Back to Work

Ole Miss football took last week off for spring break. Understandable, then, that head coach Hugh Freeze was worried with how his team would respond Monday, the first day practice following the layoff.


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The results were better than expected.

The Rebels went through a two-hour, full-pad session inside the Manning Center, and Freeze was "real pleased" with the effort and attitude displayed.

"I was real concerned coming off spring break," Freeze said. "But, man, they're 4 for 4 with the attitude and effort. They got after each other really good. Had a really good workout.

"We had everybody back. Some were a bit late and paid a little price for it. But we got everybody back here and had a good day today."

A number of notable players were removed from the injured list, namely right tackle Austin Golson, cornerback Senquez Golson and wide receivers Cody Core and Collins Moore. Unlike those listed, wide receiver Vincent Sanders wasn't a full participant, though he did get some individual work in.

Junior defensive end C.J. Johnson, on the comeback trail from a season-ending leg injury in September, had a "phenomenal day," according to Freeze, as did junior college transfer linebacker Christian Russell.


Hugh Freeze
Bruce Newman

"He's developing into one of our leaders," Freeze said of Johnson, who had 12 tackles and four tackles for loss in four games last season. "I'm real excited with what's going on over there. Christian Russell stood out today. Ran around really well."

As for the remainder of the week, the goals are simple.

"Just get better as we install. Try to retain what we're installing and be physical in the way we practice, with high energy and running around," Freeze said. "Be consistent in our effort and attitude as we try to retain what we're installing. We're not going to install a lot offensively, just get good at the little things, the basics of what we do.

"Defensively, they're going to install quite a bit more. But they've got some good, mature guys over there that are handling it quite a bit better. It's hard for us, knowing that they want to do that, to get everything in. It's probably better for us to do a few things and do them real well."

Ole Miss didn't come away from spring break completely clean, however. A video surfaced on YouTube showing suspended linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche engaged in a profanity-laced argument with fans from an opposing team.

Nkemdiche, a freshman All-American two seasons ago, was suspended for the spring and at least the season-opener against Boise State Aug. 28 following his arrest last month on charges of disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct and failure to comply with a police officer.

Freeze said he's already spoken with Nkemdiche about he incident.

"Kids, when they make mistakes, and certainly ones that don't reflect what we want to be about, it does happen. I'm not happy with it. I'm not proud of it. Hope he's not," Freeze said. "It's definitely not what we want to be about and the way you want to handle things, regardless of what initiated it or caused it.

"There's a way to handle adversity and controversy, and it's certainly not that. That's been made very clear to him. I feel comfortable with what we're doing with the process of him regaining his rightful place on this team. Obviously, that's not a step in the right direction. I hope that doesn't occur anymore. As a part of the whole process, it'll weigh in."

Nkemdiche played in 10 games last season, finishing with 35 tackles.

"That is not what we want to be about, how we want to go about doing things," Freeze said. "The process may be longer now. I'm not going to be put in a box on it. I feel very comfortable with the way we're going about it. He'll have to change some of his ways to get back right with us."

Ole Miss returns to practice Wednesday. Practice will be closed to media and fans.


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