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Spring Practice Rolls On For Ole Miss

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Ole Miss is now knee deep into spring ball and endured its fifth practice on Wednesday afternoon. Head coach Matt Luke says he has been pleased with the development of some the younger players in the early stagesof spring ball.

"The energy has been good," Luke said. "A lot of young guys have gone out there and shown the willingness to take coaching. That is really what I am looking for is to see who will step up. Which one of the young guys is going going to step up and play for us. Who of the older guys are going to step up and lead us? These are the things I am looking for."

The coaching staff has gotten its first glimpse of four-star quarterback Matt Corral over the last week. Luke says he's shown flashes and the talent is definitely there. It is about the consistency that welcome as he gets more acclimated to college football.

"He's been good," Luke said. "Maybe a little inconsistent through four days, but he should be in high school right now, so for him to be out there running the offense with the number two's is great. He has gone out there and made some really good plays and really good throws. A lot of it is installing the offense and there is a learning process there."

Corral has made a couple of complex reads and identified coverages well, which has allowed him to show the strength of his arm.

"The arm is really good," Luke said. "He is really talented. He can make all of the throws and has really good arm strength. It is can he be consistent? He has done well so far."

Defensively, Luke said he has been pleased with the linebackers, arguably the most important position for the Rebels to develop in the spring and into the fall.

"They're eager to learn and I thin they know everyone is watching them and their development. I think they have a chip on their shoulder and I like that about the group right now. They are making process and trying to get each other better," Luke said.

Detric Bing-Dukes and Willie Hibbler have been running with the first team, but the competition has been heating up.

"We need some size in the box," Luke said. "We need to be physical there. There is a lot of competition. Sanogo has been coming on strong. I have been really pleased with him."

The biggest surprise to Luke so far? Running backs Isaiah Woullard and junior college transfer Scottie Phillips.

"To me they have really flashed in the first four days," Luke said. "Those guys have hit a couple creases and have been really impressive."

The team has had the luxury of continuity in the sense that the same coordinators are still here and the same systems are in place. Its made installing packages easier as guys have retained information easier and made things room more smoothly.

"There is a lot of retention," Luke said. "Your day one install is actually probably three days worth of install compared to last spring just because there has been so much carryover. That is a positive."

The Rebels will be off at the end of this week through next week and will return the week after for nine more practices leading into The Grove Bowl.

Luke Discusses 2018 Team as Spring Practice Arrives

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The focus will be on players and not plays, Ole Miss head football coach Matt Luke proclaimed at his Tuesday press conference opening spring football, referring to how valuable the 15 practices the Rebels get are to developing younger players and building depth heading into the fall.

"We have a nice mix of experience yet are also focusing on some young guys and new guys getting quality reps and building depth," Luke said. "We really want to get these young guys reps to see what they can do."

While Luke noted the staff will expand on new schemes implemented last year on each side of the football, the continuity of having the same coordinators still in place will put them further along and leave more time for developing young talent.

"Since we kept the same systems we are going to be much further ahead from a schematic standpoint so we want to get these young guys who either redshirted or were on scout team last year some reps and work on building our depth," Luke said.

Luke went over who of the returning players will and will not participate in spring practice based on various offseason surgeries and injuries. Below is a list of where the players stand:

OFFENSE
Out: Dawson Knox, D.K. Buford. D'Vaughn Pennamon
Limited: Alex Givens, Demarcus Gregory (knee), Scottie Phillips, Sean Rawlings.

DEFENSE 
Out: Austrian Robinson, Benito Jones, Qaadir Sheppard
Limited: Ken Webster (groin), C.J. Miller

"They have minor injuries from training the last month and will be limited to start. It is nothing serious," Luke said of the limited participants. He also noted that he does not fear anyone missing time in the fall despite being held out for the spring.

This spring season will give the coaching staff a glimpse at a couple of players at new positions, like Armani Linton, who will transition from safety to running back in an effort to build depth with the departure of leading rusher Jordan Wilkins.

"He's just a big, talented athlete," Luke said. "When you have guys like that on the bus you just want to find the right seat for them. He is a very big athlete and is very intelligent. I think he can help us somewhere. He really came on last year on special teams. I think he needs to play somewhere and we are just trying to find the right spot."

Linton could move back to safety depending on how the transition goes, but Luke is optimistic this will be a good fit.

Brenden Williams moved from linebacker to defensive end and newcomer Vernon Dasher will move from linebacker to star, a hybrid linebacker with more coverage responsibilities.

Along with Linton, newcomer Scottie Phillips, who will be limited at the beginning of spring ball, is expected to immediately compete for playing time at running back. Phillips comes in as the number one rated junior college tailback in the country and will be thrust into a mix consisting of D'Vaughn Pennamon, Eric Swinney and D.K. Buford.

"Anytime you take a junior college player you are expecting him to compete for playing time," Luke said. "That's what we want to see. He is the number one junior college running back in the country. There is going to be a really good competition at running back."

Defensively, the number one priority will be developing linebackers, a spot in which Ole Miss lost leading tackler DeMarquis Gates and a position the Rebels were slightly thin at last season. Luke feels confident about veterans Detric Bing-Dukes and Willie Hibbler at this position, but after the addition of a recruiting class that brought in a slew of new linebackers he is excited to see what some of the younger guys have to offer at this position.

"Detric and Willie will start there, but really Mohamed Sanogo, Josh Clarke and Zikerrion Baker are the guys we want to see what they can do. It is going to be a huge spring for them," Luke said. "We have more guys coming from high school but they are not here yet. We really want to see what these young guys can do. I am cautiously optimistic about those guys because they have waited their turn. They have gotten stronger and have been in the system. I am excited to see them out there making calls and flying around."

Aside from that, Luke would like to put his stamp on this football team, something that was difficult to do in 2017 without an offseason to prepare. He wants to build on the momentum the end of the season brought and take full advantage of the 15 practices allotted to the team.

Football Welcomes 11 Mid-Year Enrollees

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2018 Spring Full Roster

Ole Miss had a total of 11 January enrollees that have begun taking classes and will participate in spring football practice.

Six of these players signed during the early singing period and moved to Oxford a month later. The other five are mid-year walk-ons.

Jacob Carter
James Coley
Jack Cooper
Matt Corral
Vernon Dasher
Ryan Drew
DeMarcus Gregory
John Lewis
Hal Northern
Scott Phillips
Isaiah Woullard

The group is headlined by Army All-American quarterback Matt Corral, who will get a head start in learning Phil Longo's and will have the opportunity to observe Jordan Ta'amu next fall. He's joined by wide receiver DeMarcus Gregory out of Duncan, S.C.

