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Ole Miss OC Phil Longo discusses Air Raid offense, why Shea Patterson is a ‘perfect fit’

OXFORD, Miss. — Just like his boss, Hugh Freeze, new Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s journey to the SEC began in the high school ranks. His ascension to college football’s most competitive level, however, marks an indirect return to the birth-grounds of his schematic philosophy.

This goes back to the late 90’s, when Mike Leach ran Kentucky’s offense under Hal Mumme, himself a former Texas high school coach who became an architect of the Air Raid. Longo, then just a head coach at Parsippany Hills High School (Troy, N.J.), drove down to Lexington and attended one of Leach’s coaching clinics.

The trip opened Longo’s eyes, to say the least, and so started a long-running relationship between the two men.

Longo spent the next two decades gradually climbing the coaching ladder, jumping to colleges like D-III William Patterson, Slippery Rock, Minnesota-Duluth and Southern Illinois. Eventually he garnered national attention while presiding over the absurdly prolific offense at Sam Houston State, an FCS program that led the country in total yards per game last season, and parlayed that success into his first ever D-I coaching job.

Longo spent this spring retooling an Ole Miss offense that loses starting quarterback Chad Kelly and leading receiver Evan Engram, along with experienced wideouts Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore’ea Stringfellow. In their absence, the Rebels will rely on what they hope is a new cast of stars — 5-star quarterback Shea Patterson, young receivers like Van Jefferson and D.K. Metcalf, and now-eligible running back Jordan Wilkins.

“The lights started coming on last week,” Longo said one day before the Rebel’s spring game. “I think things are starting to get into a rhythm this week.”

With so many fun toys in this Air Raid guru’s new offensive toolbox, it’s easy to imagine Ole Miss continuing to boast a potent passing attack this fall. Longo’s mentor Leach clearly believes his protege will enjoy success in the SEC.

“This is a great time to be in the SEC, everybody’s got the same offense: run right, run left, play action. And they tease themselves and say we threw it four more times a game this year than we did last year.”

In anticipation of all that, SEC Country spoke with Longo about his background, his system and his hopes for 2017. Below is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Q&A: Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo

SEC Country: It’s been a long climb for you to reach this point. How have your first few months in the SEC been?

Phil Longo: “It’s been good. I think everybody makes a bigger deal of that than I do. I certainly don’t downplay it. I’m excited about coaching against the best defenses in the nation and I’m excited about the talent we have here and the program that is Ole Miss. Those are all positives. I’ve always enjoyed football. Football is football. X’s and O’x is X’s and O’x. It’s been fun getting to know a high-character group of guys here.”

SECC: Is it funny knowing you can trace the roots of your Air Raid background to the SEC?

PL: “Mike (Leach) could’ve been anywhere and I’d have made the clinic and had a chance to meet him. He was in the SEC, at Kentucky. I’d never thought about that. We actually talk and chat about when he coached here. I’m going to fly out and see him next week. It’s exciting to be able to implement what we do and compete against the best.”

SECC: You’re going up to Washington State?

PL: “Yeah, I’ll be heading to Pullman next week, go see Mike and watch some of the things they’re doing.”

SECC: Obviously, Leach has heavily influenced how you run an offense. How does your specific version of the Air Raid compare to others who run it?

PL: “At some point I feel like it’s important to have an emphasis on the run game. I don’t particularly care if we throw or run it 70 times to win a game… As long as it’s what the defense is giving us, I’m all for it. From a pass game standpoint, it is all Air Raid. From an offensive philosophy standpoint, it’s all that philosophy — chasing space. I think the run game is what makes it a little different. The tempo, a smaller play list, are some things that’re the most similar. Mike is the purest. He’s going to run it the same way, and they’re going to be really good at it. Kliff Kingsbury on the other hand is a great creativity guy. He thinks outside the box. He’s able to scheme up some wrinkles that are touchdown plays each week. And I think he’s one of the best at doing that. I probably fall somewhere in between the two of them in terms of approach.”

SECC: Why does Patterson fit your system so well?

