By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Channing Ward’s high school career was marked by spectacular plays. Ole Miss coaches are hopeful he will soon make those plays for the Rebels.
The ongoing spring workouts have been Ward’s first chance to get the volume of fundamental teaching he missed by reporting late to August camp for his freshman season. An All-American at Aberdeen, it took longer for Ward to be certified by the NCAA.
The delay served to heighten expectations. He appeared in all 12 games last year, much of his work on special teams, and finished with 21 tackles, 11⁄2 tackles for loss.
His spring has been less about spectacular plays and more about finding a comfort level. There’s still ground to cover.
“There’s going to be a point where Channing will cut it loose. I still think he thinks too much. I don’t think he’s cut it loose and is aggressive as we need for him to be an SEC guy yet … but he’ll get there,” Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said.
He was off-limits for interviews last year but spoke after practice on Monday.
“I feel like there’s more on the table for me,” he said. “There’s always more. I feel like I’m second-guessing myself sometimes.”
Ward is currently running second team at one end behind program veteran Carlos Thompson. There have been extra snaps to go around this spring since starter C.J. Johnson sustained a broken leg early on. He’ll be ready for August, and the Rebels will add Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s top recruit.
Ward is getting the instruction. It seems now the ball is in his court in terms of speeding up his game.
Comfort level and playing fast were key components at Aberdeen when he recorded 29 sacks over his final two seasons.
He was dominant in all-star competition, and by the time he signed with Ole Miss was ranked the No. 48 player by ESPN, the No. 5 defensive end.
“In high school it was just find the ball and tackle whoever’s got it,” he said. “There wasn’t too much technique and learning plays.”
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is eager for college ball to become like high school ball for Ward.
“He won’t turn it loose every play. I thought he did today. He played well today,” Freeze said Monday. “We’ve just got to get him to turn it loose and feel confident in what he’s doing.”