March 5, 2014 11:40:04 AM
OXFORD -- The Ole Miss football team began year three of the High Freeze era Tuesday night with the start of spring practice.
The Rebels practiced in helmets and shorts for about two hours inside the Manning Center to kick off spring drills.
"It's been an enjoyable ride," Freeze said. "We have had some ups and had some disappointing losses and some disappointing things that each program has.
"To go from 14 straight SEC losses, to go to two straight bowl games and win both, we're headed in the right direction. It's a bit unbelievable we're already getting ready to start year three of our journey together."
The Rebels return 60 lettermen and 15 position starters, including nine starters on defense. All nine assistant coaches also return from last season.
"It's important and a special thing any time you can have continuity of staff," Freeze said. "We're very fortunate the guys we have are enjoying what we're doing and how we're doing it and have chosen to stay on with us and stay a part of the Rebel family."
Senior Bo Wallace returns at quarterback and will go through spring drills healthy for the first time since 2012. Behind him is a four-way quarterback battle between redshirt freshmen DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan and junior college transfer Jeremy Liggins and early enrollee Kendrick Doss.
"I would say no one is ahead of the pack," Freeze said. "Based on last year, there were some things DeVante does naturally better than Ryan, and there are some things Ryan does naturally better than him, and we didn't have the other two here."
Also on the offense, Ole Miss will look to replace Donte Moncrief, who declared for the NFL draft following his junior season.
With his departure, sophomore Laquon Treadwell will move to outside receiver, and fellow sophomore Quincy Adeboyejo will move to inside receiver. Juniors Quintavius Burdette and Quadarias Mireles also moved from cornerback to bolster the wide receiver corps.
Those are among the many position changes this spring, as Ole Miss looks to give players opportunities and build depth on both sides of the ball.
"The theme for this spring is being more consistent, as we continue to build a depth chart that is one that looks like an SEC football team," Freeze said. "We're not quite there. I have said it would take three full recruiting cycles, at least, before we were a depth chart that appeared to be of SEC worth. We're still not quite there.
"We're going to have to go through another spring with some issues and depth, but we're much, much closer than we were when we got here."
Junior Channing Ward, of Aberdeen, will work at tight end, and Liggins, a sophomore, will split time between quarterback and tight end. Senior Carlton Martin moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard.
Sophomore Kailo Moore, who played running back last season, is going to play some cornerback this spring. Senior Deterrian Shackelford, who will split time between linebacker and defensive end, is going to start at MIKE linebacker, and junior Chief Brown will move from safety to Huskie.
Like during the fall, Ole Miss is battling the injury bug at the start of spring practice. Junior defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton (broken foot) and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Christian Morris (torn Achilles) will miss the spring, and senior offensive lineman Aaron Morris will be held out as he recovers from anterior cruciate ligament surgery. A handful of others will miss a few practices, but Freeze expects most of them back after the team returns from spring break.
Ole Miss will return to the practice field this afternoon. Friday morning's practice will be open to the public.