Ole Miss aims high despite ongoing NCAA investigation

Tyler Waldrep

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze might have crossed the No. 7 item off his bucket list when the Rebels beat Oklahoma State 48-20 in the Sugar Bowl, but the rest might have to wait. It all depends on what, if any, penalties are levied on Freeze or the Ole Miss program as a result of the ongoing NCAA investigation.

Freeze is currently unable to comment on specifics of the ongoing investigation, but he said he’s not going to let it stop him from enjoying the opportunity he has with this team.

“I have zero interest, zero interest, in cutting corners to be successful, and our staff knows that very well,” Freeze said. “But we will be responsible and held accountable for anything that happened on that day, but until that day, we’re going to stay focused on being the best football team we can and continue to be relevant and having confidence in who we are.”

Relevance in the month of October is something the Rebels will have to earn with week one and week three games against Florida State and Alabama respectively. It would be a tough draw for any team, but a fast start this year could put Freeze in a position to cross a few more items off his list.

Tight end Evan Engram’s decision to return for his final season along with fellow senior, quarterback Chad Kelly, could give the Rebels the offensive firepower needed to survive those early tests.

“[Kelly’s] got a killer instinct,” Engram said. “He’s a guy that wants to take shots and wants to make the big play, but he’s also smart and not afraid to take off down the field and make some plays with his feet.”

When Kelly does take shots, Engram wouldn’t mind being on the other end of them. The tight end finished with 464 receiving yards behind four other Rebels in 2015.

“I love to do whatever the team needs me to do, but I also love getting the ball [and] making ways,” he said. “So I definitely feel our team could be really successful if I’m involved and getting more touches. Just what I have to offer the team and the offense is unique and I take pride and I put a lot of work into it.”