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Ole Miss Details Stadium Expansion Plans

Ole Miss unveiled the master plan for Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, which includes two phases of renovation and expansion. Scheduled for completion by the start of the 2016 season, the expansion will bring the seating capacity to 64,038, which will make Vaught-Hemingway Stadium the largest stadium in the state of Mississippi.

The first phase will be a renovation and expansion of the south end zone, with the addition of 30 luxury suites and 770 club level seats, for the start of the 2015 season. 

This phase will see a slight reduction in capacity, to around 59,000, which will be accommodated by reducing the visiting teams' allotments from 7,000 to 5,000.

The second phase will be a renovation and expansion of the north end zone that will include the completion of the stadium seating bowl, the installation of a new video board (104 feet wide by 49 feet tall) in the north end zone and the addition of 30-by-50 video boards in the north end zone.

Between the two phases, Ole Miss will be able to accommodate 5,500 more Rebels, once the stadium reaches full capacity. Bjork also announced the student section will increase from 8,200 seats to just over 10,000 seats and will move to the north end zone.

The master plan also includes flexibility for future expansion, whether that is a north end zone that mirrors the south end zone, or even a new press box box and upper deck on the west side. Speaking to that flexibility, Bjork said a possible future expansion on the west side could bring capacity to more than 70,000.

Two beneficial links from the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation: Changes (with seating charts for 2015 and 2016) and How does this affect me?

More on the Overall Master Plan

Including the renovation and expansion of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss all have invested $175.75 million in total projects related to the Forward Together campaign, which has now reached $125 million in total cash and pledges.

As far as other notable projects, Athletics Director Ross Bjork the parking garage (not included in the $175.75 million) is scheduled to open in January, and the Pavilion at Ole Miss remains on schedule to open in December 2016.

Here's a breakdown with costs and timeline outlining the renovations included in the $175.75 million:

- Olivia & Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center

- Cost: $11.25 million

- Start date: March 2013

- Completion date: April 2014

- Pavilion at Ole Miss

- Cost: $95 million

- Start date: June 2014

- Completion date: December 2015

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium West Skyboxes

- Cost: $4.8 million

- Start date: January 2015

- Completion date: August 2015

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium South Endzone

- Cost: $15 million

- Start date: January 2015

- Completion date: August 2015

- Football Practice Field

- Cost: $2.5 million

- Start date: February 2015

- Completion date: September 2015

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium North Endzone

- Cost: $33 million

- Start date: December 2015

- Completion date: August 2016

- FedEx Academic Support Center & Starnes Athletic Training Center

- Cost: $3 million

- Start date: December 2015

- Completion date: August 2016

- Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Lighting and Audio System

- Cost: $2.2 million

- Start date: December 2015

- Completion date: August 2016

- Track & Field Complex

- Cost: $4 million

- Start date: Summer 2015

- Completion date: Fall 2016

- Gillom Sports Center

- Cost: $5 million

- Start date: February 2016

- Completion date: December 2016

Morris to Miss Peach Bowl

Ole Miss junior offensive guard Aaron Morris re-tore his ACL and will not play in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, head coach Hugh Freeze announced Monday.

Morris suffered the same injury in the 2013 season opener against Vanderbilt and missed the remainder of the season. Freeze said Morris re-injured the ligament before the Mississippi State game, and he will have surgery Tuesday.

"He just wanted to finish and see how it went," Freeze said. "It wasn't a complete tear. There was just a little looseness in it and there was a partial tear. We made the decision with he and his mom to go ahead and get it fixed again."

Freeze said the anticipated recovery time is a bit longer with a second tear, but he's hopeful Morris will be back for the 2015 season.

"These things tend to be iffy," Freeze said. "It's kind of hard to say, but I sure hope so for his sake and for our team."

Without Morris, junior Justin Bell will move from right guard to left guard, and freshman Rod Taylor will get his second career start, at right guard.

"He improves every week," said Freeze of Taylor. "He loves to practice and loves to play. I'm really pleased with his practice. He's going to be a good one.

Allen to Take USF Defensive Coordinator Job

Linebackers coach Tom Allen has been hired as the defensive coordinator at South Florida, head coach Hugh Freeze confirmed Monday. Allen has been with Freeze since they were together at Lambuth in 2008. 

This is only the second coaching staff change under Freeze and the first since co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Wesley McGriff left for the New Orleans Saints after the 2012 season.

"You hate to lose people, but we rejoice with him that he's getting an opportunity to advance his career," Freeze said. "We're thrilled for him. (South Florida head coach) Willie (Taggart) is a friend of mine, and I'm happy those two will be joining together."

