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Hugh Freeze's Day At ESPN Car Wash

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

Watch: Freeze on CFB Live

Watch: Freeze on the Paul Finebaum Show

Listen: Freeze on the Freddie Coleman Show

Listen: Freeze on SVP & Russillo

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."

Once overshadowed, Wallace now finds himself more firmly in the spotlight after the departure of seven of the league's eight top passers. The dean of SEC quarterbacks, Wallace is the league's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns.

"Every quarterback is going to take that as a challenge," Wallace said. "The quarterbacks are not any less talented than the ones that just left. Every quarterback will take that as a challenge to go out there, put a lot of numbers up and win games for their team."

"He's matured quite nicely in the way he leads our team and the way he goes about our business. He feels finally healthy and confident. I really think he's at a point where he certainly has every avenue right now to step in and be one of the guys in this conference."

More than a year removed from clavicle surgery in January 2013, Wallace is as healthy and confident as his head coach and teammates can remember.

Wallace credits offseason workouts with mechanics guru Tom House for helping him regain his velocity, which he said fell off toward the end of last season. He also described the workouts as one of the best decisions he's made.

"We have talked about it and watched videos together," Freeze said. "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 specialists."

"I have been going against Bo for years now, so I have seen him at his best, and I have seen him at his worst," senior safety Cody Prewitt said. "If you ask me, he should have been first team. Everybody is going to see that as soon as the season starts. He's really progressed mentally and physically in the offseason."

Wallace's confidence carries over to team goals for the Rebels, which were picked fourth in the SEC West by the league media, as he quickly and confidently answered that he would take a trip to the SEC Championship game over eclipsing Eli Manning's school record for career passing yards.

"Why can't we be a team that comes out of the West and makes some noise," Wallace said. "We're not saying, let's go to a national championship. We're going to take it one game at a time. Why not us? Why can't we have an impact like that and win a lot of football games.

"Going to Atlanta would cement your legacy forever being the first quarterback to be able to do it. I know I'm going to put up the numbers because Coach Freeze's offense is built for a quarterback to put up number. I know I can do that. It would be priceless to take this team to Atlanta."

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


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


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

ESPN.com's SEC bloggers wrapped up their annual position rankings, where they rank the position units and rank the top players at the various positions. Below are the highlights for Ole Miss and links to all of the unit rankings.

Quarterbacks: 3rd

Bo Wallace enters his senior season ranked second in school history in total offense (7,085 yards) and passing yards (6,340). It's always nice to have that kind of experience, and Wallace should also be healthier after playing through shoulder pain each of the last two seasons. It's a three-man race for the backup job. DeVante Kincade is an exceptional athlete, Ryan Buchanan is more of a pocket passer. Both are redshirt freshmen. Don't forget about 6-foot-3, 296-pound sophomore Jeremy Liggins, who originally signed with LSU before going to junior college. Liggins could be a beast in short-yardage situations. 

Bo Wallace: 3rd

The dean of SEC quarterbacks, Wallace seems to finally be healthy after battling shoulder issues each of the past two seasons. If he stays healthy, he could easily shoot up to the top of these rankings. He needs to cut down on his 27 interceptions over the past two seasons, but he's also accounted for 54 touchdowns during that span. 

Running backs: 10th

Wide receivers and tight ends: 5th

Offensive coordinators love it when they can stretch the field both vertically and horizontally. Laquon Treadwell, who as a true freshman trailed only Jordan Matthews for the most receptions in the SEC last season, is the type of home-run threat to keep safeties on their heels. Evan Engram, who made a positive impression as a rookie himself before succumbing to injury, gives Ole Miss a one-two punch by demanding coverage in the middle of the field because he's simply too athletic a tight end to be covered by most linebackers in the league. 

Laquon Treadwell: 2nd

Everyone had the feeling he'd be special in his first year at Ole Miss, but it came as a surprise just how ready he was to compete in the SEC. Playing slot, he was one of the best receivers in the league, finishing second only to Jordan Matthews in receptions (72). As a result, coaches voted him SEC Freshman of the Year. At 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds, he has the frame to challenge smaller defensive backs. But it's his hands and ability to create space that make him special. With Donte Moncrief now gone, he'll transition to the outside and continue to be a favorite of quarterback Bo Wallace.

Evan Engram: 3rd

Injuries clouded an otherwise eye-opening rookie campaign. He started last season on a tear with 20 catches and four touchdowns through seven games and then missed the final five games of the regular season. If he has a clean bill of health, he's the type of hybrid receiver-tight end who can flourish in Hugh Freeze's offense and complement Laquon Treadwell on the outside. 

Offensive line: 9th

Laremy Tunsil: 3rd

The Rebels' 2013 recruiting class was full of five-star prospects, but none played better than Tunsil last season. He appeared in 12 games, making nine starts at left tackle. He allowed just one sack all year. He was a second team All-SEC selection, a member of the SEC All-Freshman team, and the coaches expect him to only get better as a sophomore. 

Defensive line: 4th

As Hugh Freeze moves into his third season on the job, the hope in Oxford is that the Rebels can make some noise in the West race. They have the depth, talent and experience in the defensive line to make a move. Sophomore tackle Robert Nkemdiche is the most talented of the bunch and primed for a huge season, but there's also depth inside. If C.J. Johnson stays healthy at end, defensive line should be the Rebels' strongest position in 2014. 

Robert Nkemdiche: 3rd

The consensus No. 1 high school prospect in the country last year, Nkemdiche started the season at end and then moved inside to tackle. He finished third on the team with eight tackles for loss despite missing two games with a strained hamstring. At 6-4 and 277 pounds, Nkemdiche is big enough and explosive enough to be a dynamic playmaker no matter where he lines up. 

Issac Gross: 8th

Size isn't everything at tackle. The 250-pound Gross proved that last season. He consistently went up against bigger guards and centers on the offensive line and used his quickness to lead the Rebels with 3.5 sacks and was second on the team with nice tackles for loss. Gross started four games at nose tackle last season. 

