reps during individual drills: Cooper (left tackle and right tackle), junior Aaron Morris (left guard), Still (center), Conyers (center), junior Justin Bell (right guard) and Taylor (right tackle).
In special teams work, Pack, junior safety Trae Elston, sophomore safety Anthony Alford, junior cornerback Carlos Davis, Mathers and Walton returned kickoffs. Davis, Elston and Pack also returned punts.
Redshirt freshman Will Gleeson and freshman Gary Wunderlich split reps at punter, with Gleeson on the first team and Wunderlich on the second team. Gleeson practiced both the traditional punting and rugby-style punting but significantly more of the latter.
With junior Issac Gross out due to injury, senior Bryon Bennett has worked with the first-team defense at defensive tackle, so he would be appear to be the team's third defensive tackle in the rotation with Gross and sophomore Robert Nkemdiche.
Similarly, freshman Marquis Haynes continues to receive reps with the first-team defense at defensive end, even with the return of Fadol Brown, so it appears to be Haynes, Brown and junior C.J. Johnson in the rotation there.
Freeze, on Kendarius Webster: "As long as he's full-go on the contact, he's physically gifted enough. Where he is understanding our stuff, he's still a little behind in that. If there's no one place that is the easiest to pick up on stuff, it is corner."
Freeze, on Mark Dodson: "He's physical. He runs with great balance and finishes with good pad level. He takes care of the football when he runs it. In pass protection, he's pretty decent. He measures up quite nicely with the rest of them."
Freeze, on Rod Taylor's conditioning: "As you go through camp, you're leg weary, but he's pushing himself to get through it. He loves to play. He's a gym rat and loves to play the game. I don't worry about his conditioning. It will get there."
Dodson, on the running back competition: "We know that when we're in there, we have to make something happen because we have another man who has the same talent as us, so we're out there doing what we can and taking advantage of every opportunity."
Dodson, on separation among the running backs: "What I think will make the difference is when we get into game situations and who can do what. Picking up the blitz will be number one thing. Can you stand your ground and know your blitz packages?"
Brown, on his foot, having missed some practice due to injury: "It felt pretty good. I felt pretty good going forward, but when I get to planting on it, it kind of bothered me a little bit, but I'm going to fight through it."
Brown, on the defense: "We're definitely executing a lot better, flying around. That's what Coach (Dave) Wommack and Coach (Chris) Kiffin stay on us about: effort. That's what we're focusing on right now: executing and giving maximum effort."
The SEC Network will debut on Thursday, August 14 with a three-hour SEC Now that will visit every SEC school and the 21 sports within the SEC. The first two weeks of the network will also feature customized programming to feature 14 schools in 14 days.
Among the highlights from the first two weeks are team previews, "best of" games from the last 5-10 years and all-access specials. The "Best of Ole Miss" block of programming will air on Monday, Aug. 18 starting at 11 p.m. CT and will include "SEC Storied: Book of Manning," the 2008 game vs. Florida, the 2002 game vs. Florida, the 2003 game vs. Auburn and the 2013 game vs. LSU. The first two weeks will also include the soccer team's season opener vs. Georgia on Friday, Aug. 22 at 6 p.m. CT.
For the full ESPN MediaZone press release, go here.
Ole Miss continues its preparations for the the 2014 season with the second full week of fall camp starting Monday. Here's a look back at the first full week of fall camp with some observations and takeaways, as well as some linked stories of interest for Ole Miss fans. We will look to do something similar each week on the blog throughout football season.
1. Southeastern Conference coaches talked anonymously about conference foes for the 2014 season, and they had a lot of praise for Ole Miss.
"They are probably the second-best team in the West, maybe better," said one anonymous SEC coach.
2. NFL.com's Bucky Brooks compiled a list of the top 25 college football teams with the most NFL talent, and headlined by the sophomore trio of Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell and Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss came in at No. 13.
"With the Rebels poised to dominate the NFL draft the next few years, it's time to view Ole Miss as a viable contender in the SEC West," wrote Brooks of Ole Miss.
3. ESPN.com's Travis Haney compiled a list of the top 50 breakout players for the 2014 season, and Nkemdiche came in at No. 10, and if the first week of fall camp is any indication, he's primed for a breakout season.
"In our gap schemes we can't back block because of him, and that causes us to have to change some things," said Freeze of Nkemdiche. "When you're installing you want to be able to just run your stuff and teach it, but it looks so bad you get frustrated. He's a handful."
4. Defensive coordinator Dave Wommack called Anthony Alford one of the best two or three athletes on the team. He's pushing junior Trae Elston at Rover safety, he's in the mix as a punt returner, and he's taking snaps as a Wildcat quarterback. He looks the part and he's going to play a significant role this season.
"I love him in a lot of ways," said Freeze of Alford. "He took some snaps (at quarterback) yesterday too. He looked explosive. He looked good at punt return this morning. Defensively, he's getting better and better."
5. With the injury to sophomore Tee Shepard - who had an MRI on Saturday and we will learn more from Freeze on Monday - it will be interesting to see where senior Cliff Coleman and junior Mike Hilton gets reps. Both versatile defensive backs can play cornerback, Huskie and free safety.
6. On a related note, with the injury to Shepard, freshman Kendarius Webster may play a bigger role at cornerback. He shed his non-contact green jersey for the first Saturday and made a couple of nice plays, including an interception of sophomore quarterback Ryan Buchanan.
7. Going back to spring practice, the coaches have raved about freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes. He's run with the first-team defense in place of sophomore Fadol Brown, who's been sidelined with an injury. Look for him to contribute as a rush end opposite junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, if not in a larger role this season.
"He's getting some different looks over there with the tight end and different things that he's not used to, so he makes some mistakes," said Freeze of Haynes. "But one thing I know about him is he makes them 100 miles an hour. We can live with that. We're pleased with where he is and we expect him to get better each day."
8. While the defense dominated on Saturday, senior quarterback Bo Wallace showed off his stronger arm, rolling left and completing a back-shoulder pass to Treadwell for a touchdown, and later throwing another touchdown to sophomore tight end Evan Engram in a red-zone drill.
9. On the offensive line, it appears to be six players competing for five spots, with Tunsil at left tackle, junior Aaron Morris at left guard and junior Justin Bell at right guard the constants throughout fall camp. Concerning the center and right tackle position battles, Freeze said it would probably be another week before deciding on the first-teamers.
"We've been going back and forth this week," Freeze said Saturday. "It will probably be another week before we say, 'This is who we're going with in the first group.' Fahn (Cooper) has been going with the first group (at right tackle) until today I think we made a switch back to look at Robert (Conyers) there and Ben (Still) at center."
10. If you're looking for a walk-on to contribute, junior Craig Frigo, a 6-foot-1, 301-pound offensive lineman from Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, is a prime candidate. He has consistently worked with the second-team offense and has also showed some versatility, moving around from left tackle, to right tackle, to left guard, even taking some snaps at center.
11. With six running backs also competing for playing time, it's hard to notice any separation, but it appears that sophomore Mark Dodson and redshirt freshman Jordan Wilkins have taken a lot of first-team reps and have shown out thus far in fall camp.
12. Without much fanfare, junior Quintavius Burdette moved from cornerback to slot receiver during the spring and entered fall camp as a backup behind sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo. The two-sport athlete, who also competes on the Ole Miss track & field team, has gotten his share of first-team reps with Adeboyejo and sophomore tight end Evan Engram, who has also lined up in the slot.
13. In special teams work, freshman Gary Wunderlich, the No. 1 kicker prospect coming out of high school, has split reps with redshirt freshman Will Gleeson at punter and redshirt freshman Andy Pappanastos and senior Andrew Fletcher at kicker. Wunderlich has the strongest leg of the group but he must improve his consistency.
14. When asked after practice Thursday, Freeze said Gleeson was in the lead at punter. The Melbourne, Australia, native gives the team some options to do some out-of-the-box stuff, such as the rugby-style punting from his Australian football background. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Tim, who plays for Rutgers, the younger Gleeson has played the American game for about two years.
"I basically had to forget all my instilled knowledge of kicking Australian football on the run low and hard, and basically kick it high and as long as possible in two steps with hang time," Gleeson said.
15. We're 18 days away from the season opener against Boise State, but here's an interesting profile of first-year Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin and his stamp on the program after the departure of long-time Broncos coach Chris Petersen for Washington. Prior to his arrival at Boise State, Harsin was the head coach at Arkansas State (2013), where he followed Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn (2012), who followed Freeze (2011).
An extended portion of the team drills were open to the media. Gameplay-wise, the highlight of the period was a pair of deep throws from senior quarterback Bo Wallace, one to sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and another to junior Cody Core.
Depth chart-wise, the offensive line, particularly center and right tackle, continue to be the story.
Sophomore Robert Conyers and junior Ben Still continue to battle at center, looking to replace three-year starter Evan Swindall, with Conyers earning first-team reps Tuesday and Still earning them Thursday.
"I'm pleased with Ben and Robert," Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. "Robert (Nkemdiche) is a tough block, and when you're asking a center to do a back block in a one-on-one situation, sometimes we can look really bad doing that. I hope that he makes a lot of people look that way. Mentally, (Ben and Robert) pick it up very well. I have been pleased with the snaps. We have had very few that have thrown our timing off. The effort that those two guys give fit with us. We're going to be OK there."
Junior Fahn Cooper, a junior college transfer who also started 13 games for Bowling Green during his redshirt freshman year in 2012, has started to emerge at right tackle, where Conyers also figures in the mix.
"Fahn has definitely come on the last few days," Freeze said. "Robert is getting reps over there, as is (Craig) Frigo and Rod Taylor. We're kind of doing that by committee, but it looks like Fahn is kind of emerging. Robert looked good there too, but Fahn is coming on now that he has a better understanding."
Longer, Faster on Defense
One of the goals in recruiting, Freeze said, was to get longer and faster at every position on defense, and it shows with the additions on that side of the ball, notably freshman defensive end Marquis Haynes and freshman defensive back A.J. Moore, who have already broken into the two-deep during the team portion of practice open to the media.
Haynes, an early enrollee who went through spring drills, ran with the first-team defense in place of sophomore Fadol Brown, who sat out practice with a foot injury.
"He's a tremendous athlete,"said Freeze of Haynes, who's listed at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds. "He's swimming a little bit with all of the installations, and now he's learning a different position. Instead of the weak end, he's playing some of strong end.
"He's getting some different looks over there with the tight end and different things that he's not used to, so he makes some mistakes. But one thing I know about him is he makes them 100 miles an hour. We can live with that. We're pleased with where he is and we expect him to get better each day."
A.J. Moore (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) ran with the second team at Huskie, behind sophomore Tony Conner. Freeze also mentioned sophomore Tee Shepard (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), a junior college transfer, and freshman Kendarius Webster (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) as examples of getting longer on defense.
"Our defense has improved so much," junior safety Trae Elston said. "We are getting better and better players, and everyone is getting all in for the university."
Among the wide receivers, Treadwell made a couple of nice catches on the outside, where he was in the rotation by Core, senior wide receiver Vince Sanders, redshirt freshman Trey Bledsoe and freshman wide receiver Dayall Harris.
Sophomore wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo ran with the first team in the slot, where he was joined in the rotation by junior Quintavius Burdette, freshmen Sammie Epps and Markell Pack, and a trio of tight ends in sophomore Evan Engram, senior Nick Parker and junior Jeremy Liggins.
Junior Mike Hilton and senior Cliff Coleman continue to split their time among the cornerback, Huskie and safety positions, with Coleman breaking into the second team at safety alongside sophomore Anthony Alford.
Freshman cornerback Kendarius Webster has been a wearing a green, non-contact jersey through the first part of camp.
