In year two of the Matt Insell era at Ole Miss, the Rebels are 17-11 with one game to go and are poised to make it to a postseason tournament for the first time since 2007.
With one game left in the regular season, Insell told reporters Thursday that his success comes from the foundation laid by his three seniors, Tia Faleru, Danielle McCray and Amber Singletary.
“Those three kids bought in, and had eight newcomers that they convinced to buy in,” Insell said. “This program is going in the direction it’s going in because of those three seniors.”
Insell told reporters that Ole Miss will win a conference championship while he’s here, and when that happens his 2015 seniors will get championship rings.
The Rebels finished the 2014 season at 12-20 with two wins in conference play and a year later they sit at 17-11 with seven wins in just the second year under the new coaching staff. Ole Miss looks for their 18th win Sunday at Mississippi State, and are poised to make their best start since the 2006-07 season when newly named SEC Legend Armintie Price was on the team. That 2006-07 season was the last time Ole Miss went to the NCAA Tournament, and Insell thinks they’ve done enough to get there this season.
“The problem we have here is the RPI, and we don’t have a good RPI,” Insell said. “I really hope the NCAA looks at the eye-test for Ole Miss, because if they see us play we’re in.”
Realistically, the Rebels will likely end up on the outside looking in when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but the university has submitted a bid to host part of the National Invitational Tournament. Participants in the NIT are the teams that just missed the full field of 68 in the NCAA Tournament.
When Insell was hired at Ole Miss, Athletics Director Ross Bjork spoke very highly of the Rebels coach, and looks forward to the staff’s future success.
“Being a part of the rebuilding job at Kentucky enabled Coach Insell to gain the necessary requirements needed of our new staff we recapture the legacy that is Lady Rebel Basketball,” Bjork said. “He is the perfect fit to make this happen and we are excited he is joining our team.”
Fans are joining in on the excitement now that the program is back on track to its winning ways. “It’s a good thing we have two basketball programs again,” junior business major Blake Cocanougher said.
It’s been a long road for the Rebels, and with their recent success fans are starting to take notice. “My freshman year, the women’s basketball program at Ole Miss was forgettable, and it’s great to see their new found success,” Cocanougher added.
Highlights this season for Coach Insell and the team include a tournament victory in Nevada, and wins over major SEC programs like Georgia, Kentucky and LSU. No matter how the season ends, the Rebels are on track to having their best finish in nearly a decade.
DT Shackelford has seen his fair share of time on the sideline the past two seasons, and after missing two years the senior linebacker is back on the field for the Ole Miss Rebels poised for a come back.
Before the season opener this season at Vanderbilt, Shackelford had not seen action since November 27, 2010 in a loss to Mississippi State. Many would give up and move on after missing two years, especially a player who carries little to no draft stock according to the NFL experts. But for this Ole Miss veteran, there was a reason for coming back.
“I’m just blessed to have this opportunity again, to be with my teammates. To be with them on the field means the world to me”, Shackelford said, “I know there are a lot of people that have been through a lot of the things I’ve been through that haven’t had the chance to come back.”
Shackelford suffered a torn ACL at the end of spring practice in 2011 forcing him to miss the upcoming season. The Decatur, Ala. native was supposed to be ready for a 2012 comeback but the surgery wasn’t completed correctly forcing Shackelford to miss the 2012 season as well.
Shackelford played both defensive end and linebacker in 2010, appearing in all twelve games while starting six. He led the team in sacks and quarterback hurries before being crippled with a knee injury in the spring.
For junior linebacker Keith Lewis it was an extra motivation to play harder as a young player when Shackelford was out.
“Coming in and seeing how vocal he was regardless of the circumstance, the impact of seeing how positive DT could stay made me stay positive,” Lewis said.
Prior to the end of Spring practice in 2012, Shackelford was awarded the Chucky Mullins Courage Award, which is an award given to a Senior defenseman for the Rebels who displays the work ethic, courage and likeness of Chucky Mullins. The award is named for Roy Lee “Chucky” Mullins. Mullins was an Ole Miss defensive back who was paralyzed during the 1989 Homecoming Game against Vanderbilt who later died from his injuries.
