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Classes started on the Ole Miss campus this past week, as the men's and women's basketball teams enter the heart of Southeastern Conference play. Some of the spring sports have started their 2015 seasons, while others are gearing up for the start of their seasons. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Selection Sunday is more than a month away, but in a battle of teams on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament discussion, the Ole Miss men's basketball team downed Florida 72-71 on Saturday. Going into the matchup, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi tweeted, "The loser here is pretty much toast from an NCAA tournament perspective." 

- Through six SEC games, Ole Miss is 3-3, having played six of the top eight teams from the league, according to KenPom.com. The Rebels, themselves, are the third-highest rated team (No. 34). Looking ahead, return trips at home against Arkansas and Georgia and a road game LSU loom large for the team's NCAA Tournament chances.

"It's good for our confidence," said head coach Andy Kennedy of the win. "We're not as confident of a group as I would have hoped despite some of our early wins that show we are a good basketball team. You have to be able to stack wins at this time of the year. It was obviously a vital game for us."

- Preseason All-SEC first team selection Jarvis Summers proved clutch for the Rebels, scoring each of the team's last four points, the first two on a step-back jumper from just inside the 3-point line and the last two on a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds left after driving into the lane.

"Coach (Kennedy) always tells me to go right," Summers said. "That's my strength. I just listened to him this game and tried to make a play." 

- In a similar situation, tied 77-77 on the road at No. 1 Kentucky, Summers settled for a contested 3-pointer, which was off the mark, and the Wildcats went on to win 89-86 in overtime. That was not the case Saturday against Florida.

"I beat myself up after that game," Summers said. "I just had to move forward. I told myself if I ever got in that situation again, I was going to keep going to the hole and be aggressive." 

- Here's a good read on Stefan Moody from Hugh Kellenberger of The Clarion-Ledger. Check it out.

- Playing its third straight opponent ranked opponent, Ole Miss came up just short, falling to Mississippi State 64-62 on a last-second shot on Thursday night. Ole Miss went 1-2 over the three-game stretch, knocking off Georgia and losing to Texas A&M and Mississippi State by a combined 11 points. The Rebels are 14-6 overall, 4-3 in SEC play, likely needing to get to at least eight SEC wins to garner NCAA Tournament consideration.

- The result was not what head coach Matt Insell and the team wanted, but a lively crowd of 3,383 provided one of the better, if not the best, atmospheres I have experienced in five-plus years around the women's basketball program. Insell has tirelessly promoted his program, including going door-to-door on Fraternity Row the night before the Mississippi State game, and it showed Thursday.

"First, I want to thank Rebel Nation," Insell said. "What a great crowd that was. I think Oxford, Mississippi and Rebel Nation just really showed up for us tonight. They showed us how much they cared about this basketball game. The crowd was into the game the entire time. I just want to thank everyone that came."

- A lot has been written and said about The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Here's an infographic comparing it to Tad Smith Coliseum. Notice the concessions in the bottom right corner that includes the addition of Raising Cane's to the menu.

- The Ole Miss baseball team held its first spring practice on Friday and its first intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday. Here's a pretty thorough preview from Kendall Rogers on the Rebels, which are ranked No. 18 in the D1Baseball.com's preseason top 25 rankings. Don't forget, Ole Miss opens the 2015 season with a three-game home series against William & Mary, starting Friday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m C.T.

- The lowest-ranked team in its four-team regional in Gainesville, Florida, the Ole Miss men's tennis team notched two big wins over No. 13 Florida and No. 29 South Carolina. The Rebels rallied from down 3-0 to defeat the Gators 4-3 and closed out the weekend with a 4-2 win over the Gamecocks to advance to the ITA National Team Indoor Final 16.

- The men's tennis team was bolstered by the return of senior Nik Scholtz, a three-time All-American and the reigning SEC Player of the Year. Unranked because he did not play in the fall, Scholtz defeated the 34th-ranked and 71st-ranked players this past weekend. For more on Scholtz and his decision to return to Ole Miss for his senior season, click here.

