OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - The Ole Miss football team continued its preparations for the 2014 season with a spirited practice on the practice fields Tuesday morning.
Head coach Hugh Freeze spoke about having a mentality of toughness throughout fall camp, despite bumps and bruises.
“I challenged the team today after practice to make up their minds that they’re going to get through the tough stuff, and if at all possible, get their pads on and get out there with their team,” said Freeze. “This is a part of what every team goes through at this time of year and teams that want to go from good to great, they embrace the toughness of fall camp.”
Freeze did mention that several of the Rebels had some bumps and bruises and spent the morning’s practice in shorts. Kailo Moore, Issac Gross, C.J. Hampton and Fadol Brown missed some time during practice, but Freeze felt assured those injuries weren’t serious and expected them to be listed as day-to-day.
“I know there’s a fine line and we certainly want to get to game one healthy and we’ll take those precautions, but we have to continue to be a tough-minded football team,” said Freeze.
Fall camp has seen several players make some changes in position and one change is that of moving Quincy Adeboyejo to slot receiver.
“I expect Quincy to have a breakout year,” said Freeze. “I think he gives us a threat there and can do things with the ball in his hands that are a little different than what we’ve had. He’s a quick twist and can run, but has to continue to improve his ball catching. He still has too many that aren’t natural catches for him that he should make and we’ll continue to work at that. I’m expecting for him to really breakout this year.”
Adeboyejo saw time last year, but with all of the weapons at receiver it was hard for him to break into the rotation and Freeze acknowledged that.
“We had some upper classmen that were inside last year and as his learning curve came along he played some outside, but it was tough to get in the rotation with Ja-Mes (Logan), Laquon (Treadwell), Donte (Moncrief) and Vince (Sanders). Now is his time.”
Freeze believes Adeboyejo is one of the Rebels’ better route runners and will look for that to be a strength for the second-year player.
“He’s a really good route runner,” said Freeze. “He’s good at getting in and out of breaks, he double moves and he’s a strider. If he gets in the open field he’s a guy that’s tough to corral. We’re excited about him.”
Another player who has moved around is freshman Sammie Epps. Epps, who is listed as tight end, will move to slot receiver to give the Rebels additional depth.
“We moved him there to give us some additional depth,” said Freeze. “We said all along the offensive line, receiver and tight end were our depth issues and as we get more into practice you notice that, and we’re thin in the slot, particularly with a bigger body that can do some of the things that Laquon (Treadwell) did in our run and screen game. We decided for his freshman year to move him there. I don’t know if he’ll remain there throughout his career, we’ll see how his body develops, but we’re all in agreement that’s best for him and for us this year.”
As Freeze mentioned, another area of concern with depth is at tight end. With Evan Engram taking reps with the first team, Nicholas Parker, Jeremy Liggins and Matt Brown are also each getting reps.
Freeze mentioned that he was pleased with the progress of Liggins, an Oxford native, especially with his physicality.
“Jeremy is coming along nicely. He still makes mistakes mentally, but physically he mixes it up a lot better than I anticipated,” said Freeze. “He’s a physical blocker and that’s something we need. He’s also a threat for us doing other things on the field too.”
The head coach was also pleased with the early play of Anthony Alford.
“I love him,” said Freeze. “He took some snaps yesterday and I thought he looked quite explosive. He looked good at punt return this morning and defensively he’s getting better and better with each practice. I’m just very glad we have him.”
Fans may attend the team's practice, weather permitting, on Saturday, Aug. 9 at 9:45 a.m., in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. That will be the only fall practice open to the public.