Results tagged “Robert Nkemdiche”
Robert Nkemdiche will return against Arkansas, having missed the LSU and Idaho games after suffering a hamstring injury against Texas A&M. The freshman defensive lineman has played in and started six games, recording 15 total tackles (11 solo) and four tackles for loss.
"He looks really good," defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. "He looks quick and light on his feet. We just got make sure he's 100 percent. He's still feeling it a little bit out here. He's down 15 pounds. I don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing, but he looks really quick out here. It's just him picking up the mental side again."
Nkemdiche will move inside to defensive tackle, where he started against Alabama, while junior Bryon Bennett will remain outside at defensive end, where he started the last three games.
"That's the plan with who we got right now with C.J. (Johnson) being out for the year and Bryon doing a good job out there," Kiffin said. "Maybe that's Rob's future, so that's where we're at right now.
"He's physical enough. He gives those guys problems inside because of how quick he is, and he's not afraid to get physical. It's just natural for him."
Nkemidche and the Ole Miss defense will be tasked with an Arkansas offense that has rushed for at least 200 yards in six of nine games and average 211.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the SEC. The Razorbacks also lead the league and rank fifth nationally allowing just 0.78 sacks per game.
On the offensive line, Arkansas has opened each of the last four games with the same five starters, including a pair of freshman guards in Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper, who have started each of the last five games.
"They look like freshmen that are getting better every game," said defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, of Kirkland and Skipper. "They didn't play them as much early in the season. Both of them are going to be really good football players. You see them make mistakes at times, but they're getting better every time."
'We're not afraid to use any of the four'
With senior running back Jeff Scott out each of the last two games with a thigh bruise, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton have carried the load on the ground for the Rebels.
Mathers carried the ball 12 times for 51 yards against LSU, then notched his first career 100-yard rushing game with 138 yards on 14 carries, including a career-long 64-yard run for a touchdown, against Idaho.
Walton rushed for two touchdowns in both games, as he set career highs with 19 carries for 106 yards against the Tigers, then rushed 11 times for 86 yards against Vandals. With those four scores, he now leads the team with five rushing touchdowns this year.
"They took the bull by the horns, so to speak," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "It's never been about their ability. They had just been waiting for the opportunity to get on the field and show what they could do.
"I'm glad a year ago they got the little experience that they did, so right now, they don't any type of stage fright, and the big lights don't bother them at all. They just go out and perform to their capabilities and do the things they could always do."
The Idaho game was also an opportunity for freshmen Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore, as Dodson set career highs with seven carries for 57 rushing yards and recorded a 30-yard touchdown catch, the first score of his career.
"He earned the right to get some looks," said head coach Hugh Freeze, of Dodson. "I'm not afraid at all to play him. He'll probably get a carry or two."
"He's had more excitement and enthusiasm about practice," Nix added. "Not that he didn't have it all year but you could see more of a bounce in his step. I feel like he has a real shot of helping us out on Saturday."
The status of Scott for Saturday remains uncertain, but Freeze is confident about his other four running backs.
"I like the way they're going about their business," he said. "They're taking the chances they have been given and made the most of it. All four of them have looked good in some things this week. We're not afraid to use any of the four. Jeff, I'm not sure. We'll have to make that call tomorrow."
Tunsil, Golson Continue To Progress
Freshman offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson have played in every game this season, with Tunsil starting five games at left tackle and Golson playing extensively at guard.
"Laremy has played solid the entire time," Freeze said. "He's really special. It's a little easier to play on the edge. We threw Austin in the middle in that first game, and there is a lot of different things happening in there. It's been more of a process, but he's improving and not making as many mistakes."
Offensive line coach Matt Luke has also been pleased with Tunsil and Golson.
"He does a lot of things well," said Luke, of Tunsil. "He can get bigger and stronger, but technically, that's what makes him special. He does a lot of things naturally. He's good with his hands and has a really good base with his lower body. He's a natural pass protector. We're very fortunate to have him. He's playing really well overall."
"He's probably not the prototypical guard," said Luke, of Golson. "He's more of tackle, but because of the seniors we have at tackle, he has stepped in there for us and played it well for 40-50 snaps a game at least.
Tunsil's emergence at left tackle, where he has started each of the last four games, has allowed senior offensive lineman Emmanuel McCray to move around and contribute at both tackle position, left guard and tight end, when the Rebels are in their six offensive lineman set.
A strong Arkansas defensive line is led by senior defensive end Chris Smith, who is tied for second in the SEC and tied for 13th nationally with 7.0 sacks. As a team, the Razorbacks rank third in the SEC and tied for 27th nationally with 22.0 sacks.
"They're very good," Luke said. "Their front four collectively is as good as we have seen. 86 (Trey Flowers), 42 (Smith), 91 (Darius Philon), 54 (Byran Jones), all those guys are good players. I have been very impressed."
As excited as they were about the open week, head coach Hugh Freeze said they're equally as excited to get back to playing this week against Arkansas. It's the fourth of six straight home games and will be the Rebels' first game of the year with a kickoff earlier than 5:30 p.m.
"To be at home again is always nice," Freeze said, as before the open date there were three straight home games and after the open date there will be three straight home games. "We're looking forward to getting an early kickoff. That's something we haven't had this year," Freeze said. "We've enjoyed the ones we've had, but it's always nice to get a variety."
"I'm so glad that we have an early kickoff," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We wake up and go play, instead of having to sit in the hotel room all day and watch games, so yeah I'm excited about these morning kickoffs."
Ole Miss (5-3, 2-3 SEC) had won back-to-back games over then-No. 6 LSU and Idaho entering the bye week, while Arkansas (3-6, 0-5 SEC) won their first three games, but have lost six straight, including most recently a 35-17 loss to No. 8 Auburn.
"The off week came at a good time, and hopefully we won't be very rusty at all, but we'll continue to improve, as I thought we had the last couple of weeks," Freeze said. We're playing a very scary football team to me. If they ever convert drives, they'd be very, very dangerous. They control the time of possession, and they run the football extremely well."
"They're a lot better than a lot people think they are," Wallace said. "They're close to coming through and win some games, and they're still playing hard. If you watched the Auburn game, you could tell they're still playing hard. They'll be a tough test."
Offensively, Arkansas is led by a dynamic running back duo of freshman Alex Collins (98.8 ypg) and sophomore Jonathan Williams (79.6), who rank fourth and seventh in the SEC, respectively.
As a team, the Razorbacks have rushed for at least 200 yards in six of nine games and average 211.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the SEC. Arkansas also ranks fifth in the SEC in time of possession (30:51), including 34:14 time of possession against Auburn.
