Notes and thoughts on Ole Miss’ appearance at SEC Media Days …
For starters, there was an awful lot of Bo Wallace in our coverage today, but he had the most compelling story lines.
I was fortunate to have John Davis and Brandon Speck to help me get around to all the Ole Miss folks.
Wallace generally does a good job with interviews. He tries to answer questions honestly and limit the coachspeak.
Thursday, though, he was holding nothing back. He made it abundantly clear that he was bothered to be the third team preseason All-SEC quarterback and that he was embarrassed by his performance at Mississippi State last year. That game still stings, and it sounds as though Wallace would play the Bulldogs tomorrow if he could.
“I had the worst game I’ve probably played in my career. It’s that, it’s the fumble, it’s the whole game. It’s losing to those guys. That’s the big thing,” he said. “I’m ready for the year, and I’m ready for that game.”
One reporter, referencing the rival teams in his own state, asked Wallace if Ole Miss fans considered it more important to beat MSU or win the SEC West.
“I don’t know if they want to beat State more than go to Atlanta, but when you lose to State, it’s a tragedy. It’s a state-(wide) tragedy. That’s how it is. That’s how they’ve grown up, and they want to beat State, so we need to make sure we do it.” …
Wallace has his hair cut shorter and says he intends to be more clean cut as a senior. Cody Prewitt has let his hair grow longer.
“His flow couldn’t keep up with mine so he gave up,” Prewitt said. “He took it like a man.” …
Prewitt takes pride in his leadership role and has been a mentor to younger players, Tony Conner in particular.
“He’s just raw talent, raw athleticism. He came in and automatically became one of the more athletic people on our team. He kind of looked up to me as a safety. He asked me questions, anything he doesn’t understand. Sometimes the coaches don’t lay it out quite like a player can. Any time that arises, he’ll come to me,” said Prewitt, who is keeping an eye on what the program might look like when he’s gone.
“I’ll do anything to help him. I’m going to be gone next year, and I care about this team and this school. I want people to take my place who are very much capable of taking my place and even doing better,” he said. …
Freeze seemed upbeat about the chances of juco signee Tee Shepard to qualify academically and join the team around the start of camp.
He was less optimistic about offensive tackle Christian Morris, the UCLA transfer. That’s not because Morris is rehabbing from an Achilles injury. That appears to be going fine. Morris also needs an NCAA waiver of the one-year residency rule for transfers to be able to play this season. Barry Brunetti got this wavier in 2011.
I touched base with Ole Miss compliance director Matt Ball the week of the fourth. He said then he was close to submitting the request but was waiting on a last bit of information to present the strongest case possible.
“It is in the process. It’s not something I’m tremendously hopeful about,” Freeze said.
How much Morris would help this season is unclear. The injury has been a setback, but he’s a quality player at a position of need. It would be a lift for Ole Miss to have him available. …
Speaking of the offensive line it’s clear Freeze will count on a couple of newcomers, juco transfer Fahn Cooper and freshman Rod Taylor.
“If you look at what we lost through graduation or transfers, and we didn’t feel like we had the depth there to begin with, that would obviously be the first concern. We need Fahn and Rod. We might have a surprise in one of those young kids. We had some good kids in the spring get some work done, Daronte and those guys, Ben Still. They’re going to have to play,” he said.
Freeze bemoaned the Rebels’ lack of touchdowns relative to Red Zone opportunities last year.
Obviously that sort of thing starts with the line, but the Rebels will also have a little more bulk at running back this year with redshirt freshman Jordan Wilkins, juco transfer Akeem Judd and Jeremy Liggins. While Liggins’ position is TBA you can pretty much count on seeing him as a short-yardage quarterback.
“I couldn’t be happier with Jeremy Liggins. He looks like a million bucks. He’s running around. He’s down to 280. I don’t know where I’m going to play him yet, but he’s going to help us.”
Freeze said Liggins is not locked in to the idea that he’s only a quarterback.
“Absolutely not. That’s one of the things I love about him. ‘Coach I’ll play O-line, I’ll play tight end. I’ll play wherever you want me to play.’ That’s his attitude. He genuinely means it. He just wants to play and contribute. I have no doubt he will.”