Hugh Freeze Press Conference: Media Day
Aug. 2, 2013
Glad you're here today; we are excited to get it going here in year two of our journey. This is something that is anticipated by our fan base and everyone involved in this program. We saw the kids come back yesterday and think they are in a good mental frame to get camp going. I'm pleased with the job Paul Jackson and his staff did this summer getting our kids physically fit for this conference. They look good and everyone is improved in their strength and in speed. We added some weight to some and took some off. We think Paul does a great job with his staff. Our staff is returning with exception of one and we wish Wesley McGriff nothing but the best. We replaced him with a great coach and man in Jason Jones, who is a great recruiter and also a great coach.
In year two of this journey we certainly think we are headed in the right the direction and a little bit ahead of schedule, but as all of you know you have to temper your expectations. We are very fortunate last year to overcome depth and injury issues. The thing that keeps me the most conserned is how they will return with the C.J. Johnson, Bo Wallace, Isaac Gross and Patrick Junen beings guys we are very much counting on. That is still something that remains to be seen. Some young kids are going to have to play, they look the part but how well they will adjust to the speed and the grind of the SEC remains to be seen. The opportunity to continue the journey is something we can't wait to get to.
We get to open up college football on the big stage and we have made great strides academically. The incoming freshman carried a 3.2 GPA this summer and I am really proud of that and the team GPA was 2.7, which is way up from 2.1 last term. We will have 11 kids play their final year with a degree in their hand. Hopefully they will provide great leadership with that time.
We are excited about the facility upgrades. I think it keeps us on par with the rest of the conference. Once we get the team room, recruiting center, nutrition and weight room and the new players lounge by the locker room, I do believe we will be right up with the top guys in the conference. We are appreciative to our administration for the vision they had and I didn't have to beg. Ross totally gets it and I am real please for that. I think it will be great dividends for us down the road. A lot of things going on but most important is preparing for season two.
On the injured players ...
We did practice this morning. C.J. Johnson was limited to individual work, but no teamwork. When game got moved, entire schedule had to be moved. We got in a good workout this morning and we will have a walk through this weekend. Patrick Junen did only conditioning as well. Charles Sawyer was the same. Isaac Gross did nothing, he and Charles are farthest off. C.J will be ready. Aaron Morris is full go. Bo Wallace is practicing, but we are charting every throw and trying to keep it at 50 throws. We were a little under that today and will continue to do that and his soreness. His soreness is not in his surgically repaired area; he just probably hasn't done enough. It is more down in elbow and I think he will be fine and ready to go.
On freshman class ...
We have meetings and Paul Jackson gives me updates on the guys that are progressing well and who has farther to go. I did get to see them this morning and liked what I saw. I thought guys like Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell and Tony Connor all looked really good. I came off the field thinking Quincy Adeboyejo is going to be a really special player. Herbert Moore is a big guy and had a quick twitch. I am very excited about the young kids like Daronte Bouldin out of Canton. I think we hit on all of them. I haven't had a staff meeting with defense guys yet, but I think Bobby Hill will be a big plus for us.
On Vanderbilt game changing camp ...
We are going to go two full weeks and prepare us for us. We will evaluate at the end of two weeks to see exactly where we are to see what we are doing well and make a decision to see if we will go another three to four days on installation if we need it to or we can start game planning. It wouldn't be a full practicing at that point. We play that Thursday night and that Tuesday we will turn our attention to that game.
On handling the freshman class ...
We are going to give them some extra reps in practice. We have a 20-minute period at the start of practice and we will script six less than we will normally get to make sure we give the young kids the reps they need this first full week of camp. At the end of every team setting we go another set with the young kids. Both Devante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan are getting reps, but of course both are swimming a bit with the new stuff. Because two former staff members are at different places in the conference, we've changed a bit and had to change verbiage. Maybe it's my paranoia, but that's what we've done so everyone is on a little bit of a learning curve.
On the tight end position ...
We are going to have to find out what we are going to do out of that position. A.J Jackson not making it and Christian Morgan with his injury has set us back, Evan Ingram will be special at that position but will he be able to do everything at that position as a true freshman? I don't know. We've moved Nick Parker there to try to get a little help. Justin Bighum and Charlie Scott to see what they can and cant do. Evan is the guy we have to get ready to play and ask him to do things we need him to do, but we are thin there and it will effect how we look this year.
On installation of offense...
