Power in Numbers

The injury bug hasn't been kind to Andy Kennedy and the Rebels in 2009, but it hasn't hampered them in their everyday practice routine. Read about it inside.

It happens every year.

Being so late in the regular season, almost any team starts to feel the effects of such a rigorous schedule.

Usually a player here or there hobbles a little more, or might just need a break from practice to ease some growing pains.

It's no different in Oxford, but Andy Kennedy and the Rebels aren't afforded the luxury of any one man falling ill.

With a rotation of around eight or nine – almost all underclassmen – they simply lack the bodies.

"I've been told at an early stage in my career to never lose your sense of humor, and this year has certainly tested that," Kennedy said of the team's struggles to stay healthy. "It's beyond belief really with all the injuries."

David Huertas was the latest casualty to Ole Miss' injury woes, suffering a bone contusion in his foot against Alabama. Luckily for Kennedy, Huertas was cleared after an MRI Monday.

Once you add the talented junior to a list of walking wounded that includes sophomore Zach Graham, who has played the majority of the year with a partially torn patella tendon, it's easy to understand why the Rebels are struggling to even field a team for day-to-day practice.

"Honestly, it's next to impossible," said Kennedy of trying to exercise a regular practice schedule. "We have three walk-ons that we try to get engaged (in practice), but that's been our biggest challenge as a coaching staff. We have a number of areas we need to work on and it's hard to be able to do that as it relates to our lack of bodies."

Freshman Terrico White, who has suffered with nagging knee pains for weeks, said the team is usually limited when preparing for opponents.

"(Sunday) was my first day back in practice in a while," he said. "We really do a lot of three-on-three drills and sometimes a little four-on-four in practice. Sometimes we just take some shots and work on some ball handling drills."

This year has been a tale of survival for Ole Miss, as three of its top returners for 2009 all suffered season-ending knee injuries before conference play began.

Many questioned whether the Rebels would be able to keep their heads above water in the difficult SEC, especially when team leader Chris Warren went down against Louisville.

But with Terrico making a strong push for SEC Freshman of the Year and Murphy Holloway showing promise, the Rebels have placed themselves in position for a potential run at the postseason.

"When Chris went down, the question was ‘Can we win another game?‘ I didn't know, because we didn't have anybody that was in a position to take over as the leader of our team," Kennedy explained. "Terrico has evolved into that guy.

"He's tremendously talented. For him to go into a new position as a true freshman and lead us the way he has, I'd be hard-pressed to find anybody that's been more valuable to his team than he's been for us."

Despite it all, Ole Miss has continued to push forward. They've certainly experienced setbacks along the way, with blowout losses to LSU and now Alabama.

While some might talk of freshmen fatigue or simply an adversity stricken season wearing on the young squad, Kennedy refuses to make an excuse.

"I guess we could justify it, but I don't want to give them that out as deep as we are in the season," Kennedy explained. "I thought Alabama was really good and I didn't think we were very good. We saw against LSU earlier, when those two things come together, that's a bad combination to be on the other side of.

"Alabama's playing great. They have a lot of confidence. Loose and free. That's where I want our kids to be."

If they can just stay healthy.

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