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Area players look to help Rebels

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Aug. 7, 2003
OXFORD Ole Miss head football coach David Cutcliffe isn't shy about telling people what he expects from his team in the 2003 season.
The fifth-year Rebels head coach will tell anyone who will listen that the time has come for the program to capture its first Southeastern Conference West Division title.
With 50 returning players from last year's team, including 16 seniors, 12 of whom are fifth-year players, and 15 fourth-year juniors, Ole Miss is more experienced and deeper than at any time during Cutcliffe's tenure.
Seven area players fill Ole Miss roster spots as the team tries to take the next step in the evolution of the program and answer the coach's challenge of the urgency to win.
The Rebels have four former Meridian High School players, two players from Lamar School and one from Philadelphia High School on their roster entering the season.
The student-athletes from the area have different degrees of experience.
Rogers is a three-year letterman for the Rebels and has handled the kick-off duties for the team over the last 36 games. He kicked off 68 times last season, with an average depth at the opponent's 4.5-yard line.
Zachary Moore, who also graduated from Lamar, is a redshirt freshmen tight end. He will compete for playing time with sophomore Jimmy Brooks and fellow redshirt freshman Lawrence Lilly.
Meridian High is represented on the Ole Miss roster by sophomore defensive back Jeremy Ruffin, junior running back Barry South, punter Wesley Bryan and wide receiver Mario Hill.
Ruffin, a former All-State selection of The Clarion-Ledger and the Mississippi Association of Coaches, played in 12 of 13 games as a true freshman in 2002
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound former Wildcat tallied 17 tackles last season, but was unable to participate in spring drills because of a broken foot he suffered in Ole Miss' Independence Bowl victory over Nebraska.
Ruffin had surgery in the spring to fix his fifth metatarsus, and says he feels 100 percent. But he is a little apprehensive about playing on the new Astroplay synthetic surface that has been installed at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Hill, who lettered in both football and track at Meridian High, saw limited duty last season as part of the Rebels explosive receiving corps.
The wide receiver, who caught three passes for 30 yards against Arkansas State, said he is ready to contribute even more in his second year.
Mississippi Association of Coaches. "I think I can go across the middle and make a good catch or get a deep ball."
Bryan saw action in his first collegiate game last season filling in for the injured Cody Ridgeway. He punted twice for 53 and 35 yards.
He is second on the depth chart at the punting position, behind Ridgeway, and the former Wildcat said the game experience will help him coming into this season.
South, who transferred to Oxford High School for his senior, joined the Rebels as a walk-on in 2002.
The 5-foot-8, 190-pound junior fullback said he thinks his contributions to the team will be from the sideline and in the locker room, more than from gaining yards on the field.
Houston joined the Rebels in the spring of 2002, and he was redshirted his first year.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound former Class 2A All-State selection of the Mississippi Association of Coaches at Philadelphia said he has some areas to improve but feels he can contribute to the team.