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Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review

April 7-13, 2015

Baseball

- Ole Miss finished the week with a 2-2 mark to remain a .500 overall record for the season (18-18) as well as 7-8 in SEC play. After dropping a midweek game to Southern Miss in Pearl, Miss., the Rebels bounced back to claim a SEC road series over No. 1 Vanderbilt. Ole Miss dropped the first game before taking the final two games from the top-ranked Commodores. 

- Against Southern Miss, Connor Cloyd batted in the leadoff spot for the first time in his Ole Miss career, going 3-for-5 with two runs for a new career high in hits. Sophomore Colby Bortles added a pair of hits and two RBI, while senior Sikes Orvis drove in his team-leading 28th and 29th runs of the season with his eighth double of the 2015 campaign. 

- Bortles continued his hot hitting into the weekend. With Ole Miss trailing by four in the top of the ninth on Friday night, Bortles tied the game by belting the second grand slam of his career. The third baseman was also the last Rebel to hit a grand slam before tonight, going deep against Arkansas State, May 13, 2014. 

- After Ole Miss tied the game in the ninth, a two-out double by Henri Lartigue in the top of the 16th brought in the game-winning run. 

- The bullpen trio of Jacob Waguespack, Wyatt Short and Scott Weathersby combined to pitch 11 shutout innings. Add in starter Brady Bramlett, and the Ole Miss pitching staff kept the No. 1 team in the country off the scoreboard for 14 of the 16 innings. 

- Waguespack pitched three scoreless innings before Short added a pair of shutdown innings. 

- Weathersby was named SEC Co-Pitcher of the Week, the conference office announced Monday. Weathersby finished the game by lasting a career-long six innings and striking out a career-high 10 hitters. Weathersby retired 18 of the 21 batters he faced, including getting out of a bases-loaded jam with nobody out in the bottom of the 11th. 

- The 16-inning game was the second extra-inning game of the year for Ole Miss. The Rebels defeated then-No. 1 LSU in 14 innings earlier this season, rallying to tie the game in the ninth inning of that contest as well. The two games mark the first time in Ole Miss history that the Diamond Rebels have played two 14-plus inning games in one season. The 16-inning game also was the third-longest in program history. 

- One night after rallying behind four runs in the ninth and coming back to win a 16-inning thriller, the Ole Miss baseball team maintained the momentum by taking down No. 1 Vanderbilt for the second-straight game, 5-4, to claim a big SEC series on the road. With a victory over the Commodores, the Rebels improved to an impressive 5-4 against No. 1 teams in 2015. 

- Sophomore Errol Robinson provided the game-winning hit, a 2-RBI bases-loaded single in the top of the seventh, and the Ole Miss bullpen kept the Commodores off the board for the second-consecutive contest. 

- Senior Sam Smith came out of the bullpen to pitch two scoreless innings of relief, and Waguespack closed out the ninth to earn his first career save. For the entire series, the Rebels' bullpen did not allow a run to score in 15.2 innings of work. 

- Nine different Rebels recorded base hits throughout the afternoon as the team tallied 10 of them. Senior Austin Knight went 2-for-3 and added a walk to reach base three times. Holt Perdzock had a RBI double in his only plate appearance, and Cameron Dishon knocked in a run as well. 

- In his fourth career start, facing a No. 1 team for the second time in his career, freshman Will Stokes put together a career outing. The right-hander went a career-long six innings, surrendering four runs on seven hits to earn the first victory of his young Ole Miss career. 

- Ole Miss has won two-of-three series against No. 1 teams this season (Florida, Vanderbilt).

Football

- In front of a crowd of approximately 15,000 fans, Ole Miss closed out spring practice with the annual Regions Bank Grove Bowl on Saturday. The Blue team defeated the Red team 17-7, behind a pair of long touchdown passes, one by junior quarterback Chad Kelly and another by senior running back Jaylen Walton on a halfback pass.

- Kelly finished 9-of-19 for 104 yards with a touchdown and an interception. DeVante Kincade was 9-of-18 for 93 yards and also led the Blue team with 50 rushing yards on 10 carries, while Ryan Buchanan was 5-of-16 for 49 yards with an interception.

- Jordan Wilkins led all players with 62 rushing yards on six carries, while Eugene Brazley rushed for 44 yards on 10 carries with a touchdown.

- Damore'ea Stringfellow led all receivers with three catches for 98 yards and a TD, while Derrick Jones was the Red team's top receiver with three catches for 35 yards.

- Defensively, Fadol Brown, Issac Gross and Channing Ward led all players with 2.0 tackles for loss apiece, while both of Gross' TFLs were sacks. Cornerback Kendarius Webster finished with three pass break-ups, and linebackers DeMarquis Gates and Terry Caldwell totaled five tackles each.

Women's Tennis

- No. 25 Ole Miss won twice this past week, shutting out Arkansas-Pine Bluff 6-0 and then rallying to top Mississippi State 4-3. The Rebels earned the No. 9 seed in the SEC Championship and will face the No. 8 seed, Kentucky, in the second round Friday at 9 a.m. CT.

- The Rebels have now won 26 straight against Mississippi State.

- Sophomore Zalina Khairudinova clinched the win, rallying from an 0-3 deficit in the final set.  It marked the SEC match for her to clinch this year, as she also clinched the 4-3 win over Auburn.

- Senior Julia Jones became the seventh member of the 100-club, winning her 100th match against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  At 27-7 this year, she needs three wins to become the 10th player to record 30 in a season.

- The Rebels finished the regular season 8-3 at home.

Men's Tennis

- No. 14 Ole Miss split its last regular season matches, defeating South Carolina 4-2 in Columbia, before falling to No. 8 Georgia 4-0 in Athens.  The Rebels earned the No. 4 seed in the SEC Championship and will face the winner of the No. 5 Vanderbilt vs. No. 12 Auburn/No. 13 Arkansas winner in the quarterfinals Friday at 4 p.m.

- This marks the 17th time for the Rebels to finish in the top third of the SEC and receive a first round bye in the tournament.

- The Rebels defeated South Carolina for the second time this season after dropping the doubles point.  It marked the second SEC opponent the Rebels have beaten twice this year, including Florida.

- Junior Stefan Lindmark became the fifth player in program history to go undefeated in the SEC at 8-0.  He owns a 12-3 record at No. 2 singles and has won six in a row. His win at South Carolina was also his 20th of the year.

- Senior Nik Scholtz clinched the win over South Carolina, his fourth clinch in the SEC and second on the road.

- In the latest ITA Attendance Race Standings, the Rebels are ranked fourth in average attendance (290) for the season. They finished the month of March third in total attendance and second in average attendance (336).

Track & Field

- Ole Miss had a very productive Friday in Starkville at the 2015 Border Clash, as Rebel athletes claimed four event titles, produced 11 new marks that rank top 10 in school history, and had six results that moved them into the top 40 nationally this season.