C.J. Johnson: 8th

The 6-2, 237-pound Johnson was on his way to an All-SEC season a year ago until an ankle injury sidelined him for the season. He had four tackles for loss in his first four games and, as a sophomore in 2012, led the team with 6.5 sacks. The biggest hurdle for Johnson has been avoiding injuries. But if he stays healthy, he'll make a ton of big plays for the Rebels this season. 

Linebackers: 8th

Serderius Bryant: 6th

He might not have the prototypical size for an SEC linebacker, but the 5-9, 218-pound Bryant emerged last season as one of the league's top big-play performers on defense. He led Ole Miss with 12.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. His speed is what sets him apart. 

Secondary: 1st

Talent and experience. Both are worth their weight in gold, and Ole Miss has loads of each. We're probably not giving anything away when we say that both Cody Prewitt and Tony Conner will make the list of the league's top 10 safeties later today. Prewitt led the league in interceptions last season, and Conner, a former four-star recruit, has barely scratched the surface on what he can do. Trae Elston and Senquez Golson, meanwhile, are potential impact players, along with Mike Hilton and Derrick Jones. If C.J. Hampton lives up to the hype, he could be a true freshman to keep an eye on. 

Cody Prewitt: 1st

On a defense loaded with former blue-chip recruits, it was Prewitt, a three-star safety from the tiny town of Bay Springs, Mississippi, who stood out the most last season. The 6-foot-2 junior showed the complete package as he led the SEC with six interceptions and became a near unanimous first team All-America selection. Now a senior, he's the clear face of a secondary that could be the best in the conference. 

Tony Conner: 3rd

Talk about fulfilling on promise. Conner, a four-star safety prospect coming out of high school, was an immediate impact player for Ole Miss, playing in all 12 games and earning Freshman All-America honors for his 66 tackles, one interception and seven passes defended. 

Special teams: 13th

Jaylen Walton: 8th

Another guy competing for a 2014 starting running back job, the diminutive Walton was impressive as a return man last season. In addition to his 523 rushing yards as a backfield mate for Jeff Scott and I'Tavius Mathers, he contributed 25 kickoff returns for 515 yards, good for a team-best average of 20.6 ypr. 

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze talks about the new format for future football scheduling, among other topics, on the SEC Spring Football Coaches Media Teleconference Wednesday. Here are the highlights:

Opening Statement:

I was really pleased with the 15 practices we had. We have finally established a little depth where we can go out and have competitive practices and have someone on the depth chart that's pushing you to be your best each and every day. That changed us more in this spring as opposed to the two previous springs because we had some guys push each other and we got some of our injured players back from the season. I was very excited about the progress we made in the spring.

On the Forward Together capital campaign being $10 million away from the $120 million goal to begin work on the North End Zone expansion after the season:

I leave that up to Ross (Bjork), Keith (Carter) and those guys. We have made a lot of progress on it. I'm confident that they know that they have a great plan in place, and they are certainly working hard at that. Hopefully, all of those things will fall right in line. You know your strengths and weaknesses, so I very rarely get into those discussions. If we're progressing as a football team, we'll do our part in helping that.

On what the renovation and expansion would mean for the program:

When I first got here, they had a lot of discussions going on about that. I was very vocal that the first thing was to do what we have done with the $15 million renovation of the new locker room, nutrition center, weight room, team room and all of the things we have done there in the Manning Center. That was a priority for me over the expansion of the stadium. Now, I do think we're at a point where that is the next thing on the agenda. It adds to the signs that we're moving forward as a program and as an athletic department.

On the SEC's quarterback play taking a hit or being a rebuilding job considering the departed quarterbacks:

That would be the initial consensus if you asked anybody. All of us would prefer to have a returning quarterback that has experience. However, having said that, there have been several examples of quarterbacks who did not have that experience that came in and immediately had a huge impact on college football, even in our conference. If you look at what (Johnny) Manziel did when he first arrived on the scene with no experience, and Auburn's guy (Nick Marshall) last year was a huge difference-maker in his team. The consensus would be that you feel comfortable with a returned but that does not always prove to be exactly the best scenario for everyone. You would feel that it's that way with the talent of the kids that we lost out of this league. That's an enormous group. You would think that will take some time to rebuild to that level, but there's always an exception out there somewhere, as we have seen.

On quarterback Bo Wallace having an All-SEC type season:

I certainly hope so. He's thrown for a lot of yards and touchdowns. He has to continue to work on taking care of the ball. In neither one of his seasons did he have a complete year. We're hopeful for that in his senior campaign. He's deserving of the discussions that are going on in regards to that, but the season will decide that. We won't get caught up in what preseason things are said about him, but he's deserving of those discussions.

On the perfect scenario for the four nonconference games:

"We're going to play the one from the other BCS conferences, an (FCS opponent), I would always like to have one of those, and then two mid-major types. With the league schedule that we play and the other school that you will choose to play from a power conference, that's the best make-up for us at Ole Miss. We've gone through a year of injuries, and we see how that affects us, and the wear and tear you take in the league games that we play. It takes its toll on you. That's the best case for us.

On the format for eight conference games:

"I was very clear with our chancellor and our AD that I thought the fairest way to do it was the 6-0-2 (format) and rotate the other two (Eastern Division) opponents. However, having said that, I also said to them that the priority is we want to stay at eight games. Whatever momentum was in the room to stay at eight, I would be OK with either. That was my exact conversation. I think the fairest way would have been the 6-0-2 method, but I wanted to stay at eight for sure. That was our priority. I haven't seen which way everybody voted. I just saw what the result was, so I can't speak a lot on what other people said because I haven't seen it. That's the conversation I had with my administration.

On being in favor of eight conference games:

"I was in favor of eight just because we beat each other up enough, and we've been very successful with eight in putting our teams in the national championship hunt and being successful at. I don't know why we would want to change until it's proven that doesn't work anymore. What we have done with eight games is put our team -- more than one usually -- in the hunt for a national championship berth, so I would like for us to stay with that. It's best for us at Ole Miss for sure to stay at eight, so that's what our preference was.

