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On the transition as new hitting coach:

The transition has been really good. The coaching staff has made it a lot easier on me than what it could be. It's definitely been a whirlwind.

On what he knew about Ole Miss before taking the job:

I definitely had a lot of respect from afar for Coach Bianco and his program. I knew more than I thought I would because Ben Fleming, the strength and conditioning coach, was with me at Kansas State and we overlapped by a year for the 2013 season, and I kept in touch with him, so it was nice to know him through the process. Mike Bianco's work speaks for itself with 14 years and what he's done, continuing to build and getting to Omaha last year. I got to see them play quite a few times. They were a lot of fun to watch and played with a blue-collar mentality and a chip on their shoulder, and that's something I want to be a part of.

On what he looks to add and what he brings from his previous coaching experience:

It's a good fit because I pride myself on the mentality part of coaching. I want a bunch of guys who are going to blue collar and play with a chip on their shoulder, really play the game and outwork their opponent. I pride myself on that as a coach, and I hope our offense is going to pride themselves on that as well. I bring that dynamic to the staff. We have a bunch of good players and a bunch of good recruits, and I feel really good about where the program is right now.

On the reception on the road from fans and recruits:

Things are different when you put the script "Ole Miss" across your chest. That's no disrespect to Kansas State. I was in Atlanta last week recruiting, and I had to call back to the office and ask Andrew Case, our director of operations, what Hotty Toddy meant because I got six or eight Hotty Toddy's the first day I had the shirt on. To be honest, I wasn't sure what they were saying, if they cursing at me, or they were happy, or what they were, so I had to get an education on that. The response has been unbelievable. It's been overwhelmingly positive. People have been very supportive around town for the little bit that I have been here. It's really exciting to get going. It's going to be a great experience for my wife and I.

On summer workouts and talking to current players about the upcoming season:

I have talked to them quite a bit. I have been able to reach out to quite a few of our position players, especially the older guys. The coaching staff and the returning players are really excited about hopefully taking that next step. We want to be the last team standing in Omaha, not one of the last four teams. That's our goal, and that's the goal for a lot of teams, especially in this league. It's a dogfight, and you can't get to that goal without doing your job in the summer and fall. It's an exciting time, and the confidence is at an all-time high, probably, for his program, and that can be attributed to last year's team.

On what's needed to take Ole Miss to the next level:

We're on the right track. We're in a very good spot. It goes back to recruiting and getting the most talented players that you can find. But more so than the talent part of it, the best teams are the teams who can match the talent part of it with guys who are willing to give up a little something of themselves for something greater. That's why it was fun to watch Ole Miss baseball from afar because you could tell it was team and those guys loved playing with one another. If we can keep on that track, the sky is the limit, not only for this team this year, but the program and the future.

On being a former catcher on staff with two other former catchers in Mike Bianco and Carl Lafferty:

When you're a catcher, you're at the only position on the field, where everyone is looking to you. That's important. You're supposed to be a leader. I was not an elite baseball player. I was a pretty average player, and that's OK. One of the good things about that was I had to work pretty hard for everything I got and that helped me in my coaching career. They would say the same thing about being a former catcher. If you look around at the managers in the major leagues and minor leagues, there are a lot of former catchers because of the responsibility placed on that position.

On his younger brother, Jeff, and what he has learned from him and his major league baseball experience:

He's my best friend and we talk a couple of times a week. He had a whole different experience than what I did as an average player. He saw the other end of the spectrum. We talk often and he has a perspective of the Stephen Head's and Seth Smith's of the world, those types of people. He had an unbelievable college career, and he was an All-American and a high draft pick, and he was fortunate and blessed enough to play in the big leagues for parts of four seasons. He provides some valuable advice from his experience, but more than anything, he's really excited that I have this opportunity.

On his relationship and previous work experience with Ben Fleming:

It's important for me in the transition because I can bounce a lot off of him. The one year we worked together, we had a pretty special year at Kansas State and made it to the Super Regional and had the best year in school history. I trust his opinion. He's relentless in the way he works with kids. Coach Bianco really values him and what he does. It's good to have some familiarity with someone in this program getting here. I can't help but have a good relationship with Carl Lafferty. It didn't take long to build that because we were the two guys out on the road and recruiting.

On recruiting and how Carl Lafferty has helped in the transition:

It's a tough transition when you go from one part of the country to another part of the country and trying to land on your feet and hit the ground running. What's made it an easy transition is Carl. He's very gifted on the road. He has an unbelievable ability to know players and know everything about them. He knows who they are, who they play for, and where they're from. When you have someone as gifted as Carl is from a recruiting standpoint, it makes the transition a lot easier, that's for sure.

On the plan for the rest of the summer and preparation for fall practice:

The important thing, as we move forward before school starts, is to build relationships with players. That's what I believe most of coaching is. If I can start to build relationships and get these guys to trust me and what I'm all about and help them understand that I'm willing to work with them, everything will take off from there. I'm confident that will happen. Outside of recruiting, which is the life blood of the program, I want to build relationships with our current players and hit the ground running once school starts in late August.