"He had shoulder surgery in February back at home," Freeze said "There's some work to be done between our doctors and their doctors. He's full-go in everything except for the live periods where we ask them to hit. He feels good. I expect it to come off soon."
In special teams work, redshirt freshman Will Gleeson and freshman Gary Wunderlich continue to split reps at punter, with Gleeson on the first team and Wunderlich on the second team.
"I still think (Will) Gleeson is in the lead punting, but Gary (Wunderlich) can really hit it," Freeze said. "He has a strong leg. Gleeson gives us some options to do some out-of-the-box stuff in punt.
"PAT and field goal, charting them, Gary, (Andrew) Fletcher and Andy (Pappanastos) are all about even. I love the height that Gary and Andy are getting on theirs. That will be a good battle. Nathan (Nobe) is going to handle the kickoffs, it looks like, but Gary can do that also."
Freeze, on quarterback snaps for Jeremy Liggins and Anthony Alford: "They would both have a package. We have to be careful as to not throw too much on Jeremy. How big that will be early on, I don't know. He's fatigued right now. He hasn't done something like this in awhile, and it kind of shows. Once we get his legs back under him and he can think and he has a clear understanding, we'll see what he can do. We expect both to have a package."
Freeze, on backup quarterbacks: "I have been really pleased with Ryan (Buchanan) the last two days. DeVante (Kincade) did some really good things, but he had some bad decisions today too, and they kind of stand out in my mind. I'm still confident in both of them. We needed them to be sharper."
Elston, on competition at safety: "Anthony Alford and David Kamara are pushing me very hard. I'm glad they have been doing it because it improves our team."
Elston, on pass coverage: "Ever since the end of my sophomore season, I told myself I have to improve myself. My teammates and coaches have been staying on me to get better at that. I had to work on my footwork, and I worked on that in the offseason very hard."
Still, on three-year starter Evan Swindall: "I learned a lot under Evan. He was a smart player. He taught me a lot. It's our time now."
Still, on Fahn Cooper and Rod Taylor: "Fahn has done really well. He's strong. Rod, he'll be something special once he gets his head and gets the offense down."
Still, on the defensive line: "Issac (Gross) is one of the best in the league. He's quick off the ball. Robert (Nkemdiche) is good off the ball and strong. Woody (Hamilton) is a plugger but strong and hard to move him. Going up against them every day, I feel like we have one of the better D-lines in the SEC."
The Rebels practiced in full pads and held their first live session of fall camp on Tuesday.
The defense had dominated the previous competitions, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said, but the offense got the better of the defense in the live session, as sophomore tight end Evan Engram made a big-time catch on the last play to win it.
On a related note, freshman Sammie Epps has moved from tight end to the slot to add some size and physicality to the position. The 6-foot-5, 215-pounder joins sophomore Quincy Adebojeyjo, who moved inside to the slot in the spring, and freshman Markell Pack, who has mostly worked in the slot during fall camp.
"We have said all along that O-line, receiver and tight end are our depth issues, and as we get more into practice, you notice that we're a little thin in the slot, particularly with a bigger body that can do some of the things Laquon (Treadwell) did in our run game and screen game," Freeze said. "We decided for (Sammie's) freshman year to move him there. I don't know if he will remain there throughout his career. We'll see how his body develops."
"(Sammie) seems to be really trying to learn it," Adeboyejo said. "He's staying after and he's trying to get it. He's coming along. He will be pretty good. He's a big, strong guy, so he can make a lot of mismatches."
With Epps' move to the slot, senior Nick Parker and junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins are the primary backups at tight end. Parker saw action in 11 games with three starts at tight end, catching two passes for 11 yards and a touchdown, while Liggins has moved to tight end from quarterback.
"He's coming along nicely," said Freeze of Liggins. "He still makes mistakes mentally. Physically, he mixes it up a lot better than I anticipated. He's a physical blocker, which is something we really need. He's a threat doing other things when he's on the field for us too. We ran a little quarterback stuff with him yesterday, and he looked pretty good at that."
Adeboyejo Transitions to the Slot
Sophomore Quincy Adeboyjo moved from outside receiver, where he rotated with Donte Moncrief and Vince Sanders, among others, to the slot, where he looks to replace sophomore Laquon Treadwell, who moved to outside receiver.
From the slot position, Treadwell led the team with 72 catches and was second on the team with 608 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Adeboyejo caught just seven passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, but coaches and players have said he is poised for a breakout year and a similar uptick in production.
"He gives us a threat there who can do things with the ball in his hands that are a little different than what we have had," Freeze said. "He's quick-twitched and he can run. He has to continue to improve his ball-catching. He still has too many that are not natural catches for him that he should make. We'll continue to work at that."
The transition has gone well, Adeboyejo said, having also worked in the slot during spring practice. Coaches and players have also praised his route-running and ability to stretch the field vertically.
"Going from outside to inside, I know both of them," Adeboyejo said. "I still know most of the outside stuff. When I'm in there learning, just because I play slot, I don't just look at the slot. I try to look at all of the routes, so if I have to go outside one day, I would still know what I have to do."
"His route-running is really good," Freeze said. "He's one of our better ones at getting in and out of breaks and any kind of double moves. He's a strider too. If he gets in the open field, he's a guy who is tough to corral. We're excited about him."
Alford Ready to Contribute in Variety of Ways
Sophomore Anthony Alford does a little bit of everything.
When SiriusXM College Sports Nation Camp Tour visited Ole Miss on Monday, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack called Alford one of the best two or three athletes on the team.
A two-sport standout out of Petal High School, Alford was selected in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft by the Toronto Blue Jays and signed a contract with the organization in June 2012 that allowed him to also keep playing football.
He started his college football career at Southern Miss, where he played in nine games with five starts at quarterback, as he led the Golden Eagles with 664 passing yards and rushed for 329 yards with eight total touchdowns.
After sitting out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules, during which time he played a key role on the scout team imitating the likes of Johnny Manziel and Nick Marshall at quarterback, he entered fall camp as the backup Rover safety behind junior Trae Elston, in addition to taking snaps at quarterback and returning punts in special teams drills.
"I love him in a lot of ways," Freeze said. "He took some snaps (at quarterback) yesterday too. He looked explosive. He looked good at punt return this morning. Defensively, he's getting better and better."
"I think I can help with my athletic ability and my quarterback background," Alford said. "I know what's going on on that side of the ball. By playing on both sides of the ball, it helps me a lot with playing quarterback."
This past summer, he played summer ball in the Blue Jays organization, splitting time between the Bluefield Blue Jays (Rookie Ball) and Lansing Lugnuts (Class A). He hit a career-best .320 in 25 at-bats for the Lugnuts, before rejoining the Ole Miss football team.
"I had to get back in the groove because I fell behind a little bit being gone playing baseball during the summer, but I'm feeling good," Alford said.
Alford, who was ranked No. 6 among Blue Jays prospects by MLB.com entering the 2013 season, has three years remaining of football eligibility, and he's in no hurry to decide between the two sports.
"I feel like I haven't truly given football a shot," Alford said. "I don't truly know what I can do in football, so I won't know that for a year or two."
In the individual and team drills open to the media, the first-team offensive line consisted of sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), sophomore Robert Conyers (C), junior Justin Bell (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT).
Conyers also worked with the second-team offensive line at right tackle. He was joined on the team by redshirt freshman Davion Johnson (LT), junior Craig Frigo (LG), junior Ben Still (C) and redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin (RG).
Junior Channing Ward, who switched back to defensive end from tight end, ran with the first-team defense in the team drill. He was joined by junior C.J. Johnson at the other defensive end spot and sophomore Robert Nkemdiche and junior Woodrow Hamilton at the defensive tackle spots.
At linebacker, senior Deterrian Shackelford and junior Denzel Nkemdiche ran with the first team, with junior Christian Russell and senior Keith Lewis the second team. Sophomore Tony Conner ran with the first team at Huskie, with junior Mike Hilton on the second team.
Among the freshman defensive backs, other than Kendarius Webster who continues to work with the cornerbacks, C.J. Moore worked with the safeties, while A.J. Moore and D.K. Buford worked with the Huskies. Senior Cliff Coleman, who has played both cornerback and Huskie, worked with the safeties.
Junior cornerback Carlos Davis, who Freeze earlier said was the leader at punt returner, fielded punts in special teams work, as did junior safety Trae Elston and Alford. In the same drill, A.J. Moore got a piece of a punt.
Freeze, on Denzel Nkemdiche: "I couldn't be more pleased with him and his attitude and leadership out there in practice thus far. He's always positive. He's kind of accepted what his punishment is, and he's gone through it very nicely."
Freeze, on the backup quarterbacks: "I'm disappointed, to be candid. They're not taking care of the ball well enough. Our timing is off. They seemed a little bit confused. I told (co-offensive coordinator) Dan (Werner) we have to get it cleared up mentally with them and get them playing faster. That's the way I feel after today's practice."
Alford, on being eligible to play after sitting out last season: "It's a lot different because it gives you something to look forward to. It makes me work harder because I'm actually motivated now than I was just going through the motions last year."
Alford, on missing playing quarterback: "I miss having the ball in my hand every play more than anything."
Alford, on the secondary: "I feel really confident. Like coach said, it's probably our first year having a true two-deep in the secondary at Huskie, Rover, free safety and corner. I'm really confident in knowing if one person goes down, we can bounce back and put someone else out there."
Adeboyejo, on Bo Wallace and adjusting to his stronger arm: "His arm is a lot stronger. Some balls we used to wait longer on, but now it's zipping in there. We have to get used to it. We do routes on air a lot. During the offseason, we did a lot of routes on air and we did a lot of 7-on-7. As we throw around with him a lot, it's getting easier and easier to get used to his balls zipping in a little faster than they had been."
Adeboyejo, on freshman wide receivers Markell Pack and Dayall Harris: "They're going to be really good. Markell is pretty fast. A lot of people say he's kind of like me. We both have dreads, so a lot of people think we look alike and run alike. Markell is going to be really good. Dayall, he's in the meeting room and he's asking coach question after question. He's really trying to learn it. That's a good thing coming in as a freshman trying to learn it off the bat."
The SiriusXM College Sports Nation Camp Tour visited Ole Miss on Monday, as Chris Childers and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik talked Ole Miss football live from the Manning Center.
The three-hour show featured live interviews with athletics director Ross Bjork, co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, senior quarterback Bo Wallace, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior linebacker Serderius Bryant and senior safety Cody Prewitt, as well as pre-recorded interviews with head football coach Hugh Freeze and head baseball coach Mike Bianco.
The show will re-air on Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. CT on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, channel 91 on satellite radios, on the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at SiriusXM.com. Here's a sample of the show with Wallace talking about being a senior leader and Freeze talking about the start of camp.
Here are some highlights from Chizik talking with Childers, as he previewed the upcoming season for Ole Miss:
On expectations: "The recruiting classes have been off the charts. Depth, you are finally going to see play a factor. That's probably one of the things why you see them in these SEC matchups, where they can't quite close on the deal on a Texas A&M or an Auburn. Now, all their young guys are gaining experience and gaining year. They have a lot of depth, and you are going to see it make a difference this year.
On Bo Wallace and cutting down on his turnovers: "If you look at some of the premier quarterbacks in the league who really had a chance to win their division -- the AJ McCarron's of the world, the Nick Marshall's and Connor Shaw's -- you're looking at guys who turned the ball over in air four or five times, and for Connor Show, one time. He has to be able to do that. He has to manage those games in the critical times. You're going to see a better Bo Wallace. I really do.
