1. Ole Miss did what it needed to do this weekend in Athens, Ga. The Rebels maybe could have made a bigger splash with a sweep of the Bulldogs, but even then, Ole Miss would’ve needed some outside help.
As it was, Ole Miss needed to win a game or two at Foley Field to wrap up a regional host site. The Rebels did just that, finishing the Southeastern Conference season with 18 league wins.
The postseason — at least the first weekend of it — will go through Oxford.
Ole Miss will face Auburn Tuesday night at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
This will be debated for the next couple of days, I suspect, but Ole Miss has very little to win or lose in Hoover. For the Rebels to land a national seed (top eight), they’d likely have to win the tournament in Hoover. I’m not sure there’s enough pitching on the roster at this point to pull that off.
Even if Ole Miss loses on Tuesday and is eliminated on the first day, it’s hosting a regional. So there’s nothing to lose.
If it were me and I were Mike Bianco, I wouldn’t throw Doug Nikhazy on Tuesday night. I’d keep him on schedule, knowing he’s going to pitch a game in Oxford in two weeks that is much more important than any start he’d make this week in suburban Birmingham. I suspect Bianco doesn’t agree, but we’ll see.
Hoover can be emotional for teams and fans alike, but it’s often meaningless for multiple teams. That’s certainly the case this year. Four SEC teams — Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Mississippi State — appear to have national seeds locked up. Unless you believe the NCAA will pass out five SEC national seeds — I’m skeptical, to say the least — it’s difficult to believe there’s much at stake for Ole Miss, unless the Rebels put together a magical run of sorts.
And if I were an Ole Miss fan, as cool and fun as that run would be, I’d worry what the physical toll of that run would take on a thin, injury-riddled team that has a narrow path to Omaha.
2. One final time, here are my rankings of the SEC baseball teams:
1. Arkansas — The Hogs were impressive against Florida, wrapping up a league title.
2. Vanderbilt — Tim Corbin protected his pitchers a bit, setting the stage for what should be a run to Omaha.
3. Tennessee — The Vols traveled to South Carolina and took two, wrapping up a national seed.
4. Mississippi State — The Bulldogs swept Alabama in Tuscaloosa, likely ensuring a national seed.
5. Ole Miss — The Rebels took care of business in Athens and will host a regional in Oxford next month.
6. Florida — The Gators had hoped to make noise in Fayetteville. Instead, they were swept.
7. South Carolina — The Gamecocks likely needed two wins over Tennessee to host. They only got one.
8. LSU — The Tigers have closed with some momentum, but it feels a little late.
9. Georgia — The Bulldogs probably needed two versus Ole Miss. They came up one short.
10. Alabama — The Tide almost certainly came up short after contending for an NCAA bid for several weeks.
11. Kentucky — See Alabama.
12. Auburn — The Tigers closed fairly strong, wrapping up a spot in Hoover.
13. Missouri — The Tigers just couldn’t score runs this season.
14. Texas A&M — The Aggies are searching for a coach after dismissing Rod Childress Sunday.
3. If I had a ballot, mine would look like this week prior to the start of things in Hoover:
SEC Player of the Year: Tanner Allen, Mississippi State
Pitcher of the Year: Kevin Kopps, Arkansas
Coach of the Year: Tony Vitello, Tennessee
Freshman of the Year: Enrique Bradfield, Vanderbilt
4. I don’t have a vote, but if I did, my All-SEC team would look like this:
C — Hayden Durhurst, Ole Miss
1B — Trey Morgan, LSU
2B — Robert Moore, Arkansas
SS — Liam Spence, Tennessee
3B — Jake Rucker, Tennessee
OF — Tanner Allen, Mississippi State
OF — Rowdey Jordan, Mississippi State
OF — Christian Franklin, Arkansas
DH — Will Frizzell, Texas A&M
SP — Doug Nikhazy, Ole Miss
SP — Kamar Rocker, Vanderbilt
SP — Jack Leiter, Vanderbilt
RP — Kevin Kopps, Arkansas
5. Here are my sure-to-go-wrong predictions for this week’s SEC Tournament in Hoover:
Florida over Kentucky
South Carolina over Alabama
LSU over Georgia
Ole Miss over Auburn
Mississippi State over Florida
Tennessee over South Carolina
Arkansas over LSU
Vanderbilt over Ole Miss
Florida over South Carolina
Ole Miss over LSU
Mississippi State over Tennessee
Vanderbilt over Arkansas
Florida over Ole Miss
Arkansas over Tennessee
Florida over Mississippi State
Vanderbilt over Arkansas
Vanderbilt over Florida
6. Ole Miss filled its lone football staff position on Sunday, hiring Gardner Webb offensive line coach Jake Thornton. Per sources, Lane Kiffin has been searching for the right guy over the past few weeks, interviewing multiple candidates. Kiffin fired Randy Clement days after the Grove Bowl, believing he had a replacement basically lined up. When that candidate fell through, Kiffin was left to search for a replacement at a time when it’s difficult to find a candidate.