On what fans should expect from the offense:

We want be aggressive in a lot of different ways. It can be driving the ball out of the yard, driving the ball in the gaps and stealing bases. I want to be really sound in every aspect of our offense, whether that's the ability to hit and run, steal bases and get down bunts. We want to hit the ball in the gaps because if you can do that, balls will go out of the yard and you will be able to do some things offensively. We're going to be uptempo and really aggressive and take the fight to the other team from the offensive side of things.

On the new ball and how it changes the game:

I don't know if it will change my philosophy as a hitting coach, but it will change the game. I trust what the NCAA is doing and there needed to be a change. I think the new ball is going to make a difference. Hopefully, in our ballpark, it makes the difference with a lot more beer showers for our team.

UPDATE: Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

Here are more of Coach Freeze's interviews in Bristol. Scroll down to the earlier post to hear him on Ivan Maisel's podcast.

Listen: Freeze on the Paul Finebaum Show

Listen: Freeze on the Freddie Coleman Show

Listen: Freeze on SVP & Russillo


Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Photo Gallery: Hugh Freeze At 2014 ESPN SEC Car Wash

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze sat down with ESPN's Ivan Maisel for his podcast to discuss the upcoming season. Here are a few highlights from Freeze:

On Robert Nkemdiche at defensive tackle:

Robert stays about the same. He's at about 295 pounds. He fluctuates from 295-305 pounds. I have never seen a 295-pound man built like him. He has a six pack at 295 pounds. He's a special athlete, and we're excited. That's where he belongs long-term for his NFL career, if he stays healthy. We think he can be dominant inside. We will go to some 3-4 stuff, too, where he moves out some, but he will primarily be an inside guy.

More on Robert Nkemdiche:

Throughout the recruiting process, we always thought he would move inside. In the bowl game, he played inside the whole game and had his best game of the year by far. He was so active and disruptive against Georgia Tech in the bowl game.

On Laquon Treadwell and his ability and willingness to block:

It's very unusual in a young player. There are not many high school receivers who come in with the mentality that blocking is very important to them. Coaches will always tell them that, but for the kid to grasp that it's an important role for them on the team is not the norm. We could make a cut-up reel right now of his blocking last year that is absolutely way beyond a freshman in maturity. He will inspire those other receivers to block also. He enjoy it. He loves it. He gets a kick out of it. And he has gained some weight. He has gained another 10-15 pounds and will definitely be a great blocker for us.

More on Treadwell:

He's now moved back outside. He will play the outside guy where Donte (Moncrief) was last year. He should see more explosive plays. He had some, but in our stuff, he probably didn't get asked to do that a lot last year, but he will this year.

On cyclical world of college football and lack of star quality in the Southeastern Conference:

I don't (think the SEC takes a step back). If you just look at the way all of us have recruited, if the recruiting services are close to being right, there are a lot of players who are going to be on the field who we don't know about. Right now, there's not the star power that there has been the last couple of year, but it will be back very soon.

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoop and Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze discuss the state of the SEC on College Football Live. Here a few highlights from Freeze:

On recruiting:

"We're a unique staff that has a core values that attracts a certain type of kid. We had the early opportunity to play for us because of what we inherited when we got there. Kids are drawn to that. And if you ever get a kid on our campus, we have a chance. It's one of the most beautiful places in the world, and our facilities have been upgraded to be top notch. They see the passion and love we have for what we do there. Hopefully, it transcended into helping them become the type of men they need to be in life."

On expectations:

"I'm determined that I won't let pressure definite how we go about doing things. I do know that we're good enough now to be relevant in the SEC West. What that means in the win-loss column, I have no idea, because no one is backing up, but we closed the gap to where we should in the factors of who wins this league."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freeze Excited For Season Opener In Georgia Dome

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

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

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

Another Chip On Wallace's Shoulder

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

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

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

Backup Quarterback Battle Continues

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

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

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

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

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

Prewitt Looks To Improve On All-American Junior Season

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

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

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

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

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

Before taking his turn at the podium in the main room at SEC Media Days on Thursday, head coach Hugh Freeze met with members of the Ole Miss local media and addressed a wide variety of topics. Here are some of the highlights:

On Tee Shepard:

"I saw his update yesterday. It looked good. When his classes end on July 25, we will start getting the grades from the junior college to the (NCAA) clearinghouse. You're never sure of the time frame of those things, but we feel very confident, today, that he has what he needs to qualify. Hopefully he will be there right around the beginning of the camp, provided he finishes the way he's doing right now."

On the health of Bo Wallace:

"He feels really good. He's really confident. He looks better and has put on about 15 pounds. He's excited about the way he feels and the works that's taking place in the offseason, not only with Paul Jackson, but with some specialists who have looked at him. It's as confident as I have seen him." 

On Bo Wallace working with quarterback specialist Tom House:

"We have talked about it and watched videos together. Everything is giving him confidence. We're excited. Hopefully, the arm strength that he has right now will be sustained throughout the year because of a full offseason of rehab work and strengthening and working with specialists."

On Fahn Cooper:

"(Paul Jackson) is excited about Fahn. He was ahead of where he thought he would be when he got here. He's a hard worker. He's an athletic kid. We're excited that he's exactly who we thought he would be."

On Aaron Morris and Christian Morris returning from injury, and the team's overall health:

"Aaron is doing everything now. It seems to be good. He's still working on his weight. He should be ready to go day one. Christian Morris is working out now. I'm not sure if he will be released to go day one for everything.