PL: “It’s a skill player-driven system. We create space both horizontally and vertically. Shea is a great space football player. He’s mobile. He can make any throw on the field. He can run the ball and he can extend plays in the pass game with his legs. To put an athletic guy that can think and throw in this system, it’s a perfect fit.”

SECC: Has it been an adjustment for the receivers, since more is expected of them as far as reading and reacting to different defensive coverages?

PL: “The one misconception is we don’t put more on the receivers. We put less on the receivers. We’ve taken the workload that we’ve given a quarterback, which is a seven-step process, and now all he does is he gets the signal, he IDs the coverage or the front depending on what we’re doing, and then he runs the play. That’s it. That’s all I want to do. What we do with the receivers is we have really given them a lot of freedom. We teach them how to chase space within the concept that we’re running. They’ll maneuver some routes based on where the coverage is so that the quarterback, all he has to do is go through his progressions, find the open guy and throw the football. We don’t have to read defenders, we don’t have to check coverage. We don’t have to ID the Mike, move the running back in the right spot.

“We’re allowing the receivers some freedom. Like the post (route) that we draw in the playbook has a certain angle to it. Out on the field, he might run it flatter or he might run it deeper based on where a defender is. So that’s why we don’t have a playbook. It’s very hard. I don’t want guys looking at a picture that, if we run that play 10 times, it won’t look like the picture 8 of them. I want them to run it the way we teach it.”

SECC: So you’re trying to maximize their ability to play instinctively, essentially.

PL: “You have said it better than most. This entire thing is based on maximizing their instincts. We want to get them to where they’re playing instinctively and they don’t have to think. I don’t want them thinking. As soon as it becomes instinctive, it goes from a play we’re putting in to a play we’re going to run. And that play goes onto the play list. We actually grade players on how instinctive they are, from 1 to 4. One being completely instinctive they can do the stuff in their sleep, and so on down the list. And I’m constantly reevaluating our players, and asking our position coaches to do the same, so that we have an idea as to how far they’re progressing. Because we don’t want to put a guy on the field that’s not a 1.”

SECC: Watching the offense practice earlier this week, it seems like the whole team was moving quickly. Given the bowl ban and other NCAA distractions, how do you think they’ve handled going about their business this spring?

PL: “I think it’s a pretty mature group. The attitude is control what you can control, and that’s winning football games. We have focused on putting the offense in on the field. The priority and focus on being good people, character people, being involved in the community, the character development that goes on here — none of that has changed. It’s continued. I’m just impressed that they’ve continued to focus on that. Those are really the only two things we verbalize around here.”

READ MORE: Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson poised to rally new-look Rebels in 2017

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze: RB Jordan Wilkins poised for ‘a special year’

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Looking back at a disastrous 2016 season for Ole Miss, you can choose from a slew of factors that triggered the collapse: injuries, coaching and dismal defense among them. The absence of a decent running game cracks the top 5.

For the second time in three years, the Rebels rushing attack finished 11th among SEC in yards per carry, at 4.25. Only twice did Ole Miss running backs combine for 200 yards rushing in a single game — one of those was against Memphis. And coach Hugh Freeze’s pass-heavy system didn’t help produce balance. Ole Miss rushed the ball 35 times a game, the 12th-lowest rate of any Power 5 team last season.

Still, was the dip in rushing production that surprising? Not really. Ole Miss said goodbye to four senior starters on the offensive line, including first-rounder Laremy Tunsil, after the 2015 season. Then running back Jordan Wilkins learned he would have to sit out the 2016 season because of “an administrative error” related to his academic eligibility.

“The way he handled it made you proud,” Freeze said of Wilkins. “He’s been listening to us about how to handle adversity in life. The leadership role he provides having gone through that gives him even more credibility.”

As the season went downhill, so too did the offensive line’s injury situation. At one point tackle Sean Rawlings became the starting center out of necessity. So, yeah, none of this really set the Rebels up to succeed in rushing.

That could change in 2017, for a couple of reasons.

Number one: Freeze expects big things from Wilkins, a junior who showed great promise in his first two years on campus.

