By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt told media at his Monday press conference that he believes there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train.
His freshmen take it a step further. They believe the program can resurrect itself and that they’ll hang out and wave triumphantly from the lead car as the train exits the tunnel and rolls up the hill.
“We’re going to get it done,” says wide receiver/cornerback Nick Brassell. “Be patient. We’re coming.”
As the dust settled in February on a recruiting class ranked No. 18 by Rivals.com, Nutt thanked the mothers of Mississippi.
Since that day he has sung the praises of his freshmen and promised key roles for them. It’s a promise he’s kept.
Donte Moncrief and Brassell are two of the team’s top three receivers, though the latter is just part-time. They lead the team in yards per catch, Brassell at 25, Moncrief at 21.
Brassell’s 300 all-purpose yards are second to sophomore running back Jeff Scott.
Brassell would be more of a factor on special teams if he wasn’t so involved from the line of scrimmage. He had roughly 30 snaps on each side of the ball.
Brassell has just one special teams return this season, taking a punt 84 yards for a touchdown against Georgia.
“Tell you the truth, when I was graduating from high school I really didn’t think a player would stick out like that, but Nick has stuck out to me,” said fellow freshman Serderius Bryant, a linebacker from Sanford, Fla. “I feel like if they get the ball in his hands a little more, I believe he’ll do something with it. He’ll do his thing on defense and offense. If they get the ball in his hands a little more, any kind of way, it will work.”
Bryant, under-sized at 5-foot-8 but a Parade All-American in high school, has made key contributions too.
He’s played in each game and is earning more and more playing time having totaled 21 tackles and a forced fumble to date.
Offensive lineman Aaron Morris has worked his way onto the two-deep roster at what was considered to be the team’s deepest position. He’s drawn one start.
Wide receiver Tobias Singleton, who did not enroll in time for the summer conditioning program, has turned into a kick return weapon.
The next freshman to make a significant impact could be cornerback Senquez Golson this week against No. 10 Arkansas. Golson, who turned down a reported $1.3 million baseball offer from Boston to pursue college football, has played only spot duty. He played extensively against Alabama – snaps he was not impressed with – after starter Marcus Temple went out with a broken ankle.
“I felt like the way I played against Alabama wasn’t me. I was kind of tight,” he said. “I guess just an inexperienced player, but that shouldn’t have anything to do with it, I should have gone out and played like I know how to play.”
“What happened Saturday really hurt him,” said Wesley Pendleton, who starts at cornerback on the other side. “It made him really step up in practice. You could see it in his eyes.”
That drive is something that Nutt says sets a part Golson and others in his freshman class, most of which experienced winning at very successful high school programs.
“When he doesn’t succeed on the field he’s conscientious, and he works at it to get better. He doesn’t lay down and say, ‘I’m embarrassed,’ and quit. He’s a fighter,” Nutt said.
It’s a class full of fighters, Bryant says.
It’s certainly a class full of confidence and expectations that haven’t been lessened by a 2-4 start to their college careers.
The Rebels are 0-3 against SEC foes and have tied a school record with nine straight losses against the league.
The young players are rejuvenated on home game days when they walk through the Grove.
“We walk through the Grove after the game, and they talk to us like, ‘We’re still on y’all’s side. We’re still going to make this happen,’” Bryant said.
And with all his heart, he believes that to be true.
“We understand we’re a very young team, and all we’re trying to do is produce. We feel like we the class that can change this whole organization around.”