By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Got back from Round 1 of vacation last week to find a double-stuffed envelope on the mail counter, the contents being the pro and college football annuals from Phil Steele.
Not exactly Christmas, but intriguing.
Flipping through the pages of this summer’s football mags are reminders of two things: One, football is right around the corner when it will still be hot, and I’ll be working in it every day. Two, it’s going to be quite a rebuilding season for new Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze.
Some magazines pick an all-conference team, some a first team and second team. Steele picks an all-conference squad with four units.
The fact he can go four teams deep with what he believes are the best SEC players and come away with so little Ole Miss representation illustrates where many think the Rebels are.
It’s odd that with four teams Steele couldn’t find a place for kicker Bryson Rose, who has hit 25 of 29 career field goal attempts and last year came within one kick of tying the SEC record for consecutive field goals made at 17.
Nor was there mention for punter Tyler Campbell, who two years ago was the NCAA champion with a 46.4-yard average and last year changed his game – using the rugby style kick more frequently – and had 28 punts downed inside the 20.
Steele’s list included safety Charles Sawyer on the third team, receive Donte Moncrief and kick returner Tobias Singleton on the fourth team.
The absence of Campbell and Rose isn’t as important here as what the big picture means. There isn’t much Ole Miss representation, because teams riding 14-game conference losing streaks don’t typically dominate preseason all-star squads.
On his Rebel Road Trip in the spring, Freeze told supporters his team was in the “wilderness” and working to get out.
Take the long view
So at this point on the calendar, when football fans are often excited for what’s around the corner, Ole Miss fans need to focus down the block.
It’s OK to be excited for the summer success Freeze is having with his 2013 recruiting, an important step in rebuilding.
However, wins in the 2012 football season will again be hard to find.
Freeze must first convince the Rebels they can win. Along those lines, early success against Central Arkansas, UTEP and Tulane – all in the month of September – will be critical in developing that belief system.
Do that, then maybe the SEC streak ends with a win or two.
If that happens, Ole Miss may find it has players highlighted at the end of the year, with the comforting thought that rebuilding is on schedule.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss and blogs daily at djournal.com.