- Former Ole Miss players Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson showed out at the Senior Bowl this week. They impressed coaches, scouts and media members, among others. Next up is the NFL Scouting Combine (Feb. 17-23). For more on their week at the Senior Bowl, click here and here.

- Another former Rebel, the New England Patriots' Brandon Bolden, will be playing in the Super Bowl next Sunday (5:30 p.m. CT, NBC). I caught up with Bolden earlier this week, so look for more on him in the days leading up to the Super Bowl.

- In case you missed it, with the start of classes, the Ole Miss football has been updated to reflect six mid-year additions, including freshman offensive lineman Javon Patterson, a U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection from Pearl, Mississippi. Looking ahead, National Signing Day (Feb. 4) is a week and a half away, so stay tuned.

- In case you missed it, part two, the Ole Miss football video department released a couple of videos over the weekend: "Home is Ole Miss" and "The Journey: Chapter 3."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's more on Prewitt from Klatt:

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

Here's more from on Prewitt from Tony PaulineNFL Draft Analyst for DraftInsider.net:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



 Photo Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ole Miss men's and women's basketball teams both made some history, while the men's and women's tennis teams started their spring seasons. National Signing Day (Feb. 4) and the start of baseball season (Feb. 13) are less than a month away and loom in the minds of many Rebel fans. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Coming off a home loss to LSU, where head coach Andy Kennedy questioned the team's energy and their top three scorers shot a combined 14-for-45 from the field, the men's basketball team bounced back with their biggest win of the season, winning on the road at No. 19 Arkansas. It's a huge win for Ole Miss, not only for the NCAA Tournament resume when March rolls around, but also for the team's psyche and confidence during this early part of SEC play.

"You come into this building and win by 14, it shows the potential of this team," said Kennedy on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network after the game.

- As it did for most of the game at No. 1 Kentucky, Ole Miss played like a team comfortable playing on the road, as the Rebels shot a season-high 56.4 percent from the field and committed just 11 turnovers against an Arkansas team that entered the game forcing 16.6 turnovers per game.

- The Big 3 of Stefan Moody, Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White all scored in double figures, which the Rebels need to be successful this season, but also credit the frontcourt players, who are playing with more and more confidence on the floor. Some numbers through four games of SEC play: Sebastian Saiz (8.5 points, 5.0 rebounds), Dwight Coleby (7.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) and M.J. Rhett (7.3 points, 5.3 rebounds). Led by that frontcourt trio, Ole Miss boasts a plus-2.8 rebounding margin in SEC play.

- A week after Aaron Jones earned top-play honors on Fox Sports Live, Martavious Newby and Stefan Moody combined for an alley-oop in the win over Arkansas that earned the No. 7 spot on Saturday's Top 10 plays.

- Some perspective: For Ole Miss, it was the program's first true road win over a ranked team under ninth-year head coach Andy Kennedy, the first since the 2002-03 season. Ole Miss has now won 10 of its last 12 against Arkansas, including five of its last six games in Fayetteville.

- The NCAA RPI will be released Monday, but Ole Miss moved up No. 46 in the RPI (per Warren Nolan), with two more big RPI opportunities this week: on the road at Georgia (No. 27) and at home against Florida (No. 70).

- The women's basketball team made some history of their own, knocking off No. 18 Georgia on Thursday night, the program's first win over an AP-ranked team since the 2010-11 season, snapping a 24-game losing streak to AP-ranked opponents.

"I'm really happy with our basketball team," head coach Matt Insell said. 'What a great win for our program and where we're going in the future with our program."

- An individual note: Senior Tia Faleru is the only player in the SEC averaging a double-double, as she leads the league in rebounding (10.6) and ranks second in scoring (15.9). Her three-point play started the 8-0 Ole Miss run to end the game against Georgia.

"When she told she was ready to go, she said to go to her every possession, and that's what you want your best player to do," said Insell of Faleru, whose 3-point play started the 8-0 run to end the game. "You want your best player to want the basketball. She wanted it, and she got a big and-one play for us that kept us going. I'm really proud of her."

