Freeze, Jones Pre-Spring Press Conference

Assistant coach Jason Jones (photo by Joshua McCoy)

Assistant coach Jason Jones (photo by Joshua McCoy)

March 7, 2013

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and new co-defensive coordinator/cornerbacks coach Jason Jones met with the media Thursday for a pre-spring press conference.

Hugh Freeze

Opening Statement:

“We’re really excited about the work ethic that has been put in leading up to spring ball. It’s obvious what I think about Paul Jackson and his staff and what they do with our kids. You even saw it today in the Pro Day with the way they tested out, particularly in the strength category. Paul is doing a phenomenal job with our kids in preparing them for our systems. We’re anxious to get into year two on the field. We’ll enjoy some time off next week with spring break. We’ll kick off our spring practice number one on Sunday, March 17. We’re excited about that.”

On hiring Jason Jones:

“One thing about me is I am for our guys. If they have opportunity to better themselves in their mind and their families, then I am certainly for that. Coach (Wesley) McGriff was dear to us and did a phenomenal job for us. He did it the right way. He’s moving up, and I’m certainly happy for him. We’re still good friends, and we text every day. I’m glad for him, but at the same time we hated to lose him. There was one guy that was number one on my list from the get go. It took a little work and some time. I’m just thrilled that we were able to get Jason Jones to come join our staff from Oklahoma State. He has ties from playing in this conference, being born in the Southeast and the job that he did in recruiting, particularly places like Atlanta and Dallas. Every time our coaches would see him on the road, they were so impressed with him. He is a man of faith and a family man, which fits us very, very well. He’s young, energetic and a tremendous teacher on the field for his position. When you add those things together, he was a perfect fit for us. When I brought him to campus, our entire staff felt the same. We had a lot of great candidates, but Jason was one that we felt very comfortable with from the start. We’re thrilled to have him and expect him to take over where McGriff left off. I have to give Coach McGriff credit for helping me in this. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. He wanted us to get a great replacement. His number one choice, too, was Jason. He helped us quite a bit throughout that process of convincing Jason that this was a good option for him and a good move. I give him some credit and thanks also. We’re excited about Jason. We hit another home run there.”

On the main goals of spring practice:

“Offensively, to run our tempo at a higher percentage of the time. With us not losing many guys from that side of the ball, you would expect us to retain a good bit of when we finished the year. We’ve been able to get out a few of our mat drill days. You can’t come together as a team, but in their individual techniques they’ve been able to rehash some of that. I expect, hopefully from day one, for us to be comfortable with our tempo there and continue the improvement with the offensive line, losing A.J. (Hawkins) who was kind of our leader up there. We have to do some shuffling around and find the right combination. I know Coach Luke will do that. All of our receivers are back. At running back, we’ve added some depth there. The place on offense that we have to slow down is our H-back and tight end type position. There are all new bodies there. There’s no one there with any significant experience. Coach (Maurice) Harris will have a great challenge in the spring because the rest of the groups with a lot of kids back want to press on and move. He’s going to have some work. That’s the hardest position in our stuff anyway. They have to know more things and more alignments than anybody else. It will be a little juggling act to what we can expect to get out of them and still try to go a little faster than we did last spring with the installation and getting everything in. Defensively, we’ve got to get better at the corner position. We have to develop more depth there. We’ve got quite a few bodies back, but we have to continue to improve. Our team defensively improved as the year went on. We were playing our best game defensively at the end of the year in the Egg Bowl and in the bowl game. Hopefully we can pick up right there. We lost Uriah (Grant) and Gilbert Pena in the middle there. We’ve got Lavon (Hooks), of course. I’m really anxious to see how he comes in and learns. Defensive end we lost a couple of bodies. We have to get to Channing (Ward), his curve of learning should expedite in spring practice. I look at people like him and think that this spring ball is very important for you to put yourself in a position where you’re ready to play game one at Vanderbilt on that Thursday night. On special teams, we’re thrilled that we got to redshirt a couple of veterans. We should be in good shape with those guys.”

