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OXFORD, Miss. – Nobody is going to confuse Bo Wallace with Eli Manning.
Manning is royalty in the Ole Miss football universe, still loved in Oxford for his clean-cut looks, family pedigree and two Super Bowl rings.
Wallace is known more for his shaggy hair, gunslinger mentality and long road to the Southeastern Conference that started at Arkansas State, moved to a junior college and ended with the Rebels.
But both have one thing in common: They're successful college quarterbacks. And if Wallace has a good senior season, he might pass Manning for several Ole Miss career passing records.
"I'm thrilled that we have him," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said on Monday. "I like the demeanor he has right now. I like the leadership he's trying to show, the way he's studying film. It's his last chance and he could do something special."
The 18th-ranked Rebels open their season against Boise State on Thursday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Wallace said he's aware of his place in the Ole Miss record books and the records he could have with a productive fall. He also has a chance to be among the top 10 in SEC history in career passing yards.
"It definitely motivates me," Wallace said. "I feel like I have the guys around me. If I just give them the ball — they'll make big plays."
But Wallace said individual numbers are secondary to the one goal that really matters: Leading the Rebels to their first SEC championship since 1963.
That, of course, will be a monumental task. The Rebels are the only team from the SEC Western Division that has never played in the championship game since the league split into two divisions in 1992.
"We're all ready to go," Wallace said. "We're tired of playing against each other — against the scouts. We're ready to go against some competition and see what we have this year."
Wallace has always been someone who shows his emotions. He made it clear he was upset when the league's media selected him as the third-team preseason All-SEC quarterback in July.
The 6-foot-4, 217-pounder is the active career leader in just about every league passing category.
Freeze said he has no problem with Wallace's anger if it's channeled in the proper direction.
"I just think he's hungry to go out and prove that he can have a better year than he did in the last one and the one before that, and he's had two pretty good ones," Freeze said.
Freeze didn't always have such good things to say about Wallace during his first two years with the program — and his ire rarely had much to do with his performance on the field.
There were no serious behavior problems, but the coach often said that his quarterback needed to make sure his priorities were in the right spot. Wallace said those criticisms have finally made a mark.
"I just think I've matured," Wallace said. "It's crazy — you see your last year coming and you see the goals that you want to accomplish. You kind of self-reflect and look at the things in the past that might have held you back from those things."
Wallace also hopes a return to full health will increase his production.
He played nearly his entire sophomore season in 2012 with an injury to his throwing shoulder that required offseason surgery. He was able to return for his junior season in 2013 and started all 13 games, but acknowledges that some of his deep throws lacked the usual zip.
Now after a full offseason of weightlifting and other strength drills, his arm feels normal.
"I have a lot more confidence this year," Wallace said. "I had a great camp. Last year I didn't have a good camp at all. It took me two or three weeks just to get back in the groove. But from day one (this year), I've felt good and I still feel good."
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