- Playing its second straight ranked opponent, Ole Miss led No. 11 Texas A&M for 23:01 and as late as the 12:02 mark in the second half. An 11-0 Texas A&M run proved to be the difference, as the Aggies took a 42-41 lead with 11:01 left and led the rest of the way in a 58-49 win in College Station.

- The Rebels got some good news with the return of freshman Shandricka Sessom, who had missed the previous two games with concussion-like symptoms. With her return to the starting lineup, Gracie Frizzell came off the bench, having averaged 17.5 points per game and made a combined 11 3-pointers over her two starts against Alabama and Georgia. Frizzell came off the bench against Texas A&M, but it will be interesting to see if she returns to the starting lineup at some point this season.

- Ole Miss will play its third straight ranked opponent, hosting in-state rival No. 15 Mississippi State on Thursday night in a nationally-televised matchup on the SEC Network. The Bulldogs started the season 18-0, rising as high as No. 14 in the polls, before losing back-to-back games, and enter Thursday's matchup with a 19-2 record. The teams met twice last season, with both games going to overtime and the home team holding serve in each contest.

- Two blasts from the past: Here's an interview with SMU head coach Chad Morris, who talks to Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman about Jevan Snead, whom Morris coached in high school in Texas. Here's a New York Times article on Jeremiah Masoli, who watched Oregon, his other former school, play in the national championship this past Monday.

- Speaking of the national championship, Ole Miss finished the 2014 season at No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 19 in the Amway Coaches Poll, its first final national ranking since 2009 and its highest final national ranking since 2008, when they finished No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the Coaches poll. Looking ahead to next season, here's a compilation of way-too-early preseason top 25 rankings for 2015.

- Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson will represent Ole Miss in the Senior Bowl, which will take place on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT from Mobile, Alabama, and will be televised by the NFL Network. According to CBS Sports, Prewitt is the No. 52 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 1 free safety, and a projected second round pick, while Golson is the No. 62 NFL Draft prospect, the No. 7 cornerback, and also a projected second round pick.

- The Ole Miss men's tennis team delivered Toby Hansson a 6-1 win over UCF in his first match as a head coach. Nik Scholtz, the reigning SEC Player of the Year, is expected to rejoin the team when classes start this week, ahead of the team's matches at the ITA Kickoff Weekend in Gainesville, Florida, next weekend.

- New England running back Brandon Bolden will be the 23rd former Ole Miss player, accounting for the 28th appearance overall, to play in a Super Bowl and the first since Michael Oher and Patrick Willis represented Ole Miss in Super Bowl XLVII. Bolden also laid this massive block in the Patriots' win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ole Miss Seniors Prepare for Next Step

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not only will Saturday's matchup between No. 4 Auburn and No. 7 Ole Miss feature the first-ever meeting of top-10 team in Oxford, but it will feature half of the top four of the College Football Playoff Top 25 rankings with Auburn at No. 3 and Ole Miss at No. 4.

Auburn and Ole Miss are the top two one-loss teams in the rankings, followed by Oregon at No. 5 and Alabama at No. 6, giving the Southeastern Conference Western Division four of the top six teams. There are still four games remaining among the four teams, starting with Saturday's matchup.

"My first reaction was that we will always be the answer to one of those AFLAC trivia questions," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll be answer for one of them when the duck comes across the TV screen. That was really what I thought.

"I have great respect for the selection committee, and we are honored to be in the discussions at this point, but it's way too early. It's good for our fans. It gave them a little boost and hopefully will get them to bring some more energy into the stadium Saturday. There's a lot of ball left and the only one (ranking) that really matters is on Dec. 7 when that final one comes out."

Rebels Ready for Balanced Auburn Attack

Ole Miss leads the nation in scoring defense (10.5 ppg allowed) and has given up a nation-low eight touchdowns. Ole Miss also leads the SEC and ranks fourth nationally, giving up just 4.35 yards per play. 

Auburn ranks third in the SEC and 15th nationally in scoring offense (39.3 ppg) and ranks second in the SEC and 10th nationally, averaging 6.91 yards per play.

Something has to give.