Freeze said he doesn't anticipate any other staff movements. As part of the new contract for Freeze, the salary pool for the Ole Miss football will increase by at least 25 percent, which will make Ole Miss in competitive in filling the position.

"That was the only thing I asked for," Freeze said. "Let's up that so we will remain competitive in this conference in that regard because I really like continuity. Unless a guy gets an opportunity, like a Tom Allen, where you get to run your own defense or offense. 

"You have to understand those moves. I took those chances, and I want others to get the same opportunity. I don't want to lose someone just because it's a lateral move and we're not competitive."

As far as timeline, Freeze said they will probably wait until after the first of the year, sometime leading up to the start of the next recruiting period on Jan. 15.

"There are great people out there," Freeze said. "There are great people in this building who have worked for me before. There will be no shortage of people wanting this job, so we'll have great candidates."

Strong Early Ticket Sales for Ole Miss

The Peach Bowl has sold out in 17 consecutive season, second only to the Rose Bowl in terms of consecutive sellouts, and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl President and CEO Gary Stokan expects an 18th straight sellout for this year's game between Ole Miss and TCU.

Athletics Director Ross Bjork said the school has sold around 17,000 tickets for the game, and he expects to have many more Ole Miss fans in attendance. The school sold its initial allotment and addition tickets for each of the last two bowl games in the BBVA Compass Bowl in 2012 and the Music City Bowl in 2013.

Extra Emphasis on Special Teams Play

Extra Emphasis on Special Teams Play

Through the years, special teams play has provided a winning edge in the Ole Miss-LSU rivalry, and and you don't have to go all the way back to Billy Cannon's 1959 Halloween run.

In a run that reminded fans of Cannon, Odell Beckham Jr. sparked a 41-35 comeback win for LSU with a game-tying 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in the teams' last meeting in Baton Rouge.

Andrew Ritter split the uprights on a 41-yard field goal with two seconds left on the clock to lift Ole Miss to a 27-24 win in last year's meeting in Oxford.

"When you watch all the highlights of the games of the past, there always seems to be a special teams play in there," special teams coordinator Tom Allen said. "We all know about the famous punt returns that have occurred down there. I was pretty emotional and passionate when I addressed our guys on Tuesday in our special teams meeting. I believe it's going to be the difference.

"Our 'it' that Coach Freeze challenges us with is to provide the winning edge, and that's what we need to do. We have done that in several games this year, and we need to do it again in this kind of environment."

The Rebels have a trio of freshmen in key spots on special teams, with Will Gleeson handling the punting duties, Gary Wunderlich handling placekicking and kickoff duties and Markell Pack returning punts. 

Gleeson ranks among the nation's leaders in punting (45.5 ypg) and net punting (44.0), while Wunderlich is 3-of-4 on field goals with a long of 46 against Alabama. Pack has had some shaky moments and continues to learn through game experience, but Allen remains confident in him.

"As I have said before, returning punts is the most difficult thing we ask anybody on our team to do," Allen said. "Being a young guy doing that is hard, but he's smooth catching the ball. He's the most natural one we have. Now, it's a matter of making good decisions under fire."


Defense Preps for Powerful Ground Game

The LSU offense is led by a three-headed powerful rushing attack that ranks sixth in the SEC (220.9 ypg). Freshman Leonard Fournette leads the way with 544 yards and seven touchdowns, followed by seniors Kenny Hilliard (353 yards, 6 TDs) and Terrence Magee (344 yards, 3 TDs).

Over their last two games, the Tigers have rushed for 195 yards on 50 carries in a 30-27 win at Florida and rushed for 303 yards on 51 carries in a 41-3 win over Kentucky, but they face their stiffest test of the season in Ole Miss, which boats the nation's sixth-best rush defense (97.1 ypg).

"The last two weeks they turned back into what they want to be, which is running the ball downhill," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "They have the big backs who are always falling forward, very good football players, with play-action off of it. The quarterbacks, especially (Anthony) Jennings, have gotten more comfortable in their offense."

Wommack said they faced a similar test earlier this season in Alabama. The Rebels held the Crimson Tide to 17 points and 396 yards of total offense (168 rushing, 228 passing), both well below their season averages of 39.6 points per game and 514.6 yards per game.

"Alabama, to me, is very similar," Wommack said. "Their lines are similar, and their backs are similar. Their receivers, in some ways, are similar. The one outstanding receiver at Alabama (Amari Cooper) is probably better than any one person at LSU, but as a group LSU's receivers are younger. The quarterbacks are very similar."