Closing Time

Ole Miss women's golf sports information director, Jessica Poole will be blogging for the women's golf team throughout the 2014 SEC Championships held at Greystone Golf Course in Birmingham, Ala.

Well we're back in Oxford and the SEC Championships are over. Kinda hard to believe that the regular season is over if you think about it, it seems like just yesterday we were hopping in the Sprinter to kick off the fall season. My first season as the Ole Miss Women's Golf contact has been filled with laughter, fun and LOTS of pictures. (Can't believe we didn't get an Instagram until the spring ... SID-fail but Coach J had my back:)

 Some lessons that I learned from the women's golf team this year ...

1. There is no such thing as too much laughter or pictures

2. Abby Newton and animal crackers go together like peas and carrots

3. Always carry your rain gear (especially if I'm on a road trip, my presence increases the likelihood of rain by at least 50 percent)

4. Running a golf tournament = LONG HOURS

5. Ole Miss women's golf is family meaning that discussions of things like bodily functions are all likely to happen and even more likely to happen during a meal

6. Golf needs walk up music ... just think about it, when you're approaching the tee and you hear "Thunderstruck" ... that would pump me up!

Speaking of walk up songs, we did talk about this over the week and we had a few good ones, although none better than Coach Drinkard's (You'll have to ask her about that!, if you can't figure it out)

Abby Newton - Thunderstruck

Alison Hovatter - The Only Way I Know

Taelor Rubin - Dust on the Bottle

Stani Schiavone - Know What You Did in the Dark

Maria Toennessen - Burn 

Coach Drinkard - A song we can't name by Elton John!

Coach Howland - Livin' on a Prayer 

Lynnette Johnson - Don't Look Back 

Josie Nicholson -Fighter 

Jess Poole - September

Well, Ole Miss women's golf, came and saw and conquered and we all had a darn good time in the process!

Until next season,

Jess Poole (Official SEC Championship Blogger of Ole Miss WGolf)

 

Rainy Start to the SEC Championships

Ole Miss women's golf sports information director, Jessica Poole will be blogging for the women's golf team throughout the 2014 SEC Championships held at Greystone Golf Course in Birmingham, Ala.

Well, looks like I'm cursed (At least I am not a British man, sorry Lynnette) We've got rain here in Birmingham, go figure. The last time I traveled with this crew, we had an ENTIRE round cancelled in Knoxville and today we had a one hour rain delay and now we've had today's round cancelled. It's definitely me (Sorry coaches!)

In my time at the course today, I have noticed that golfers have some really interesting ways to pass time. Aside from the usual playing with your phone and listening to music, doing homework, there are also teams that play cards. Texas A&M and South Carolina were having intense card games, while our team just enjoyed our time together. Lots of laughs had by allJ and many many things for our quote board!

Despite the rain, we did have a few fans, our administrator Lynnette Johnson made the trip to cheer us on and we even had an alum out on the course during our practice round, John Todd (Class of '64). We have some of the best fans ever. You can count on a Rebel sighting wherever we go!  

Ok so back to the rain ....

We decided at 12:45 p.m. that we were going to play.  (Yay). So we had a rain soaked day on the golf course. We battled not only the course, but the wind and the rain and the darkness and we came out #RebelStrong.

As usual, the best part of the day was dinner. We had a lovely meal in the private room at Greystone's Legacy Course (Shout out to Brett for hooking that up). During this meal, we talked about many, many things but the best was talking about what each golfer would have as a walk up song if we did that sort of thing in golf.

Coach Drinkard's was the best. It's an Elton John song and if you know Coach Drinkard you know what this song isJ

There were lots of laughs as usual at dinner tonight and I'll leave you with this little gem.

"T-W-O by T-W-O by T-W-O" you'll have to ask Taelor Rubin about that one.

We're back at it tomorrow at 10 a.m. Make sure to follow along on Golfstat and on @OleMissWGolf on Twitter throughout the weekend.

 Hotty Toddy,

 Jess Poole (Official SEC Championship Blogger of Ole Miss WGolf)

 

I'm Back

Ole Miss women's golf sports information director, Jessica Poole will be blogging for the women's golf team throughout the 2014 SEC Championships held at Greystone Golf Course in Birmingham, Ala.

Hey everyone, you might remember my blogging from the team's trip to Knoxville, Tenn., for the Mercedes Benz Classic in the fall, but if not I'm Jessica Poole, Ole Miss women's golf sports information director. Essentially, I'm the keeper of all information regarding Ole Miss women's golf!

Anyhow, I'm back and blogging from Alabama for this week's SEC Championship. It's been awhile since I've traveled with this group and I'm so happy to be back in the Ole Miss sprinter! Love me some Big Blue

I'm not the only support staffer on this trip. Our sports psychologist, Josie Nicholson, is also on this trip. She's been doing some awesome work with our team this season and has been a great addition to our team. She can work with the team before and after the rounds and can make suggestions to the coaches throughout. I know that her thoughts and suggestions will be a great help for this team throughout the weekend.

The best thing for me about traveling with this team is the stuff that happens in the Sprinter. For those that don't know, the Sprinter is a big blue van that has Ole Miss on the side and it's a pretty sweet ride. I always sit in one of the front two seats in the back next to Abby Newton. Well today, we had a FUNNY moment in the sprinter on the way back to the hotel from our practice round (which we KILLED by the way:) Abby was checking out a vine on her phone entitled "What you think when your ex walks by" well, she clicked on it and out came some song lyrics, but they weren't just any song lyrics, they were song lyrics that you can't share with your grandma. Well, said lyrics came out and came out LOUD. Abby's face might have been the most priceless thing I have ever seen, imagine deer in headlights frantically turning down her phone! It was hilarious.

Fast forward to the SEC Banquet. The dinner was phenomenal and the senior salutes were great, but the best part of the meal was the confusion that Josie and I caused. We all got a text from coach Drinkard, saying "6 ok with everyone?" Everyone answers back 'Yes ma'am" Well ... Josie and I were thinking 6 a.m. for our departure time in the morning. Now mind you, we tee off at 9:10 and our hotel is 10 minutes from the course so 6 a.m., seemed SUPER EARLY! Naturally, Josie and I mentioned this at dinner and were greeted with "6 p.m. for dinner" and of course Josie and I let out a big "OH" ... talk about egg on face!

