Back from vacation and on to Media Days.
John Davis and I are on the road early this morning.
Hugh Freeze won’t speak at Media Days until Thursday, the final day. By wave of preview, here are the five questions I think will be most asked of the Ole Miss coach.
I posted three questions a while back and offer them to you again here in the spirit of opening day. One tid-bit. I touched based with Ole Miss compliance director Matt Ball prior to vacation for an update on the Christian Morris waiver request. Prior to the Fourth it had not been filed but was close. Ball was working to get as much documentation as possible to present the best case for Morris.
I hit on the OL a little bit below. It’s a huge pick-up for Ole Miss if Morris can play. Rivals had them rated very closely as they came out of high school in the 2013 class. Golson was rated the No. 8 offensive tackle and the No. 118 player overall. Morris was rated the No. 10 offensive tackle and the No. 128 player overall.
That doesn’t mean Ole Miss won’t skip a beat if Morris gets his waiver. With Golson having played last year and gone through spring this season he was far ahead of where Morris is right now. Morris didn’t play last year and also has the Achilles injury to contend with.
It is interesting, though, that one recruiting website viewed them so very close in ability.
So, five questions for Freeze …
Tempo Offense: While there was no off-season change to the NCAA rule allowing college football teams to put the ball in play as fast as they can the discussion remains.
Some SEC coaches, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Arkansas’s Bret Bielema, say it’s a discussion of safety.
Tempo offense has been good to Hugh Freeze everywhere he’s been, and he’s been a vocal proponent for the status quo.
He was asked about his offense and the rules change discussion at the SEC spring meetings in May and no doubt will be asked again.
Bo Wallace: Most in the ballroom will want to know whether Freeze believes having an experienced third-year starter at quarterback gives Ole Miss a chance to climb in the division standings. Freeze will answer something along the lines of “You’d like to think so, but there have been some inexperienced quarterbacks who played pretty well lately.” He’ll point to Johnny Manziel and Nick Marshall.
The bigger question for Wallace right now is how did things go with his trip to California to see shoulder specialist Tom House? What did Freeze think of the video he saw from that visit and how did it go with Freeze’s conversations with House? What did Wallace take from that trip that can help keep his shoulder at peak performance level the entire season?
High Expectations: The Rebels have gotten some Top 25 love in various preseason rankings. Whether Wallace stays healthy and can play at a high level from start to finish will be a big factor in if and where they’re ranked at season’s end.
Two years ago at his first SEC Media Days Freeze spoke of journey and wilderness. After obvious growth in the standings and in recruiting he’ll be asked if this is the year Ole Miss takes a notable step forward in the SEC West.
Suspended Players: In April Freeze said he was pleased with the progress of Serderius Bryant and Denzel Nkemdiche. He was hesitant to offer too much praise, he said, because “the minute I jump out there and become very optimistic we could have a setback,” he said.
Both are suspended because of off-season arrests. Freeze announced before the start of spring practice that Bryant could work his way back into good standing before the season opener with Boise State in Atlanta but that Nkemdiche would be suspended for at least that game.
Now it would seem that Senquez Golson’s status is unclear. On the post-spring depth chart Golson, a senior from Pascagoula, is listed No. 1 at Field Cornerback. He was arrested earlier this summer. Little-used veteran Cliff Coleman and sophomore Kailo Moore, who must moved to corner from running back, are behind Golson on the depth chart.
Offensive Line: The status of another Golson is more certain and unfortunate for the Rebels. The surprise departure of Austin Golson subtracts a key recruit from the 2013 class and will be felt at center as well tackle. Robert Conyers, a third-year sophomore, was very much a part of the competition to replace Evan Swindall. Now he’s been moved back to right tackle where he’ll start at No. 1 in August.
There will be hearty competition with junior college transfer Fahn Cooper and possibly UCLA transfer Christian Morris if he’s healthy and gets an NCAA waiver to allow him to play immediately and not sit out the year required of most transfers.
Golson’s move weakens the middle of the line too. If Ben Still doesn’t win the job at center, it’s possible you’ll see guard Justin Bell join that mix. That would mean freshman Rod Taylor would likely be called on to play right away.
It’s a scenario that hurts OL depth, and quality depth up front would be a big bonus for this team.