Open weekend for football but lots still happening

Junior OF Alex Presley

September means football, but it also means just about every other sport on campus in some way, shape, or form. Let's take a look.

Football's off this weekend, but a lot of other sports are in action, either on the fields or courts - or on the practice fields or courts.

The volleyball team hosted a tournament this weekend. Soccer had a couple of home games. Both their seasons are headed later this month toward SEC play.

Friday afternoon I caught up with baseball and men's basketball. This time of year a lot of former baseball players head back into town. As several of the current players and coaches sat in the dugout Friday afternoon, Barry Gunther and Cooper Osteen walked in. Coop has been here a few days, but it was the first time for Coach Mike Bianco and Coop to see Barry since he only got back to Oxford Thursday. The reunion was genuine and it's obvious the bond between players and coaches from the great year last spring will be lifelong. Other former Rebels from last year's team, Stephen Head, Brian Pettway, Anthony Cupps among them, are expected back to Oxford in the days and weeks ahead as their pro seasons close.

The talk among those in the dugout centered around who has impressed so far. Fall baseball doesn't start until Sept. 19, so the individual workouts can only reveal so much.

Freshman RHP Cody Satterwhite has for sure. He's obviously a weekend starter candidate for the spring. Frosh RHP Lance Lynn has also impressed as has juco junior LHP Garrett White. There are a host of pitchers in the mix, so fall ball will be interesting.

Juco junior Kyle Mills keeps getting rave reviews for his hitting and athleticism. The word coming in was that the Tupelo and ICC product is basically a DH candidate. While that appears to still be the case, Mills should play a lot in the spring. His forte' is hitting the ball out of the park. I saw Mills and his teammates before their initial two-mile run to start the school year. He is not that tall but is strong and muscular. I wasn't sure he would do well in the run.

Mills finished first in the two-miler with room to spare. So much for my evaluation of that particular situation.

I already sense that the baseball players on this year's team, both returnees and newcomers, know what it takes to succeed in Division I college baseball. The feeling that this program couldn't quite get over the proverbial hump is in the past now.

No, they didn't get to Omaha last year. But they almost did. And now they know they can. That's a big difference in this year's baseball team and those in the recent past.

Rebel baseball plans to have intrasquad games several weekends this fall. Tentative dates are Sept. 24-25 (Wyoming football weekend), Oct. 1-2, Oct. 7-8-9 (Homecoming weekend), Oct. 13-14-15-16 (Alabama football weekend).

After an hour or so at baseball Friday, I headed over to watch the men's basketball team workout. Former Rebel guard Cecil Dowell, who played hoops for the Rebs during my college years, sat down and we watched together. We saw some good things.

Dowell, who played for two head coaches at Ole Miss - Weltlich and Hunt - said he joins a lot of others in being excited about the direction the program is headed again.

Some things jumped out at us as the hour went on. The Rebels can shoot the basketball better. Juco newcomer Clarence Sanders is a threat to score every trip downcourt. He's a creator and can make something happen, a much needed addition to the Rebel program.

Bam Doyne is shooting it better and has more confidence in his game after a trip overseas this summer. Brandon Patterson is going to help the Rebels offensively and will compete for a starting spot. Londrick Nolen, the only senior on the team, has matured in a lot of areas, including an understanding of what it takes to play on a nightly basis at this level.

Cecil and I watched as the Rebels filled it up time and again on that end of the court.

On the other end, the big guys were going at it. Rod has already said he wants to start both 6-9 veterans - DeWayne Curtis and Jeremy Parnell. They are already talking "twin towers." I heard Curtis use that phrase Friday when talking about the fact that both might start inside for the Rebs. Parnell, who also played overseas this summer, looks like a different person the way his body has toned, leaned, and muscled up. No fat on him this year.

Assistant coach Tracy Dildy took it one step further. He said the Rebels may use three big guys inside some of the time this season - Curtis, Parnell, and 6-9 freshman Marquis Young of Chicago. Opposing teams won't face many foes with that much height, bulk, and ability.

The point guard spot is Todd Abernethy's with backup from Brian Smith and a couple of walkons. Todd hasn't lost much weight but his body looks different. He's even more toned and lean and says he intentionally did that because it makes him quicker and faster, a must at the point guard position at this level.

Newcomers Trey Hampton and Mike Smith have opened some eyes. Smith, at 6-7, has some work to do to get in shape, but some in the Rebel camp feel he might turn out to be the best of the group before it's all over. Smith was a prep schooler last year and brings some maturity to the team. Hampton, also at 6-7, is a freshman but already has the look and skill of an older player who isn't afraid to make something happen with the basketball by taking it to the hoop and trying to score.

Xavier Webb now goes by Xavier Hansbro. The 6-9 freshman from west Tennessee is more of an outside player, a three or four player that can shoot. Cecil said there's just something about Xavier that he likes. I agree.

It's a month before preseason basketball practice starts. But this team, with as many newcomers as veterans, has already begun to come together. They have a lot of confidence even at this early stage. They know they have a ways to go to become the team they want to be. But they know they can get there.

The two Ole Miss golf teams begin their fall play in the next few days. The Rebels are in Knoxville, Tenn., for a Monday-Tuesday tournament, while the Lady Rebs are in Charleston, S.C.

"We're excited to get started," said men's coach Ernest Ross, entering the second year of his second tenure at his alma mater. "We've got high expectations again this season. Our preparation has been good so far. In college golf you start quickly. We've only been in school a short time, and here we are playing a tournament."

Ross is taking four juniors and a senior to the tournament in Knoxville. One of those juniors, Chris Rogers, set a course record last week at Mallard Point on Sardis Lake with a 7-under-par 65. Others going on the trip are juniors Kyle Ellis, Brice Bailey, Callum Macaulay, and senior Derek Abel.

"Chris really stepped up and played well after not having played that well so far this school year," Ross said. "Sometimes players will do that, just step up and play well when it might be least expected."

On the women's side, Coach Meghan Bolger says her team is also ready for some competition.

"There's an unbelievably good field in this tournament," said Bolger of the College of Charleston tourney. "A lot of the top teams in the country will be there."

Bolger is taking a fairly young lineup to the event. Senior Sarah Kate Cousart and junior Katie Davidson will be joined by freshmen Dori Carter, Rachel Ingram, and J.J. Flynn.

"Our girls have been working hard and are very excited," Bolger said. "Even though we have some younger players, this is a very mature group. I'm looking forward to their progress throughout the year."

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