Ole Miss players have said throughout the offseason that they haven’t been distracted by the on-going NCAA investigation into the school’s football program.
That story took another turn last week when Yahoo! Sports reported the NCAA was interviewing players at other SEC schools about their recruiting experiences with Ole Miss.
That pushed the investigation story — which will soon be four years old — into the spotlight, for a time.
While there was little from which to be distracted in the summer that’s changed now. No. 11 Ole Miss faces No. 4 Florida State Monday night in Orlando.
“I’ve said this a hundred times. Our players are the priority. They have zero to do with whatever the noise is,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “That’s what motivates me. All of the talk or whatever is about a kid or kids that don’t play here anymore. When I look at these young men I think about what I owe them to get them ready to play.”
Freeze last week questioned the validity of the report, saying he didn’t know if it was true.
New twists or old, center Robert Conyers says blocking out media coverage of the NCAA investigation really isn’t difficult.
“The guys on the team have just kind of moved on from it. It happened. Now we’ve got games to win. It just crossed right over our minds, and we just went back to work,” he said.
Conyers sustained a torn ACL last October and had surgery weeks later. He sat out the spring but has had no major setbacks this month.
There is relief that game week has arrived, but that has nothing to do with the investigation, he said.
“It’s a lot better not having to go up against your own guys every single week. There’s something to look forward to instead of just practice. We’re all excited to start playing.”
Haynes’ conflicted dad
Marquis Haynes is a Jacksonville, Florida native and is looking forward to facing the Seminoles in his home state.
Haynes grew up an LSU fan, but his dad, Maurice Haynes, was a Florida State fan then.
“When I first came down here it was hard for him to put it away, because he had been a fan for so long, but now the time has come. I get to show my talent against Florida State,” the younger Haynes said.
Haynes has shown considerable pass-rushing talent with 17 1/2 sacks over the last two seasons to rank fourth in the SEC over that span. His 10 sacks last season tied a school record.
Brown still out
Defensive end Fadol Brown, who had 10 pressures last season, remains out with a stress fracture in his foot. He recently returned from a visit to a specialist in Texas and said he felt good, Freeze said. He will be evaluated in practice Tuesday.
Freeze successful in openers
Ole Miss is beginning its 122nd football season, its fifth under Freeze as coach.
He’s not lost an opener and has played some quality teams, though none as strong out of the gate as appear to be the fourth-ranked Seminoles.
Freeze’s Rebels have defeated Central Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Boise State and Tennessee-Martin in the last four season openers.
Freeze is 64-25 in eight seasons as a head coach, 34-18 at Ole Miss.