Anxious For A Game

In sports, there's a bad form of anxiety - pressure that affects performance adversely - and a good form of anxiety - a team anxious to get the season underway. That's where the Rebels, and this first-year staff, are right now - ready to get rolling. Read about it inside.

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze has no trouble admitting he's anxious for the season - which opens a week from tomorrow in Oxford against Central Arkansas - to get started.

"It's time to play a game. It is anxiety time for me, I know. I am wound tight and I have to be careful not to overdo it in practice," he smiled. "It's time to start feeling different and have more sense of urgency. It should feel a little different tomorrow and build until next Saturday."

Freeze has been pleased with this past week, overall. Sure, there are concerns and areas that need to continue to improve, but find a coach who doesn't feel that way.

"We've had a good week. Now it's time for us to get them fresh," said Hugh. "We've pushed them hard for a couple of weeks now. Tomorrow (Saturday) night, we will go through every possible scenario that could happen in a game and go without shoulder pads. It will be more of a mental night, a mock game."

One area that has pleased Freeze a lot has been the scout team.

"They have been phenomenal, as good as I have ever seen anywhere I have ever been. They have given great effort and have helped us prepare for our opponent," he praised.

Freeze does something a little differently than most coaches regarding the scout teams. Some players who will be counted on to play in the games are used on the scout teams.

"It's a rite of passage to me. It's part of what every player should go through and part of what we are attempting to teach here - that no individual is any more important than the next guy or the guy on the scout team," he explained. "It's something I've always done with freshmen in particular. At some point, they need to experience being on the scout team and paying their dues.

"Being on the scout team, in this program, is not a demotion or something to hang your head about. It's just part of the process."

Channing and Burgess
File Photo

The inevitable question of how the quarterbacks performed this week was asked.

"They had a pretty good week, but there are still some inconsistencies with some bad reads. I have to do a better job there, Dan (Werner) has to do a better job to make sure that doesn't happen," he continued. "There's no doubt they have improved, but there are still some that make you say 'what? why?' But we just have to keep coaching them and I'm anxious to see how they do against live bullets next Saturday."

Freeze noted he and Werner will look at all the fall camp stats, film and productivity charts and go from there with the QBs.

"The one who is ahead will start the first game and we will go from there," he said.

Random Notes:

* Freeze was asked what his completion percentage goal for the quarterbacks is each week. "Seventy percent, I would love," he chuckled. "That's always been our target with what we do, and we accomplished that last year at Arkansas State, but this is a new year and a new league. Anything above 65% will please the coaches."

* Hugh has discussed "buying in" since he took over the program in December. "Most of them have," he said. "A few don't understand it, but most of them are doing what we asked them to do, and more come around as days click by. We're almost there."

* During some team drills, it looked as if MLB Keith Lewis had jumped ahead of Mike Marry with the number one defense. Hugh was reluctant to say that. "I wouldn't say that until I talk to the defensive staff," he stated. "I expect both to play. Keith is probably more explosive, but Mike is one of our team leaders. Again, you guys in the media get hung up on ones and two and a depth chart and I don't. Just tell me who is going to play, who is capable of helping us win. Both of them will play, no doubt. I'm not real concerned who is labeled one or two, just their production when they are in the game."

* CB Wesley Pendleton, who sat out over a week with a MCL sprain, is dressed out and going full speed, but he's not quite 100% yet. The goal is to get him there by next Saturday, which is realistic.

* CB Cliff Coleman, also with a sprained MCL, is expected to return to practice Monday.

Sawyer working out
File Photo

* WR Collins Moore, shoulder brace and all, finally got some contact the past two days on the shoulder that was dislocated and resulted in a torn labrum. He's still out there, willing and game. Good news.

* Aaron Morris, who sat out several days with a strained Achilles tendon, came back this week and has since taken back over the number one left guard position. Justin Bell, who was with the ones until Morris returned, made up ground on being in the playing rotation and gaining OL Coach Matt Luke's trust while Morris was out. At the end of the day, as much as this OL needs depth, Morris' injury probably helped that cause.

* Freshman DE Channing Ward is working hard to catch up from his missed practice time and helping him do that in double time is one Derrick Burgess, former Rebel great and former All-Pro DE. It's almost as if Burgess has been asked to work exclusively with Ward. Channing couldn't have a better teacher, it says here.

* There appeared to be some more depth chart movement in Friday's practice - at Stinger LB Denzel Nkemdiche got a lot of reps with the number one defense in front of Aaron Garbutt, who has been with the top defense all of fall camp. Apparently, Denzel is making more of an impression on the coaches. As Freeze said, though, both will play extensively.

* Likely personnel for the kickoff unit will be Dehendret Collins, Garbutt, Will Martin,Serderius Bryant, Nkemdiche, Tanner Burns, Brishen Mathews, Joel Kight, Octavius Burdette and Senquez Golson, from right to left. Bryson Rose will likely kick off.

* While the team was practicing, Rover Charles Sawyer, who has been out of fall camp most of the time with a torn quad muscle, was running short burst sprints. It's expected he will be back in the fold Tuesday when practice resumes next week.

* The mock game practice tomorrow night is closed to the public and the media.

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