When Ole Miss faces No. 1 Alabama on the road Saturday to open Southeastern Conference play, their backs are against the wall. The Rebels continue to rebuild under first-year head coach Hugh Freeze, while the Crimson Tide look stronger than last year’s national championship team.
It’s undoubtedly a tough task, but they received some good news on Wednesday when sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace returned to practice. Wallace missed Tuesday’s practice after sustaining a sprained shoulder on his throwing arm in this past Saturday’s 39-0 win over Tulane.
“He did everything today,” Freeze said. “It didn’t appear that his arm strength was full, but he says he was pain free and he threw it around and did fine. He’ll try to go (Saturday), no doubt. No question after today.”
Defense prepares for “physical” Alabama offense
Whem asked to talk about the Alabama offense after practice on Wednesday, both head coach Hugh Freeze and co-defensive coordinator Dave Wommack used the word “physical” to describe the unit.
“They’re very physical and they believe in playing physical football,” Freeze said. “It’s a difficult matchup for anybody that plays them. Their offense is very very good at what they do.”
One of the key cogs that has allowed the Crimson Tide offense to work so well is the offensive line.
This year’s line is filled with future National Football League talents such as senior guard Chance Warmack, senior center Barrett Jones and junior tackle D.J. Fluker.
Wommack said that this Alabama offensive line will be one of the best lines he’s ever coached against, comparing them to the offensive lines of the 1980 Alabama Sugar Bowl team and the 2001 Georgia Bulldogs.
“They just work together so well,” Wommack said. “They’re very physical. They’re trained physical, but they have great steps for big men; just unbelievable agility with their feet.”
Alabama is one of only nine teams in the country that hasn’t thrown an interception so far this season, and the Crimson Tide come in averaging 6.75 yards per play offensively.
Junior quarterback A.J. McCarron has been allowed to do more in the passing game this season, throwing 10 touchdown passes and averaging more than 10 yards per pass attempt.
McCarron and the Alabama offense will give the retooled Ole Miss secondary and the rest of the defense a chance to try and atone for the 66 points and 676 yard allowed against Texas.
“I know they’re excited,” Freeze said. “They want to prove, particularly defensively, that we’re hopefully improving. The last time we were on a big stage and national TV, we didn’t play our best. We’ve got to improve to get what we want to get.”
Other News & Notes:
Freeze said after practice that junior slot receiver Korvic Neat “will not make the trip” to Alabama due to an injured groin. Freeze was hopeful about the status of senior defensive tackle Uriah Grant and freshman defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton.
“Uriah went through practice today, and hopefully he’ll be fine,” Freeze said. “Woody, I’m not sure.”
Freeze also noted that junior wide receiver Philander Moore would return punts on Saturday, but junior running back Jeff Scott “is prepared to do it also.”
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @thedm_sports and @bennetthipp on Twitter.