Brrrr In B'Ham

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- With temperatures in the low 40's, the Rebels had their first Birmingham workout at Birmingham Southern's stadium Wednesday in preparation for Saturday's match against Pittsburgh in the Compass Bowl. Read about it inside.

Birmingham Southern's stadium, nice for a school with a student body of just 1400, sits atop a hill overlooking parts of the local scenery.

The Rebels, thanks to the generosity of B'ham Southern, in cooperation with the Compass Bowl, held their first practice in Birmingham in the BSC "stadium" Wednesday under chilly temperatures and grey skies.

The Rebels bundled up and got after it.

"It was colder here today that it was outside in Vaught-Hemingway Monday," said Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze, "but that's OK. It was good. We ned to be outside.

"It's different, so we needed to be out in it. It affected our skill guys today. Bo (Wallace) and all the quarterbacks were not themselves today for a while. The ball is harder and a little slicker and it takes time to adjust for them and the receivers."

The option for the QBs to wear gloves is available, but none of the Reb signal-callers opt for that.

"They may wear one on their left hand, but none of them like it on their throwing hand," Freeze commented.

Freeze gave the team some freedom Tuesday night with a late curfew. He said they handled it well.

Dave Wommack
Chuck Rounsaville

"Nobody was late, so that's good. To my knowledge, they acted mature," Freeze said. "Coach (Matt) Luke and I tried to inspire them to stay around the hotel a while by holding the ping pong table as the champs, but that didn't last but an hour and they bolted. They enjoyed getting out. Now it's time to get ready for the game."

The bowl practice schedule has been on-again, of-again through three weeks, with two breaks between the Egg Bowl and the Compass Bowl. How sharp does Freeze think his team is through those circumstances?

"We were real sharp a couple of days prior to Christmas and some days after Christmas. We were not real sharp today offensively, but the defense had an edge,"he explained.

Random Notes:

* Freshman CB Anthony Standifer (knee) sat out practice. He had some fluid drained of his knee Monday, the result of knee surgery earlier in the year. The knee is structurally sound, but he has recently experienced some swelling and soreness, so he's sitting out as a precaution. "We are just trying to make sure he is ready to go in spring, which he should be," Freeze noted.

* Nothing has changed to any significant degree with the Bo Wallace shoulder watch. Bo is practicing, he is throwing the ball and he doesn't seem to be experiencing any pain. He will play Saturday against Pitt. "I think you will see the same guy you saw against MSU. He's not 100%, but he's battled through 10 games like that and he's a great competitor. He will be fine," noted Freeze. "Also, our trainers do a great job getting them ready for games. He'll be there."

* There was only one personnel change in Wednesday's practice. Husky Mike Hilton was not with the first team in Wednesday's workout. Dehendret Collins was elevated to first-team status. Hilton and Brishen Mathews were backing Collins.

* Apparently, DL Coach Chris Kiffin wants to go "bigger" against Pitt. DT Isac Gross has been replaced in the starting lineup by senior Gilbert Pena. Bryon Bennett is manning the other DT slot. Gross will play extensively, but it appears Pena will get the starting nod due to his bulk and the way he finished the season with stellar play.

* Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack has been very pleased with the bowl practice schedule. "I loved the schedule Coach Freeze put together," he said. "We used the first part to get better fundamentally and to work with the younger guys and then we had time after the Christmas break to get ready for Pittsburgh. It has worked out well.". . . Wommack respects Pitt's offense. "They have two really good backs and they are balanced," Dave evaluated. "We will have to play hard and play our game. We will have to be sharp. The team who makes the least mistakes should win and Pitt does not turn the ball over much. Their QB (Tino Sinseri) had two interceptions all year and their offense has had one turnover in the last seven games. That is impressive to me."

* The Rebs will practice again tomorrow at B'ham Southern at 11:15. This afternoon, the coaches and several players, mostly seniors, will visit a children's hospital in Birmingham.

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