"They are closer than people realize, and they scare you," Freeze said. "If you have one or two turnovers, you may not see the ball again. Last week, Auburn, which is somewhat similar to us in a tempo offense, only had 21 snaps in the first half."
"That's frustrating for me when I have to sit over there for so long, and they're just running the ball," Wallace said. "You just have to stay on the phone with Coach Werner and get what him and Coach Freeze are thinking about and keep all the guys up on the sideline."
More Depth, Flexibility On Defense
Ole Miss has been hit hard with injuries this year, with three starters out for the year in junior offensive lineman Aaron Morris (ACL), junior defensive end C.J. Johnson (ankle) and freshman tight end Evan Engram (ankle). Several other key players missed either LSU or Idaho game, or both.
Entering this week, however, Freeze said they're as healthy as they've been in a while, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
"Still questionable are Charles Sawyer and Jeff Scott," Freeze said. "I think everyone else will be ready, except for those out for the year, like C.J. Johnson, Aaron Morris, and Evan Engram. Carlos Thompson is still on the doubtful list. The off week came at a good time. Hopefully we won't be very rusty at all and will continue to improve as I thought we had the last couple of weeks."
Among those expected to return are three defensive starters in freshman defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton.
"All of the people who played and contributed whenever everyone was gone, it helps them and help us as a defense because it gives them confidence when they come into the game," junior linebacker Serderius Bryant said. "They give us more depth on defense."
Their expected return, Freeze said, gives them not only more depth but also more flexibility on defense.
"Robert gives us better depth and some flexibility to move people around up front," Freeze said. "Denzel was our leading tackler last year and hopefully to have him healthy for a stretch of games will pay great dividends. Hilton, I thought was maybe the most-improved player on our defense. We do a lot of things with him. He can play our nickel, our corner and anywhere in six-defensive back formation. All those guys give us some flexibility."
Bowl Implications For Both Teams
A win over Arkansas would make Ole Miss bowl eligible for the second straight year under Hugh Freeze.
In this week's bowl projections, ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach and Brad Edwards both have the Rebels in the Music City Bowl, CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm has them in the Gator Bowl and SI.com's Stewart Mandel have them in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
"It's exciting," Wallace said. "We were 5-3 at this same point, so the first step is being bowl eligible, and then building on that. Any time you can get that sixth win, it's a big game and a big week."
On the other sideline, for Arkansas, it has to win out in its final three games at Ole Miss, at home against Mississippi State and at LSU to become bowl eligible.
"They have to win these last three games to get into a bowl game, and they feel like we were in the Mississippi State game last year," Bryant said. "They're going to bring it and do everything in their will to win this game."
There are a lot of connections and similarities, as No. 24 Ole Miss prepares for its third straight road game of the season on the Plains against Auburn.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Arkansas State head coach Gus Malzahn served as Arkansas State's head coach in 2011 and 2012, respectively, and both teams run similar up-tempo offenses.
"We certainly can look just alike offensively, if we wanted to," Freeze said of the two offenses. "We'll be able to simulate their looks very efficiently for our defense. But having said that, both of us can change a lot during the course of a week, and he has two weeks to do whatever he is going to do. He will dress things up and add some wrinkles that we haven't seen.
"We are very, very similar in the things we do offensively, so it can help prepare us. You never know exactly what to prepare for. We'll show them that our defense wants to see, but there will be something that we don't cover that we will see Saturday night."
Freeze and Malzahn met when they were high school coaches and they traveled in the same circles of clinics and speeches. Their relationship grew when they were both assistants in the SEC in 2006. At that time, Freeze was the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach at Ole Miss, and Malzahn was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas.
"It is somewhat eerily similar the paths we have shared many times," Freeze said. "We wish we were not in the same half of this conference, which would be nice. We would see each other just every so often and be able to help each other, but that's not reality, so we have to go and play.
"During the offseason, we would communicate quite a bit. Before this week, we would text maybe once a week, maybe a phone call, depending on who he's playing, and who I'm playing, we may talk some, without compromising each other's plan of any type. That's not real frequent. It's more of a texting, 'Good luck,' or "How are you doing?' deal."
Aplin Reunites With Two Former College Coaches
Another connection between Freeze and Malzahn is former Arkansas State quarterback and current Ole Miss administrative intern Ryan Aplin, who joined Freeze's staff after a very successful college career under Freeze and then Malzahn.
A two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, Aplin led the Red Wolves to back-to-back conference championships in 2011 and 2012 and completed his four year-career with more than 25 combined single-game, season and career school record and as the conference's all-time leader in completions, passing yards and total offense.
"I like to hire good people who played for me," Freeze said of hiring Aplin. "I like to take care of those guys. When Ryan's NFL deal fell through this year, it was a no-brainer. If I had a quality control spot open, I would certainly want him here, just like I hired Ben Aigamaua who played for me also, and I will continue to try to hire good people that know what we do and the core values of our program."
As an intern, Aplin works with co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Dan Werner charting data, analyzing film and performing other administrative duties.
"I had a conversation with Ryan early this week," Freeze said. "I know he's very close to both out us, and I don't want him to feel uncomfortable at all in anything that's going on. I'm sure Gus has changed everything from when Ryan was there. But at the same time, we had changed some things, too.
"People, though, who work or play for you for a while, there's only so much you can change. They still can probably tell if it's run or pass. Now, if you can do that in time to make calls, I don't know. We won't put Ryan in that position. We're going to move him down from the press box to the field in this game. He'll be involved in helping us this week for sure, but we want him to feel good about the way that everything goes about."
'They Remind Me A Lot Of Us Last Year'
Inheriting a team that went 3-9 last season and winless in the SEC, Malzahn has Auburn off to a 3-1 start this year, with home wins over Washington State, Arkansas State and Mississippi State. The Tigers' only loss was in their last game at then-No. 6 LSU, as they enter this week coming off a bye.
"They remind me a lot of us last year," Freeze said. "They are a vey, very hungry team that plays with great emotion, energy and passion. That's doesn't surprise me at all with Gus' leadership. They're off to a great start and have been very, very good at home, and we have to go there for another road trip in a hostile environment on a Saturday night. That's a big game for both schools sitting at 3-1. He will have them ready.
"He's got them playing extremely hard, and you face an offense that is very balanced in rushing and passing. They give you a lot of looks, motions and smoke and mirrors, and they are very efficient at what they do. Defensively, Ellis is one of the best in the business and is very, very multiple. You have to prepare for most anything."
Offensively, the Auburn rushing attack ranks third in the SEC with 232.2 yards per game, led by junior running back Tre Mason with 84.5 yards per game and four touchdowns. First-year quarterback Nick Marshall is 60-of-103 for 809 yards, with four touchdowns and four interceptions, and ranks sixth in the SEC in total offense with 239.3 yards per game.