Well with that being said, it's time for me to get ready for our big day tomorrow. We tee off at 9:10 a.m. and are playing with Missouri (For this SID, this is a pairing that REALLY pulls at the heart strings. My new team playing with my alma mater... eeks!)

Make sure to follow along on Golfstat and on @OleMissWGolf on Twitter throughout the weekend.

Hotty Toddy,

 Jess Poole (Official SEC Championship Blogger of Ole Miss WGolf)

 

 

Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday as well as selected questions and answers from Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray, Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings and Georgia head coach Mark Fox.

Ole Miss is the No. 6 seed in this week's 2014 SEC Tournament in Atlanta and will play the winner of 11-seed Vanderbilt and 14-seed Mississippi State in the second round Thursday (approximately 8:25 p.m. CT, SEC TV/ESPN3). The winner of Thursday's game will play 3-seed Georgia in the quarterfinals Friday (approximately 8:25 p.m. CT, SEC TV/ESPN3).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement:

We're excited about heading to Atlanta and competing in the SEC Tournament coming off a hard-fought win, which will hopefully give our guys some life moving forward.

On Arkansas' big loss at Alabama: 

We're all living on a slippery slope. We played about as poorly as I have ever seen a team play from our vantage point against a team that played about as well as they could possibly play in Arkansas, and then both scripts got flipped. All I saw was the final score. 

I was not surprised so much that Alabama won because Alabama is a good basketball team and it's hard to win on the road, but when I saw the score I was surprised because of how well Arkansas had been playing, and then as poorly as we played, we were able to bounce back and grind out a hard home win. It speaks to my theory, where I don't believe in game-to-game momentum; I believe in in-game momentum. Each game has a life in and of itself, and you have to prepared as such.

On making a run in the SEC Tournament:

Most everyone, especially when you have a lot on the line, you hope that your players would go into with a sense of urgency that the next loss could be your last game. We have one senior, and I know he will be playing with a sense of urgency. When you have a number of different guys who have that sense of urgency, you make plays and special things can happen. 

We were certainly a part of that last year. I had three prominent members of our team, who were seniors, and they were playing with that senior sense of urgency, and we were able to get a last-second win in game one. We had a feeling of relief but also excitement about the potential that the next day held, and that's what you can experience sometimes in tournament play.

On balancing the routine with the excitement of playing in the SEC Tournament:

Heading not the tournament, you try to keep your routine the same. We have been doing this now for a number of months, and you try to stay on the same routine. Once you get into that tournament setting, there's always electricity in that building. The SEC does an outstanding job of creating an electric atmosphere. Guy gets excited about that, and if you can get through that first game, guys are really on edge as it relates to the opportunity that's in front of them.

On Georgia's play through the SEC regular season:

Mark (Fox) and his staff did an outstanding job of getting that team to understand who they were. They were 6-6 in the non-league and when you do that, not many people gave them much hope of moving up in the standings once they got into league play. They looked in the mirror and made the necessary adjustments as to who they were and their best chance to be successful, and they maximized that by having an outstanding run in our league. 

They're playing as well as anybody with a hard-fought win at LSU in the last game. They're playing with momentum and a lot of confidence. They'll be in their home state, and there will be a lot of Bulldogs in the building. Last year, we came into the tournament in a similar mode, where we were tied for second and we got the third seed via a tiebreaker, and then we were able to make our run. Georgia is in a great position.

On the team's mindset entering the SEC Tournament:

I'm like most every coach. We split the season into a number of different quarters going back to our high school days. Now we're in the fourth quarter. This is the postseason. This is the epitome of March Madness, which created this mindset that anything can happen. We lived that last year when we were able to go and have a magical run. That's still fresh on the thoughts of our players' minds. We realized that the task is going to be a daunting one, but at the same time, all coaches try to turn the page and say we're all starting here anew. There's a lot to play for heading into Atlanta.

Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray

Opening statement:

We're getting ready for a well-coached Vanderbilt team. Coach Stallings does about as good a job as anybody in the nation of exploiting some of your weakness, both on the offensive end and defensive end. On the offensive end, for them, they do a great job of running a lot of set plays. When you're playing Vanderbilt, you have to make sure that you rely on your principles more so than just guarding their set because they do a lot of sets, but more importantly they have counters to those sets to exploit anything that you're doing as far as the way you're guarding the basketball.

In the first game against them, Damian Jones got in early foul trouble. He has a world of potential, and he's going to be a really good player in the SEC. Having him available on the court to give them an inside presence, along with their outside shooters and scorers will be a problem for us.

On the team mindset entering the SEC Tournament:

The one thing that we're trying to focus on, because we're playing Vanderbilt, and we played a good game against them. It was a closely contested ball game. We had a couple of chances to cut it to two points under two minutes, and we missed point-blank layups and a couple of tips. You could show them that you had some success against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt, so that's one thing that always helps. The second thing is that we went into the SEC Tournament last year, and it was the first time that we had won a game in the SEC Tournament since 2008 as a program. You try to point to those positive things because the negatives are very obvious.

On the team's depth:

It's a problem. I don't think you can sit here and say that we're on an even playing field with everybody else. Our first year we were playing with six and seven scholarship guys, and this year we played the whole season with seven and eight scholarship guys. There are two things we don't have. We never had the competition for playing time. Any program needs that. The second thing is that I have never had our best teacher, which is the bench. You need that to have that competitive fire in your program all the time. Our guys continue to play hard. Everybody has their bumps and bruises at this point in time. It's more mentally fatigued than physically fatigued. Our guys have to pull it together for the stretch run.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings

Opening statement:

First of all, I would like to congratulate Coach Donovan and the Florida Gator basketball team on their championship. Going 18-0 in our league is an incredible accomplishment, so I congratulate them on a job more than well done. Our team is coming off of two very close games, difficult, similar-type losses from last week. 

