By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – In the ultimate act of crossing T’s and dotting I’s, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is leaving nothing to chance with Bo Wallace’s senior season.
This fall, the Ole Miss quarterback has a chance to be the healthiest he’s been in his Rebels career.
Wallace was a junior college transfer, a sophomore and a first-year starter when he took a hit on his throwing shoulder at Tulane in late September in 2012.
It wasn’t enough to knock him out for the season, but it was more than enough to keep the shoulder from healing itself. The shoulder was at times an issue late in that season, and surgery followed in early 2013.
The surgery kept Wallace from a proper off-season program prior to his junior year.
That lack of conditioning created a weakened passing arm at the end of the season, Freeze says.
Wallace was a full-go participant in spring drills. He’s been poked and prodded, checked and observed, and the reports have come back good.
Wallace is healthy.
So Freeze’s decision to send him to California to visit with specialist Tom House in the coming weeks is one final insurance policy for what could be a big finish for Wallace.
“It’s just something extra. He’s healthy. The structure is good. We’ve done MRIs to make sure the surgery was what they wanted it to be. They feel good about that,” Freeze said. “It’s just the way we wore it down the first year, then the surgery with no time to accurately rehab, and then to go through another season … We just want to make sure that we’ve got May, June and July to strengthen it to make sure he’s got a consistent year with the velocity on the ball.”
House’s decades-long career as a baseball pitching coach led him to study stress on the arm and proper techniques to relieve that stress.
As his reputation among star pitchers grew, his care expanded to NFL quarterbacks Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer and Alex Smith to name a few.
“I’m a rotational-athlete evaluator,” House told NFL.com in 2012. “Pitching, quarterbacking, tennis, golf, hitting … all rotational athletes have the same timing, the same kinematic sequencing – hips, shoulders, arms and implement. And depending on the verbiage, the same mechanics as each other.”
Beginning May 17, Wallace will spend a week at House’s house. Or thereabouts.
He’ll be observed, he’ll work out for House, and House will give opinions plus suggest a training regimen, all aimed at making Wallace’s shoulder as good in November as in September.
Wallace feels strong going into his meeting with House, his confidence boosted by his performance this spring.
“I think I had a good one. I played the way I wanted to. I felt in control all the time. I feel really, really good. I’ve just got to go out there and get my arm strength to another level. That’s the only thing that can hold me back,” he said.
House has produced a number of books and DVDs, one of his works entitled “Stronger Arms and Upper Body.”
That’s what Freeze wants Wallace to find.
The Ole Miss coach is careful when directly applying Wallace’s shoulder soreness to the Rebels’ losses to Missouri and Mississippi State in the final two regular season games.
Clearly, production was an issue as Ole Miss scored just one offensive touchdown in those two games.
Things were different for Wallace after a lengthy rest between the MSU game and the Music City Bowl. He passed for 256 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 86 yards and two more scores en route to game MVP honors.
“I’m not an excuse-maker but I do feel like yeah, he didn’t have hardly any zip on the ball at the end,” Freeze said.
There were flu-like symptoms for Wallace against Missouri, but he had thrown only five interceptions through 10 regular season games before throwing four in the last two. Three of those picks plus an overtime fumble came against MSU.
As Ole Miss prepared for the bowl game against Georgia Tech, Wallace did not throw a football until practice shifted to Nashville just a few days before kickoff.
Wallace set Ole Miss season records with 3,701 yards of total offense and 283 pass completions in 2013.
He’s thrown 40 touchdown passes in two years, fourth on the career list. Sometimes the shoulder has been a factor in Wallace’s 27 career interceptions.
Freeze doesn’t expect to a huge jump in production for Wallace’s senior year, but he does expect to see strength at the finish, and he thinks that will make a difference.
“The production from Game 1 to the end of the season has not been the same. I hope we can have a whole year of that consistent production,” he said.