- The Border Clash, which pitted four schools from Mississippi against four schools from Alabama, saw the Mississippi men prevail 98-93 and the Alabama women win 108-61.

- For the men, Jalen Miller won the 100m (10.34), Robert Semien won the 110m hurdles (13.98) and Dempsey McGuigan claimed the hammer throw title (210-1).

- Craig Engels and Holland Sherrer went 2-3 in the 800m with times of 1:48.27 and 1:48.63 that rank them top six in school history and top 30 in the nation this year.

- The women were led once again by the quartet of Nicole Henderson, Shannon Ray, Khadijah Suleman and Jhorden Hunter, who won the 4x100m relay in 44.55 that ranks them third in school history and No. 8 in the NCAA this year.

- Racquel Moses was runner-up in the 400m hurdles (59.55) and Britt Ummels was runner-up in the 1500m (4:28.61).

- Ole Miss men who rank top 50 in the NCAA are Phillip Young in the triple jump (12th, 52-2.75), Miller in the 100m (17th, 10.34), McGuigan in the hammer (17th, 212-7), Engels in the 800m (19th, 1:48.27), Sherrer in the 800m (26th, 1:48.63), Semien in the 110m hurdles (28th, 13.98), Trevor Gilley in the 1500m (41st, 3:56.60), Adam Aguirre in the high jump (45th, 6-10.75), Branden Greene in the high jump (45th, 6-10.75) and Nathan Loe in the hammer (46th, 202-3).

- Ole Miss women who rank top 50 in the NCAA are Ray in the 100m (8th, 11.41), the 4x100m relay (8th, 44.55), Kierra White in the long jump (30th, 20-1), Hunter in the 100m (36th, 11.58), Moses in the 400m hurdles (37th, 59.55) and Fabia McDonald in the long jump (47th, 19-8.25).

Softball

- The Rebels continue to show improvement in the first year under the direction of head coach Mike Smith, improving in the win column and in statistical categories upon recent previous seasons. 

- The Rebels have 35 home runs on the season after hitting only 31 home runs a year ago. Freshman 1B Alex Schneider leads the Rebels with eight home runs on the year, while 10 different players have home runs - including eight with multiple home runs. 

- Ole Miss has also successfully stolen 76 bases on the year after only attempting 60 steals in 2014. 

- The Rebels hit the 23-win mark last week, defeating Samford in a midweek contest to pass the win total from a year ago and with five wins in SEC play surpassed the win total from last season as well. It also is one win away from totaling the number of SEC wins over the previous two seasons combined by the Rebels.

At one point, co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said, all three quarterbacks had completed around 66 percent of their passes, a testament to how close the competition has been this spring. Going into the Grove Bowl, Freeze said one had a slight lead, but even that might have changed after the game itself Saturday.

"After one drill I'd like that one, after the next drill I'd like that one," Freeze said. "So, I go back and forth. In the totality of spring, going back before today, I would say that Ryan Buchanan had a lead in my mind. That certainly doesn't mean that he is going to be the starter. After today I will go back and watch the film and put it with our cumulative stats and everything else that we are judging on them. We will see where it is after today. 

"Again, even if we say that he has the lead, it is so minute and so small and so far from being over. That is everything being transparent and that is how I felt today. I might feel differently come Monday. I will watch the film this weekend and we will see." 

Junior quarterback Chad Kelly had the best statistical day of the group, completing 9-of-19 passes for 104 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Sophomore quarterback DeVante Kincade was 9-of-18 for 93 yards and also rushed for 50 yards on 10 carries, while fellow sophomore quarterback Ryan Buchanan was 5-of-16 for 49 yards with an interception.

"I feel like I really improved since the start of camp," Buchanan said. "Like I have said from the beginning, being behind Bo, you don't get as many of the first-team reps and don't go against the first-team defense. This spring, we had a chance to do that, and gradually I feel like I improved with my decision-making.

"I feel like I have made improvements, but I know for a fact that I can do way better," Kincade said.

Earlier this spring, Freeze said he expected the competition to continue into the middle of fall camp, but if it stays as close as it appears to be right now, it might continue into the season itself.

"If they are as close as they are now, I could see us going a couple games making sure we have done due diligence in naming a starter," Freeze said. "But, I do not want to do it beyond that or even if that. It wouldn't shock me to go into week one planning to give them all reps to look at how they do when the lights come on. We won't go too long like that. I don't mind playing a couple, but you need to have a guy that is your guy when the time comes." 

Revamped Running Game

Ole Miss returns its two leading rushers from last season in senior running back Jaylen Walton (106 carries, 586 yards, five touchdowns) and sophomore running back Jordan Wilkins (52 carries, 361 yards, one touchdown), but the Rebels appear to have made some changes in the ground game.

"We tweaked a few things," Werner said. "We got some ideas from some other teams that run similar offenses and it's been really good for us."

Despite just 10 healthy offensive linemen by the end of the spring, one of the areas where Freeze was most pleased this spring was the running game, and it showed in the Grove Bowl. 

Wilkins led the way with six carries for 62 yards, highlighted by a 28-yard run, but sophomore Eugene Brazley and redshirt freshman Akeem Judd had their moments as well. Walton even threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow on a halfback pass.

"We have a bunch of good backs," Werner said. "They're in a situation where they have so many guys who are really good players that they have to compete. When you get a chance to run the ball, you better make a good run."

Jones, Hampton Among Spring Surprises

Freeze has said they are searching for more consistency at the wide receiver position, but when asked earlier this week who has been the biggest surprise of spring practice, the first name that came to his mind was junior wide receiver Derrick Jones.

Jones credited another year in the program and the confidence of playing on just one of the ball for his breakout spring. In the Grove Bowl, he led the Red team with three catches for 35 yards.

"It gives me a lot of confidence, knowing that I'm going to be in this spot and keep working at one position, and not wondering if I'm going to be a cornerback or a receiver," Jones said.

Sophomore defensive back C.J. Hampton was another name that Freeze mentioned as players who have impressed this spring. After a year learning behind All-American safety Cody Prewitt, Hampton is now competing for playing time at free safety, and he was named the most improved defensive player of the spring.

"Cody was on hard me last year," Hampton said. "He wanted me to learn. He always said I was good enough and that I had to learn it fast. I learned it, and I'm rolling with it now. I still talk to Cody a lot now."

Former Ole Miss head coach Billy Brewer almost did not sign Chucky Mullins, whose memory has been honored with the Chucky Mullins Courage Award.

Nate Wayne, a four-year letterman for the Rebels and the 1997 recipient of the award, who was a special guest at this year's ceremony, shared a similar story of how his high school coach convinced Coach Brewer to offer him a scholarship.

Fittingly, this year's winner, senior defensive back Mike Hilton, followed a similar path to Ole Miss.

Then a 5-foot-9, 175-pound athlete from Sandy Creek High School in Fayetteville, Georgia, Hilton was not the highest-profile football prospect. 

