Beginning outdoors before moving inside due to weather, the Ole Miss football team got one more team practice in for the spring season on Thursday.
The annual Grove Bowl, presented by Mississippi HomeCare, caps off the spring football schedule on Saturday, April 15 at 2 p.m. The gates at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will open at 1 p.m. and admission is free.
Transferring to Ole Miss from UCF, linebacker Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste has led the defensive unit this spring.
“I’m playing middle backer, so I’m kind of in control of the defense,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Making sure everybody is playing fast and physical and getting everybody set.”
In four seasons with the Knights, Jean-Baptiste recorded 152 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and an interception at linebacker. While he brings plenty of experience to the Rebels, he noted the importance of getting with the team early in the spring.
“The spring is a coachable moment for you to get accustomed to the system” said Jean-Baptiste. “Me getting these 15 practices was major for me, just learning the system and seeing what Coach Golden thinks and how he calls things.”
FROM OXFORD, OHIO TO OXFORD, MISSISSIPPI
Another new addition to the defensive side this spring is defensive back John Saunders Jr., who played the previous three seasons at Miami (Ohio). He echoed a constant point made by other members of the Ole Miss program, the urgency to build a relationship from the coaching staff.
“My first school to reach out to me was Ole Miss,” said Saunders Jr. “I got a phone call from Coach Crum and I was thrown off because I’d never seen a Mississippi area code. But when I picked up, I thought ‘yeah, this could be a very good move.’”
The cornerback had a successful career in the MAC and looks to bring his talents to Ole Miss in the SEC. In his three seasons with the RedHawks he collected 67 tackles, 15 pass breakups, five interceptions and a forced fumble. He’s looking forward to showing his talents to the fans and getting the offensive side of the ball more opportunities to put up points.
“They’re going to see a lockdown defensive back, and I’m going to come up and hit too,” said Saunders Jr. “I’m not afraid to put my nose in and make some plays, and I’m going to force a lot of turnovers to get the ball back to the quarterbacks and Coach Kiffin on the offensive side.”
FORMING A TEAM WITHIN A TEAM
One of the veterans within the program, offensive lineman Caleb Warren has been tasked with blending together a strong mix of returners and transfers to form a cohesive unit up front. He talked about the line’s goals for the spring and who has stuck out this spring.
“(Our mission is) to get a lot of guys reps at different positions and trying to work on getting some depth and versatility on the offensive line,” said Warren. “(Victor Curne) is looking really good, (Quincy McGee) is looking really good, and Reece (McIntyre) is having a pretty good spring camp.”
Tasked with protecting the quarterback, Warren and the offensive linemen have been some of the closest people to the signal callers on the team. Warren discussed how each of them have looked this spring and noted the steps taken by returner Jaxson Dart.
“They’re all three looking pretty good,” said Warren. “Jaxson has improved a lot and he’s looking very good right now. “It’s his second year in the system and he’s getting really comfortable with the offense. He’s become a lot more vocal and gotten guys lined up, and he’s really taking on that leadership role.”
Courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics