OXFORD, Miss. (WCBI/Ole Miss Athletics) – Rebel fans were lined up along the north and west sides of the Ole Miss practice fields Monday morning to watch Hugh Freeze’s football team go through their fourth practice of fall camp.
“I thought it was our best day yet,” said the Rebels’ second-year head coach. “There was really good competition in all the team settings. It went down to the end in all of them. I don’t know that we finished practice as well as I would like, but I felt like for the most part it was our best day yet.”
The team practiced for just over two hours in the thick, warm August air next to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as fans were allowed to attend for the first time this fall. Workouts will continue to be open to the public through Saturday (August 10), and daily updates of practice locations will be available on Twitter at @OleMissFB. Visitors to campus on weekdays are reminded to make parking arrangements by going to www.olemiss.edu/parking, and fans are asked to watch practice from the north hillside and west side of the practice fields and not in between the fields.
The defensive line looks to be an area of strength for this year’s Rebels with several key returners and the addition of highly touted freshman Robert Nkemdiche. The Loganville, Ga., native ran with the first team at defensive end on Monday.
“Carlos (Thompson) got a ding to the head. I don’t know what all is wrong with him, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see (Nkemdiche on the first team) quite frequently,” Freeze said.
Freeze was also complimentary of the progress he has seen from sophomore defensive end Channing Ward.
“Channing’s really coming on. Coming in late last year, he was just swimming the whole year. He’s much more confident now. He’s matured some. Having gone through spring practice and summer workouts with (strength coach) Paul (Jackson) and day one install, he just feels more comfortable and certainly is playing better.”
Special teams were incorporated into practice on Monday, including punt and field goal drills. Ole Miss welcomes back seniors Tyler Campbell and Andrew Ritter after both players sat out and earned redshirts a year ago.
“Redshirting Tyler and Ritter, I’ll be disappointed if we’re not very solid (on special teams),” Freeze said. “Tyler should be one of the better punters in the nation and could be your defense’s best weapon at times. Ritter has to get more consistent with his field goal stuff, but kickoffs shouldn’t be hard for us to cover if he does the job he’s capable of doing.”
After two straight days in shells (helmets and shoulder pads), players will strap on full pads for the first time on Tuesday. Practice begins at 9:45 a.m.