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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Players Ready to Take on Bigger Roles in Year Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senior Bo Wallace returns at quarterback and will go through spring drills for the first time since 2012, having missed spring practice last year recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

"I feel like strength-wise, I'm a lot better than I was at the end of the year," Wallace said. "It's not exactly where I want it to be. From the time period I have had to get it right, I feel good about it. I have been throwing. Every day, I stay an hour or an hour and 15 minutes extra working on shoulder stuff and mobility stuff. I know I have put in the work, so I trust that it's going to get better."

"He said he feels as good as he has felt in two years," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "We'll see how that goes. He didn't get to do any offseason training last year and that showed as the year went on and his arm strength deteriorated some. We're confident that it should be stronger, and hopefully it will stay consistently strong."

Behind Wallace is a four-way battle for the backup quarterback position between redshirt freshmen DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan, along with sophomore Jeremy Liggins and freshman Kendrick Doss.

"Jeremy and Kendrick are both eager to learn and ask a lot of questions," Wallace said. "Ryan and DeVante are coming on. They're starting to know it better. It's going to be fun to watch."

"I would say no one is ahead of the pack," Freeze said. Based on last year, there were some things that DeVante does naturally better than Ryan, and there are some things that Ryan does naturally better than him, and we didn't have the other two here."

A few other notes from practice:

Sophomore Kailo Moore, listed as a running back, practiced with the cornerbacks Tuesday. Freeze said he expects him to stay there, and he may run certain packages offensively.

"He is going to play some field corner this spring to see how he adjusts there," Freeze said. "He's all for that. He's kind of wanted to do that for a while."

With the departure of Donte Moncrief, sophomore Laquon Treadwell will move to outside receiver, and fellow sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo will move to inside receiver. Senior Vince Sanders, junior Cody Core and senior Collins Moore will also work at outside receiver, with juniors Quintavius Burdette and Quadarias Mireles moving from cornerback to inside receiver.

Both Treadwell and Adeboyejo excelled in their new roles Tuesday, as well as sophomore tight end Evan Engram, who participated in position drills with the wide receivers.

On the offensive line, redshirt freshman Christian Morris (Achilles) and senior Aaron Morris (ACL) will be out for the spring, and sophomore Austin Golson (shoulder) will be limited this spring. 

The first-team offensive line Tuesday consisted of sophomore Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, junior Justin Bell at left guard, junior Ben Still at center, redshirt freshman Daronte Bouldin at right guard and sophomore Robert Conyers and redshirt freshman Davion Johnson splitting time at right tackle.

"That's the spot we're hurting the most at," Freeze said of the offensive line. "We're looking forward to a spring where we look and we have two full depth charts and replacements for those. Right now, we have full one, and we will use some walk-ons to make up the second one."

Senior Carlton Martin, listed as both an offensive lineman and defensive tackle, and junior Channing Ward, listed as both a defensive end and tight end, will stay on offense for spring practice, Freeze said, and that they could immediately go back to defense in summer workouts and not miss a lot.

"He will help us get a two-deep offensive line and also make sure he's getting a chance to contribute in his senior season," Freeze said of Martin. "He's one of our strongest players. We have a little more depth inside on the defensive line, so he's jumped in, and we'll see how he does this spring."

"We will see how he will adjust to that," Freeze said of Ward. "We are trying to make we get him into a good position to contribute to this football team a lot."

Other position changes include sophomore Jeremy Liggins who will split time between quarterback and tight end, senior D.T. Shackelford, who will start at Mike linebacker and junior Chief Brown who will move from safety to Huskie

Sophomores Anthony Alford and Fadol Brown, who both sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, are expected to step in and compete for playing time this fall. Alford ran with second-team defense at safety, while Brown ran with the first-team defense at defensive end.

"I feel like I can help the team out now and play a role as part of the defense," Alford said. "I just come out and work hard every day and everything else will take of itself."

In the return game, Freeze mentioned junior running back Jaylen Walton, sophomore running back/cornerback Kailo Moore, sophomore safety Anthony Alford, junior safety Trae Elston and redshirt freshman Eugene Brazley as options at kickoff returner. Freeze mentioned Alford, as well as sophomore wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo as options for returning punts.

Key Spring Dates

The spring athletics season has official kicked off, and here are a few key dates that won't show up on the usual team schedules. You will be hearing tons more about these events in the coming weeks, but consider this your save the date.

March 5 - Football spring practice starts
March 31 - Rebels Choice Awards
April 5 (AM) - 25th Annual Chucky Mullins Courage Award Ceremony Presented by the M-Club
April 5 - Grove Bowl
April 13-18 - BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip

Follow me on twitter @CampbellKyle.

Wesley Walls' Son Among Spring Walk-Ons

Thumbnail image for Walls_Tulane_1988.jpgColton Walls, a sophomore linebacker who started his career at Clemson, is among the non-scholarship players to join the Ole Miss football team this spring.

Rebel fans will be quite familiar with his last name. Colton's father, Wesley Walls, was an All-America tight end/linebacker for the Rebels in 1988 and went on to a successful 14-year NFL career that included five Pro Bowl appearances. Just last week, Wesley was one of 77 players named to the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame.

Colton is the next in a long line of father/son combos to play for Ole Miss through the years. Names like Archie, Cooper and Eli Manning come to mind. And others, like Poole, Luke, Shows, Kinard. Current Rebel wide receiver Jordan Holder is the son of two-time Ole Miss captain Jamie Holder.

Spring practice starts this Sunday at 3 p.m. All practices are open to the public. Here's a link to the full spring schedule.

The up-to-date 2013 roster entering spring practice is online at OleMissSports.com. Other walk-ons joining the team this spring include DB Josh Gregory, OL Tyler Mt. Joy, RB Darryan Ragsdale and OL Park Stevens.

Spring Practice Approaches

It seems like just yesterday we were celebrating a bowl win in Birmingham. Now that that and an historic signing day are in the rear view mirror, it's time to gear up for spring drills. The Rebels take to the practice field on Sunday, March 17, and a tentative practice schedule can be viewed here. Practices will be open to the public, but you'll need to skip work to make them. Weekday practices are planned for an 8 a.m. start, and outside of the first and last practices (BancorpSouth Grove Bowl on April 13, 1 p.m.). there is is only one other weekend practice planned (April 6, time TBA). This year's BancorpSouth Grove Bowl has free admission, so we hope to have our biggest crowd yet.

Fans have asked about our Pro Day, which is scheduled for March 7. The event is closed to the public, but we will have full coverage of the day on the official site. Among the events you will be able to attend this spring is the Rebels' Choice Awards, April 10 at 7 p.m. at the Ford Center. The show has moved to a Wednesday this year, and we will have more details in the coming weeks. Also changing days is the Chucky Mullins Courage Award banquet, which will now be a Saturday breakfast on the morning of the BancorpSouth Grove Bowl. Please make your plans to attend both events.

Follow me on twitter @CampbellKyle.

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Recent Comments

    Hunter Comstock said:

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

    in post Rebels Dominate In Prime-Time Spotlight

    Hunter Comstock said:

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

    in post Rebels Pass First Test in Search of Playoff Berth

    Joe Snaidauf said:

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

    in post Eleven Rebels Garner Phil Steele Preseason Honors

    Jamie laverty said:

    Bulmer I love you and ole Miss

    in post Fast Runner From Down Under

    Rhonda said:

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

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

    Gary Vaughn said:

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

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

    Tom said:

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

    in post Vote Freeze For Coach Of The Year

    Cory Wilson said:

    How can I get my hands on one of these?

    in post 2013 Fall Sports Player Posters