Hugh Freeze Press Conference: Media Day
Head Coach Hugh Freeze (Photo by UM Photographer Kevin Bain)

Aug. 3, 2012

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Hugh Freeze Press Conference: Media Day


"Thanks for being here. The last couple of weeks leading up to this day had been filled with a lot of new firsts for me with SEC media day, the car wash at  ESPN and all those things that were great experiences for me. It's good to be around the coaches in our league and interact with you guys.  I value our relationship. I think you are a very vital part of what we do here and what we are trying to build, hopefully we can help each other out in that regard.

That brings us to today.  I'm really looking forward to getting started. We've gone through some orientation stuff that you have to do to get out of the way, but I'm looking forward to getting on the field and seeing what kind of retention we have from spring ball for the kids that are returning, and also see about what we think about Paul Jackson's job with our young men through the off season. I think we are going to see some benefits from that and we are really anxious to get that started."

What are the early keys you are looking for in practice?

"Attitude and effort. One of the things we do during fall camp is have nightly meetings in regard to personal accountability. I think when we start accepting accountability for our actions not only off the field, but on the field. In the way we prepare ourselves for practice and the effort, energy and passion that we bring to the practice field, I think you'll start seeing this program turn around really fast.  I would love to see some kids like Jeff Scott have phenomenal practices and Randall Mackey give us some give us some depth at tailback. That would be a pleasant surprise.  Nick Parker has slimmed down quite a bit and that's a position we are very concerned about depth wise.  As a team, as a whole, we want to see great attitude and effort and see what personal accountability is all about."

What position you are most confident in?

"I'd say corner.  I do think that Charles Sawyer, Dehendret Collins and Wesley Pendleton are three solid players. I think we got some young kids who are going to have a late arrival to camp in Lewis Covington, who is a junior college transfer corner.  We are excited about him. I like his demeanor and I like his tape. We haven't been able to work him out yet but are excited about him.  Then you have Trea Elston and Anthony Standifer who add some depth there.  I think that is a position that we do have some quality players at and I know in (defensive coordinator/safeties coach) Dave Wommack's system we are going to need them to play extremely well. 

The last time you've had to build a program from the ground up?

"At Lambuth. It was in a similar situation when I took over there and I think a trust factor between the kids and the coaches and that they really trust we have their best interest at heart regardless of how tough or difficult it may seem at the time. I think gaining their trust and knowing that and them having confidence in us and getting to where we have confident in them and knowing what we are going to get out of each other is one of the first things. Then hopefully  feeding off the passion and energy our coaching staff will bring to do the job here and they will feel like this is the place we want to be at and we want to build it here with them. Those are some of the key ingredients to start with.

Randall Mackay at tailback.

"Randall is going to be in the tailback room and that doesn't mean he is always going to line up there. How much can he handle in fall camp will let us know that but you will see him hopefully helping Jeff (Scott) with the job we have to do at tailback he will line up there some."

Can the team be as physical as you'd like due to the lack of depth?

"Probably not in this first go around. We are thin in the offensive and defensive line so right now. Uriah (Grant) will not be able to participate in the first few weeks of fall camp. He is still recovering. Things are going well he is just still recovering so we are a little thin in both the offensive and defensive lines so probably the full contact stuff and then throw in the lack of depth at tailback probably will be not as much as we are used too."

What is Jamal Mosely's status?

"We gave Jamal four things he has to do. He has completed two of them and as he continues to hopefully progress to where we need him to be, and show us he can me accountable, we will re-evaluate that. In all total honesty we tried to evaluate him in what he's done since we`ve been here, which he has made significant improvement I think in the decisions that he has made since we've been there and that's always a tough call. We are still evaluating that and have not made a decision exactly what suspended indefinitely is going to be."

What do you need to see out of your quarterbacks early?

"Leadership. Staying on schedule in this offense is vital to us and whichever one can keep us on schedule and in front of the chains is the guy that is going to end up getting most of the reps in game situations.  I don't anticipate clearly defining one of them until probably after a couple of games.  With us being so new to each other and getting limited reps in in the spring practice because of other quarterbacks taking reps we'll start hopefully seeing what their strengths are and what their weaknesses are as they get more reps in fall camp. I do believe that both will get opportunities in early games."

What do you hope to see out of Darone Bailey in fall camp?

"It will be a pleasant surprise if he can earn a starting spot. If he doesn't, maybe we contemplate redshirting him. He's a three for two. We are skewed in offensive line numbers to where if we do play him there are a lot of kids departing us at one time which is never good.  So we've got to evaluate that.  If he can prove that he is one of the best six or seven guys, we are going to play him, but I do think he is a great kid. He does what you ask him to do and he has worked extremely hard to come back from his injury and he loves this state and wants to represent the University of Mississippi, which are all important things to us so that is going to be a thing that (Co-Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line coach) Matt (Luke) and I have to evaluate, but we will contemplate them both. If he proves to be one of the top guys, it will be hard to keep him off the field."

What players are standing out as leaders and buying in to your philosophies?

"I think 70-75 percent there. But guys like Mike Marry, Charles Sawyer, Wesley Pendleton, Ja-Mes Logan, Donte Moncrief, those guys. And guys like Jeff Scott have made significant strides in that.  I know I'm leaving people out. C.J. Johnson and Uriah Grant. Guys that I think are leaders.  We have to develop more on the offensive side than we do on the defensive side but I do think we've made significant steps with a lot of kids in that area."

