Hugh Freeze Spring Press Conference

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)

March 4, 2014

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with reporters on Tuesday before the start of spring practice. Below is a full transcript of his press conference.

Opening statement ...

"We're excited to be in year three already. It really seems like it was yesterday that I was driving on a rainy Saturday down here to accept this job. It's gone so fast. I was able to take my wife and kids to Disney World for a couple of days this past week, and when I was on one of those crazy rides they talked me into getting on, I was actually thinking about how fast this ride has gone. It's been an enjoyable ride. We've had some ups and disappointing losses and some disappointing things that each program has. To go from 14 straight SEC losses and to go to two straight bowls games and win both, we're headed in the right direction. It's a bit unbelievable that we're getting ready to start year three of our journey together. It's important and a special thing anytime you can have continuity of staff. We're very fortunate that the guys that we have here are enjoying what we're doing, how we're doing it and have chosen to stay on with us and be a part of the Rebel family. To have that continuity going into this spring and to year three is a very important step. We've only lost one coach in the time we've been here. Others have had opportunities, but it's a special place, Oxford, Mississippi, and this university. We're not without our challenges, as every university is. We certainly have a special chemistry here going on with our staff. Everyone is enjoying it and their families are enjoying it. It's great to have everyone back. I'm thankful for our administration and the vision that they've had here. You're getting to see some of that for the first time, the nutrition center, the expanded weight room, the new locker room, the new players' lounges, this wonderful new team room, our new recruiting center is being finished up now. It's all a part of the vision that Ross Bjork, Chancellor (Dan) Jones and our administration have for our program. It obviously helps us in landing and recruiting young men to this great university. We're finishing up another solid recruiting class. That is all part of what we need to continue to grow to where we want to go. The theme for this spring is being more consistent as we continue to build a depth chart that is one that looks like an SEC football team. We're not quite there yet. I said it would take three full recruiting cycles before I felt like we were a depth chart that appeared to be of SEC worth. We're still not quite there. We're going to have to go through another spring with some issues in depth. We're much, much closer than we were when we got here. We've got evidence of kind of where we are if you look at the NFL draft possibilities and the things there. We've gone two years without having a draftee. It looks like we'll at least have one this year. We've got to get that changed. We're on our way to doing that. We had a great pro day yesterday where our kids competed and hopefully will earn a chance and the right to play for a team in the National Football League. We're very excited about practice tonight. We're going to go inside tonight and get some good work done. We're excited to get back out there."

On injuries and other issues ...

"Unfortunately, our injury list hasn't gotten much smaller since the season. Woody Hamilton, two days ago, broke his foot. He's going to be out for the entire spring. That hurts our depth in defensive line. He certainly was a guy that we'll be depending on. We've got to get that fixed. He'll have surgery next week. It'll be about a 10-week recovery deal for him. Derrick Jones has a hip flexor. He's day-to-day. I expect him probably to miss this week and then be ready to go after spring break. C.J. Johnson is the same thing. He has a little hamstring sprain. We're really going to be protective of him this spring. Senquez Golson, the same thing, we expect him to return after spring break, as well as Cody Core and Vince Sanders. All of those guys have small issues. It's not anything significant that will keep them out. They may return Friday, maybe tomorrow for one or two of them. I really expect them to return after spring break. Christian Morris tore his Achilles in winter workouts. He will be out for spring. He's three weeks out now for surgery. It will be about a six to seven month recovery for him. Austin Golson had shoulder surgery. He'll be limited this week. He should be full go after spring break. Aaron Morris' surgery is 23 weeks out. We're going to hold him out this spring to hopefully get him in his best shape he can be in coming into the fall. That's where we are injury-wise right now. The issues off the field: Bobby Hill is no longer on our football team. I can confirm that he's no longer a student here. That whole matter was handled through Student Affairs. All I can tell you is he's not on our team anymore. I wish him the best wherever he decides to go. Serderius Bryant will be with us this spring in practice, but has a list to do to regain his good standing with this football team. He's very aware of exactly what he has to do. He's giving up his spring break to go do some mission work. That's part of it. He's got some community service. He's got some counseling. He has a lot of things he has to do to be in good standing before the first ball game. It could involve some being suspended, also, depending on how the rest of his stuff goes. Denzel (Nkemdiche) will not be with us this spring. He is still suspended from the team. He, like Serderius, has list. His list is a little longer to regain good standing with us. He will be suspended at least for the first game next year. I'm hoping he can really learn from the mistakes that have been made and get back to being who he can be. He's a good kid. It's never fun when your kids make mistakes. Unfortunately, the kids who are doing most of the things right don't get the coverage they do. I wish they never messed up. That's part of the culture we live it. It's our job as coaches to help them navigate life. When they make those decisions, we of course feel like we've failed with them in some way. I take it very personal. We'll hold their feet to the fire. We're not afraid to make a tough decision. No one is more important than this team. The team comes first. We have a lot of kids doing it right that never show up on lists. I'm really excited about it. We have a large group going to next week and giving up their spring break. They're going to go to Haiti to help people who are much worse off than we are. Things like that going on, we're really proud of. I'm really proud of the job that our academic staff is doing and that our kids are doing. That's where those kids stand. The Channing Ward deal, we're still gathering facts. There's a lot more to that story. I would hope that he would be cleared from anything that has come out previously. We're still going down the road with that. We don't have all of the facts on that."