On veterans back on defense: "You have three years in Dave Wommack's system and you have nine starters coming back, and you have some other guys who have played a lot on top of that, not among the nine. You're going to see a very aggressive defense. I have always admired how hard they play. Dave keeps it simple enough, where they can just turn those guys loose and play. They're going to have to play well early and give the offensive line, which has a lot of new guys, time to gel and get better. The defense is going to be a critical element in the first four games of the year.
In between segments, I caught up with Chizik and he shared his thoughts on this year's Ole Miss team and the state of the program:
On season opener against Boise State: "It's cool for the players. I don't know if they train any harder or practice any harder, but certainly as the game gets closer, it has a whole new meaning to a player because it's opening in a pseudo bowl game. They will be excited about it. It's a national TV game and it's going to be one of the biggest games at the beginning of the season. It can be a great opening for Hugh and the football team to play a team like Boise, which has also had a lot of success in its openers, even going back a couple of years to its game against Georgia. The fan base, the players and everyone is going to be excited.
On continuity of staff: "It's night and day if you're trying to build a program, and every two years you're replacing coordinators or you're replacing recruiting coordinators. The kids feel good when they walk back into the building every day and they hear the same voice and the same message. Everyone is beating to the same drum.
On last year's freshmen now sophomores: "So many of the freshmen last year --and they were a very highly-touted class -- came in and had to play, probably more than they needed to play or should have played, when you're talking about freshmen. Hindsight obviously being 20/20, knowing that you had to do that, it certainly makes a better case for you the next year. There were so many guys last year that really had to do it when they were thrown in the fire early. It will pay huge dividends for all those guys this year.
On question marks along the offensive line: "It's going to be huge on the defense. The defense plays a part in that. It's a team game. It's the hardest to put 11 guys on one side and 11 on the other together, but ultimately 22 guys blend together, plus special teams. The defense's job is to buy time for your offensive line to get some experience and gain some confidence, to play together and to listen to the calls. The only thing that you can do with a young line is to give them that experience, game by game, and hopefully you're winning while you're doing it.
On going from the "hunter" to the "hunted": "I don't know if anything changes. There's an awareness there from the coaches and the players that when people play us they have to strap it on and play us for 60 minutes. They can't beat us in 58 minutes. They have to prepare and they have to play the whole game. In this league, they're learning that every week you're the hunted, no matter who you are. Now, they have experienced a great amount of confidence in some of the big games they have won, like the LSU game last year. It makes them very aware that everybody is going to be gunning for them."
On taking the next step as a program: "There's not a day that goes by here that Hugh is not telling his football team that there's one goal, and that's to win the SEC West and go to Atlanta. As you look back and watch the games they have played in the SEC West, there's probably not one guy in that meeting room who thinks that's not a reality, a possibility. They have played everybody tough and beat some of them. That's certainly the goal that they talk about on a daily basis.
On what to look for in first couple of games: "You always look for special teams play. You always look for coverage units and hidden yardage with field position. A lot of people overlook those things because they're looking for touchdowns, interceptions and long runs. That's huge in early games. The other thing is turnovers. You have to protect the ball and you have to try to get the ball back to your offense. Those are the things that every coach in America is going to look for in their openers."
Here are some more highlights from the live interviews on SiriusXM College Sports Nation:
Werner, on Bo Wallace: "The big thing with Bo is that he's sort of a gambler. He'll take his shots. You have to live with it and die with it. When he throws one in there, I'm up the press box and I just go, 'Oh, no,' but then it pops for a touchdown and everybody is happy.
"He makes the exact same throw four plays later and it gets intercepted, and now not so much. That's the thing that I've talked to him about. We have to cut down on those types of plays. We're not going to hit as many big plays, but we're going to keep the chains moving."
-- SiriusXM College (@SiriusXMCollege) August 4, 2014
Wommack, on C.J. Johnson: "He's one of the leaders of the defense. They all rally around him."
Wommack, on Anthony Alford: "He's one of the top two or three athletes on the team."
Wommack, on Robert Nkemdiche: "We will move him around and use him in different packages, in different places."
-- SiriusXM College (@SiriusXMCollege) August 4, 2014
Johnson, on being back healthy: "When I'm on the field, it's go-time. I'm ready to go."
Johnson, on season opener against Boise State: "We have a target on our back (as an SEC school). That's another part of the motivation."
-- SiriusXM College (@SiriusXMCollege) August 4, 2014
Wallace, on last year's Mississippi State game: "It was really frustrating. I felt like we had a good plan for them. I felt like we were the better team. I still feel that way. To be out there, I felt helpless. I didn't know what to do, but I'm healthy now and excited for the year."
Wallace, on leadership: "For me, every guy on the team, when they ask, who wants to win more than anybody, a lot of them are going tell you it's me. That's a huge thing. Competing for those guys, they want to see you're going to put everything on the line every time you walk out there. That's huge for a leader. I'm a quiet, lead-by-example-type guy. I need to be more vocal as a senior and with it being my offense. I'm working on being more vocal."
Bryant, on being underrated: "I love proving people wrong. I got to have a chip on my shoulder because of my size."
Bryant, on the defense: "It's crazy how we all fly around on defense. Everyone's making plays."
Bjork, on his charge as athletics director: "Our job is to build and show progression."
Prewitt, on returning all four starters in the secondary: "It means a lot to be coming back with the same four people in the back end. You can sense what the other guys are going to do and the reads they're going to make. It makes it easier to execute the game plan well."
Prewitt, on Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche: "It's really fun to watch them interacting with each other and the way they push each other. It makes all of us better."
Both coordinators have been pleased with the first couple days of practice as the Ole Miss football team looks to continue to develop more depth on both sides of the ball.
On offense, the discussion starts and ends with senior quarterback Bo Wallace, now more than a year removed from clavicle surgery and the rehabilitation that followed in 2013.
"It's like two different players," co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Werner said. "He's so far ahead. The key is obviously making it all the way through the season, but last year at this time, he was barely coming off rehab. Now, he's not only done with all of that, but he's worked to get his normal strength and maybe then some. He's gained some weight, gotten bigger. He's excited and can't wait for the season."
Running back remains a crowded position, where juniors I'Tavius Mathers (95 carries, 563 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Jaylen Walton (113 carries, 523 yards, 6 touchdowns) are the leading returners, but they are being pushed by sophomore Mark Dodson, redshirt freshmen Eugene Brazley and Jordan Wilkins, and junior college transfer Akeem Judd.
"Two years ago, we basically had one tailback, and he knew pretty much he was going to be the guy," Werner said. "There was nobody else. Now, there's six of them in there, and every one of them is a good player. They're all going to have to battle. If one guy has a bad day, he knows he's probably going to be dropping down."
One of the areas Ole Miss looks to improve is third-down conversion (46 percent, 5th SEC) and red-zone conversion (74 percent, 13th SEC), and part of that is conversion in short-yardage situations. Enter Judd, the biggest of the backs at 6-foot-0 and 220 pounds.
"Today, in the pads, we didn't get a really good look because we're still not going live, but I was pleased," Werner said. "I didn't think we would be impressed with him when we're just in t-shirts, but he made some really nice moves. I'm excited to see when we got live and he makes a nice move, but then gets north and south and runs over someone. That's why we brought him in."
One of the key positions, as far as depth, is offensive line, particularly on the edges. Werner has been pleased with the competition there, but depth remains a concern.
"I like the athleticism of the guys," Werner said. "They are battling. The whole key to that is staying healthy. The depth is the issue. We feel like we have six, seven, eight guys who can really play and help us. If we get a couple banged up, then we have problems."
Junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins, Werner said, can be a really good player at tight end, as he competes for playing time there alongside sophomore Evan Engram and freshman Sammie Epps.
"He's definitely a natural," Werner said. "You can tell him to block somebody, and normally it takes weeks to figure how and where you place your hands and all that, and he just gets into them. He's so strong. He's so physical. And he's so athletic to be able to catch the ball too. It's just learning it. When he will get to that point, nobody knows. We will find out."
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said the depth is better than it's ever been and the talent level is up also. Two areas for improvement were defensive end and length at corner, and he's been pleased with the progress on both fronts.
"Defensive end, from last year, is a huge thing because we lost them all and we were thin," Wommack said. "We took care of a lot of that in recruiting and we add Fadol (Brown), and C.J. (Johnson) is back healthy and 100 percent. We added Marquis (Haynes) and some of those other guys. I see some good things out of the young guys. That's one thing.
"And I wanted to see us get longer at corner and recruit longer at corner, and we have been able to do that. We need them to rise up and get some playing time. I love our corners. Some of them are short, and we wanted to get length at corner."
Among those younger players on the defensive line have been freshmen Breeland Speaks and Garrald McDowell.
"He got a little bit overweight, but he's kind of worked himself down," said Wommack of Speaks. "He's tough and he's a competitor. He's figuring out what college football is all about right now. There's no question he's going to be a factor here down the road. When, I don't know."
"He finds a way," said Wommack of McDowell. "He's a steady guy in there. He's tough. He's a competitor. He's really football smart on the field."
With length at corner, you look at sophomore Derrick Jones (6-foot-2, 182 pounds), as well as the additions of junior college transfer Tee Shepard (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) and Kendarius Webster (5-foot-11, 170).
"He's improved a lot," said Wommack of Jones. "The biggest thing was, physically, he went against one of the best receivers in the nation all spring, and it made him better and made him see he that he had to get stronger. He got strong over the summer and he keeps on coming. I love his length."
"I don't think he's in shape all the way yet," said Wommack of Shepard. "I don't think he's had the conditioning he's needed, so he can't last very long, but the good, quality reps that I see from him are very positive. He has tremendous short-area quickness and has that knack that you want in your corner that's, 'Hey, send me the ball to me. I want the ball thrown to me.' We'll see the whole package here."
Overall, Wommack has been pleased with the freshman class, and no one has stood out more than DeMarquis Gates, a 6-foot-2, 211-pound linebacker from Hampton, Georgia.
"He can run, he's physical, he's tough, and he's smart," Wommack said. "He didn't play last year, so I really wasn't expecting what we have been getting from him. Each and every day, including today, he has shown up, so that's a good thing for us."
With media day behind them, Ole Miss practiced for the first time of fall camp Saturday on the practice fields. Head coach Hugh Freeze split the practice into two parts, with about 40 minutes devoted to getting reps for the younger players.
"It was good for the young group to get out early," Freeze said. "We finally have some kids, when we go two-deep, that are not getting enough reps. That has not been the norm, so we split practice this morning and went out early with the young guys. That will give them some confidence moving forward."
The first part provided a first look at the many players from the 2014 signing class, ranked as high as No. 14 by the major recruiting services.
"I really like the class that we just brought in," Freeze said. "There are a lot of talented kids in it. If we can do a good job of helping them understand how we want to do things and what there is to do, we have some guys who can perform in that class. I don't want them to get too far behind that they can't play fast."
At media day, Freeze said he was most anxious to see the punters and kickers, as the Rebels look to replace Tyler Campbell and Andrew Ritter, who both graduated following their senior year last season.
"I'm pleased with (Will) Gleeson," Freeze said. "He hit it well today. On one day, Andy (Pappanastos) had the best day, but Gary (Wunderlich) had some really good hits, particularly on the left hash. He struggled a bit on the right hash. Andy had the best day of those guys today. I'm pleased with Gary's punting too. We have two quality punters there in Will and Gary. We have a good battle that's going to happen for the PAT and field goal stuff."
Another position battle to watch on special team is punt returner, where the Rebels look to replace Jeff Scott and Jordan Holder, who handled most of those duties last season.
"Carlos Davis would probably be the guy, if we played today," Freeze said. "Anthony Alford and Trae Elston are other good possibilities also. Carlos is pretty natural back there."