On team confidence:

“Since our arrival, we’ve been steadily increasing momentum in the right direction. The challenge now is to continue that throughout spring drills, into the summer workouts and of course into the season. At the same time continue it in recruiting. We’re always looking at if we’re still in the right direction momentum-wise. Our kids have good confidence right now. I’ll be the first to warn that the little success we’ve had can also be an enemy. You can start thinking that you don’t have to go as hard on certain plays. We have to be on our guard against that also. We’ve got to have the same hunger that we had when we wanted to quit being known as the team that was the automatic win on your schedule for a couple of years. We’ll guard against that. Right now our kids are confident.”

On Bo Wallace:

“Bo saw the doctor yesterday. He got a great report and feels like everything is progressing nicely. He’ll start lifting weights the week we get back from spring break and running. Obviously he’ll miss spring drills, as far as throwing and stuff. I hate that for him because he sure could have used it. Barry (Brunetti) and Maikhail (Miller) are both talented kids. Everything was so new last spring that the learning curves for people, there are different points in that. Some learn it a little faster and pick it up a little faster. There could be a time where you get dinged and the next guy is up. It will be very valuable to get Barry and Maikhail a lot of those reps. They will get plenty this spring.”

On Barry Brunetti changing positions:

“I don’t know that will end up being the case. We may end up lining him up at quarterback like we did at the end of the year and do whatever we want to do with him there. I don’t know that we’ll ever move him. We’ll have to see how things go. That will be a fall camp deal. Right now he’s a quarterback that we’ll use in a lot of different ways. That’s what he is right now.”

On tight end candidates:

“We redshirted (John) Youngblood last year. I love the development his body has had. Justin Bigham is a guy that is cut out of the same mold as H.R. Greer. We’ll use him some too. It’s good to have Christian Morgan in for spring to see how he develops. Those are the guys that we’ll start getting most of the snaps there. We may have some surprises with some of the walk-ons that have worked extremely hard. We’ve toyed with the idea of Carlos Thompson some. We’ll kind of see how that goes. That will not occur week one of spring ball. We’ll kind of see how that goes on the defensive line and see how that goes. The first week you’ll see those three guys getting most of it.”

On team leaders:

“D.T. (Shackelford) has always been a leader. Even though he wasn’t on the field, people would look to him as a leadership role. Denzel (Nkemdiche) leads in a lot of good ways, also on the defensive side. Mike Marry, no question, is a leader. People follow him. He doesn’t say a whole lot, but there’s no doubt he’s a leader. Emmanuel McCray has done well in leading in the offseason, along with Donte (Moncrief) offensively. I couldn’t be more pleased with Jeff Scott’s spring semester and the way he’s going about his business. We kind of set the tone with them. I have yet to be disappointed with that first class that we signed. They just do it the right way all the time. I’m really proud of that class and what they’re doing.”

On Nick Brassell:

“He’s certainly trying to do it a different way than what he’s used to. I’ve said from the get go that he has a long way to go. I hope everybody understands that. We’re certainly hoping and doing everything we can. Our academic support system is working hard with him, and he’s putting in more effort than ever before. He still has a long way to go on that journey to gain eligibility.”

On position changes going into the spring:

“We’re going to play Q (Quadarias) Mireles at corner. People thought of him as a receiver when we signed him, but we’re going to check him out at corner. I could easily see him doing both before spring is over. Cody Core could easily play some safety also. We’ve already moved Temario (Strong) to linebacker. You’ll see that some. Collins Moore with his shoulders won’t be able to be full contact. He’s another candidate that could go to a safety position. That would be a fall camp deal also. We’re looking for another safety.”

On Nick Brassell’s impact in the spring:

“Planning on him doing everything with us right now. He needs some of that to encourage him. We’re doing something different with the morning practices. He doesn’t have class at that time, and his tutors are scheduled around that already. Unless somebody from the academic side suggests that we use some of that time for even more than he’s doing there right now, I plan on him being there. He’s going to play corner.”

