OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Linebacker Deterrian Shackelford says Mississippi is ready to compete among the Southeastern Conference's best teams next season.
The Rebels are optimistic after wrapping up spring practice on Saturday with the annual Grove Bowl. The offense edged the defense 15-12 in a modified scoring system that awarded points based on specific achievements.
Third-year coach Hugh Freeze said players on both sides of the ball had good moments. Senior quarterback Bo Wallace completed 10 of 21 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. Junior I'Tavius Mathers rushed for 121 yards on just four carries.
The Rebels finished 8-5 last season, including a victory over Georgia Tech at the Music City Bowl. They're expecting even more success next fall.
"The things we can do this year — it's no dream," Shackelford said. "We know we've got the pieces to the puzzle and the time is now. We feel a sense of urgency. There's no more we've got to get this or that. We're in a great position and we've got a lot veterans coming back."
Ole Miss expects to return 15 starters from last season, including nine on defense. The Rebels are counting on a talented group of sophomores, who have almost all lived up to expectations after coming to Oxford as arguably the most hyped freshman class in school history.
Sophomore Laquon Treadwell is expected to step into the No. 1 receiver role after Donte Moncrief left school a year early to begin his professional career. Treadwell caught 72 passes for 608 yards and five touchdowns last season.
"Laquon has a chance to be really, really special," Freeze said. "Some of the things he's done — he's just so strong and gifted."
Treadwell caught two passes for 46 yards and a touchdown on Saturday. Another sophomore, tight end Evan Engram, caught two passes for 77 yards.
Two more sophomores will also be among the starters on the offensive line. Laremy Tunsil is entrenched as the starting left tackle after a steady freshman season, while Austin Golson is one of the leading candidates at right tackle.