The more traditional, smash mouth offense, Allen said, plays to the strengths of their physical, downhill players, such as linebackers Serderius Bryant and Deterrian Shackelford.

"We're not a big linebacker corps, by any means, but we're tough kids," linebackers coach Tom Allen said. "That's what you've got to have against these guys. We're big enough and we tackle well enough that we feel comfortable against their scheme.

"I don't feel like we have a group of guys that can't adjust. We're probably better suited for this than we are some of the wide-open spread looks that we see."


Still Remains Questionable for LSU

Center Ben Still (sprained MCL) did not practice Wednesday remains questionable for Saturday's game against LSU.

"He is coming, just don't know exactly how he'll be Saturday," Freeze said. "The good thing is he knows everything. He doesn't have to get reps. If he can go, he certainly will."

If Still is unable to play, Robert Conyers will take over at center, having played almost all of the second half against Tennessee. He would be backed up Craig Frigo at center, with Daronte Bouldin and Davion Johnson also figuring in the tackle rotation.

"It lessens our depth at other places, but he had a really good game against Tennessee," said Freeze of Conyers. "He's very athletic. He's maybe not as strong or has as much mass as Ben for certain blocks, but he did really well and his snaps have been good."


Special Moment For Grant, Moore

Ole Miss fell 17-10 in overtime to intrastate rival Mississippi State, but the Rebels' one score provided a special moment for two of the team's unsung players.

Down 7-0 with 31 seconds left in the first half, Ole Miss called its third and final timeout to force a Mississippi State punt and try to score some points before halftime.

Mississippi State punter Baker Swedenburg stood deep in the Bulldogs' end zone and bobbled the snap. And then, two Ole Miss players just made plays.

Junior wide receiver Collins Moore beat his man off the line and took the ball right off Swedenburg's foot in the end zone, and senior wide receiver Terrell Grant pounced on the ball for the touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 with 26 seconds left. 

It turned the momentum in the Rebels' favor, as they drove 81 yards on 17 plays on the opening drive of the second half, capped by an Andrew Ritter 22-yard field, to take a 10-7 lead. Head coach Hugh Freeze called it a "huge lift" and "big special teams play."

"(Linebackers/Special Teams) Coach (Tom) Allen came up with a great scheme this week," Moore said. "I told Terrell Grant that if I was the one to block the punt that I wanted him to be one to recover it and hopefully score a touchdown, which we did, because this will the be last time he will play Mississippi State being a senior."

"It was a great feeling," Grant said. "It changed momentum, which we needed. (Collins and I) had been talking about it all day. It was a great moment, and I'll remember it forever, but I wish we could have won. I would have rather not have the touchdown and win than have the touchdown and lose."

 For those two role players, despite the loss, those five seconds will last a lifetime.

Moore has 13 career catches for 189 yards and a touchdown, while for Grant, it was the first time he touched the ball in his four-year Ole Miss career, having seen action in 24 games on special teams and as receiver.

"Everything that Coach Freeze preaches about -- playing for the guy next to you -- that's all that was going through my mind, that I made a dream come true for one of my teammates," Moore said.

"Having a peace of mind and understand that God has his ways. I stuck with it," Grant said. "I love the game of football. I could have transferred, but I love Ole Miss and I love my teammates. They helped me the most. That's what helped me." 

On Tuesday, a large emphasis was placed on converting inside the Red Zone. Today, one of the team drills focused on covering at the goal line, with the ball placed at the 3-yard line. 


A couple of the big plays in the drill was a pair of touchdown passes, one from junior quarterback Bo Wallace to junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief, another from senior quarterback Barry Brunetti to redshirt freshman tight end Matt Brown. On the other side of the ball, redshirt freshman defensive end John Youngblood dropped into coverage and intercepted Brunetti.


Another part of this drill was the shift from a base 4-2-5 defense with the Huskie position, to a base 4-3 defense with the Wolf linebacker, where junior Keith Lewis got first-team reps, along with senior Mike Mary at middle linebacker and sophomore Denzel Nkemdiche at Stinger linebacker.


"I see him having a big role on this defense," linebackers coach Tom Allen said of Lewis. "Keith is one of those guys who from a size-speed ratio has the best combination of that and does an excellent job. I want to see him be a big third-down linebacker for us and be on all our money packages in situations like third-and-long. 


"I believe he's a very good inside linebacker and can play in all our packages. He's going to be a guy whose role I see expanding and be able to make plays for us on Saturday."


A freshman All-American last season, Nkemdiche started all 12 games at Stinger linebacker and led the team with 82 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interception. Allen said he looks for Nkemdiche to improve with his leadership, preparation and being the total package.