Hilton was a 247Sports composite three-star prospect, the No. 71 ranked player in Georgia by Rivals.com and the No. 78 running back in the nation by Scout.com. But something about him grabbed the attention of one coach, which made all the difference.

"I almost did not sign him," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I almost messed it up. He had some academic issues at first and he was undersized. I had three weeks to recruit him and I was not sure that he was going to make it. Matt Luke went to one of their practices. They had five Division I players on that team, and he said there was no question who the alpha dog was on the field and that we had better take this kid."

Since stepping on campus in the fall of 2012, Hilton has been a key contributor on Ole Miss defense, playing in 36 games with 28 starts, including a start at every position in the defensive backfield. He led the Rebels with 71 tackles last season, to go along with 4.0 tackles for loss, three interceptions and seven pass break-ups.

Hilton started the spring at Rover safety, before suffering a broken thumb that ended his spring practice. But come the fall, Hilton will be one of the leaders on the Ole Miss defense, wearing Mullins' No. 38 jersey, whether it's at that Rover safety position, or one of the other starting spots in the defensive backfield.

"I have always been undersized, so I knew I had to put forth that extra effort," Hilton said. "You have to have the mentality to do what you have to do on and off the field, and I have been able to do that. I'm thankful for the coaches to give me an opportunity to come out here and do what I do and also show what I can do off the field."

Speaking about Mullins, Freeze said the one thing he keeps coming back to is something that Tea Southerland, the 1992 winner of the award, said. Southerland said it was one of the highest honors he'd ever received, which Freeze said is a great statement, but the statement that followed really grabbed him. He said, "I wonder if Chucky would say they got the right guy."

Freeze said the one thing he knows that the right kind of people have is the ability to finish. That doesn't mean you don't stub your toe or you fall down, but they finish. Hilton, Freeze said, is the one guy they kept coming back to represent the spirit of Mullins.

"We have made our kids understand that if you get award this award, it's a big deal," Freeze said. "It's the highest award that our program gives, and it comes with a lot of responsibility. This year, out staff had a difficult selecting it, not because we couldn't the one, but because we had five who were all deserving. That's a good sign for our program."

"When I put that 38 on, nothing else mattered, said Wayne, who also enjoyed an eight-year professional career in the NFL. "It wasn't just about me. It was about my wife, my daughter, my family, my Ole Miss family and Chucky. At that point, I realized that every decision I made didn't just affect me. It affected everyone involved with me. If it wasn't for that mentality, who knows where I would be today."

Three and Out: Grove Bowl Edition

Three areas to watch as Ole Miss splits into two teams for the annual Regions Bank Grove Bowl on Saturday.

Can Someone Emerge in the Quarterback Battle?

By all indications, sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade and junior college transfer Chad Kelly have split reps evenly this spring. 

The coaches have charted every throw and every drill, but there does not appear to be any true separation, and head coach Hugh Freeze has said he expects the competition to continue into the middle of fall camp.

Freeze and co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner were both generally pleased with the play of all three quarterbacks in their last scrimmage, but Freeze did say that Buchanan graded out the best of the three.

What does their last opportunity to impress the coaches before summer workouts and fall camp hold? 

As with previous observations of the quarterbacks, there's a caveat: The offense is not yet at full strength, particularly along the offensive line, where the Rebels have just 10 healthy players.

Physical Play on the Outside

More than any other matchup on the field, I found myself watching the wide receivers and tight ends working against the defensive backs. The play is physical, and the players appear to take each play personally.

Perhaps the most physical on the offensive side of the ball, Laquon Treadwell, will not be participating in the Grove Bowl, but Quincy Adeboyejo, Cody Core and Markell Pack have all returned from their respective injuries. Derrick Jones has also been one of the biggest surprises of spring practice and he's another player to watch.

On the defensive side of the ball, Tony Bridges and Tee Shepard are long, athletic and physical, and they pride themselves on being able to play on an island by themselves. Kendarius Webster is another long, athletic and physical corner. Like Derrick Jones, C.J. Hampton has been another surprise of spring practice.

It should be fun to watch on Saturday.

Battle in the Trenches

The Ole Miss defensive line was one of the most talented units in the nation last year. This year, the group may be even better with a year of maturity and experience for returnees and the addition of a trio of redshirt freshmen in Victor Evans, Garrald McDowell and Breeland Speaks and junior college transfer D.J Jones.

That being said, one of the areas where Freeze has been most pleased this spring has been in the running game, a credit to an offensive line that continues to deal with injuries and a group of running backs that may have found their stride this spring. Akeem Judd is one name that has popped up a lot this spring.

Junior Jeremy Liggins, who has transitioned to offensive tackle, and redshirt freshman Jordan Sims and freshman Javon Patterson, who have both come a long way this spring, are three players to watch along the offensive line.

By splitting into two teams, with five healthy offensive linemen each, it may be hard to tell if there's any improvement in the running game on Saturday, but it's something to watch nevertheless. And it will certainly be something to watch when the Rebels will likely have a full complement of healthy players come fall camp.

Junior cornerback Tee Shepard's story has been well-documented. 

Shepard is hearing impaired, but since he has arrived at Ole Miss, he has been the beneficiary of new hearing technology that has allowed him to hear sounds, such as a coach's whistle.

"The new technology hearing aid I have is phenomenal," Shepard said. "When I got it last fall, I heard my first whistle ever. It's crazy because I'm hearing sounds I haven't heard before, and I'm starting to pick it up."

Shepard is thankful for Ole Miss and the resources they have been able to provide him, specifically someone who understands his impairment in Shannon Singletary, the senior associate athletics director for health and sports performance.

"This is the first place that finally understood how bad my hearing was," Shepard said. "Shannon has a hearing loss himself, so we have that connection, and he's helped out me out big time."

That same fall, when he heard his first whistle, he appeared on the verge of emerging as a starter, or at least a regular contributor, in the Rebels' defensive backfield.

However, his promising fall camp was cut short after tearing a tendon in his toe that required surgery and a long rehabilitation.

"It was a freak accident," Shepard said. "I had never heard of a torn ligament in your toe. Everything happens for a reason. God has made me better this year. I was disappointed, but at the same, it got me ready and prepared for this season."

His toe, Shepard said, is probably about 85 percent, but he trusts it now. He said he also added about 10 pounds that has helped him be even more physical this spring.

"I have always been a physical corner," Shepard said. "You have to be physical because these big wide receivers are physical, like Laquon Treadwell. If we're not physical with them, they're going to outwork you." 

Nearing the end of his first spring practice, Shepard has once again emerged as a likely starter at cornerback for the Rebels, perhaps opposite fellow junior Tony Bridges, a junior college transfer.

"We have to be physical, lockdown corners because we can't run our defense the way we want to without us being on an island by ourselves," Shepard said. "I have been looking forward to this moment. It's been a long journey for me. I'm excited. I'm ready to go."