Vernon Dasher is an impact player at linebacker, a position of great need for the Rebels and Hal Northern is a physical interior defensive lineman that coaching staff is excited about.

Ole Miss opens the season next fall in Houston against Texas Tech.

SIDE NOTE: A few returning Rebels will sport new numbers this spring. Victor Evans (4), Mohamed Sanogo (7), Austrian Robinson (12) and Zikerrion Baker (14) all have switched jersey numbers.

A Closer Look: Special Teams

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Top Performers: Gary Wunderlich (17-21 FG made. Long of 49), Jaylon Jones (31 kick returns, 25 yards per return, one TD)

Returning in 2018: Luke Logan (So., 1L), (Isaac Way., SQ), Patrick Nasiakta (So., SQ), Jack Propst (So., 1L), Cole Becker (Fr., RS), Kamden Darney (Jr., SQ)

Newcomers in 2018: TBD

Losing from 2017 Team: Gary Wunderlich (graduation), Will Gleeson (graduation)

Looking back at 2017: The Ole Miss special teams was pretty solid on most fronts in 2017. Senior Gary Wunderlich made 17-of-21 field goal attempts, a feat even more impressive considering he battled a nagging groin injury for much of the year. Luke Logan went 2-for-3 in his absence. Wunderlich further cemented his legacy as one of the greatest kickers to play at Ole Miss. He was 64-of-77 for his career and is the all-time leading scorer in program history.

Will Gleeson averaged over 41 yards per punt and had three punts of over 50 yards. The Rebels returned just seven punts on the season for an average of 6.7 yards and Jaylon Jones took a kickoff return 97 yards for a score in the season opener against South Alabama. The Rebels weren't overly dynamic in the returning game, but were really good in all three phases of the kicking game. The task next season will be replacing two of the better specialists the team has had in recent memory in Gleeson and Wunderlich.

Looking ahead to 2018: Ole Miss' biggest challenge next season with regards to special teams will be replacing the likes of Gary Wunderlich and Will Gleeson. Wunderlich was one of the most accurate kickers in program history, and in a world of shaky college kickers, was a tremendous asset to the Rebels the last four years because of his consistency, particularly late in games. The most likely candidate to replace Wunderlich is Luke Logan, who made 2-of-3 field goals when Wunderlich was injured with a long of 25 yards. The rising sophomore will also likely retain kickoff duties. Last season he had 25 touchbacks in 76 attempts.

Gleeson also departs after a season in which he averaged 41.5 yards per kick. His likely successor will be sophomore Mac Brown who got his feet wet last season with five punts for a total of 211 yards. That is good for 42.2 yards per kick and his long was 54. It is a small sample size, but that will likely make the coaching staff feel a little bit better about the punting situation going into next season.

Jaylon Jones returns and will presumably handle the kickoff duties once again. A guy to look out for on both punt and kickoff returns is newcomer Elijah Moore. The speedy slot receiver flipped from Georgia to Ole Miss during the early signing period and Matt Luke noted his speed will be a unique weapon the Rebels have not had in a while both in the slot and as a punt returner. How Moore will impact the team as a freshman will get clearer during fall camp, but he's certainly an intriguing guy to keep an eye on.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Safeties

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Top Performers: Zedrick Woods (64 tackles, four break ups, four deflections) C.J. Moore (51 tackles, three interceptions) 

Returning in 2018: Zedrick Woods (Sr., 3L) Jaylon Jones (Jr., 2L), Cam Ordway (Sr., 3L), C.J. Moore (Sr., 3L), Armani Linton (Jr., 2L), A.J. Harris (Fr., RS), C.J Miller (So., 1L)

Newcomers in 2018: Cameron White (Fr., Madison Miss.)

Losing from 2017 Team: A.J. Moore (Graduation), C.J. Hampton (Graduation)

Looking back at 2017: If last year proved anything, it is that Zedrick Woods is the backbone of the Ole Miss secondary as a whole. The junior had four pass break ups, four deflections and 64 tackles on the season. Three of Ole Miss' top six tacklers in 2017 were safeties and four ranked amongst the top 10. C.J. Moore was right behind woods with 51 and three interceptions. This was overall a pretty solid group on the back end of the Rebels' defense. This unit helped hold opponents to 214 yards passing per game and just seven yards per attempt, meaning it was a little harder to hit receivers over the top of this secondary.

Jaylon Jones made a seamless transition from corner to safety, recording 34 tackles and a pair of break ups and deflections. The good news for the Rebels is that the majority of this group returns in 2018 to help solidify what should be a competitive pass defense with the entire two deep on the depth chart returning at cornerback.

Looking ahead to 2018: The loss of A.J. Moore at the star safety position definitely hurts Ole Miss, but outside of that they should feel pretty good with what they have returning in 2017. Woods, C.J. Moore and Jones should be a pretty formidable trio and the team also returns Cam Ordway. C.J. Miller is a young player the coaching staff is really high on and a guy that is expected to be right in the thick of the rotation going into fall camp.

The Rebels have the offseason to find a replacement for A.J. Moore and have a couple of solid options to do so. Miller will be the most interesting guy to keep an eye on throughout the spring and into fall camp, but Wesley McGriff and the defensive staff have to feel pretty confident in what they have coming back next season.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Cornerbacks

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This is the eighth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Myles Hartsfield (29 solo tackles, 14 assisted tackles, 43 total tackles, two interceptions four TFLs), Ken Webster (21 solo tackles, eight assisted tackles, 29 total tackles), Javien Hamilton (20 total tackles, three INTs)

Returning in 2018: Webster (Sr., 3L), Hamilton (Sr., 1L), Hartsfield (Jr., 2L), D.D. Bowie (So., 1L), Montrell Custis (Jr., 2L)

Newcomers in 2018: Kedrion Smith (Fr., Palm Beach, Fla.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Jalen Julius (Transfer)

Looking back at 2017: The first thing that really comes to mind when thinking of the Ole Miss defensive backs in 2017 is the resurgence of Ken Webster. The rising senior overcame a gruesome leg injury in the 2016 season opener, leaving some questioning whether he'd ever get back to full strength. Webster did that and then some this season. He had 29 tackles in 10 games and had a pair of break ups and passes deflections. Webster didn't get thrown on a whole lot, and that is certainly good news for the Rebels.

Outside of that, Javien Hamilton, a junior college transfer playing his first division one season was really good for the Rebels too. He had three interceptions five pass break ups and eight deflections. He was a tremendous addition to what was still a relatively young secondary last fall. Throw in Myles Hartsfield playing well in his first full season of starting and this was a pretty solid group.

The good news? Everyone in this group returns again in 2018.