In the individual drills, junior Ben Still, senior Chase Hughes and junior Craig Frigo all took snaps at center, with Still getting most of the first-team reps.
The other four players on the first-team offensive line were sophomore Laremy Tunsil (LT), junior Aaron Morris (LG), junior Justin Bell (RG) and sophomore Robert Conyers (RT).
The second-team offensive line consisted of redshirt freshman Davion Johnson (LT), redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin (LG), freshman Rod Taylor (RG) and junior Fahn Cooper (RT), with Taylor also getting reps with the younger players in the first part of practice.
In special teams work, junior running back Jaylen Walton, sophomore running back Mark Dodson and sophomore cornerback Kailo Moore split reps returning kicks. Junior defensive back Mike Hilton, senior defensive back Cliff Coleman, freshman safety C.J. Hampton and sophomore safety Anthony Alford worked as gunners on punt coverage.
Freeze, on newcomers who stood out: "Dayall Harris was phenomenal. Rod Taylor is going to be good. We knew that and believed that. He kind of cramped today and didn't quite get all the reps. All of those guys, Tee Shepard, (Damore'ea Stringfellow) is what we like in our offense, the twins from Bassfield (A.J. Moore and C.J. Moore) are super athletic and make us faster, Ken Webster is going to be a good player at corner. Offensively, (Sammie) Epps was solid. (Jeremy) Liggins, too. I'm excited about them."
Freeze, on the arm strength of senior quarterback Bo Wallace: "He's overthrown two streaks. We have never had that problem before. We have just hoped it has gotten there sometimes, so we kind of laughed about that today, so his arm is definitely stronger. We hope it sustains the course of the time and grind of the year."
The immediate goals for fall practice, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said, are developing more depth, particularly at key positions, and staying healthy.
"Staying healthy is a quandary in my mind because you need to be fast and physical but you have to stay healthy," Freeze said. "Now, we really feel like we have a team that can be good. Hopefully we can go from good to great.
"The line that you worry about, particularly with us still having some depth issues, is how do you get done what you need to do and develop depth and create a competitive, juiced practice and still stay as healthy as you can. We have to create some more depth."
On a related note, Freeze also said everyone is academically eligible, and aside from junior defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton possibly being held out of some drills on day one, everyone is also healthy entering fall camp.
Part of that good news included the clearance of sophomore Tee Shepard, a consensus four-star recruit out of junior college. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder brings an added dimension to a talented cornerback group, led by senior Senquez Golson, sophomore Derrick Jones and junior Mike Hilton.
"I expect Tee to come in and hopefully be a lockdown corner that we may have been missing," Freeze said. "He has the size, strength and speed, and he's physical. I love his demeanor. The guy smiles all the time. He's excited to be here. I like our depth at corner, and that's the first time I can say that. We have some good possibilities there."
"On defense, it's going to take turnovers," said Jones of getting to the next level as a team. "That is the big emphasis we have going into this camp, getting more turnovers, and getting the ball to the offense. We can be one of the top defenses in the country. We have the players and we have great coaches. We have to go out there and play like we know we can play."
One of those key positions as far depth is offensive line, where it starts with sophomore Laremy Tunsil, a freshman All-American, who will anchor the line at left tackle.
"Being a sophomore and being considered that, it's a blessing," said Tunsil of consideration as one of the nation's top offensive tackles. "Last year, I learned about adversity. When the game is not going your way, to try to think about the positive things."
To continue to build depth on the offensive line, Freeze said, sophomore Robert Conyers will work at offensive tackle and center, and freshman Rod Taylor will work at offensive guard and offensive tackle.
"We have to be careful with our offensive line," Freeze said. "We're OK inside depth-wise. On the edges, we're very, very thin. We have a special one in Laremy, and we hope he has a healthy and outstanding year, and we hope Fahn Cooper is exactly what we thought he would be. We have to start getting depth ready behind those guys."
"They showed out this summer," Tunsil said. "They did a pretty good job this summer. They're going to kill it this fall camp."
Passing Game Ready To Take Next Step
Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, the Southeastern Conference's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdown, received the podium treatment at Ole Miss Media Days, and he appeared as healthy and confident as ever.
"I feel as good as I have ever felt, except that first year coming in," Wallace said. "I feel 100 percent. I feel a lot of zip on the ball, and I can push it down the field more. I'm anxious to go out there and start."
"He actually hurt my hand a couple of times playing catch," said sophomore wide receiver Treadwell, smiling and laughing. "But yeah, his arm has gotten very strong. He's making great decisions now. Last year, it was like, 'C'mon, Bo, throw the ball.' Now, he's zipping it and throwing it wherever he wants to put it, in any position."
Treadwell, the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year, moves outside to his natural position, where he looks to stretch the field and make more explosive plays in the offense.
"I worked on it last year, but this year I feel like I had to work on it more because I know that's what we're going to do with a healthy Bo and me moving to the outside," said Treadwell of stretching the field. "Quincy (Adeboyejo) is going to help that a lot because he's mismatch, also, because his route are so crisp that a lot of people can't guard him 1-on-1. He's showed that since day one."
"That's his natural position," said Freeze of the sophomore. "He's a physical blocker, which helps us on the edge. We'll continue to move him around but he will primarily an outside guy. Outside guys typically have the chance to make more explosive plays. He's excited to do that."
With his move outside, fellow sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo, Treadwell said, is poised for a breakout year in the slot.
"Quincy (Adeboyejo) is going to help that a lot because he's a mismatch, also because his route are so crisp that a lot of people can't guard him 1-on-1. He's showed that since day one."
With Moncrief now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, Treadwell has not only moved outside, but he's also taken on a bigger leadership role among the wide receivers and the team in general.
"I stay around my teammates as much as possible because they are going to humble you," Treadwell said. "You can't read your press clippings. I try to keep working hard and leading the team."
Position Changes, Position Battles
After having worked at tight end during spring practice, Channing Ward is switching back to defense, Freeze said. Among the three "athletes" on the roster, freshman D.K. Buford will start at Huskie, freshman D.J. Moore will start at Rover or Huskie, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins will start at tight end.
"Jeremy is one of my favorite kids, even though he ripped my heart out at one point in the recruiting process," Freeze said. "He's such an athletic big guy. He is starting at tight end, but that doesn't mean that's where he will end up. He could play a lot of things. People like that certainly help your football team. We could move him around if we have some depth issues."
The backup quarterback battle continues, and it's in much the same place as it was when Freeze talked to the media at SEC Media Days, with redshirt freshman Ryan Buchanan ahead as a pocket passer and redshirt freshman DeVante Kincade ahead running the entire offense.
In addition, Liggins and sophomore safety Anthony Alford, Freeze said, may also factor in helping fill Barry Brunetti's role from last season.
Freeze said he's most anxious to see the kickers because he's hasn't seen them all summer, as the Rebels look to replace Tyler Campbell and Andrew Ritter, who both graduated following their senior year last seasons.
"(Will) Gleeson has the edge right now, as far as the punting duties," Freeze said. "The kicking duties are wide open. I expect Andy (Pappanastos) and Gary (Wunderlich) to have a great competition for that. (Andrew) Fletcher, too. Nathan Noble will likely handle kickoff duties."
Athletics Director Ross Bjork announces the renaming of Coliseum Drive as Chucky Mullins Drive, in recognition of the spirit and life of Chucky Mullins.
Bjork also announces "It's Time," a celebration of Chucky Mullins around the Sept. 26-27 weekend of the Memphis football game, which will include the football team wearing helmets with No. 38 decals on the side.
ESPN.com unveiled their rankings of the top 100 players in college football for the 2014 season. The players are also rated on a scale of 0-10 based on their expected contributions. The SEC leads all conferences with 30 players, and Ole Miss is second in the league with four players on the list.
Robert Nkemdiche: T-35th, 7.56
Rated the nation's No. 1 overall recruit in the 2013 class, Nkemdiche started 10 games, moving around from end to tackle to even running back last fall. He will stay at tackle this year and should improve on the two sacks and eight tackles for loss he registered in 2013.
Laquon Treadwell: T-39th, 7.50
His teammates believe he's better than Amari Cooper, and they're not far off. Treadwell finished third in the SEC with 72 receptions as a freshman, and he is expected to have an even bigger role as he moves outside to replace Donte Moncrief.
Laremy Tunsil: T-66th, 6.94
A likely future first-round NFL draft pick, Tunsil will anchor Ole Miss' line at left tackle. He started nine games there last season and allowed just one sack. Tunsil was the best prospect of the Rebels' historic 2013 recruiting haul last fall, and he should be even better in 2014.
Cody Prewitt: T-86th, 6.69
From underrated to All-American, Prewitt led the SEC and tied for seventh nationally with six interceptions last season. He also defended 13 passes and had 4.5 tackles for loss. Prewitt is a ball hawk but is physical enough to play in the box and stop the run.
On a related note, Bo Wallace was among ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach's 10 players outside the top 100 who might become household names before season's end.
In a league that doesn't bring back many experienced quarterbacks, Wallace might be the most explosive player returning under center. Last season, he threw for 3,346 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also ran for 355 yards with six scores.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said Wallace's arm strength dipped dramatically as the season went on, which was the result of shoulder surgery the previous offseason. Freeze said Wallace has added 15 pounds and is in better shape after going through the offseason strength and conditioning program, which he wasn't able to do before the 2013 campaign.
ESPN.com's SEC bloggers unveiled their rankings of the top 25 players in college football for the 2014 season. The criteria for each player include talent, stats and importance to his respective team. Ole Miss is tied with Alabama for the most players with four players on the list.
Cody Prewitt: 12th
After becoming the first Rebels safety in 40 years to be named a first-team All-American, Prewitt will accomplish something truly historic if he's able to go back-to-back. He clearly has the skill set to do it after leading the SEC and ranking seventh nationally with six interceptions in 2013. Prewitt possesses not only the ball skills that produced all those picks but also a hard-hitting style that makes him one of the SEC's top all-around defensive backs.
Laremy Tunsil: 15th
It's unusual for a true freshman offensive tackle to start in the SEC. And it's highly irregular for him to dominate. That is what Tunsil did for a good portion of last season, surrendering just one sack all fall while making nine starts. As if his second-team All-SEC designation in 2013 didn't make this clear, Tunsil is a special talent -- and his rise will only continue now that he has a full season under his belt.
Robert Nkemdiche: 18th
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said Nkemdiche is a tackle all the way for the Rebels, although he's certainly athletic enough to play outside in certain situations. He plans to play at 285 pounds this season after playing closer to 300 as a freshman. He's also healthy after racking up eight tackles for loss last season and eager to prove that he can be as dominant as any interior defensive lineman in this league and maybe the country.
Laquon Treadwell: 20th
All Treadwell did as a freshman was lead Ole Miss with 72 catches and earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors from the coaches. He's added 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, and at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, will be even tougher to defend with his physicality, sure hands and run-after-the-catch ability. With Donte Moncrief leaving early for the NFL, Treadwell is moving from slot receiver to the Rebels' outside receiver spot and will get plenty of chances for big plays.
Ole Miss football players will report to campus on Friday for the start of 2014 fall camp.
Friday will also feature Media Day activities beginning with head coach Hugh Freeze's press conference at 2 p.m, which will be streamed live on OleMissSports.com's RebelVision, followed by interviews with assistant coaches and requested players.
The roster has been updated to include newcomer bios, jersey numbers and updated positions, heights and weights.
Among them are sophomore defensive back Tee Shepard, wearing No. 2, and a trio of athletes in freshmen D.K. Buford and C.J. Moore, wearing Nos. 35 and 26, and sophomore Jeremy Liggins, wearing No. 15.
