By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss players have heard their new coach talk about the wilderness, and they’ve seen the meager expectations that others have for them.
They just don’t share those opinions.
So at their campus media day on Friday, a common theme ran among players. They say the 2012 season is about winning now and not just about laying a foundation for the future.
“We expect to win more games than even when we went to the Cotton Bowl. That’s how good I feel about this team,” said junior wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan, offering a dismissive wave to the SEC media’s seventh-place projection for the Rebels in the Western Division race.
Camp Wilderness begins this morning, the Rebels’ first August practice under Hugh Freeze set for a 9:45 a.m. start and is open to the public.
Logan was a true freshman and redshirted during 2009. He remembers what helped that team, the second under former coach Houston Nutt, finish 9-4.
“Togetherness. No fussing, no fighting. We stayed on one another; we were accountable,” Logan said.
He says he sees the same elements in place for the 2012 Rebels – or at least coming into place.
Freeze increased the “buy-in” estimate of 60 percent that he used at SEC Media Days the third week of July to “70-75 percent” on Friday. That’s an estimate of players who have placed their trust in the new coaching staff.
“We’ve made significant steps with a lot of kids in that area,” Freeze said.
Freeze says more leaders need to emerge, particularly on offense. Logan knows what they look like from paying attention in 2009.
“They stayed on one another, guys like Kendrick Lewis, Cassius Vaughn, Marshay Green, Dex (McCluster). They were leaders.”
While the trust and chemistry improve, the confidence is there in spite of some daunting negative statistics. The Rebels are coming off a 2-10 season, an 0-8 SEC campaign and will begin play with a 14-game SEC losing streak.
Ole Miss hasn’t outscored a conference opponent since winning 42-35 against Kentucky in October of 2010.
If the Rebels are going to win games this season, they’ll have to overcome lack of depth by staying healthy or creating more of it in camp this month.
Ole Miss was outscored 110-13 in its final three games last season, the games Houston Nutt and his staff coached after it was announced they would not be retained.
Before that stretch the Rebels had chances to win against BYU, Arkansas and Kentucky and was tied with Auburn until the middle of the third quarter.
“I would say we have a lack of depth, but we still have the talent. We showed glimpses of that last year, but when someone hit us in the mouth or hit us hard we put our head down. This year have to play hard for 60 minutes, not 30 minutes,” quarterback Barry Brunetti said.