We looked at the two-week plan, and I don't know that I want to get any more than the two weeks. We do have all the other stuff we will have in a game plan to give us a different look from week-to-week, but our focus now is to look at what we can do, and what we can do effectively against any look that we can get, and how we can do it fast. If we can't do that, then it needs to be put on the back shelf a little bit. We are probably going to have 60 percent of what you saw last year is what you will see this year. As far as productivity, we were very good last year. We have to make some adjustments to take care of the ball this year. I don't know that we will install anymore in camp.
On expectations for this year...
I'm very careful not to identify a specific expectation this year other than to become more relevant in the SEC West and continue to compete passionately for our university for 60 minutes. I don't know how these kids are going to perform, especially the young ones. I think we have the ability to scare a lot of people, and I expect us to. That doesn't mean we can win all of those games. I believe unrealistic expectations, when you speak of them, then true frustration comes in. We have to continue what we do with great enthusiasm. We will get there, but we live in a society that works instantaneously and that's not what football and the SEC are like.
Ross (Bjork) did a good job there. It is what it is, and we are big on controlling what we can control, and we have no control with that. We will play one at a time, but it is a difficult stretch. We could be a better football team and it not be reflected at that point. We have to handle all of these issues, and one of them is a difficult schedule. That's not something we talk about around here. One day at a time and play the next play.
On second year as a head coach...
There is great sense of (pride in) being a Mississippian and understanding what the fans want, and giving them a renewed sense of pride in their team. They have joy from watching our team play. Then the other side is, I have greater expectations of myself this year. I'm driven to not be defined by what the scoreboard says, and the win-loss says, and recruiting rankings. They are important, but if you let yourself go down that road and let that define you in a year or week, the people around you immediately start feeling a sense of pressure and that isn't what our program is about. We are just going to stay the course. Regardless of expectations, we want to win and I feel that we have a very good chemistry around here. The recruits get a family atmosphere, and if I, as a leader, can maintain that on a daily basis, great things can and will happen.
On offensive line depth...
I would like to have at least eight or nine guys ready to play. Justin Bell did really well today and Emmanuel McCray is as healthy as he's ever been. He ran around nicely today. Pierce Burton has something in his lower back that is slowing him down. We need eight or nine ready to go.
On the secondary...
We have some dates that we will evaluate. We moved (Quadarias) Mireles to corner, and Quintavius Burdette over as well. (We moved) Derrick Jones to safety. We are looking at a lot of options - even at tight end. If in a week into this we feel like we have to do some shuffling, we will. Kailo Moore is 10.3 100-meter guy, but he can also take some sweeps and the offense say, `heck no' and defense says, `he'd be a great field corner.' We have a lot of things floating around, but I think after week two we will do some evaluating and see where we are.
On offensive tempo...
I expect us to be much more effective at it. If you are not getting first downs then tempo stuff is overrated. All the discussions have been back and forth. If you're not converting first downs, then it's a disadvantage. There are some risks you take with it. We are confident in it and if the kids believe in it, which is half the battle, then it's going to be most successful. The last two games we did it a good percentage of the time, so I would hope that we could go into year two doing the same thing.
On two freshman quarterbacks...
I would like to redshirt both, but you have to have another one ready to play. They went a lot of reps today and will continue, to but we hope that it doesn't get to that point.
On running the football...
You have to be able to run the football. People can define the spread how they want to, but I consider us a tempo team. We firmly believe you have to run the football. It will start there offensively, and we preach that to our kids, and our big guys have to lead the way
On Mark Dodson...
He has toughness and a quick learning curve. He had an ankle injury in the spring and never missed a practice. He wasn't the same guy that he was, but he was very tough. He had a great day today, too.
On offensive line rotation...
I think it's a lot easier for them. They have to get lined up fast and listen. Technique-wise, and all the looks they get against our squad and in this league can get a bit confusing. Matt Luke will get them ready and they will probably have the quickest learning curve.
On offense adjusting to tempo...
I don't mean the actual workings of it, but it's not a natural thing for an offense. I thought as we went through the season and into the Egg Bowl and bowl game they ended up coming to the sideline wanting to get into our faster gears, because they see where the pass rush isn't as vicious and our run game is better.
On D.T. Shackelford...
It's too early to tell. In spring you could tell he was not the same. D.T. is such a leader on our team, and people listen to him so he is very valuable in that. The more he plays the better. Hopefully with a summer of camp he can get rid of some of the rust he had, but I can't really answer that right now.
On Aaron Morris' weight...
A lot of that had to do with the surgery. He was limited to the things he could do, so that is more of the reason. He will lose some during camp but that was not by design.
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