Freshmen paying early dividends for Ole Miss

OleMissLogoBy Parrish Alford
Daily Journal

OXFORD – Senquez Golson, having bypassed professional baseball, may have a shot as a recruiting analyst if next-level football doesn’t work out.

The Ole Miss cornerback was part of a solid 2011 group of signees that came in with hopes of helping former coach Houston Nutt revive the Rebels’ program.

Some high-profile signees in that class like Nick Brassell and Tobias Singleton are gone, but Golson and many others remain. They’ve helped revival come under a new administration.

Eight Ole Miss freshmen played in the Rebels’ 39-35 season-opening win at Vanderbilt, many of them in key roles.

Injuries will cause those roles to expand further this week against Southeast Missouri State. The Rebels’ home opener has a 6 p.m. kickoff and will be televised only through pay-per-view.

Freshman Tony Conner will start at Huskie, and offensive linemen Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson could see more snaps, perhaps one as a starter.

“Our recruiting class is better than theirs,” said Senquez Golson, who offered that assessment with the smile that says, “I know I’m full of it.”

You may see the freshmen make a lot of plays on the field. You won’t see them make comments for print or video as they’ve not yet been allowed to participate in interviews.

Golson’s 2011 class was ranked No. 19 by Rivals.com.

The full measure of a recruiting class will include its production over time. At this early stage for the Class of 2013 it’s about the rankings, and this one was a consensus top 10 and placed at No. 7 by Rivals.

It includes Robert Nkemdiche, the top overall recruit last year. Nkemdiche got off to a good start with two tackles, one for loss, a pass breakup and an 11-yard run on a fake punt.
Tunsil and Austin Golson got their most playing time during the Rebels’ second-half comeback.

Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell had nine catches, an Ole Miss freshman record, and was named SEC Freshman of the Week.

Tight end Evan Engram had five catches, a long of 24, and threw a key block Jeff Scott’s 75-yard touchdown run.

Conner had an interception on his first college play and added three tackles and a pass break-up.

With such early success against an experienced SEC opponent could this group begin to think the transition before them is easy?

“It could get to that point I guess, but it sure wasn’t easy the other night,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “They’ll get knocked around the next few weeks. The schedule we have coming, I don’t see how anybody could feel that way.”

Senquez Golson isn’t the only veteran raving about his new teammates.

“You see Laremy, Laremy has some of the best feet I’ve ever seen,” says guard Justin Bell, who says depth provided by the freshmen and others will help Ole Miss overcome the loss of starting left guard Aaron Morris to a torn ACL. “We’re going to be fine,” Bell said.

Quarterback Bo Wallace gushed over Engram and Treadwell.

Wallace on Engram: “He’s a stud. He creates mismatches for us. As soon as he was here for 7-on-7 we saw how good a receiver he was going to be.”

Wallace on Treadwell: “He’s come in an done everything we expected him to do. He’s not terribly fast, but he’s got great ball skills, and you’ve just got to give him the chance. That’s why he was the No. 1 receiver in the nation last year.”

As competition for playing time continues roles will increase and decrease, but in a very important season opener against a conference foe on prime time national television, the freshman class got off to a fast start.

When he finished laughing at his own joke, Senquez Golson recognized their contributions.

“It’s a blessing to have the freshmen we have. Not many teams have freshmen who can step up and play like that.”

parrish.alford@Journalinc.com