“With the disappointing news of not going to a bowl game next year with our self-imposed deal, I was curious to see how he’d react,” Freeze said. “And he immediately took the charge on, ‘This is how we’re going to handle it.’ I’m just so proud and praying he has a healthy year, because I think he’s going to have a special year.”

Freeze also cited progress he saw across the offensive line, which returns most of its starters from last season. Left tackle Greg Little, a former 5-star recruit, gained valuable experience as a true freshman. Upperclassmen Jordan Sims, Javon Patterson and Daronte Bouldin should anchor the interior.

“I said from Day 1 it would take us four to five years to get the offensive line the way we wanted it,” Freeze said. “I believe if we stay healthy, we’re going to have one of the better offensive lines in the country.

“The job [offensive line coach Matt Luke] has done in recruiting and being able to redshirt finally has paid off for us. Really excited about the comfort level and the chemistry those guys have up there. We’ve got most everybody back.”

It’s hard to gauge whether Ole Miss will show more balance under new coordinator Phil Longo, a disciple of Mike Leach and the Air Raid offense. For what it’s worth, Longo told SEC Country that his philosophy on running the ball differs from other Air Raid gurus including Leach and Kliff Kingsbury.

“At some point I feel like it’s important to have an emphasis on the run game,” Longo said. “I don’t particularly care if we throw or run it 70 times to win a game … As long as it’s what the defense is giving us, I’m all for it.”

However often the Rebels hand the ball to a running back this fall, they’ll at least have the tools to be better on the ground — and that will help sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson and his young receivers.

Read more:

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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Ole Miss willing to go down with Hugh Freeze, and NCAA will oblige

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Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze says he wants “finality.” He’s probably not going to get it under the circumstances he’d like.

The Rebels released their official response to the NCAA’s second Notice of Allegations on Tuesday, and the takeaway is clear: Ole Miss has no intention of backing down when it comes to the serious accusations levied against Freeze.

The two most notable of these are the Level I “lack of institutional control” and “head coach responsibility” claims, but a total of 15 Level I allegations can be found in the NOA. Most occurred under Freeze’s watch, with a fraction attributed to Houston Nutt’s tenure.

The university, which begins the response by citing its internal investigation, proactive compliance measures and self-imposed punishments (including the bowl ban) at length, eventually addresses the Level I charges:

“In taking responsibility for what has occurred, the University has self-imposed significant and appropriate penalties …

“All but three of the Level I allegations (i.e., Allegations Nos. 5, 20, and 21) were the result of intentional misconduct specifically intended to evade monitoring systems implemented by the University, the athletics department, and the head football coach …”

“The University contests the allegations concerning institutional control and head coach responsibility (Allegations Nos. 20-21).”

Those are the legalese equivalent of fightin’ words, and it’s either a bold display of support or brazen stupidity. 

By continuing to resist — that’s how the NCAA will see this — Ole Miss not only looks reckless, but risks getting hammered harder by college football’s governing body, as well. The NCAA is out for blood and wants Freeze to be the sacrificial lamb. This is where the Rebels have made their stand.

Objectively, you have to wonder: Is Freeze worth it?

He’s a fine football coach who led the Rebels to their first Sugar Bowl win in decades. His offense beat Alabama twice. But he’s not the second coming of Johnny Vaught. Does fighting for him outweight the potential long-term damage done by a two-year bowl ban, more scholarship reductions or worse? A year-long suspension for Freeze is on the table. The anxiety surrounding this investigation has already poisoned recruiting efforts (see: 2017 signing class, “penalty”).

Let’s assume for the purpose of argument that Freeze, who is still beloved by many in Oxford and around the state, had no knowledge of his staff’s wrongdoings, as the university argued in its response.

Freeze may be a fantastic human being — I can’t personally vouch for his character, but I know some who can — and it’s hard to believe athletics director Ross Bjork would fight this hard if that wasn’t the case. Yet, that probably matters little when the NCAA sees these matters in black and white.

The officials investigating this mess see a repeating trend of broken rules. Ole Miss has admitted as much. Not much can be done to completely protect Freeze at this point, so why try?