R. Nkemdiche At Defensive Tackle
Having lined up primarily at defensive end in the first three games of the season, freshman Robert Nkemdiche moved inside for most of the game against Alabama. Freeze was overall pleased with the move, but it may not be permanent.
"We'll continue to look at where it's best to put him from week to week," Freeze said. "I wouldn't say it permanent. We'll look at what we're facing.
"He did fine. He made a few mistakes, but so did everyone. He graded out around 82 percent. He only had a few missed assignments. He made several tackles. He is very strong and tough to move around. He played real solid for a game of that magnitude against that offensive line in that arena."
Coming off the 25-0 loss at No. 1 Alabama, it was about learning from the loss, then putting it in the trash and preparing this week for Saturday against Auburn.
"One of the things about our program that I hope our kids see is that our coaches don't blink," Freeze said. "You have to play the next play. Yesterday, all of us didn't like losing. But again, it had been a while since we had lost compared to a few years back.
"We came into the team meeting. Sunday is about the truth. We told the truth about the offense, the defense and the special teams, and we put it in the trash and then went out and practiced with a lot of energy. I was real pleased with everyone's spirit."
The No. 21-ranked Ole Miss defense spent nearly 40 minutes on the field and held tough for most of the game, as the Rebels fell 25-0 to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Outside of two long touchdown runs, a 68-yarder by T.J. Yeldon and a 50-yarder by Kenyan Drake, the Ole Miss defense allowed just nine points, three first-half Cade Foster field goals.
"We're real proud of their effort," head coach Hugh Freeze said of the defense. "On the two long touchdown runs, we let a guy get free to make a play and missed a tackle. It had to be frustrating to be on that side of the ball because we couldn't' get life in us because we could not produce any points."
Senior cornerback Charles Sawyer and sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche returned from injury, while freshman Derrick Jones made his college debut after switching from wide receiver to cornerback. Another change was freshman Robert Nkemdiche who moved inside to defensive tackle for most of the game, having previously lined up primarily at defense end.
Junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, who started for the third straight game, led the team with nine tackles, and freshman Huskie Tony Conner tied a career high with seven tackles.
The Ole Miss defense forced three first-half fumbles, none of which were recovered, and Alabama went into halftime leading 9-0.
"It's aggravating," junior safety Cody Prewitt said of the fumbles. "We had three opportunities to get a turnover at a crucial point in the game, and we weren't able to capitalize. It's aggravating whenever that happens. You can't just stay thinking about that. You have to play the next play."
Yeldon broke his 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to extend the Alabama lead to 16-0, then the Ole Miss defense forced a turnover on the first play of the fourth quarter to temporarily turn the momentum in the game.
Bryant tipped an A.J. McCarron pass right into the arms of Prewitt for his third interception of the season, and the Rebels took over at the Alabama 31.
On the ensuing drive, Ole Miss converted a 4th-and-2 on a 5-yard run by senior running back Jeff Scott, but the Rebels were then unable to convert on 4th-and-10 from the Alabama 18, and the Crimson Tide took over on downs and wrapped up the win.
"We're a lot better than we were last year," Prewitt said. "We made fewer mistakes than we did last year. We definitely still have some work to do. We haven't lost any confidence whatsoever. We know that this was the number one team in the nation, and they're number one for a reason. And we knew that we would have to play an almost perfect game, and we know we made some mistakes.
"Our confidence is not broken. We are going to go in and fix the mistakes tomorrow, and have our heads held high going into Auburn."
Robert Nkemdiche, the consensus No. 1 high school recruit in the nation last year, is slated to start at defensive end, opposite junior C.J. Johnson, in his first college game.
His position coach, Chris Kiffin, and the other coaches are confident in Nkemdiche, and if anything, they will have to guard against his emotions and overexcitement.
"What we have been battling all fall camp is the notion that he feels that he has to make every play," Kiffin said. "We're trying to get him to play within the defense. Especially going out in the first game, I can't fathom the amount of pressure on him outside of all the other stuff. If he can just understand to go out and play the game like he has the last four weeks, then he will be fine.
"He's done a great job for a young guy coming in and having to learn the defense," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "There have been some issues with him jumping offsides, but you would rather have that then have a good who's sitting back. He's eager to play, very excited. Robert is as advertised."
Nkemdiche came a long way during fall practice, Kiffin said, from when he ran the first-team defense as early as Aug. 5, to entering his first college game.
"I was impressed with him picking up the defense like he did," Kiffin said. "He still has mistakes, obviously, but throwing him in right away, I think it was perfect for him. There was no, so to say, learning curve. The first two weeks, he was thrown in there, and we coached on the run.
"He would stay after meetings, just him and I, to go over that film, and then slow down and coach. Let him go full speed on the field, make a quick correction here and there, then in the film room, explain why he was doing something wrong and how it needs to be done."
Kiffin said Nkemdiche's technique "has varied," and "it's been up and down," but having gone back to watch film of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's freshman season, he said he saw a lot of the same things -- natural athleticism and making plays -- from Nkemdiche.
"I have seen both of them doing the wrong thing a number of times and making plays," Kiffin said. "So I'm not trying not to overcoach him. I want him to make plays and not play tentative. That stuff will come with experience."
A big challenge on Thursday will be getting Nkemdiche acclimated and handling the pressure of starting in his first college game.
"I talked to some of the older guys about it too, Cameron Whigham and C.J. Johnson," Kiffin said. "I got him rooming with C.J. Johnson on purpose the night before," Kiffin said. "I think that will be good for him, and out there as the game goes on, between plays and on the sidelines between series, those guys talking to him.
"It can't just be me every time. Those guys actually did it themselves. C.J. sees everything out there, so he's going to know if something is going on with Robert and let him know about it."
Freshmen In The Passing Game
Junior wide receiver Vince Sanders (collarbone) and senior Korvic Neat (knee) both suffered injuries during fall practice. With their injuries, freshman wide receivers Laquon Treadwell and Quincy Adeboyejo have taken on bigger roles in the Ole Miss offense.
Treadwell is slated to start at slot receiver, while Adeboyejo is a backup at one of the two outside receiver spots but will likely figure in the rotation on Thursday.
"Coming into the year, receiver was probably our deepest position," Wallace said. "And right now, we have two guys out, so recruiting those two guys definitely helped.
"Laquon is a big body. He helps you as a quarterback because defenders can't get around him to make a play on the ball. Quincy is a good route-runner. He's a little banged up right now, but he still looks good running around out there."
Another freshman, Evan Engram, is listed as a starter and expected a big role at tight end after losing seniors Ferbia Allen and Jamal Mosley from last year.
"He's going to really, really good," Wallace said. "He's one of the guys who's going to be a really good players. He's going to play a big role. He's a great receiving tight end. He's a mismatch for us, so he's going to play a big role for us."