Looking ahead to 2018: Given the fact the Rebels return their entire two deep depth chart at cornerback from a year ago, this group should be strong again in 2018. Ole Miss will have the senior leadership of Webster on the field with upperclassmen Hartsfield and Hamilton alongside him. The only loss in this group is Jalen Julius, who is transferring, but all starters return next season and Julius' role with the team at full strength would have been unclear. If Ole Miss can stay healthy, they should feel pretty good about they match up to most opponents' vertical passing game. Not to mention, it can't hurt this group goes up against the likes of D.K. Metcalf, Damarkus Lodge and A.J. Brown in practice on a daily basis.

The secondary as a whole picked off just eight passes in 2017, two of which came in the season finale against Mississippi State. It will be interesting to see how that number compares to the total next season with so much experience coming back on the outside at cornerback. The team should feel pretty good about where it stands at this position in 2018.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Linebackers

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This is the seventh of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: DeMarquis Gates (112 tackles, 2 sacks, 10 TFL)

Returning in 2018: Willie Hibbler (Jr., 2L), Josh Clarke (Fr., RS), Donta Evans (So., 1L), Zikerrion Baker (Fr., RS), Brenden Williams (Jr., 1L), Detric Bing-Dukes (Sr., 3L), Mohamed Sanogo (So., 1L), Jack Raborn (Sr., 1L), Ryan Labanc (Fr., RS)

Newcomers in 2018: Vernon Dasher (Jr., Coffeyville, Kan.), Jaquez Jones (Fr., Tuscaloosa, Ala.), Jonathan Hess (Fr., Vestavia Hills, Ala.)

Losing from 2017 Team: DeMarquis Gates (Graduation), Tayler Polk (Graduation)

Looking back at 2017: The Rebels struggled to stop opponents from running the football with consistent success, especially early on in the season. When running backs got into the second level, it was off to the races a lot of times. That being said, they did improve throughout the season and were partially the reason why the Rebels were playing their best football at the end of the season.

The team did not have much depth or experience at this position outside of DeMarquis Gates, who was phenomenal in his final season. Gates led the team with 112 tackles and the next closest player was 55 tackles behind him. He played with two injured shoulders and flew all over the field. Gates' legacy at Ole Miss will eventually be one of the all-time greats to play linebacker and rightfully so. Walk-on Tayler Polk will also be remembered favorably for his play in the final games of his career. He led the team in tackles in two of the last three games. Polk, admittedly, was not the biggest or fastest player on the field, but played with a high motor, overcame some fairly steep odds and had a fine career.

That said being said, Ole Miss struggled at this position because of a lack-of-depth and experience.

Looking ahead to 2018: Ole Miss lost both starting linebackers from the 2017 squad and doesn't return a lot of experience in 2018. To his credit, Matt Luke addressed this the best way he could once he found out he got the job. He signed three linebackers in the early signing period.

There are some younger guys on this team that got some experience last year with Donta Evans being the first that comes to mind. Ole Miss desperately needs Detric Bing-Dukes to take on a greater role as a senior just as they need guys like Brenden Williams, Willie Hibbler and Mohamed Sanogo to develop quickly. It's hard to completely fix this position in one offseason, but Luke is doing all he can and has some interesting options going into the spring.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Defensive Line

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This is the sixth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Breeland Speaks (27 solo tackles, 40 assisted tackles, 67 total tackles, 10 TFLs, two sacks), Marquis Haynes (27 solo tackles, 18 assisted tackles, 48 total tackles, 11 TFLs, 7.5 sacks, three forces fumbles)

Returning in 2018: Victor Evans (Sr., 3L), Markel Winters (Sr., 1L), Shawn Curtis (Jr., 2L), Amani Johnson (Fr., RS), Ryder Anderson (So., 1L), Qaadir Sheppard (Jr., 1L), Charles Wiley (So., 1L), Garrald McDowell (Sr., 3L), Josiah Coatney (Jr., 1L), Austrian Robinson (Jr., 2L), Ross Donelly (Sr., 3L), Sincere David (Fr., RS), Benito Jones (Jr., 2L), Jordan Hebert (Sr., 2L)

Newcomers in 2018: James Williams (Fr., Jackson, Miss.), Jalen Cunningham (Fr.,Odenville, Ala.), Hal Northern (Jr., Senatobia, Miss.), KD Hill (Fr., Eufaula,Ala.), Quinten Bivens (Fr., Waynesboro, Miss.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Breeland Speaks (NFL Draft), Marquis Haynes (Graduation), Herbert Moore (Graduation)

Looking back at 2017: The 2017 Ole Miss defensive line was the strongest part of a defense that struggled to stop the run early in the season, but improved dramatically down the stretch. Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks anchored this unit and were the Rebels' two best pass rushers. Junior college transfer Josiah Coatney had 65 tackles on the interior defensive line. The Rebels were deeper on the defensive line than they were on any position on the field. It got contributions from Ryder Anderson and Victor Evans on the outside at defensive end and Ross Donnelly and Austrian Robinson on the interior at defensive tackle.

Both Haynes and Speaks had big games in Ole Miss' memorable Egg Bowl win on Thanksgiving night, a fitting end to a productive season as well as the last game of their Ole Miss careers.

Looking ahead to 2018: On the surface, it would appear that Ole Miss has some holes to fill on the defensive line, particularly on the outside. The departure of Speaks and Haynes means the Rebels will have to find a way to replace 12.5 sacks and 112 tackles. That's quite a lot. They were two of the best players on the 2017 defense and replacing them will be tough. Victor Evans does return with a decent amount of experience, as he was a starter when healthy. He only played in five games in 2017. Ryder Anderson and Qaadir Sheppard -- who battled injuries for most of the season -- will see their roles increased dramatically next season. Markel Winters will also be in the mix as well. Anderson in particular showed promise last season and it was hard to gauge Sheppard's effectiveness due to him being injured. At least one of these names will need to become a formidable pass rusher for the Rebels next season.

The prognosis on the interior is a little better. Benito Jones is a former top-100 recruit that battled a shoulder injury for most of the season and his production was hindered as a result. Coatney, as mentioned earlier, was really good for the Rebels last year. Behind them is where Ole Miss will need to develop some depth. Sincere David redshirted a year ago as he tries to make the transition from offensive to defensive lines. Ross Donnelly and Austrian Robinson got some playing time last fall and will likely take on greater roles next season.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Offensive Line

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This is the fifth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Returning in 2018: Greg Little (Jr., 2L), Sean Rawlings (Sr., 3L), Javon Patterson (Sr., 3L), Ben Brown (Fr., RS), Samuel Plash (Fr., RS), Peyton Cox (Fr., RS), Alex Givens (Jr., 2L), Chandler Tuitt (So., 1L), Jordan Sims (Sr., 3L), Bryce Mathews (So., 1L), Royce Newman (So., 1L), Tony Gray (Fr., RS), Eli Johnson (So., 1L)

Newcomers in 2018: TBD

Losing from 2017 Team: Jack DeFoor (transfer), Daronte Bouldin (graduation), Rod Taylor (graduation)

Looking back at 2017: The Rebel offensive line was a pretty solid unit in 2017, particularly considering some of the attrition it endured throughout the season. The Rebels struggled to run the football early in the season, but eventually hit their stride. The offensive line helped Jordan Wilkins become the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2009. Greg Little is on the fast track to becoming an NFL left tackle and guys like Sean Rawlings, Jordan Sims, Alex Givens and Javon Patterson are all battled-tested and were good for the Rebels in 2017.