For Auburn, it starts with the league's top rushing attack 281.0 ypg), led by league's second-leading rusher in running back Cameron Artis Payne (118.7 ypg) and seventh-leading rusher in quarterback Nick Marshall (83.0 ypg).

Marshall's improvement as a passer and a talented group of receivers, led by JUCO transfer D'haquille Williams (34 catches, 527 yards, five TDs), have made the Tigers more balanced this season.

"The minute you commit too many to controlling him, they have guys who make you pay and pay with explosive plays," said Freeze of Marshall. "Gus (Malzahn) has always done a great job of disguising his looks, motions and shifts. 

"He does a great job with a lot of eye candy and things that can get your eyes in bad positions and cause you to make mistakes that give them explosive plays. Our goal will remain to be steady and discipline and hopefully not give up too many explosive plays."

Optimism on Injury Front

The injury situation continues to improve, as it appears offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, safety Cody Prewitt and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche will all return to action against Auburn, having practiced Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Every one them is going to give it a go," Freeze said. "With the stretch of games we have gone through without a break, it takes a toll on you both physically and mentally, some more than others. They did get some dings the other night (against LSU) that will probably keep them for being 100 percent, but they are going to give it a go for sure."

Center Ben Still was also listed day-to-day by Freeze on Monday, and his status remains uncertain, having worked individually Tuesday and Wednesday. The plan, Freeze said, is for him to practice with the team Thursday and see how he handles it.

"One day will tell us if he's ready to handle what we're going to face Saturday," Freeze said. "It will be nice to have him for sure because we had three possession the other night where it really hurt us in that game because of the injuries. It would be nice to have him thrown in there and let Robert move around and help us. We'll see how he does tomorrow."

Safety Chief Brown, who was thought to be out for the year, dressed out but did not play against LSU. With Prewitt dinged up, Brown has received significant practice reps at free safety.

"I expect to see him play some Saturday," Freeze said. "We'll see how he responds. It's a long season, but my guess would be we're going to need him before it's over."

AUDIO: Week 10 SEC football coaches teleconference (Freeze starts at 1:03:00 mark, Malzahn starts at 1:47:25 mark)

How the playoff committee to its first ranking decision, writes George Schroeder of USA TODAY Sports

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

'Third Down for What'

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

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

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

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

Landsharks Not Satisfied

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

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

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

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

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

Big Games for Wallace, Nkemdiche?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEC Nation Host Joe Tessitore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEC Nation Analyst Tim Tebow

On Ole Miss...

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

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

On Bo Wallace...

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

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

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

SEC Nation Analyst Marcus Spears

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

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

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

On Robert Nkemdiche...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Ole Miss running game...

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

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

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

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

On the Ole Miss defense...

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

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

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

What They're Saying: Midseason Honors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game-Manager Bo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense Limits Explosive Plays

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prewitt Wants More on Defense

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

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

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

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

Related Links: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'The New Normal' on Defense

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."


Relentless is the Word on Defense

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.


The SiriusXM College Sports Nation Camp Tour visited Ole Miss on Monday, as Chris Childers and former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik talked Ole Miss football live from the Manning Center. 

The three-hour show featured live interviews with athletics director Ross Bjork, co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, senior quarterback Bo Wallace, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior linebacker Serderius Bryant and senior safety Cody Prewitt, as well as pre-recorded interviews with head football coach Hugh Freeze and head baseball coach Mike Bianco. 

The show will re-air on Tuesday from 3-6 p.m. CT on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, channel 91 on satellite radios, on the SiriusXM Internet Radio App and online at SiriusXM.com. Here's a sample of the show with Wallace talking about being a senior leader and Freeze talking about the start of camp.

Here are some highlights from Chizik talking with Childers, as he previewed the upcoming season for Ole Miss:

On expectations: "The recruiting classes have been off the charts. Depth, you are finally going to see play a factor. That's probably one of the things why you see them in these SEC matchups, where they can't quite close on the deal on a Texas A&M or an Auburn. Now, all their young guys are gaining experience and gaining year. They have a lot of depth, and you are going to see it make a difference this year.

