Quest For Seven Begins

The 6-0, No. 3-ranked Ole Miss Rebels are happy with where they are at the halfway mark of the regular season, but they want more and the first challenge of the "third quarter" of the campaign starts with an "improved, talented" Tennessee squad that reminds the UM coaches of Ole Miss in 2013 - young, but dangerous.

On paper, the 3-3 overall, 0-2 in the SEC Tennessee Vols look like a "should win" for the undefeated Rebels at home.

Even Vegas has the Rebs a big 16 1/2 - at this writing - point favorite.

But don't try telling the Rebel coaches that.

"Their defense is very athletic, very talented. Their middle linebacker (A.J. Johnson) is as good as any MLB in the conference and I really like how their corners play," said Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze. "Their coaches have a good scheme and that young defense plays hard. They remind me of our defense a year ago - right on the verge of putting it all together.

"They are a dangerous opponent."

The message Freeze is giving his team is becoming more and more familiar as the weeks click by, but the truth in the mantra remains.

"Any team on any Saturday can beat you if you aren't playing good football and any team in our league can beat you even if you are playing pretty good," he expressed. "We have a target on our backs now and have to take care of our business to be successful."

The Rebels don't intend to let anyone slip up on them.

Senior CB Senquez Golson is listening.

"We weren't real happy in ourselves for letting A&M score 20 points and we've had some long talks about it. Our seniors are stepping up and telling everyone that it wasn't acceptable," said Golson, who has five interceptions on the year. "We have a long way to go as a team in order to do what we want to do.

"With the group of leaders we have, we aren't going to get satisfied. We are chasing much more than a good year. We want a great year."

Random Notes:

* MLB D.T. Shackelford, it's been repeatedly reported, could have played against Texas A&M, but he was a bit hobbled with a sore knee from the Alabama game and the Aggie spread attack really doesn't fit his game ideally, so he was rested and senior Keith Lewis took his place, performing admirably, including a 21-yard scoop-and-score on Aggie QB Kevin Hill's fumble in the fourth quarter to put the game way out of reach. . . While it is a bonus to have someone of Lewis' caliber to take D.T.'s place, the sixth-year senior was back at practice Tuesday and looked ready to go. Lewis will continue his earlier role of passing situations MLB.

* Last week, Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack must have been looking into a crystal ball. He stated without hesitation that freshman Defensive End Marquis Haynes was coming on fast and furious, improving daily. Haynes made Wommack prophetic against Texas A&M, being named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for his effort,which, for the third straight game, included crucial QB sack. "Give him some time - he's going to be a great one," Wommack said postgame.

* From the what-were-the-refs-watching? category, Rebel Deep Snapper was hit two times in the act of snapping the ball with his head down against Texas A&M. That's illegal contact and should have been a 15-yard penalty. No call. Only after Special Teams Coordinator Tom Allen complained about it did the refs warn the Aggie bench. Hitting the deep snapper before he can get into a position to defend himself has been illegal for years. The question remains - what were the refs watching?

* Freshman Cornerback Kendarius Webster, as you are aware, got his first career start against the Aggies when SS Trae Elston was suspended for a half and regular starting CB Mike Hilton was moved to SS to cover for Elston. How did the freshman do? Very good. He graded 88%, which is well above a winning performance. The defensive coaches were smart, not putting much stress on him with a lot of press coverage calls, and he did give up one post completion, but overall, Kendarius showed why the defensive staff believes he is a star of the future. What will put him over the top? According to them, a year in the weight room to gain more strength and more experience and he will be a prime time corner.

* We get a lot of questions about transfer OL Christian Morris and his progress since he was declared medically capable of playing after a summer Achilles injury. Here's the skinny on the big fellow. Morris has an explosive first step and an "excellent" first punch, but he needs a year in the weight room to gain lower body strength in order to be able to hold his ground after initial contact. There is no disappointment with Morris in the Rebel camp. Time will take care of his issues, it is projected.

* A partial update on some of the redshirts. . . TB Akeem Judd has put on 10 pounds since he has been at Ole Miss and is now around 230 pounds. While it's not "bad weight," it's not what RB Coach Derrick Nix wants from the JUCO transfer. "We think he will be more effective at 220-222, but I am not concerned right now. He will take it off in the spring and summer," Nix said on Rebel Yell Hotline last night. . . .

. . . Freshman DE Garrald McDowell has stepped it up in the weight room, increasing his power clean lift from 230 pounds to 274 and his squat from 340 to 400. Good jump in a short amount of time. . . Freshman DE Victor Evans came to Ole Miss as a 6-4, 211-pound "string bean." He is now 6-4, 241 and on the rise. Expect him to be in the neighborhood of 250 pounds when the 2015 season rolls around. . . . Freshman OL Sean Rawlings has gotten his power clean over 300 pounds - the benchmark for "strong enough" in that lift. . . Freshman OL Jordan Sims has lost from a reporting weight of 384 pounds down to 343 and his power clean numbers have gone from 243 pounds to 286. Good progress in both directions.

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