Update On Mathers, Freshman Running Backs
Sophomore running back I'Tavius Mathers, who was listed as co-backup with fellow sophomore Jaylen Walton behind senior Jeff Scott, is about 80 percent, head coach Hugh Freeze said on the weekly teleconference on Wednesday.
"We think he's going to have a special year. He's put on some more weight. He's a physical runner for us, and he has some twitch to him, too. We think he's going to be a special back. He was hampered for quite a bit of camp with an ankle.
"I would say he's about 80 percent right now, so I don't know that tomorrow night you will see the true I'Tavius Mathers that you are going to see the rest of the year, but we're confident that once he gets back to 100 percent, he's going to be an important factor to our offense."
Also, on the weekly teleconference on Wednesday, Freeze was asked specifically about redshirting freshman running back Jordan Wilkins, one of three freshman running back in the mix for playing time, along with Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore.
"I would never decide to redshirt anyone this early, just because you never know," Freeze said. "I don't make up my mind this early to do that. I would like to redshirt him (Jordan Wilkins). He's going to be a good player, too. We just happen to have good depth at that position.
"We have got six guys that I believe are good players and would love to get to try to make it through the season with four of them and redshirt two. But again, it's too early to tell that."
One of the position battles both head coach Hugh Freeze and defensive coordinator Dave Wommack discussed after Saturday's scrimmage is Rover safety, where Freeze said sophomore Chief Brown is pushing sophomore Trae Elston.
"Chief will have a much bigger role than he had last year," Wommack said after Saturday's scrimmage. I see Chief as a starter who can play both either Rover or free safety. I really haven't decided who will start yet. Chief might be a starter in the first game."
Elston started nine game at Rover last season and finished fifth on the team with 61 tackles, along with six pass breakups, a sack and a fumble recovery.
"He's done well," Wommack said of Elston. "He knows the defense, inside and out. He's a physical guy. I kind of worry about the targeting rule with him, but he's just got to play smart in that area. I like Trae Elston. He's a good football player."
Elsewhere in the secondary, at cornerback, senior Charles Sawyer has practiced, including some team drills, but has not participated in live contact drills. Injuries to Sawyer (shoulder) and junior Senquez Golson have given opportunities to other players at the position.
"I don't think we have been able to totally fix that because the injuries (Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson) to the two guys who have the most experience," Wommack said. "It was good situation for us that Bobby Hill and Anthony Standifer and some others got more reps than they would have gotten. We have to get those other guys back to have better depth in the secondary"
Sophomore Quintavius Burdette and senior Dehendret Collins continue to run with the first-team defense, and Wommack has been pleased with the play of both.
"Burdette has tried to go against #12 (Donte Moncrief) every time out here, and you get better every day that you do that," Wommack said. "He's had some rough days because of that, Donte is one of the best players in the nation at wide receiver. Burdette is a competitor. He's grown up, and I don't see him put his head down like he used to last year. I'm excited about him.
"Collins has been very solid to me. I wish we could have played him at corner last year. We didn't have enough guys, and we were trying to get speed on the field. I think we absolutely have him in the right spot now. He's tough, he's physical, and he's a competitor. He does everything we need that corner to do."
Earlier in fall practice, sophomore Mike Hilton, who has gotten first-team reps at Huskie, also got some reps at corner, but Wommack said on Saturday they are training him, at this time, to play corner. Behind Hilton at Huskie, freshman Antonio Conner has gotten reps, including some first-team reps alongside Hilton in passing situations.
"He's going to play a lot," Wommack said of Conner. "He'll play in the first game. He has been exceptional, especially for a freshman, assignment-wise," Dave continued. "He has a physical nature and is a natural playmaker."
Up front, freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross both practiced Saturday, and junior defensive end C.J. Johnson is expected to practice Monday. Wommack said he feels good about the depth there, when everyone is healthy, and sees a big role for Nkemdiche.
"He is going to play a lot," Wommack said of Nkemdiche. "We are going to keep those guys fresh by rotating them. I see him absolutely in the two-deep."
Developing Depth At RB, Offensive Line
Compared to last season, offensive coordinator Dan Werner feels better about the depth at both running back and offensive line.
It's a crowded backfield, led by senior Jeff Scott, who rushed 846 yards last season, and bolstered by a trio of freshmen in Mark Dodson, Kailo Moore and Jordan Wilkins. When asked on Saturday, Freeze said sophomore Jaylen Walton, right now, holds the No. 2 running back spot behind Scott.
On the injury front, Moore returned from concussion symptoms earlier this week, while sophomore I'Tavius Mathers (ankle) is out of his boot, and while he may not practice Monday, Freeze said he is close.
"Last year at this time, we had to move Randall Mackey to be the backup tailback," Werner said after Saturday's scrimmage. "This year, we have six or seven guys there. During the scrimmages, we're rolling them in and out. A guy knows if he doesn't make a right read or doesn't make a hard run, he's probably coming out and there's somebody else going in with a smile on his face."
There has been a lot of competition on the offensive line in fall practice, notably at left guard, where both junior Aaron Morris and senior Jared Duke have gotten first-team reps.
At other guard position, sophomore Justin Bell and senior Patrick Junen were listed as co-starters on the preseason depth chart. With Junen out, Bell has gotten most of the first-team reps, but Junen is expected to practice Monday.
Earlier in fall practice, offensive line coach Matt Luke said they should have eight or nine players ready to go this season, and Werner shared the same sentiment on Saturday.
"Last year at this time, we had five, maybe six guys that could play," Werner said. "This year, we've got about eight or nine, with Patrick Junen out right now. But from what I hear, he'll be back next week. Any time you have that many guys playing, it's just human nature you're going to play a little bit harder. You've got somebody behind you."
In the previous Saturday scrimmage, junior quarterback Wallace completed 6 of 11 passes for 125 yards with an interception. Throughout this past week, the coaches said they were pleased with Wallace, and it continued on Saturday.
"All of the quarterbacks looked better," Werner said. "I thought we protected the football better. We still have some issues with that, which has been kind of our camp motto - protect the ball. I thought for the most part (Bo) made good decisions, and we scored a lot of touchdowns. He completed a lot of balls, so I was pleased."
As for the freshmen, along with the three running backs, Laquon Treadwell continues to impress at slot receiver, where he has gotten most of the first-team reps, and drew praise from Freeze after Saturday's scrimmage.
Quincy Adeboyejo is in the rotation at outside receiver, along with junior Donte Moncrief, senior Ja-Mes Logan and sophomore Cody Core.
"He's a guy that was a big-time recruit but not as high as a couple of (others)," Werner said of Adeboyejo. "But, man, he came out right away and showed he's really fast, he's really explosive. He understands how to get into zones and make plays. He's another guy that will play a bunch."