With the number of guys the coaching staff was able to redshirt, Ole Miss should feel pretty good about its depth at this position next season.

Looking ahead to 2018: This offensive line unit should be even stronger for Ole Miss in 2017. It returns every starter with the exception of Rod Taylor at right tackle. The loss of Daronte Bouldin will hurt because of his versatility and the flexibility he gave offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr., but Jordan Sims and Sean Rawlings have experience playing multiple positions. For example, Sims played center in a couple of games when Rawlings was injured.

This will be a starting unit of all upperclassmen who have played a lot of football together, with the exception of rising sophomore Royce Newman, who will presumably take over Taylor's duties at right tackle. The coaching staff is excited about the future of some of the guys that were able to redshirt last year like Ben Brown, as well as rising sophomores Chandler Tuitt and Bryce Matthews. The Rebels also get backup center Eli Johnson back from an ACL injury.

The argument could be made that this will be Ole Miss' most stable unit on either side of the football aside from the wide receivers. This is a group with a lot of seasoned veterans that will help the Rebels immensely at the line of scrimmage next season. It will help the Rebels immensely at the line of scrimmage next season.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Tight Ends

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This is the fourth of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Dawson Knox (10 catches, 324 yards)

Returning in 2018: Knox (Jr., 2L), Octavious Cooley (Jr., 2L), Michael Howard (Jr., 2L), Jacob Mathis (So., SQ), Gabe Angel (So., 1L), Nick Haynes (So., SQ)

Newcomers in 2018: TBD

Losing from 2017 Team: Ty Quick (graduation)

Looking back at 2017: Evan Engram left a crater-sized hole to be filled here as the Rebels entered fall camp, and no one was realistically expecting for Engram's production to be matched or even close to it. But Dawson Knox was really good for Ole Miss when he was on the field.

Knox caught 24 balls for 321 yards in 10 games for the Rebels. He injured his foot in fall camp and missed the first two games of the season, but came back when the Rebels were at Cal. Knox's production in the first half at Auburn was really where he presence was felt in the offense for the first time. He provided a large target over the middle of the field for both quarterbacks and was pretty sure-handed.Knox played quarterback in high school and won a slam dunk competition as well. He's a really good athlete and being 6-foot-4, 250 pounds doesn't hurt either.

Octavious Cooley appeared 10 games and caught four passes, but Knox saw most of the snaps at this position.

Looking ahead to 2018: This position should look similar to last year if Knox is healthy. He won't be a focal point of the offense necessarily and isn't being asked to be given the talent at wide receiver. But Knox will be a significant part of the Phil Longo's offense and a productive one at that. His size and athleticism make him pretty versatile and are another way Ole Miss can beat opponents in the vertical passing game. He will be a reliable target for Jordan Ta'amu again in 2018.

Elsewhere, Michael Howard and Octavious Cooley are back and should see some time at tight end too. Howard is used a lot as a blocker and Cooley showed signs last year. It will still be Knox's job primarily in 2018.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

Luke Named Grand Marshal of Biloxi's Mardi Gras Parade

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Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke will return to home to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in February. Luke was named the Neptune Parade Grand Marshal and will lead the Krew of Neptune's annual Mardi Gras Parade.

The parade is scheduled for Feb 10 at 5:30 p.m. in downtown Biloxi.

It's been quite the year for Luke, who was named permanent head coach of the Rebels in November and was recently featured on ESPN's Coaches Film Room during the college football national championship game as a part of ESPN's Megacast coverage of the event.

A Closer Look: Wide Receivers

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This is the third of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performers: A.J. Brown (75 catches, 1,252 yards, 11 touchdowns), DaMarkus Lodge (41 catches, 698 yards, seven TDs) & D.K. Metcalf (39 catches, 646 yards, seven TDs)

Returning in 2018: Brown (Jr., 2L), Lodge (Sr., 3L), Metcalf (So.,1L), Braylon Sanders (So., 1L), Floyd Allen (Sr., 1L), Jared Farlow (Fr., RS), Josh Ricketts (Fr., RS), Kam White (Fr. RS,) Alex Weber (Sr., 3L), Drake Beck (Fr., RS), Garrett Styles (Fr., RS)

Newcomers in 2018: Demarcus Gregory (Fr., Duncan, S.C.), Elijah Moore (Fr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Markell Pack (Graduation), Van Jefferson (Transfer), Tre Nixon (Transfer).

Looking back at 2017: The heartbeat of Phil Longo's air raid offense was undoubtedly found on the perimeter at wide receiver. In 2017, Ole Miss boasted one of the nation's most talented receiving corps, compiling an average of 328 receiving yards per game and 14 yards per catch.

A.J. Brown took the SEC by storm. Brown ranked first in the SEC and 10th nationally with his Ole Miss single-season record 1,252 receiving yards. Brown, the 2017 Connerly Trophy winner, hauled in an SEC best 11 touchdowns, tied for the most in a single season by an Ole Miss player.

DaMarkus Lodge and D.K. Metcalf also put up big numbers of their own with both hauling in seven TDs and tallying more than 640 receiving yards apiece.

The receiving corps totaled a remarkable 11 plays of 50 plus yards and 30 of at least 30 yards. Ole Miss was dynamic in the passing game and hit its stride as an offense when the running game came along in the latter part of the season. The ability to have Lodge, Metcalf and Brown on the field at the same time equated to a match up nightmare for opposing defenses. Ole Miss relied more on its receiving corps than any other position on the field and the gifted group delivered.

Looking ahead to 2018: Ideally, Ole Miss would like 2018 to mirror 2017 in terms of the production and involvement of the receiving corps in the offense. One could make the argument the Rebels will rely even more on this group due to the loss of Jordan Wilkins in the backfield and the running game being a little uncertain.