On Bo Wallace and cutting down on his turnovers: "If you look at some of the premier quarterbacks in the league who really had a chance to win their division -- the AJ McCarron's of the world, the Nick Marshall's and Connor Shaw's -- you're looking at guys who turned the ball over in air four or five times, and for Connor Show, one time. He has to be able to do that. He has to manage those games in the critical times. You're going to see a better Bo Wallace. I really do.

On veterans back on defense: "You have three years in Dave Wommack's system and you have nine starters coming back, and you have some other guys who have played a lot on top of that, not among the nine. You're going to see a very aggressive defense. I have always admired how hard they play. Dave keeps it simple enough, where they can just turn those guys loose and play. They're going to have to play well early and give the offensive line, which has a lot of new guys, time to gel and get better. The defense is going to be a critical element in the first four games of the year.

In between segments, I caught up with Chizik and he shared his thoughts on this year's Ole Miss team and the state of the program:

On season opener against Boise State: "It's cool for the players. I don't know if they train any harder or practice any harder, but certainly as the game gets closer, it has a whole new meaning to a player because it's opening in a pseudo bowl game. They will be excited about it. It's a national TV game and it's going to be one of the biggest games at the beginning of the season. It can be a great opening for Hugh and the football team to play a team like Boise, which has also had a lot of success in its openers, even going back a couple of years to its game against Georgia. The fan base, the players and everyone is going to be excited.

On continuity of staff: "It's night and day if you're trying to build a program, and every two years you're replacing coordinators or you're replacing recruiting coordinators. The kids feel good when they walk back into the building every day and they hear the same voice and the same message. Everyone is beating to the same drum.

On last year's freshmen now sophomores: "So many of the freshmen last year --and they were a very highly-touted class -- came in and had to play, probably more than they needed to play or should have played, when you're talking about freshmen. Hindsight obviously being 20/20, knowing that you had to do that, it certainly makes a better case for you the next year. There were so many guys last year that really had to do it when they were thrown in the fire early. It will pay huge dividends for all those guys this year.

On question marks along the offensive line: "It's going to be huge on the defense. The defense plays a part in that. It's a team game. It's the hardest to put 11 guys on one side and 11 on the other together, but ultimately 22 guys blend together, plus special teams. The defense's job is to buy time for your offensive line to get some experience and gain some confidence, to play together and to listen to the calls. The only thing that you can do with a young line is to give them that experience, game by game, and hopefully you're winning while you're doing it.

On going from the "hunter" to the "hunted": "I don't know if anything changes. There's an awareness there from the coaches and the players that when people play us they have to strap it on and play us for 60 minutes. They can't beat us in 58 minutes. They have to prepare and they have to play the whole game. In this league, they're learning that every week you're the hunted, no matter who you are. Now, they have experienced a great amount of confidence in some of the big games they have won, like the LSU game last year. It makes them very aware that everybody is going to be gunning for them."

On taking the next step as a program: "There's not a day that goes by here that Hugh is not telling his football team that there's one goal, and that's to win the SEC West and go to Atlanta. As you look back and watch the games they have played in the SEC West, there's probably not one guy in that meeting room who thinks that's not a reality, a possibility. They have played everybody tough and beat some of them. That's certainly the goal that they talk about on a daily basis.

On what to look for in first couple of games: "You always look for special teams play. You always look for coverage units and hidden yardage with field position. A lot of people overlook those things because they're looking for touchdowns, interceptions and long runs. That's huge in early games. The other thing is turnovers. You have to protect the ball and you have to try to get the ball back to your offense. Those are the things that every coach in America is going to look for in their openers."

Here are some more highlights from the live interviews on SiriusXM College Sports Nation:

Werner, on Bo Wallace: "The big thing with Bo is that he's sort of a gambler. He'll take his shots. You have to live with it and die with it. When he throws one in there, I'm up the press box and I just go, 'Oh, no,' but then it pops for a touchdown and everybody is happy.

"He makes the exact same throw four plays later and it gets intercepted, and now not so much. That's the thing that I've talked to him about. We have to cut down on those types of plays. We're not going to hit as many big plays, but we're going to keep the chains moving."