Bjork and his team can try to deflect blame from Freeze by bringing up the likes of  “Student-Athlete 39,” widely recognized as Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis, or ex-assistant Barney Farrar. Lewis certainly would have a conflict of interest in telling the NCAA about improper benefits he may or may not have received.

With the evidence available to the public, however, it’s unlikely Farrar acted as a rogue agent, just as it is unlikely an alleged cash-dealing booster only paid this particular ex-Ole Miss recruit. The existence of your typical “college football bag man” is common knowledge at this point. And here’s Ole Miss, harping on the account of one football player and requesting to be present for his interview.

RELATED: Ole Miss requested interview with Dan Mullen about NCAA allegations

Ole Miss will achieve the finality Freeze seeks only by bowing out of this fight, and that means firing Freeze. In continuing to battle the NCAA, the Rebels may ultimately have to fire Freeze anyway. Coaches rarely, if ever, survive this sort of onslaught given the internal and external pressure to clean house.

It’s a lose-lose proposition for the school. Bjork may feel good defending a coach he personally respects, but when the men in suits with hundred-page reports show up on your doorstep, you’ve already lost.

The Rebels will meet with the NCAA Committee on Infractions later this year. Despite a tornado’s worth of potential fallout churning in the distance, Ole Miss is standing pat, going about its business and apparently willing to die on this hill with Freeze if necessary.

In other words, this picture is the perfect metaphor for Ole Miss v. NCAA:

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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Mississippi’s finest: MSU, Ole Miss have battle on their hands for rich 2019 in-state recruiting class

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The states where SEC schools reside are home to some of the best recruiting grounds in the country, headlined by the prospect-rich likes of Texas, Florida and Georgia. Usually, we don’t include Mississippi in that conversation, but next year will mark a major exception.

Ole Miss and Mississippi State have some serious in-state talent at their disposal in the Class of 2019. For only the second time since 2011, the Magnolia State will have nine recruits with at least a 4-star rating, including a pair of 5-star prospects, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. And, as coaches slowly begin shifting their focus to the 2019 class, the number of blue-chip recruits could be even higher by next spring.

Headlining the class are 5-star outside linebacker Nakobe Dean (Horn Lake) and 5-star defensive end Nathan Pickering. They already have offers from at least six schools each, including Ole Miss and Mississippi State, and 247Sports has both ranked top-5 nationally at their respective positions.

Rounding out the list of Mississippi blue-chippers are defensive end Charles Moore, running back Jerrion Ealy, receiver Dannis Jackson, defensive end Byron Young, tackle Brandon Cunningham, athlete Diwun Black and athlete Brandon Turnage, an Oxford native. Georgia, LSU, Louisville and Tennessee have all offered Turnage.

The Rebels and Bulldogs have gotten an early crack at recruiting this elite top 10. But a big question looms: How stiff will the competition be in 2019?

When it comes to keeping top talent at home, the past couple recruiting cycles haven’t been so kind to the in-state powers.

In 2017, four of the top-12 ranked recruits signed with out-of-state programs; 4-stars Nigel Knott, Raekwon Davis and Scott Lashley all landed at Alabama. Then in 2017, five of the top 8 recruits left Mississippi, including the state’s No. 1 prospect Cam Akers (Florida State). No more than two of the state’s top-10 recruits left the state in any of the previous six classes (2010-15).

For Ole Miss and Mississippi State, it’s a somewhat troubling trend, albeit one that can be partly attributed to the NCAA’s months-long investigation of the Rebels’ football program. Coach Hugh Freeze went so far as to characterize his 2017 signing class, ranked No. 12 in the SEC, as a “penalty.”

MSU finds itself in a much better position. The Bulldogs signed 5-star Jeffery Simmons in 2016, and added local stars Willie Gay and Kyrin Hill this offseason. They’ve also cleaned up at the JUCO level while making forays into Georgia, Louisiana and Texas for their quarterbacks — Nick Fitzgerald, Keytaon Thompson and 2018 commit Jalen Mayden, respectively.