"Losing Chief Brown was difficult. He is a wonderful kid and we needed him. You finally get your secondary where you think it's a really solid two-deep. We lose Collins Moore this week for a period of time. He has a knee that will hold him out 4-to-6 weeks. That's part of the game. That's why you have to go recruit depth. We feel better because we have better depth at most places than we have had the last two years."

On incoming freshmen:

"Rod Taylor is a good player. How good will he be as a freshman, I don't know. We will need some of those young kids to play on the offensive line. Him and Fahn Cooper are the first two who jump off the page. We're really excited about Breeland Speaks and Garrald McDowell. We're going to need one of those receivers -- Dayall (Harris), Markell (Pack), Sammie (Epps) -- one of those guys to give us some depth at receiver. We're really excited about those guys. 

"We're really excited about the whole class. Top to bottom, it is a very solid class. The ones who jump out are the ones where we have needs: offensive line and wide receiver depth."

On Jeremy Liggins:

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

On backup quarterback:

"If we were playing today, it would totally depend upon the situation. If we were able to run the entire offense that we have, it would probably be (DeVante) Kincade. If we had to stand in the pocket and make a drive throwing the ball down the field, it would probably be (Ryan) Buchanan."


Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday. Here are a few links to stories of interest for Ole Miss fans from Day Three of SEC Media Days, which featured Steve Shaw (SEC), Justin Connolly (ESPN), Bill Hancock (College Football Playoff), Missouri, LSU and Arkansas.

The Ole Miss official website, OleMissSports.com, and the SEC official website, SECSports.com, will have continuous coverage of SEC Football Media Days, as will ESPNU, ESPN and Watch ESPN.

SEC imbalance: When will the West's dominance over the East end?, writes Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com

SEC coaches using Auburn's magical turnaround as preseason rallying cry, writes Joel A. Erickson of AL.com

Steve Shaw notes changes to targeting rule, quarterback safety and other points at SEC Media Days, writes Drew Champlin of AL.com

SEC Network TV launch looming; some fans in dark, writes John Zenor of the Associated Press

Mizzou was an SEC leader -- not an outlier -- all along, writes Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com

Mizzou's Mauk ready for SEC close-up, writes Dave Matter of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The best of LSU's Les Miles at SEC media day, writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com

'It's fun': Les Miles' trip through SEC media days, writes Ross Dellenger of The Advocate

Rabalais: These Tigers should relish the underdog role, writes Scott Rabalais of The Advocate

LSU football to rely on freshmen more than ever in 2014, writes Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com

Freshman Leonard Fournette draws lofty comparisons at LSU, writes Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com

Bielema, Razorbacks Stick With Plan, writes Robbie Neiswanger of the Arkansas News Bureau

Razorbacks mastering their 'Hoganese,' writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

Bret Bielema, Gus Malzahn not 'breaking bread,' but hurry-up adversaries do respect each other, writes Brandon Marcello of AL.com


Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday. Here are a few links to stories of interest for Ole Miss fans from Day Two of SEC Media Days, which featured South Carolina, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Tennessee.

The Ole Miss official website, OleMissSports.com, and the SEC official website, SECSports.com, will have continuous coverage of SEC Football Media Days, as will ESPNU, ESPN and Watch ESPN.

Star power lacking at SEC Media Days, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

SEC enters new world: Covering itself on TV channel, writes Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com

The best of Steve Spurrier's media day, writes Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com

South Carolina's energetic Spurrier still on top of his game -- and winning, writes Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com

Wild, Wild West: Bulldogs' Mullen trying to chart course for Atlanta, writes Logan Lowery of the Daily Journal

Take Five: Mississippi State, Mullen lay out their bold plans, writes Michael Bonner of the Clarion-Ledger

Dak Prescott, the SEC's newest star, takes the big stage, writes Bob Carskadon of HailState.com

Looking for the next Steve Spurrier? Look right at Kevin Sumlin and smile, writes Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com

Minus Manziel, Aggies escape microscope, writes Sam Khan Jr. of ESPN.com

Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin treating Manziel like Johnny Forgotten, writes Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com

Vols hoping for more in Jones' second season, writes Wes Rucker of govols247.com

Butch Jones, Vols enter season optimistic, writes Greg Ostendorf of ESPN.com


NFL.com CFB 24/7 has counted down the 14 college football players to watch -- and some other college football topics -- in varying categories in 2014. Below are the highlights for Ole Miss and the link to the complete 14 for '14 series.

Most versatile players: Robert Nkemdiche (7)

Particulars: 6-4, 277, sophomore 

Buzz: Did anyone else in the country see time on both the defensive line and at running back last year? Show of hands? Nkemdiche can make the claim, although he just got five totes in the backfield, for 32 yards. Short-yardage rushing aside, it's at defensive tackle where Nkemdiche is expected to dominate for the Rebels as a sophomore this fall. He played some end last year, as well, but tackle appears to be his home after making eight tackles for loss among 34 stops last year. But we won't be surprised if he gets a few more third-and-1 carries this fall.

