Freeze era at Ole Miss begins vs Central Arkansas
It’s been a brutal two years for Mississippi’s football
The first chance for new Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze to replace
some of that disappointment with optimism is finally here.
The Rebels host Central Arkansas on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway
Stadium in a game that’s important on many levels. First, Ole Miss
simply needs to win a football game after going 2-10 in 2011. But
the Rebels also hope to find some playmakers on their inexperienced
roster as they attempt to snap their 14-game Southeastern
Conference losing streak later this fall.
Preseason camp has provided a few moments of optimism, but
Freeze can’t glean much more from the practice field.
”I’m so sick of practice,” Freeze said. ”I’m sick of the
interviews that you have where people want to know the same thing.
You really want to get to the game and talk about how this person
did instead of what we expect. It’s all speculation right now. I
think it’s time for us, as for every other school, to get on the
field and see who is going to perform well.”
Bo Wallace was named the Rebels’ starting quarterback on
Thursday. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior college transfer has
battled with junior Barry Brunetti for the starting spot throughout
spring practice and fall camp.
It’s certainly a vote of confidence for Wallace, who threw for
4,604 yards and 53 touchdowns last season at East Mississippi
Community College. But Freeze has made it clear that both
quarterbacks will play and no starting job is safe.
”I don’t get caught up in depth charts really,” Freeze said.
”I want to know who can play and how many guys you have that can
play at that position. Who rolls out there that first series, I
don’t get too caught up with. At the end of the day, if they make
plays for our football team they’ll be happy and so will the
Wallace and Brunetti will be charged with leading Freeze’s
up-tempo offense that was so instrumental in turning around
Arkansas State’s program. It’s a system that calls for quick
decisions by the quarterback and can lead to plenty of points – or
turnovers – depending on the quality of those decisions.
Freeze said he won’t have a set plan to divide playing time
between Wallace and Brunetti. Instead, he hopes one quarterback
gets on a roll and forces his way into the full-time spot.
”I plan on scoring every drive,” Wallace said. ”If you’re
scoring every drive, you’re probably not going to be taken out. So
that’s my focus right now.”
Freeze is familiar with Central Arkansas. He led Arkansas State
to a 53-24 victory over the Bears last season, but he stressed it
He expects Saturday’s game to have a similar theme.
”I was impressed by the scheme he had built for us,
particularly the offensive scheme,” Freeze said. ”He moved the
ball on us and did some things that we had not seen done.”
The Rebels don’t have to reach back too far in their history to
realize Central Arkansas shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Just two seasons ago, a Houston Nutt-led Ole Miss team lost to
Jacksonville State 49-48 in a double overtime stunner. Nutt and the
Rebels were never able to overcome the embarrassing loss, and it
started a 6-18 stretch that ended with Nutt’s dismissal.
Now Freeze has been hired to pick up the pieces.
And the Bears are much like Jacksonville State – a solid FCS
program that finished with a 9-4 record last season and advanced to
the second round of the playoffs. They also have nothing to lose
and everything to gain.
”It’s a tremendous challenge,” Central Arkansas coach Clint
Conque said. ”But a wonderful opportunity.”
The Bears will start junior Wynrick Smothers at quarterback, who
takes over after backing up All-American Nathan Dick last season.
Central Arkansas runs an up-tempo offense that is similar to
Freeze’s system. Members of the Ole Miss defense – which was the
worst in the SEC last season – say it should provide a good
”We just need to keep our composure,” Ole Miss safety Cody
Prewitt said. ”We need to trust our coaches and the scheme they’ve
”Football is a game that you’ve got to take play by play,”
Prewitt said. ”You can’t think about the past or the future, you
just have to go into each play by itself and play your hardest. As
long as you beat the person across from you, that’s all you’ve got
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