Players Ready to Take on Bigger Roles in Year Two

They did not have the fanfare of the class that came in the year before them, but last year's freshmen made valuable contributions in their own way. Among those then-freshmen are sophomore defensive end Marquis Haynes and sophomore offensive guard Rod Taylor. 

Haynes, a Freshman All-America and SEC All-Freshman selection, set an Ole Miss freshman record for sacks with a team-leading 7.5 last season. Coaches and his teammates have noted how Haynes has gotten stronger to play better against the run, which has been a point of emphasis for him going into and through spring practice.

"I didn't trust my power like I should have my freshman year," Haynes said. "This year, I want to try to do better on that. I have been getting stronger. Playing the run against Alabama, I saw what I was doing. This year, I should have a big improvement."

Taylor was a regular in the offensive line rotation and started two games, including the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against TCU, getting thrown into the fire due to injuries. It has been a similar case for him this spring, running with the first-team offense and getting a lot of reps, also due to injuries.

"It's been good to get increase reps in practice," Taylor said. "I feel like with me getting a lot of reps at my position, I'm getting better at what I'm supposed to do and I feel like I'm getting better every day. I had to get better with my technique and my stance and putting my hands in the right place. Those are the things I'm getting better at."

The coaches have also raved about second-year players C.J. Hampton, who's emerged at free safety, DeMarquis Gates, who might can play both Mike or Stinger linebacker, and Kendarius Webster, who like Tee Shepard, is in the mix at the cornerback position.

Ole Miss celebrated one of the most successful years in school history. The women's basketball team saw its season come to an end in the Sweet 16 of the Postseason WNIT. The football team continued spring practice, and we're now less than two weeks away from the Grove Bowl. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss athletic department held the fifth annual Rebels' Choice Awards Monday night. Five different sports took home multiple awards, led by the football team, which took home five awards. Check out the full show here.

- The parity among the various sports and the caliber of candidates for each of the awards are a testament to the recent renaissance over the last calendar year that has included a College World Series appearance, a New Year's Six bowl appearance and an NCAA Tournament appearance in men's basketball, among other accomplishments.

- The Ole Miss women's basketball finishes the season with a 19-14 record, the best record since the 2006-07 season that ended in the Elite Eight. The Rebels lose three seniors from this year's team in Tia Faleru, Danielle McCray and Amber Singletary, but they will return a talented group that will look to lead the program back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time, also since that 2006-07 season.

- In the Sweet 16 of the Postseason WNIT, Head coach Matt Insell faced off against his father Rick Insell for the second time this season. Good read from The Clarion-Ledger's Riley Blevins on what MTSU billed as Family Feud II.

- The 2015 WNBA Draft will be held Thursday, April 16, and graduating senior Tia Faleru is ranked No. 21 in the WNBA Senior Class Elite 25. The draft contains three rounds and 36 overall picks.

- The baseball team was unable to sustain the momentum from a series win over No. 1 Florida, going 1-4 on the week, dropping both games of a doubleheader against UAB and then losing two of three on the road at Arkansas. The Rebels sit at 14-14 and 4-5 in SEC play, ahead of a midweek matchup at Memphis on Tuesday and a three-game home weekend series against Tennessee.

- The softball team also traveled to Arkansas, picking up their second straight series win, sweeping the Razorback and running their winning streak to six games. It was the first three-game sweep of an SEC foe since the final weekend of the 2012 season. They also showed up in support of the baseball team for their series opener on Thursday, before starting their own series on Friday.

- The football team wrapped up week three of spring practice with a two-hour practice inside the Manning Center on Saturday, a practice that resembled a scrimmage with 7-on-7 play and 11-on-11 live action. Check out my spring update, as well as my feature on Laquon Treadwell, who's about 80 percent back from injury.

- All three quarterbacks did good things on Saturday, and head coach Hugh Freeze and co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner said as much. Freeze also said he does not expect to name a starter until about midway through fall camp.

- Saturday was also my first live look at the team, including a talented group of newcomers. Tony Bridges, D.J. Jones, Chad Kelly and Javon Patterson have all drawn high praise from the coaches, and all four players looked the part on Saturday.

- A couple of plays also stand out from Saturday. Kelly put a couple of deep balls out there, one on the first play of 11-on-11 action and another to Quincy Adeboyejo that would have gone for a touchdown, if it wasn't called back. Another play was Damore'ea Stringfellow making a one-handed grab on a fade route against Bridges. Watching those two go against each other was something to watch.

- Here's more from Freeze about Kelly: "His arm strength is pretty dang good. He gets it out there and he puts the right amount of air under it. We threw some good deep balls with him today. He hit Quincy on one, and he threw a couple of other nice ones... Chad's arm is a little stronger than we have been used to."

- Here's more from Werner about Kelly: "It's amazing how quickly he picks the stuff up. He's been a really quick study."

- The 13th-ranked men's tennis team finished a brutal 10-day stretch that included five SEC matches, the last three all on the road in a span of five days. The Rebels went 3-2, including a 1-2 over the final three games this past week. The highlight of the week was Nik Scholtz, who erased six match points to deliver a 4-3 win at No. 24 LSU on Friday. The Rebels are now 13-6 overall and 5-3 in the SEC.

- In women's tennis action, Julia Jones won her 97th and 98th career matches, and she might have a chance to win her 100th career match next weekend. The 21st-ranked Rebels are now 11-8 overall and 3-7 in the SEC.

The SEC Network will air every SEC spring football game with multiple viewing opportunities on both television and the network's digital platforms. All 12 spring football games will be carried live and in full on SEC Network + with additional coverage on SEC Network Alternate.

On Saturday, April 11 and Saturday April 18, SEC Network Alternate will carry whiparound coverage between the multiple games being played, including the Grove Bowl on April 11. Every spring game will also have multiple airing during the week on SEC Network.

The Grove Bowl, scheduled for April 11 at noon, will be broadcast live on SEC Network+, and it will later be broadcast on the SEC Network on Sunday, April 12 at 5:30 p.m. Chris Cotter and Greg McElroy will be on the call and Kayce Smith will be on the sidelines.

The network's coverage of spring football will also include "SEC Network: 2015 Spring Football Tour," a school-dedicated series on series on Southeastern Conference football teams, which will include coaching interviews, practice football and news of the day over multiple shows.

Ole Miss will be the location highlighted as part of the series on Tuesday, April 7 at 10 p.m. CT with hosts Kayce Smith and Booger McFarland.

For a full schedule of both the spring games and the SEC Now: 2015 Spring Football Tour, click here.

The men's basketball team returns to the site of its 2013 SEC Tournament title, looking to punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament. The women's basketball team awaits its postseason fate, the baseball team hits the road for its longest road trip of the season, during which they will play two top-15 teams, and the football team opened spring practice. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- The Ole Miss men's basketball team split its final week of the regular season, finishing with a 20-11 overall and 11-7 SEC record, tied for third place in the league standings. However, by virtue of a tiebreaker, the Rebels will be the No. 6 seed in the Nashville, where they await the winner of No. 11 seed South Carolina and No. 14 Missouri in the nightcap of Thursday's second-round games.