We're thankful for the opportunity to play again. Those were two frustrating losses for us last week, but we're hopeful that we can get to Atlanta and play the way we have been playing defensively and maybe play better on offense. Our defense has been good enough in our recent games except for one to really give us a chance to win games, and our offense has not been what we need it to be, so hopefully we can do some things this week can get that rectified and play better offensively and maintain the defensive intensity that we have shown the last few weeks. 

On making a run in the SEC Tournament:

It tends to happen just in the games. You can start to get the feeling in a game. If you win one, maybe you get on a little bit of a roll. There has never been anything that I have sensed going into the tournament when we have done well or when we have done poorly. It's more of thing where you get there, you win a game and then you get a feeling, see some confidence and start playing well, and the confidence gets contagious and it carries you through the weekend. I have never sensed anything in the prior couple days going into the tournament. 

When you win, you gain confidence and momentum is built. In 2004, I remember when we beat Mississippi State, which was league champion that year, in overtime and that was a tremendous situation for us because they had just won the league. That catapulted us not only in that tournament, but that gave us momentum going into the NCAA Tournament as well. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about, winning a big game, winning a tough game, winning a close game, and it continues to provide you momentum.

Georgia head coach Mark Fox

Opening statement:

Our team is excited about the tournament. We're really excited that it's in Atlanta and just down the road for us, so hopefully we will have some support from our fan base there in Atlanta. Our kids are really excited about the tournament, and it should be a great week of basketball in the Georgia Dome.

On this year's team:

Normally, you compare most things in the life to the first time you maybe did something, so I compare of my teams to my first team, which I thought was really a group of overachievers and a team that was picked fourth in the league that won the league and won an NCAA Tournament game and was a joy to coach. Every year, I often compare the team I'm coaching to that group because it was my first one and it was one of my favorite teams. 

This team has been just as much fun to coach. These guys have been a real joy, and I look forward to seeing them every day. They enjoy each other. Throughout the season, whether it is success or failure, they have tried to use things to grow as people and grow as a team. From that standpoint, it's been a process that we have all enjoyed.

On the locker room after the win over LSU:

It was typical. The kids were certainly excited. They had a sense of accomplishment for winning the game because LSU is a good team, and it was a good win. It was typical of a scene after a conference road win. It was not more than that. When you win a road game in this league, it's very hard to do, and so they were excited like they would be for most conference road victories.

On the coach's control of team chemistry:

Coaches do their best to manage the personality of the group, but the one thing that you can't control -- and you can in some instances as you recruit -- is the quality of character. You really have to have people that have great character to strive and achieve, and sometimes you can't control that. You don't know exactly -- even though there is some communication in recruiting -- until you go to battle with someone how they're wired. Fortunately, we have a really good chemistry and some really good character on our team that has allowed us to continue to grow.

On the team entering conference play:

That was a tough time. We had played George Washington in our last nonconference game, and I learned right before that game that my dad was about to pass, and so right before conference play started, I was away from the team for a day or two. I don't know if at that time we had a grasp on what we could accomplish. From day one this year, we felt like we could have a good team. Even though Kentavious left, and we knew there would be some growing pains getting used to his absence, they didn't waver from thinking we could have a good team. It just took a little while to figure out how to do that.

On NCAA Tournament standing entering SEC Tournament:

For the first time, yesterday, since I didn't know whom we would be playing, I took a minute to look at it. I don't know if we will have to win it, but it sure takes the stress out of it if you could do. We would have to advance. To have a legitimate at-large chance, we would have to advance. If you advance, you might as well win it.


SEC MBB Teleconference 3.3

Highlights of Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson and Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings. The Rebels close out the regular season with a road game at Arkansas on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN3) and then host Vanderbilt for Senior Day on Saturday (12:30 p.m., SEC Network).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

On Ole Miss' four-game winning streak at Arkansas' Bud Walton Arena:

I would like to tell you that those prior four games would have some influence on our game Wednesday night, but unfortunately for us, they will not. It's a different set of circumstances, different players and different timing. Arkansas is playing as well as anybody in our league, having won five straight. They are playing with a great deal of confidence and a real sense of urgency that you would expect as they are closing in on trying to get into the NCAA Tournament and we know we will have our hands full.

On how Ole Miss is playing of late:

We're not playing as well as I would have hoped. We have struggled in a number of different areas. When we put our finger in one hole, another one opens up, whether it's offensive inefficiency or our inability to rebound. We have really struggled, especially on the road, and that continued in our last outing against A&M. 

We have to come in understanding that there are two games left in the regular season, and there is still somewhat of a logjam in the middle of the pack. We're in the middle of that and we have to try to find a way to win some games and put ourselves in the best possible position heading into Atlanta.

On the disparity in how teams play at home versus on the road:

That's probably typical of most team in college basketball. For whatever reason, teams don't seem to play as well on the road. I can just speak personally about our group. We have some inexperienced guys at a number of different positions, and even the guys we had returning are playing expanded roles. 

With that comes a little bit of hesitancy and not playing with the same swagger you play with at home, when you can feed off the emotion of the crowd and you're more in the your comfort zone, and as a result, you don't play as confidently as you need to play on the road to make the plays that ultimately decide winning and losing.

On Marshall Henderson's season:

He's certainly been a marked man. His numbers are about the same. He's a volume guy. He broke the record for most threes attempted in a season, and he's leading the nation in 3-pointers attempted again. He's the same guy. He's a volume guy who we need to make shots. He's been more focused this year, and his game has developed as it relates to understanding and staying within the lines and playing with the right sort of focus. He hasn't varied a lot. 

Our biggest problem is we have lost two guys up front who were pillars in our program for a number of years, and we have replaced them with younger and inexperience guys, and as a result, we're not being productive up front.

On Arkansas' roster and depth:

It shows that they have depth and quality of depth. Ky Madden has developed into an all-league level player that everybody envisioned him having the opportunity to be. Michael Qualls has made that huge transformation from freshman to sophomore. They had (Alandise) Harris sitting out and you add a Bobby Portis to that. 