On the 2013 recruiting class ...

"You would like to see those guys going into their second season start taking a great leadership role, not only in the verbal way they do things, but more of some of the little things that may be lacking. I really believe any of the great teams that really have great years have the little things tend to be taken care of. Whether it's touting in the locker or it's a piece of garbage in the IPF or it's a tutor that you're late for. I'd love to start seeing some of those start making sure that's never them and also start trying to hold some others accountable. People naturally follow those guys. They've been great teachable players since they've been here. Hopefully that will continue and they'll stay hungry and humble. I sure do expect them to do that this spring."

On wide receivers ...

"Laquon (Treadwell) will move outside for this spring. We expect him to stay there. He's a big physical guy. We'll move Quincy (Adeboyejo) inside. He's more of an athletic guy with the ball in his hands probably than what we've had. Between Laquon, getting Vince (Sanders) healthy, Cody Core, Collins Moore, those guys are going to play the outside positions. We moved (Quadarias) Mireles and (Quintavius) Burdette, Quincy, they're all inside guys. We have some coming with us. Laquon will go outside now."

On position changes ...

"Channing Ward is going to work a lot of tight end. We're going to see how he adjusts to that. We're trying to make sure we get him in a good position to contribute to this football team a lot. He's looked good in the indoor periods, but obviously we haven't had any equipment or balls or anything. We'll see how he does there. Jeremy Liggins will split time between quarterback and tight end some this spring. He coould end up a lot of places, though. Kailo Moore is going to play some field corner this spring to see how he adjusts there. He's all for that. He's kind of wanted to do that for a while. D.T. Shackelford is going to start at Mike linebacker instead of defensive end. Chief Brown will move to husky. Anthony Alford and C.J. Hampton will be safeties, along with Cody Prewitt and Trae Elston. Austin Golson will be playing right tackle."

On O-line ...

"That's the spot we're hurting the most at. I'm looking forward to the spring where we look up and we have two full depth charts and some replacements for those. Right now we have one full one and we're going to have use some walk-ons to make up the number two. I am excited, though, for kids like Ben Still, Robert Conyers, Daronte Bouldin and Davion Johnson. We're moving Carlton Martin. He's going to play some guard to try to help us get us a two-deep offensive line and also so he's getting a chance his senior year to really contribute. He's one of our strongest players. He's an athletic guy. We have a little more depth inside on the defensive line. He's jumped in. We'll see how he does this spring. It's a great challenge. We've got to get that fixed to be effective or you have your fingers crossed hoping you don't get another injury. We've got to get Christian Morris and Aaron Morris healthy. Those two guys make a big difference. Fahn Cooper didn't make it in, but he'll be here in the fall. Hopefully we'll look much difference in the fall than we do the next 15 practices. Having said that, hopefully we can stay healthy in the spring and those guys that we're going to have to depend on to play some are going to get quality reps. It can be a blessing as long as we can stay healthy. It makes it tough for a Red-Blue game."

On Bo Wallace's offseason ...

"He says he feels as good as he felt in two years. We'll see how that goes. He didn't get to do any offseason training last year. That showed as the year went on. His arm strength deteriorated some. We're confident that he should be stronger. Hopefully he'll stay consistently strong. He won't probably throw as much as he did last spring because we really need to see DeVante (Kincade), Ryan (Buchanan), Jeremy (Liggins) and Kendrick (Doss) throw some. Hopefully we won't wear him too much in the spring. He'll go out there if it looks a little louder than it was at the end of the season.

On backup quarterbacks ...

"I would say no one is ahead of the pack. If you look based on last year, there were some things I think he (DeVante Kincade) naturally does better than Ryan. There are some things that Ryan does naturally does better than him and we have the other two here. It's very difficult. I'm going in and Dan (Werner) is going in with an open mind. We're trying to make sure they all get reps with similar lines around them so that we can evaluate them properly. It's all even going in in my mind."

On Anthony Standifer ...

"Anthony Standifer has some things he has to do, also, but he's with us this spring. He hasn't earned the right yet to be full-fledged member of the team, but he is working towards it. He will practice."

On roles of DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan ...