With Ole Miss still mired in murky waters, will coach Dan Mullen’s staff be able to take advantage? LSU, Alabama, Louisville and even Tennessee have swiped recruits from Mississippi in recent years.

Conversely, will Freeze keep his job and find the closure he seeks from the NCAA? And if so, can he get the Rebels recruiting at an elite level again?

Time will tell, but one thing’s for sure: the Magnolia State will host some fierce recruiting battles in 2019.

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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Father of Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson discusses son’s future, Hugh Freeze, and ‘gutless’ Houston Nutt

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Amid the off-field circus that has engulfed Ole Miss football over the last several months, and the last 48 hours in particular, the father of prized Rebels quarterback Shea Patterson displayed a striking amount of composure and resolve Friday night.

That’s when Sean Patterson Sr. spoke with SEC Country about a bevy of topics affecting his son’s college program, including the resignation of Hugh Freeze, the brutally timed Houston Nutt lawsuit, and the mindset of the players caught in this mess just days before fall camp is set to begin.

But the most important insight gleaned from this conversation — and perhaps the one that matters most to Ole Miss fans — was the simple message Patterson shared about his 5-star son.

“As far as our family and everything else is concerned, we support the university. Shea’s not going anywhere,” he told SEC Country.

Yes, Patterson is staying. His teammates, the school and Rebels supporters everywhere can breathe a big sigh of relief.

Freeze may be gone — his exit hastened by female escort-related circumstances that were startling to everyone — but the end result of this months-long imbroglio was not so surprising.

Patterson noted that many players were “very sad” to lose their coach, despite the allegations against him, and he believes the NCAA would have eventually forced him out. He also expressed displeasure toward many of those in the media who, in his eyes, seemingly wanted to see Freeze lose his job.

“Coach Freeze, he loves and cares for these kids,” the elder Patterson said. “Enough’s enough. He’s going to move on with his life. He leaves behind a bunch of people and a bunch of kids that will always care for him, no matter what anyone says. Because who really knows the truth? Who really knows?”

When it comes to Nutt, the former Ole Miss coach whose quest for vengeance became the catalyst for his successor’s demise, Patterson was not so forgiving.

In fact, he said the only thing to really upset him in the last 18 months was Nutt’s media days sabotage. His lawsuit became public knowledge one day before Ole Miss took the stage at SEC Media Days, and as a result shifted most media focus away from the school’s three player representatives: Shea Patterson, Javon Patterson and Breeland Speaks.

“Just because he has a grudge or he has a problem with a coach, he couldn’t wait another few days to go after that guy? He had to get his moment in the sun because he doesn’t have it any more,” Patterson said. “Whether the suit was good or not, that’s not the issue. It’s always the kids who are forgotten. Not one thought was given to them. I’ve coached for 25 years. No way would I ever want to spoil a kid’s moment in the sun.

“It was gutless. It ruined three kids’ days.”

For almost the entirety of the Rebels’ knock-down, drag-out NCAA investigation, however, the entire Patterson family has handled the twists and turns with remarkable poise. They’d have every right to feel angry, confused or hurt by the turn of events that has left Shea Patterson and older brother Sean Jr. — an off-field member of Freeze’s staff — in an incredibly difficult situation.

But the Pattersons see a silver lining: It’s a huge chance for Shea and his teammates to prove the outside world wrong in the face of especially trying circumstances.

The scandal has taken all attention away from the Ole Miss players, he said, as it did in the case of Nutt’s lawsuit. The bowl ban and the sudden departure of Freeze have created rock-bottom expectations for the squad in 2017; the media predicted Ole Miss will finish seventh in the SEC West last week before Freeze’s phone usage came to light.

And yet, some around the program feel like they could surprise this fall. Patterson, Van Jefferson and A.J. Brown highlight what should be a fairly dynamic offense under new coordinator Phil Longo, whose Air Raid system put up huge numbers at Sam Houston State. Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff is a respected coach who can improve a defense that seriously stumbled last season.

