Mind the Circus

HOOVER, Ala. -- Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with local media following his time at the podium here Thursday at SEC Media Days

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Of note was an impromptu academic report. Four players remain at academic risk, with one, who Freeze didn't name, in serious danger of not being with the team in 2012.

"There's one that I think has a mountain to overcome," he said. "The others, if they can just do what is expected of them, they should make it. Everyone has a chance to be eligible at the end of July, with the exception of one kid. That kid would take August, if he does what he's supposed to do in July. Now, if he doesn't in July, we're probably going to part ways."

Freeze replaced Houston Nutt as Ole Miss head coach in December. However, Nutt learned of his fate in November. Ole Miss proceeded to lose all of its games that month, and the academic climate worsened.

"Anytime that the coaching change is made in the middle of the year, I think that can be a recipe for disaster," Freeze said. "For whatever reason, the kids did kind of shut down. That's probably human emotion.

"Houston Nutt did not become a bad football coach overnight. He's not a bad football coach. The guy's done some good things in this sport. I don't know all the details, nor do I really care. I just know that when we got there, we had a mess on our hands academically and some other things that we had to deal with. Human nature probably caused a lot of that."

Nick Brassell, arguably the team's most talented player, was ruled academically ineligible earlier this summer. Again, four remain. All things considered, though, Ole Miss is better off than most anticipated.

Just don't tell Freeze.

"I'm cautiously optimistic. I don't think you ever let yourself, dealing with young men in the world we live in, get to the point where you feel that you're not vulnerable," he said.

Hugh Freeze
Associated Press

"I always feel that way, dealing with kids. They make bad decisions sometimes. They do things that aren't always right, just like we did. I'm just cautiously optimistic."

Ole Miss picked last in SEC West:

Ole Miss was picked to finish last in the SEC West by league media, as announced Thursday. Only one player, junior safety Charles Sawyer, was named all-league -- a third-team selection.

"It just puts fire under your feet," Sawyer said. "We did that to ourselves last year. If we won last year, it would be a totally different story. We did that to ourselves. For us to be like that's not going to happen anymore, let's do it. Show people different."

The Rebels were 2-10 last season and haven't won an SEC game in two seasons. (Fifteen straight losses, to be exact.) Junior linebacker Mike Marry is relishing the underdog role.

"We're aware of it. It's a good thing, ‘cause it's easier to go from the bottom to the top, than be at the top and stay at the top," Marry said. "In a way, it's a good thing. It feels that much better when you shock the world."

Still, he's ready for Ole Miss to no longer be considered a cellar-dweller in the conference, and most especially the West, which boasts three recent national champions in Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

"You get tired of it. It's almost to the point (where) you've got to block it out," he said. "They're going to feel how they feel and say what they're going to say. It's not going to affect how we do on the field. Only we can do that. You really just have to block it out."

Moncrief dresses the part:

Ole Miss has rarely, if ever, brought a sophomore to SEC Media Days. But sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief answered the call Thursday, and he made headlines not so much for what he said, but what he wore.

Moncrief, the Rebels' leading offensive threat, was sporting a white sport coat, salmon pants, a checkered green dress shirt and a blue bow tie. This outfit was quickly a hit, with Twitter, a social media platform, erupting in near unanimous approval.

"My brother helped me with it, honestly. We did some last-minute shopping and we put it together," he said. "I didn't know if I was going to wear it. But once I put it on, I liked it. I love bow ties. I feel they have more swag than the others."

As for the craziness that is the three-day event, Moncrief wasn't overwhelmed, even when fans gathered in the lobby asked for autographs.

Donte Moncrief
Ben Garrett

"The fans are crazy," he said. "When we first came in, everybody was screaming my name, wanting my autograph. Then, all the ESPNs and all the television stations, it's just something I always wanted. I'm thankful."

Sawyer, on Mississippi State:

As long been the custom for Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and his players since his hiring in 2009, Ole Miss is almost always referred to as "The School Up North."

Sawyer won't play the name-calling game. No, he simply refers to the in-state rival, who has won three straight in the series over Ole Miss, as Mississippi State. "You show a grown man respect," he said.

But wait. There's more.

"I see them as Mississippi State. I respect the team. They beat us. I respect the team," he said. "That's what we, Ole Miss, that's what we address them by: Mississippi State. Our approach to it is that's the last game on the schedule. We have to get through the rest of the season first before we play them. How our schedule is, how you see them on the schedule, that's how we see them."

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