Per sources, Kiffin targeted several veteran candidates before talking to several candidates over the past couple of weeks. Thornton interviewed late last week, per sources, and Kiffin and the Rebels’ staff was immediately impressed.
Thornton, per sources, reminded Kiffin of new defensive line coach Randall Joyner, who joined the staff this spring. Within minutes of Thornton’s interview, sources said, Kiffin felt he had his man.
Thornton, just 28, has limited experience, but he impressed during his time on the Alabama support staff in 2017 and has turned heads as a coach and a recruiter during stints at Tennessee Tech and Gardner Webb.
7. The NBA Playoffs began Saturday. My picks are on record on Chasing the Ring, presented by Lammons Fine Jewelry, but in case you missed that, here they are:
Bucks over Heat in 6
Nets over Celtics in 5
Sixers over Wizards in 5
Knicks over Hawks in 7
Mavericks over Clippers in 6
Nuggets over Blazers in 7
Lakers over Suns in 6
Jazz over Grizzlies in 5
8. Here are some miscellaneous items from last week that probably deserve some attention. All from Ole Miss media relations:
The Ole Miss men’s basketball team will be one of eight teams competing in the 2021 Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic, the tournament and ESPN Events jointly announced Thursday afternoon. The Rebels will play games at TD Arena in Charleston, South Carolina on November 18, 19 and 21.
Boise State, Clemson, Elon, Marquette, St. Bonaventure, Temple and West Virginia will join Ole Miss in the regular season tournament. The bracket will be released closer to the season.
“We are excited to join another outstanding field at the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic,” said head coach Kermit Davis. “Full of future NCAA Tournament teams, it’s always been one of the premier MTEs (multiple-team events) in college basketball.”
The Rebels have advanced to the championship games of both regular season tournaments under Davis. Ole Miss was a finalist in the 2018 Emerald Coast Classic as well as the 2019 NIT Tip-Off with victories over Baylor and Penn State, respectively. The Rebels were set to play in the 2020 Cayman Islands Classic before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ole Miss is no stranger to the Charleston Classic, having participated in the 2015 tournament and going 1-2 over the trio of contests.
Tickets will be available for purchase following the announcement of the complete tournament schedule later this summer. In the meantime, fans can secure up to $25 off each all-tournament ticket by signing up for the pre-sale at www.charlestonclassic.com.
Ole Miss senior punter Mac Brown was named the 2020-21 Brad Davis Southeastern Conference Male Service Leader of the Year, the SEC announced Thursday. Brown, and female winner Jessica Drop (Georgia track and field), were chosen by a committee of Faculty Athletics Representatives from SEC universities. Each will receive a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship, provided by the SEC. The SEC community service postgraduate scholarship is named for former Associate Commissioner Brad Davis. Davis succumbed to cancer on March 2, 2006. He had been a member of the SEC staff since 1988, first serving as an assistant commissioner until 1994 when he was promoted to associate commissioner. When he was in seventh grade, Brown had a modest goal of raising $500 for a childhood friend’s dad who had been diagnosed with ALS. Along with a group of neighborhood friends, Brown started a lemonade stand, Awesome Lemonade Stand, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, to help his friend’s family.
Ten years later, that $500 goal has ballooned to over $102,000 raised by Brown and his friends for ALS research. The Awesome Lemonade Stand is held on a late day in June and the 2020 virtual fundraiser raised more than $30,000 alone. Besides the Awesome Lemonade Stand, Brown has participated in many community service activities around the Oxford and Mississippi area including: Student-Athlete Advisory Council, Sweetheart for residents at The Blake in Oxford, Reading with the Rebels, Hope to Dream, Special Olympics, plus much more. Brown, who will take advantage of the extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 and will return for the 2021 season, averaged a career-best 46.6 yards per punt last season for the Rebels. 11 of Brown’s 27 punts went for more than 50 yards. Brown becomes the fifth Rebel to be named Brad Davis Community Service Leader of the Year, joining Walker Jones (1998), Brooke Riley (2000), Lance Jones (2001) and Barnabus Kirui (2011).
