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The process continues

Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian

 
Some perspective is required when thinking about where the 2012 Ole Miss team realistically is in the aftermath of Saturday’s 27-26 loss to Vanderbilt that clinched bowl eligibility for the Commodores and put the Rebels’ bowl hopes on hold for at least another week. 
 
Ole Miss has made significant progress under head coach Hugh Freeze, but there are some things that are beyond a coach’s control. 
 
Depth, for example, is one of them. 
 
On Vanderbilt’s first touchdown of the game, receiver Jordan Matthews got behind former walk-on cornerback Louis Covington for a 52-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jordan Rodgers to Matthews. 
 
He received his first career start at corner due to the absence of senior Wesley Pendleton, who was out with an ankle injury, and that Senquez Golson, who played, missed the Georgia game and some practice time this week recovering from a concussion. 
 
Depth also came into play on Vanderbilt’s last drive that resulted in the game-winning touchdown and extra point. Just a few plays earlier, Ole Miss had Vanderbilt stuck in a 4th-and-2 on their own 46-yard line with just under two minutes left in the game. 
 
A stop there, and the Rebels would be in good shape to run out the last two minutes and clinch bowl eligibility. 
 
Rodgers rolled right, but had no one open on that side of the play and felt senior defensive end E.J. Epperson bearing down on him. Rodgers managed to cut back up field and get past the former tight end, turned fullback, turned defensive end for the first down. 
 
It’s nothing against either player, as Covington quickly earned a scholarship after arriving on campus and Epperson consistently has received praise on his work ethic and high motor at his new position on defense. 
 
It just goes to show where Ole Miss is at this point and time in terms of depth. 
 
The only way to upgrade that depth and the overall talent level is to recruit, and Ole Miss had another big group of visitors on campus for the game that could potentially provide immediate help. 
 
This group included players like South Panola safety Antonio Connor, defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche, defensive end Jason Carr, a Tennessee commitment, and many others, both committed and still open. 
 
Players of that caliber could potentially help Ole Miss tremendously in the future. But until then, Freeze and the Rebels have to make use of the roster given to them. 
 
It’s a roster with talent in spots, but it’s also tremendously young and the depth in spots is downright scary. 
 
The Rebels have made plenty of progress in Freeze’s first year, but it’s still a flawed roster and a program still recovering from last year’s two-win season. 
 
Bowl game or no bowl game, Freeze has shown recruits that the program is trending back in a positive direction. 
 
He can sell recruits on the fact that with them on the field, Ole Miss probably wins that game Saturday night against the Commodores. 
 
Obviously, Freeze and the Rebels want a bowl game to show to those recruits, and for the currents players who have been through tough times the past two seasons. 
 
But the key is recruiting; for Freeze and company to go out and land players that take Ole Miss above having to win a November game against Vanderbilt for bowl eligibility. 
 
Freeze’s endgame is more than that, and it’s a process for the Rebels to get there. That’s the perspective needed when looking at Ole Miss’s season to date. 
 
Depth has to be improved; the overall talent level has to be upgraded. 
 
It’s a process. 
 
For continuing coverage of Ole Miss football, follow @thedm_sports and @bennetthipp on Twitter.