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October 16, 2013

Notes: Gross and Strong could return for LSU

Ole Miss offensive line coach Matt Luke meets with the media following Wednesday's practice.

OXFORD, Miss. -- The injury report remains long and brutal, but there was a bit of good news on Wednesday.

Defensive tackle Issac Gross and linebacker Temario Strong have each shown progress with injuries and could be back on the field Saturday against LSU. No either player suffering an ailment made considerable progress.

"Temario surprised us and is moving around quite a bit better than what they expected. Might get him back. That's the only two I expect to get back at this point.

"(Strong's) special teams were phenomenal, and he loves to play the game. He's physical and plays hard. Last week we had a big role for him and unfortunately he got knocked out on second kickoff return. The bad thing is he needs the reps (in practice), but it'll be good to have him for special teams at least."

Jeff Scott was held out for the second straight day with a thigh bruise, and his availability is very doubtful for Saturday. The running back duties will fall on sophomores I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton. Mathers had eight carries for 31 yards against Texas A&M, and Walton had a team-high 41 yards on seven carries. He also caught three passes for 61 yards including a 50-yard touchdown.

"I don't expect Jeff," Freeze said. "He didn't practice yesterday or today. It'd be hard for me to put him out there in front of those other kids… I feel good, both of them have proven they are ready to have the responsibility that comes their way. I've been pleased with their performance. I think we'll be fine there."

LSU DEFENSE STILL HAS ATHLETES: The rise of the LSU offense has given that side of the ball a lot of headlines, but the Tiger defenders are formidable, as well.

LSU is fourth in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 22 points per game. The Tigers are ninth in rushing defense but third in passing defense. LSU is allowing less than 200 yards through the air per game. Opponents have thrown seven touchdowns.

"Coach (John) Chavis has been around for years and knows exactly what he wanted to do, and he has the athletes to do it," Freeze said. "Their offense has gotten a lot of ink, but everyone understands the type of defense that is expected at LSU, and nothing has changed this year. They still have those athletes over there."

MATHERS PREPARING FOR EXPANDED ROLE: Sophomores I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton are going to be asked to fill senior Jeff Scott's role Saturday against LSU. Scott suffered a thigh bruise at Auburn two weeks and aggravated the injury last weekend against Texas A&M.

"I just have to give credit to the offensive line," Mathers said. "They made good blocks and opened up holes for me."

Ole Miss is 12th in the SEC in rushing offense, averaging 175.5 yards per game on the ground. LSU is ninth in the league in rushing defense, surrendering 152.6 yards per game.

"I feel like we can pick it up," Mathers said. "We always just have to be ready. I just have to play my role."

Mathers, who figures to be a leading candidate for the starting job next season, said he's in no hurry to push Scott out of Oxford.

"I just can't wait to have him back," Mathers said. "It's like a piece is missing from the backfield."

REBEL RAMBLINGS: Korvic Neat will return punts in Scott's absence. Tre Elston will backup Neat… Rapper Wale spent part of the day on Ole Miss' campus. Social media documented the visit, as he signed the wall of fame in the Ole Miss equipment room and met with players and coaches. "We talked about doing (a duet)," Freeze said. "I suggested we do, "Driving Around Song," by Colt Ford and Jason Aldean. It's about the only thing I can carry a tune with probably. Kids loved it, and that was good. Anything that brightens up the energy. We're for that typically.

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