Expecting More

There's one thing you know as a member of the media in dealing with Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze - you are going to get brutal honesty. Such was the case Monday after practice when Freeze lamented the lack of energy during much of the workout.

"I thought we took a little step backwards today in the area of the energy we expect to have in practice," Freeze began. "This was practice 21 and I was a little disappointed with the way we went about things with the energy because we gave them some time off yesterday.

"There were some good things, though. (MLB) Christian Russell was outstanding. He's really coming on strong. (DE) Fadol Brown also had a good day and was really the first day I felt he was back to being healthy. He looked good. Also, the third-down competition was the energy I was looking for with some great back-and-forth. The defense finally won out 11-9. Both sides did good things."

The Rebs started putting in some things for the opener against Boise State in Atlanta a week from Thursday.

"We did about 20 minutes today on Boise. In the walk-through tonight, we will do even more," noted Hugh.

Boise has a new head coach and new coordinators, which can present problems for opposing coaches because of the uncertainty of what they are going to throw at you.

"It's more difficult on the offensive side of the ball because the DC there has never been a coordinator before," added Freeze. "You just aren't sure what his flavor is. That's a little difficult.

"On their offense, we have an idea what they will be like, even though the head coach, who is an offensive guy, will not be coordinating. We will study where what the OC did at the schools he's been at. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but that scenario comes up every once in a while and you have to deal with it."

Ole Miss defensive end Fadol Brown.

Random Notes:

* Senior QB Bo Wallace, going into his third season as the starter, is, according to Freeze, still making a few mistakes here and there in camp, but the difference now is that he understands what he did wrong and doesn't make the same mistakes twice any more. "He can still do some things that make you scratch your head, but he's scratching his too," Hugh said. "He's the first to say 'I can't believe I just did that.' He really wants to have a great understanding of what is going on and execute it. That's refreshing. He's only taking about a third of the reps, but we will pick that up this week and into next week as the game approaches."

* With Russell's emergence, Freeze has a 1-2 punch at middle linebacker with Christian and starter D.T. Shackelford. "We plan on rotating them and keeping them both fresh," he stated. "It's a good situation for us because we believe they can both perform at a high level.". . . Russell's calling card? Speed and he arrives at the ball with the intent to inflict misery.

* Hugh would not name a starting field goal kicker but he said Andrew Fletcher has an edge, at least in short to mid-range kicks, because of consistency. "Andy Pappanastos and Gary Wunderlich have both done well too, but right now Fletcher has a slight edge on those kicks. On of the others would kick the longer field goals."

* Two players' eligibility status is under appeal with the NCAA. WR Damore'ea Stringfellow and OL Christian Morris. "I expect to hear something of the status of the appeals today. You would hope to get a final answer this week, but nothing yet," said Freeze.

* The battle for starting center continues between Ben Still and Robert Conyers. "Both have earned the right to play. We'll sort out who will get the most reps based on the results of the first game or two," Freeze added. "They will both get action in the first game."

* JUCO transfer Fahn Cooper, as it stands today, will be the starting right tackle against Boise State. Conyers will back him up and is expected to get playing time at both center and right tackle.

* WR Cody Core appears to have nosed ahead of Quincy Adeboyejo for the top slot receiver, but Freeze said they are "tit-for-tat." "You can call it a competition, but both will play a lot," he said. "As soon as one runs a route, the other will come in. Cody has been a little more consistent in the camp, but we are excited about Quincy also. We are going to play, most likely, seven wideouts, so they will all get plenty of reps."

Ole Miss wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow.

* A player who has stepped it up since spring is NT Bryon Bennett. He and Woodrow Hamilton are locked in a battle for the top spot, but Bennett appears to be ahead at the moment. Bennett started August backing up DT Robert Nkemdiche, but with Issac Gross still injured and Hamilton starting August coming off injury, Bennett saw and opening and has apparently taken advantage of it.

* DC Dave Wommack is counting on "havoc and chaos" from his top front four of DEs C.J. Johnson and Marquis Haynes and inside guys Bennett and Nkemdiche. He has intimated he will be able to be more aggressive with his calls with that athletic, fast lineup.

* While Jaylen Walton and I'tavius Mathers are still considered the top two running backs, expect Jordan Wilkins to get his share of reps as well. He's certainly getting a lot of them in practice as the coaches worked fervently to get him ready for game action.

* With CBs Tee Shepard and Carlos Davis now gone for the year due to injury, the Rebels are fortunate to have a freshman with the ability of Kendarius Webster. Great instincts, excellent short area and closing speed, good size and an extremely confident player. He will play quite a bit this year, it says here.

* Freshman FS C.J. Hampton did not pick up where he left off in spring, prompting the coaches to move senior Cliff Coleman to back up Cody Prewitt. In the last week or so, however, Hampton has regained his spring form and is now looking like the heir apparent to Prewitt once again. Good to see him resurface.

* The kick return team, as of today, will look like this. On the front line, it will be freshman C.J. Moore, Wilkins, Evan Engram, Keith Lewiss and Anthony Alford. Behind them, placed around the 25-30, will be Channing Ward, Shackelford and John Younblood. OL Carlton Martin will be behind them around the 15 with Mark Dodson and Walton as the deep return men.

* Another player who has moved into the realm of "will help" is senior DT Lavon Hooks, who was used sparingly last year when he came in as a JUCO transfer. Against run teams, Lavon is expected to be one of the anchors in the middle.

* Tuesday's practice is closed to the media and fans.

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