HOOVER, Ala. - There are three new head coaches in Southeastern Conference football, but only one was welcomed to media days with a zinger from South Carolina's Steve Spurrier.
As Spurrier took the stage during Tuesday's opening session, he was asked a scheduling question and bristled that Georgia would be playing LSU and his Gamecocks would face Ole Miss were he in charge. The Rebels were just 2-10 last year and have lost 15 consecutive SEC games, and they enter this season with Hugh Freeze in charge following the four-year run of predecessor Houston Nutt.
It was Freeze's turn to speak Thursday, and he was three inquiries into his question-and-answer session when he was asked about Spurrier's barb.
"I heard he said something to that regard," Freeze said. "I guess my thought would be that in 2013 they're on our schedule. We will circle that date and maybe change his perspective about what he thinks about Ole Miss football."
The SEC's cross-divisional matchups for the '13 season actually have not been set yet, but that wasn't the point of Freeze's retort. Though he has admitted to inheriting a program in the wilderness right now, Freeze is determined to regain respectability at Ole Miss, where he was tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator under Ed Orgeron in 2006-07.
There are obstacles everywhere, beginning with a quarterback race between Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace that could carry into the season. The defense certainly needs improving after Ole Miss allowed 27 or more points in every league game a year ago, including a combined 104 points to Alabama and LSU.
Then there is the schedule, which contains eight league games against teams that went to bowls a year ago plus an early-season visit from Texas.
Sophomore receiver Donte Moncrief was a rare bright spot last season, setting a school freshman record with 31 catches for 454 yards, but he'll need help in getting the Rebels out of the wilderness.
"Hopefully we'll come out," Moncrief said. "We're near a road, and the cars are coming. We're going to come out soon."