Fastest players: Kailo Moore (5)

Another two-sport star in college, Moore mostly contributed last season on special teams as a freshman. He's off to a good start in 2014 on the track and has times comparable with TCU's Kolby Listenbee and Georgia Tech's Broderick Snoddy in the 100- and 200-meter dashes.

Toughest players: Serderius Bryant (4)

Particulars: 5-9, 215, junior

Buzz: Rebels free safety Cody Prewitt receives more acclaim for his big hits -- he almost eviscerated Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews in last season's opener -- but Bryant deserves the honor. He's a 5-9 linebacker (and the 5-9 is his listed height, with emphasis on "listed") who starts in the SEC. Bryant's nickname is "Bird," which he picked up in high school in the Orlando area for the way he flew around the field making tackles and big hits. Yes, despite his size, a guy nicknamed "Bird" really lays the wood. You have to be tough to be a 5-9 linebacker in the SEC who makes big hits.

Most physical players: Cody Prewitt (5)

Particulars: 6-2, 212, senior 

Buzz: He led the SEC in interceptions last season with six, but don't let that fool you: Prewitt is a hitter first, and a coverage ace second. He's like an extra linebacker when it comes to run support, and patrols the middle of the field with a nasty streak on passing downs. Recall star Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews vomiting on national TV last year in the first game of the season after taking a brutal hit -- it was Prewitt on the giving end.

Players with best intangibles: Deterrian Shackelford (6)

Particulars: 6-1, 215, senior 

Buzz: There are few stories of perseverance in college football to match that of Shackelford, who missed two straight years of football while recovering from multiple surgeries on a devastating knee injury. He returned last year to make 44 tackles -- 7.5 for losses. While not the team's best defender, he's the Rebels' emotional leader and the only two-time winner of Ole Miss' Chucky Mullins Award for courage. Shackelford's injury plight got him a rare sixth year of eligibility granted by the NCAA, and he'll wear Mullins' No. 38 jersey this fall.

Smallest players: Jaylen Walton

Particulars: 5-8, 166, Junior

Buzz: Coach Hugh Freeze clearly likes his running backs small and quick, and that's exactly what Walton brings to the SEC in college football's most physical conference. He made seven starts in the Rebels' backfield last year, picking up 523 yards and six touchdowns. With 29 catches for 322 yards, he was also one of the SEC's most prolific receivers at the running back position. And if that wasn't enough for the two-year letterman from Memphis, he also returned 25 kickoffs for another 515 yards.

Heaviest players: Aaron Morris

Particulars: 6-5, 355, junior 

Buzz: What could have been a dominant year for Morris last season never even got started, as a torn ACL put him on the sideline in the Rebels' first game. He had been a full-time starter at guard in 2012, and even saw six starts as a freshman in 2011. Morris isn't just a big body -- he's a player -- and provides a physical presence to an offense known more for finesse than power. A healthy Morris in 2014 would be a major boost to the Ole Miss offensive front.

Top recruiters: Chris Kiffin

Remember when the Rebels seemed to come out of nowhere in 2013 and land a recruiting class ranked in the top 10 that included the best player in the country? Kiffin was the chief reason why Laremy Tunsil and Robert Nkemdiche are in Oxford, and he's been the man behind the recruiting efforts of the program that has turned heads recently. Recruiting and the last name Kiffin always seem to go together and it will be interesting to see how Chris will fare going against brother Lane head-to-head.

Biggest hitters: Cody Prewitt (3)

Particulars: 6-2, 212, senior.

Buzz: He is from Bay Springs, Miss. If you're like us, you hear "Bay Springs" and you picture a calm, peaceful place. Well, that's not the way Prewitt plays football; instead, he flies around, making big plays and huge hits. His nicely executed form tackle on Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews in last season's opener is a perfect example. (Warning: Do not run a Google search on that hit unless you are comfortable with watching a guy throw up on the field.) But Prewitt, who should vie for All-America honors this fall, is more than a big hitter; he had six interceptions and seven pass breakups to go along with 71 tackles last season. Still, while he is good in coverage, his best trait is his hitting ability.


Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday. Here are a few links to stories of interest for Ole Miss fans from Day 1 of SEC Media Days, which featured SEC commissioner Mike Slive, Auburn, Florida and Vanderbilt. 

The Ole Miss official website, OleMissSports.com, and the SEC official website, SECSports.com, will have continuous coverage of SEC Football Media Days, as will ESPNU, ESPN and Watch ESPN.

SEC's Slive Continues Push for Big Five autonomy, writes David Brandt of the Associated Press

The Blueprint: Auburn's rosy run provides lessons for Ole Miss, Mississippi State, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Auburn hopeful defensive end Carl Lawson will return from ACL surgery, writes Brandon Marcello of AL.com

Auburn teammates rallying around Nick Marshall despite quarterback's mistake, writes Joel A. Erickson of AL.com

SEC Media Days: Last year's loss to Rebels still stings at Vandy, writes Parrish Alford of the Daily Journal

Vandy acknowledges Ole Miss fans will be at 'road' game, writes Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger

Teary James Franklin told Vanderbilt: 'I'm not leaving,' writes Nick Cole of The Tennessean

Vanderbilt's Derek Mason: No rush to name starting QB, writes Nick Cole of The Tennessean

SEC Media Days: Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason believes the Stanford way can work in SEC, writes Gary Laney of AL.com


Former Ole Miss player Zack Cozart, now a member of the Cincinnati Reds, was named the best defensive shortstop in baseball for the first half of the 2014 season. ESPN Insider Scott Spratt selected one player from either league at each position.