- With the win over Alabama on Tuesday night, Ole Miss picked up its 20th win of the season, the seventh 20-win season in nine seasons under head coach Andy Kennedy. The Rebels recorded just seven 20-win season in the 96 seasons before Kennedy's arrival.

- Against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss shot over 40 percent and committed just six turnover, but they were unable to overcome a hot shooting night from the Commodores. As a team, Vanderbilt shot 54.5 percent from the field and went 13-for-23 from 3-point range, tying its season high for 3-point field goals made.

"They put on a clinic," Kennedy said. "They've been shooting the ball well. They're as good a shooting team as we've faced maybe in the nine years here. Basketball is a game of rhythm. You have to disrupt theirs and establish yours. We didn't tonight. We were a step slow. We've been a step slow all year, and I've had to create defenses. We were moving slow, and they were making shots. We didn't have any answers." 

- Looking ahead, Ole Miss returns to Nashville, the site of its 2013 SEC Tournament title, and faces the same path this week, but with an additional second-round game against the winner of the South Carolina and Missouri matchup. Georgia awaits in a possible quarterfinal matchup, a team Ole Miss played in last year's quarterfinals.

- As far as the NCAA Tournament, despite the loss to Vanderbilt, Ole Miss remains a team projected in the field, as a No. 10 seed in ESPN's Joe Lunardi's bracket, and as one of the last four teams in the field in CBS Sports' Jerry Palm's and USA Today's Shelby Mast's brackets. Here's more from Palm, who had the Rebels among his teams "on the fence" in his latest Bubble Watch.

- Earlier in the week, after the win over Alabama, ESPN's Eamonn Brennan considered the Rebels a lock in his latest Bubble Watch, but after the loss to Vanderbilt, he rescinded that. Here's more from Brennan.

"I don't know what has transpired around the country, but our name has not been mentioned one time in any bubble conversation," Kennedy said. "It probably will now. We've probably put ourselves in a precarious situation where we need to look at what other people do."

- One of my favorite sports data and analytics sites, Team Rankings, projects Ole Miss as a No. 12 seed and gives the Rebels a 55 percent chance of making the NCAA Tournament. With one win in Nashville, Team Rankings gives them a 51.3 percent chance, and with two wins, it jumps up to 77.0 percent.

- Bid thieves shrink the NCAA Tournament bubble. And as Brennan noted in his latest Bubble Watch, they are most likely to come from high-major leagues this season. Bubble teams breathed a collective sigh of relief when Northern Iowa won the Missouri Valley Conference on Sunday, making it a two-bid league instead of a three-bid league. On a similar note, bubble teams would also probably like to see Gonzaga win the West Coast Conference automatic bid.

- After a strong end to the regular season, the Ole Miss women's basketball team fell short in a 72-61 loss to Arkansas in the second round of the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament. The Rebels, now 17-13 and likely Postseason WNIT bound, will learn their postseason fate on Monday, March 16. It would be their first postseason appearance since 2009-10.

- Here's a couple of great stories related to the Ole Miss pep band, which stepped in as a replacement to act as Kentucky's band, which was unable to make the trip to Little Rock for the SEC Women's Basketball Tournament due to inclement weather. For our story, click here. For the stories from The Clarion-Ledger and The Lexington Herald-Leader, click here and here.

- The Ole Miss baseball team claimed its third weekend series of the season, sweeping Saturday's doubleheader before dropping Sunday's series finale. The Rebels, now 8-6, face a pair of tough road series this week, a two-game midweek series at No. 11 Louisville, and a three-game weekend series at No. 2 LSU.

- The star of Saturday's doubleheader sweep was sophomore right-hander Brady Bramlett, who struck out a career-high 12 batters, joining some elite company in the process. His 12 strikeouts were four shy of tying the school record, the most in a game by an Ole Miss pitcher since Drew Pomeranz struck out 15 in a win over Georgia on April 9, 2010. It was also Bramlett's second digit strikeout game of the season, becoming the first Rebel to record multiple double-digit strikeouts games since Pomeranz, also in 2010.

"He's always fired up and ready to go," said junior left-hander Christian Trent of Bramlett. "I thought he was going to get the record two weeks ago. I thought he was going to get the record today. He was on pace for 27, but 12 is still impressive. I'm sure he will take 12."

- The No. 17-ranked Ole Miss women's tennis team swept the weekend, not dropping one singles or doubles match in 7-0 wins over Arkansas and Missouri. With the weekend sweep, the Rebels improved to 10-3 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. Senior Julia Jones, ranked No. 14 in the nation, won both of her singles matches, improving to 21-5 overall and 11-2 at No. 1 singles this season and picking up her 93rd and 94th career wins.

- The No. 9-ranked Ole Miss men's team dropped a 4-2 decision at Alabama, their first outdoor match in more than a month. Their other weekend match, a road contest at rival Mississippi State, was postponed and will be rescheduled for a later day. Next up is a marquee nonconference home match against No. 5 Baylor on Tuesday.

- The Ole Miss football team began spring practice Tuesday. Here Some storylines to follow, as the Rebels get into the heart of spring practice after Spring Break: The three-way quarterback battle, some position changes on defense and the return of Laquon Treadwell and Denzel Nkemdiche from injury. Check out some notes and quotes already on the blog and stay tuned to more coverage.

- NFL hopefuls Cody Prewitt, a projected second-round pick by CBSSports.com, and Senquez Golson, a projected fourth-round pick, continue to impress in pre-draft workouts, most recently at Ole Miss' Pro Day on Thursday. Three other hopefuls, Deterrian Shackelford, Carlos Thompson and Deterrian Shackelford also made some impressions. For more, check out my recap of Pro Day.

- Ole Miss played a couple of tribute videos before Saturday's home men's basketball game against Vanderbilt. Here's one to Tad Smith Coliseum, and here's another to graduating seniors Jarvis Summers and LaDarius White, two Mississippi natives and the first members of their respective immediate families to graduate from college.

NFL Scouting Combine participants Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt are among 18 former Ole Miss players expected to go through Pro Day workouts in hopes of realizing their professional football dreams. More than 25 representatives from 22 different teams were on hand for last year's Pro Day that featured future third-rounder Donte Moncrief of the Indianapolis Colts.

Golson and Prewittt are expected to be joined by 12 other recently-departed Rebels, including Serderius Bryant and Bo Wallace, as well as four players more than a year removed from their time in the Red and Blue. Golson and Prewitt, who both impressed at the combine, may not compete in every drill at Pro Day.

A reminder that the event is closed to the public, but we will have complete coverage on the official site. Official times and results will be posted on NFL.com in the days following Pro Day.

