SEC Media Day 4: Ole Miss Rebels maintain focus during sanctioned season

HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) — The Ole Miss Rebels are playing a season without bowl aspirations, and with significantly reduced scholarships, but the team seems committed to finding success by rallying around their culture.

During his marathon press conference at this year’s installment of SEC Media Days, Head Coach Hugh Freeze stated that a lot of the close losses that came from the team blowing leads rattled the Rebels’ confidence. However, players on the team took various lessons from Freeze’s tutelage in the 2016 season.

Players like defensive tackle Breeland Speaks, who took joy in playing spoiler for many teams’ playoff hopes thanks to a little help from Freeze.

“That’s definitely our M.O. this season, ‘If we’re not going, you’re not either’,” Speaks said. “That’s basically what Coach Freeze has instilled in us.”

The team moves as a unit through the trials ahead of them, and seem to enjoy an “us vs. them” status that was afforded to them after the programs alleged violations came to light.

“The culture that we’ve built at Ole Miss is very special, and I’m excited to be a part of it,” said Javon Patterson, the team’s starting left guard. “Just the way that we bond with each other, the whole team’s bond. We all go out and have fun, play games, eat, breathe, sleep, all that stuff. We’re just together and we’re enjoying it.”

There is a lot for this team to enjoy with the emergence of quarterback Shea Patterson, whose impressive late-season debut led to a deafening buzz coming into the Hyatt Regency – The Wynfrey Hotel for the SEC event.

Players on both sides of the ball admire Patterson’s talent and demeanor.

“He’s a cool guy, level headed, doesn’t get rattled too bad,” Speaks said. “He’s still young, but I feel like the coaches will put him in a position where he doesn’t have to be rattled too often.”

Like Javon Patterson, Shea Patterson praised the team’s culture as a force driving the young players to success. He credited the team’s strong leadership as a guiding light in the development of his young career.

“This offseason, so many guys have stepped up to take that role, collectively as a group,” Shea said. “I’m thankful to have a great support staff of teammates and coaches that are going to help me become that guy, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Much like the rest of the team, Shea Patterson has noticed the dark cloud hanging over the 2017 season. The team is playing a season where they have no chance of getting into a bowl game. But the thrill of victory gets them going, and they are not deterred by the thought that they won’t hoist a trophy after crossing miles of turf over 12 games.

“Stay positive. Everything else other than September 2nd and the rest of the season is completely irrelevant in our minds,” Shea said. “Of course, it sucks not to play for a bowl this year, but it doesn’t change the path, it doesn’t change the vision.”

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