Here is what Spratt had to say about Cozart:

"Cozart is the hottest fielder in the sport. He has saved 12 runs since the start of June, the most in baseball over that time frame. He has increased his overall Runs Saved total to 17, tied for second-most at any position. Where Pedroia stands out by making unexpected plays, Cozart excels by rarely making mistakes. He has just 10 Defensive Misplays/Errors (DMEs) in 757 innings, which is the lowest rate among middle infielders with a minimum of 400 innings this season."

Here's a sampling of Cozart's glove work in the first half of the 2014 season:


For ESPN Insider subscribers, here's the link to the full article: First-half Defensive All-Stars

Three student-athletes and the head coach of each of the 14 Southeastern Conference football programs will participate in SEC Football Media Days, July 14-17, at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham - The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala.

Ole Miss will take its turn at SEC Media Days on Thursday, July 17. In addition to head coach Hugh Freeze, junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, senior safety Cody Prewitt and senior quarterback Bo Wallace will represent Ole Miss. 

Wallace is the seventh Rebel to attend multiple SEC Media Days, joining Jeff Herrod (1986-87), Eli Manning (2002-03), Patrick Willis (2005-06), Kentrell Lockett (2010-11), Bradley Sowell (2010-11) and Donte Moncrief (2012-13).

The cover art for Ole Miss football media guide was also released. The guide has two covers, one featuring Wallace and another featuring Prewitt. Fans can start ordering guides next week at OleMissSports.com

Thumbnail image for 6bb7M.jpgThe Ole Miss official website, OleMissSports.com, and the SEC official website, SECSports.com, will have continuous coverage of SEC Football Media Days, as will ESPNU, ESPN and Watch ESPN.

More From SEC Sports: Football Media Days Attendees Released

Ole Miss And The World Cup

brazil-2014-world-cup-banner.jpg

The United States' run in the 2014 World Cup came to an end with a 2-1 extra-time loss to Belgium in the Round of 16. For many fans, it's also the end of the road, but for a few Ole Miss coaches, current players and former players, their teams march on to the quarterfinals, which start Friday.

The Round of 16 match between the United States and Belgium averaged 16,491,000 viewers and a 9.8 US HH rating, making it the second most viewed men's soccer match in the United States ever, behind the 18,220,000 viewers and 9.6 US HH rating for the opening round match between the United States and Portugal.

For comparison, just two 2013 college football games -- the BCS Championship game between Florida State and Auburn (14.8) and the Rose Bowl between Stanford and Michigan State (10.2) -- outdrew those two United States soccer matches.

Ole Miss soccer head coach Matt Mott has closely followed the World Cup and looks for a bump in attendance and interest, as the Rebels kick off the 2014 season with the first-ever live event broadcast on the SEC Network when they host Georgia on Friday, August 22 at 5 p.m.

"This coming fall it will have a great effect," said Mott on Head to Head Radio, Tuesday. "It will help our attendance and help attendance throughout the country. People are excited about it. We're growing in fans all the time and growing in kids who are playing. We're so close. The World Cup will end here in the next couple of weeks, and a few weeks after that we get going. World Cup years are always great for our sport."

As for those with rooting interests whose native countries in the World Cup, former soccer player Rafaelle Souza and volleyball assistant coach Ronaldo Pacheco have represented Brazil for their respective national teams. 

Souza, who now plays for the Houston Dash of the National Women's Soccer League, made her first and only appearance for Brazil in 2012. She may also figure in the mix for the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada (June 6-July 5).

Pacheco grew up playing soccer, then briefly basketball, before the start of his volleyball playing career (1983-2001), where he played on 10 different teams, including the Brazilian National Team.

"Every single boy in Brazil wants to play soccer," Pacheco said. "I was too tall when I was 13 and I did not have enough skills to play soccer. Playing soccer in Brazil is like playing basketball here in the United States. There are too many good players. To succeed, you have to be good plus you have to be lucky. When I was younger, I played every single day. We would play in the streets or go to the park and play."

After his playing career, Pacheco served as an assistant coach for the women's national team from 2004-07 and helped Brazil to a fourth-place finish at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. It's that coaching experience he brings to the Ole Miss volleyball staff, having most recently spent the past two seasons at Tulsa as an assistant coach.

"It's really nice, before the game, to listen to your national anthem," Pacheco said. "I loved playing for the national team. I loved the pressure. It's not just go and play. You have to perform. People will say this or say that, and you have to learn to deal with all that. When I worked as an assistant coach, in 2004, it was almost like soccer because the soccer [team] wasn't doing well at that time, and volleyball had a stretch where the men's national team won three world championships in a row."

Like Souza and Pacheco, women's tennis head coach Mark Beyers grew up around soccer in his native Netherlands. His father played professional soccer, and he remembers going to AFC Ajax matches when he was younger.