It will be interesting to see how sophomore Braylon Sanders -- a guy the coaching staff has been high on -- is incorporated into the offense next season. Will he have more of a role and if so how much bigger is that role? It seems unclear right now given that the Rebels return three of their top four receivers, but still an interesting prospect to keep an eye on. Newcomer Elijah Moore is also another interesting guy to watch next year because of his speed. Matt Luke said he could potentially be a dynamic punt returner for the Rebels and also gives them a speedy option in the slot. It's worth reiterating that slot receiver Van Jefferson will not be back next season.

When Shea Patterson went down with a knee injury against LSU, Jordan Ta'amu slid in and made a smooth transition at signal caller. He showed good chemistry with the wide receivers quickly and his 14-play, 71-yard game- winning drive at Kentucky, capped off by a well-placed ball to D.K. Metcalf showed his uncanny calmness in big moments. Given the reaction of the team after the game, that moment showed them a lot about Ta'amu.

If the last five games of the 2017 season were any indicator, Ta'amu and the Ole Miss receiving corps will be dynamic in the passing game again in 2018.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Quarterbacks

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This is the second of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Jordan Ta'amu (115-of-173, 1,682 yards, 11 touchdowns, four interceptions)

Returning in 2018: Ta'amu (Sr., 1L), Jason Pellerin (Jr., 2L), Alex Faniel (Fr., RS), Grant Restmeyer (So, SQ), Graham Lindman (Sr., SQ)

Newcomers in 2018: Matt Corral (Fr., Long Beach Poly, Calif.)

Losing from 2017 Team: Shea Patterson (Transfer)

Looking back at 2017: With all the adversity hurled in its path last season, one of the more remarkable things Ole Miss was able to do was make a seamless transition at signal caller halfway through the season. When Shea Patterson's knee buckled in the first half against LSU, a play that would result in him missing the remainder of the season with a torn PCL, Ole Miss coaches called upon junior college transfer Jordan Ta'amu to right the ship.

The junior quarterback stepped in and led Ole Miss down the field to kick a field goal before halftime, and later led a scoring drive in the fourth quarter in a loss to the Tigers. It was the beginning of a transition that saw Ta'amu add a spark to the Ole Miss offense. He completed 66 percent of his passes, tossed 11 touchdowns and threw just four interceptions over a five-game stretch that saw him compile 1,682 yards. Phil Longo's offense became more cohesive upon Ta'amu's insertion. He was a direct runner and consistently made good reads in a system that hinges on run-pass options. His uncanny composure surfaced when he led a game-winning drive against Kentucky in Lexington. Ta'amu led the Rebels to a 3-2 record that culminated with an Egg Bowl win. More so than anything, he provided a sense of security in a season and offseason littered with uncertainty.

Looking ahead to 2018: This is Ta'amu's offense going into next year. His five-game audition showed he is a good fit in Longo's offense and has a knack for making the big play when his team needs one. He will have another offseason to progress as a passer and returns a plethora of talent at wide receiver. Ta'amu will also go into the spring and summer with the advantage of knowing he is the guy.

One of Matt Luke's first splashes as permanent head coach came by signing four-star quarterback Matt Corral. The Army All-American is a tremendous arm talent and gives Ole Miss something to build around in the future. He'll arrive on campus this month and participate in spring practice. He'll be a viable option should Ta'amu get injured, but it is certainly the latter's offense to control in 2018. 

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

A Closer Look: Running Backs

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This is the first of a 10-part position-by-position series looking back at the 2017 season, as well as previewing what lies ahead for Ole Miss football in 2018.

Top Performer: Jordan Wilkins (155 carries, 1,011 rushing yards (6.5 avg.), nine rushing TDs, 26 receptions, 241 receiving yards, one receiving TD)

Returning in 2018: D'Vaughn Pennamon [injured] (Jr., 2L), Eric Swinney (Jr., 2L), D.K. Buford (Sr., 3L), KeShun Wells (Jr., SQ)

Newcomers in 2018: Scottie Phillips (So., Jones County JC, Mid-Year Enrollee), Isaiah Woullard (Fr., Mid-Year Enrollee)

Losing from 2017 Team: Jordan Wilkins (Graduation), Eugene Brazley (Graduation)

Looking Back at 2017: Running the football was an issue for Ole Miss in the first month of the season and Phil Longo's offense struggled to gel as a result.

But as the Rebels got deeper into the season -- and got past the likes of Alabama and Auburn on their schedule -- the team found a way to resurrect the running game. Ole Miss rushed the football for 380 yards on 132 attempts in its first five games of the season last year. Over the final seven games of the season, the Rebels ran for 1,227 yards on 238 touches that was good for 5.15 yards per carry.

There were a number of factors that contributed to this. It naturally took some time for Longo to find out what calls worked best with his personnel. Some of it was simply the opposing run defenses Ole Miss faced in the back end of its schedule. Some of it was Jordan Ta'amu stepping in at quarterback when Shea Patterson went down with an injury. The offense became more cohesive with Ta'amu and it was clear his decision making in the running and passing game helped out. A lot of it was just how good Jordan Wilkins was for the Rebels down the stretch. Wilkins ran for 1,011 yards in his final season as a Rebel on 155 carries and scored nine times. He battled through a painful planter fascia injury in his foot and was key in helping Ole Miss find some semblance of balance in an offense loaded with receiving talent on the perimeter.

As a team, Ole Miss' 2017 running game as a whole could be labeled successful. The team rushed for 1607 yards, good for 4.3 yards per carry and 19 touchdowns. Wilkins was the first 1,000-yard rusher since Dexter McCluster in 2009.

Looking Ahead to 2018: It begs the question: What will the Rebels look like at this position next year? With an offense that hinges on run-pass-options, it is certainly an important one. The departure of Wilkins is a big loss. There's no getting around that given that he accounted for 41 percent of the team's carries and 62 percent of the yards. The Rebels also lose a speedy back in Eugene Brazley, who was used sparingly last year and tallied only six touches. Ole Miss does bring back D'Vaughn Pennamon and Eric Swinney-- essentially carried what was left of the rushing workload behind Wilkins. Pennamon carried the football 53 times for 227 yards while Swinney ran 41 times for 209 yards. Both were pretty highly regarded recruits coming out of high school, but have not yet been asked to shoulder much of the weight of the running game yet in their careers.

Pennamon suffered a leg injury against Texas A&M and his timeline for returning is not clear. Swinney is no stranger to injuries himself. This was his first healthy season in Oxford after enduring two catastrophic knee injuries the previous two seasons. Matt Luke and his staff were able to reel in the top junior college running back in the country in Scott Phillips, who signed in the December signing period and is expected to contribute next fall. Phillips, who is a mid-year enrollee, ran for 1,122 yards on 222 carries at Jones Country Junior College last season and Ole Miss is hoping he will get acclimated to the division one level quickly.

