OLE MISSCamp start: ThursdayOpener: Vanderbilt in Nashville on Aug. 29 (ESPN)Fun fact: Oxford becomes the second largest city in the state of Mississippi when the Rebels play at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.SEC SeriesComing Monday: Mississippi State
Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace was out to prove people wrong last season.
He doesn't see why this year should be any different.
Wallace had a wacky 2012 that included his arrival from East Mississippi Community College and leading the Rebels into hyperdrive by accounting for nearly 3,400 yards of total offense. The Rebels were projected to finish in the SEC West cellar but wound up 7-6, and Wallace racked up most of his numbers despite having a separated shoulder that required surgery in January.
"Last year, when I came in, people were asking if I could play in this league," Wallace said at SEC media days. "Now they're asking if I can play in this league after my shoulder injury. For me, it's the same chip that I've always had on my shoulder and the same one that I'll probably always play with.
"You hear all the time that someone is going to shut down our offense, but we're going to be in the second year of our offense. We're going to know it better, and we're going to be better at the tempo."
The 6-foot-4, 209-pound junior from Pulaski, Tenn., completed 235 of 368 passes for 2,994 yards and 22 touchdowns last season, and he ran for 390 yards and eight scores. Despite a shaky throwing motion due to the pain he was experiencing, Wallace threw five touchdown passes in the 41-24 win over Mississippi State and added three in the 38-17 defeat of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Wallace injured his shoulder in the fourth game against Tulane and hurt it again four weeks later against Arkansas. He wasn't about to bail on a program chasing bowl eligibility after a 6-18 stretch in 2010-11, but his months since the surgery have been difficult because he's had to display patience and slow down.
There was no spring practice, and he didn't begin to throw again until May, but he has worked on his mechanics and now has a quicker release.
"He feels very good about where he's at in his progress," Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. "He's had some soreness of course, but everything seems to be moving along nicely."
Wallace had a 77-yard pass last year against Mississippi State, a 58-yard run at LSU and a 25-yard reception against Auburn. He was extremely active in an offense that averaged 423.8 yards and 31.5 points per game, but will he have to tone down the aggressiveness following the surgery?
One of the perks of quarterbacking Ole Miss is getting tips from former Rebels quarterback Eli Manning, who never has been fond of sliding to avoid challenging a defender for extra yards.
"We both think that sliding is awkward for a quarterback," Wallace said. "You're running full speed and somebody is coming at you, and it's just awkward to slide. I have to pick my spots, because I don't want to go through another injury like this.
"I think I can help my team more by being healthy than by picking up another 1 or 2 yards. At the same time, I'm going to compete my tail off, like I always do."
Wallace is hoping to cut down on mistakes during his second season as the starter. He threw 17 interceptions last year, which were two more than Alabama's AJ McCarron, Florida's Jeff Driskel and South Carolina's Connor Shaw had combined.
"He kind of plays the game a little bit too free for me at times with the football," Freeze said. "That's probably the biggest negative of him not going through spring practice. He didn't get quality reps against a live defense."
The Rebels return eight starters on offense to go along with a whopping 10 on defense. Tailback Jeff Scott is back after rushing for 846 yards last season, and so are receivers Donte Moncrief, Vince Sanders and Ja-Mes Logan, who combined for 148 catches for 1,973 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Ole Miss signed Laquon Treadwell, the nation's top receiving prospect, in February, so Wallace may have the league's top pass-catching group. Not that he's wanting to assume anything.
"People are saying we're going to win nine or 10 games, but we don't think about the expectations," Wallace said. "Last year, the expectation was that we might get beat by Central Arkansas. We didn't think about it then, and we're not going to think about it now. We're going to control what we can control."