By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Three Ole Miss football players remain at high risk of being ruled academically ineligible to compete for the 2012 season.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze did not name the players and said they are currently in discussions with counselors and faculty to see what, if any, avenues remain that might help them achieve the minimum requirement of 18 hours passed over two semesters.
Freeze said he expects to have a final word on the status of the three players by today or Monday.
“They are working with faculty right now to find any possible avenue they can to resolve their issue,” Freeze said. “I am not confident that will occur with all three.”
Freeze told his players that academics would be a priority during spring football practice. The most visible example of this was rising sophomore Nick Brassell, who was present for three of the 15 practices. As a freshman the former South Panola star was No. 2 on the Ole Miss squad in receptions (24), receiving yards (336) and touchdowns (2).
Freeze has said that, if available, Brassell’s focus this season would be defense, calling him an “NFL corner.”
In a part-time role last season Brassell broke up five passes, recovered a fumble and forced a fumble.
Achieving the 18-hour mark does not guarantee that players will be eligible. However, without 18 hours they would be unable to continue into the summer semester to address other possible issues, such as grade point average or the required percentage of completion toward a degree.
Getting the 18 hours passed has been the first hurdle.
Freeze is confident that those who have cleared it will be in good standing academically for the fall, but that may not be enough to keep them in good standing with the team.
Freeze said he will consider all factors in deciding whether some players will remain in the program.
“Even though they can make it, it doesn’t mean that I will renew them. I am a visual guy. I want to look at the whole spectrum of the team, who made poor choices off the field, whether they continue to do that, what they bring to our team,” he said. “I don’t like to give up on anyone, but I know the situation we’re in. A message has to be sent. “But I’m confident that everyone could be eligible come fall except the three who may not get to 18 hours.”
Shortly after being hired in December, Freeze said he had 25 players with some sort of academic concern.
The 22 who have secured the 18 hours still have to successfully navigate a May intersession period and summer school.