9. It’s time to eat. Here’s our resident Parisian chef, Burton Webb, with Taste of the Place, Lesson 88: Hot Chicken (Memorial Day edition).
With the weather getting better, it’s time to get outside and have a picnic. Why not bring some hot chicken to the party to impress the taste buds.
Tidbit #1: When making this particular fried chicken, you need to work in flavor layers. First, we need to brine the chicken with pickle juice and salt. This will add flavor to the chicken. Next, we will soak the chicken in buttermilk and hot sauce to create another level of flavor. Finally, we will brush on the spice mixture at the end.
Tidbit #2: After breading, always let your chicken sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes before frying it. This will allow the chicken to produce crunchy bites after frying.
Tidbit #3: Heat your oil to 325°F once you finish breading your chicken.
Tidbit #4: Lastly, also, heat your oven to 220°F so that while you are frying the chicken in batches, you can place the chicken on a wire rack on top of a baking tray and place this in the oven to keep warm.
Things you will need:
Preparation time – 5 minutes
Brining time – 2 hours
Soaking time – overnight
Cook time – 20 minutes
Worksurface and chef’s knife
Large mixing bowls (2)
Small mixing bowl
1 Whole chicken
1/2 cup pickle juice
1 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1 cup buttermilk
6 splashes Tabasco Sauce
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp paprika powder
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tsp salt
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion powder
Oil for frying
Brine and marinate the chicken
Step 1: Butcher the whole chicken and then add it to the large bowl with the water, sugar, and pickle juice. Let rest for 2 hours.
Step 2: After the time, wash the chicken off in the faucet. Place in the other mixing bowl and add the buttermilk, egg, and tabasco sauce. Mix. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
Batter and fry
Step 3: Mix your flour mixture with the fork in one of the clean bowls and pour your oil into your saucepot. Tear off your piece of parchment paper and place it on your work surface.
Step 4: Batter your chicken, place on the parchment paper, and let rest for 15 minutes. Turn your oil to 325°F and turn on your oven.
Step 5: Fry your chicken in batches until golden brown. About 8 minutes per piece.
Make the glaze
Step 6: While the chicken is frying, make your glaze in the small bowl. Once your chicken is fried, use the pastry brush to add the glaze. Place on the wire rack with the baking tray and then in the oven. With all of the chicken fried and glazed, serve with fresh bread, pickles, baked beans, grilled corn, potato salad, and coleslaw.
From the Mississippian in Paris, Happy Memorial Day next weekend and Bon Appétit!
10. It was a pretty crazy week in our house, as Caroline graduated from Oxford High School and Carson tried out for the OHS soccer team and two club soccer teams.
Caroline gave her speech at graduation Friday night at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. She crushed it, just as anyone who knows her knew she would. Ao many people have approached us to thank us for her leadership this year as she pressed administrators for normalcy during a year plagued by a pandemic.
It’s been a crazy spring for Carson, who wrapped up the eighth grade last week. He tried out for Oxford High School’s basketball team, knowing the odds were stacked against him. He didn’t make it, which I think was a blessing of sorts.
OHS’s long-time hoops coach, Drew Tyler, called Carson personally to inform him he didn’t make the team. I’ve always heard what a great guy Tyler is. He proved it during the tryout process, proving he cares enough about the kids — even the ones who don’t make his team — to talk to them personally rather than letting them find out in a different way. Not every coach does that; I have major respect for those who clearly care about the young people trying to find their place.
Carson is better at soccer than he is at basketball. On the night he got cut from basketball, I did something I hardly ever do — I watched his soccer practice. He was really good that night. I caught myself hoping he’d get whatever he wished, but knowing his future in soccer was likely much brighter than it was in hoops.
On Tuesday, as he and I made the trip back to Oxford from Tupelo, where he’d tried out for a club team, Carson found out he’d made the OHS soccer team. The celebration in the family text chain is something I’ll treasure for a long time.
It reminded me that sometimes, things work out as they’re supposed to. Carson was confused at times over the past few months, but I think he found his place(s) over the past few weeks.
Here’s hoping that happens for the young people in your lives as well.
We’ll have coverage of Ole Miss baseball, football and whatever else may come up this week on RebelGrove.com. Until then, here are some links of interest to me — and hopefully, to you — for your reading pleasure: