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Ole Miss DB A.J. Finley giving max effort, staying away from ‘loaf’ designation

Ole Miss DB A.J. Finley giving max effort, staying away from ‘loaf’ designation

OXFORD, Miss. — A routine adventure into a grocery store can locate a loaf for every taste. One can find a loaf of white bread, wheat bread, or —especially during this time of year — a loaf of pumpkin bread. But sometimes, especially in the case of Ole Miss football, it is simply better to be without a loaf.

The Landshark defense now has the “loaf” award. In reality, it is more of a demerit that no one wants to receive. 

This “loaf” designation goes to a player who does not hustle. 

Sophomore safety A.J. Finley knows exactly what could earn one that ignominious distinction.

In practice we have to touch the ball every play. So, if you don’t touch the ball every play in practice, you count that as a loaf and you don’t want to get those loafs — so you have to touch the ball.

Ole Miss DB A.J. Finley

On Wednesday, Kiffin elaborated on the evaluation.

“You know, there’s a million categories on there,” Kiffin said. “One of the biggest ones is ‘loafs.’ So they get negative points for missed assignments and different things, and positive (points) for other things. It’s kind of their point summary of the week, like their report card.”

Finley certainly made the Ole Miss Honor Roll in the Rebels’ 54-21 win over Vanderbilt last Saturday.

He recorded 12 tackles, four of them solo stops, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass that he then returned for 21 yards.

Ole Miss did surrender 421 yards in the game in Nashville, but only 102 came on the ground for the Commodores. That was a vast improvement for the Landsharks over the past five games of the season.

I think in the Vanderbilt game we cut down the ‘loafs’ a lot. Everybody was flying around to the ball. That was big to see. I think that was our lowest loaf counts in the game, so I think that is what we improved on.

A.J. Finley

This season, the Mobile, Ala., native has 34 tackles, a pair of interceptions (vs. Vandy and Florida), and has broken up three passes.

Finley gives the credit for that defensive improvement to one of his coaches.

“(Co-defensive coordinator and safeties’ coach Chris Partridge) He makes a big deal about us finishing…every play,” Finley said. “So, like if a play is going, he wants us to finish around the ball, so if you’re around the ball, you’re going to make plays.” 

Finley also believes his coaches’ philosophy can be summed up quite easily.

“Max effort,” Finley said about what is expected of the Landsharks. “If you’re not giving your max effort when the ball’s running — you got to give your max effort to the ball.”

If that defensive temperament becomes a part of the mindset of the Ole Miss defense, it might become its bread and butter. 

About The Author

Steve Barnes

Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers. He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio. A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series. Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time. He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk. Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.

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