The honor is given to a senior leader on the Ole Miss defense, and for Shackelford it is more than just another award.
“Everyone in this town knows what that award means to not only this football team but this community, so that’s something that I hold near and dear to my heart,” Shackelford said.
Ole Miss graduate and former linebacker Jason Jones was the 2012 recipient of the courage award. Similar to Shackelford, Jones spoke very highly about the honor.
“It meant so much to me because this award is not something that you for or labor for, but it is an award based on you being you and if that brings out courage, leadership and willingness to do everything it takes to be the best at everything you do without giving up, the spirit of Chucky definitely lives within you as an individual,” Jones said.
Senior Linebacker Mike Marry is the current recipient of the Mullins award, and is a part of Shackelford’s recruiting class. For Marry it has been good to have his teammate back on the field this season.
“It makes a big difference with the energy he brings and the attitude he brings on and off the field whether he’s on the field or not he can always get you ready to play. Being that I came in with him, it makes it that much more special to be with what’s left of my class,” Marry said.
Marry will be leaving after this season but Shackelford will have one more year of NCAA eligibility to return to Ole Miss and is unsure what his decision will be. Just as any other player, he still holds his professional football dreams.
“I’ve been dreaming about that ever since playing flag football, but you also have to be realistic with situations that you can’t necessarily control which was two ACL [injuries] that I thought I would never have, and they happened so that was a situation that I never thought would happen. Fortunately for me I took my grades the right way and I am able to do both, but yes it’s still a goal for me and it’s still something I want to pursue,” Shackelford said.
If Shackelford were drafted, he would join the already 22 former Rebels on active NFL Rosters, including 2006 Chucky Mullins Award recipient Patrick Willis. The fifth year senior knows that the NFL may be out of reach for him, so the Student-Athlete is prepared off the field as well.
“Of course there is life after football, I’d be the one to know because you never know when an injury can happen, so to be prepared on the academic side of life is always good,” Shackelford said.
Shackelford will receive a Masters degree in Education from Ole Miss in May, and has thought about exploring other education options if he decides to return to Ole Miss for another year. He has plenty on his mind now, like a bowl game at seasons end, so he will revisit future plans after the season.
While he was out, Shackelford missed a 2-10 season with a coaching change from Houston Nutt to Hugh Freeze. He missed the first year of the Hugh Freeze era, which was a 7-6 season capped off by a bowl game win over Pittsburgh. He will be a part of Ole Miss’ second straight bowl trip this season.
“I know how it was when we were 2-10 and 4-8 so repeatedly going through losing seasons then now having the opportunity to go to back-to-back bowl games, that’s certainly a blessing to this program,” Shackelford said.
The Rebels have two more regular season games this season including a matchup against No. 8 Missouri and the in-state rivalry game against Mississippi State on Thanksgiving day. Ole Miss is ranked in the BCS for the first time since Shackelford’s freshman year, and the seniors in his class are on track to finish 2013 the way they started back in 2009.
Dear Rebel Nation:
My first full week could not have been more special, as I was able to meet so many wonderful fans on the Rebel Road Trip. Chancellor Jones, Coach Freeze and I were able to visit 16 cities in the state and surrounding area, and for me, it was an opportunity to experience the passion of Ole Miss firsthand. Our mission was to unite Rebel Nation, and the reaction we felt was overwhelming. The size and energy of the crowds at every stop exceeded our expectations, and it was crystal clear that you are as excited as we are to enter this new era of Ole Miss Athletics.
As we communicated at the meetings, Coach Freeze and I have quickly built a strong relationship, and spending six straight days together on the road has only furthered our chemistry. Our goal is the same: compete for and win championships at Ole Miss, and we are in total agreement on what it takes to get there. Chancellor Jones has provided his complete support, and all of us that love Ole Miss are indebted to him for his leadership and vision.
However, united leadership does not guarantee success. It will take unrelenting support from every member of Rebel Nation. Your attendance and spirit at the games as well as the resources you provide are essential for our student-athletes and coaches. Our call to action to every member of the Ole Miss Family is to give what you can. The first step in this championship process is selling out Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Today is the deadline to renew season tickets. We urge all of you to act now and ensure you are there for the Rebel resurgence in 2012 and beyond.
