Hugh Freeze Grove Bowl Press Conference
April 8, 2017

Recap

Head coach Hugh Freeze addressed the media Saturday afternoon after the Ole Miss football team concluded its spring practices with a 31-29 Grove Bowl victory for the Rebel offense.

On the Grove Bowl…
“What a beautiful day in Oxford. It was just a gorgeous day. We had a lot of great recruits here who we got to visit with this morning and their parents. Then we got to finish up spring ball. It was a good competition. I thought probably the right team won today. The offense controlled most of the scrimmage. Shea Patterson played very efficiently. Our receivers are talented. Thought our run game was solid. Got everyone in and Marquis Haynes we didn’t play a lot, didn’t play Jordan Wilkins a lot. We got a lot of kids reps, so that’s good. The defense is banged up, a lot of DBs out today. Look forward to getting them back. Like I told our team afterward, what really starts now, how much you prepare for the next time we play in that stadium when it’s real, will matter. The decisions they make, whether it be social decisions or how hard we go in preparation, there are other teams making the same choices, and our choices have to be greater. It has to be a greater commitment, a greater sacrifice this offseason to get us where we want to go. Pleased with the improvements we’ve made at certain spots. I think we have a chance to be a talented ball club.”

On the team’s progress over the spring…
“We have a long way to go defensively. We’ve known that. We still gave up too many explosive plays, some today. They had a lot of kids banged up in the last week and a half who weren’t able to go today, but we’ve got a way to go. We did improve in the spring. There’s no doubt in my mind. The energy is better, the attention to detail, the discipline is better, but we still have a way to go there. Offensively, I think our line is going to be really solid. I think they’re going to protect Shea and be efficient in the run game.”


 

 

On watching Rebel receivers have success against Rebel DBs…
“Welcome to my world. You don’t know what to think. You want to high-five your receivers and say ‘Man, great job.’ But we can’t give up explosive plays. So it’s very difficult for a coach to leave a scrimmage ever felling really good. I don’t know if I’ve ever left one feeling great. Something went wrong for something to go right, so you have to look at both sides and keep trying to prepare for the day we’re not playing each other.”

On short-yardage improvement…
“We were really good in those areas the last time we went full-contact in practice. Today, I don’t remember a ton of those, particularly in the tight red zone. I like our plan. It needs more work, we didn’t get to do it enough in spring. We went three opportunities for those situations, and I think we got better as spring went on. But I do like our plan.”

On how Shea has changed as the starter this spring…
“He’s settled in and everybody knows that. He gives them a confidence. It’s taking him a little while too, because everything is new. All the verbiage, the type of drops you have to take, the checks in the run game, you have to learn all that. Today the call list was small, and he had a good understanding of it. I thought he was really efficient, and that gives people around him confidence. I don’t know that he’s changed as a person, he had that same confidence when he was called up on to go in against Texas A&M. But the experience playing in this league in those three games and these 15 practices, it makes him feel better about understanding where the ball needs to go, when it needs to come out, and the timing of things will help him play faster.”

On the biggest area of concern going forward…
“The middle of our defense from the linebacker back to the safety position. Those are the biggest concerns right now.”

On the play of junior quarterback Jordan Ta’amu...
“I think he’s got something to him. I really do. I’ve watched him for 15 practices right now. I love his demeanor. He had been itching to go live and I think he’s faster than anyone gives him credit for. He has a knack for running the ball and he throws the deep ball pretty well. He threw some good ones today, so I think he’s getting better and better.”

On missed tackles…
“We’ve got a way to go defensively. You can’t miss tackles and give up explosive plays and expect to win games. We know that, experienced that for a year, and that has to get corrected.”

On the limited spring game play selection…
“I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. Our defense was able to bring a mike shoot or an edge pressure and that’s it. Our offense, we kept it very vanilla. We have two new coordinators, and it doesn’t make sense for me for us to go out there and put on TV everything we think we can or cannot do. It’s just the day and age we live in. That’s what we chose to do. We didn’t show much.”

On sophomore receiver A.J. Brown
“I thought he performed well. He’s really talented and he’s healthy now. A lot of people don’t know, but he battled a knee injury last year and we got that cleaned up as soon as the season was over. He’s had a really good spring.”

On the team’s development over spring practice…
“I think we got better this spring, but I think we still have a long way to go, particularly at certain spots. But I couldn’t be more pleased with how our kids have handled difficult, adverse situations with the issues that we have going on. They were marvelous. Then the energy our new staff has brought into the 15 days of spring ball was really good. Really pleased with what we got out of it. Do we still have further to go? Yes. What we start doing now is being sure we’re working as hard as we can and are making great decisions between now and fall camp.”

On how he feels about his defense this year as opposed to last year…
“I know exactly what we’re planning to do with the defense, and I think it’ll be beneficial to us. We have improved at places. I love the energy that’s happening there, but we still have a ways to go. That’s probably about how I felt last year.”

On sophomore defensive end Qaadir Sheppard
“He’s going to be a really good football player. Really good.”

On the dynamic with two new coordinators…
“It’s allowed me to really dive into the lives of our players better. I’ve enjoyed that this spring, really getting to meet with them 1-on-1 and having great conversations. I’m not a great listener, and that’s something I’ve got to work on and I’ve made an attempt to really do that and listen to the players and try to dive into their lives and what’s going on with them. Having those two guys has been nice. The challenge is I have to learn all of the new terminology so that I can be involved. That’s been a challenge because I’ve used my terminology since high school, but we needed it. It was time for us to have a change in signals and terminology, so that has been good for me too.”

On injury concerns…
Jalen Julius will be back. He had been going through practice, except for the contact part. Eric Swinney will be back. Montrell Custis has had a really good spring and got a concussion the last live practice we had. We had Markel Winters’ surgery to fix that shoulder, I think he’ll be fine. Austrian Robinson should be fine. Jacob Mathis is almost cleared. As of right now, I think everyone should be on schedule to be ready to go come fall camp. Ken Webster looks good, every report I get. We really need him. That’ll be a guy who will really help our defense.”

On Charles Wiley’s spring…
“It was OK. He’s still in the learning curve. But he’s really athletic. Freddie Roach is high on him. He thinks he’s going to be a really good player.”

On the play of his receivers in the new offense…
“They were learning together. In those first seven or eight practices, you see a ball land, and the receivers aren’t on the same page. But there’s a partnership there. He has great confidence that they’re going to make plays in those 50-50 balls. He’s going to put them there. It just takes reps. They have to have a ton of reps together this offseason to make sure they’re on the same page.”

On the run game…
“I’ll have to watch the film to see what the efficiency was, but it looked like we had very few negative runs. I thought there were a lot of three-, four- and five-yard gainers, and that’s really positive.”

On sophomore Jason Pellerin rotating between QB and TE…
“I hope not. I hope he can go be a receiver. We have to see how the dynamic of our team plays out between now and then. That’ll determine it. But he needs to be on the field for us.”

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