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October 28, 2013

Notes: Freeze excited to have open date

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze addresses the media Monday at the Manning Center.

OXFORD, Miss. -- Normally, Hugh Freeze wants to keep playing when his team is on a winning streak.

Right now, though, the Ole Miss coach, one who is nursing an "unhealthy" football team, is thrilled to have an open date next up on the schedule.

Ole Miss (5-3 overall, 2-3 in the Southeastern Conference) doesn't play again until 11:21 on Nov. 9. The Rebels' next opponent, Arkansas, entertains No. 8 Auburn Saturday in Fayetteville (ESPN2, 5 p.m.). The Hogs enter that game 3-5 overall and 0-4 in league play.

While Arkansas deals with Nick Marshall and the Tigers this week, Ole Miss is working a little and resting more. Freeze said Monday he's confident cornerback Mike Hilton will be back in the lineup against Arkansas. Freeze also said he expects fellow cornerback Charles Sawyer, defensive tackle Issac Gross and linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche to play against the Razorbacks, though that group won't practice much _ if at all _ this week.

Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and running back Jeff Scott will be evaluated next week, though Freeze said he's "hopeful" both players can return to the lineup after missing the LSU and Idaho games with injuries. Defensive end Carlos Thompson (stinger) remains doubtful, Freeze said, adding the affected nerve in Thompson's arm is "really not firing. Hopefully it will catch on this week and he'll be back in a couple of weeks."

Freeze said several of his assistants will hit the road recruiting on Wednesday, with the coaching staff scattered all over the country. The Rebels will have short practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, focusing on individual work the first two days and then getting a "jump-start" on Arkansas on Thursday before breaking until Sunday. Freeze said he and his coordinators, Dave Wommack and Dan Werner, won't hit the recruiting trail until Thursday night.

"Normally Sunday is, 'Let's get the soreness out and do a few drills,'" Freeze said. "Sunday night, we'll actually get an extra practice for the Arkansas game."

PREWITT NAMED THORPE AWARD SEMIFINALIST: Cody Prewitt, who has made big plays for the Ole Miss defense all season long, has been named one of 15 semifinalists for the 2013 Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in college football.

A junior free safety from Bay Springs, Miss., Prewitt leads Ole Miss in interceptions (4), passes defended (9) and forced fumbles (2) and is second on the team in tackles (48). His four interceptions top all SEC players, and he ranks 11th nationally with 0.5 picks per outing. He is tied for fourth in the SEC in fumbles forced per game (0.25) and tied for fifth in passes defended per game (1.12). Prewitt's interception late in the Vanderbilt game sealed an SEC road victory for the Rebels, while he also has intercepted passes against Southeast Missouri, No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 LSU.

Prewitt is one of three Southeastern Conference players named a Thorpe Award semifinalist, along with Alabama's Landon Collins and Florida's Vernon Hargreaves. Of the 15 semifinalists, nine are seniors, and Prewitt is one of the six that are not.

The Thorpe Award is named after one of history's greatest athletes, Jim Thorpe, and is presented by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame and Jim Thorpe Association in Oklahoma City. Thorpe excelled at every sport in which he competed, including football at which he played on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The three Thorpe Award finalists will be named on Monday, Nov. 25 and the winner will be announced at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show on Dec. 12 airing on ESPN. The winner of the 2013 Thorpe Award will be honored at a banquet in Oklahoma City on Feb. 4, 2014.

Other semifinalists include C.J. Barnett, Ohio State; Deone Bucannon, Washington State; Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma; Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State; Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon; Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech; Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State; Steven Nelson, Oregon State; Calvin Pryor, Louisville; Jason Verrett, TCU; Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois; and Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State.

REBEL RAMBLINGS: Freeze said freshman running back Mark Dodson Jr., impressed during his time in the Rebels' win over Idaho Saturday. "I thought he showed some pop and some explosion," Freeze said. "It's what we saw in recruiting. It's just that we've got some good depth there and he got his chance and he spoke loud and clear that he wanted to get a look. I like that." …Freeze said Ole Miss is still figuring out "what we want to be moving forward" without tight end Evan Engram, who is lost for the season with a foot injury. …Freeze said Bryon Bennett will continue to work at defensive end and defensive tackle moving forward. Bennett has worked at end the past two weeks with Robert Nkemdiche and Thompson out with injuries.

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