In his weekly press conference Aug. 31, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze named junior college transfer Chad Kelly as the Rebels starting quarterback for their season opener against Tennessee-Martin.

But Freeze’s announcement came with a caveat of his decision not being set in stone. He added that he expects to play all three of his quarterbacks — Kelly, Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade — against the Skyhawks on Saturday.

The Rebels first two opponents (the second is against Fresno State) are “give-me” games for an Ole Miss team that enters the season as the No. 17-ranked team in the Associated Press Poll. Although Kelly is the starter in Oxford for now, don’t be surprised if snaps get split up pretty evenly during the first two weeks to provide a bit of an extended quarterback competition.

The two-week grace period should provide the Rebels with more time to prepare the offense and be sure that the right quarterback is under center for when they head to Tuscaloosa to play a very talented Alabama defense Sept. 19.

The Ole Miss defense is sure to have another phenomenal season and Tennessee-Martin is a good chance for the Rebels to start piling up the stats on that side of the ball. The Skyhawks return six starters on offense, including experienced redshirt senior quarterback Jarod Neal and both of his starting wide receivers. But don’t expect the Tennessee-Martin attack to be that effective against the stingy Ole Miss defense.

Tennessee-Martin is an FCS team that went 6-6 last season and this will be the first time the Skyhawks and the Rebels take the field against one another.


Top returning player, offense: Jarod Neal, R-Sr., QB — The Skyhawks have had quarterback competitions in fall camp the last two seasons but enter this year with Neal as a fifth-year senior that’s locked into the starting spot. Neal is coming off of a solid junior season where he started 11 games and completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,880 yards, 14 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

Top returning player, defense: Walter Evans, R-Sr., S — Evans returns as Tennessee-Martin’s leader in tackling and interceptions from last season. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound defensive back excels at tracking down runners and has shown very good ball skills to be able to break up or pick off passes on a regular basis.

Top returning player, special teams: Jackson Redditt, R-Sr., K — Redditt nailed 80 percent (12-15) of his kicks last season for the Skyhawks and is about as experienced as college football kickers come. He showed off his strong leg last season by hitting both of his attempts from beyond 50 yards.