Focal Points

Ole Miss' much-anticipated spring football session begins today. Coach Hugh Freeze briefed the media on a number of areas he and his staff will address during spring training as the 2015 looms in the shadows.

First, the obvious - replacing a three-year starter - one Bo Wallace - at quarterback will be a top priority.

Freeze said there will be three main candidates - Ryan Buchanan, Devante Kincade and Chad Kelly - put in an extremely competitive environment and placed under intense scrutiny and evaluation.

"We're going to be very thorough in our evaluations by charting everything they do, every drill, every rep. We will look at stats, everything. It will be a very competitive situation," said Freeze. "There will be a constant rotation with equal reps with the ones and twos.

"We will be looking to see who can handle hard coaching, who understands what we are trying to accomplish with what we have called and then being able to execute and take care of the ball."

Freeze said he is excited about all three.

"The way they have studied and prepared, I'm anxious to see them get out there and compete," he continued. "I'm not anticipating naming a starter in spring unless it is very clear-cut. Knowing the personalities of the guys there, it probably won't be a clear-cut decision.

"I don't think it's a detriment not having a starter named after spring. If it's clear-cut leader after spring though, we may name one."

Replacing two key players - All-Americans Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson - in the secondary is also a priority, but not one Hugh appears to have much angst about due to the available candidates.

"We've gotten longer back there and we have a lot of kids who can run and cover. We'll start Mike Hilton at free safety and Tony Bridges at corner, but we can move folks around in a lot of ways back there to get the right rotation," he expressed. "We have Trae (Elston) back, Chief (Brown) is back, the Moore twins are back. Kailo Moore and Ken Webster excite me too.

"Tee (Shepard) is also healthy now and that's a big plus for us in the secondary. I don't know how this will end up, but I feel good about the players we have available on the back end of our defense. Provided we stay healthy, I think we will be fine."

Another obvious area the coaches will wade into is two-fold but goes hand-in-hand - the offensive line and the run game. Unfortunately, with Laremy Tunsil, Daronte Bouldin and Aaron Morris sidelined during spring due to offseason surgery, great results will be difficult.

"I wish we had them all out there, but it's certainly an area we will address - the production of the OL and the run game," Freeze noted. "A lot of younger players are going to get a lot of reps and will have an opportunity to show us what they can do.

"At running back, we probably won't give Jaylen Walton a lot of reps - we know what he can do, but we are anxious to see how Akeem Judd performs after a redshirt year. He's lost weight and looks good to me. Jordan Wilkins has developed physically as well and came on strong at the end of last year. We will definitely work on the run game and have changed some things we think will help us."

The Rebels lost three linebackers - Serderius Bryant, D.T. Shackelford and Keith Lewis - to graduation and one - Denzel Nkemdiche - is coming off an injury that ended his season early last year.

"We have some concerns there," Freeze admitted. "We've moved C.J. Johnson to Mike LB. We also have Christian Russell and Temario Strong there. Outside, we have Denzel, DeMarquis Gates and we signed Terry Caldwell and have Tayler Polk.

"The Mike LB is really the biggest question mark right now, to me. We need to get that settled or make progress there. We also have to determine who can help us in different situations. Linebacker, in my estimation, is the key for us this spring on defense."

A big tight end, now that Jeremy Liggins has moved to tackle and Nick Parker has graduated, is a minor issue that will need to be addressed as well.

"We can always use Jeremy in that role again if we need to and we have some bigger guys on the roster who we think can be physical in that role," he stated. "I'm also excited, at that position, to see how much progress Sammie Epps has made during his redshirt year."

The old saying goes - a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

The links on the Rebel team that need strengthening have been identified and will draw a lot of focus in spring training.

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