This trio is who Ole Miss will primarily look to replace the productions Wilkins gave them. There isn't a lot of experience between them, but Pennamon and Swinney do have 115 carries between them in their careers and have a couple years of experience in the program. Phillips is a talented, powerful back at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds. The Rebels have some intriguing options to fill the void Wilkins leaves, but it is undoubtedly a big one at that.

A Closer Look:
- Running Backs (Jan. 8)
- Quarterbacks (Jan. 9)
- Wide Receivers (Jan. 10)
- Tight Ends (Jan. 11)
- Offensive Line (Jan. 15)
- Defensive Line (Jan. 16)
- Linebackers (Jan. 17)
- Cornerbacks (Jan. 18)
- Safeties (Jan. 19)
- Special Teams (Jan. 22)

Luke to be Part of Coaches Film Room During National Title Game

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Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke will participate in ESPN's Coaches Film room during Monday night's national championship game between Georgia and Alabama.

The Coaches Film room is part of ESPN's MegaCast for the championship game that includes 20 different productions of the game. These alternative productions will be available across at least 10 different platforms and all will be available on the WatchEspn App. Luke will be joined by numerous head coaches from across the country including the the likes of Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, Colorado State's Mike Bobo, Kevin Sumlin and former Ole Miss head coach and current Duke head coach David Cutlciffe among others. Luke played his final collegiate game for Cutcliffe 1998.

It is the fifth edition of this MegaCast that includes the Coaches Film room and has been popular enough that ESPN offered the broadcast during the two playoff games for the first time. The coaches will watch the game together and discuss the various intricacies of the game like breaking down X's and O's and sharing their insight. It will be broadcast on ESPNNEWS and will feature limited commercial breaks. Luke will also be on the Coaches Film Room Pregame show on ESPN2.

Kickoff between Georgia and Alabama is slated for 7 p.m.

NFL Rebels: Adeboyejo's Christmas Surprise

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The waiter began removing the clean plates and silverware from the three empty seats on the white cloth. There was no need for them. The only chair occupied at this four-person table at Sonny Lee's Hunan Taste restaurant in Owings Mills, Maryland, was the one Ravens' wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo sat in.

Here he sat nearly 1,400 miles away from home trying to make a living and a name for himself in the National Football League, left alone on a frigid Christmas Eve with nothing but a few somber thoughts that come naturally with being alone during the holiday season. It had been an adventurous, yet trying rookie season in which he battled a PCL injury that's prevented him from suiting up in a regular season game. Adeboyejo wasn't selected in the NFL draft. He signed as an undrafted free agent this spring.

He made a splash in training camp and regularly stood out in the eyes of the coaching staff. He tried to play through the pain of the injury during preseason games and was not as effective as a result.

"It has been a long year," Adeboyejo said. "It took a toll on me, mentally just not being able to perform."

Life on an NFL practice squad isn't necessarily a glamorous one. It is a group of ten players that practice with the team throughout the week but are not eligible to be active on gameday. They fall under a different salary threshold as well. Practice squad players are required to be paid at least $7,200 per week with most teams trying to stick near that minimum. It is all the physical rigors of playing in the NFL without the thrill of game action.

Out of the corner of his eye a few tables away, Scott Steinberg noticed the server hauling off the plates and Adeboyejo sitting alone. It was a depressing enough sight to call him into action.

"He sits down and I can see there is no one else joining him," Steingberg said. "I'm like gosh, it is Christmas Eve. No one is allowed to eat alone on Christmas Eve. That is just not acceptable."

Steinberg was dining with his wife, his son and his in-laws. He contemplated with them about inviting Adeboyejo to their table. His son Jake was a bit embarrassed at first and thought they might be bothering a man with some headphones in looking for some peace and quiet. That was not the case. Who wants to be alone on Christmas Eve? Steinberg walked over to the party of one and extended an invite.

"He was like 'Oh yes, absolutely. Thank you' and made a beeline to our table," Steinberg said.

He noticed Adeboyejo's Ravens' stitched cap with a number on it. Aside from a Google search to see who this number 16 was, Steinberg knew nothing about Adeboyejo other than he looked like a lonely soul in a new city missing his family.

"I was thinking about my kids and my life," Steinberg said. "Just out of college I moved to a city where I didn't know anyone and had a lot of meals by myself. It really does stink."

The Steinberg family is Jewish. They do not celebrate Christmas in any way. They don't have lights strung outside their home and they don't open gifts under a tree. But they respect and understand the traditions of Christmas and that comes from being around loved ones during the holiday season.

"A holiday is a holiday," Steinberg said. "We wanted him to feel like he had family even though we had just met. We just wanted him to feel like he was one of us in our family."

So here in this Chinese restaurant sat a Jewish family of mostly Penn State graduates with a 22-year-old Texas native that graduated in the heart of SEC Country. They were from different parts of the country with different backgrounds and had known Adeboyejo for all of two minutes. What did they talk about?

College football, of course.

"We believe the Big Ten is the best conference in the country," Steinberg said. "We believe Penn State is the best place to see a game. We are huge college football fans. Oxford and State College are probably very similar in terms of how a Saturday feels in terms of the excitement and the crowds in a small town."

It turns out, they quite a few things in common. Jake is a senior in high school and is a soccer player. He would like to play college soccer. Adeboyejo gave him some encouragement regarding recruiting, noting that he was a late-blooming recruit and was exploring other options until Ole Miss came into the picture towards the end of the process.

"I kind of talked to him about how I was in the same boat," Adeboyejo said. "I was not really recruited at first, but I just put my head down and kept working. I told him that is all he can do - keep working, so when the opportunity does come, you'll be ready for it."

The two also discussed their love of video games like FIFA Soccer. They discovered they can't play against one another because Adeboyejo operates the sticks on a Playstation 4 while Jake is team Xbox.

The Steinberg's peppered Adeboyejo with questions about football and life in the NFL. After they got home, they searched his highlights and realized Adeboyejo was a part of one of the more iconic college football plays of the last couple of years, a 66-yard juggling touchdown catch that bounced off two players in a win over Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"We went home and my son googled it," Steinberg recalled. "We were like 'Oh my God. He's THAT guy. That is crazy!"

Being regulars at Sonny Lee's, they helped him order and gave him food recommendations around town as they passed around egg rolls. The two parties told stories of their backgrounds and their life paths. Scott is a Philadelphia native and works in finance. His wife Amy is a contractor in cybersecurity for the federal government.

"It was great," Adeboyejo said. "We talked about a lot of different things. We got to know each other. We learned about the type of things we do."

Adeboyejo talked about his family and how they haven't been able to come visit much being so far away and with him being sidelined with an injury for most of the year.

