The Bo-Wallace-to-Tennessee story was never meant to be. A native of Pulaski, Tenn., a town south of Nashville and close to the Tennessee-Alabama border, Wallace was a two-star prospect coming out of Giles County High School in 2010. He got a visit from offensive coordinator Jim Chaney near the end of Lane Kiffin’s tenure at Tennessee, but no offer.
Nothing changed when Kiffin bolted for USC and Derek Dooley took over in Knoxville.
“They came and watched me throw and that was it,” Wallace said at SEC Media Days in July. “I definitely would have listened. And I wasn’t getting any other offers, so I was listening to anybody at that point.”
He ended up signing with Arkansas State, but eventually transferred to East Mississippi Community College after things didn’t work out between him and Hugh Freeze, who was then the head coach for the Red Wolves of ASU.
And then came round two. Wallace developed in junior college, growing up physically and emotionally in addition to developing one of the strongest arms in the JUCO ranks to go along with good athleticism. Freeze, now at Ole Miss, came calling on Wallace again.
Tennessee, again, didn’t offer. The story is still being written, but Wallace and Freeze have grown together at Ole Miss and now have the No. 3 Rebels at their highest ranking since 1964 and in the hunt for the College Football Playoffs.
So for Wallace to have a chance to knock off Tennessee on the Rebels’ march towards a potential championship would have extra significance for the senior. He envisioned the setting in Knoxville, though he’ll also be glad to host them in front of an energized fan base in Oxford.
“I’m just excited to play them,” he said. “I wanted to play in Neyland Stadium. I wish we played up there. I’m excited to play against my home state team.”
Butch Jones regularly says he doesn’t have time to pay attention to the things that happened before he arrived in Knoxville. Nor should he in the case of Wallace. Some Tennessee fans might want to think about if the rebuilding process would’ve been any different with Wallace as the signal caller. But Jones wasn’t around for either of the times that UT could’ve recruited him.
Jones just sees a talented opponent that the Vols will have to limit on Saturday to have any chance to pull an upset over the Rebels.
“Playmaker, managing their offense, very confident,” is how he described Wallace. “I think they have taken on his personality, expects to make plays and just a tremendous, tremendous competitor. You can see that on film right away.”
And the days of what’s become known as “Good Bo, Bad Bo” might be in the past as well. Known at times for his inconsistency in decision making, Wallace has taken on the form of “Good Bo” for the two couple weeks, completing over 60 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and zero interceptions against Alabama and Texas A&Ml
He’s also been a key cog in the Rebels’ running game, rushing for a total of 82 yards and two touchdowns combined against the Tide and Aggies.
“I don’t see any inconsistency right now in his play,” Jones said. “All I have to go on is the video from this year. He’s playing winning football. He’s managing their offense. I think he brings a level of toughness to their offense. He can make all the throws. They do a good job schematically in terms of what they ask of Bo.
“A lot of it is throws off the run game – naked (bootlegs), throw reads, designed quarterback runs. He understands how to get the ball in the hands of his playmakers, so he’s managing their offense. He’s playing winning football for them. He presents a defense so many challenges because of his grittiness, his toughness, his ability to run the football but also his ability to throw the ball as well.”