Here are four things to watch as the Rebels meet the press on Friday and open fall camp on Saturday:
Finding Best Five On Offensive Line
The Rebels have to replace three starters from last year who graduated -- left guard Jared Duke, center Evan Swindall and right tackle Pierce Burton. Laremy Tunsil, a freshman All-American and one of the first two Ole Miss freshmen to be named All-SEC, anchors the line at left tackle.
Junior Aaron Morris, Freeze said at SEC Media Days, should be ready to go day one, having missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL in the season opener against Vanderbilt. He will return at left guard, where he started all 13 games in 2012.
Junior Justin Bell started every game last season, with six at left guard and seven at right guard, where he is listed as the starter entering fall camp. Junior Ben Still and sophomore Robert Conyers are listed as the starter at center and right tackle, respectively, entering fall camp.
Redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin, who got a lot of reps in spring practice, is another player to watch, as are newcomers Fahn Cooper, a second team NJCAA All-America selection, and Rod Taylor, an Under Armour All-America selection, whom Freeze raved about at SEC Media Days.
Second Time Around For Talented Sophomores
Last year's freshman class, headlined by four freshman All-Americans, are now sophomores, and they will have a huge role in defining how successful Ole Miss will be this season. The Rebels will also look for the fruits of the labor from another year in the offseason program with Paul Jackson.
For Robert Nkemdiche and Derrick Jones, it's the first full camp at their new positions, having moved to defensive tackle and cornerback, respectively, during their freshman seasons. For Laquon Treadwell and Quincy Adeboyejo, it's continuing in their transition to outside receiver and slot receiver, respectively.
Backup Quarterback Battle To Continue
In addition to watching senior Bo Wallace, as it relates to his confidence and arm strength in fall camp, the battle behind him has continued into fall camp between redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. Since the start of fall camp last season, this has been a story line and it will undoubtedly continue, whether they continue to split snaps or one separates from the other.
On a related note, it will be interesting to see where junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins, listed as an athlete, will work during fall camp and how he might contribute this season. ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach wrote that he will start fall camp working as a tight end, but he may end up contributing at any number of positions, including quarterback.
Making Special Teams Special
The Rebels return 15 starters on offense and defense, but they have to replace both their kicker and punter on special teams. Senior Andrew Fletcher and redshirt freshman Will Gleeson are listed as the starters at placekicker and punter, respectively. The wildcard in the group is incoming freshman Gary Wunderlich, the nation's No. 1 kicker prospect, who has the potential to handle both duties.
There are a lot of options in the return game, with junior running back Jaylen Walton listed as the starter at kick returner and junior cornerback Carlos Davis listed as the starter at punt returner. A trio of sophomores in safety Anthony Alford, cornerback Kailo Moore and wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo also figure in the mix.
"We need to get College GameDay to The Grove." -@CoachHughFreeze-- College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) July 21, 2014
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze sat down with ESPN's Ivan Maisel for his podcast to discuss the upcoming season. Here are a few highlights from Freeze:
On Robert Nkemdiche at defensive tackle:
Robert stays about the same. He's at about 295 pounds. He fluctuates from 295-305 pounds. I have never seen a 295-pound man built like him. He has a six pack at 295 pounds. He's a special athlete, and we're excited. That's where he belongs long-term for his NFL career, if he stays healthy. We think he can be dominant inside. We will go to some 3-4 stuff, too, where he moves out some, but he will primarily be an inside guy.
More on Robert Nkemdiche:
Throughout the recruiting process, we always thought he would move inside. In the bowl game, he played inside the whole game and had his best game of the year by far. He was so active and disruptive against Georgia Tech in the bowl game.
On Laquon Treadwell and his ability and willingness to block:
It's very unusual in a young player. There are not many high school receivers who come in with the mentality that blocking is very important to them. Coaches will always tell them that, but for the kid to grasp that it's an important role for them on the team is not the norm. We could make a cut-up reel right now of his blocking last year that is absolutely way beyond a freshman in maturity. He will inspire those other receivers to block also. He enjoy it. He loves it. He gets a kick out of it. And he has gained some weight. He has gained another 10-15 pounds and will definitely be a great blocker for us.
More on Treadwell:
He's now moved back outside. He will play the outside guy where Donte (Moncrief) was last year. He should see more explosive plays. He had some, but in our stuff, he probably didn't get asked to do that a lot last year, but he will this year.
On cyclical world of college football and lack of star quality in the Southeastern Conference:
I don't (think the SEC takes a step back). If you just look at the way all of us have recruited, if the recruiting services are close to being right, there are a lot of players who are going to be on the field who we don't know about. Right now, there's not the star power that there has been the last couple of year, but it will be back very soon.
Overriding theme from @CoachHughFreeze about Ole Miss in 2014: It's time to compete for championships. Enough SEC-level talent in program.-- Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) July 21, 2014
. @CoachHughFreeze said next step for DL Robert Nkemdiche is to "dominate." Nkemdiche must defeat single-blockers at least 70% of time.-- Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) July 21, 2014
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoop and Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze discuss the state of the SEC on College Football Live. Here a few highlights from Freeze:
"We're a unique staff that has a core values that attracts a certain type of kid. We had the early opportunity to play for us because of what we inherited when we got there. Kids are drawn to that. And if you ever get a kid on our campus, we have a chance. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world, and our facilities have been upgraded to be top notch. They see the passion and love we have for what we do there. Hopefully, it transcended into helping them become the type of men they need to be in life."
"I'm determined that I won't let pressure definite how we go about doing things. I do know that we're good enough now to be relevant in the SEC West. What that means in the win-loss column, I have no idea, because no one is backing up, but we closed the gap to where we should in the factors of who wins this league."
Hugh Freeze said Robert Nkemdiche will play at 285 this year. Came to Ole Miss around 300. Laquon Treadwell has gained 12-15 pounds.-- Chris Low (@ClowESPN) July 21, 2014
Hugh Freeze not backing down from expectations: For us to be relevant in the SEC West. I believe we're in a position now that we should be.-- Chris Low (@ClowESPN) July 21, 2014
Freeze feels good about Ole Miss' depth with the exception of offensive line, receiver and tight end.-- Chris Low (@ClowESPN) July 21, 2014
All 14 Southeastern Conference football coaches will travel to ESPN's
annual mid-summer football coaches "car wash" - in which guests appear
across multiple programs and platforms over one day - at ESPN's Bristol,
Conn., headquarters on Monday and Tuesday. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze is part of Monday's group.
The schedules for the coaches will include a mixture of
interviews with more than 25 different shows and writers across ESPN's
television, radio and digital media platforms. Below is Freeze's tentative itinerary for Monday (Times Central). Most of the interviews are taped, so I'll tweet during the trip when we know airtimes.
9:00 AM SEC Network Talkbacks
9:15 AM College Gameday / SEC Thematic Shoot
9:40 AM Freddie Coleman Radio
9:50 AM College Gameday Radio
10:00 AM SVP & Russillo
10:10 AM ESPNU podcast
10:22 AM ESPN Films
10:40 AM Roundtable
11:20 AM SEC Film Room
11:40 AM Digital Media
12:00 PM ESPN Images
12:15 PM ESPN.com Reporter
12:40 PM CFB Live
1:40 PM SportsCenter (Tape)
1:50 PM Travis Haney
Ole Miss took its turn at the annual SEC Media Days on Thursday. Joining head coach Hugh Freeze was senior quarterback Bo Wallace, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and senior safety Cody Prewitt. Here are a few related SEC Media Days links to videos and stories:
Freeze explains common factor in SEC turnarounds, writes Chris Vannini of Coaching Search
Great expectations: Improved depth could lead to big things for Rebels, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
Ole Miss football wants to prove it's a big ticket for Atlanta and beyond, writes Steven Godfrey of SB Nation
Slighted QB Wallace ready to lead Mississippi, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press
On his shoulders: Wallace 100 percent fit and ready to lead Rebels, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
Bo Wallace just wants one healthy season, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Bo Wallace using snub for extra motivation, writes Ross Dellenger of The Advocate
Tough talk, big dreams for Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace in senior season, writes Geoff Calkins of the Commercial Appeal
Last shot for Bo Wallace to spurn doubters, get Ole Miss to new heights, writes Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated
VIDEO: Bo Wallace aims to be the SEC's top QB, reports Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger
C.J. Johnson is back, can make the Ole Miss D better, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Ole Miss All-American safety Cody Prewitt still toils in obscurity, writes Gary Laney of AL.com
Denzel Nkemdiche back with Ole Miss Rebels after spring ban, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com
Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell in same class as Alabama's Amari Cooper, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com
More from SEC Sports: 2014 SEC Media Days Wrap-Up
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said on day one that his expectations were to make the program relevant in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.
With a full allotment of 85 scholarship players and more depth of both sides of the ball, Freeze said, Ole Miss should be just that and competitive in every single game this season.
"Obviously I can't control the health of players, injuries, turnovers, how your quarterback plays," Freeze said. "All of those factors will kind of determining the ending result of wins and losses. But there's no question in my mind we're a better football team today than we were in year one and year two and we should be very competitive."
The players also feel those expectations coming off back-to-back bowl wins in each of the last two seasons, as the Rebels enter year three of the Hugh Freeze Era.
"The basketball team has been able to do it," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "The baseball team has been able to do it. Our fans are hungry for our football team to go to Atlanta. We feel those expectations and we're working hard every day."
In addition to upperclassmen such as Wallace and senior safety Cody Prewitt, a first team All-American last season, last year's freshman class will have a huge role in defining how successful Ole Miss will be this season.
"I certainly hope that another year in the offseason program with Paul Jackson and being a college student-athlete, that the grind of what we ask them to go through is more common to them so that they are better equipped and better prepared to go through the grind of the season that we're going to ask them to go through," Freeze said.
"The guys last year, their biggest setback was the mental side of the game," Prewitt said. "They are extremely athletic. They wouldn't be here if they weren't. Last year, they made a lot of mistakes. The biggest difference I saw in the spring was a lot of those mistakes weren't there anymore. They really progressed mentally. That's what's going to make that class special and help the team."
Freeze Excited For Season Opener In Georgia Dome
Ole Miss will open the 2014 season against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Thursday, Aug. 28. The game, which will start the 2014 college football season, will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and be televised by ESPN.
"We get to open college football," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "All eyes will be on you on that Thursday night against a very good Boise program.
"So we're excited and hopefully embrace that opportunity and the magnitude it will have on expanding our brand nationally. You certainly know that could help. Hopefully we get a chance to embrace that opportunity and make the most of it."
Another Chip On Wallace's Shoulder
Dating back to his high school days at Giles County in Pulaski, Tennessee, senior quarterback Bo Wallace has always played with a chip on his shoulder.
Add another chip on Wallace's shoulder, as the three-year starter and the SEC's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns was voted third team All-SEC by league media, behind Auburn's Nick Marshall and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott.
"I have always had a chip on my shoulder," Wallace said. "I have always felt like I could play at this level. This is a familiar position for me. In high school, people were saying, 'You can't play in college.' In junior college, people were saying, 'You can't play in the SEC.' I have been able to put up numbers. I'm familiar with this place and I enjoy it."
Backup Quarterback Battle Continues
Behind Wallace, the battle for the backup quarterback position continues between redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. Head coach Hugh Freeze has been pleased with both options, and if the season started today, it would depend upon the situation.
"They both bring a little different skill set to us," Freeze said. "The good thing is they both have used their redshirt year, so I'm not afraid to throw them in for a series here or a series there to see exactly what they do."
"The big thing with DeVante is he has all the talent in the world," Wallace said. "He needs to not create as many negative plays. Ryan knows the offense and his arm has gotten a lot stronger this offseason. It's going to be a really good battle in the offseason."