As they got up to go their separate ways at the end of the nearly 90-minute meal, they felt like old friends.

There's a tradition at Sonny Lee's. Towards the front door of the restaurant there's a bowl of uncooked rice. On the way out, a guest grabs a handful of rice and tosses it over their shoulder for good luck. The Steinbergs did so and insisted Quincy follow suit. He didn't think much about it.

The new friends took a couple of photos and went their separate ways. Quincy returned to the grind of being on the practice squad in the NFL.

Two days later, the day after Christmas, Adeboyejo was asleep when his phone buzzed. He recognized number. It was Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome. Adeboyejo was about to get a late Christmas present. He was being promoted to the 53-man roster. Adeboyejo is going to suit up for his first official NFL game this Sunday.

"I just had to be patient. I know it's a numbers thing at times," Adeboyejo said. "I got the call. It was a dream come true."

Adeboyejo's newest fans were pretty excited at the news a well.

"We are taking full credit," Steinberg joked, referencing the rice tossing. "We were just thrilled for him. He is just such a nice person and so friendly. We were just really happy for him."

Adeboyejo has certainly had quite an eventful week. It all began with a random act of kindness from a stranger he previously knew nothing about. It was a small offering, but certainly one that lifted Adeboyejo's spirits when being alone during the holiday season can easily dampen them. He realized a dream and made a couple new friends in the process.

"It was a very small gesture," Steinberg said. "It is not like it put us out of our way. The most important thing is we found out how nice of a kid he is. He has a big heart. We met a nice person and whether he plays for the Ravens or not, it doesn't really matter. It was great for us to have that opportunity."

Gates Recognized at Jackson TD Club Dinner

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JACKSON, Miss. -Days after playing his final game in an Ole Miss uniform, Gates made his way to down to Jackson to be presented with the Jackson Touchdown Club's Most Valuable Senior Award Monday night.

The award is exhibited to the most outstanding leader on each team and is selected by the coaching staff. Gates accepted the award at the River Hills Tennis Club.

The senior linebacker played this year through a slew of injuries including two battered shoulders. He compiled 114 total tackles and was the first Ole Miss player to record 100 tackles in a season since Patrick Willis.

He finished his decorated career with 282 total tackles and six sacks. Gates played in at least 11 games every year he was on the team. He has led the team in tackles each of the last three seasons.

Luke Ready for Opportunity at 'Dream Job'


Matt Luke & Family

OXFORD, Miss. - Matt Luke gripped the podium and grinned toward a crowd of media after being introduced by Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Ross Bjork as Ole Miss' next head football coach. With tears in his eyes, the 41-year-old turned to his right to thank his wife and two kids. He also turned to his left to thank Bjork and Chancellor Dr. Jeff Vitter for an opportunity that fulfilled his dream.

At some point after Ole Miss' 31-28 win in the Egg Bowl last Thursday night, some time during the more than five-hour long window Bjork sat in a room with Luke - a period that spanned from Friday to Saturday night - Bjork decided that the head coach he'd been searching for since late July was sitting in front of him and had been for the last five months.

"I really saw the beginning of a culture change," Bjork said. "That was pretty impressive. And the fact, ultimately, that he stuck in there and won in the end and never gave up is a huge sign that this coach is pretty special."

His Ole Miss connections aside, Luke sold Bjork on a plan, a vision for his alma mater's football program that is trying to navigate through a period of NCAA-infused turmoil, something made a search for a coach even murkier than it already was.

"It is impossible to quantify how much angst and uncertainty that our NCAA case has impacted our fans, let alone a coaching change in July," Bjork said. "I take ownership in everything that happens in our program, good and bad. I am sorry that our great University and the Ole Miss family have endured so much. This is a first step towards moving forward and the next step is one day closer."

Bjork seemed set that Luke was the man to help Ole Miss find more stable ground. He made it clear on Monday that Luke's plan was the most detailed, impressive and plausible of the eight candidates he engaged with. Bjork said the search was extensive and exhausted all reasonable options.

Luke had the benefit of a four-month long interview on the field, but he wasn't selected because it felt like the safe choice. It was what was said in that room on campus between them in those two days, the plan Luke outlined to Bjork on Friday night and reinforced after a night of sleep on Saturday, is what earned him the keys to his dream job at 41-years-old and just 12 games of experience under his belt. By Sunday morning, Bjork consulted with Vitter and went through the other possible avenues. By the early hours of that afternoon it was clear to them they'd found their man.

"I talked about my vision for this program," Luke said. "To me, building and changing this culture, the NCAA is not going to affect that. We've been through a lot of adversity, and we're going to come through this no matter what. But it's going to take hard work, discipline and toughness."

It is a hire that may be perceived as a gamble by some, but after months of instability, Luke sold Bjork on his workman-like mentality and a desire to rebuild this program from the ground up, including its battered image.

"He will evaluate our current program and make the necessary changes," Bjork said. "He will bring accountability, structure and continue to change the culture in the program. His tough-minded, no-nonsense attitude, his blue-collar approach, his non-stop year round work ethic is exactly what we need for our program. Coach Luke improved our team from last year, despite only having one week to prepare for the job."

Luke realized a dream on Monday. He can permanently move into to the office a few doors down from where he stood grasping the podium with excitement. It will come with challenges. He is coaching in the toughest division in college football against the best coaches in the profession. The looming NCAA sanctions, no matter how light or severe, will serve as one as well. That hasn't deterred him from believing in the plan he sold Bjork on.

"Ole Miss sells itself, and there are people who want to be at Ole miss," Luke said. "There is some uncertainty. People are waiting to see what happens. But there is a lot of interest and we're going to be right there either way. We only have 12 seniors. We only have 14-17 scholarships based on attrition for this class. We're going to be fine in this class."

It also hasn't intimidated him into trying to be someone he is not.

Luke's final days as a player at Ole Miss in 1998 saw him play the role as a translator between David Cutcliffe's new staff and his team in preparation for a bowl game after Tommy Tuberville's abrupt departure following the Egg Bowl.

He played with a severe MCL injury and stood in the offensive and defensive huddles trying to foster communication between his team and the unfamiliar staff. It was those three weeks of bowl practice that forged his desire to become a coach.

Luke has spoken with Cutcliffe, Tuberville and many of his other mentors in the recent days as he's tried to process what has been handed to him. They all had a similar message. They told him to be himself and that it was good enough because he was ready. That's all Luke has tried to do from the beginning when he stepped to the plate with his university in a tight spot. It was good enough to be the glue that held the program together despite a season that was set up for failure. It was good enough to give him a fair shot at landing the job. Ultimately, it was good enough to earn it.

