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August 17, 2012OXFORD, Miss. -- Hugh Freeze got the news he'd been waiting on early Friday afternoon.
Then he finally made the call he'd wanted to make for the past two weeks.
Freeze informed freshman defensive end Channing Ward he'd been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse, meaning the four-star recruit from Aberdeen, Miss., can join his teammates today, begin classes Monday and put on pads for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
"To hear his mom crying and to hear his excitement, that's what it's all about," Freeze said. "That's what makes this so good. It's a family that doesn't have a lot of material things. They've done everything the right way. It's a great day."
Ward was on his way to Oxford Friday afternoon. He will join his teammates for a team ceremony Friday evening and be on the field when the Rebels scrimmage Saturday at 9:30 a.m. He won't be able to work in full pads until Tuesday. The Rebels are off Sunday and Monday. When Ward joins the mix on Tuesday, Freeze said, he'll be in the mix for significant playing time "right away."
"I don't know if he's ready to be an every-down defensive end right away," Freeze said, "but I know he's ready to be a third-down pass-rusher right away."
Just before learning of Ward's clearance, Freeze had admitted frustration with the lengthy process.
"The longer it went, the more frustrating it became," Freeze said. "You start asking yourself, 'What in the world am I missing?' I couldn't imagine an issue."
Ward helps Ole Miss at a position that is severely lacking in depth. C.J. Johnson appears to have one defensive end spot locked down. Converted linebacker Ralph Williams is behind Johnson, while converted tight end E.J. Epperson and junior Cameron Whigham have been battling for the other spot.
Rivals.com ranked Ward as the No. 4 strong-side defensive end and the No. 51 overall prospect in the country last season. Rivals.com also ranked Ward as the top player in Mississippi.
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