Freeze also mentioned junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins and Southern Miss transfer Anthony Alford, who figures in the mix at safety, as wildcards who could possibly add to the quarterback position. Freeze had particular high praise for Liggins, who might end up contributing at any number of positions.
"He's done absolutely phenomenal work," Freeze said. "I couldn't be happier with Jeremy Liggins. He looks like a million bucks. He's running around. He's down to about 280 pounds. I don't know where I'm going to play him, but he's going to help us."
Prewitt Looks To Improve On All-American Junior Season
A first team All-American this past season, senior safety Cody Prewitt was one of three Rebels voted first team All-SEC by league media, along with sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.
Prewitt led the SEC and tied for seventh nationally with six interceptions. He also ranked second on the team with 71 tackles and first with 13 passes defended. Entering his senior season, he remains focused on all-around improvements and not to get complacent.
"I missed a couple of balls I shouldn't have missed last year," Prewitt said. "I missed a couple of tackles I should have made last year. I made a couple of mental mistakes I shouldn't have made last year. It's the little things you can do to improve."
At 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, Prewitt has been labeled a physical player and a big hitter, and while he didn't shy away from that reputation, it's more about making plays and making a difference on the defensive side of the ball.
"I like to hit people," Prewitt said. "My style is to be aggressive. Whatever I can do to be aggressive. Anything I can do to start shift momentum for my team. Whether that's a big hit or an interception, if I can get my team pumped up, focussed and back into the game, that's what I want to do."
Once overshadowed, Wallace now finds himself more firmly in the spotlight after the departure of seven of the league's eight top passers. The dean of SEC quarterbacks, Wallace is the league's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns.
"Every quarterback is going to take that as a challenge," Wallace said. "The quarterbacks are not any less talented than the ones that just left. Every quarterback will take that as a challenge to go out there, put a lot of numbers up and win games for their team."
"He's matured quite nicely in the way he leads our team and the way he goes about our business. He feels finally healthy and confident. I really think he's at a point where he certainly has every avenue right now to step in and be one of the guys in this conference."
More than a year removed from clavicle surgery in January 2013, Wallace is as healthy and confident as his head coach and teammates can remember.
Wallace credits offseason workouts with mechanics guru Tom House for helping him regain his velocity, which he said fell off toward the end of last season. He also described the workouts as one of the best decisions he's made.
"We have talked about it and watched videos together," Freeze said. "Everything is giving him confidence. We're excited. Hopefully, the arm strength that he has right now will be sustained throughout the year because of a full offseason of rehab work and strengthening and specialists."
"I have been going against Bo for years now, so I have seen him at his best, and I have seen him at his worst," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "If you ask me, he should have been first team. Everybody is going to see that as soon as the season starts. He's really progressed mentally and physically in the offseason."
Wallace's confidence carries over to team goals for the Rebels, which were picked fourth in the SEC West by the league media, as he quickly and confidently answered that he would take a trip to the SEC Championship game over eclipsing Eli Manning's school record for career passing yards.
"Why can't we be a team that comes out of the West and makes some noise," Wallace said. "We're not saying, let's go to a national championship. We're going to take it one game at a time. Why not us? Why can't we have an impact like that and win a lot of football games.
"Going to Atlanta would cement your legacy forever being the first quarterback to be able to do it. I know I'm going to put up the numbers because Coach Freeze's offense is built for a quarterback to put up number. I know I can do that. It would be priceless to take this team to Atlanta."
Before taking his turn at the podium in the main room at SEC Media Days on Thursday, head coach Hugh Freeze met with members of the Ole Miss local media and addressed a wide variety of topics. Here are some of the highlights:
On Tee Shepard:
"I saw his update yesterday. It looked good. When his classes end on July 25, we will start getting the grades from the junior college to the (NCAA) clearinghouse. You're never sure of the time frame of those things, but we feel very confident, today, that he has what he needs to qualify. Hopefully he will be there right around the beginning of the camp, provided he finishes the way he's doing right now."
On the health of Bo Wallace:
"He feels really good. He's really confident. He looks better and has put on about 15 pounds. He's excited about the way he feels and the works that's taking place in the offseason, not only with Paul Jackson, but with some specialists who have looked at him. It's as confident as I have seen him."
On Bo Wallace working with quarterback specialist Tom House:
"We have talked about it and watched videos together. Everything is giving him confidence. We're excited. Hopefully, the arm strength that he has right now will be sustained throughout the year because of a full offseason of rehab work and strengthening and working with specialists."
On Fahn Cooper:
"(Paul Jackson) is excited about Fahn. He was ahead of where he thought he would be when he got here. He's a hard worker. He's an athletic kid. We're excited that he's exactly who we thought he would be."
On Aaron Morris and Christian Morris returning from injury, and the team's overall health:
"Aaron is doing everything now. It seems to be good. He's still working on his weight. He should be ready to go day one. Christian Morris is working out now. I'm not sure if he will be released to go day one for everything.
"Losing Chief Brown was difficult. He is a wonderful kid and we needed him. You finally get your secondary where you think it's a really solid two-deep. We lose Collins Moore this week for a period of time. He has a knee that will hold him out 4-to-6 weeks. That's part of the game. That's why you have to go recruit depth. We feel better because we have better depth at most places than we have had the last two years."
On incoming freshmen:
"Rod Taylor is a good player. How good will he be as a freshman, I don't know. We will need some of those young kids to play on the offensive line. Him and Fahn Cooper are the first two who jump off the page. We're really excited about Breeland Speaks and Garrald McDowell. We're going to need one of those receivers -- Dayall (Harris), Markell (Pack), Sammie (Epps) -- one of those guys to give us some depth at receiver. We're really excited about those guys.
"We're really excited about the whole class. Top to bottom, it is a very solid class. The ones who jump out are the ones where we have needs: offensive line and wide receiver depth."
On Jeremy Liggins:
"He's done absolutely phenomenal work. I couldn't be happier with Jeremy Liggins. He looks like a million bucks. He's running around. He's down to about 280 pounds. I don't know where I'm going to play him, but he's going to help us."
On backup quarterback:
"If we were playing today, it would totally depend upon the situation. If we were able to run the entire offense that we have, it would probably be (DeVante) Kincade. If we had to stand in the pocket and make a drive throwing the ball down the field, it would probably be (Ryan) Buchanan."
Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday. Here are a few links to stories of interest for Ole Miss fans from Day Three of SEC Media Days, which featured Steve Shaw (SEC), Justin Connolly (ESPN), Bill Hancock (College Football Playoff), Missouri, LSU and Arkansas.
The Ole Miss official website, OleMissSports.com, and the SEC official website, SECSports.com, will have continuous coverage of SEC Football Media Days, as will ESPNU, ESPN and Watch ESPN.
SEC imbalance: When will the West's dominance over the East end?, writes Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com
SEC coaches using Auburn's magical turnaround as preseason rallying cry, writes Joel A. Erickson of AL.com
Steve Shaw notes changes to targeting rule, quarterback safety and other points at SEC Media Days, writes Drew Champlin of AL.com
SEC Network TV launch looming; some fans in dark, writes John Zenor of the Associated Press
Mizzou was an SEC leader -- not an outlier -- all along, writes Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com
Mizzou's Mauk ready for SEC close-up, writes Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The best of LSU's Les Miles at SEC media day, writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com
'It's fun': Les Miles' trip through SEC media days, writes Ross Dellenger of The Advocate
Rabalais: These Tigers should relish the underdog role, writes Scott Rabalais of The Advocate
LSU football to rely on freshmen more than ever in 2014, writes Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com
Freshman Leonard Fournette draws lofty comparisons at LSU, writes Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com
Bielema, Razorbacks Stick With Plan, writes Robbie Neiswanger of the Arkansas News Bureau
Razorbacks mastering their 'Hoganese,' writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com
Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn not 'breaking bread,' but hurry-up adversaries do respect each other, writes Brandon Marcello of AL.com
Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday. Here are a few links to stories of interest for Ole Miss fans from Day Two of SEC Media Days, which featured South Carolina, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Tennessee.
The Ole Miss official website, OleMissSports.com, and the SEC official website, SECSports.com, will have continuous coverage of SEC Football Media Days, as will ESPNU, ESPN and Watch ESPN.
Star power lacking at SEC Media Days, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press
SEC enters new world: Covering itself on TV channel, writes Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com
The best of Steve Spurrier's media day, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com
South Carolina's energetic Spurrier still on top of his game -- and winning, writes Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com
Wild, Wild West: Bulldogs' Mullen trying to chart course for Atlanta, writes Logan Lowery of the Daily Journal
Take Five: Mississippi State, Mullen lay out their bold plans, writes Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger
Dak Prescott, the SEC's newest star, takes the big stage, writes Bob Carskadon of HailState.com
Looking for the next Steve Spurrier? Look right at Kevin Sumlin and smile, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com
Minus Manziel, Aggies escape microscope, writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com
Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin treating Manziel like Johnny Forgotten, writes Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com
Vols hoping for more in Jones' second season, writes Wes Rucker of govols247.com
Butch Jones, Vols enter season optimistic, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com
NFL.com CFB 24/7 has counted down the 14 college football players to watch -- and some other college football topics -- in varying categories in 2014. Below are the highlights for Ole Miss and the link to the complete 14 for '14 series.
Particulars: 6-4, 277, sophomore
Buzz: Did anyone else in the country see time on both the defensive line and at running back last year? Show of hands? Nkemdiche can make the claim, although he just got five totes in the backfield, for 32 yards. Short-yardage rushing aside, it's at defensive tackle where Nkemdiche is expected to dominate for the Rebels as a sophomore this fall. He played some end last year, as well, but tackle appears to be his home after making eight tackles for loss among 34 stops last year. But we won't be surprised if he gets a few more third-and-1 carries this fall.
Another two-sport star in college, Moore mostly contributed last season on special teams as a freshman. He's off to a good start in 2014 on the track and has times comparable with TCU's Kolby Listenbee and Georgia Tech's Broderick Snoddy in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.
Particulars: 5-9, 215, junior
Buzz: Rebels free safety Cody Prewitt receives more acclaim for his big hits -- he almost eviscerated Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews in last season's opener -- but Bryant deserves the honor. He's a 5-9 linebacker (and the 5-9 is his listed height, with emphasis on "listed") who starts in the SEC. Bryant's nickname is "Bird," which he picked up in high school in the Orlando area for the way he flew around the field making tackles and big hits. Yes, despite his size, a guy nicknamed "Bird" really lays the wood. You have to be tough to be a 5-9 linebacker in the SEC who makes big hits.
Particulars: 6-2, 212, senior
Buzz: He led the SEC in interceptions last season with six, but don't let that fool you: Prewitt is a hitter first, and a coverage ace second. He's like an extra linebacker when it comes to run support, and patrols the middle of the field with a nasty streak on passing downs. Recall star Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews vomiting on national TV last year in the first game of the season after taking a brutal hit -- it was Prewitt on the giving end.
Particulars: 6-1, 215, senior
Buzz: There are few stories of perseverance in college football to match that of Shackelford, who missed two straight years of football while recovering from multiple surgeries on a devastating knee injury. He returned last year to make 44 tackles -- 7.5 for losses. While not the team's best defender, he's the Rebels' emotional leader and the only two-time winner of Ole Miss' Chucky Mullins Award for courage. Shackelford's injury plight got him a rare sixth year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, and he'll wear Mullins' No. 38 jersey this fall.
