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Rebel Offense Shatters School Records in Hugh Freeze's Fourth Season

By Adam Kuffner, Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

When Hugh Freeze was hired as the 37th head coach in Ole Miss football history Dec. 5, 2011, then-Chancellor Dan Jones along with coaching search committee co-chairs Archie Manning and Mike Glenn knew they were getting one of the best offensive minds in football. Just four years into the Freeze era in Oxford, the Rebels have built a new normal of expectations for Ole Miss Football.

Last year, it was the Landshark defense that led the Rebels to an inaugural New Year's Six Bowl with the nation's best scoring defense. Fast forward to 2015, it's the offense that has reached record-breaking heights to pace the Rebels through another nine-win season (back-to-back 9+ regular-season wins for the first time since 1961-62).

Ole Miss started off 2015 on a torrid pace, becoming the first SEC team to score 73 or more points in back-to-back games. The 76-3 win over UT Martin in the season opener was the most points in a game since 1935. With that hot start to the season, it was evident that the 12 year-old school scoring record (442 in 2003) was going to be broken. That vision came to fruition in the 11th game of the season as the Rebels dominated rival LSU, 38-17, in the Magnolia Bowl. One week later, Ole Miss scored 38 points in Starkville for the first time in 34 years to win the Egg Bowl and enter the postseason scoring a school-record 483 points.

Ole Miss is averaging 40.3 points per game, which leads the SEC and ranks 13th in the nation. The Rebels eclipsed the 50-point plateau four times this season; in the previous 122 years of Ole Miss Football prior to 2015, just five times the Rebels managed to score 50+ points more than once throughout a season.

To score points, you need to find the end zone. The Rebels did that plenty of times throughout the 2015 campaign, scoring a program-record 62 touchdowns. In order to get to the end zone, you need to accumulate yards and drive down the field. How does 6,177 total yards sound? That's how many Ole Miss racked up through 12 games this season, the most in the SEC and 11th-most nationally. Again, the Rebels have themselves another school record.  

Freeze likes to spread the ball out, and the passing game has become the Rebels' bread and butter since his arrival. Senior quarterback Bo Wallace was the starting signal caller for Freeze's first three years at Ole Miss. In 2014, Wallace, along with multiple offensive weapons around him, helped Ole Miss earn a bid to the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. This year, junior Chad Kelly took the reins of Freeze's playbook and added his name to the list of great quarterbacks at Ole Miss.

After a position battle throughout fall camp, Freeze decided to give Kelly the start in the first two games, although Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade saw playing time as well. It was in that second contest that Kelly emerged as the clear starter due to his strong, accurate arm accompanied with moving the offense down the field like a well-oiled machine. The Buffalo, New York, native continued to do that the following week, leading the Rebels to another victory over No. 2 Alabama in the first road test of his Ole Miss career. Beating Alabama in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history, Ole Miss made noise throughout the country, once again becoming relevant.

Kelly continued to impress throughout the rest of the season, putting up better numbers than any other quarterback in Ole Miss history, including Archie and Eli Manning. He's tallied 3,740 yards through the air and is responsible for 37 touchdowns, both school records that were once held by the two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli. Kelly's seven 300-yard passing games is also the most by a Rebel quarterback. Speaking of Manning, Kelly was named a finalist for the Manning Award, which is presented annually to the nation's best quarterback. His statistics that lead all SEC quarterbacks and rank among the nation's elite have earned Kelly that recognition.

Along with his school-record passing mark, Kelly has also rushed for 427 yards on the ground. His program-best 4,167 total yards of offense is the sixth-most for an individual's season in SEC history. It's all impressive for someone who is a first-year Rebel.

Of course, Kelly's individual records and the team's offensive records would not have been reached without a plethora of talent around the quarterback. Let's start with Laquon Treadwell, who bounced back from his devastating injury last season. This year, he's been better than ever as a Biletnikoff Award finalist. Treadwell has caught 76 passes for 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns, including six 100-yard receiving games which is another school record. The Crete, Illinois, native went through a stretch where he was nearly impossible to stop, catching a touchdown pass in six straight games and going over 100 yards receiving in five of them; both achievements had never been accomplished before at Ole Miss.

Alongside Treadwell, Kelly distributes the ball at an incredible rate. Ole Miss is one of four teams in the nation with seven or more players who have caught at least 20 passes this season. Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore'ea Stringfellow have combined for 12 touchdown receptions, while Cody Core has added 553 receiving yards in his final season as a Rebel. Kelly is one of the leading rushers on the team, but the running back trio of Jaylen Walton, Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins has produced 1,433 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Of course, the skill players wouldn't have success without the help of the offensive line. Providing protection for Kelly has been a veteran group led by Preseason All-America left tackle Laremy Tunsil and Kent Hull Trophy winner Fahn Cooper. Seniors Justin Bell, Aaron Morris and Ben Still are the elder lettermen that are spending their final year at Ole Miss as part of the most prolific offense in school history. Even freshmen Jordan Sims, Javon Patterson and Sean Rawlings have provided plenty of playing time, including starts, to assist in the effort.