2014 Seniors participating:

Bryon Bennett

Serderius Bryant

Cliff Coleman

Will Denny

Senquez Golson

Lavon Hooks

Lakedrick King

Keith Lewis

Carlton Martin

Nicholas Parker

Cody Prewitt

Deterrian Shackelford

Carlos Thompson

Bo Wallace

Others:

Nick Brassell

Tyriek Gracia

Uriah Grant

Jamal Mosley

Ole Miss welcomes back seven starters from the nation's No. 1 scoring defense, but two of those starters, seniors C.J. Johnson and Mike Hilton, will be starting the spring at different positions, with Johnson at Mike linebacker and Hilton at Rover safety.

"This is a different team with a different group of players with different talents," Johnson said. "The key for us is how do we build on what he had last year. We have a lot of young guys stepping in and trying to fill roles, so they have to understand what it takes to get to where we were last year."

Johnson was originally recruited as a linebacker and began his Ole Miss career at the position, before moving to defensive end, where he has played for the last three-plus years. He and coaches talked about a move to linebacker after the bowl game and then closer to National Signing Day.

"I wanted to try something different," Johnson said. "The coaches knew I knew the playbook really well and they knew me sitting in the defensive line meetings for install the first couple of days would be completely boring for me, so we decided to try the move."

The most senior member of the Ole Miss defense, Johnson said he knows pretty much know what everybody in front of him is doing, and he also draws on his high school and early college experience playing linebacker, but there's still a lot to learn.

"With the multiple things we do, you have to be able to do a lot of different things, so it's going to be a challenge for me," Johnson said. "It feels familiar and it feels good. A lot comes with the position, being the quarterback of the front of the defense and getting everybody set and lined up, knowing the checks and formations. It's going to be a big learning process for me, but I'm ready for it." 

As a defense, despite ranking among the nation's leaders in most statistical categories, Johnson said they need to give up fewer big plays to improve as a defense. In their meeting yesterday, Johnson said, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack brought up that they were two plays away from an 11-1 record with a case to play in the College Football Playoff.

Those two plays, Johnson said, were a pair of dropped interceptions, one in 35-31 loss to Auburn and another in a 10-7 loss to LSU. He also mentioned a sack that he missed on a third down against LSU, after which the Tigers drove down the field and scored.

"You look at the games we lost, and we didn't get turnovers and we gave up too many big plays," Johnson said. "If we eliminate the big plays and we get more takeaways, we'll be a better defense."

Familiar Spot for Hilton

The coaches have shown a similar type trust in Hilton, who has started a game at every defensive backfield position, including two career starts, both last season, at Rover safety. 

"I feel like it's another good move for me," Hilton said. "Once again, it show the trust the coaches have in me and my ability go out and produce on the field."

His move to Rover safety leaves a two-deep at cornerback that will likely include juniors Tony Bridges, Kailo Moore, Tee Shepard and freshman Kendarius Webster. It also shifted senior Trae Elston from Rover safety to free safety, where he will look to replace three-plus year starter Cody Prewitt.

"Free safety is more in the box and has more run support responsibility, while the Rover safety has more coverage responsibility and has to be able to tackle in the open field," Hilton said. "I feel like it's a good spot for me because open-field tackling is one of my best assets." 

Hilton is learning under first-year safeties coach Corey Batoon, a member of head coach Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss staff since the beginning, who was recently promoted to assistant coach for safeties and special teams coordinator in January.

"He's a strategist," said Hilton of Batoon. "He wants everything down perfect. He wants you making the right steps and everything. I feel like he will put us in the right position to make plays; we just have to go make them."

QUOTABLE:

Johnson on returning to linebacker: "The game has slowed down for me a lot. I pretty much know what everybody in front of me is doing, as opposed to coming in as a freshman when you know absolutely nothing. Right now, I'm getting adjusted to the drops and coverages."

Johnson on his playing weight: "I was trying to lose weight to get down to a weight where I could run and play fast, and over the weekend, I came in Monday at around 246. I have to drop a little weight, but I felt fine yesterday running."

Johnson on the move to linebacker preparing him for the NFL: "I don't really know, I don't really get involved in all that. I try to come to work every day, do my job and play to my strengths as a football player."

Johnson on leadership: "It kind of feels weird being the oldest one out there and being the person that everyone looks up to. It's something I'm ready to embrace."

Hilton on the defense's identity: "I feel the identity of the defense is the same. We still have guys like C.J., myself, Trae, Issac and all those guys on the defensive front. We feel like we have that same Landshark mentality and the mentality to be one of the top defenses."

Hilton on Tee Shepard: "He looks really good. He's holding up and playing well. He's running full speed and everything. He's looking good. He's ready."

Hilton on Tony Bridges: "He's really quiet, but he's really coachable. He's even come up to me and asked questions. He's really coachable. He works with Coach (Jason) Jones a lot. He's good be a good one for us."

Hilton on the younger players: "Breeland (Speaks) has shown dominance up front. He's put on some weight, but he's still able to move. Victor (Evans) is coming off the edge a lot better. Those two I'm really looking forward to seeing this year."

The Southeastern Conference announced today Kickoff '15, its annual football media days, will be held July 13-16, remaining at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. The event will continue to be four days in 2015.

The 2014 edition featured an additional fourth day to the event, and it will remain the same for the 2015 edition. Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss contingency will be in the Magic City on the final day, Thursday, July 16, and grouped with Georgia and LSU.

ESPN will once again bring SEC Media Days to a national audience, with the SEC Network making its debut at the event to close out a historic first year for the newly launched network. The network will have live coverage all four days.

A more detailed daily schedule with full television information, rotational breakdown and student-athletes attending will be available later this summer.

The previous four SEC Football Media Days have drawn over 1,000 attendees, including over 1,200 attendees each of the last two years.

2015 SEC FOOTBALL MEDIA DAYS SCHEDULE

MONDAY, July 13

SEC Commissioner

Auburn - Gus Malzahn

Florida - Jim McElwain

Vanderbilt - Derek Mason

TUESDAY, July 14

SEC Coordinator of Officials - Steve Shaw

South Carolina - Steve Spurrier

Texas A&M - Kevin Sumlin

Miss. State - Dan Mullen

Tennessee - Butch Jones

WEDNESDAY, July 15

Alabama - Nick Saban

Kentucky - Mark Stoops

Arkansas - Bret Bielema

Missouri - Gary Pinkel

THURSDAY, July 16

LSU - Les Miles

Georgia - Mark Richt

Ole Miss - Hugh Freeze

VIDEO: The Flagship Football Promo

Golson, Prewitt Compete at NFL Combine

The defensive backs, including former Ole Miss players Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, participated in on-field workouts at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine on Monday in Indianapolis. Looking ahead, Ole Miss will hold its annual pro day on March 5 (closed to the public), and the 2015 NFL Draft will be held from April 30-May 2.

Golson and Prewitt went through measurements, medicals and interviews, as well as the bench press portion of workouts Sunday, before going through on-field workouts Monday. Golson showed out and improved his draft stock in the on-field workouts, drawing praise for his ball skills and other tools from NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock, among others.

