Big Changes in Store for Ole Miss Football as the Rebels Prepare for Texas A&M
Oxford, Miss (TLV) – Hugh Freeze was all but apologetic for his Rebels’ performance last Saturday against Memphis at Monday morning’s press conference, saying that “[his] staff hurts for the Ole Miss family.”
“I understand when you love a place and want to give a great joy through the job you’re assigned, it is difficult. It’s disappointing,” said Freeze.
In the midst of two losses in three games and a list of injuries that continues to grow each week, Ole Miss is now staring down a five-game stretch of crucial SEC games that now look even more daunting than they did at the beginning of the season. However, Freeze was confident that the team will circle the wagons and respond to the adversity.
“Our theme this year is, ‘Take A Stand’, and this is a great teaching moment for our young men,” he explained. “Disappointments are a part of life, and this is a great teaching time.”
“It starts with Texas A&M.”
It was another week with another crucial injury for Ole Miss, this time vs. Memphis, as starting center Robert Conyers was lost for the year with an ACL tear. The good news for the offensive line, however, is that All-American left tackle Laremy Tunsil will make his 2015 debut after serving a seven-game suspension from the NCAA.
“I don’t like looking at our injury list, and neither do our fans,” said Freeze. “We are very optimistic in getting that [offensive line] crew back together.”
The revamped OL will feature Tunsil at LT, which will move his replacement, Fahn Cooper, back to right tackle. Justin Bell will start at center in Conyers’s place, with Rod Taylor and Aaron Morris starting at right and left guard, respectively.
Robert Nkemdiche, Trae Elston, and Will Gleeson are all undergoing concussion protocol after Saturday’s game, and while their status is less than solid for the Texas A&M game, Freeze did not say outright that any of them will miss playing time.
One positive note is that starting LB C.J. Johnson will take snaps at practice this week, though his game-day status is still up in the air. His return would help bolster a banged-up defense that, according to Freeze, had no fewer than thirty missed tackles vs. Memphis.
“Even if we don’t [get Johnson back],” said Freeze, “we still need to get that same identity back again. We need to get back to being the Landshark defense.”
The Aggies, who will visit Oxford this Saturday night at 6 pm, are coming off a 41-23 loss at the hands of Alabama in College Station and will also be looking to rebound. Freeze called the Aggies “a very talented team with extremely good athletes on both sides of the ball,” and noted a professional friendship with head coach Kevin Sumlin that goes back to their high school coaching days.
“Kevin has done a really nice job there, and their defense is playing at a much higher level,” said Freeze.
It will be yet another stiff test for the Rebels, who will need a positive spark if they are to remain in contention for the SEC title. As Freeze said Monday morning, “[w]e are going to see Saturday night if the heart is there.”
Ole Miss and Texas A&M will kick off at 6 PM in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Alex Thiel Alex Thiel is a writer and Sports Editor for The Local Voice. A 2014 graduate of Ole Miss, Alex spends his days in Oxford as a freelance audio/video artist, yelling into microphones as a member of Carlos Danger, performing comedy noncommittally, digging around the University’s film archives for Ole Miss Sports Productions, and occasionally serving you beverages in exchange for your money.