On possible new recruiting rules:

“I’m not for it. I’m totally against being unlimited in the number of people who can call. I don’t think that’s right for the high school student-athlete. I think it’s almost out of control now. Just imagine the chaotic life that that high school kid is going to have if we can now have everybody off the field trying to get in touch with him also. I’m not in favor of that. I’m totally in favor of us being able to text kids. That’s the way of the world right now. I still think there should be some restrictions on it. My counterparts in our league felt the same way. We’d like to see that slow down. We’re pretty crazy right now in the amount of time we try to spend getting them on the phone and contacting them. It puts the burden on the high school kid more. I kind of like the idea that somebody has thrown out about the four week dead period. I think that makes sense for families and things that are important to us outside of football. Recruiting is what I believe in strongly. If they let us do that, I’m going to try to get as many staff people as I can. We’re not as fortunate as some to be able to staff as much. Staff chemistry to me is huge. To me it could mess with your chemistry also. We’ll try to add a few if that happens. I’ve had preliminary discussions with Ross (Bjork) about that. I want to kind of wait and see where this deal ends up.

On candidates for a breakout spring:

“I’d say Cody Core, Philander Moore, Korvic Neat, we want to try and get them more involved in what we do. Carlos Thompson, I’m anxious to see him. His body has really developed with Coach Jackson. There aren’t a lot of kids that will have a breakout because we played a lot of those young ones. I’m anxious to see D.T. (Shackelford) and Temario (Strong). Those are some that jump in my head.”

Jason Jones

Opening statement:

“I’d like to thank Coach Freeze, Ross Bjork and everyone else on staff for giving me this opportunity to come to Ole Miss and be a part of something special. I’m just excited and thrilled to be here.”

On the deciding factors to move to Ole Miss:

“The thing that really excited me is that it’s the SEC. It’s closer to home and family. Family is important to me. Being on the outside, there’s a lot of excitement right now with Ole Miss. It’s an unbelievable place. Things are going in the right direction. You hear about the great recruiting class that they’ve signed. Just to get on board with a great staff, work for an outstanding head coach and be a part of something special.”

On recruiting abilities:

Recruiting is the most important thing that you do. It’s easier to call plays if you have great players. The most important thing is finding and evaluating talent. You find the young man that fits your scheme and within your team. You also have to find the people that are important to him and that are going to help him make his decision. You have to start building a relationship with those people. That’s a big part of it.

On importance of SEC in recruiting:

“Coming from the Big 12, the SEC is the best conference. Recruiting in the SEC is hard. You have to work at it every single day. That’s one of the things that really excited me about being back in the SEC. Not only the battles on the football field on game day, but also the recruiting aspect.”

On coaching philosophy:

“The most important thing is developing a relationship with those young men and letting the young man know you care about him as a person first and a football player second. Once you develop that relationship and that bond, then they’ll play hard for you. The scheme that we’re going to do defensively is going to allow those guys to get in position and make plays. It just all boils down to the relationship that you have with them.”

On defending the up-tempo offense:

“One of the important things is you have to have a lot of guys that you can play because the speed and the tempo wears you down defensively. You have to be simple with what you do so you can line up and play fast. Those few things will allow you to be successful against the spread or no-huddle offense.”

On what the Ole Miss coaches saw of Jones on the recruiting trail:

“I bumped into several Ole Miss coaches because they do an outstanding job of getting out and finding players. I bumped into Coach (Tom) Allen when we were down in Dallas watching some recruits and trying to evaluate them. He and I just got to talking. I’ve known Coach (Wesley) McGriff. I’ve bumped into him and things like that on the recruiting trail. I think when you get out it’s just a matter of evaluating talent, looking at the guys and carrying yourself and representing your university in the right way. The recruits and prospects that you come in contact with will see it and respect it. Mom and dad will like it, and in turn they’ll come play for you and help you win games.”

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