Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ole Miss Rebels challenge: Playing for nothing

DESTIN — Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze faces a near-impossible task this season.

How do you motivate a team that went 5-7 and has no possibility of making a bowl game?

"One of the greatest challenges I'll have in my career," Freeze said during this week's SEC spring meetings.

The on-field troubles are hard enough to overcome. Consider where the Rebels were 20 months ago.

When they entered Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, they were two weeks removed from upsetting No. 2 Alabama on the road. Their No. 3 ranking was tied for the program's highest in the last half-century.

Then the Will Grier-led Gators routed Ole Miss 38-10.

Last year, Ole Miss never recovered from their second-half collapse against Florida State in the opener in Orlando.

And now the cloud of an NCAA investigation continues to hang over Oxford. The Ole Miss administration has supported Freeze, even in the face of 21 allegations of misconduct. The saga is ongoing, but it has already resulted in the Rebels self-imposing a bowl ban for this season.

To get through it, Freeze is seeking some outside counsel.

He has been in touch with Jim Grobe, who salvaged a bowl appearance from Baylor's ongoing sexual assault scandal. He talked with NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse, a Mississippi native who needed 158 NASCAR Cup races to get his first win (three weeks ago at Talladega). Terry Bowden, who took Auburn to an undefeated season in 1993 despite a postseason ban is on the list, too.

With nothing to play for (and nothing to lose), Freeze said he might be more inclined to take risks: "Maybe a little more apt to go for it on fourth down than you would've been. That'll be interesting."

UF building on Elite Eight: Florida basketball coach Mike White hasn't noticed many differences since last season's run to the Elite Eight.

"Overall I would say the only slight change is our recruiting base — and that includes parents and coaches and AAU coaches — they were excited for us," White said. "They're excited for the direction we're in and the health of the Florida Gators."

UF has since landed two pretty big recruits (sort of). C John Egbunu chose to return to school instead of entering the NBA draft. He's on track to return from a torn ACL in January.

The Gators also picked up F Egor Koulechov, a grad transfer from Rice who made 47 percent of his 3-pointers last season.

"It probably helped us snatch a guy like Egor, who was in very high demand," White said of the deep NCAA Tournament run.

Calipari one-and-dones: Why doesn't Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari change his philosophy of loading a roster with one-and-done stars?

"I've had people say, 'Why won't you take a top-60 or top-70 (player)?' " he said. "You know those kids think they're one and done, too.

"I'd rather coach the guy that has a chance to be one and done and thinks he's one and done than a guy that has no chance of being one and done, looking at me like you're not playing me enough, if I shot it more, if you let me handle the ball more. I'm just recruiting the best players."

Quick hits: Expect a decision this afternoon on a grad transfer proposal that (if passed) would allow ex-Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire to join the Gators. … Arkansas coach Bret Bielema expects 75-90 percent of his recruits to sign at the new early signing window in December. … Calipari on SEC basketball: "It's our turn now."

Ole Miss Rebels challenge: Playing for nothing 06/01/17 [Last modified: Thursday, June 1, 2017 9:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. The 10 silliest names for college football bowl games

    College

    The Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl hadn't even been officially announced when SBNation called it the silliest bowl name ever. Ten others worthy of consideration:

    Logo for the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. [MATT BAKER | Times]
  2. Austin Pruitt faces the Blue Jays tonight at the Trop.
  3. USF football and the undefeated degree of difficulty

    College

    TAMPA — In the wake of the latest solar eclipse, USF fans eagerly await the next astronomical phenomenon.

    USF head coach Charlie Strong leads his team during practice last month in Tampa.
  4. Nature Coast puts unbeaten streak on the line vs. IMG White

    Footballpreps

    BROOKSVILLE — Nature Coast currently rides a 22-game regular-season win streak, but first-year football coach Cory Johns was not around for any of those wins. Neither was most of his coaching staff. This is an entirely new campaign with new obstacles ahead.

    Nature Coast offensive lineman Louis Miele (66) blocks a Sunlake defensive player during the Clash 4 Clayton football scrimmage and fundraiser Aug. 12 at Springstead High School.
  5. Crosstown rivals Bloomingdale-Newsome kick off season

    Footballpreps

    LITHIA — In a week filled with area football rivalries, there is a game on the east side of Hillsborough County — Bloomingdale vs. Newsome — that has matured into a classic crosstown battle, complete with classic cliches.

    Bloomingdale wide receiver Ed Amos charges through a drill in preparation for tonight’s big game against rival Newsome.