"This guy is so fun to watch," said Mayock on NFL Network's coverage of the combine. "Baseball player. He was drafted in the eighth round by Boston. He's a small corner who had 10 picks. He tracks a ball in the air like the center fielder he was. He's 5-foot-8 and 1/2 inches, 176 (pounds), short arms, but he tracks the ball as well as any corner I have seen in the last five years."

Golson ran an official 4.46 40-yard dash, tied for 10th among all defensive backs, and posted a 6.81 time in the three-cone drill, tied for ninth among all defensive backs. He also showed off his ball skills in the gauntlet drill, reportedly recording no drops in two attempts in the drill. His NFL.com draft profile compares him to Brent Grimes of the Miami Dolphins.

"He's a kid I really like," Mayock said. "He ran a 4.5. He might be short at 5-foot-8 and 1/2. I keep talking about his baseball skills and how they translate to tracking the ball. He had 10 interceptions this year. A lot of teams are going to knock him his size. He's a quick-footed corner with tremendous ball skills. When has vision on the quarterback, the ball is his."

Here's more on Golson:

Prewitt ran an official 4.60 40-yard dash, and he was rated a top performer in the broad jump and 60-yard shuttle workouts. His 125-inch mark in the broad jump was tied for third among safeties and tied for 10th among all defensive backs. His 11.44 time in the 60-yard shuttle was fourth among safeties and 12th among all defensive backs.

Prewitt was also among a list of 12 players who impressed in combine interviews. His NFL.com draft profile compares him to Phillip Thomas of the Washington Redskins.

"This is a hard evaluation," Mayock said. "He looks really good. He's 6-foot-2, 208 (pounds). He played a lot of good football, 41 starts in the SEC. He had 12 career interceptions and over 200 career tackles. All the numbers and production are there. Evaluating him on tape, I don't think he tackles as well as he should given his height, weight and speed."

In his latest top 10 ranking of prospects at every position, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Prewitt as his No. 6 safety on the board. Prewitt was also among the players who just missed the first-round cut in the latest NFL Draft Big Board from NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang.

In the latest prospect rankings from CBS Sports, Prewitt is the No. 1 free safety and No. 61 overall prospect, a projected second-round pick, while Golson is the No. 13 cornerback and No. 104 overall prospect, a projected third-round or fourth-round pick.

Here are the complete NFL Scouting Combine results for Golson and Prewitt:

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Ole Miss and Cal will play a home-and-home football series in 2017 and 2019, the schools and ESPN announced Thursday. It marks the Rebels' first matchup with a Pac-12 school in football and will be only the program's second visit to the Golden State, having traveled to Fresno State in 2011.

With the addition of Cal, Ole Miss now has matchups against other Power Five schools in seven of the next 11 years:

2016 vs. Florida State in Orlando

2017 at Cal

2019 vs. Cal

2022 at Georgia Tech

2023 vs. Georgia Tech

2024 at Wake Forest

2025 vs. Wake Forest

The neutral-site matchup against Florida State marks the first time the Rebels will play a power-five conference team in the regular season since a home-and-home with Texas in 2012 and 2013.

Ole Miss continues to work toward finding matchups for the 2018, 2020 and 2021 season, which would satisfy a new Southeastern Conference strength-of-schedule component that requires all schools to play an ACC, Big 12, Big Ten or Pac-12 opponent on an annual basis, a component that goes into effect in 2016.

Here's a rundown of other scheduling news:

Ole Miss announced the dates for the Rebels' nonconference opponents for 2016:

Sept. 5 vs. Florida State in Orlando

Sept. 10 vs. Wofford

Oct. 1 vs. Memphis

Nov. 5 vs. Georgia Southern

Ole Miss also announced the movement of nonconference matchups of a road game at Memphis, from 2017 to 2019, and a home game against Tulane, from 2017 to 2019, and the addition of nonconference matchups, all home games, against Tennessee-Martin (2017), Southeastern Louisiana (2019) and Tulane (2025).

The road game at Memphis in 2019 marks the fourth game of a four-year contract to renew the football series, a series resumed with a home game in 2014 and will continue with a road game in 2015 and another home game in 2016.

For more, check out Ole Miss Future Football Schedules.

National Signing Day has come and gone, the Mike Smith Era began in earnest, and the men's basketball team has run its winning streak to five games, its longest win streak since the 2012-13, when the Rebels won the SEC Tournament Championship and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Here are some thoughts and opinions on the week that was:

- Head coach Hugh Freeze and his staff won some and lost some on National Signing Day, as they put together a 22-member class, ranked as high as No. 15 in the nation (247Sports.com), and as low as No. 21 in the nation (RIvals.com). The class included 18 players rated a four-star prospect or higher by at least one recruiting service, the most in program history, including offensive lineman Javon Patterson and wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge, the seventh and eighth five-star prospect signed under Freeze

"You lose some battles when you are battling for some of the nation's best," Freeze said. "Every school does. We had a few of those, but we also won many, many battles for kids who really wanted to be at Ole Miss and this program representing this great university. I'm excited to get to work with them."

- Among the battles won were the last three players signed in Lodge, who announced his college decision live on ESPNU, choosing the Rebels over Texas and Texas A&M, defensive lineman Austrian Robinson, who chose them over Maryland, and wide receiver Van Jefferson, the son of 13-year NFL veteran Shawn Jefferson, who chose them over Georgia, Michigan and Oklahoma, as well as linebacker Shawn Curtis, who flipped his commitment from Pittsburgh.

- Speaking to some of the recruiting battles lost, Freeze said he and his staff will revisit the entire recruiting process, including allowing commitments to take other visits, gong through every kid on their board and talking about the outcome, the good and the bad, why it did not their way in the end, and could they have done anything different. On a related note, looking ahead to 2016, Freeze said of addressing needs on the offensive line, defensive line and linebacker with mid-year signees, whether it's JUCO or high school players.

- One of the more underrated aspects of the 2015 signing class are the five mid-year enrollees, a group that includes the top junior college quarterback (Chad Kelly), defensive lineman (D.J. Jones) and cornerback (Tony Bridges). All three players, as well as junior college linebacker Terry Caldwell and early enrollee Javon Patterson are expected to feature prominently in spring practice and push for playing time come the fall.

- In case you missed it, here's a National Signing Day link roundup of videos and stories related to the signing class as a whole and videos and stories related to individual signees.

- The men's basketball team extended its winning streak to five games, defeating Texas A&M 69-59 Wednesday night, its third top-50 RPI win of the season, and then going on the road and defeating Auburn 86-79, moving to 3-2 in SEC road games this season. With the wins, the Rebels remain in a three-way tie for second place in the SEC standings and moved up to No. 37 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA.

- The story against Texas A&M was a locked-in defensive effort, holding the Aggies' two leading scorers, Jalen Jones and Danuel House, to a combined 14 points on 5-of-19 shooting, and two key 3-point plays by LaDarius White and M.J. Rhett to push the lead to 59-50 with 6:26 left.

