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Ole Miss offensive stars meet with Sugar Bowl media Monday

Ole Miss offensive stars meet with Sugar Bowl media Monday

NEW ORLEANS – Several members of the Ole Miss offense met with the media in New Orleans Monday morning in advance of the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day. Chad Kelly, Laquon Treadwell, Jaylen Walton, Fahn Cooper and Evan Engram spoke about the importance of the game, how their preparation is going, and what it means to them to participate in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. 

Quarterback Chad Kelly

When Chad Kelly was asked if he feels he has been able to rewrite his story, the Ole Miss quarterback explained: “I feel like I have been able to…but I feel like there is still a lot of work to be done and it starts with this game.” Kelly reiterated the importance of the Sugar Bowl to the team, saying: “This is a big game for the University and us, as players. We are just thankful for this opportunity.”

Kelly is eager to play an Oklahoma State team that finished second in the Big XII:

This is going to be a great game; we have not played a team out of the Big XII this season so it should be good. They are physical and fast, they like to press their corners and get after the quarterback. They are always going to have great players because their coaches recruit so well. I am anxious to get out there and see what we can do against them.

Chad Kelly

Kelly knows he will need to keep an eye out for Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah on the other side of the line of scrimmage. “He is a really good player and we have known that. We just need to go out there and execute. We need to make sure that we know where he is at all times on the field and have to account for him.”

Offensive lineman Fahn Cooper

OL Fahn Cooper answers questions Monday at the Marriott in New Orleans. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

OL Fahn Cooper answers questions Monday at the Marriott in New Orleans. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

To a man, the Rebels players appear to grasp the importance of preparing for the Sugar Bowl. They have waited a year to erase the memory of last year’s New Year’s Six bowl game–a 42-3 loss to TCU.

Offensive lineman Fahn Cooper emphasized his team’s preparation for the Sugar Bowl. “I feel like before we got here we were practicing at school and the standard was set,” he said. “Our guys were not going to be going and messing around and getting in trouble. Guys were going to follow the rules and when it’s time to work, it’s time to work,” he said.

Cooper says he began putting work in during the offseason in order to make sure he was physically ready for a demanding SEC season–and postseason:

Last season around this time when we played in that bowl game against TCU, I was sore, tired, hurt, all that. I felt that way and I played that way in the game. This year, I said, it’s not going to be like that. I’m going to make sure that all throughout the season I’m going to take care of my body so that when we got to this point I can be as fresh as possible.

Fahn Cooper

So far it appears to be working for Cooper, the Kent Hull Trophy Award Winner for the most outstanding college offensive lineman in Mississippi. “I feel like right now, I feel even better than I did three, four, five, six months ago, so I feel good; I feel I’ll be ready to play. And not just me, a lot of the guys.”

Running back Jaylen Walton

Ole Miss running back Jaylen Walton, who has gained 690 yards on the ground for the Rebels and 166 yards receiving, is looking forward to the game against the Cowboys. “I’m ready for Friday,” he said. “I want to play a great game with my brothers in the Superdome.” 

Jaylen Walton leads the Rebels' ground game. (Photo credit: Bentley Breland, The Rebel Walk)

Jaylen Walton leads the Rebels’ ground game with 690 yards rushing this season. (Photo credit: Bentley Breland, The Rebel Walk)

The senior from Memphis is eager to be on the Sugar Bowl’s stage. “We have come a very long way. From being at the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, it is a big step and it is a pretty big deal,” he added. 

It’s obvious Walton and his teammates have worked hard to get the Ole Miss program to where it is now. “It is a huge development and achievement for us. From having a 2-10 season to where we are now with a chance to have 10 wins in one season, it is a very big deal,” he explained. 

Walton also discussed the Rebels’ offense since the return of left tackle Laremy Tunsil. “We have really balanced our offense,” he noted. “We have been able to run the ball and pass the ball. The running game is going to be there. We just need to make sure we are making explosive plays and taking shots.”

Walton echoed his teammates comments on last year’s bowl game against TCU and explained how they don’t want the same result to happen this season:

That motivates us a lot. We definitely had not had an upset last year until we played TCU in the bowl game. It was a downfall to a great season we had. We have the choice to come in and change the outcome of this year’s bowl game. The choice we are making is to come out and have a great game plan and to make sure we change last year’s outcome.

