Can you believe it Rebels? I can hardly believe that football season is finally upon us. This week kicked off the beginning of yet another season as all the SEC teams gathered for the annual SEC MEDIA Week in Birmingham, Alabama.
Coach Freeze along with senior tight end Evan Engram, senior defensive tackle D.J. Jones and senior quarterback Chad Kelly closed out SEC Media Days this Thursday morning. Before we begin, I want to share an inspirational quote below:
Niccolò Machiavelli once wrote, “The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”
Despite the rumors around the ongoing NCAA investigation, the players and coaches are keeping their heads high by focusing on the task at hand: preparing for the 2016 football season.
One can’t help but applaud the Rebels for continuing to be a class act by not allowing the negativity to take away from the positive aspects that they will be showcasing on the football field in less than 63 days.
The Ole Miss Rebels were represented by three of its top football players at SEC Media Days this week. Here are the highlights from what they had to say on preparing for 2016 football season.
Senior tight end Evan Engram
On his experience at SEC Media Days:
“I’m really enjoying myself today. I’m very honored to be representing our team and our university. It’s fun, and it’s a great atmosphere. Football is in the air, and there’s a lot of excitement around this place.”
On making a home in the offensive schemes:
“Definitely. That was most of the conversation with the coaching staff when I was making my decision to come back, so all that stuff is going to take place in the game plan once we get into the season. Right now, we’re just building chemistry and working on basics and attacking our workouts together. We’re getting the team ready and the team chemistry levels up working as an offense, defense and as a team overall.”
On the NCAA investigation and if it has created a distraction in the locker room:
“No, no it hasn’t. Not at all, actually. As a team, we’ve been talking to prepare inside out. We don’t worry about outsiders. It doesn’t matter; we have people taking care of that. We just worry about football. We show up to work every day to get better and work toward our goals which are winning in Atlanta and competing for a national championship. So all the outside stuff, we’re not paying attention to it and we’re definitely not letting it distract us.”
On competing in the SEC West:
“I like to call it pretty much a gauntlet. It’s powerhouses, week in and week out. With our schedule this year, it’s really tough at the beginning – pretty much a big punch up front. We have Florida State, and two weeks later we play Alabama. It goes on from there. But I think that’s competing in the SEC, and that’s why it’s so successful: the competition and the way teams push each other. We take pride in it, and we work each and every day. We want to be the team to take the cake this year, so we accept the challenge week in and week out.”
Senior defensive tackle D.J. Jones
On the message from Coach Freeze on the allegations:
“Stay the course. We have bigger things going on. We have a season coming up and a big game in September. So, just stay the course.”
On how he thinks Coach Freeze is handling the allegations:
“I think he is handling it well. The way he speaks, I already know he is a great speaker so I think he is handling it how he is supposed to.”
On what he likes about his defensive line:
“I think we are a faster defensive line. We are a little more powerful. So I think as a unit we will get better.”
Senior quarterback Chad Kelly
On having a great guy to throw to:
“I think we have some great wide receivers. We got Quincy Adeboyejo, Evan Engram, Derrick Jones. We have a whole armful of people and they are working really hard and understand the offense. They have been in it for a couple of years and are ready to get back at it.”
On what it is going to be like starting the season off playing Florida State:
“Well it is going to be huge anytime we play a team like Florida State, they have had some great years. And if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. It going to be a great game. They have some great players. They are good on defense and their offense is pretty good too. So we just need to make sure we score more points than they do.”
On beating Alabama back-to-back and how they did it:
“Well, I think our coaching staff does a good job of getting us prepared. Starting with Coach Freeze and Coach Warner, they do a good job of getting me prepared as a quarterback (in) understanding situations and what we are looking to call for (in) certain situations. It comes down to execution during the game, and we just have better execution than they do. It starts with practice and what we do. It starts right now out in summer practices.”
On your time at Clemson and on meeting them later in a potential playoff game:
“I have learned so many great things from Coach Morris. One of the biggest things I took from Clemson was to always run off the field all times. You should always, no matter whether it’s a practice field or stadium. Wherever you are…you better run off the field. Not only that but just building relationships with people; some of my friends are still on the team today. I hate that it turned out that way, but I made a relationship for a lifetime. Reflecting on the whole career, I was in a blessed situation and I might have been immature at times, but I am glad God has guided me through tough times into where I am today.”
On coming off the Sugar Bowl and the difference of preparation this season to last season:
“A lot of it is just getting the timing down for those wide receivers that are coming in (while not understanding yet) what it is like to be a college player. Within the past month, they have really grown in the field room and on the field. As long as they can go out and be prepared for how fast the game speed is going and not have to think. As long as we keep working hard, good things will happen.”
The Rebels will open the 2016 season on the road on Monday, September 5, against Florida State Seminoles in Orlando, Florida. I know plenty of the Rebels will be packing up and heading out that way to support our guys! Hotty Toddy.
Here is a quote that I think will sum up my prediction on this coming season:
“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” – Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a HottyToddy.com contributor, veteran SEC sports journalist and Brown University graduate. She loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.