On the offensive line, Laremy Tunsil has gotten most of the second-team reps at left tackle and earned first-team reps in Saturday's scrimmage with senior Emmanuel McCray out due to a family issue. Austin Golson has gotten second-team reps at both right guard and right tackle.
At tight end, Evan Engram, tights ends coach Maurice Harris said earlier this week, has separated himself some as a pass-catcher. Also at the position, Christian Morgan, who enrolled at Ole Miss in January, is expected to practice on Monday, as he recovers from a knee injury.
"If he goes through the next two weeks and feels like he can function," Freeze said of Morgan playing this season. "We're missing a lot of body types like his, if nothing else for short-yardage and special teams. I would like to see him play."
When asked about the tight end position after practice, head coach Hugh Freeze said they don't have any one player right now -- at this point -- who can do everything they want out of the position. Four players have split reps between the first-team, second-team and third-team offense.
"It's more play-specific," tight ends coach Maurice Harris said of the position. "We have to get the right kind of guys to do the specific task that we ask them to do. If we run the ball, Jack (Nuismer) is doing a good job, as well as Nick Parker. When we pass the ball, Evan (Engram) has separated himself some, along with Matt Brown. We have to get some consistency there, and these guys have to hone in on what we are doing."
Engram caught two touchdown passes in a live session of practice last night, Freeze said, while Harris mentioned a jump ball catch Engram had in the corner of the end zone over freshman safety Derrick Jones. Harris also raved about Engram's speed, his agility, his play-making ability and strong hands, adding that he plays fast.
"Evan is a physical kid," Harris said. "He's just light right now. He's 224 pounds, which is a lot heavier than when he came in at 209 pounds, but he's just light. I think he's physical enough to get the job done. I feel confident that he will."
Another interesting player at the position is Parker, who switched from running back to tight end. Of the four players, he has the most game experience, having appeared in seven games last season, mostly on special teams.
"I've been pleasantly surprised by Nick," Harris said. "The question was his physicality. Would he able to get in there and block, drive his feet, shoot his hands and finish blocks? And he's doing that. He needs to work on his route-running, but his pass-catching has been really good."
At cornerback, senior Charles Sawyer (shoulder) returned to practice, including some team drills, but did not participate in live contact drills. Junior Senquez Golson (hamstring) ran again today, his second day of running, which Freeze said is "a good sign."
On the defensive line, freshman defensive Robert Nkemdiche (groin) was held out, but Freeze said he is "good, progressing really nicely." Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson was held out a tight Achilles, and Freeze said "the last thing you want to do with a tight Achilles is make him push through it right now." Freeze also noted sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross (sports hernia) has practiced every day and "seems to be doing well."
On offense, Freeze said senior offensive lineman Patrick Junen (toe, wrist) is "really close and expects to see him start practicing next week." Freshman running back Kailo Moore (concussion symptoms) was back yesterday, and Freeze noted he "took a lot of carries today," and sophomore running I'Tavius Mathers (ankle) is now out of his boot, "so his situation is progressing," Freeze said.
Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson was a full participant in practice and ran with the first-team defense, opposite freshman Robert Nkemdiche. It should also be noted that both senior defensive end Cameron Whigham and junior defensive end Carlos Thompson were held out of practice.
"He seemed to handle it pretty well," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Johnson. "He is going to have to just play through some pain. The doctors were here and everything looks good with the repair, he is just going to have to push through some of it and get himself back into shape."
Behind Johnson and Nkemdiche, sophomore Channing Ward got second-team reps at defensive end, opposite senior D.T. Shackelford, who moved from linebacker to defensive end, where he played some as a sophomore in 2010.
"We are moving him around to several positions and he was solely at end today," Freeze said of Shackelford. "He plays with a wide open motor and that is something you have to have on the defensive side of the ball. He is a great leader and any time he is out there people rally around him. His quickness is a lot better than it was this spring. He feels good and is getting more and more comfortable."
In the secondary, sophomore Chief Brown got some first-team reps at Rover ahead of sophomore Trae Elston. In a third-down situational competition, the defense showed what looked like a 3-2-6 base defense.
The notable personnel changes from the 4-2-5 to the 3-2-6 on the first-team defense were junior Bryon Bennett as the only defensive tackle, junior Keith Lewis replacing senior Mike Marry at one linebacker spot and the addition of freshman Huskie Tony Connor, alongside sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton.
"He is learning quickly and plays very physical," Freeze said of Connor. "He is still like any freshman and his eyes are in the wrong place some times, but he is everything we thought he would be and will be a really good player for us."
Options On Offensive Line
Not including senior Patrick Junen who has been held out of fall practice while recovering from offseason surgery, eight different offensive linemen have gotten first-team reps.
"There are several competitions going on right now, and that's part of the good thing about this camp. Last year, guys didn't really get pushed. We have a lot of competition going on at every position, and guys battling for their spot."
One of those competitions is right guard, where Junen and sophomore Justin Bell were listed as co-starters on the preseason depth chart. With Junen out, Bell has gotten most of the first-team reps there throughout fall practice.
"He's doing well," offensive line coach Matt Luke said of Bell. "Justin is a great kid. He tries to please in everything he does. He's a student of the game. He's very intelligent. He's paid his dues. He's worked hard, and he's really doing a great job while Patrick has been out. He has some things to work on in pass protection, but he's done a good job."
At the other guard position, junior Aaron Morris had gotten most of the first-team reps, but senior Jared Duke ran with the first team on Thursday.
"That's one of the battles going on right now," Luke said. "Jared has had a great camp. He's a little bit heavy, but he's had an unbelievable camp."
When senior Pierce Burton was held out earlier in fall practice, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers and freshman Laremy Tunsil both got first-team reps at tackle, and they now work with the second-team offense at right tackle and left tackle, respectively, behind Burton (right tackle) and senior Emmanuel McCray (left tackle).
"Laremy is doing well," Luke said. "He's a very, very talented freshman. And he's working to learn some things right now, but he's doing some things really well."
Another freshman, Austin Golson, has gotten second-team reps at right guard and might figure in the rotation on the offensive line this season.
"I expected him to come in and be tough, and nasty and hard-nosed," Luke said. "He was learning the system early, so he wasn't playing quite as fast. These last two days, I have really seen a change in him as he's learned the offense."
The defense won both team competitions, including the third-down situational competition.
A couple of highlights from individual drills: Freshman safety Derrick Jones had an interception on a jump ball against freshman wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. In the same drill, junior quarterback Bo Wallace connected with junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief on a fly route against sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette.
