Spring practice churned on for an Ole Miss football team with many new faces coaching the team as it prepares for the 2017 season.
The offseason saw major changes among Hugh Freeze’s staff, including new offensive and defensive coordinators, as well as a new wide-receivers coach, defensive line coach and linebackers coach. The coaching staff seemed optimistic about what it’s seen so far through three practices, even with a new philosophy on both sides of the ball.
“Obviously with day three of a new install, you’re going to have your hiccups, so obviously there’s some things we’ve got to improve on and get cleaned up,” wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler said. “But the enthusiasm, the desire to be great, I think is something that this group really wants.”
Ole Miss has had one of the best receiving corps in the SEC over Freeze’s tenure as head coach. The upcoming season is no different, with returning players such as DeMarkus Lodge, Markell Pack, D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown.
“We’re not close to where we need to be, but we’ve got a great skill set at that position, some very highly recruited kids,” Peeler said. “I’m really excited. Once the whole group gets on the same page, I think it’ll be a really fun offense to watch.”
Ole Miss has self-imposed a one year bowl ban on the program, with the possibility of more punishment in the future. When asked about how he addresses recruits when it comes to the NCAA investigation, Peeler pointed out honesty as the key.
“I was just honest with them,” Peeler said. “At the end of the day, when you walk into a kid’s home, you always present the truth. The biggest thing is I think they see it in your face as a coach; kids can see when you’re being genuine or you’re being real with them, and that’s what I was this whole process.”
On the defensive side of the ball, DeMarquis Gates was a full participant in practice in his first practice back from injury.
“He’s been extremely sharp during our OTA (organized team activities) meetings,” linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto said. “He’s one of our leaders. I liked what I saw out of him today. He played very physical.”
The linebackers were heavily scrutinized throughout last year, but Peveto did not seem worried about his players.
“That same group of guys played really well up until last year,” Peveto said. “Good defense has been played here. I like where our confidence is at right now. I thought we took a step in our confidence level today.”
Defensive line coach Freddie Roach was also confident in his group of players but realizes that there is still work to be done.
“We’ve got work to do,” Roach said. “We’ve got things to clean up, but that’s the first day in pads. Anytime you start something new, there’s going to be mistakes. That’s a given.”
Although Roach was aware of the work that needs to be done, he was enthusiastic about what he has seen so far in spring practice.