August 26, 2014 3:26:40 PM
It's all about maturity for Ole Miss third-year quarterback Bo Wallace.
Wallace feels like he has had his best fall camp. He also feels the pressure of being the Southeastern Conference's most experienced returning quarterback. That experience and the accompanying expectations are used for motivation.
"I just think I have matured," said Wallace, who also earned All-America honors at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba. "It's crazy. You see your last year coming and you see your goals you want to accomplish. You kind of self reflect and look at things in the past that may have held you back from those things. For me, it was self-reflection and looking at what I want to accomplish and what I want to remembered for."
Ole Miss will open the year and its final season with Wallace at the helm against Boise State at 7 p.m. Thursday (ESPN) in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Challenge at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
"Our kids are hungry. We're excited about our plans," Ole Miss third-year coach Hugh Freeze said. "We like what we do. We like our kids. We like that we're deeper at some places. Hate we lost Chief (Brown), Tee (Shepard), and Carlos (Davis) for the year. We have to next man up and get ready to play the next guy. There's no questions we're definitely deeper."
Wallace threw for 3,346 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. However, many feel his play down the stretch cost the team in losses to Missouri and Mississippi State. Ole Miss finished 8-5 and won a bowl game for a second-straight season.
This season, Wallace is expected to have a big bounce-back season, which is part of the reason Ole Miss is No. 18 in The Associated Press preseason poll. Freeze feels like negative attention has helped keep his quarterback working hard.
"It's different for each guy," Freeze said. "What motivates one may not motivate the other. Bo is pretty self-motivated. He hasn't shared (his thoughts on negative publicity) with me. I heard some talk of that on social media. I think he's just hungry to go out and prove he can have a better year than he had last year and the one before that. He had two pretty good ones.
"He knows the areas where he needs to improve. If that's something he can use to motivate himself, I'm all for it."
Wallace feels like the team built on multiple positive experiences from last season. He also feels like his leadership will be key for the Rebels to contend for the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship.
"My confidence (is different)," Wallace said. "I have a lot more confidence this year because I feel like I have had a great camp. Last year, I felt like I didn't have a good camp. It took me two or three weeks to really get back in the groove of things. From day one, I felt good, and I still feel good. I'm excited about going out there and playing."
Boise State will make its debut under new coach Bryan Harsin. The 37-year-old Harsin came to Boise from Arkansas State, which also was Freeze's previous stop before Ole Miss. The Broncos have appeared in 12-straight bowl games and also finished 8-5 last season.
"(Harsin) just experienced a first game last year at Arkansas State," Freeze said. "Anytime you go into your first game, they're much alike at different programs. He's probably having the same emotions he had when he was the head coach for the first time. Now he's back at a place (his alma mater) that's dear to his past and that's kind of home. When I came back here the first game, I learned a lot of things."
While Boise State lost a lot of its firepower from last season's team, Wallace sees a football team that likes to play up-tempo on defense and is aggressive. However, some new wrinkles are to be expected.
"It's difficult because we have had to look at two teams and three years of film to get a feel for what they're going to do," Wallace said. "But, at the same time, that tempo can help us if they come at us with something totally different. We can just go to tempo and that's what I'm comfortable with, and that's what I think our offense is comfortable in."
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Scott is sports copy editor and reporter