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Ole Miss’ Engram, Jones and Kelly focused on season-opener with Seminoles

Ole Miss’ Engram, Jones and Kelly focused on season-opener with Seminoles

HOOVER, Ala. – Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze wasn’t the only one at SEC Media Days who was drilled with questions about the ongoing NCAA investigation; his players were, as well. It did not appear to faze any of them.

Engram at SEC MD

Engram is all smiles at SEC Media Days. (Photo credit: Evelyn VanPelt, The Rebel Walk)

Seniors Evan Engram, D.J. Jones and Chad Kelly all appeared at ease and answered each question about the investigation with poise and confidence—the exact same way their head coach did at the podium on the final day of Southeastern Conference Football Media Days on Thursday.

All three players share the same mindset as Coach Freeze: let’s put this behind us and set our minds on the season opener against Florida State.

The Rebels play the Seminoles inside Camping World Stadium on Labor Day. The season-opening game on Monday, Sept. 5 at 8:00 p.m. ET will be televised nationally from Orlando, Florida on ESPN.

While Ole Miss players and coaches prepare for the opening game against Florida State, head coach Hugh Freeze continues to offer a message to his team to make sure no one becomes distracted by the NCAA investigation or the media madness it has spawned:

Stay the course. We have bigger things going on. We have a season coming up and a big game in September. So just stay the course.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze

And after the opening game against the Seminoles, the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Following the Week 1 game in Orlando, Ole Miss hosts defending national champion Alabama in the third week of the season. The Rebels defeated the Crimson Tide each of the past two seasons under Freeze, who’s only one of two SEC coaches – the other being Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban – who has a record of .500 or better against teams in the SEC Western Division.

Jones, Engram and Kelly speak at SEC Media Days

JonesMediaDays

D.J. Jones answers questions at SEC Media Days. (Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

D.J. Jones, a 6-foot, 324-pound defensive tackle, has been impressed with how his coach has answered each question about the investigation, realizing the pressure on Freeze is intense.

“The way he speaks, I already know he is a great speaker so I think he is handling it how he is supposed to,” Jones said, not surprised at how his head coach is dealing with the adversity.

Quarterback Chad Kelly concurred, saying of his head coach: “I think he’s handled it well. He understands what we’re trying to accomplish and that’s beating Florida State.”

Though some would expect this situation to be a distraction in the locker room, tight end Engram assures us that is not the case. Engram, who is a nominee for the John Mackey Award presented to the nation’s most outstanding tight end, explained at Media Days that the Rebels are not concerned about what is taking place outside their program:

As a team, we’ve been talking to prepare inside out. We don’t worry about outsiders. It doesn’t matter; we have people taking care of that. We just worry about football. We show up to work every day to get better and work toward our goals, which are winning in Atlanta and competing for a national championship. So all the outside stuff, we’re not paying attention to it, and we’re definitely not letting it distract us.

Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram

Chad Kelly speaks with the media at SEC Media Days. (Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Chad Kelly speaks with the media at SEC Media Days. (Photo credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)

Quarterback Chad Kelly echoed Engram’s comments. When asked if the team discusses the NCAA investigation, Kelly replied: “We don’t talk about it at all. We are focused on Florida State and that’s all that is on our minds.”

About The Author

Courtney Smith

Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men's basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.

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