By Parrish Alford/Daily Journal
Whose state is it?
Our Take: Media last year seemed intrigued by MSU’s “Our State” slogan and billboard campaign and asked questions of both Mississippi coaches.
The Rebels’ dominant win last November followed by a top 10 recruiting class has returned momentum in the series – fickle in the modern era – to Ole Miss. Freeze should expect a question or two about the state rivalry.
How has the death of Park Stevens impacted your team?
Our Take: Young life lost is always tragic. In the summer of 2010 the Rebels dealt with the death of a walk-on defensive back, Bennie Abram, and went on to have a losing season. There were a lot of other factors in that losing season, and there are a lot of differences in these two situations. Abram’s death was on campus and brought the conditioning program under scrutiny leading to a lawsuit. Both players were popular among their teammates. Expect this team to be able to honor Stevens’ memory and to focus on the season as well.
How many freshmen will play key roles?
Our Take: DE Robert Nkemdiche, OL Laremy Tunsil and WR Laquon Treadwell are the biggest names in the class and will push for playing time if their ability matches their recruiting coverage. Keep an eye on Antonio Conner at the Husky position. Offensive line, cornerback and special teams are among the positions in need of depth.
How has Bo Wallace progressed?
Our Take: Wallace will be among the three players – WR Donte Moncrief and LB Mike Marry the others – to join Freeze at Media Days. There have been no setbacks with Wallace’s rehab from January shoulder surgery. The shoulder has gotten stronger, and he’s thrown the ball deeper in summer work supervised by offensive coordinator and QB coach Dan Werner. The Rebels got an NCAA waiver for Werner to watch at a time that players are outside the regular supervision of coaches.
What enabled you to have a winning season when so little was expected of Ole Miss last year?
Our Take: Freeze will talk about players’ love for one another, their effort and their growing confidence. Evidence of these things began to appear after a humbling loss to Texas. Health was another key factor. A team with little depth wasn’t stretched to its outer limits.
In the off-season, Freeze shifted his main talking point from “wilderness” to “journey.” As depth gradually improves, health and good fortune will again be important intangibles beyond the Rebels’ control.