By Kyle Weber
HOOVER — With an ongoing NCAA investigation looming over the Ole Miss football program, Hugh Freeze and the Rebels look to block out the distractions and bounce back after a 5-7 season.
“Be accountable through adversity,” Freeze said while discussing his team’s motto this year while dealing with all of the off-the-field issues. “I really want to get on the field.”
Earlier this year, Ole Miss self-imposed a bowl ban for the 2017 football season in light of the NCAA matter. The NCAA has accused Ole Miss of 21 rules violations committed by both current and former members of the coaching staff.
“We have taken responsibility for the mistakes that we made. Our administration, we believe, has taken appropriate action,” Freeze said. “I will continue to cooperate and will not be answering any questions pertaining our case.”
To make matters worse for Freeze and Ole Miss, former coach Houston Nutt, who was fired by the Rebels in 2011, is suing the school, alleging that Ole Miss and Freeze tried to place blame on him for violations.
“I would absolutely love to share my opinion on that, but unfortunately it’s a legal case and I can’t comment,” Freeze said.
Sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson returns after starting the last three games of the 2016 season. Patterson passed for 880 yards and six touchdowns, highlighted by a 29-28 come-from-behind victory in College Station over Texas A&M, in which Patterson totaled 402 yards and two touchdowns.
“The one area I believe is vital for him is his preparation in the film room,” Freeze said. “Now is the time he needs to start prepping for our first few games. If he can get to that part mentally, see what they are trying to do to stop us, and if he can see it before it happens, I think his ceiling is very high.”
Ole Miss also returns senior All-American Marquis Haynes. Haynes has lead Ole Miss in sacks in each of his first three seasons.
Ole Miss hosts South Alabama to open the season on Sept. 2.
Head Coach: Hugh Freeze
2016 Record: 5-7 (2-6)
Returning Starters: 11
Toughest question Freeze faced: With your team facing a bowl ban this season, are there any extra steps to keep your players motivated for the upcoming year?
Freeze’s reply: ‘I think it has the potential to set up our staff to have our greatest hour. One of our finest moments could be the fact that our team could model for whoever chooses to watch us, for the Ole Miss family, for whatever outsiders, you know when all of this is said and done and we’re able to move forward,” Freeze said.
You need to know: Ole Miss will not be playing in a bowl game this season after they self imposed a bowl ban due to the ongoing NCAA investigation looking into recruiting misconduct from the Rebels. In total, the NCAA has accused Ole Miss of 21 different violations. Former Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has also filed a lawsuit against Ole Miss for defaming his name throughout the process.
Best player quote: “Not at all. Of course, when it first happened it was kind of devastating. We all come here to win a national championship, but I think it has brought us all closer together. Adversity tends to crumble people a part or brings guys together. I have never been around a group of guys and coaches that have worked as hard as we have in the spring and summer. I think we are going to take that chip on our shoulder going into the season,” Shea Patterson said about the team bowl ban.