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Ole Miss Coaches' Christmas Wish List

David Collier is a junior broadcast journalism major in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss.
Email him at dlcollie@go.olemiss.edu
Every week, I am a guest on “The Show Up North” on Rebel Sports Radio with Will East and Tyler Bischoff to talk about various topics regarding Ole Miss sports.
Tyler had me on today to talk about what Hugh Freeze, Andy Kennedy and Mike Bianco would have on their Christmas wish lists. I gave him my thoughts on Bianco, and it got me thinking about all three guys.
So, I thought we should have some fun with it. Below are my top five gifts for each coach with an explanation. To see what Will, Tyler and I had to say on today’s edition of “The Show Up North” listen here: https://vspor.to/12qhaIg.
Hugh Freeze
1. A Healthy Bo Wallace
Sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace was playing through a shoulder injury for most of the season that seemed to hinder his ability to throw the ball down field at times. Head coach Hugh Freeze has said Wallace will rest his arm until after Christmas to give him the most possible time to heal. Wallace may very well need surgery during the offseason, but if he can get close to healthy before the bowl game, the Rebel offense should be able to put up some points against Pittsburgh.
2. Strong Recruiting Class
From this point on, the focus will be on recruiting to see exactly who Freeze can sign come National Signing Day on Feb. 6. The Rebels are in the game for a large number of highly sought after prospects, and if Freeze can get those guys to sign, it could be the beginning of big things for Ole Miss football.
3. Robert Nkemdiche
Robert Nkemdiche has garnered a ton of attention from fans and media, and what more do you really expect from the nations No. 1 overall prospect. Many have thought Ole Miss is the frontrunner for Nkemdiche’s services because his brother, Denzel, is a starting linebacker for the Rebels. If they can get a public commitment from the Loganville, Ga. product, it could start a domino effect in the Rebels’ direction.
4. Indoor Practice Facility Improvements
As Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork has said a lot lately, if you’re not improving your facilities in the SEC, you’re falling behind. Ole Miss recently announced the expansion and renovation of the football Indoor Practice Facility, and it’s that type of proactive movement to keep the Rebels moving forward and not backwards in the arm wrestling match that is the SEC.
5. BBVA Compass Bowl Win
There’s no doubt that Ole Miss has exceeded anyone’s expectations for the 2012 season. Freeze would like nothing more than to cap off his first year as the Rebel head man with a win over Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl to give them their seventh win of the season.
Andy Kennedy
1. Free Throw Shooters
The biggest flaw Ole Miss has had this season is their inability to make free throws. The Rebels are shooting a measly 64 percent from the charity stripe, and Murphy Holloway, Reginald Buckner and Jarvis Summers are all shooting under 55 percent from the free throw line. If Ole Miss can consistently knock down the freebies, they have an opportunity to rack up a large number of wins this season.
2. Ball Handlers
Another thing that has plagued the Rebels this season is turnovers in key situations. There have been multiple times when Ole Miss could extend a lead but were unable to do so because of turnovers. If they can correct that, head coach Andy Kennedy will be able to relax a little more on the bench.
3. Diamond Head Classic Championship
It seems each year under Kennedy, the Rebels find themselves a win or two away from a berth in the NCAA Tournament. With the SEC having yet another down season, Ole Miss is running out of opportunities to get quality wins for the postseason resume. A win over San Diego State and Arizona would take away a tough loss at Middle Tennessee State earlier in the year and give the Rebels a ton of confidence heading into the new year.
4. New Arena
The Forward Together Campaign is in full swing and a new basketball arena is scheduled to break ground next fall. There’s no doubt Tad Smith Coliseum has seen it’s better days, so the basketball program really needs things to stay on track to move into their new home for the 2015-16 season as planned.
5. NCAA Tournament Appearance
Many have said it’s NCAA Tournament or bust for Kennedy this season, and that may very well be the case. Bjork has a history of being quick to take action when a program is not as successful as he believes it should be. Another season without a trip to the big dance could be the end for Kennedy, while a trip to the praised tournament would most likely have Kennedy around to see the new arena.
Mike Bianco
1. Healthy Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers
The diamond Rebels have one of the best Friday – Saturday duos in the country returning this season in junior right-handers Bobby Wahl and Mike Mayers. Both Wahl and Mayers had an excellent 2012 campaign, and sky is really the limit for 2013. Both also got quality experience in summer ball with Wahl playing with Team USA Collegiate squad and Mayers playing in the Cape Cod League. If both of those guys can stay healthy all season, Ole Miss can really make a run at a trip to the College World Series.
2. Offensive Weapons
On the flip side, Ole Miss lost it’s two best offensive threats in Alex Yarbrough and Matt Snyder. The Rebels do have Tanner Mathis returning for his senior season, but other guys have to step up. Auston Bousfield had an impressive freshman season, and many have compared him to Yarbrough. If he can continue to progress, he’ll be a big piece of the puzzle. Also, guys like Sikes Orvis, Will Allen, Preston Overbey and Andrew Mistone need to be more consistent at the plate.
3. Sunday Starter/Pitching Depth
While Wahl and Mayers are a given at the top of the rotation, the Sunday starting spot still needs to be filled. The top prospects are sophomore right-hander Chris Ellis and senior right-hander Tanner Bailey. Aside from that, Ole Miss has a chance to have one of the deepest pitching staffs around. Last season saw a ton of freshman arms get quality playing time and one can only think they take a step forward in 2013.
4. Better Luck in the MLB Draft
The MLB Draft has not been kind to head coach Mike Bianco and his staff. This past year, Ole Miss had three signees taken in the first round of the draft that put a huge dent in their rankings for last year’s class. If the Rebels can continue to recruit at a high level and keep those players from signing professional contracts, the depth they could have would be key to get them over the hump.
5. Trip to Omaha
Much like Kennedy, Bianco hasn’t seemed to be able to get over the hump. The Rebels have been one win away from a trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., three different times and have come up just short on all three occasions. Getting over the hump and getting the big win will silence all Bianco critics, but another season without hosting a regional could make Bianco’s hot seat burning come season’s end.
Follow David on Twitter @DavidLCollier.

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