And then all of sudden, Mardracus Wade, who has played a lot of minutes in that program, (Anthlon) Bell, who didn't play as much last year, are now more seasoned and playing with a sense of urgency simply because they obviously want to get on the floor, and Mike (Anderson) has them playing at a very high level.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson

Opening statement:

As we get ready to finish up with conference, we face an Ole Miss team that everyone knows is a very explosive team. They have great guard play with Henderson, and I have always been impressed with Jarvis Summers. He's the head of that basketball team, and Henderson is an outstanding player. 

It should be a great game and a great atmosphere. It's Senior Night for our players, so we're looking forward to that challenge against Ole Miss. Everyone is trying to jockey for position at this time of year. We're no different than Ole Miss and everybody else in our conference.

On Coty Clarke earning SEC Player of the Week honors:

It's good to see his emergence. Being a junior college player, he now feels a lot more comfortable. He's a glue guy and does so many things for our basketball team. He's taken a leadership role, and now we see him doing a lot more things offensively and playing explosively. 

There's a reason why we recruited this young man coming out of junior college. He was one of the better rebounders in the country. He has nose for the ball and the game. To see him have an opportunity to be recognized as a Player of the Week tells you know how well he's playing at this point with our basketball team.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings

Opening statement:

We had a tough week last week. We played fairly well in one game and very poorly in the other. We have a few days here since we don't play until Thursday to hopefully, maybe fix ourselves a little bit. 

Nevertheless, we had a difficult against LSU the first time. We got whipped pretty good. We will have to certainly make some adjustments and play a lot better this time around. They have a very talented team and a very good team. We look forward to the week and hopefully we can play better and have better success than we did last week certainly.

Rebels Face Tough Test On The Road

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Through 70 Southeastern Conference games, home teams are 50-20 with a winning percentage of 71.4 percent. Ole Miss is one of six teams in the SEC with multiple league road wins, having won at South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Ole Miss (16-7, 7-3 SEC) seeks to double its league road win total with back-to-back road games this week, starting with Alabama on Tuesday night (8 p.m., ESPNU), followed by another road battle at Georgia on Saturday.

"We have embraced the grind," said senior guard Marshall Henderson after the Rebels' 91-88 win over Missouri Saturday, the team's best RPI win to date. "We know every game is going down to the wire, no matter who we play. We just have to fight through and get the win."

Alabama is 9-14 on the season and 3-7 in the SEC after dropping a pair of road games last week at Arkansas and at No. 3 Florida. The Crimson Tide are winless on the road this season, but 9-4 at home. Senior Trevor Releford leads Alabama averaging 18.3 points per game, which is seventh in the SEC in scoring.

The Crimson Tide has the nation's No. 2 overall strength of schedule and No. 9-ranked nonconference schedule, with nine games against teams ranked in the top 50 of the latest RPI (ESPN.com).

"Every game on the road is going to be tough," said Henderson on Saturday. "I watched Alabama and Florida play earlier today, and they played Florida tough. Florida is unstoppable in that building, and they played them tough all the way there until the very end. Alabama is definitely a lot better than their record shows, that's for sure. They have one of the toughest schedules in the whole country." 

Ole Miss shoots better from the field (.453 at home/.390 on road) and from 3-point range (.419 at home/.316 on road) at home and rebound the ball better with a -5.6 rebound margin on the road and an even rebounding margin at home.

The Rebels will lean on its veteran backcourt of Henderson (19.6 ppg) and Jarvis Summers (17.4 ppg), the team's two leading scorers, who rank third and eighth in the SEC in scoring, respectively. 

"Marshall draws a lot of attention, both on and off the court," head coach Andy Kennedy said. "The attention that he draws on the floor, Jarvis has done a much better job in year two of playing with him, of playing in those gaps that are created by the way people try to defend Henderson, and as a result, he's had a very productive year for us."

Ole Miss enters the week ranked No. 51 in the latest RPI, while Alabama (No. 110) and Georgia (No. 113) are rated just outside the top 100. 

The Rebels are 4-6 against top-100 RPI teams this season, highlighted by the win over Missouri. After this week, however, they have back-to-back opportunities with two top-10 RPI teams in Kentucky (No. 10) and Florida (No. 5) coming to the Tad Smith Coliseum.

"If we play like we did tonight, as far as being focused and high energy, it will give us a chance at those places," Henderson said. "We also know that if we get those two, we have probably the biggest week in Ole Miss basketball history with Kentucky and Florida coming in here back-to-back. We have to get these two, starting with the one in Tuscaloosa. We have to get them."

VIDEO: Andy Kennedy Media Opportunity

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy met with members of the media Thursday, ahead of the Rebels hosting the Missouri Tigers on Saturday (4 p.m., Fox Sports Net).

On Julius Randle's dunk against Derrick Millinghaus:

We had a tough night on a number of fronts. The game, and then we had a tough time getting out of Lexington because of the weather and then we had to fly to Memphis and drive back. What was about an hour and 15 minute flight turned into about a four and a half hour debacle. On the bus ride home, they showed it with a graphic like nine times in an hour and 15 minutes, so he got to see it. He will get to see it again today.

On Kentucky being a teachable game:

We gave ourselves a chance. Early, we were up five or six points and we seemed to be executing and not getting completely dominated on the glass. The zone was bothering them a little bit. Our primary objective going into the game was to try to keep them in front of us. That's where they broke us down. We couldn't keep anybody in front of us and then we were in a poor position to rebound the ball. Any shots that they did miss, they cleaned up off the offensive glass. Their length is difficult, and it's really hard to simulate. If you don't create some space, then it's difficult to continue to try to score over them all night, and we had trouble with that in the second half.

On rebounding:

I thought we were getting better at rebounding, but look at our last three outings. At Tennessee, we got destroyed. That was a difficult matchup for us, and they're pretty good at what they do. Against South Carolina at home, we get beat by 10. And then we go to Kentucky, and they're maybe leading the nation in offensive rebounding percentage, so we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we just got destroyed. We obviously had these issues in November and December, and we thought we had come to some sort of a conclusion as to how to remedy them, and then they have seemed to have risen back up.