Patterson and the rest of the 2016 signing class are “locked in,” Patterson Sr. said, and they’re looking at 2017 as a challenge. Chances are, it’ll be the biggest football trial they’ll ever face.

“In the long run, it’ll make them stronger. It’ll make them tougher mentally,” he said. “During this whole process, we forget this is a kid’s game. That’s what it should be. I think you’ll see it come back to where it’s a manageable situation. It’s unmanageable right now. The [NCAA] enforcement is pretty much, ‘Who do we want?’ It’s not across the board.”

With Freeze gone, the Ole Miss community is awaiting closure more eagerly than ever. Until the school meets with the Committee on Infractions this fall, when the NCAA will determine a final punishment, that won’t really happen.

Recruiting efforts likely will continue to suffer (3-star CB Jaylin Williams has de-committed), and fans may find it hard to not view 2017 as a lost season.

All Ole Miss can do is focus on the game. And for the Pattersons, the Sept. 2 opener vs. South Alabama can’t come soon enough.

“We’re ready to play some football,” Patterson Sr. said.

RELATED: Matt Luke has simple message to Rebels in first team meeting as head coach

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Alec Shirkey – SEC Country

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Alabama baseball: Game time, details for matchup with No. 4 Ole Miss (May 17, 2018)

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The 2018 season will come to a close for Alabama baseball as the Crimson Tide welcome the fourth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels to Tuscaloosa from Thursday through Saturday. The first two games of the series are set for a 6 p.m. CT first pitch with the season finale on Saturday scheduled for 1 p.m. Fans can catch all three games on SEC Network+.

The final 2018 series with Ole Miss will feature numerous promotions for fans of all ages. On Friday, the Crimson Tide will honor the team’s six seniors as part of senior night at The Joe. The seniors that will be honored include Tyler Adams, Hunter Alexander, Chandler Avant, Cody Henry, Connor Short and Jake Walters.

How to follow Alabama baseball vs. Ole Miss

FOLLOW THE TIDE

Fans can follow the three games via the below outlets:

Watch: SEC Network+

Listen: 102.9 FM / CTSN / TuneIn App

Twitter: @AlabamaBSB

Live Stats: RollTide.com

What you should know about Alabama baseball vs. Ole Miss

  • Alabama is coming off a week that saw the Crimson Tide finish 2-2 overall. The Tide closed out their nonconference slate with a walk-off win over Jacksonville State on Tuesday before taking one of the three games in Baton Rouge against LSU this past weekend.
  • Alabama and Ole Miss will square off for the 358th time in series history when the two teams start the series on Thursday evening. The first matchup between the two schools came in 1895 and is the second-longest-running SEC series in Alabama history, trailing only Vanderbilt.
  • The Crimson Tide lead the all-time series 208-147-2 and are 128-75-1 in games played in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels have come to Sewell-Thomas Stadium with a Top 25 ranking in the last six series between the two Western schools, with Alabama holding a 4-2 mark in those pairings, including series wins in the last two (2014, 2016).

Probable pitching matchups

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS

THURSDAY: UA – Sam Finnerty (Jr., RHP) vs. OM – Ryan Rolison (So., LHP)

FRIDAY: UA – Jake Walters (Sr., RHP) vs. OM – Brady Feigl (R-Jr., RHP)

SATURDAY: UA – Garret Rukes (R-Fr., LHP) vs. OM – James McArthur (Jr., RHP)

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Marq Burnett – SEC Country

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Alabama softball defeats Southern Miss 4-2, honors Mississippi State player

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Sophomore Gabby Callaway went 3 for 3, including a 2-run home run as the University of Alabama softball team opened a four-game homestand with a 4-2 victory against Southern Miss on Wednesday night.

It was her fifth multi-hit game out of the last nine, bringing her batting average up to .355.

Senior Peyton Grantham hit a solo home run as well to open the scoring in the second inning.

Courtney Gettins threw a complete game to improve to 11-3. She allowed 2 earned runs on 8 hits, while striking out 4 and walking 2. The junior threw just 96 pitches and dropped her ERA to 2.12.