Jaylen Walton

Wide Receiver Laquon Treadwell

Laquon Treadwell was recruited heavily by Oklahoma State, and the Ole Miss wide receiver explained why the Cowboys were on his “short list” coming out of high school–with the main reason being the number of star receivers who played there. “The list goes on and on about the great receivers the coaches have trained,” Treadwell said. “The program speaks for itself. First class facilities, big fan base, history of good wide receivers. We are trying to make that our motto here and trying to get some of the best wide receivers to come play for us.” 

Laquon Treadwell smiles during the press conference with reporters Monday at the Marriott. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Laquon Treadwell smiles during the press conference with reporters Monday. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Treadwell expects the Oklahoma State secondary to be a worthy opponent. “They are very athletic and mobile. They have great tendencies and great hips. They can run with about any receiver they guard,” he stated.

When asked about OSU cornerback Kevin Peterson, Treadwell was very complimentary. But he also made it clear where his own focus will be. “I just have to play my game. I can’t get into what I would do differently against him,” he said. “I have to attack his tendencies, of course, but I need to play my game. I need to know what I want to do on certain plays.”

Of course no media opportunity with Treadwell occurs without the receiver being queried about his NFL plans–and it was no different on Monday. When asked about entering the NFL draft, Treadwell replied: 

I’ve just been waiting around and taking my time. If I do get that gut feeling that I should leave or stay, then I’ll go with that, but nothing has really drawn me away from the school. There hasn’t been anything that told me ‘I’m out this season.’ Besides all of the predictions and all that. I’m just taking it one day at time and enjoying this time with my teammates. Once the bowl game is over, I’ll go back home and see where I’m spending next year, and go from there.

Laquon Treadwell

Tight End Evan Engram

Ole Miss fans may not know what Treadwell’s plans are, but they do know they’ll have star tight end Evan Engram back for his senior season. The Georgia native announced two weeks ago he will indeed return to the Rebels for his final year, ending speculation that he might declare for the draft.

TE Evan Engram made Rebels happy with his intent to return for his senior season. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

TE Evan Engram made Rebels happy with his intent to return for his senior season. (Photo credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

It was a tough decision for Engram, but one that he is glad has been settled. “I’m at peace with it, and I can’t wait to win this ballgame and start preparing for next year,” he said. “It was definitely a tough decision but it feels good to get that weight off my shoulders.”

Now that he knows he will be returning, Engram explained what he expects to see from Ole Miss next year: “We still have a lot of guys that we redshirted that are young and will be ready to compete next year. We have a great recruiting class coming in with some guys that can come in and make some plays and step up and are big for us. We went through a lot this year and we did a lot of good by being here at the Sugar Bowl.”

Engram is proud of how his team continued to play hard and win games after a heartbreaking, last-second loss to Arkansas. When asked about the season, he was characteristically positive in his reply:

Everything happens for a reason and we feel more than at peace with ourselves and how we overcame that and finished the year. A lot of teams could have just given up and quit, but we didn’t do that. We’re focused and we’re going to win this bowl game. We have a great foundation for next year to really run the table and make some noise.

Evan Engram

Engram believes the Rebels are taking this bowl game seriously and will be ready for kickoff come Friday evening. “The first day that we got back for bowl practice, Freeze set the tone of what our expectations are,” he said. “We’re here to have fun but we’re not here to walk around all big-eyed like we’ve never been here before. We went through all that last year and I feel like the message is clear and it’s resonated with us in our minds, how we’ve been practicing, staying away from distractions and getting locked in on what our goal is here.”

The bottom line is Engram and his teammates know they are in New Orleans for business: “There’s not a second that goes by that we don’t know we’re here to win the bowl game,” he explained. “Being one of only five teams that make a New Year’s bowl game is a big deal. We feel honored to represent our conference and it’s going to be a New Year’s night downtown game, the only game on. The stadium is sold out and we’re very excited about being here.”

On Tuesday, representatives from the Ole Miss defense will meet with the media, so stay tuned to The Rebel Walk for updates! 

(Feature image credit: Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

About The Author

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn's love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship--and continued as she watched Katie receive three degrees from Ole Miss, culminating with her Pharm D. in 2012. Evelyn, a member of the FWAA, USBWA and the NCBWA, has covered Rebel sports for numerous outlets. In addition to working for The Rebel Walk, Evelyn is a sports writer for a newspaper in Texas.

1 Comment

  1. Philip Ford

    Thank you Evie for the great coverage!! HOTTY TODDY!! ❤️?

    Reply

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