"From the very beginning of this on July 20th to right now, I've held true to that and I've been myself," Luke said. "The beauty of it is that I've been raised under a lot of good head coaches and I've had a lot of great experiences. I've tried to take the best from every single person I've been around, put that in with my love for Ole Miss, and you have your own coaching style."

Bjork bought into Luke's vision and the two will be seen as steering this ship together. For the last six months, he's searched all over to find the right fit for the Rebels. He thinks he has found one in Luke's four-month long interview.

"The players believe in him," Bjork said. "Envision, with a full offseason to recruit, make the right adjustments, we can see that his plan will translate to success."

Brown Shines in Return to Starkville

A.J. Brown - 2017 Egg Bowl

STARKVILLE, Miss. - A.J. Brown gathered his teammates in the visitors tunnel in the moments before Ole Miss took the field on Saturday night at Davis-Wade Stadium in the Egg Bowl. He swatted their shoulder pads and told them to lock in. He took his helmet off so they could see his face and delivered a message to his team that portrayed how he felt about the next 60 minutes.

This game meant more to him. Brown grew up miles from the stadium. He chose Ole Miss over his hometown Bulldogs, a decision that spurned criticism and chiseled a chip on his shoulder.

"I knew there were a lot of eyes on me," Brown said. "I just wanted to keep my cool, avoid the pushing and shoving and play my game.

His coach knew this would be a unique day for him.

"I knew he was going to be emotional coming back home," Matt Luke said. "I told him let's go out and enjoy this. We have 60 minutes left together, let's just go out and enjoy this."

The sophomore wide receiver made his presence felt from the time the clock began to run. He caught a 50-yard pass on the second play from scrimmage that set up an Ole Miss touchdown a play later. He caught a 77-yard deep ball for a score from Jordan Ta'amu that gave the Rebels a boost in momentum after Mississippi State narrowed the gap. The sophomore wide receiver caught six passes for 167 yards and the one touchdown in an emotional return to Starkville. He helped Ole Miss reclaim the Golden Egg Trophy.

"It was really huge," Brown said. "This wasn't just me. This was for the seniors."

Brown didn't practice this week while dealing with a hamstring issue. He wanted to be ready for this game.

"I was really antsy all week," Brown said. "I just wanted to do something."

The 77-yard touchdown looked like a sure overthrow out of the hand of Ta'amu. Brown jolted forward with a burst of speed, somehow caught up to the football and raced to the end zone.

"I thought he overthrew me," Brown said. "I didn't know what to think. I just knew I had to run. I don't know how I caught the ball."

Luke shared the same viewpoint while the football was in the air. He did not think there was any way Brown was going to be able to catch up to it.

"I thought it was overthrown with me me standing on the sideline," Luke said. "He wanted it and he just went and got it."

He relished the silence of the stadium after his touchdown catch and acknowledged this was something he'd been thinking about for two years, a return to Starkville where he made his decision to come to Ole Miss.

"I knew I was going to come back here," Brown said. "I thought about it a lot and it felt great."

 Brown was overjoyed in the mob of players trying to put their hands on the Golden Egg trophy.

"We were really excited about this win," Brown said. "We had to get the Egg Bowl back."

The proverbial chip on Brown's was fueled by some of the things he heard from people back home. It motivated him to muster the performance he had. It's one he will remember for some time to come.

"I had a chip on my shoulder coming into this game being from Starkville," Brown said. "It felt great. It really did."

Five Rebels Tabbed Preseason All-SEC in The Birmingham News

Five Ole Miss Rebels were chosen as preseason All-SEC selections by some of the people who work closest with the student-athletes, the football media relations directors. The 14 football media relations directors of the Southeastern Conference institutions voted in the 69th annual AL.com/Birmingham News SEC Preseason Football Report, and five Rebels were tabbed worthy of all-conference accolades.

S Tony Conner, TE Evan Engram, DL Robert Nkemdiche and OT Laremy Tunsil were on the preseason All-SEC First Team, while WR Laquon Treadwell was on the second team. In addition to being named to the first team all-conference list, Conner was predicted to be the best safety in the league. The media relations directors also believed Tunsil will turn out to be the top offensive lineman in the SEC. On defense, Nkemdiche claimed runner-up as the SEC's best defensive lineman.

Not only did the football media relations directors vote on individual accolades, but they also predicted how each team will finish in the conference standings. However, directors could not vote for their own team.

Ole Miss was predicted to finish third in the SEC West and sixth overall in the conference. Alabama and Auburn were ranked first and second in both the division and the overall conference standings.

And in case you were wondering, only 67 more days until kickoff! Robert Nkemdiche looks ready...are you?

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    Tiffany J. Moore said:

    This is amazing with what he have done so far! Hope that he'll achieve more in the future!

    in post Evan Engram Hauls in Midseason Accolades

    Fiftyyears fan said:

    How can you have five straight top 25 recruiting classes and look as bad as Ole Miss has this year. Easy lack of coaching fundamentals. Look at Mason at Vandy, nothing but 2 and 3 star recruits out of high school and he developers players that want to win. Hugh freeze has 3, 4 & 5 recruits and he expects them to win because of what they were in High School. Mr. Freeze you have not been teaching the fundamentals of football or winning in life. Mr. Freeze you have quit on your players because you have some false expectations of what they are instead of what you can develop in them. Either do your job or quit. Oh yea, please quit running your smoke and mirrors offense, everyone has figured it out. Run a physical offense that can open up holes for your running backs and then your pass attack want require 12 are 14 four and five star receivers. Mr. Freeze you have problems and you need to know that you are not smarter than the rest of the coaches in the SEC.

    in post Rebels Unable to Send Senior Class Out on a High Note

    Karen Holden said:

    Not every pass can be caught. Too low, too short whatever. Not every Kelly pass is perfect. Records were broken by receivers also. But they sre not going to catch every ball thrown. The loss to Auburn was not one players fault. You win or lose as a team.

    in post Late Mistake Spoils Chad Kelly's Historic Performance

    Trent browning said:

    Hey I was just wandering if these are the only 2 olemiss players signing. If there are more signing please respond to me ASAP. Also wondering if neil everett will sign any autographs. Thank you very much

    in post Heisman House Tour Heads to Oxford for Ole Miss-Georgia

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    in post Madden 17 Ratings for Former Rebels

    Jamie laverty said:

    Bulmer I love you and ole Miss

    in post Fast Runner From Down Under

    Sharon Hamlin said:

    Hi! Really Bulmer is very fantastic & dedicated in his job. Really outstanding & well done... :-)

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    Sharon Hamlin said:

    Hi! Really motivating post & outstanding job did Bulmer .Loved it... :-)

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