OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Coach Hugh Freeze has just about mastered the self-effacing, aw-shucks attitude that has helped his Mississippi football program escape lofty expectations.
There's too much talent on the Rebels' roster to avoid that now.
Freeze said Friday at Ole Miss' annual media day that the goal is to compete in the Southeastern Conference Western Division.
The Rebels return 15 starters, including third-year starting quarterback Bo Wallace. A talented sophomore class — including offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, receiver Laquon Treadwell and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche — is expected to be a huge contributor after an encouraging freshman season.
The Rebels open the season on Aug. 28 against Boise State in Atlanta.
Ole Miss does have some question marks on the roster, especially at offensive line, where the Rebels are trying to replace three starters. Freeze looks forward to the upcoming position battles during the next four weeks, but says it's also important to keep his relatively thin roster healthy.
"It's a quandary in my mind that I go through every single day," Freeze said. "You want to be fast and physical, like we were in the spring. But now I feel like we have a team that can be good — and hopefully go from good to great. But everything changes if you have injuries."
Ole Miss looks especially deep on defense, where nine starters return. Senior linebacker Serderius Bryant led the Rebels with 78 tackles last season, including 12½ for a loss.
"It's crazy how much better the team has changed from my freshman year until now," Bryant said. "I really feel like the team can be great."
Bryant has seen steady improvement since he arrived on campus three years ago. The Rebels were 2-10 during his freshman season, going winless in the SEC during coach Houston Nutt's final season.
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