"We're always looking for other alternatives. Whether Jeremy Liggins runs short yardage or DeVante running more quarterback designed runs. That's not really Ryan's gift. Ryan's got some gifts that are important. Doss, we really haven't seen at all yet. We're always looking for options. It's always good to have other guys that can present a slightly different look to defenses."

On return game ...

"Kickoff returns we still have Jaylen (Walton) back and Kailo (Moore). Anthony (Alford) would be a good candidate there, Trae Elston, also. We've got four guys there. Eugene Brazley, we're not sure about him. We've got some good freshmen coming in, too. Punt return-wise you're looking at Anthony Alford and Quincy Adeboyejo. Certainly look at all of the options there. Markell Pack is not with us yet, but we'll find a guy there. With the way everybody is struggling to return punts, the new spread punt where everyone is getting in coverage immediately; it's difficult to return punts. That's always a challenge now. Our kickoff return should be solid."

On position changes ...

"Anthony Alford will play all spring on defense. If I decide to play him at wildcat quarterback then I can do that in one week of fall camp. That would just be kind of counter productive. We do that in fall camp. I don't think you'll see him at all on offense. Channing and Carlton will stay on offense the whole spring. They could immediately go back to defense in summer workouts and not have missed a whole lot, unless there's some type of injury that takes place or we just get so thin that they have to go back. I would expect them to stay the whole time. Kailo, I expect him to stay at corner. You may see him run certain packages offensively. You could possibly see him both ways. He's also doing well in track. We're trying to manage and give him the opportunity to be successful at both. It's hard to say exactly what his spring is going to look like. Liggins will be on offense all spring. I don't want to overload him. He's got a lot of work to do academically to be eligible. He'll stay on offense at tight end or quarterback all spring."

On proposed 10-second rule ...

"I guess it is Thursday that the prop committee will hear whatever proposal the rules committee is putting forth to him. We've worked extremely hard, those of us who are in opposition, at making our voice known and documenting our feelings and sending them to every committee member we can. There's a very important conference call tomorrow that the rules committee is maybe being instructed to reconvene and be sure their thoughts are all the same after the feedback has been received. I've been very clear that we're very frustrated with the process that was used to get to this point without our voices being heard from our side of the issue. Maybe we've gotten that across. We'll see if they continue after their meeting or whatever it is tomorrow if they get together and decide this is going to move forward then we hope and pray that the prop committee sees that there's no adequate evidence under the umbrella of player safety to push that rule through in a non-rule change year. I know we've made our voice heard. To me, there are a lot of issues with it. What do you tell a basketball coach that may not get a sub for four minutes that has a kid or a soccer coach? All sports have issues. We all know we coach a dangerous sport. I don't know a coach who doesn't want their kids to be safe. I've got a trainer here that's been in the NFL 18 years and now coached here and he believes he can prove it may be the exact opposite. I'm not saying I have all of the answers. I'm obviously I partial and biased, but I do not believe there is any evidence to push this rule through."

On work put into opposing rule change ...

"Gus (Malzahn) and I were talking today; it's actually taken our time. It's our livelihood. We care about what happens with our sport. Our sport's at one of the highest peaks of interest from the public opinion that it's ever been. People are enjoying the games. We've kind of structured a nationwide attack of how we'll go about voices heard before this is final. From our conference, Coach (Kevin) Sumlin, Gus, myself and Coach (Butch) Jones have led the way the most and Coach (Steve) Spurrier. We divided up names that we were going to call that we felt like had an interest in this. It's kind of been nationwide. It has taken time. We've tried to find if there was any documentation out there. We have routinely had a group of us calling the rules committee pretty regularly to continue to stress our opinion of where this is headed."

On approach of 10-second rule ...

"I have great respect for anybody who takes on the role for being on one of the committees that are designed to help our sport. I certainly want to be careful in what I say. I know it takes their time. Everyone in there did what I'm sure they felt was right at that time. There's no question that the process to get to this point was lacking the voices from the other side of the issue. Three weeks previous we had a head coaches meeting. This issue was never brought up. They said we had a chance on some survey back in the season that I never saw. That's my fault. I confess that. An issue this big doesn't need to be handled through some survey that comes through email in the middle of your season. You should have the chance to have your voice heard in the process for a rule that would change the way we play this game. I think it should be vetted through a lot of dialogue from both sides and then come to some decision. The process was a bit surprising."

On coaches' meetings ...

"We have an SEC head coaches' meeting that was canceled due to weather in February in April. We'll get together then. I don't know. Most of the time, we disagree on some things. No one takes it personal. I certainly don't. I'm sure it will be discussed and all of us will have our say in that room. It'll be respectful. Nobody will get out of line. We've all feel the way we feel. We all seem confident in expressing our feelings. I know there will be a lot of dialogue. It will be OK."

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