"It's hard to keep up with all the clubs in Holland," Beyers said. "I try to follow them, but it's hard. With the World Cup, you get to see all the games. Even though I live in the U.S., I'm still Dutch. When you watch the national team play, that patriotism comes up. The other day, the game against Mexico, it was a mixture of English and Dutch being yelled at the TV."

A few other players and former players with ties to teams remaining in the World Cup are rising women's tennis senior Iris Verboven, also from the Netherlands, senior Marie-Pierre Bakima from France, freshman middle distance runner Julius Lembke from Germany, and former men's tennis players Marcel and Chris Thiemann from Germany, who have remained at Ole Miss while working on graduate degrees in accounting.

"In soccer, you have a lot of trash-talking and bragging rights if you do win," said Beyers, mentioning the Thiemann's with Germany. "It's a lot of fun. I'm excited that the United States is embracing it so much. The ratings are off the charts."

Related Links:

Matt Mott On Head To Head Radio (starts at 50:10 mark)

Rafaelle Souza Talks World Cup Brazil

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy talks about the addition of assistant coach Tony Madlock and the new-look roster for the upcoming season, among other topics, on the SEC Summer Men's Basketball Coaches Media Teleconference Monday. Here are the highlights:

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy (starts at 1:24:00 mark)

Opening statement:

It's been a productive summer so far. We have had all our guys on campus, which has allowed us to get to know them a little bit better, especially the five incoming guys, and I have been excited about what I have seen so far.

On filling out his coaching staff:

I still have a spot open. I'm really in no rush to fill that in as it is. My focus has been on this group. Now that the NCAA has allowed us to have our hands on the guys during the summer, it's been great for me to get to know these new guys and see our returners continue to mature and grow as they get more experience in the program.

Tony (Madlock) has been a tremendous addition. He's a Memphian. He played at Memphis, grew up in the area, and he is certainly very, very familiar with the SEC, having been with Tony (Barbee) the last four years at Auburn. He's been great. He's brought a new focus and a new energy, and I'm really pleased to have him as part of our staff.

On the 13-player scholarship limit:

We're going to be there in August. Derrick Millinghaus has transferred to Southeastern Louisiana. Demarco Cox is trying to finish up his degree this summer, so that he can enroll at Georgia Tech in the fall. Janari Joesaar has left and he has signed with Texas-Pan American. Jerron Martin has left, and my belief is that he has intended to go to a junior college as opposed to sitting out. As all those numbers line up, we'll be at our 13 when we need to be in the fall.

On the newcomers, including two post-graduate transfers and two junior college transfers:

It's really a different dynamic. I have never done this before. We brought in two fifth-year guys in Terence Smith from UT-Martin and M.J. Rhett from Tennessee State. That, coupled with the three returning seniors who have matriculated through our system in Jarvis, Snoop and AJ, gives us five seniors. 

And when you talk about Anthony Perez and Martavious Newby, who are going to be juniors this year, along with Terry Brutus, who is in his third year, even though he will be a redshirt sophomore because he's coming off an ACL injury last year, and you couple that with Stefan Moody from Kilgore and Rod Lawrence from South Plains, 10 of our 13 guys will be juniors or seniors in the program. From an experience standpoint, we have never been as experienced. With that, we hope comes a real focus and sense of urgency that you like to see out of upperclassmen.

On the trip to the Bahamas and how it might impact things next season:

First and foremost, I'm looking want to work on my tan... I'm hoping to look a little healthier. Now that we can practice guys in the summer, a lot of the allure of having a foreign trip and having the 10 days to practice isn't quite as important as it once was but I am looking forward a chance to put together a semblance of a team so that we can go over and play some outside competition with the new guys that I'm anticipating making a huge impact on our program. It will give get a chance to see what they're able to do and start formulating an identity as it relates to how we want to play.

I don't know if (the quality of competition) is that important for us. More than anything, it's integrating the new guys and making sure older guys understand their roles. It's a matter of putting a team together and seeing how we can formulate our identity.

'It Won't Fade Away'

OMAHA, Neb. -- The long and winding road reached its end Saturday, as Ole Miss was eliminated from the College World Series with a 4-1 loss to Virginia, two wins shy of reaching the National Championship Series. 

"It was the best team I have ever played on," senior co-captain Will Allen said. "All the teams in the country except one are going to finish up with a loss. Unfortunately, we did that. If you're going to end on a loss, you might as well do it in Omaha. We ran into a really good team and fought until the end."

But what a run. 

Picked to finish sixth in the SEC West, the 2014 Rebels exceeded all expectations, except perhaps their own, as they matched the 2005 team with a school-record 48 wins and became just the second team in school history to win two games at the College World Series, joining the 1956 team.

"You don't want to ever to come up short, especially when you're this close to winning the national championship, but this is a special group of guys, a special group of older guys," head coach Mike Bianco said. "They provided great leadership and were such great mentors to the younger group that is so talented. 

"It's sad that it ends but more importantly sad because these 35 guys that wore the uniform this year for Ole Miss were such great representatives of the university and will go down as the best team that ever played Ole Miss and we won't ever be together again. That's what makes it sad."

After near misses in recent Super Regionals, this was the team that broke through and advanced to Omaha and the College World Series for the fifth time in school history and the first time since 1972. 