A couple of highlight from team drills: On the first play of the third-down situation competition, Wallace connected with Treadwell on a seam route between two defenders. Later in the competition, sophomore cornerback Anthony Standifer had an interception on a jump ball against sophomore wide receiver Cody Core.
In a full-team kickoff return drill, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, freshman running back Mark Dodson and sophomore safety Trae Elston were the deep men. Three other freshmen -- Derrick Jones, Laquon Treadwell and Jordan Wilkins -- also got reps on the front line of the unit.
Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace's decision-making: "It was better, but we still got to get there, and we will continue to have some discussions watching film. He's being real coachable right now, which is a really good thing. He doesn't want to make mistakes any more than any other kid. His are much more noticeable because of the position he plays."
Freeze, on Wallace's shoulder: "I think that's just something he's going to have to work through. Ryan Aplin at Arkansas State had the same surgery, and he said it took him months to where his bicep and elbow area didn't hurt him. I think we're coming through it. I think he's getting better."
Senior D.T. Shackelford, on practicing at defensive end: "I enjoyed it. I played a lot there my sophomore year before I got injured so I felt comfortable at end. I don't care if I play linebacker or defensive end, I truly don't. I just want to be on the field and be able to contribute. I feel good at both. I'm just ready to play."
Luke, on offensive line rotation: "I would say we could play, right now in my mind, eight or nine offensive linemen. That's not to say I have eight or nine ready right now, but I think by the end of fall camp, we should have eight or nine guys ready to go."
It took until the fourth day of fall practice, but freshman Robert Nkemdiche got the majority of first-team reps at defensive end today.
"Carlos (Thompson) got a ding to the head," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "I don't know what all is wrong with him, but I wouldn't be shocked to see (Nkemdiche on the first team) quite frequently," Freeze said.
Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin has been pleased with Nkemdiche's progress through the first four days of practice and the work he's putting in outside of it.
"He's learning every day, staying after it, staying after getting work, staying after meetings and watching extra film," Kiffin said. "Like I have said before, he wants to be great."
Kiffin said one of the things he thinks about is balancing how much he works with Nkemdiche, relative to the other defensive linemen.
"I think about that every day, making sure the other guys don't feel like they're getting slighted," Kiffin said. "We got a couple of guys out here helping. But at the same time, we got to get him ready for opening night. He's going to take more attention because he's behind the 8-ball.
"There are guys who have been here two years, so I can trust that they know it. Guys like Cameron Whigham, I'm limiting his reps because I know he knows it inside and out."
Among the things Kiffin said Nkemdiche needs to work on are his consistency, his first step and understanding pass sets, similar to what they worked on with sophomore defensive end Channing Ward last season. At the same time, Kiffin said he doesn't want to overcoach Nkemdiche.
"A guy like that, when you overcoach him, he made maybe three or four plays out here today he shouldn't had made because he did the wrong thing," Kiffin said. "You got to find the fine line right there and let him play ball, and making sure he's doing it right and doesn't cost the team."
Defensive Line 'Further Ahead'
Kiffin said he can see the improvement in his overall unit, from where it was a year ago.
"I think the effort has been there," Kiffin said of his unit. "You can tell we're so much further ahead in the second year of the system, coming out of the spring. These guys know the defense like the back of their hand.
"Obviously, tempo will always give us a problem, getting the signals and getting lined up. The effort and desire for these guys to get better has been there. I'm pretty pleased right now."
Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson was held out of team drills, but he participated in all individual drills today, as he recovers from a broken leg suffered in spring practice.
"He looks great, doing all of the individual stuff," Kiffin said. "And we gave him pass rush today, and he looks fine. The plan was to get him a couple reps of pass rush today, then maybe in a couple of days, get him into some team work. I think he's going to be fine all season. He looks great, running around and cutting. We just got to get him feeling the big bodies on him."
Kiffin also had praise for Channing Ward who has also gotten some first-team reps at defensive end. Ward played in 12 games at defensive end and on special teams, recording 21 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss last season.
"He looks a lot better, more focused," Kiffin said. "The speed of the game is just different for him now. I think he feels more comfortable with that but still has a ways to go to be consistent every day. He's making plays that he never made before. They're routine plays that take a little work, but he's showing a lot of improvement."
Carlos Thompson and Cameron Whigham also got first-team reps at defensive end, with redshirt freshman John Youngblood getting second-team reps there. Inside, sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross has been sidelined, but Kiffin said he feels good about the defensive tackle position.
"I feel really good about the guys working there, with Bryon Bennett and Lavon Hooks playing '3' technique and Woody (Hamilton) and Carlton (Martin) playing nose," Kiffin said. "Those guys are getting a lot of reps, and I don't think we're missing a beat.
"Obviously, we don't have the explosiveness inside with Issac out, but those guys are playing heck out of the run. And we can find ways to get pressure on the quarterback, so I'm pleased inside."
Robert Nkemdiche also worked as one of the three personal protectors on the first-team punt coverage unit in a special teams drill, along with senior linebackers D.T. Shackelford and Mike Marry.
In the same drill, sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette and senior Dehendret Collins worked as the two gunners on the first-team punt coverage unit. Sophomore Huskie Mike Hilton and freshman cornerback Bobby Hill were the gunners on the second-team unit.
With senior Pierce Burton limited, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers got first-team reps at right tackle for the the third straight day. Freshman Laremy Tunsil also got first first-team reps at left tackle, with senior Emmanuel McCray switching from left tackle to right tackle.
Senior Patrick Junen has also been limited, so sophomore Justin Bell continues to get first-team reps at right guard. Freshman Austin Golson, who has worked primarily at tackle, got second-team reps at right guard.
In the secondary, Burdette, Collins and sophomore Anthony Standifer all got first-team reps at cornerback, with junior Cody Prewitt, sophomores Trae Elston and Chief Brown and senior Brishen Mathews getting first-team reps at safety. Hill and junior Quadarias Mireles continue to get get second-team reps at cornerback.
Freeze, on quarterbacks behind junior Bo Wallace: "I think Devante is going to be really good, and I think Ryan has a chance also, once they get an understanding of what we're doing. Barry did some decent things today but also did some really bad things. Bo hasn't been that consistent either. It feels kind of like last year. We just have to manage the game and help them not make mistakes that really hurt us."
Sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, on his brother, Robert: "He's definitely dominant. He's a dominant player and definitely getting better. We just got to make sure he knows what do when he's out there and make sure he keeps getting better every day."
Kiffin, on sophomore defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton: "I just love Woody. I love his attitude, his work ethic. He's just a good ol' country kid that comes out here. The guy, he's still a pup. He's a 305-pound pup. I love being able to mold a guy that is so physically dominant. I can't say enough about him."