Wommack, on C.J. Johnson: "He's one of the leaders of the defense. They all rally around him."

Wommack, on Anthony Alford: "He's one of the top two or three athletes on the team."

Wommack, on Robert Nkemdiche: "We will move him around and use him in different packages, in different places."

Johnson, on being back healthy: "When I'm on the field, it's go-time. I'm ready to go."

Johnson, on season opener against Boise State: "We have a target on our back (as an SEC school). That's another part of the motivation."

Wallace, on last year's Mississippi State game: "It was really frustrating. I felt like we had a good plan for them. I felt like we were the better team. I still feel that way. To be out there, I felt helpless. I didn't know what to do, but I'm healthy now and excited for the year."

Wallace, on leadership: "For me, every guy on the team, when they ask, who wants to win more than anybody, a lot of them are going tell you it's me. That's a huge thing. Competing for those guys, they want to see you're going to put everything on the line every time you walk out there. That's huge for a leader. I'm a quiet, lead-by-example-type guy. I need to be more vocal as a senior and with it being my offense. I'm working on being more vocal."

Bryant, on being underrated: "I love proving people wrong. I got to have a chip on my shoulder because of my size."

Bryant, on the defense: "It's crazy how we all fly around on defense. Everyone's making plays."

Bjork, on his charge as athletics director: "Our job is to build and show progression."

Prewitt, on returning all four starters in the secondary: "It means a lot to be coming back with the same four people in the back end. You can sense what the other guys are going to do and the reads they're going to make. It makes it easier to execute the game plan well."

Prewitt, on Denzel and Robert Nkemdiche: "It's really fun to watch them interacting with each other and the way they push each other. It makes all of us better."

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 took its turn at the annual SEC Media Days on Thursday. Joining head coach Hugh Freeze was senior quarterback Bo Wallace, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and senior safety Cody Prewitt. Here are a few related SEC Media Days links to videos and stories:

Freeze explains common factor in SEC turnarounds, writes Chris Vannini of Coaching Search

Great expectations: Improved depth could lead to big things for Rebels, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Ole Miss football wants to prove it's a big ticket for Atlanta and beyond, writes Steven Godfrey of SB Nation

AUDIO: Ole Miss HC Hugh Freeze talks about getting back into football mode on SiriusXM Nation

Slighted QB Wallace ready to lead Mississippi, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

On his shoulders: Wallace 100 percent fit and ready to lead Rebels, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Bo Wallace just wants one healthy season, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Bo Wallace using snub for extra motivation, writes Ross Dellenger of The Advocate

Tough talk, big dreams for Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace in senior season, writes Geoff Calkins of the Commercial Appeal

Last shot for Bo Wallace to spurn doubters, get Ole Miss to new heights, writes Zac Ellis of Sports Illustrated

AUDIO: Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace talks about the QB battles in the SEC on SiriusXM College Sports Nation

VIDEO: Bo Wallace aims to be the SEC's top QB, reports Courtney Cronin of the Clarion-Ledger

C.J. Johnson is back, can make the Ole Miss D better, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Ole Miss All-American safety Cody Prewitt still toils in obscurity, writes Gary Laney of AL.com

Denzel Nkemdiche back with Ole Miss Rebels after spring ban, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell in same class as Alabama's Amari Cooper, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com

More from SEC Sports: 2014 SEC Media Days Wrap-Up






Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said on day one that his expectations were to make the program relevant in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.

With a full allotment of 85 scholarship players and more depth of both sides of the ball, Freeze said, Ole Miss should be just that and competitive in every single game this season.

"Obviously I can't control the health of players, injuries, turnovers, how your quarterback plays," Freeze said. "All of those factors will kind of determining the ending result of wins and losses. But there's no question in my mind we're a better football team today than we were in year one and year two and we should be very competitive."

The players also feel those expectations coming off back-to-back bowl wins in each of the last two seasons, as the Rebels enter year three of the Hugh Freeze Era.

