By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – With the success he’s experienced in offering second chances previously in his career, welcoming Anthony Alford into the fold made sense for Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
A decorated two-sport athlete at Petal High School two years ago, Alford was Scout.com’s No. 10-rated quarterback and also a third-round draft pick of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays.
He signed with Southern Miss and was a key individual in the Golden Eagles’ largely unsuccessful season.
Alford left Southern Miss after his November arrest following a campus fight. He was charged with aggravated assault.
Freeze, though, is confident that Alford will be cleared, at least in part.
“I still think in Anthony’s case it’s different. He’s going to be exonerated. He didn’t do some of the things he was originally charged to have done,” Freeze said.
Freeze developed a relationship with Alford while trying to recruit him to Ole Miss and has confidence in the player’s character.
“He’s a good, solid kid. He’s got some challenges,” Freeze said.
One of those challenges is the attention that comes from being a pro sports draft pick.
“People who know who he is know he signed a multiple-year pro baseball contract. They think he has access to money, and they want to be around him. That’s all part of the maturing process,” Freeze said.
Alford appeared in nine games in 2012, starting five and struggling through injuries while completing just 44.9 percent of his passes for 664 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions. He also rushed for 329 yards and six scores.
Alford will sit out the 2013 season under NCAA transfer rules but will be eligible to take part in spring drills.
Alford told the Clarion-Ledger last week he was willing to help the team in any capacity. At this stage Freeze doesn’t expect Alford to be a full-time quarterback.
“We will use him as an athlete as we did (Randall) Mackey. That’s our plan. Obviously this spring will determine what all that is,” Freeze said. “It’s hard to say until we get him on the field. In my mind though, I think he can do all those things that Randall did.”
Freeze has two quarterbacks committed in his 2013 recruiting class and returns his starting quarterback, Bo Wallace, who will be a junior in the fall.
Alford still has baseball responsibilities, too. He will be with the Blue Jays organization for seven weeks through May and June and back at Ole Miss in July.
Freeze is optimistic that Alford’s second chance will be good for both the player and the Rebels.
“I have been successful in giving second chances everywhere I’ve been,” Freeze said. “If mistakes have been made and you can convince me that you have enough character and that you do want to change, I feel like I can surround you with a group of people who believe in the process. I am all for giving a second chance.”