After having a late arrival in Oxford last fall, sophomore defensive end Channing Ward is hoping to catch up on learning the defense so he can become the player he was recruited to be starting next season.
Sophomore defensive end Channing Ward has been looked at closely this spring by coaches, fans and media members, as they wait to see if Ward develops into the highly-touted player he was recruited to be.
Ward was a five-star recruit, according to Scout.com, coming out of Aberdeen High School, and he had offers from everyone in the SEC as well as offers from coast to coast. He eventually signed with Ole Miss, but did not arrive to campus until last August, missing out on summer workouts that other freshmen were able to attend. This put him behind many of the other newcomers, especially since he was not asked to do anything complicated in high school.
“He’s been up and down,” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “We just have to get him to turn it loose and play with confidence.”
This spring, Ward looks to polish the techniques he did not have time to develop last fall, and so far, he’s been pleased with the progress.
“I feel like I’ve closed the gap a lot,” Ward said. “Other guys are getting more reps than you coming in. I watched them and learned what they were doing. I’ve caught up a little bit, but I’ve still got a long way to go.”
The coaching staff has never questioned the ability that Ward possess, but Freeze and defensive coordinator Dave Wommack have stated their desire for Ward to “turn it loose.”
“I feel like I’ve got a little bit more to go,” Ward said. “I feel like I can push it a lot harder than I am now, but it’s coming along.”
Ward said that he often found himself thinking too much last season, but that he was able to cancel that out by just playing hard.
“It was hard because I didn’t want to mess up on a big play or miss assignments,” Ward said. “I just had to play hard. Little mistakes will minus out if you play hard.”
Ward feels that extra time this spring has helped him. The 6-foot-4, 256-pounder now has time to take a step back and learn the little things that could make a difference in his play next fall. He admits that it was a rush to soak it all in before last season.
“I feel a lot better about the understanding (of what the coaches want from me),” Ward said. “Now, I have to catch up on everything. I have had a lot of one-on-one with the coaches.”
While a lot of the focus dealing with Ward has been on the mental side of things, he noted that he has put on 20 pounds since arriving in Oxford last fall.
Right now, it’s all about learning what he can and getting as many reps in practice that he can. The coaches know when Ward’s lightbulb turns on, he can be a special player.
“There’s going to be a point when Channing is going to turn it loose,” Wommack said. “I still think he thinks too much. He’s learning the defense better. He’ll get there.”