Thank you for the unbelievably kind welcome my family and I have received since I was named your Athletics Director. We appreciate your warmth and hospitality, and on behalf of everyone in the athletics department, we are grateful for your commitment to Ole Miss.
Director of Athletics
Courtesy of http://www.olemisssports.com on April 30, 2012
The sixth-ranked LSU Tigers are coming to town this weekend for at Thursday, Friday, Saturday series at Oxford-University Stadium and Swayze Field This weekend the Tigers played a series in Baton Rouge against the Georgia Bulldogs where they took two of the three games played.
LSU likely may drop a spot or two in the rankings but likely will still be within the top ten when they come to face Ole Miss. They will be coming off a mid-week game against Tulane, which will likely be a win down in New Orleans.
Ole Miss was ranked eighteen in the country before being beat two out of three in Starkville against Mississippi State. Coach Mike Bianco was not very happy with the results of Sunday’s game saying. “We got some leadoff doubles and then weren’t able to get them home. There aren’t many games where you only give up two hits, commit no errors and lose.”
Both teams are looking for victories this weekend, LSU is leading the SEC West by a landslide, and the Rebels are only four games back of leading the Western Division. They have three conference series left in the season, two in Oxford against LSU and Tennessee, and then they travel to Nashville to close the regular season against Vanderbilt.
The scene was a chilly, overcast Saturday as the Ole Miss football team suited up for the 2012 Bancorp South Grove Bowl last weekend. All of the work during spring practices leads up to this, and first year Head Coach Hugh Freeze was looking to see improvements.
Coming off only a two-win season, the fans in the Ole Miss family join Freeze in looking for improvements. “I am just ready to win. I want us to do well more than anything” is what lifelong Rebel fan Peyton Parks had to say. He made the trip from Clinton, Mississippi to see the Grove Bowl. Parks continued by saying “It is getting to the point where its too frustrating to even come anymore”. That is one thing that is getting to the administration of the football program.
One of the first things Coach Freeze said in his press conference back on December 5th is that he knows the situation we are in, and he is ready to lead us out of the wilderness. Rebel fans got to see a glimpse of how the trip from the wilderness is going on Saturday.
There were many new faces around the football team, including transfer Quarterback Bo Wallace. Wallace went 16-26 passing with 240 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“I thought Bo had the best day. I thought he functioned very well and kept us on schedule for the most part”, is what Hugh Freeze had to say about his new Quarterback in the post-game press conference. Wallace also added an interception to his stats as well. It is clear though that he shined the most out of the quarterbacks.
Returning Quarterback Randall Mackey threw only two passes for a total of 44 yards, and it is clear he really is no longer in the running for the starting position. Bo Wallace’s production put him in first in the quarterback race for starter.
Wallace was involved in an off-campus altercation at The Connection Apartments pool complex a few weeks ago, making many think his role on the football team was in serious danger. Coach Hugh Freeze decided not to discipline Wallace due to the fact that the fight was seriously one sided.
With the annual Grove Bowl coming up, practice time is limited for the Rebel football team. Coach Freeze isn’t quite satisfied how the offense is playing. “I wish we could have finished better some offensively”, is what Freeze had to say about his offense after Thursday’s practice when he met with the media.
The Rebels are coming off of only a two win season, and fans around the program are eager for a change. Freshman Jared Akers is ready for September to come to see a new and improved Ole Miss team. “It’s a fresh start, I am ready to see the new and improved Ole Miss Rebels”, is what Akers had to say when asked about the team he has grown up watching.
According to some players on the team, the defense has been shining a little better than the offense the past week or so of spring practice, and that is not surprising given the depth of the defense. The offense is a little more thin on personnel than the defense is when it comes to depth. Wide-receiver Tobias Singleton was moved over to running back last week to help Jeff Scott with the carries.
Defensively Ole Miss has many athletes returning from last years campaign, but have already been plagued by injury. Senior Defensive lineman Uriah Grant will undergo shoulder surgery in the next few weeks and will be out indefinitely. The team doctors have not given a timeline on Grants return and if he will be health by the season opener in September.