By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Fourteen newcomers joined veterans in “reporting” to campus as Ole Miss prepares for the first August camp of the Hugh Freeze Era.
One notable name not on the report list was senior defensive end Gerald Rivers, whose status for the 2012 season remains unclear.
A spokesman said it’s possible Rivers, a three-year letterman from Ellenwood, Ga., could join the team at a later date. He appeared in all 12 games last year with five starts, finishing with 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
Also not reporting Thursday were freshman signees Channing Ward of Aberdeen and Temario Strong of South Panola, both defensive linemen.
In a school news release Freeze said Ward and Strong “are continuing to work through the process, and we hope to have them in camp as soon as possible.”
Neither Freeze nor players spoke with the media on Thursday. They will today at 2 p.m., as part of media day at the football building. The first practice is Saturday morning at 9:45 and is open to the public.
Most newcomers and veterans alike have been working out on campus throughout the summer.
“Our journey begins, and I’m so excited to get started,” Freeze said. “(Strength) Coach (Paul) Jackson did a great job this entire offseason of preparing these guys, and we’re looking forward to putting all of our focus on getting better as a team these next few weeks.”
Players and staff were treated to a steak dinner Thursday evening, the meal sponsored by the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association and Mississippi Land Bank.
Players went through orientation meetings following the meal. First-year players had physicals, received equipment and later joined their teammates for meetings on academics, NCAA compliance and other matters.
Freeze was hired in December to replace Houston Nutt following the Rebels’ 2-10, 0-8 SEC season in 2011.
A number of newcomers could find themselves in significant roles by the end of this month.
The Rebels are looking to revive their pass rush off the edge, and Ward could help in this area.
While they have a solid starter in junior running back Jeff Scott, there’s no proven depth behind him, and freshmen I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton will get early looks.
For more coverage on Ole Miss football check out Parrish Alford’s blog Inside Ole Miss Sports or read more in the NEMS Daily Journal newspaper sports section each day. Click here for more at Parrish Alford’s blog.