Published on July 31st, 2013 | by Carver Rayburn0
SEC Media Days: Ole Miss Rebels
Oxford, Miss. (TLV#184) – The SEC Football Media Days, annually held in Birmingham, Alabama, has grown into the mega-conference’s own kickoff classic, just six weeks before the first official snap of the season is taken. The event, which aired live in its entirety on ESPNU, entered its 28th year and was held at The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, outside of Birmingham.
Head Coach Hugh Freeze and the Rebels of Ole Miss were granted the opportunity to face the more than 1,200 credentialed members of the media in attendance on Tuesday. Freeze took with him: Junior Quarterback Bo Wallace, Senior Linebacker Mike Marry, and Junior Wide Receiver Donte Moncrief for a question and answer session.
The Rebels, who return 18 starters from last year’s over-achieving 7-6 squad, will look to a consensus Top 10 recruiting class to fill the lack of depth that kept the Rebels from winning the fourth quarter in several games last season. In fact, seome of those freshmen have already been named in back-up roles by several sources and are likely to earn starting spots come August 29th in the season-opener at Vanderbilt (ESPN 8:15 pm CT)
The “expectations of this year’s squad” were echoed across Twitter Feeds, Radio and Television Broadcasts, as well as newspaper reports. Of course, Freeze was asked about the raised bar in Oxford by the general media during his 20 minute question and answer session.
“The reasonable expectation (last year) was getting our young men to buy into this system and compete for 60 minutes last year,” Freeze said. “With the exception of two halves, I thought our kids were extremely competitive, played with a great amount of passion and energy, and represented our great university and our fan base in a way that made them excited and proud to watch our team play. So, I think that was accomplished.”
Moncrief reiterated his coach’s perspective and said that he understands the fans expect more from this year’s team.
“We just know that we can do better than we did last year,” Moncrief said. “There were a lot of small things that we messed up on and Coach Freeze says, the small things will beat you.”
“Our task in year two is to maintain the enthusiasm and energy from both our fans and our players and everyone that is involved in our program, as we continue to strive to be relevant in the SEC West,” Freeze said.
Maintaining that level of enthusiasm may be hard for the Rebels out of the gate. With one of the toughest schedules in the SEC, Ole Miss opens up with four of their first five on the road at Vanderbilt, Texas, Alabama, and Auburn. Once the Rebels have finished up their road trip, they will not leave the state of Mississippi after the Oct. 5 game against the Tigers.
Other concerns facing the Rebels heading into the 2013 season is how the offense responds to losing key starters to surgeries in the off season. Freeze said the offensive line, as well as quarterback Bo Wallace will have some work to do in order to get back to game day shape.
“We were fortunate to start the same quarterback and offensive line in every game last year,” Freeze said. “That just doesn’t happen that often. We were reminded of that this spring when we lost several players to injury, particularly on the offensive line. Working with them and seeing how they respond will tell us a lot about this team when we get to the opener at Vanderbilt.”
Wallace is expected to make a full recovery from his offseason shoulder surgery and has begun throwing at full strength in the past few weeks, according to Freeze.
“It’s going good,” Wallace said when asked about his shoulder. “We’re in our last stages. Now I’m just getting to throwing everyday to get ready for camp. It feels good – I have all the confidence in the world in it. I’m just ready to get back out there and compete with my team.”
Like it or not, expectations are on the rise in Oxford. That is a reality. What is also a reality, is the on time perspective of Freeze.
“I tell our team quite often that unrealistic expectations, they always produce frustration. I don’t care in what area of life that you’re in, if you have an unreal expectation and it does not come to pass, you get very frustrated.”