Football is certainly a team game. The defense and special teams unit need to play well; however, as Ole Miss awaits its bowl fate, the high-powered offense paved the way for a possible berth to the Sugar Bowl. If the season ended today, New Orleans would be the Rebels' bowl destination. Ole Miss hasn't played in the Sugar Bowl since 1970, spanning almost half a century. But with Alabama in position to make the College Football Playoff, the Rebels would earn the bid as the second-highest ranked SEC team.

Wouldn't that be sweet?

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VIDEO: We Are Ole Miss

We Are Ole Miss from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

In case you missed it, "Forward Together: We Are Ole Miss" from earlier this year:

Forward Together: We Are Ole Miss from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

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Head coach Billy Chadwick will step down at the end of the 2014 season, and associate head coach Toby Hansson was named his successor and will take the reins of the program following the season.

"Coaches in waiting, we've seen that a lot but it doesn't really work in a whole lot of places," athletics director Ross Bjork said. "We had a definitive timeline and a definitive decision, and why not go through the season where we can celebrate Billy but also prep Toby because he's ready and he's capable."

With Chadwick's endorsement, Ole Miss interviewed Hansson and came to a decision to make him the next head coach in August. Continuity was also a key part of the decision, as Hansson enters his eighth year with the program.

"We went through a process where we analyzed Toby," Bjork said. "We interviewed him. We talked about recruiting and what we need to do to continue to build the program. He checked the mark on all of them. It's the right decision for the program."

An integral part of the program's success over the last seven years, Hansson knows the program in and out, and it's a dream job for the Uppsala, Sweden native and former SMU All-American.

"I had gotten some offers from other schools for different jobs," Hansson said. "When this came up, obviously this is a dream job for me. And I'm just really excited about it. I'm glad to be here." 

In Hansson's tenure at Ole Miss, the Rebels have won five SEC West Championships, the regular season SEC Championship and two SEC Tournament Championships. Hansson is regarded as one of the top coaches in the country in developing players and has helped produced the most All-Americans in the country (11) during his tenure at Ole Miss.

"Toby is one of the top young coaches in the country," Chadwick said. "We have been very fortunate, and a lot of our success stems directly to him. For him to take over the program, we're not going to have a bump in the road. The program is in great hands. 

"You never find anyone that does not like Toby. He's extremely likable, and at the same time, he's a good disciplinarian, and he knows tennis. He's one of the best tennis minds in the country."

Hansson has learned a lot from working with Chadwick, particularly making the players feel comfortable and create a family atmosphere with players from across the country and around the world.

"When the players come here, it's a new place," Hansson said. "Making them feel comfortable and developing them is one of the biggest keys to success."

"I'm really happy for Toby," said sophomore Stefan Lindmark, a native of Stockholm, Sweden. "He's a really great coach as well. He really loves the game. He's so into it, but that makes us even more pumped to work hard for him."

By making the announcement before the 2014 season, it's a way to have a parade for Chadwick's legendary career throughout the season, as well as give Hansson an extended period of time to find an assistant coach for when he takes over following the season.

"I got some really big shoes to fill, and I'm going to take it step by step," Hansson said. "We have a big season ahead of us, so right now, that's where my focus is."

"We know that good things are headed for us, not just in more hardware for the university, but great student-athletes and lives changed," Chancellor Dan Jones said. "It's a great day for Ole Miss."


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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    Jamie laverty said:

    Bulmer I love you and ole Miss

    in post Fast Runner From Down Under

    Sharon Hamlin said:

    Hi! Really Bulmer is very fantastic & dedicated in his job. Really outstanding & well done... :-)

    in post Fast Runner From Down Under

    Sharon Hamlin said:

    Hi! Really motivating post & outstanding job did Bulmer .Loved it... :-)

    in post Fast Runner From Down Under

    Jack1492 said:

    Great year. I am proud of you all.
    Jack

    in post Drama Rules The Day at Vaught-Hemingway

    Hunter Comstock said:

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

    in post Rebels Dominate In Prime-Time Spotlight

    Hunter Comstock said:

    Boy, I surely hope the Rebels don't have anymore nail biters like the Bama game. My nerves won't take it.

    in post Rebels Pass First Test in Search of Playoff Berth

    Joe Snaidauf said:

    Rebs stay healthy, they can win it all!!!

    in post Eleven Rebels Garner Phil Steele Preseason Honors

    Rhonda said:

    Coach Freeze is a genuine coach and our players and fans adore him!!

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

    Gary Vaughn said:

    It's great to be a Rebel fan. Coach Freeze
    Has brought back the excitement
    Competitiveness we all so desire. The
    fan base and even our doubters are
    Paying attention. Even the whole country
    Sport tLk shows ect. Are taking notice.
    After we upset Alabama this weekend
    38-27 we will bolt to a top 12 or better
    Ranking. Go Rebels

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

    Tom said:

    I am not and never have been an Ole Miss fan. I am however a Coach Freeze fan. I like what he represents in today's world of big time sports and what he stands for in leading young men of today into a more responsible role. He is everything that Ole Miss has never had. I am on his band wagon winning or losing.

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year