Dr. Jason Farese and his wife, Dr. Lea Farese, as well as Dr. Michael Perry and his wife, Kim, and Dr. Austin Poole and his wife, Angie, were killed Sunday in a single-plane crash in Northport, Ala.
But a few days later, a number of the 11 children they left behind were in attendance for the Rebels’ 10th practice of fall camp. They were welcomed with open arms by the team, including head coach Hugh Freeze, who hugged each child and posed for pictures. Senior defensive end Fadol Brown even shared his helmet with one of the boys.
The children stayed for the duration of practice, participating in drills with players and even playing some 7-on-7 with Freeze and the Ole Miss defensive backs. A few attempted field goals with the Ole Miss specialists.
“Man, the hurt that I feel for those families,” Freeze said. “I went home and spent some time with my kids. I just can’t imagine. You search for answers, and you’re just at a total loss for words. I know the Oxford community, though, because I’ve lived here five years now, and three before. I know that they will rally. I know that we’re going to do our part in helping these young kids have a future that is secure. I know their families will, too. We’re here to help. We’ve got all those kids here today from those families. I see our guys over there hanging out with them right now. Man, it hit home, for sure.”
Members of the Oxford community and local churches held a memorial service for the six victims Monday night in the Grove. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced, but a community-wide service is expected to be held in Tad Smith Coliseum Saturday.
“One of the young girls is one of my daughter’s good friends. I told our team, you’re not promised another day. What we can do is rise up today and be the best man we can be, whether it’s a football player or just using the platform that God’s given us to make an impact and difference,” Freeze said.
“To see them smile … We had Madison Manning here the other night who’s a cancer patient who’s been sent home. They can do no more for him. Our kids did a remarkable job with him, giving him a day that he’ll never forget. Hopefully one that brings a smile to his face when he thinks about it. We can always look at our problems and our issues that we have going on, but it’s all relative. What’s happened this week, man, we could have it a lot worse.”
As for the business of football, Ole Miss held its first scrimmage of August practices on Monday, and the offense had a good day.
“Yesterday we had, really, our first scrimmage,” Freeze said. “It was a bit odd, really, because the offense, I thought, really controlled the scrimmage, which is not normal for this early in camp. So I was real pleased with (the offensive) side. Defensively we have a lot of things to clean up. That was a bit discouraging. We’ve got a lot of improving to do on both sides, but I did think there was some neat things offensively yesterday. Not sure with how much that had to do with the offense’s execution, tempo or the defense’s lack of execution on their side. It’s hard for me to ever feel great when you’re trying to look at the big picture. Special teams were pretty solid. Gary (Wunderlich) kicked the ball extremely well yesterday. So did Nathan (Noble). (Will) Gleason was OK. But it was a solid day.”
Freeze was pleased with the work of the new-look Ole Miss offensive line. The current first-team unit, from left to right, consists of junior Rod Taylor, sophomore Javon Patterson, senior Robert Conyers, sophomore Jordan Sims and sophomore Sean Rawlings.
“Real pleased with where they were,” he said. “I thought there were a lot of good things. They played hard, fast, physical. I was pleased with the o-line yesterday.”
Freeze has liked what he's seen from true freshman running back D’Vaughn Pennamon, too, who Freeze said “keeps showing up” each and every day. Pennamon is competing with redshirt freshman Eric Swinney and veterans Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins for snaps in the backfield.
Pennamon, who chose the Rebels over Texas A&M and others in recruiting, is a former four-star prospect, according to Scout.com. He was ranked the No. 23 running back in the country in high school. He’s impressed through two weeks, as have safety Deontay Anderson and wide receiver D.K. Metcalf.
“D’Vaughn Pennamon keeps showing up at running back,” Freeze said. “Very physical. Runs downhill, hits the hole well, has good vision. I thought Deontay Anderson showed up. He had a couple of picks, actually, in the red zone. I think he’s getting more of a feel for things. D.K. Metcalf continues to show up in one-on-one situations; he’s so big and strong for a freshman. He doesn't have to win the route by a large margin to have a chance to have success. Those are a few.”
Not all is well, however. Safety C.J. Moore underwent surgery this week to repair a torn pec muscle. Freeze said there’s no timetable for his return, though he acknowledged a redshirt is in play.
Moore, a junior, was running with the second-team defense at HUSKY behind starter Tony Conner. True freshman Jarrion Street has been moved to safety from running back, while Anderson and redshirt freshman Montrell Custis are getting more snaps.
“We’ve moved Jarrion Street to one of the safeties. Very athletic kid. Hasn’t been here this summer, so he’s a little behind, but we think he has the potential to be good. But we really haven’t juggled a whole lot of things around, it just hurts us on our depth. He was definitely in the two-deep, so that’s something that you never want to happen. It’s the constant struggle of how do you prepare your team for an opening game like we have? Be physical, get things done and try to keep as many healthy as you can. We’ve got some good young talent back there, but we haven’t really had to mess with the rotation too much yet. We’ll see how that goes.”
On the health of Markell Pack and Greg Eisworth:
“Eisworth has not been released to go yet. He’s still dealing with a hamstring. Pack’s had a really good camp. He has to have a pin put in his thumb (Wednesday), which will keep him out a little while. I’m always hesitant to say when they’re going to be back, but I’m told he should be back in a 10-day period.”
On the status of Jeremy Liggins:
“Everything looks good. I think everything’s proceeding nicely there.”
On if D.K. Metcalf is in line to play immediately:
“A couple of years ago, no doubt. He may play this year if he keeps showing up. We need depth. These early games, we can complain about the difficulty of our early schedule. There are some positives. You really get, because of the home schedule and the non-conference combination and the on-the-road non-conference game, you can play more kids. You’ve got about five games there where you can really play a lot of kids and keep people fresh. That’s a good thing about the schedule. It’s very difficult, but it’s still a good thing.”
On turnovers so far:
“It has not shown up to be a deficiency. I wish it was none, but there have been a few. There were a couple of picks in the red zone yesterday and when we did our red zone competition. One was a tipped ball, but the other was a poor decision. We haven’t had many fumbles. Don’t like talking about that a lot, but we’ve protected it pretty well.”
On if Tony Conner participated in the scrimmage:
“He went. The only time he sits out, really, is the two-a-day practices. Like today, he’ll go one. Same thing with (Robert) Conyers. It’s not that he’s wanting to, it’s just what we think is best. So he’ll go this morning and then won’t go tonight.”
On Fadol Brown:
“Fadol is moving around better. He’s going to have some pain, initially, with it. I expect him to go some one-on-ones and some (individual drills) today. We’ll see how it goes after today.”
On Jason Pellerin and Shea Patterson:
“Good. Shea’s pretty good. He’s pretty talented and has a good head. Pellerin, we put a red jersey on him yesterday and let him be live, and I was real pleased with what I saw there, too.”
On what he likes most about Deontay Anderson:
“His size. We need bigger safeties in this league. He and Street both look like two SEC safeties back there. There’s a lot of things they’ve got to learn; they’re still young, so let’s not rush them, let’s don’t project them to be there yet. But I sure like the way they’ve looked.”