"The basketball team has been able to do it," senior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "The baseball team has been able to do it. Our fans are hungry for our football team to go to Atlanta. We feel those expectations and we're working hard every day."

In addition to upperclassmen such as Wallace and senior safety Cody Prewitt, a first team All-American last season, last year's freshman class will have a huge role in defining how successful Ole Miss will be this season.

"I certainly hope that another year in the offseason program with Paul Jackson and being a college student-athlete, that the grind of what we ask them to go through is more common to them so that they are better equipped and better prepared to go through the grind of the season that we're going to ask them to go through," Freeze said.

"The guys last year, their biggest setback was the mental side of the game," Prewitt said. "They are extremely athletic. They wouldn't be here if they weren't. Last year, they made a lot of mistakes. The biggest difference I saw in the spring was a lot of those mistakes weren't there anymore. They really progressed mentally. That's what's going to make that class special and help the team."

Freeze Excited For Season Opener In Georgia Dome

Ole Miss will open the 2014 season against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Thursday, Aug. 28. The game, which will start the 2014 college football season, will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and be televised by ESPN.

"We get to open college football," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "All eyes will be on you on that Thursday night against a very good Boise program.

"So we're excited and hopefully embrace that opportunity and the magnitude it will have on expanding our brand nationally. You certainly know that could help. Hopefully we get a chance to embrace that opportunity and make the most of it."

Another Chip On Wallace's Shoulder

Dating back to his high school days at Giles County in Pulaski, Tennessee, senior quarterback Bo Wallace has always played with a chip on his shoulder.

Add another chip on Wallace's shoulder, as the three-year starter and the SEC's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns was voted third team All-SEC by league media, behind Auburn's Nick Marshall and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott.

"I have always had a chip on my shoulder," Wallace said. "I have always felt like I could play at this level. This is a familiar position for me. In high school, people were saying, 'You can't play in college.' In junior college, people were saying, 'You can't play in the SEC.' I have been able to put up numbers. I'm familiar with this place and I enjoy it."

Backup Quarterback Battle Continues

Behind Wallace, the battle for the backup quarterback position continues between redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. Head coach Hugh Freeze has been pleased with both options, and if the season started today, it would depend upon the situation.

"They both bring a little different skill set to us," Freeze said. "The good thing is they both have used their redshirt year, so I'm not afraid to throw them in for a series here or a series there to see exactly what they do."

"The big thing with DeVante is he has all the talent in the world," Wallace said. "He needs to not create as many negative plays. Ryan knows the offense and his arm has gotten a lot stronger this offseason. It's going to be a really good battle in the offseason."

Freeze also mentioned junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins and Southern Miss transfer Anthony Alford, who figures in the mix at safety, as wildcards who could possibly add to the quarterback position. Freeze had particular high praise for Liggins, who might end up contributing at any number of positions.

"He's done absolutely phenomenal work," Freeze said. "I couldn't be happier with Jeremy Liggins. He looks like a million bucks. He's running around. He's down to about 280 pounds. I don't know where I'm going to play him, but he's going to help us."

Prewitt Looks To Improve On All-American Junior Season

A first team All-American this past season, senior safety Cody Prewitt was one of three Rebels voted first team All-SEC by league media, along with sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche and sophomore offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil.

Prewitt led the SEC and tied for seventh nationally with six interceptions. He also ranked second on the team with 71 tackles and first with 13 passes defended. Entering his senior season, he remains focused on all-around improvements and not to get complacent. 

"I missed a couple of balls I shouldn't have missed last year," Prewitt said. "I missed a couple of tackles I should have made last year. I made a couple of mental mistakes I shouldn't have made last year. It's the little things you can do to improve."

At 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, Prewitt has been labeled a physical player and a big hitter, and while he didn't shy away from that reputation, it's more about making plays and making a difference on the defensive side of the ball.

"I like to hit people," Prewitt said. "My style is to be aggressive. Whatever I can do to be aggressive. Anything I can do to start shift momentum for my team. Whether that's a big hit or an interception, if I can get my team pumped up, focussed and back into the game, that's what I want to do."

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