“Courtney was under 100 pitches, so it was an efficient outing,” coach Patrick Murphy said in a release. “She made the pitches when she needed to. We spread our walks and hits around; eight different people got on base. Callaway was really good at the plate today and Peyton’s home run was a big lift to opposite field on a changeup. I’m pleased with the win.”

Samantha Robles (6-13) took the loss for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles (16-30) were Alabama’s final nonconference game on the regular-season schedule.

No. 17 Alabama (27-13), which will host No. 7/10 Tennessee for a three-game series beginning Saturday, sported teal socks, ribbons and helmet stickers in honor of Mississippi State player Alex Wilcox and her battle with ovarian cancer.

“It is an unfortunate situation for the young lady and, being an Alabama native, a lot of our girls know her,” Murphy said. “Since we don’t play them this year, we felt a midweek TV game was an opportunity for us to raise awareness and show that we’re thinking about her, praying for her and are behind her 100 percent.”

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Christopher Walsh – SEC Country

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Alabama softball may be without staff ace against Ole Miss: Series info, preview

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama softball team might still be without its ace pitcher, Alexis Osorio, when it hosts Ole Miss for a three-game series this weekend.

The senior has yet to be cleared from concussion protocol after being struck in the face by a batted ball at Auburn last Sunday.

She’s thrown 61.0 of the team’s 173.1 innings, amassing 101 strikeouts for an average of 1.67 per inning. The two-time All-American has a 1.61 ERA.

If she’s still sidelined, the Crimson Tide will have to rely on their other two pitchers, who are both new additions this season. Courtney Gettins, a junior-college transfer, is 8-2 with a 1.62 ERA, with 34 strikeouts and 28 walks. Freshman left-hander Madison Preston is 6-2 with a 1.83 ERA, 36 strikeouts and 21 walks.

Alabama is No. 15 in the USA Today/NFCA poll and No. 16 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. In early RPI ranking, Alabama is No. 20 and Ole Miss 35th.

Series details

  • What: Ole Miss (15-10, 1-5 SEC) at Alabama (20-7, 1-2)
  • When: 7:30 p.m. ET Friday, 3 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: Rhoads Stadium
  • Weather forecast: According to the Weather Channel, rain isn’t in the forecast until Sunday afternoon when scattered thunderstorms will go through the Tuscaloosa area. The chance of rain is 50 percent, so keep an eye out for a possible preemptive schedule change.

What’s the best way to keep up with the games

Fans have numerous options:

Radio: 93.3 FM in Tuscaloosa.

Live video can be found on SEC Network+: Game 1, Game 2 and Game 3

Live stats will be available.

Twitter updates: @AlabamaSB

What you should know

  • The last meeting between the teams was in the SEC Tournament, a 4-1 victory for Ole Miss. Overall, Alabama leads the series 58-5, and had a 30-game win streak snapped in 2017.
  • Former Alabama softball player Chandler Dare will be the analyst on the SEC Network broadcasts. Crimson Tide football play-by-play announcer Eli Gold is slated to call Sunday’s game.
  • The Rebels’ three primary pitchers are freshman left-hander Anna Borgen (2-4, 2.58 ERA), senior Kaitlin Lee (9-4, 2.66) and sophomore Morgan Bruce (2-0, 3.46).
  • Ole Miss batters have been struggling this season, batting .255 as a team, which is last in the SEC. Sophomore Kaylee Horton leading the Rebels with a .360 batting average. The 5-6 utility player hails from Jasper, Ala.
  • The Rebels are 13-2 when scoring first and 2-7 when playing from behind. They’re 10-0 when scoring in the first inning.
  • Alabama defense ranks second in the SEC with a .978 fielding percentage. The .273 batting average is 12th and the 1.70 ERA ninth.
  • Alabama doesn’t have any midweek games scheduled until mid-April. It’ll travel to Kentucky next weekend, and host Florida on April 7-9.

The post Alabama softball may be without staff ace against Ole Miss: Series info, preview appeared first on SEC Country.

