Another set of votes have been tallied this preseason. The verdicts are in from yet another group on how things will wind up this football season.
The media gathered in Birmingham last week said Ole Miss would finish fifth in the SEC West ahead of State. Safe vote there, I'm sure most felt.
I looked at the bottom two teams chosen in the West – Ole Miss and State – and the bottom two teams selected in the East – Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Those four have been holding up the league from the basement, looking up at the rest of them, for years now it seems. It's been that way for most football seasons of my adult life.
Sure there have been the occasional years when Ole Miss would step up and get some respect, like a couple of years ago when the Rebels were the second pick by most behind LSU in the West.
State got some good pub and moved up in the late 1990s as the Bulldogs bowled several times.
Kentucky had some success with Tim Couch at quarterback in the ‘90s. Vanderbilt hasn't had a winning season in 23 years.
There is no doubt in my mind, or yours I am sure, that Ole Miss is ahead of the other three at this point, even in Coach O's first season and with the building process just beginning.
The Rebels will get a chance to prove against all three of the other chosen bottom teams that they are indeed superior as Kentucky comes to town and Ole Miss goes to Nashville and Starkville.
I don't know what those or any of the games will hold for the Rebels this season. Nobody does. It's why the games are played and the score is kept.
But I get the feeling the Rebels are going to be as prepared as they can possibly be and ready to play each gameday, not just this fall but in the future too. The new coaching staff has brought quite an air of confidence to the surroundings here.
It's the way the media seemed to react to Coach O last week in Birmingham. I know many were eager to see and hear him. I know many of them left impressed with what they saw and heard.
Of course the ultimate conclusion and verdict for the Rebels was the same as it has been many times before, that they'll be somewhere in the bottom half of their own division, trying to win enough games to get to a bowl game, any bowl game.
But there were also the ones who said they are seeing and hearing Ole Miss mentioned by more recruits and young players who have yet to choose a college to attend. When they hear what many would call the "bigger name" programs mentioned by some recruits, they are also hearing Ole Miss mentioned.
But it's all a part of the plan Coach O has in mind and will implement. Obviously he talks recruiting at every opportunity and points out just how important it is. Certainly he arrived in Oxford with the reputation of being one of the best in that area.
So the votes are in again, and Ole Miss will have to work its way up, according to voters. But that might not be the case in future years after the Coach O plan takes full effect. It might not be as easy for so many media and other voters to put the Rebels down there toward the bottom as it has been more times than not in the last three decades or so.
I got a chance to meet new softball coach Missy Dickerson a couple of weeks ago. She brings new enthusiasm and direction to a program that hasn't ever totally gotten off the ground.
Once again Rebel softball will try to push forward and become a winner. Dickerson, who played at UCLA and came to Ole Miss this summer after serving as head coach at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, is ready for that opportunity.
"It definitely is a challenge," she said of the Ole Miss situation in softball. "My background in fundamentals and in hitting are things I feel I can bring to this program. I feel I can help increase the level of play on this team. I look forward to accepting this challenge."
Dickerson says she wants her teams to be solid and sound and as error-free as possible.
"I'm a fundamentalist, so I want to make sure that my defense is solid," she said. "Offensively I like to have a combination of speed and power. So I'm going to use the rabbits to get on base and then use the power hitters to knock them in. I also believe in using the short game to your advantage."
A major facilities upgrade is about to begin for Ole Miss softball. A new press box, improved seating areas and dugouts, and a new indoor practice facility are all in the program's near future.
"The improvements are going to be tremendous," she said. "To be able to have an indoor facility to use during inclement weather is just amazing. It will really improve the all-around atmosphere of the program and help us be competitive. When the facilities are done, they will be one of the best in the SEC as well as the country. The commitment to upgrade is just going to be an added bonus to Ole Miss softball and the entire program."
Dickerson says fall practice will be critical in establishing what she and her program will be all about.
"The fall will be important to get the kids to buy into what we're trying to show them, especially since it is the first year," she said. "You have to convince them they are doing the right things, and that you are going to help them succeed. Once you do that, then you are in much better shape. And of course fall is an important time to work on the fundamentals of the game as well."
Dickerson says she is pleased to be at Ole Miss.
"I did a little research before coming here," she said. "The University has tremendous history and tradition. That was one of the things that drew me to this school. To be a part of that and to be in a conference like the SEC is something that I was looking for.
"It's very exciting to be here and in the SEC," she concluded. "The SEC has come a long way (in softball) in what I consider a short time. To be a part of that and to hopefully build the University of Mississippi into a competitor in the SEC is very exciting to me. It is apparent when you step on campus how much pride there is here. My welcome has been very warm, and I've been a little bit overwhelmed with the welcome that I've received. It has been very pleasant, and I am very appreciative of that."
The bowl game signs and the hall of fame recognition signs that were put up in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium two years ago have already been replaced. The first ones placed on the facades of the east and west sides of the stadium were blue and small and not very visible. It was a strain to see them from one side of the field to the other.
The new ones put up this summer are now the same red color as the larger SEC and national championship signs in the south end zone. You will notice the changes in the signage as soon as you set foot inside the stadium for either scrimmages this month or at the first home game when the Wyoming Cowboys meet the Rebels on Sept. 24.
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