On the different defenses Ole Miss plays:

It's all matchup dependent. If you look at it, our man-to-man has helped us in moments. Our half-court trap really saved us against South Carolina, and it had not been that effective in the three or four games prior to that. Our 1-3-1 zone has been good to us at times. The 2-3 zone has probably been our best overall statistical defense. We will continue to mix and match depending upon whom we're playing, how we're playing, who they have in the game and who we have in the game. There are a number of factors.

On Missouri:

They are a good team with really, really good guards. Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown have size, athleticism, and they are both highly skilled. Jabari Brown is having a Player-of-the-Year-type campaign. He's averaging around 22 points per game and shooting a ridiculous percentage from the floor and from 3, and he's a volume guy. He's Marshall, but Marshall is around 33 to 34 percent, while he's at 53 to 54 percent, so it gives you an idea of the challenge that they present. They're a group that is athletic. They are going to play fast. They are the most efficient team in our league in transition, so there are a number of things that we have to be good at defensively to give ourselves a chance.

On defense against Missouri:

We will do what we always do in most every game. We will mix and match and see what is the best. I don't think you will see a steady diet of any one thing because they are too good. From a size standpoint, they can play over the top of us, if we went primarily with man defense, but I don't think you can sit in a zone because they're too proficient from 3.

On the Missouri game being a resume-building opportunity for the NCAA Tournament:

We knew it was going to be a big week for us. We knew going into Rupp was going to be difficult, and I know coming home against Missouri is going to be difficult. That's why you're in the SEC. That's why you play big-boy basketball to have these opportunities. We have been better with a 4-0 record at home in league play. We have to continue that trend if we have any hopes of playing meaningful basketball once we get into the postseason.

On Martavious Newby:

He's out of the cast, and he has begun his rehab process. As is typical with kids who are playing high-level SEC sports, he heals pretty quickly. The doctors will give you the landscape for the people they typically deal with and then you can usually accelerate that, and Martavious is no exception. Our anticipation is that if he continues to progress the way he has once rehabilitation has started, hopefully we can have him back sooner rather than later. He's a big void and you see his toughness, coming up with loose balls and he gives us a matchup on the perimeter defensively that we miss.

On winning on the road in the SEC:

Coming into this past week, I think Ken Pomeroy said that the SEC had the most games of any league that were decided by four points or less, or overtime, which shows you it's a balanced league. It's a company line, and it's one the SEC has not been able to shake for a couple of years. It's an easy company line. I do think there is a bias in the national media because they get tired of talking about the SEC because it dominates in football, and they get tired of it. When there's an opportunity to talk about something else, that's what they're going to do. 

Kentucky loses on the road to LSU, which is a very good basketball team, in a competitive game, and then they go and win at Missouri. And Missouri has beaten West Virginia, Northwestern, at NC State and UCLA, and they didn't lose a non-league home game. Kentucky goes in there and wins, and they still drop seven spots in the poll. The mindset is kind of crazy. 

Our league, it will start shaking out in the next two or three weeks. You will start seeing the pretenders from the contenders, and that will be the case in any league. The Big Ten has done a job like everybody does of eating their own. You have teams that were undefeated before league play and they lose three, four or five in a row. It happens at this time of year. 

I don't get too caught up in that with my group because we have to find a way to get better. Let's get better and improve. I can't be a big-picture thinker with this group. It's not productive. For us, it's about getting better. It's about figuring out what we did right for 15 to 20 minutes against Kentucky and what went wrong, and let's correct those things and let's try to make an improvement Saturday.

On that bias carrying over into the NCAA Tournament committee room:

I don't think so. I think those people don't get caught up in that. We all deal with human nature. The numbers are going to say what the numbers are going to say. The numbers on that piece of paper have to make sense, and if they make sense, then our league will be properly represented. 

Think about last year. We obviously knew we had to work to do going into Nashville. There were two teams that went into Nashville that were probably safe regardless with Florida being one and Missouri being the other. Missouri finished fifth or sixth in our league. However, similar to what they have done this year, their non-league had enough pop where they were good. 

Everybody else -- us, obviously, Tennessee still had an opportunity to play their way in, Alabama was still in the conversation, and certainly Kentucky was. There were only two that were in regardless of what happened in Nashville, but there were still six in play. It just so happens that Kentucky got beat by Vanderbilt, which was a "bad loss," so they're out. Tennessee and Alabama happened to play one another, but the loser got immediately eliminated, and then the other lost the next round to Florida. We were the only one that wiggled our way through. We went in with an opportunity for six. 

Let's say Kentucky would have beaten Vanderbilt, and if we would have beaten them, they're probably still in, and we would have probably had to have beaten them to get in. There's so much still in play, and that was when Kentucky was not considered a Final Four contender because of the Nerlens Noel injury.

The Kentucky team that I saw Tuesday night was the Kentucky team that many people projected them to be when they named them preseason number one in the country. Those kids are growing up, and when Willie Cauley-Stein plays the way he did, and the Harrison twins are really getting better. They're so long. That's what blew me away. Things that we can typically do against other people, their length made up for that on Tuesday, and it made it problematic.

On excuses being made to say the SEC is down:

It's a mindset. For instance, the Big East. When the Big East turns to basketball, the attention turns to that in November. There's not a lot of thought put into basketball until about now. It's the nature of the geography, the communities that you're in and because of the dominance of football. 

You can't feed two masters a lot of times. Many times, we're a slow build. When Missouri loses to Georgia, it's considered bad, even though it's very, very difficult to win on the road in the league. Going into this last week, Florida and us were the only teams in the league with multiple road wins. It's difficult to win in any league. 

For us, we're going to have opportunities. The league is sitting in a much better place today than it was at this time last year. The biggest reason being even the teams at the bottom, it's not so much weighty at the bottom. We had two or three 200-plus RPI teams last year, and we lost to a couple of them. As a result, it makes the climb very, very difficult to get up and out of. 

