Music City Countdown

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Ole Miss Rebels held their second Music City Bowl practice at Montgomery Bell Academy Friday afternoon as they prepare for their showdown with Georgia Tech on Monday.

Take the number one exit off of 440 on to West End Avenue and in a little more than a mile of "old" Nashville you will come upon the well-kept, beautiful campus of Montgomery Bell Academy.

Tucked behind the manicured landscape and the brick buildings is the football stadium, replete with artificial turf and ample room for football practice.

MBA is graciously allowing the Ole Miss Rebels to use their facilities this week as they prepare for the Music City Bowl match with Georgia Tech Monday.

"We really appreciate MBA opening things up for us during their Christmas Holidays," said Reb Coach Hugh Freeze. "They have great facilities and a beautiful campus. We couldn't have asked for anything more as we get ready for Georgia Tech."

Freeze is also excited to have his team in Nashville.

"Nashville is a great town and the Music City Bowl folks have been great. The Opryland Hotel is phenomenal. It is a highlight for a lot of the kids on our team," Hugh noted. "Our guys and our families are having a great time."

The Rebels are coming off two loses to end the regular season and need a win in the Music City Bowl to end the year with a good taste in their mouths.

Evan Engram
File Photo

"I don't make too much of one game this early in our journey, but it would be real good to win as we get into the last couple of weeks of recruiting and into spring ball. We will feel better about ourselves," he explained. "The loss of the Egg Bowl was not a good feeling. We had a good year, overall, but that loss takes the luster off, so a win in the bowl game would erase a little of that sting and jump start us into next year. No question a win would help us."

The Rebels went in full pads Friday under a bright sun and in 55 degree weather.

"We got in some good work," said Freeze. "Everyone reported except Nick Parker, whose wife had a miscarriage yesterday. Our prayers are with him and his family.

"All the players seem to be into the practices and the bowl experience. So far, so good."

The Rebels went through a normal practice, with some individual contact drills and then team work, repping their defensive and offensive plays for roughly an hour.

Random Notes:

* There has been a lot of anticipation about the availability of freshman Tight End Evan Engram, who missed the last half of the regular season with a ankle/leg injury that required surgery. Evan resumed practicing when the team arrived in Nashville Thursday and seems to be moving around well. He is taking reps with both the first and second team offenses and appears to be penciled in to give it a go in the bowl game. "He looked pretty good today. He had some soreness this morning in the treatment room, but he's going to give it a go which we are excited about," said Freeze. "He can let us get back to doing some things that were pretty good to us early in the season. Hopefully he responds well to treatment today. We had to reduce our playbook about 20-25% without him. We were very multiple with him - people didn't know how to treat us totally with him in there. When we went with our other personnel, we weren't as apt to flex them out and do different things with them. We became more predictable. I hate to blame things on that, but the truth is we had one tight end. When he went down, it did change us. He's making some mistakes right now, but we will keep coaching him up and he'll be ready. We talked about it as a staff and we are hopeful we can get 30 snaps from him. We are not the only team to have key injuries, so that is not an excuse, but it did change us and we are glad to have him back."

* All-American Safety Cody Prewitt did not practice prior to the team coming to Nashville due to a broken nose. He is now working full speed and going through all contact drills. Unless something crazy happens between now and Monday, Cody will be available for the game.

* It was hoped freshman Left Tackle Laremy Tunsil would be cleared to practice once the team got to Nashville, but he has not dressed out. Tunsil injured his knee in the Egg Bowl and will not require surgery, but he is still not ready for action based on what he has done in Nashville thus far.

Jeff Scott
File Photo

Senior Emmanuel McCray will start in his place in the bowl game. "I am not hopeful about his chances to play," noted Freeze.

* DT Woodrow Hamilton, who also did not go through bowl practices in Oxford due to a lower back issue, is practicing in Nashville.

* WR Vincent Sanders hurt his ankle the first day of bowl practice in Oxford. He is now dressed out and going through drills, but it does not look like he is getting a lot of team reps yet. He is questionable for the game.

* TB Jeff Scott appears to be full speed now and is fielding punts in practice. He is expected to handle those chores in the bowl game.

* DE C.J. Johnson had season-ending surgery on his foot and will apply for a medical redshirt. He is now healthy, but he cannot play in the bowl game or he would have to forfeit the redshirt and lose a year of eligibility.

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