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Ole Miss Football Practice Report: Aggies Ahead

Ole Miss Football Practice Report: Aggies Ahead

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss is off to its first consecutive 7-1 starts since the early 1960s, but the Rebels are now preparing to welcome in another talented foe when Texas A&M comes to town for a key Saturday morning tilt at Vaught-Hemingway.

The Rebel defense has been resurgent throughout October and the running game has continued to gather steam with each passing week, but Ole Miss will come up against a tough Aggie team looking to make waves after three hard-fought ranked losses earlier this season.

Kickoff between the No. 11 Rebels (7-1, 4-1 SEC) and Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2 SEC) is set for 11 a.m. CT at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and on ESPN. SEC Nation will also be in attendance, with Marty & McGee beginning in The Grove at 8 a.m. CT, followed by the main program at 9 a.m. CT – all on SEC Network.

Head coach Lane Kiffin spoke with the media on Monday, and across Monday and Tuesday senior defensive end Jared Ivey, senior defensive tackle JJ Pegues, senior safety John Saunders Jr. and senior wide receivers Dayton Wade and Jordan Watkins also took turns at the podium.


Wide receiver Dayton Wade has won the hearts and minds of Rebel fans not only with his astonishing plays, but also his infectious personality. In front of the media on Monday, Wade broke down his acrobatic 48-yard connection from quarterback Jaxson Dart against Vandy in detail in response to it going viral on Saturday night – and did so in typical Wade fashion.

“I realize I’m running a little bit too fast, I’ve got to throttle,” Wade said. “As I’m throttling, the corner catches on my hip. I did some receiver stuff to create some separation. The ball’s in the air. I see the ball, I get the ball. Go get it, I was thinking that the whole time. I can’t let [the defender] catch nothing on me. I go get it and make a play. I fell on my face. That was the part. I catch the ball, and as I’m looking down all I see is the grass getting closer and closer.”

I tried to be a pro, not celebrate too much and get out of body. It was a very exciting moment. My emotions were through the roof and I just had to contain it. It was pretty cool.

Dayton Wade on his catch against Vanderbilt

This isn’t the first big catch by Wade that has made waves. At 522 yards on 36 receptions, Wade is having a career-best season in 2023 and has already passed his prior high in yards (309) and catches (27) – both recorded in 2022, his first season at Ole Miss after three at WKU from 2019-21. Wade has had at least 64 yards receiving in five games this year, including a career day against Vanderbilt with 120 yards and one touchdown on eight catches. He leads all Rebels and is among just five SEC receivers with five receptions of at least 40 yards.

Wade’s success on the field and his demeanor off it generates a lot of good will, but it was his work ethic last season and throughout the offseason that earned him a scholarship after joining the Rebels as a walk-on prior to the 2022 campaign.

“It was really cool,” said wide receiver Jordan Watkins recalling the moment.

Kiffin told us during practice that he was putting D-Wade on scholarship, but we couldn’t tell him. I just went over there and gave him a huge pat on the back. He didn’t know why. I was super proud of him really. Whenever he figured it out, it was even more special for him because he came in and worked his tail off. It’s awesome to see something like that payout because some guys just go under the bus, some guys that are really good players.

Jordan Watkins on Wade earning a scholarship


Under Kiffin, the explosive, lightning-quick offense garners most of the headlines, but over the past month of SEC action the Rebel defense has proven itself as a formidable unit in three dominant showings.

The Landshark defense has held three straight SEC opponents to fewer than 300 yards of total offense for the first time within the same season since 1993. Ole Miss leads the FBS in tackles for loss yardage (317), ranks fourth in sacks (3.8/game) and eighth in TFL (7.9/game). On the back end, the Rebel secondary has intercepted multiple passes in three straight games for the first time since 2014. Ole Miss leads the SEC and ranks 13th nationally in turnover margin (+7), and the Rebel defense has held opposing offenses to a combined 437 yards passing in its last three games.

For senior defensive end Jared Ivey – who helps lead a ferocious Rebel defensive line and ranks sixth in the SEC with 5.5 sacks – it all comes down to confidence.

I think we go out there and exude confidence. We go out there and celebrate together, and we want to keep rolling. I’m not a big believer in momentum. You just go out there and play how you practice and do all the things you’ve prepared to do. We watch tape, we visualize, and we put ourselves in positions to make these plays, and we’re not shocked when we go out there and make them.

Jared Ivey on the Ole Miss defense

Ole Miss has stifled offenses in multiple fashions as well. The Rebels shut down Arkansas to just 36 rushing yards on Oct. 7 – the fewest by an Ole Miss defense since holding Tennessee to zero in 2014 – and followed that up with two super pass defense outings against Auburn (122) and Vanderbilt (60), the latter of which tied for the fewest passing yards allowed by a Rebel secondary since 2014.

The Ole Miss secondary is stacked with transfers who have had to learn how to play in the SEC on the fly, but for senior safety and transfer John Saunders Jr., that learning process was simple: take no plays for granted.

“I’ve learned a whole lot,” Saunders Jr. said. “You’ve got to bring it every play because you never know what’s gonna happen that play, so you just gotta make sure every play you’re on your P’s and Q’s and be ready to attack every play like it’s the one that will matter the most.”

The secondary is but a microcosm of an Ole Miss defense that not only had dozens of transfers, but also a new coordinator in Pete Golding, who had to install his scheme throughout the offseason and camp. Even with all that, there haven’t been many easy yards on the Rebels in recent weeks.

“The guys in the front, the (linebackers), the DBs, we’re just making sure we’re all on the same page and not allowing any free runners,” Saunders Jr. said. “Most of the yards, they’re contested. They’re body-on-body, you’ve got to earn every yard against us.”


Defense will likely be the name of the game again against Texas A&M. The A&M defense has been the backbone of the Aggie team, ranking first in the SEC and No. 7 nationally allowing just 269.2 yards per game. The Aggies lead the country in sacks and tackles for loss, while linebacker Edgerrin Cooper leads the Aggies with 52 total tackles and ranks No. 1 in the FBS with 15.5 tackles for loss on the season.

These guys are absolutely loaded, it’s actually a mind-blowing collection of talent. As you watch them offensively, defensively, return game, special teams, it really is an NFL roster. Their defense is playing as well as anyone in the country. The collection on the defensive line has to be one of the best ever. And the linebacker [Edgerrin Cooper] is playing like the SEC Player of the Year.

Lane Kiffin on the A&M roster

The Aggies come into Oxford at 5-3 overall and 3-2 in conference play, but Kiffin and the Rebels are making sure to keep the focus on Texas A&M this week and not the coming battle with No. 1 Georgia in Athens on Nov. 11.

“(Texas A&M) is way too talented to look ahead,” Kiffin said. “If (Ole Miss were looking ahead), they got woken up this morning when we showed them the film. I know I’ve said it a number of times, but this is like an NFL roster of talent collected and out together. And no, it’s even harder to beat them than it was the last two years because now they have Bobby Petrino running the offense. This is a really, really, really elite talented team that very easily could be a top-five team in the country.”

Evelyn Van Pelt

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. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

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. Evelyn created the Rebel Walk in 2013 and has served as publisher and managing editor since its inception.

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