By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – A week away from the grind with an open date helped an Ole Miss team that was becoming battered gain some important rest and healing with five SEC games remaining.
The Rebels (4-3, 1-2 SEC) snapped a 16-game conference losing streak with a 41-20 win against Auburn on Oct. 13 and need two wins to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2009.
The first opportunity is at 11:21 a.m., Saturday against Arkansas in Little Rock.
“We had some bodies that were beat up, but I expect to have everybody back (today), with the exception of the guys that are out for the year,” Freeze said.
Among players held out of practice last week were tight end Jamal Mosley (knee), defensive end C.J. Johnson (back) and defensive back Mike Hilton (concussion).
The emergence of freshman Hilton, who drew his first college start against Auburn while junior college transfer Dehendret Collins was suspended, has given Freeze and his defensive staff more options in the secondary. Collins is back in good standing, Freeze said.
One of those options includes the move of Brishen Mathews, a junior from Monticello, Ark., to the rover, or strong safety position.
“We’re going to move him back there to give him more snaps,” Freeze said. “Mike’s playing extremely well, so we know we’ll have Collins and Hilton at the huskie to get both ready to play. That gives us more depth at the safety and huskie positions.”
Freeze cited improvement among his other safeties as well, singling out freshman Trae Elston, the starting rover, sophomore Cody Prewitt, the starter at free safety, and redshirt freshman Chief Brown, a key reserve.
Hilton, of Fayetteville, Ga., has appeared in six games, but his playing time has increase of late. He’s recorded 14 tackles with three tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.
Freeze said throughout the off-season that he expected a number of freshmen to fill key roles. Currently, Ole Miss is tied for 12th nationally with the most true freshmen to see action this season with 12.
“We have gotten better. We’ve improved I think a little bit every week,” Freeze said. “We’ve got more experience with some young kids who have been playing, particularly on the back end.”