"It was a great run," Allen said. "We played really well throughout the season just to get to Omaha. Not many people do that. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm glad that I got to play here and had the opportunity to play with this team. We had a great team this year. I'm proud of the way we finished."

Allen and senior co-captain Austin Anderson leave behind a lasting legacy, as do their fellow senior and the other members of the 2014 team who may have played their last games in an Ole Miss uniform.

"They had been through a lot the last few years," Bianco said. "They stuck together and trusted myself and the coaches and the system and what we do. They were great mentors to a very talented younger group and they deserve all of this. I know it won't fade away. They are more deserving than any group I can remember."

OMAHA, Neb. -- Through two games at the College World Series, Ole Miss has just six hits in 57 at-bats and scored three runs. 

Part of the offensive outage has been expansive TD Ameritrade Park, part of it has been the howling wind that has been blowing in from center field and part of it has been two terrific pitching performances from Virginia's Nathan Kirby and Texas Tech's Ryan Moseley.

Besides Vanderbilt, which has scored a combined 11 runs in wins over Louisville and UC Irvine, no team has scored more than five runs in Omaha, as all eight teams have combined to average just 2.7 runs through eight games.

"We knew it was big, but we have been having a hurricane coming in straight from center field, so it's been tough," said junior first baseman Sikes Orvis, who is second in the Southeastern Conference and seventh nationally with 14 home runs on the season.

"Personally, it's knocking me off my game a little bit. When I get in hitter's counts, I usually try to pull something or drive something, but if I do that, it's just going to get knocked down, so I have been trying to go the other way and hit line drives. We'll adjust. Everybody has to deal with this; it's not just us. It's made for a lot of low-scoring games, so I'm sure the fans are ready for some offense."

The park and the wind has been good for pitchers, particularly for those who have filled up the strike zone, as junior right-hander Sam Smith looks to do in his start Thursday against TCU. As a pitching staff, Ole Miss has allowed just three runs on 15 hits with six walks and 11 strikeouts over 17.2 innings in Omaha.

"Use the ballpark to your advantage and fill up the zone," Smith said. "Guys are going to hit balls hard, but somehow they get caught in the wind. We have a really fast outfield, so they get caught a lot of times."

Same Spot, Different Week for Smith

Like sophomore left-hander Christian Trent, who has helped extend the Rebels' season in each of his last two starts, junior right-hander Sam Smith looks to do the same for the second straight week in Thursday's elimination game against TCU.

Smith has not pitched past the fifth inning in each of his last two starts, but he has given his team an opportunity, limiting Washington to two runs (both unearned) on six hits through 4.2 innings, and limiting Louisiana-Lafayette to three runs (two unearned) on six hits through 3.2 innings.

It has been a nice bounce-back for Smith after a tough stretch of outings against Kentucky, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Arkansas again at the SEC Tournament. 

"He's a guy who always gives us an opportunity to win," head coach Mike Bianco said. "It seems like he always goes out there and does a great job for us. Sometimes it's in the middle innings but that's because the game that he pitches is so important. 

"When he pitches on Sunday, that's usually to win the weekend. And depending on how much we have in the bullpen, sometimes we make the move in the fourth, fifth or sixth inning. He's been great for us in this role."

Earlier this season, Smith had another stretch of eight quality starts, but if he's not able to pitch deep, he will have a fresh bullpen behind him, thanks to a light workload through two games and the day off Wednesday.

"We had a healthy bullpen my last few starts, so coach had no hesitation to take me out and get someone else in," Smith said. "We have a lot of guys in the bullpen who are capable. My mindset is to go as far and as hard as I can to give us a shot to win."

More Familiarity than Rivalry

For Ole Miss and TCU, it's their ninth meeting in three years and their fourth meeting in the NCAA Tournament.

The schools played twice in the regular season in 2012, splitting the games in Fort Worth, Texas. 

They met again in the 2012 NCAA College Station Regional, with Ole Miss winning the opening game, and then TCU winning two elimination games to advance to the Super Regional. 

They met once again to open the 2013 season with Ole Miss sweeping the three-game weekend series in Oxford.

"We played them in the regional my freshman year, and then we opened up with them last year, and now we're playing them again, so we can't seem to get away from these guys," junior first baseman Sikes Orvis said. "It's exciting. You see guys who were freshmen when you were a freshman, and you see them grow and get older. It's cool. We have built a little rivalry, so it will be cool to play them on this stage."

There's also familiarity between Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco and TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle from when Bianco was an assistant coach at LSU (1993-97) and Schlossnagle was associate head coach at Tulane (1994-2001). 

Their relationship has continued over the years, including the 2013 summer with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, where Bianco was the pitching coach and Schlossnagle was the head coach.

"We have played them through the years," head coach Mike Bianco said. "You play them a lot in postseason because they're very good. It's certainly a team that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. It's a team that can really pitch. The difference this year for them is they're more offensive than they have been in the last couple of years."

More on TD Ameritrade Park Debate: Why is it so difficult to score runs at the CWS?, writes Jon Nyatawa from the Omaha World-Herald


 

OMAHA, Neb. -- Ole Miss has scored three runs over its first two games at the College World Series. All three came in pinch-hitting opportunities. 

The first was an RBI groundout from sophomore Holt Perdzock in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Virginia. The second and third came from Perdzock and senior John Gatlin, the latter of which lifted the Rebels to a 2-1 win over Texas Tech in walk-off fashion.

