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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rebels speedy future on display at EAGLE Invite

COLUMN: Ole Miss’ future on offense/special teams was on display this past Saturday at the annual Oxford EAGLE Invitational. 

Competing in the 100-meter dash was Lafayette’s outstanding all-purpose back, junior D.K. Buford, who committed to play for coach Hugh Freeze this past February. He can make that verbal pledge official next February, after his senior season is completed at LHS

Buford, who played baseball against Oxford the night before the meet, won the 100 with a respectable time of 11.02 seconds. It was the first time he’s competed in the event since he is usually playing baseball and it was the first time he’s been on a track in over 20 months. (Buford was a member of some LHS relay teams in 2011).

His coach, Ben Mikell, was pleased with the way Buford ran in his first race in windy conditions and thought he would only get better with his technique which would lead to even more impressive times as the season progresses. Regardless of his time, Buford has plenty of speed, especially considering he’s 203 pounds, for Freeze to use as a running back, slot receiver or return specialist in the future.

Moore shines

Another future Rebel who competed at the meet was West Bolivar running back Kailo Moore, who has already signed and will be an official member of the team this summer. Moore won the 200 with a time of 22.24. Moore also won the 400 with a 53.5. Last season, Moore won the 100 and 200 titles at the MHSAA Class 2A meet in Pearl. Moore, who is expected to run track at Ole Miss, felt like Saturday’s results were a good way to begin the season. He added that he has run the 400 before and is looking to add that title to his impressive resume yet again.

“I’m looking to break the 100 and 200 records this year. My goal is to run the 1, 2 and 400 and then one of the relays,” Moore said. “I thought I got off to a great start and ran pretty good in the 200 and the quarter (400) as well. I’m just waiting to see how the season progresses and how my times go.”

Moore said he wasn’t really in shape yet and that was another reason he was running the 400. He felt like track helps him with his speed on the football field.

“It’s going to help me a whole lot because I’m going to be in top shape. Once I go in, they way I’m going to be rolling, all I’ve got to do is get on the weight program and learn the plays and I’ll be a great, impact player,” Moore said. “I’m coming in June. They want me to play running back and slot.”

Recruiting changes

Signing top players is the goal of any coaching staff and the efforts to garner the signatures of those standouts involves a lot of hard work by Freeze and his assistants, using all types of communication. During the offseason, the NCAA favored legislation that would allow staffs to use even more text messages to contact prospects starting this summer.

Some schools have plans to hire additional staff to contact players under the new guidelines while some coaches haven’t been as pleased with the new proposals because of what it would mean to staff continuity or building more personal relationships with the prospects and their families.

Not so happy

Count Freeze as a coach who isn’t as happy about the changes and what it would mean to the way his staff recruited.

“I’m not for it. I’m totally against being unlimited in the number of people who can call. I don’t think that’s right for the high school student-athlete. I think it’s almost out of control now. Just imagine the chaotic life that that high school kid is going to have if we can now have everybody off the field trying to get in touch with him also. I’m not in favor of that,” Freeze said last week during his pre-spring press conference. “I’m totally in favor of us being able to text kids. That’s the way of the world right now. I still think there should be some restrictions on it. My counterparts in our league felt the same way. We’d like to see that slow down. We’re pretty crazy right now in the amount of time we try to spend getting them on the phone and contacting them.”

Some coaches feel like there should be less contact, or maybe better put, less pressure put on a player to make a decision when recruiting really hits a fever pitch in the coming months.

“It puts the burden on the high school kid more. I kind of like the idea that somebody has thrown out about the four week dead period. I think that makes sense for families and things that are important to us outside of football,” Freeze said. “Recruiting is what I believe in strongly. If (the NCAA) let us do that, I’m going to try to get as many staff people as I can. We’re not as fortunate as some to be able to staff as much. Staff chemistry to me is huge. To me it could mess with your chemistry also. We’ll try to add a few if that happens. I’ve had preliminary discussions with (Ole Miss Athletics Director) Ross (Bjork) about that. I want to kind of wait and see where this deal ends up.”

Jones a recruiter

Freeze’s most recent hire, cornerbacks coach Jason Jones, has a solid reputation for signing players and then developing them once they get to campus. Jones, an Alabama graduate, was pivotal in helping lead Oklahoma State to a string of bowls and successful records the past five seasons. Freeze said Jones came highly recommended because of the way he recruits and Jones was able to elaborate on his recruiting philosophy last week when he was introduced to the media.

“Recruiting is the most important thing that you do. It’s easier to call plays if you have great players. The most important thing is finding and evaluating talent. You find the young man that fits your scheme and within your team,” Jones said. “You also have to find the people that are important to him and that are going to help him make his decision. You have to start building a relationship with those people. That’s a big part of it.”

During the press conference last week, Freeze said Jones would continue to recruit in Texas, specifically the Dallas area, and Georgia, two places that Ole Miss had success signing players recently with the help of former staff member Wesley McGriff.

–johndavis@oxfordeagle.com (March 13, 2013, Page 9)

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