Particulars: 5-8, 166, Junior
Buzz: Coach Hugh Freeze clearly likes his running backs small and quick, and that's exactly what Walton brings to the SEC in college football's most physical conference. He made seven starts in the Rebels' backfield last year, picking up 523 yards and six touchdowns. With 29 catches for 322 yards, he was also one of the SEC's most prolific receivers at the running back position. And if that wasn't enough for the two-year letterman from Memphis, he also returned 25 kickoffs for another 515 yards.
Particulars: 6-5, 355, junior
Buzz: What could have been a dominant year for Morris last season never even got started, as a torn ACL put him on the sideline in the Rebels' first game. He had been a full-time starter at guard in 2012, and even saw six starts as a freshman in 2011. Morris isn't just a big body -- he's a player -- and provides a physical presence to an offense known more for finesse than power. A healthy Morris in 2014 would be a major boost to the Ole Miss offensive front.
Remember when the Rebels seemed to come out of nowhere in 2013 and land a recruiting class ranked in the top 10 that included the best player in the country? Kiffin was the chief reason why Laremy Tunsil and Robert Nkemdiche are in Oxford, and he's been the man behind the recruiting efforts of the program that has turned heads recently. Recruiting and the last name Kiffin always seem to go together and it will be interesting to see how Chris will fare going against brother Lane head-to-head.
Particulars: 6-2, 212, senior.
Buzz: He is from Bay Springs, Miss. If you're like us, you hear "Bay Springs" and you picture a calm, peaceful place. Well, that's not the way Prewitt plays football; instead, he flies around, making big plays and huge hits. His nicely executed form tackle on Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews in last season's opener is a perfect example. (Warning: Do not run a Google search on that hit unless you are comfortable with watching a guy throw up on the field.) But Prewitt, who should vie for All-America honors this fall, is more than a big hitter; he had six interceptions and seven pass breakups to go along with 71 tackles last season. Still, while he is good in coverage, his best trait is his hitting ability.
Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday. Here are a few links to stories of interest for Ole Miss fans from Day 1 of SEC Media Days, which featured SEC commissioner Mike Slive, Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt.
The Ole Miss official website, OleMissSports.com, and the SEC official website, SECSports.com, will have continuous coverage of SEC Football Media Days, as will ESPNU, ESPN and Watch ESPN.
SEC's Slive Continues Push for Big Five autonomy, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press
The Blueprint: Auburn's rosy run provides lessons for Ole Miss, Mississippi State, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Auburn hopeful defensive end Carl Lawson will return from ACL surgery, writes Brandon Marcello of AL.com
Auburn teammates rallying around Nick Marshall despite quarterback's mistake, writes Joel A. Erickson of AL.com
SEC Media Days: Last year's loss to Rebels still stings at Vandy, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal
Vandy acknowledges Ole Miss fans will be at 'road' game, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger
Teary James Franklin told Vanderbilt: 'I'm not leaving,' writes Nick Cole of The Tennessean
Vanderbilt's Derek Mason: No rush to name starting QB, writes Nick Cole of The Tennessean
SEC Media Days: Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason believes the Stanford way can work in SEC, writes Gary Laney of AL.com
Three student-athletes and the head coach of each of the 14 Southeastern Conference football programs will participate in SEC Football Media Days, July 14-17, at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala.
Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday, July 17. In addition to head coach Hugh Freeze, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior safety Cody Prewitt and senior quarterback Bo Wallace will represent Ole Miss.
Wallace is the seventh Rebel to attend multiple SEC Media Days, joining Jeff Herrod (1986-87), Eli Manning (2002-03), Patrick Willis (2005-06), Kentrell Lockett (2010-11), Bradley Sowell (2010-11) and Donte Moncrief (2012-13).
The cover art for Ole Miss football media guide was also released. The guide has two covers, one featuring Wallace and another featuring Prewitt. Fans can start ordering guides next week at OleMissSports.com
More From SEC Sports: Football Media Days Attendees Released
ESPN.com's SEC bloggers wrapped up their annual position rankings, where they rank the position units and rank the top players at the various positions. Below are the highlights for Ole Miss and links to all of the unit rankings.
Bo Wallace enters his senior season ranked second in school history in total offense (7,085 yards) and passing yards (6,340). It's always nice to have that kind of experience, and Wallace should also be healthier after playing through shoulder pain each of the last two seasons. It's a three-man race for the backup job. DeVante Kincade is an exceptional athlete, Ryan Buchanan is more of a pocket passer. Both are redshirt freshmen. Don't forget about 6-foot-3, 296-pound sophomore Jeremy Liggins, who originally signed with LSU before going to junior college. Liggins could be a beast in short-yardage situations.
Bo Wallace: 3rd
The dean of SEC quarterbacks, Wallace seems to finally be healthy after battling shoulder issues each of the past two seasons. If he stays healthy, he could easily shoot up to the top of these rankings. He needs to cut down on his 27 interceptions over the past two seasons, but he's also accounted for 54 touchdowns during that span.
Offensive coordinators love it when they can stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. Laquon Treadwell, who as a true freshman trailed only Jordan Matthews for the most receptions in the SEC last season, is the type of home-run threat to keep safeties on their heels. Evan Engram, who made a positive impression as a rookie himself before succumbing to injury, gives Ole Miss a one-two punch by demanding coverage in the middle of the field because he's simply too athletic a tight end to be covered by most linebackers in the league.
Laquon Treadwell: 2nd
Everyone had the feeling he'd be special in his first year at Ole Miss, but it came as a surprise just how ready he was to compete in the SEC. Playing slot, he was one of the best receivers in the league, finishing second only to Jordan Matthews in receptions (72). As a result, coaches voted him SEC Freshman of the Year. At 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds, he has the frame to challenge smaller defensive backs. But it's his hands and ability to create space that make him special. With Donte Moncrief now gone, he'll transition to the outside and continue to be a favorite of quarterback Bo Wallace.
Evan Engram: 3rd
Injuries clouded an otherwise eye-opening rookie campaign. He started last season on a tear with 20 catches and four touchdowns through seven games and then missed the final five games of the regular season. If he has a clean bill of health, he's the type of hybrid receiver-tight end who can flourish in Hugh Freeze's offense and complement Laquon Treadwell on the outside.
Laremy Tunsil: 3rd
The Rebels' 2013 recruiting class was full of five-star prospects, but none played better than Tunsil last season. He appeared in 12 games, making nine starts at left tackle. He allowed just one sack all year. He was a second team All-SEC selection, a member of the SEC All-Freshman team, and the coaches expect him to only get better as a sophomore.
As Hugh Freeze moves into his third season on the job, the hope in Oxford is that the Rebels can make some noise in the West race. They have the depth, talent and experience in the defensive line to make a move. Sophomore tackle Robert Nkemdiche is the most talented of the bunch and primed for a huge season, but there's also depth inside. If C.J. Johnson stays healthy at end, defensive line should be the Rebels' strongest position in 2014.
Robert Nkemdiche: 3rd
The consensus No. 1 high school prospect in the country last year, Nkemdiche started the season at end and then moved inside to tackle. He finished third on the team with eight tackles for loss despite missing two games with a strained hamstring. At 6-4 and 277 pounds, Nkemdiche is big enough and explosive enough to be a dynamic playmaker no matter where he lines up.
Issac Gross: 8th
Size isn't everything at tackle. The 250-pound Gross proved that last season. He consistently went up against bigger guards and centers on the offensive line and used his quickness to lead the Rebels with 3.5 sacks and was second on the team with nice tackles for loss. Gross started four games at nose tackle last season.
C.J. Johnson: 8th
The 6-2, 237-pound Johnson was on his way to an All-SEC season a year ago until an ankle injury sidelined him for the season. He had four tackles for loss in his first four games and, as a sophomore in 2012, led the team with 6.5 sacks. The biggest hurdle for Johnson has been avoiding injuries. But if he stays healthy, he'll make a ton of big plays for the Rebels this season.
Serderius Bryant: 6th
He might not have the prototypical size for an SEC linebacker, but the 5-9, 218-pound Bryant emerged last season as one of the league's top big-play performers on defense. He led Ole Miss with 12.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. His speed is what sets him apart.
Talent and experience. Both are worth their weight in gold, and Ole Miss has loads of each. We're probably not giving anything away when we say that both Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner will make the list of the league's top 10 safeties later today. Prewitt led the league in interceptions last season, and Conner, a former four-star recruit, has barely scratched the surface on what he can do. Trae Elston and Senquez Golson, meanwhile, are potential impact players, along with Mike Hilton and Derrick Jones. If C.J. Hampton lives up to the hype, he could be a true freshman to keep an eye on.
Cody Prewitt: 1st
On a defense loaded with former blue-chip recruits, it was Prewitt, a three-star safety from the tiny town of Bay Springs, Mississippi, who stood out the most last season. The 6-foot-2 junior showed the complete package as he led the SEC with six interceptions and became a near unanimous first team All-America selection. Now a senior, he's the clear face of a secondary that could be the best in the conference.
Tony Conner: 3rd
Talk about fulfilling on promise. Conner, a four-star safety prospect coming out of high school, was an immediate impact player for Ole Miss, playing in all 12 games and earning Freshman All-America honors for his 66 tackles, one interception and seven passes defended.
Jaylen Walton: 8th
Another guy competing for a 2014 starting running back job, the diminutive Walton was impressive as a return man last season. In addition to his 523 rushing yards as a backfield mate for Jeff Scott and I'Tavius Mathers, he contributed 25 kickoff returns for 515 yards, good for a team-best average of 20.6 ypr.
Weeks after the Southeastern Conference announced each team would continue to play eight conference football games per season, the league announced a 12-year rotation of non-division opponents for SEC football schedules through 2025.
Ole Miss will continue to play six games against SEC Western Division opponents, as well as permanent SEC Eastern Division opponent Vanderbilt on a home and away basis beginning in 2014.
Ole Miss will play Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State at home this season, and Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M away, and that will alternate home and away through 2025.
Ole Miss will play each of the other six SEC East schools once at home and once away during the 12-year rotation, starting with a home game against Tennessee in 2014, followed by an away game at Florida in 2015.
2014 vs. Tennessee
2015 at Florida
2016 vs. Georgia
2017 at Kentucky
2018 vs. South Carolina
2019 at Missouri
2020 vs. Florida
2021 at Tennessee
2022 vs. Kentucky
2023 at Georgia
2024 vs. Missouri
2025 at South Carolina
(Permanent opponents in 2014: Home - Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State; Away - Arkansas, LSU, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt. Sites will alternate home and away through 2025.)
For more information about the Forward Together Campaign, and to receive information about how you can contribute, go to ForwardTogetherRebels.com or call the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at 662-915-7159.
Indianapolis Colts Pick Wide Receiver Donte Moncrief in 3rd Round, writes Craig Kelley of Colts.com
Getting To Know Colts Draft Pick Donte Moncrief, writes Kevin Bowen of Colts.com
Colts Find More Help For Luck In NFL Draft, writes Michael Marot of The Associated Press
Colts' Draft Picks Bring Some Old-School Feel, writes Reggie Hayes of The News-Sentinel
Colts Draft: Big Body Up Front, Fleet Feet Outside, writes Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star
How Did The Colts Draft Grade Out With Jack Mewhort And Donte Moncrief, writes Kevin Bowen of Colts.com
Former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief was selected by the Indianapolis Colts with the 90th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He was the 14th wide receiver selected in the draft. Here's his NFL.com draft profile.
"I am so excited to see our rich tradition of NFL Rebels continue with Donte," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "With this hard work and dedication, I expect him to join fellow Ole Miss greats Mike Wallace and Dexter McCluster as successful receivers at the next level. I appreciate the commitment and leadership Donte provided our program in helping lead us to back-to-back bowl wins, and I can't wait to watch him excel for the Colts."