"Last year, I think he was a guy that just made a lot of plays on Saturday, and he did that consistently, but I would like to see him be the guy that leads our defense, on and off the field," Allen said. "His energy and effort is never in question, but just making he eliminates mistakes. Leadership is part of that. And off the field, being a guy who we look to as a model of doing the little things right every single day."


In the base defense with Huskie position, Lewis slides to middle linebacker on the second team, and junior Serderius Bryant has gotten second-team reps at Stinger linebacker. Allen said Bryant has probably made the biggest jump from last season to this season.


"I think his knowledge has really improved," Allen said. "And he's one of the guys who changed his body and committed to the program, in the way he takes care of himself, and it's showing on the field. He's a step quicker. He's always been talented athletically, but with his knowledge of what he's doing now, as well as being physically better, it's showing up on tape."


Senior D.T. Shackelford has missed the last two seasons due to knee injuries. He returned in the spring and has mostly worked with the second-team and third-team defense in fall practice but got some first-team reps today. For Shackelford, Allen, said it's more mental than physical, specifically reacting split-second on the field and confidence in his knee.


"We met last night at length, and he feels good," Allen said. "He feels like that his knee is strong, and when you watch him moving around, you can tell he's better than we was in the spring. But it's a process with him, and we're trying to bring him along."


Early Look At Special Teams


Through six practices, all four special-team units -- punt, kickoff, punt return and kickoff return --have gotten work. Senior punter Tyler Campbell and senior kicker Andrew Ritter both redshirted last season, and Allen is pleased with their performance in fall practice.


"Right now, we're in the beginning stages of the process of putting in all of them schematically," Allen said of special teams. "I'm please with our kickers. Tyler is a guy who's very talented, and Andrew Ritter is doing a really god job for us.


"We have a lot of guys back from last year that played as freshmen and sophomores. So we're getting them ready, the depth chart set with coordination with our travel squad is the challenge right now. I feel like we're making progress and we're trying to work on it every practice and getting better."


In kickoff coverage drills, from left to right, not including kickoff specialist Ritter, the first-team unit consisted of freshman running Kailo Moore, sophomore cornerback Quintavius Burdette, junior linebacker Serderius Bryant, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, junior Keith Lewis, freshman Huskie Tony Connor, redshirt freshman Temario Strong, sophomore safety Chief Brown, sophomore wide receiver Cody Core and sophomore Mike Hilton.


On Tuesday, senior running back Jeff Scott, senior wide receiver Korvic Neat and sophomore safety Trae Elston all got reps as the deep men in punt return drills, and Allen said, right now, Scott is their starting punt returner for sure. The competition at kickoff returner is more wide open.


"Jaylen Walton is very talented and he's gotten himself physically bigger and stronger," Allen said. "I'm excited about I'Tavius Mathers and what he can do. And Kailo Moore, he's a threat back there. There are going to be a few other guys competing for that spot, but we got some speed back there that give us a chance to get a good return."


NOTABLE:


Senior offensive tackle Pierce Burton participated in team drills and got first-team reps at right tackle, so freshman Laremy Tunsil got second-team reps at left tackle, with redshirt freshman Robert Conyers at right tackle.


In the team competition, the offense won 13-12, with the offense winning the decisive point by drawing the defense offsides. 


Some of the highlights from the team competition: For the offense, freshman quarterback Devante Kincade had a pair of touchdown passes, one to freshman Laquon Treadwell and another to freshman Quincy Adeboyejo. For the defense, junior safety Cody Prewitt and sophomore safety Trae Elston each had an interception. 


In that same drill, Kincade got some reps with the first-team offense, including a nice sideline throw to junior wide receiver Donte Moncrief and the touchdown pass to Treadwell.


QUOTABLE


Freeze, on sophomore safety Trae Elston: Trae is really athletic, really solid. We expect him to have a great year. He kind of got his nose bloodied a little bit last year as a true freshman. He got a lot of experience, so hopefully he has a great year."


Elston, on the cornerback position: "I think our twos and threes are doing very well. It will be better when Charles and Senquez come back, so we're just trying to get better.


Elston, on freshman safety Derrick Jones and freshman cornerback Bobby Hill: "The freshmen are looking very good, very quick and fast, learning very quicly. DJ is a good athlete. Bobby is a physical athlete. They're both very good."


Allen, on the linebacker position: "I think several of them have improved themselves physically, in the way their bodies are shaped, and that excites me. I think the knowledge of what we did in the spring, building off of last season, and having so many guys back, I think we are able to move forward and not take steps backward."

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