Ready For The Road

Ole Miss wrapped up their Oxford-based Compass Bowl practices Monday outside in the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Coach Hugh Freeze was pleased with the team's work on their home turf. Tomorrow - Birmingham bound!

It's brisk in Oxford.

The temperature is hovering around 45 degrees, but Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze decided it was time to get some outside work in during the Rebs' final Oxford practice before heading to Birmingham Tuesday.

"We don't get to play the game inside Saturday, so I figured we needed to get outside a little bit," said Freeze. "It really didn't feel too bad to me today. We will have to practice outside Wednesday and Thursday and I am concerned about Wednesday's workout. The forecast is for some bad weather in Birmingham Wednesday, so I felt like we needed to get outside here today."

The Rebels will be practicing at Birmingham Southern Wednesday and there is no indoor practice facility.

"Better get your raincoats out," Freeze noted. "We appreciate Birmingham Southern letting us use their facilities. Hopefully, we'll be able to get some good work in regardless of the weather."

Freeze has been very pleased with the pre-Birmingham practices.

"We got everything we wanted to get done accomplished," he said. "It's been a long break for us, but I think we had a good plan. I don't think I would have changed anything we've done as far as the schedule and the breaks we had and so on.

"Our gameplan is in and we will treat the rest of this week just like every game week. I am a creature of habit and big on routine, so this works out well. Today, we ran our Tuesday practice and our travel day (Tuesday) will be our day off from practice. That's the only change we've had to make. We will have a normal Wednesday practice Wednesday and so on until the game Saturday."

Freeze has talked quite a bit about the Pitt defense, but the Panther offense gives him concerns as well.

Vincent Sanders
File Photo

"They're very balanced. They have a 1,000-yard rusher and a 3,000-yard passer. When you have an opponent that balanced, they are tough to defend. They are good at both - running and passing," he explained.

The Rebs travel to Birmingham with a shot at a winning season. How important is 7-6 versus 6-7 to Freeze in his first year as the Rebel coach?

"I'm not going to magnify it too much either way, but there is no question leaving there 7-6 in our first year in our first step in our program of building it the way we want to build it would be much nicer in terms of feeling good about ourselves when we go out to recruit, sending these seniors out with a good taste, and winning for Rebel Nation. It is important," he said. "It won't define where our program is if we lose because Pitt is a good football team playing their best football right now, but I won't run from the fact it is an important game for us."

Random Notes:

* Freshman CB Anthony Standifer sat out Monday's practice with a sore knee and an allergy flare-up. Standifer hurt his knee during the season and had it scoped. It started acting up on him again this week.

* It was anticipated senior TE Ferbia Allen would play against Pitt, but not a lot of reps. But in the last week, Ferbia seems to be getting better and better each day on his bad knee. He caught numerous passes in practice Monday and in one instance, he was leveled by S Chief Brown after a catch and popped right back up. No worse for the wear. Good news for the Rebs. Ferbia and H.R. Greer will handle the tight end duties. Jamal Mosley is not eligible for the bowl game, you are aware.

* WR Vincent Sanders caught two TD passes in a Red Zone passing drill and promptly dunked over the crossbars of the goal post both times. . . Then, Tb Randall Mackey was playfully taunting the Rebel defensive backs after a TD. They dogpiled him and Freeze joined in. Who says you can't have fun and still get your work done?

* With only one starting offensive lineman (A.J. Hawkins) graduating this year, who is the heir apparent? Most "money" is on Patrick Junen, who played LG, LT, RG and RT during the season and really came on strong at the end of the year, providing needed depth and giving different starters breaks during games at different positions. But if Junen does win the job, who will be the third tackle, which Junen filled ably this year? Odds are it will be redshirt freshman Robert Conyers, who showed some good signs in the bowl practices. However, don't look past Junen's main competition - Justin Bell, Corey Gaines and Jared Duke. It will be interesting to see how all of that shakes out in spring.

* The Rebels will leave for Birmingham tomorrow after lunch and check in the Sheraton between 5-5:30 p.m.

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