This year, that's not the case. Even though we have teams that have not performed as well as they have liked, their numbers don't indicate that. Take Vanderbilt, for instance, and Kevin (Stallings) has done a masterful job. People think they're down because of their injuries and the attrition that they have suffered, yet you look today, and they're in the 60's in the RPI. That win at Vanderbilt, even though you say it's not the Vanderbilt they had two years, granted, the numbers still give you some life.

On what Ole Miss did well in those 15 to 20 minutes against Kentucky:

Number one, we were moving the ball better. We got really stagnant in the second half, and then we got into trying to make a play without moving the defense. Their size ate us up, and we could not get clean looks. And the ones we got, we were looking for a 10-point shot as opposed to staying within the rhythm of the offense. 

And then you don't get stops. They shot 60 percent against us in the second half. We did not get a defensive rebound until Janari (Joesaar) came in and got one that hit off the side of the rubber part of the backboard. That was the first time a Rebel got a rebound in the second half. We had some dead-ball rebounds, but we did not have a clean defensive rebound until under two minutes to go in the second half.

On limited opportunities for resume-building wins:

We have Missouri, and they're in the low 50's in the RPI, and they're a quality team. We have Kentucky coming back in here, and you have Florida, who's in the top five and might come in here number one in the nation, so you have your opportunities. We still have Vanderbilt coming back in this building, and they're sitting in the 60's in the RPI, so there are opportunities for us. We have to play better and we have to earn our way in. That's the only way it should be, and that's the way it is.

SEC MBB Teleconference 1.20

Selected questions and answers from Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy's time on the SEC teleconference Monday, as well as selected questions and answers from Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings and Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray. The Rebels travel to Nashville, Tenn., to play the Commodores on Wednesday night (8 p.m., CSS) and then return home to host the Bulldogs on Saturday (3 p.m., SEC Network).

Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy

Opening statement:

It's week three of the SEC grind going into a very difficult place to play at Vanderbilt Wednesday night and then following up against Mississippi State, who we just faced a couple of weeks ago, at home on Saturday. It's two more challenges for us.

On close and overtime games:

For us, it's ultimately a window into who we are. We have played 17 games and we are over halfway through our season, and we have played a lot of close games. Not only did we play the three overtime games, but almost every game we play is a one possession here or there that is going to determine winning and losing. 

We better be comfortable in the chaos, which are close games, because that's who we are. A team does grow in the more times you're in a tight situation, and you would hope that guys learn from it and be able to use it to their advantage as the season continues.

On playing Mississippi State for the second time:

For us, we have a better feel having played them. It's crazy how the schedule works -- you don't play some teams until the end of the season, and we play our in-state rival twice in a two-week period -- but we will do what we do. 

Marshall was a part of our team through 12 of our first 13 games, and then he had to sit out the first two league games, but now he's back and he will have had three games under his belt heading into that games, so infusing him into what we do will not be any different.

Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings

Opening statement:

We had a good win and got our butts kicked, so we had an up-and-down week last week, and we're still trying to strive to achieve some consistency, but we're relatively healthy. 

It's a big week. Mississippi seems to be playing very well right now, and we have had some really close, competitive games with them. We'll have to be very, very read in all phases to play them. They can really score it. They are big and athletic inside. (Jarvis) Summers looks like he's having a terrific year. We know that we have our hands full, but we look forward to getting back into action on Wednesday.

On Marshall Henderson and Texas A&M's Jamal Jones as scorers:

The big thing is having a constant awareness as to where they are at, their proximity to the ball and maybe the angles and the paths that they like to take to get to their shots. It's just a heightened awareness to where great scorers are at all times because that's what makes them great scorers. It is their ability to get to their spot and shot quickly and create a good result from it. 

More than anything else, it's a terrific awareness on everybody's part as to where guys like that are.

On Marshall Henderson as an X-Factor for Ole Miss:

He presents unusual challenges because of his shot-making ability. He has such great ability to make difficult shots. Most great scorers just know how to get themselves -- or their coaches get them -- to the shots that they can make time after time. 

The deal with Henderson is he can just make more difficult shots. They run really good screening action for him, and he is a very fast cutter. He's unique in the way that he can score and really score in bunches. He can get them in flurries -- two, three or four in a row. I would say that he's unique in the way that he goes about it.

On the defenses Marshall Henderson faces being a compliment to him as an offensive player:

The defenses that he probably sees in every game that they play is a compliment to his scoring prowess because people try all sorts of different things, but he still gets his shots and points. A lot of times when you have a great scorer like that, the more you keep it out of their hands, the better chance you feel like you have. 

He's going to get his touches and shots, and thus he's going to get his points because he's going to make shots.

On Marshall Henderson's last-second shot to force overtime at Vanderbilt last year

I was thinking about refraining from doing what my instincts were telling me to do to one of own players for making the mistake to let him get to that shot, which was completely unnecessary and uncalled for, but nevertheless, I wasn't surprised that it went in because he's a great shot-maker. 

As far as him being on the move, he doesn't get many shots standing still because people key on him so heavily. I don't know that he's better on the move or better standing still. He just doesn't get to shoot a lot of shots standing still because there is such an awareness of him on the part of the defense that he's having to make great and difficult cuts to get to the shots that he attempts. 

But again, it speaks to his great shot-making ability because he doesn't get very many easy looks, and he puts up great numbers at a good percentage. There's a lot to admire there relative to the task that he has to get himself open, or to utilize screens to get open, and then to convert.

Mississippi State head coach Rick Ray

Opening statement:

It was a huge win for us against Texas A&M. They came in SEC play leading in field-goal percentage and scoring defense, and I knew it was going to be a grind-out ball game, and I was really disappointed in our team at Alabama in how we shot the ball so early in the shot clock and didn't share the ball. 

It was imperative that our guys realized that with the way Texas A&M plays, it was going to be a grind, and it was. To pull off that win, we had to have that mindset. I'm looking forward to more SEC play.

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