"Yeah, we've done that throughout the entire season," Gatlin said. "One through 27 contributes each week in some form or fashion. And Coach Bianco does a great job making sure late in the game when it's getting tight like that, be swinging, get your legs loose and be ready to go. Like I said, we're expected to get it done, and we've been pretty successful at it."

Perdzock delivered the big hit in a 10-4 win over Louisiana-Lafayette to send Ole Miss to the College World Series, as he cleared the bases with a double to right to score two run while a fielding error allowed a third run to score. Against Texas Tech, his two-out, RBI single in the seventh looked to be game-winning run before the Red Raiders tied the game in the ninth.

He has perfected his role as a pinch-hitter this season with 12 hits in 35 at-bats with six RBI, including three hits in five at-bats with four RBI in the NCAA Tournament.

"I have been doing it all year, so I'm used to it," Perdzock said. "I try to stay clam and do what I do. When I was up there, I tried to hit one the other way because the ball was tailing a little bit. He ended up throwing it, but it sneaked through, so I'm happy about it."

For Gatlin, it was his second walk-off hit of the season. He lifted Ole Miss to a 4-3 win over UCF in 13 innings back on Feb. 28, but Tuesday's walk-off takes on a special meaning, not only because of the stage in the College World Series but also the recent passing of his grandmother.

"You saw he was tearing up afterwards," fellow senior Will Allen said. "That's every kid's dream, to hit a walk-off in Omaha. He did it. He's been a huge part of this on the bench and in the locker room. I was proud for him."

"I wouldn't think of anything else that she could be more proud of," said Gatlin of his deceased grandmother. "And Coach (Cliff) Godwin asked me if I needed to go home. And I said, 'Are you kidding me? She'd kill me if I came home right now.' But, yeah, game's on the line like that, so much going through your head, she was definitely part of it."

Trent Answers The Bell For Rebels

OMAHA, Neb. -- With runs at a premium at cavernous TD Ameritrade Park, every pitch takes on added importance, and you could feel it with sophomore left-hander Christian Trent, as he kept making pitches to get out of innings.

Looking to match Bobby Wahl's perfect 10-0 mark from last season, he took an unlucky no-decision, but he went eight strong innings to help set up a dramatic 2-1 walk-off win over Texas Tech.

"He's done that all year long," head coach Mike Bianco said. "He's undefeated. He hasn't had a bad outing all year long even in the games he hasn't won. He's gotten no-decisions. He's been terrific. Our guys have that confidence. Even though we lose the first game, I don't know if there's another better guy in the country to run out there in game two than Christian."

"It's another awesome performance by him," senior catcher Will Allen said. "He did a great job, especially with the offense taking a while to get going and scoring him some runs. Staying out there for as long as he did and really keeping them off-balance. Even when they got on base, he shut it down. We got a couple of clutch double plays that helped out. He's done that all year. He's like a second ace out there. He's very composed and very competitive and just goes about his business."

Trent credited his fastball command and making good use of his slider and changeup, as he scattered six hits with one walk and six strikeouts over eight innings. He was especially dominant with runners on base, stranding six runners on the base paths and holding Texas Tech hitless with runners on base (0-for-12) and runners in scoring position (0-for-6).

"It's more of a mindset that you have to lock things down when they get runners on, especially in scoring position," Trent said. "It's time to make the pitches and focus a lot harder on what you're doing. It's a little bit of a tighter window when you're throwing into the glove, and I just felt like I was able to use all three pitches, like I said, when I needed to. I think it worked out well for me."

With eight shutout innings against Texas Tech, he has allowed just two runs -- one earned -- on 15 hits with four walks and 19 strikeouts over 21.1 innings in NCAA Tournament play.

OMAHA, Neb. -- Head football coach Hugh Freeze and head men's basketball coach Andy Kennedy, two former baseball players in their own right, were among the Ole Miss fans in attendance for Tuesday's College World Series game against Texas Tech.

"Watching it on TV the other night, it seemed like our Rebels showed up," Freeze said. "Getting to see it live, my assumptions were correct. Our fans have traveled well again, as they always do. They're so supportive of everything we do. The atmosphere is great."

In his 14th season at Ole Miss, head baseball coach Mike Bianco is the dean of coaches among the big-three sports, with Freeze entering his third season and Kennedy entering his ninth season.

"Mike's the dean of us, most especially, having been here a number of years," Kennedy said. "For him to take that next step and get to Omaha, to me, when I was watching the game against (Louisiana)-Lafayette, it felt like I was playing. I'm thinking to myself, 'This is too stressful. I'm supposed to be just watching the game.' I was really pulling for Mike and I was really proud for him and for his team."

"When you see somebody who has gotten so close and then does that, you certainly want to rejoice, particularly when he's part of our family," Freeze said.

Like they share in the success of Bianco and the baseball team, they also share in the benefits of Ole Miss playing on one of the biggest stages in college athletics: The College World Series.

"Any time you can get our university, our brand on the national stage, it is helpful to all of us," Freeze said. "The job that Mike, his staff and his team have done, we're indebted to them because it certainly helps the whole university and every program we have in athletics."

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