Fresh off his first career start this past Saturday against Tulane, Ole Miss freshman safety Trae Elston is headed for a homecoming of sorts.
The Oxford, Ala., native said the good-natured ribbing has already begun via text messages from friends back home in preparation for Saturday’s Alabama game in Tuscaloosa.
“I’ve pretty much gotten a few text messages,” Elston said. “A lot of my friends go to Alabama, and they talk a few trash words and all that. Not too much.”
Excitement over a football game like this is something that Elston is used to, having grown up in a football-crazed state like Alabama.
“I think it’s pretty crazy,” he said. “My high school was pretty crazy about sports and football — especially football. I think Alabama is very different from Mississippi, but we’ll have to see.”
Last week Elston started at safety and led the team in tackles with six. He also tacked on a sack, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
“I think it went pretty good for our team, and I think we did good on defense,” Elston said. “We’ve just got to keep going at it.”
It was a performance of which Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze also approved, as Elston’s emergence at safety allowed the Rebels to move junior Charles Sawyer back to corner in their retooled secondary.
“Trae did well,” Freeze said. “He still made some mistakes if they gave him something that was a little different than what we had practiced. He played sound.”
Elston grew up as an Auburn fan, but he said that changed once the recruiting process began. Both in-state schools were possibilities for the Under Armour All-American up until national signing day.
“Alabama and Auburn were very strong in the recruiting process,” he said. “I pretty much had them in my top list, but I felt like I should go out of state.”
A strong connection to Freeze was a major factor in the Rebels’ ability to sign Elston. The coaching change put Ole Miss behind the eight ball in his recruitment, but the new coaching staff in Oxford was able to overcome that.
“The head coach is a good man, and I think he’s going to lead this university to a good place,” Elston said. “I just felt like this university is a great family, and that’s why I chose this school.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, Elston and the Rebels have the tough task of trying to stop an offense that is averaging over six yards per play and has personnel who are very similar physically to the Texas offense that gave Ole Miss fits.
While Elston knows it’ll be a tough task, he feels like the no-frills offensive mentality of the Crimson Tide could help the Rebels.
“I think it’s going to help us a lot, we’ve just got to keep on doing our little assignments and keys,” he said. “If we do that, I think we have a good chance against them.”
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @thedm_sports and @bennetthipp on Twitter.