By Brandon Speck
HOOVER, Ala. – Channing Ward was always the best player on the field at Aberdeen High School. One of the jewels of Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze’s first recruiting class at defensive end, he is still finding his place with the Rebels.
Freeze said Thursday from SEC Media Days it has taken Ward, a junior, longer than he expected to find that groove.
“It has. Channing’s one of my favorite kids to coach,” Freeze said. “I love having him on the team. He’s such an athletic kid. He got there late his freshman year. We had depth issues. With those depth issues, all of them had to play. It really would have done him justice if he could have had a redshirt year. We’re just trying to find the place he can help us the best.”
Ward (6-foot-4, 274) worked at tight end in the spring.
He played some there at Aberdeen. Freeze said the staff will get together today to discuss depth issues and make some decisions on where Ward will go from there.
Ward may not have made the mark coaches think he can make, but that’s because his expectation level is astronomical. He’s shown flashes of why. Off the bench, he has played every game at defensive end and special teams. As a freshman, he had a high of four tackles (three solo) in a Compass Bowl win and finished with 21 tackles and 1.5 tackles-for-loss.
Last season, he had 24 tackles, a pair of tackles-for-loss and a team-high seven hurries. He forced two fumbles. Against Arkansas, he posted a career-high six tackles. One of the fumbles made the highlight reel – an immediate GIF – when he leveled kick returner Brian Kimbrow in the season-opener at Vanderbilt.
Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt thinks Ward will continue at tight end.
“He’s a wonderful player,” Prewitt said. “We all can get better mentally, but that’s really the biggest place he has to develop. Once he really figures out what he has to do and when he has to do it, he’s really going to blossom.”
A redshirt wasn’t in the cards in 2012 when the former Daily Journal Defensive Player of the Year went to Oxford when building depth was more of an issue than rotating depth. But it’s still a possibility.
“We’re always going to look at what’s best for the kid and our team,” Freeze said. “Heck, I wish I could go back and redshirt several of them.”