July 20, 2008
Wallace believes Rebels can contend
Mike Wallace is well aware of Ole Miss' struggles the past three seasons.
The Rebels' wide receiver is willing to talk about it. He's just unwilling to accept it. On top of that, Wallace isn't dreaming merely of winning a few games this season. He's thinking of Atlanta.
That's right. The 6-foot, 195-pound senior from New Orleans has his sights set on a trip to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in early December, knowing better than most that the Rebels have won just three league tilts in his three years in red and blue.
"I'm tired of losing," Wallace said Friday afternoon. "I just feel like we can compete with any team the whole time. In the last three years I've been here, we've just needed something extra to get us over the top.
I just feel like we're ready to win. I'm tired of losing, man. This is the first time I've ever been on a losing team throughout my whole life. We can't get too content with losing. We're tired of losing.
"We've been here three years and never been to a bowl game. We are always going home in early December and I just feel like the whole team (is tired of losing). Everybody, every morning, we say, 'Championship.' It's a big step, but I feel like we played with every team last year to the end and I feel like we're way better now than we were last year. I feel like we can go to the title."
Wallace, who had 38 receptions for 716 yards and six touchdowns last season, said he feels the Rebels' renewed confidence and sense of team will mark a critical difference when Ole Miss begins the Houston Nutt era on Aug. 30 at home against Memphis.
"I just feel like everybody's ready to give it up for the team now," Wallace said. "They know they can win. We were always in pretty good shape, but I feel like we're in way better shape now. Coach (Don) Decker has us stretching a little more and getting a little looser, so a lot of people won't get hurt. Last year, going into camp, we already had seven or eight people missing practice hurt. We're real healthy now."
In addition, the Rebels' receiving corps _ led by Wallace, Shay Hodge and Dexter McCluster _ has emerged as one of the strengths of the Ole Miss program. Throw in youngsters such as Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux and incoming freshmen Melvin Harris and Andrew Harris, and Wallace feels like the Rebels are on the verge of being explosive with the football.
"We're feeling ourselves -- Shay, Dexter and me," Wallace said. "We already feel like we're one of the best going into the season. I really feel like we're the best in the SEC, throughout the whole SEC."
It wasn't long ago, however, when the Ole Miss passing game was considered a weakness. Wallace said he never felt that label was fair.
"I really feel like we were always good the whole time," Wallace said. "It's just that at first a lot of our players didn't respond too good to our first coach. Coach (Hugh) Freeze helped us out a lot and we got better and I think Coach (Ron) Dickerson is the same type of coach and we're continuing to get better. I feel like when we started off, everybody felt like it was a weakness but it was all our first year. Last year, we had a little bit more experience and we got better and now we're going to have even more experience and we're going to continue to get better."
Much of that confidence is bolstered by the presence of Texas transfer Jevan Snead, who is Ole Miss' starter after sitting a year due to NCAA transfer rules, and former Canadian Football League head coach and Ole Miss quarterback Kent Austin as the Rebels' offensive coordinator.
"Seth (Adams) was a good quarterback, but I just feel like Jevan's arm is stronger," Wallace said. "I always feel like if he throws the ball far enough, I will go get it. I feel like I will get behind defenders this year. Shay, Markeith, Dexter, all of us are going to do what we have to do and I just feel like we have a quarterback with the arm strength to get it out there to us.
"I don't want to talk bad about Coach (Dan) Werner, but I just feel like Coach Austin has more plays and more selections for us and more routes for the types of players we are. We have a lot of four-man combinations, getting all of us on the field at the same time. Coach Austin is a real smart coach and he just finds plays to expose every kind of coverage. He told us to just be confident in what he's calling. I feel real confident."
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