Junior wide receiver Vince Sanders suffered a broken collarbone during one-on-one drills Saturday and is expected to be out 6-8 weeks. Sanders started 12 games last season and finished with 39 catches (3rd on team), 504 receiving yards (2nd on team) and four touchdowns (2nd on team).
"It's certainly a blow," head coach Hugh Freeze said of Sanders' injury. "The guy knew everything we did, and he could do at a fast pace. And he had a great offseason. Hopefully, he only misses three games. We got that opening week early, so maybe he can be back for our fourth game.
"We have some good young kids, and they will get ready to play. Hopefully, we stay healthy and not lose anyone else from that spot."
Freeze said senior Ja-Mes Logan is prepared to play both outside and inside receiver. He also said they have to have four guys ready to play at outside receiver and mentioned Logan, junior Donte Moncrief, sophomore Cody Core and freshman Quincy Adeboyejo as players for that role.
"He is a smart kid out there on the football field," wide receivers coach Grant Heard said of Logan. "He can handle a lot. I can put him in any spot, and he'll know what to do. And he's' the ultimate team player, because it doesn't matter to him. He just wants to get out there and compete."
With Sanders's injury, senior Korvic Neat's role will increase in the slot, and two other receivers who will look to step up are sophomore Cody Core, who played mostly on special teams last season, and junior Collins Moore, who missed most of last season with injuries to both shoulders.
"I need Cody to be more consistent, but he knows what to do, but be more consistent making plays," Heard said. "He can be a guy that can be a big-play threat for us."
"Collins, I'm still trying to figure out and make sure he's good. He's trying to get back into the swing of things from missing spring, but he's out there and looking good. He knows how the offense runs, so he can do some things to help us, too."
The two freshmen, Adeboyejo and freshman Laquon Treadwell, Freeze said have got to get ready to play at outside and inside receiver, respectively.
"They pick things up quick," Freeze said of the freshmen. "They're quick learners. And of course, they have the skill level, which helps. I expect them to be very good players."
"They're freshmen," Heard said. "When things start going fast and get hectic, they make mistakes, but they are picking the offense really quick. And they're making plays out there, which is good to see. I think they're having fun. This offense is easy, but it's different for them. When things get hectic, they have to learn to slow it down in their minds."
Sunday was the first practice with shoulder pads.
Senior Pierce Burton was limited, so redshirt freshman Robert Conyers got some first-team reps at right tackle. Conyers is also getting reps at center behind senior Evan Swindall.
With senior Charles Sawyer and Senquez Golson sidelined, senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette got first-team reps at cornerback for the second straight day.
On the defensive line, senior Cameron Whigham and sophomore Channing Ward got first-team reps at defensive end, and junior Bryon Bennett and sophomore Woodrow Hamilton at defensive tackle.
Behind them, freshman Robert Nkemdiche, junior Carlos Thompson and sophomore John Youngblood got second-team reps at defensive end, and juniors Lavon Hooks and Carlton Martin at defensive tackle.
Five newcomers were among those who got reps in the back seven on the second-team defense, with freshman Tony Connor at Huskie, junior Quadarias Mireles and freshman Bobby Hill at cornerback, and sophomore Anthony Alford and freshman Derrick Jones at safety.
In a kickoff return drill, sophomore running backs I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, freshman running backs Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore and sophomore safety Trae Elston got reps as the deep men.
Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace: "We really saved him until the end of practice today, and he seemed to be fine. He wasn't complaining, or anything. We just have to take things slow."
Heard, on flexibility at wide receiver: "The good thing about this offense is once they know it, they can be put in anywhere. Ja-Mes, Donte, Cody, I can move around, and they can go in and fill that spot."
In his Media Day press conference, head coach Hugh Freeze said senior Charles Sawyer, along with sophomore defensive tackle Issac Gross, were the furthest off, injury-wise. And junior Senquez Golson was held out of Saturday's practice after suffering a pulled hamstring yesterday.
Cornerbacks coach Jason Jones said they're trying to find two guys who are going to step up and be more consistent behind Sawyer and Golson on the two-deep, and with their two injuries, it's offered an opportunity to build depth at the position.
"He's out moving around, just trying to get him ready for the game," Jones said of Sawyer. "We know what we can do. He's been playing for a long time and has a lot of experience, so we're not going to rush him. With the [Vanderbilt] game a few weeks away, we can take time and develop these younger guys and develop some depth."
With Sawyer and Golson sidelined, senior Dehendret Collins and sophomore Quintavius Burdette got the bulk of first-team reps at cornerback. Both players are relatively new to the position, as Collins moved from Huskie during the spring, and Burdette moved from safety during the summer.
"We moved Dehendret, right at the end of spring, and he's done a great job for us," Jones said. "Him and Charles Sawyer, they are going to provide depth in the boundary. He's had two really good days.
"Q Burdette has been a great surprise for us. He worked hard all summer. You can tell. He came out to practice yesterday and today, and he's flying around, making plays for us. We're pleased with those two guys."
Two freshmen also got a lot of reps at cornerback, along with sophomore Anthony Standifer. Freeze said yesterday that Bobby Hill, one of the freshmen, will be a big plus, and Jones also had praise for Hill and the other freshman, David Kamara.
"Bobby Hill has done a great job for us," Jones said. "Right now, we have him working in the boundary. He's had two really good practices and I'm looking forward to him continuing to progress. I'm looking forward to him to contribute this year, so he will be guy that we will depend on.
"David is doing a great job for us also. He's in the field. We're still trying to see and make a decision about him. He's working hard, still learning coverages and things like that. We'll know more once we get pads and continue to practice."
With senior Pierce Burton dealing with a lower back strain, senior Emmanuel McCray moved from left tackle to right tackle, and freshman Laremy Tunsil got reps at left tackle on the first-team offense.
In some of the other offensive line drills, redshirt freshman Robert Conyers also got some first-team reps at right tackle, opposite McCray. Another freshman, Austin Golson, got second-team reps at left tackle.
The first-team defensive line consisted of junior Carlos Thompson and sophomore Channing Ward at defensive end, and junior Bryon Bennett and sophomore Woodrow Hamilton at defensive tackle.
Along with Bobby Hill at corner, freshmen Robert Nkemdiche (defensive end) and Tony Connor (Huskie) got reps on the second-team defense.
Freeze, on junior quarterback Bo Wallace: "His arm is hurting today, not where his shoulder was repaired, but his arm. To come out yesterday and throw a lot of balls, and come out today, it was sore, so we held him out about halfway through to try to get it well."
Freeze, on freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche: "He's physically gifted enough to play. It's all about, can he understand what we're trying to accomplish and what his assignments are. If he can get that, there's no question he can physically. They better be trying to get him ready."