- LaDarius White led the way with 20 points, making big play after big play, but it was a team effort throughout the lineup, as five Rebels finished in double figures in the win over Auburn. The nation's top free-throw shooting team, the Rebels closed out the game from the line, going 10-of-12 in the final 1:28 to finish 28-of-38 for the game.

"Ole Miss is really comfortable with their nine players," Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. "That's what makes them a really good and a contender is that they don't drop off at all when they go to their bench."

- Watching the Ole Miss-Auburn game on television, you could sense the energy in Auburn Arena, whether it was the memories of the Marshall Henderson jersey-pop, or the culture change under first-year head coach Bruce Pearl. The Pavilion at Ole Miss, set to open next season, will have a similar design and capacity, so fans watching the game got a taste of what the game day atmosphere might be like next season.

- Looking ahead, the Rebels have their first of two Thursday-Saturday swings, traveling to Florida on Thursday and playing host to Arkansas on Saturday. The Gators are ranked No. 67 in the latest RPI rankings and No. 35 in the latest KenPom.com ratings, while the Razorbacks are ranked No. 25 in the RPI and No. 31 in KenPom.

- The women's basketball team, looking for its first win at Vanderbilt since Jan. 8, 1987, led for 27:00, leading by as many as 16 early in the second half, but the Rebels were unable to overcome 42 second-half points from the Commodores in a 58-54 loss on Thursday night.

- Ole Miss, now 14-9 overall and 4-6 in SEC play, has six regular season remaining, starting with a home game against No. 6 Tennessee on Thursday. Head coach Matt Insell has said his team likely needs to get to at least eight SEC wins to garner NCAA Tournament consideration, so the Rebels likely need at least a split of the final six regular season games.

- The Ole Miss softball team kicked off the Mike Smith Era with six games in four days at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Arizona, going 3-3 with wins over San Jose State, Fresno State and Western Michigan. The Rebels are on the road for five games in three days next weekend, before returning home for the Red and Blue Classic (Feb. 20-22), playing host to UT-Martin, Nebraska-Omaha, Southern Illinois and Middle Tennessee State.

- The Ole Miss baseball team opens the 2015 season next weekend with a three-game home series against William & Mary, starting with the series opener Friday at 4 p.m. The Ole Miss baseball preseason press conference is set for Monday, so stay tuned for more coverage leading up to the season opener.

- The No. 24 ranked Ole Miss women's tennis picked up a pair of road wins, defeating No. 29 Texas Tech and No. 32 Rice. The Rebels return home for each of their next three matches, starting with Tulane on Friday (2 p.m.), before opening SEC play on Friday, Feb. 27 with a road match at Kentucky.

- The No. 19 ranked Ole Miss men's tennis team was off this past weekend, returning to action Monday for its home opener against Troy, before traveling to Chicago for the ITA National Team Indoor (Feb. 13-16).

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



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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:

Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25 Rankings

Ole Miss football finished the 2014 football season with a 9-4 record and a top-20 final national rankings in both polls. The Rebels come in at No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 19 in the Amway Coach Poll, their first final national ranking since 2009 and their highest final national ranking since 2008, when they finished No. 14 in the AP poll and No. 15 in the Coaches poll.

With the 2014 college football season officially in the books, various outlets looked ahead to 2015 and released way-too-early preseason top 25 rankings for 2015. Ole Miss featured prominently in these rankings, including two top-10 rankings, one as as high as No. 7.

Dennis Dodd, CBSSports.com: 7th

The Rebels weren't a one-hit wonder. Hugh Freeze gets back receiver Laquon Treadwell and budding superstar Robert Nkemdiche in the defensive line. The Landshark defense returns with a snarl. If Chad Kelly can keep his nose clean, Ole Miss might be better at quarterback with the departure of Bo Wallace.

Bryan Fischer, Mike Huguenin and Chase Goodbread, NFL.com: 7th

2014 final ranking: 19

Key returnees: DL Robert Nkemdiche, WR Laquon Treadwell, OL Laremy Tunsil

The skinny: The Rebels need to find a quarterback to replace the inconsistent Bo Wallace, but the quality recruiting classes coach Hugh Freeze has brought to Oxford should be starting to pay big dividends this upcoming season. There's a ton of talent that will eventually make its way to the draft, but it still might not be enough to get out of the loaded SEC West on top.

Paul Myerberg, USA Today Sports: 9th

Why No. 9? Because the Rebels improve with each passing season under Hugh Freeze. The offense may be more consistent with a new starter under center, particularly with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell back from injury. The defense will retool in the secondary without two all-conference picks, but the talent along the defensive line is undeniable -- and it's these contributors, led by Robert Nkemdiche, who set the tone for the entire defense. If they can stay healthy, the Rebels might sneak up and take the SEC West Division.

Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: 11th

2014 record: 9-4, 5-3 SEC

Returning starters: 10 offense, 7 defense, 2 special teams

Key personnel losses: QB Bo Wallace, S Cody Prewitt, CB Senquez Golson, LB Serderius Bryant, LB Deterrian Shackelford

Why they might finish higher: If you can somehow erase the Rebels' horrid performance in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl from your mind, the rest of the 2014 campaign was pretty memorable. The Rebels started 7-0 and were ranked No. 3 in the country before injuries started piling up. They're bringing back 18 players who started the bowl game, and star receiver Laquon Treadwell, cornerback Tee Shepherd and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche are coming back from injuries.

Why they might finish lower: There's no question Wallace had a roller-coaster career under center, but the Rebels don't have a replacement ready to go. Redshirt freshmen Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade are in line to replace him, although Clemson transfer Chad Kelly could be an option, despite his recent legal problems. There are some significant holes to fill on defense, after losing three of the top five tacklers and two stars in the secondary. Ole Miss' road schedule in 2015 isn't easy, with games at Alabama, Florida, Memphis, Auburn and Mississippi State.

Stewart Mandel, Fox Sports: 11th

The Rebels' Peach Bowl debacle obscured a season in which they beat 12-2 Boise State, 12-2 Alabama and 10-3 Mississippi State. The Rebels will be breaking in a new quarterback but should be deep with playmakers, provided WR Laquon Treadwell returns healthy. And a defense that dominated over the first half of the season should only be more talented.

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports: 13th

The Rebels are coming off their first season of double-digit victories since 1999. And the arrow on coach Hugh Freeze's team is pointing up, as this team has the pieces in place to finish among the top 10-15 nationally in 2015. Bo Wallace must be replaced at quarterback, but the new starter will benefit from the return at Laquon Treadwell at receiver. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is one of the best in the nation and is part of an offensive line that returns all five starters from the Peach Bowl depth chart. With the uncertainty at quarterback, the defense will have to carry Ole Miss - at least early on - in 2015. This unit allowed only 13.8 points per game in 12 regular season contests and should have one of the nation's top defensive lines. However, there's concern in the secondary with the departure of cornerback Senquez Golson and safety Cody Prewitt.

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