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VOL. 129 | NO. 140 | Monday, July 21, 2014

Shouldering the Load

Now healthy, quarterback Bo Wallace looks to lead Rebels to greatness

By Don Wade

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Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace enters his senior season with a chance to make history, a chance for his name to have the kind of staying power that would have Rebels fans tossing the name “Bo” around The Grove for generations, the way they do with names like Archie and Eli.

“The guy has a chance to, you know, own every passing record in Ole Miss history before he leaves here,” Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. “Like I’ve said in many interviews, there’s no way we win two bowl games without him.”

Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace looks for a receiver during last season’s Music City Bowl against Georgia Tech. Now a senior, Wallace has a chance to “own every passing record in Ole Miss history before he leaves here,” according to Rebels coach Hugh Freeze, who credits Wallace with the Rebels’ last two bowl wins.

(Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Yet at SEC Media Days, Wallace was only the preseason third-team quarterback choice behind first-team selection Nick Marshall of Auburn and second-team pick Dak Prescott of Mississippi State.

“I wasn’t happy about it,” Wallace admitted. “It just adds another chip on my shoulder.”

Tennessee fans won’t appreciate hearing this, but Wallace already had a chip from being ignored by the Vols in recruiting way back when.

“Came to watch me throw one time. That was it,” said Wallace, who passed for 3,346 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season, numbers that easily eclipsed Prescott’s body of work but not what happened in last season’s Egg Bowl loss to Prescott and the Bulldogs.

“I grew up a Tennessee fan,” Wallace added. “I would have listened.”

Wallace went to Arkansas State (was redshirted), then led East Mississippi to the NJCAA national championship. All along the way, Wallace was stacking chips on his shoulder.

“In high school, people were saying, ‘You can’t play in college,’ and in junior college people were saying, ‘You can’t play in the SEC,’” Wallace said.

In broader terms, there are now people saying Ole Miss can’t be good enough to truly compete for the SEC West Division title and a trip to Atlanta in December. But if the Rebels are going to be good enough, defensive end C.J. Johnson is sure of this much: “Having a healthy Bo is gonna be really key for us.”

Wallace speaks to media at the SEC Football Media Days last week in Hoover, Ala. Wallace was picked as the preseason third-team quarterback in the league.

(AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Last season, Wallace’s shoulder strength deteriorated as the games came off the calendar. He would look down the field and see a wide receiver that he knew he normally could hit with a long strike only to think, “Don’t even try it.”

Wallace has worked with former big-league pitcher Tom House on refining his throwing motion. There was much work to be done, too. Wallace played most of 2012 with a separated shoulder. Last year, he was coming back from off-season surgery. Just like a pitcher returning from an injury, Wallace got out of whack.

His ability to run is still part of his game, too, but Wallace admits he views things a little differently.

“It’s never changed my willingness to run,” he said of having been injured, “but it’s changed how I run. I try to protect myself a little more.”

School passing records would be nice, he says (going past a Manning at Ole Miss is kind of a big deal), but it’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is taking the Rebels to the SEC championship – into uncharted territory.

“Going to Atlanta,” Wallace said, “would cement your legacy forever.”

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