Here's what ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay had to say after the pick was announced:
"Donte Moncrief has first-round ability, first-round talent," Kiper said. "He looks great physically. He didn't take over games. He didn't play to his measurables. He has the speed and explosiveness. He has to go out and maximize that ability. He has too much talent for a corner to neutralize him on ability. He had games where he flashed first-round ability. With those measurables, Donte Moncrief will go out and take over games on a regular basis."
"For all those guys who look at the analytics versus the tape, there's a place for both," McShay said. "The analytics are highly helpful when you're talking about overall ability. You can't take the number over what you see on the tape, but some people put more stock into Moncrief than others. This is about where he belongs. You look at his numbers. They're outrageous. Across the board, he was among the elite, if not the top performer, in everything he did at the combine. There's a lot of talent to work with."
Here's some reaction from Twitter after the pick was announced:
#Colts add needed depth at WR with Donte Moncrief. Nice size.-- Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) May 10, 2014
I'm sure Moncrief would have liked to go a little higher, but the Colts seem like a pretty good fit.-- David Brandt (@davidbrandtAP) May 10, 2014
Ryan Grigson points to Donte Moncreif's 16-yard yards per catch in 3 SEC seasons. Grigson says you can't teach that frame and speed.-- Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) May 10, 2014
Grigson said Moncrief taken because of ability, not just because of futures for Wayne, Nicks. "Can't coach 6-2, 223. He'll work, learn."-- Craig Kelley (@CraigKColts) May 10, 2014
Grigson on Moncrief: He's stable. Football is his life. He can separate. Our scouts liked this guy from sophomore film.-- Craig Kelley (@CraigKColts) May 10, 2014
Grigson said if it wasn't Moncrief at 90, they had one other player they really liked and the next option was trade down.-- Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) May 10, 2014
Just got off a conference call with Donte Moncreif. He said the @Colts came down to Oxford for a private workout during the draft process.-- Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) May 10, 2014
Here's what two NFL Draft analysts had to say about former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief one week from the start of the 2014 NFL Draft, set for May 8-10.
ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper, who previously slotted Moncrief to the Indianapolis Colts with 59th overall pick in his "Grade A" draft and previously projected him to the San Diego Chargers with the 57th overall pick in his "Mock Draft 4.0" mentioned Moncrief as one of the 24 biggest "freaks" in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Here's what Kiper had to say about Moncrief:
His route running needs work, but there's nothing more Moncrief can show as an athlete after running 4.40 and leaping 39.5 inches in the vertical, and he put up those numbers as a 6-2 wide receiver weighing in at 221 pounds. It's hard not to bet high on that workout.
For ESPN Insider subscribers, here's the link to the full article, "Biggest 'freaks' in 2014 NFL draft"
Kiper and fellow ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Todd McShay played general manager and went through a three-round mock draft Thursday night. Kiper selected Moncrief for the Minnesota Vikings with a third-round pick (72nd overall).
Here's what Kiper had to say about the pick:
At this point, the Vikings have addressed a need at QB (Bortles) and in coverage (Joyner), and Moncrief is one of the best athletes in the entire draft, with legit 4.4 speed and great leaping ability in a 6-2, 220-pound frame.
For ESPN Insider subscribers, here's the link to the full article, "Head-to-head: Three-round mock"
NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock held a two-hour conference call Thursday with reporters. Mayock will unveil his first -- and only -- mock draft in a one-hour special, "Mayock's 2014 Mock Draft, on Wednesday, May 7 at 8 p.m. CT on NFL Network.
Here's what Mayock had to say about Moncrief:
Moncrief is a guy who drops the ball too much and double-catches it a little too much. When I see a wide receiver with drops and double-catches, I get nervous. He has to convince team that he can be a consistent catcher of the football. He's a little bit straight-line fast. He has to learn how to run routes.
I have him late third round. The West Coast teams will like him because he can be a big, possession-type receiver who can run the slant and throw it into his body. Any of those type of teams that focus on West Coast offense would make a ton of sense for him. I'm hoping that his best football is ahead of him, and he can continue to develop the craft of playing wide receiver.
Here's the link to the full Mike Mayock Draft Conference Call
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze talks about the new format for future football scheduling, among other topics, on the SEC Spring Football Coaches Media Teleconference Wednesday. Here are the highlights:
I was really pleased with the 15 practices we had. We have finally established a little depth where we can go out and have competitive practices and have someone on the depth chart that's pushing you to be your best each and every day. That changed us more in this spring as opposed to the two previous springs because we had some guys push each other and we got some of our injured players back from the season. I was very excited about the progress we made in the spring.
On the Forward Together capital campaign being $10 million away from the $120 million goal to begin work on the North End Zone expansion after the season:
I leave that up to Ross (Bjork), Keith (Carter) and those guys. We have made a lot of progress on it. I'm confident that they know that they have a great plan in place, and they are certainly working hard at that. Hopefully, all of those things will fall right in line. You know your strengths and weaknesses, so I very rarely get into those discussions. If we're progressing as a football team, we'll do our part in helping that.
On what the renovation and expansion would mean for the program:
When I first got here, they had a lot of discussions going on about that. I was very vocal that the first thing was to do what we have done with the $15 million renovation of the new locker room, nutrition center, weight room, team room and all of the things we have done there in the Manning Center. That was a priority for me over the expansion of the stadium. Now, I do think we're at a point where that is the next thing on the agenda. It adds to the signs that we're moving forward as a program and as an athletic department.
On the SEC's quarterback play taking a hit or being a rebuilding job considering the departed quarterbacks:
That would be the initial consensus if you asked anybody. All of us would prefer to have a returning quarterback that has experience. However, having said that, there have been several examples of quarterbacks who did not have that experience that came in and immediately had a huge impact on college football, even in our conference. If you look at what (Johnny) Manziel did when he first arrived on the scene with no experience, and Auburn's guy (Nick Marshall) last year was a huge difference-maker in his team. The consensus would be that you feel comfortable with a returned but that does not always prove to be exactly the best scenario for everyone. You would feel that it's that way with the talent of the kids that we lost out of this league. That's an enormous group. You would think that will take some time to rebuild to that level, but there's always an exception out there somewhere, as we have seen.
On quarterback Bo Wallace having an All-SEC type season:
I certainly hope so. He's thrown for a lot of yards and touchdowns. He has to continue to work on taking care of the ball. In neither one of his seasons did he have a complete year. We're hopeful for that in his senior campaign. He's deserving of the discussions that are going on in regards to that, but the season will decide that. We won't get caught up in what preseason things are said about him, but he's deserving of those discussions.
On the perfect scenario for the four nonconference games:
"We're going to play the one from the other BCS conferences, an (FCS opponent), I would always like to have one of those, and then two mid-major types. With the league schedule that we play and the other school that you will choose to play from a power conference, that's the best make-up for us at Ole Miss. We've gone through a year of injuries, and we see how that affects us, and the wear and tear you take in the league games that we play. It takes its toll on you. That's the best case for us.
On the format for eight conference games:
"I was very clear with our chancellor and our AD that I thought the fairest way to do it was the 6-0-2 (format) and rotate the other two (Eastern Division) opponents. However, having said that, I also said to them that the priority is we want to stay at eight games. Whatever momentum was in the room to stay at eight, I would be OK with either. That was my exact conversation. I think the fairest way would have been the 6-0-2 method, but I wanted to stay at eight for sure. That was our priority. I haven't seen which way everybody voted. I just saw what the result was, so I can't speak a lot on what other people said because I haven't seen it. That's the conversation I had with my administration.
On being in favor of eight conference games:
"I was in favor of eight just because we beat each other up enough, and we've been very successful with eight in putting our teams in the national championship hunt and being successful at. I don't know why we would want to change until it's proven that doesn't work anymore. What we have done with eight games is put our team -- more than one usually -- in the hunt for a national championship berth, so I would like for us to stay with that. It's best for us at Ole Miss for sure to stay at eight, so that's what our preference was.
The Southeastern Conference on Sunday announced the format for future football scheduling that is a continuation of the existing format and adds a strength-of-schedule component that requires all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis.
Each SEC team will continue to play eight conference football games per season, to include six games against division opponents and two games against non-division opponents. One of the non-division opponents will be a permanent annual opponent and the other non-division opponent will rotate each year.
Under the format, Ole Miss will continue to play Vanderbilt each year including this year's SEC opener on Saturday, Sept. 6 in Nashville's LP Field. Ole Miss enjoyed much recent success as well as well as a large and rapidly growing alumni base in Nashville.
"The existing strength of the SEC was certainly a significant factor in the decision to play eight games," said SEC Commissioner Mike Slive. "In fact, just last year, five of our schools comprised the top five toughest schedules in the nation according to the NCAA and nine ranked in the top 20.
"A number of our schools play annual ACC opponents, and recent history shows our schools are already playing a significant number of strong non-conference opponents across the country on a home and home basis or in neutral site games."
A balanced league schedule for all teams - equal home and away conference games (four home and four away); a nine-game schedule would have resulted in some teams with five home games and others with four on an annual basis
Accommodates varying institutional non-conference scheduling philosophies
Allows for marquee neutral site games - the popularity of neutral site games has grown in recent years, as evidenced by large crowds and significant TV ratings for those games that feature major intersectional opponents
One of the non-division opponents will be a permanent annual opponent and the other non-division opponent will rotate each year.
Creates annual cross-division rivalries that otherwise would not be annual games
Provides each team with a traditional opponent for the final weekend of the season
In addition, at least one opponent from the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 must be scheduled by each SEC school on an annual basis beginning in 2016, with assistance from the conference office.
In recent years, Ole Miss has played a home-and-home with Texas Tech (2002, 2003), Wake Forest (2006, 2008), Missouri, which was then in the Big 12 (2006, 2007), and most recently, Texas (2012, 2013).
This year, Ole Miss will face Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. While the Broncos would not meet the new requirement, the Broncos have won 10 or more games in 10 of the last 12 years.
Two new mock drafts released this week has former wide receiver Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief being selected in the late second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, set for May 8-10.
NFL media analyst Bucky Brooks projects Moncrief to the San Francisco 49ers with the 56th overall pick in his latest mock draft.
"The 49ers need a speed receiver on the perimeter to open up the field for Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree," Brooks wrote. "Moncrief is a remarkable size-speed athlete, with the potential to slide into Boldin's spot when the veteran retires in a few seasons."
Here's the link to the full article, "Mock Draft 5.0: Jadeveon Clowney, AJ McCarronn to Texans"
ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper, who previously slotted Moncrief to the Indianapolis Colts with the 59th overall pick in a "Grade A draft," projects him to the San Diego Chargers with the 57th overall pick in his latest mock draft.
"With the measurables of a player typically drafted much higher, Moncrief is one of the best size/speed equations in the draft, but he was inconsistent in 2013 and lands here," Kiper wrote. "San Diego isn't set at WR just because Keenan Allen had a good year. The Chargers are thin behind him."
For ESPN Insider subscribers, here's the link to the full article, "Kiper: Mock 4.0 goes two rounds"
March 31-April 6, 2014
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
Too many options to fit here. His 4.40 40 + 39 vert at 6-2, 220+ = impressive. @davidrwarner Most likely to pick up Donte Moncrief?-- Mel Kiper Jr. (@MelKiperESPN) April 3, 2014
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"
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Football, men's basketball and women's basketball hype videos for the 2013-14 season.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
March 3-10, 2014
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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."
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.
2013 Seniors participating:
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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.
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
Proud of @donte_moncrief for the way he is competing today. Way to represent!!!-- Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) February 23, 2014
Tried to tell y'all my bro was gonna kill. Power and speed. Straight out the country @donte_moncrief-- CJ Johnson™ (@24Hour_Ent) February 23, 2014
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.
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.
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."
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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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."