Freeze, on freshman offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil: "He's as physically gifted as any freshman that I have seen, athleticism-wise. He's swimming right now with everything being installed. He's going to make mistakes, like any freshman, but he is a gifted player."
Freeze, on freshman tight end Evan Engram: "Evan is going to be a good one. Again, he's a freshman that is undersized at this point in his career, but he has got to play, and he's going to play. We just have got to be sure we ask him to do things that he can do."
Among the 105 players who reported yesterday for the start of fall camp were 23 first-year Rebels, and many have already made an impression on the coaches and returning players.
"I did get to see them this morning and liked what I saw," head coach Hugh Freeze said in his Media Day press conference. "I thought guys like Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell and Tony Connor all looked really good. I came off the field thinking Quincy Adeboyejo is going to be a really special player.
"Herbert Moore is a big guy and had a quick twitch. I am very excited about the young kids like Daronte Bouldin out of Canton. I think we hit on all of them. I haven't had a staff meeting with defense guys yet, but I think Bobby Hill will be a big plus for us."
His position coach, Chris Kiffin, and one of his teammates, C.J. Johnson, also had praise for Robert Nkemdiche, his work ethic and how he has handled outside expectations.
"I don't think he thinks about the outside stuff as much as people think he does," Kiffin said. "He's really focused on being the best player he can be. He has a desire to be great. That's what I continue to say about him. And he has a motor like his brother. They just fly around, it's what they do. He has all the intangibles, but everything is going to be new for him."
"He's a hard worker," Johnson said. "It's hard to put those expectations on a freshman like that, but I think he has really embraced the opportunity. he understands the sense of urgency and knows he will be able to play a role on this football, and he has embraced that really well.
"His work ethic is second to none. He's a great guy. He goes out there every day, competes and works hard."
"All of the freshmen have good level heads," McCray said. "The mental aspect, they will be fine. Athleticism-wise, Laremy and Austin are ready to play I wouldn't just off the bat. With experience, they will be All-SEC kind of guys."
Some other freshmen, Freeze said freshman Evan Engram will be special at tight end and is the guy they have to get ready to play and ask him to do things they need him to do because they are thin at the position.
Freeze also said he would like to redshirt both freshman quarterbacks, Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade, but one of them will have to be ready to play just in case. He added both had a lot of reps Friday, and he will continue to prepare both of them.
"It's going to take them a while to get into the playbook," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said of the freshman quarterbacks. "It's a tough playbook to understand, but at the same time, they're working hard. They came in right away and started working, so they'll get it down."
Wallace Continues Recovery
One of the biggest storylines of SEC Media Days for Ole Miss was junior quarterback Bo Wallace's recovery from clavicle surgery in January. He participated in seven-on-seven workouts, and Freeze said in his press conference, he is practicing, but they are charting every throw and try to keep it at 50 throws.
"It's good," Wallace said of the shoulder. "They're limiting my throws. I'm looking forward to next week, so I can condition my arm and get used to throwing all those throws, but it feels good though.
"They're giving me the reps that I feel like I need, that I want. I know that if there's a rep I don't feel good about, then I will get right back in. I'm still getting my reps. It's not really like I'm limited out there."
It's year two for Wallace as a starter, and he said it's night and day, this year from last year.
"Last year, I was in a competition, so I was having to worry about every rep, what the other guy is doing, what I'm doing," Wallace said. "Now, it's just going out there, playing and trying to get the team better, trying to get me better."
One Goal For Nkemdiche
When the players reported yesterday, sophomore Denzel Nkemdiche said it was a completely different feeling, with the locker room and the new faces, including his brother Robert, who he now shares a locker beside.
"It's something I have waited for forever, and something I had dreams about," Denzel Nkemdiche said of playing with his brother. "Seeing him out there with the number five jersey and with the team, I can sit back and thank god for everything that has happened. I'm truly blessed.
"We're here now, so we have to take it to another level. Right now, we have one goal and that is to make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship."
In trying to get better this offseason, Denzel Nkemdiche described both his individual goals, and the goals his brother set to get ready for his first season.
"This offseason, I put an emphasis on putting on weight, and today, I weighed in at 210 pounds," he said. "I'm still moving fast, and I still feel explosive, so I'm definitely excited about that and looking forward to putting the pads on. No matter how well I know the position, I can still find things to improve on every day.
"His goal was to stay fast and stay strong. Throughout the summer, he put on weight and still able to run, learning the defense and progressing fast than incoming freshmen typically do. He knows the burden and pressure he has on him, so he's definitely excited about that."
Close-Knit Offensive Line
The Rebels return four starters on the offensive line, plus senior Patrick Junen, who saw action in all 13 games last year, and two of the seniors, Emmanuel McCray and Evan Swindall talked about the chemistry within the unit.
"We have always been a close-knit bunch," McCray said. "We have these guys that have experience, and it gives us a jump-start. They have been in this fast tempo for a while, but what we're working on now is getting into game shape. We have conditioned all summer, but it's something different about that tempo. It takes two or three days to get it going."
"We all hang out together," Swindall said. "We all understand each other. I don't even have to make some calls this year because we know what we're doing naturally."
Both McCray and Swindall admitted some of guys did gain a few pounds, but after the first day, they feel like they're in a good spot.
"Some guys needed to put on weight like Robert Conyers and Ben Still," McCray said. "And other guys were injured, so that comes with the territory. Between camp and the strength and conditioning staff, we'll definitely get those pounds off before the season start."
Also, of note, Swindall said Conyers has been working with him at center, and Tunsil, Golson and Bouldin have been working at second-team left tackle, right tackle and right guard, respectively.
Chris Kiffin, on health of CJ Johnson and Issac Gross: "I expect both of them to be ready for Vanderbilt. They may be a little rusty, but I think we can get some full-speed reps a couple of weeks before, and I think they will be ready to go."
Emmanuel McCray, on putting on pads: "I haven't had a chance to go against Robert yet. I'm waiting on my opportunity, but I really can't wait until we get our pads on. That's a true test. These shirts and jerseys, you can only grab on cloth so long."
Nick Parker, on his move to tight end: "The coaches came to me about it. They wanted to ask me about it, and I said I would give it a try. As of right now, it's going good. I have to learn different techniques and get everything down, but I think I will get it."
Charles Sawyer, on being a leader in the secondary: "I'm going to coach them like Cassius Vaughn or Marshay Green coached me and help them learn from their mistakes."
D.T. Shackelford, on returning to fall practice: "I'm ready to get back to work. I'm ready to get back in there and playing like I'm capable of playing."
Bo Wallace, on Treadwell and Adeboyejo: "They're big, physical guys. They got to get used to the college game, the speed of it. A couple of times they're getting jammed outside, just from the physicality of playing against an SEC defense, but they'll get used to it and be ready to roll."