Christopher Walsh – SEC Country

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The 3-pointer: Alabama basketball looked young, inconsistent at Ole Miss

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The University of Alabama men’s basketball team saw its four-game winning streak snapped at a place that almost always gives the Crimson Tide trouble, Ole Miss.

The 78-66 loss was Alabama’s third straight on the road in SEC play, having previously fallen 76-75 at Vanderbilt and 65-46 at Georgia. The only other pure road game it played this season (at an opponent’s arena) was the 88-82 defeat at Arizona.

“They’ve been a hot team at home this year,” Coach Avery Johnson said in a release. “I thought we played lethargic throughout most of the game and they had a lot to do with that. We had a stretch where we came back in the first half and a little bit in the second half, but we couldn’t sustain anything.”

For the first time this season, Alabama lost when having an edge in rebounds (36-35). It had also grabbed 16 offensive boards.

Alabama 13-7 (5-3) will host No. 12 Oklahoma in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Saturday (2:15 ET, ESPN). The Sooners knocked off No. 5 Kansas on Tuesday night.

Here are three things that stood out:

1. At times Alabama looked good, other times not so much

It was a game of streaks with Alabama holding Ole Miss scoreless for 6:34 during the first half, when it went on an 18-0 run. When it got aggressive defensively at the start of the second half Alabama enjoyed a 9-0 stretch to cut the deficit to 43-42.

However, Ole Miss (11-9, 4-4 SEC) countered the initial run with a 14-0 run of its own to retake the lead and outscored Alabama 23-4 over the final 6:10 in the first half.

2. Ole Miss is really, really tough to beat at home.

The Rebels  4-0 in SEC home games this season, having already defeated South Carolina, Mississippi State and Florida at The Pavilion.  Alabama has lost six straight at Ole Miss.

The home team shot 50 percent from the field, with senior guard Deandre Burnett leading all scorers with 24 points.

Ole Miss was 18-for-24 from the free-throw line. Alabama was 10-of-14.

3. Collin Sexton wasn’t 100 percent

The freshman guard was rusty after missing a pair of games due to an abdominal injury, and was 2-for-13 from the field. He obviously hadn’t practiced much and the offensive ball movement slowed considerably when he was in the game.

Ole Miss fans responded by chanting “over-rated” when Sexton was at the free-throw line.

On the plus side in terms of injuries, junior forward Donta Hall (wrist) threw down a pair of monster dunks in the second half en route to having a team-high 14 points and seven rebounds.

The post The 3-pointer: Alabama basketball looked young, inconsistent at Ole Miss appeared first on SEC Country.

Christopher Walsh – SEC Country

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Ole Miss removes interim tag, names Matt Luke full-time coach

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Ole Miss made it official on Sunday night and officially named Matt Luke it’s full-time coach.

A press conference is scheduled for Monday morning. Luke went 6-6 as the interim, which included a win over No. 14 Mississippi State this past Thursday. Luke had met with the team on Sunday night prior to news coming out.

Luke is a former Ole Miss player and captain. He had served as an assistant under two different stretches from 2002-05. Luke was named the interim coach after the school parted ways with Hugh Freeze in July amid scandal.

The search firm Ole Miss used was the Turnkey Search, which was the same one LSU used a year ago when it promoted Ed Orgeron to full-time coach from interim status, according to Antonio Morales of the Jackson-Clarion Ledger. 

The Rebels won SEC games against Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and nearly beat Arkansas and Texas A&M as well.

Luke will be one of at least 4 new full-time coaches in the SEC West next year, as Texas A&M, Arkansas and Mississippi State all will have new coaches.

Ole Miss also picked two commitments on Sunday.

Ole Miss is still waiting to hear from the NCAA as to what their penalties will be regarding the NCAA’s investigation. On Thursday, Ross Bjork told ESPN that those penalties could come as early as this week and as late as possibly two weeks.

After Ole Miss beat Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, the players began to campaign for Luke to get the full-time job. They were pretty happy on Sunday night.

The post Ole Miss removes interim tag, names Matt Luke full-time coach appeared first on SEC Country.

Connor Riley – SEC Country