Injury report.

"It looks like Uriah Grant is going to be two weeks. He is going through drills but will be held out of the full contact stuff.  Keith (Lewis) has been released to go. Bryon Bennett is good to go. I think Uriah is the only one who right now won't be in full contact and he will be out there and in drills."  

Where did your offensive philosophy come from?  

"Believe it or not, I used to Tivo games when I was a high school coach.  I knew what my personality was. I was coaching at Briarcrest and I would Tivo every game that I could, back then it was even some VHS.  And I would keep a notepad full of stuff I thought was good stuff.  I started working in terminology to make it no huddle and since then I've had had the privilege of coming here and being with Dan and Art Kehoe and George DeLeon and seeing how they do different things and just reconfirm to me that my personality was more like this.  Gus and I knew each other as high school coaches, we weren't real close, but then when he got in the college game we started communicating a lot and I talked to him a lot and Nole Mazzone and Kevin Sumlin and Chad Morris and those were really the guys I watched a lot, and if I had a question that is who I'd call.  I did it from studying various people and various offensives at every level and put it on to my personality.  If you were to ask me three years ago who I'd study, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Oklahoma. Those teams I think we are a mixture of all of them, really."

Does your team expect to win this year or do they know they are rebuilding?

"I think our kids understand that we are in rebuilding mode but I do think we will have them ready to play.  If you don't expect to win you certainly aren't going too. So I think it's a combination of thinking we are going to understand kind of where we are.  We will have some up-hill climbs in games, on paper anyway, but I do hope that we can create a confidence throughout fall camp that will give them the confidence that they are going to go in and compete."  

Other than Mackay, are there any position changes?

"E.J. Epperson to DE and John Youngblood to TE (H), we don't call it a tight end. I think those are the two major ones. We might move somebody from corner to safety or safety to corner but the major ones are moving E.J. to defense and Youngblood to offense."

On when the team will buy in. Does it come once games are won?

"It's part of it. In our team meeting last night I said let's just start here.  If there is a piece of trash in the parking lot, what do you do with that piece of trash? You pick it up and you put it in the trash. If there is trash in your locker room you clean it up. We've changed a lot of things. Ross Bjork has done an amazing job since getting here. I don't know if you have seen our locker room but it looks like a new one. It looks like a new one. We aren't through. They are still working on that. August 6 is the completion date. He has done a great job.  Well, how do we treat that? I just visited with Allen Walker and said if you can tell the team one thing what would that be? He said, man, it would have to be discipline. So whether or not the winning gets us the total buy in, I don't know, but I do know where it starts; with us being accountable for the little things, off the field and on the field. Certainly, winning is going to help and we can believe in each other a little more so hopefully we can get off to a start and get a few of those."

How do you get them to buy in?

"If I could stand here and tell you I'd have the immediate fix, I'd probably be doing another job somewhere and probably wouldn't have to work. I do believe that, again, when you surround yourself with people who are doing it right and make it uncomfortable for someone to do it the wrong way, it certainty helps and that is what we are trying to do.  I can't say that I'm any better than any other coach that has tried it. I know what I've done at the places I've been that has helped us turn things around and give us confidence to win and a swagger and belief in each other and we are going to stick right to that plan that we have done. And I do believe wholeheartedly you can get it done here and I refuse to think any other way. The guys that I have with me believe that also. Recruiting, that is going to help. You have got to recruit better and get guys that fit with you. But, in the meantime, we are not going to sit here and allow someone to not buy in and be a vital part of this team."

Are you comfortable with the corner position and Trae Elston?

"We basically play with three corners on the field at a time. So I know that they have him slotted at a couple different spots. I think he can play either. We'll see how much he can handle. But I think you'll see him playing our Husky position and some free safety."

Do you have a timetable from the NCAA on Channing Ward and Temario Strong?

"I wish. I wish I could expedite that process. I do feel like our people that are working with us and in compliance are pushing as hard as they can but they work on their own timetable. We do have everything in. I was hoping and had my fingers crossed I'd hear today for tomorrow. But I haven't yet, but the day is not over.  Channing's would be a little longer because he has to finish the coursework he just finished this past Tuesday. I couldn't see how it couldn't go our way."

Thoughts on the quarterback position:

"I didn't get to see them in summer but I do know they were in studying film on their own a lot. I talked to (strength and conditioning coach) Paul (Jackson) a lot and he was very, very impressed with the shape Barry Brunetti is in. He is really impressed with his worth ethic. Not that Bo Wallace did not work hard. But Barry looks like a million bucks right now, he looks good. I think Bo has an advantage on the mental side for what we are trying to do right now and the timing of things. Barry could be an athletic guy that could help us if we are struggling in some protections and maybe make some plays for us that Bo couldn't.  Which one is going to be the best for us, it's hard to say right now. Some of that has to do with the play of our tailback and at receiver also, but I just think they have different strengths right now and I really - from my gut - I don't know which way that's going to go. I'm glad we have them both.  We'll need them both.

Where does the evolution of your coaching philosophy come from?

"I'd day Tom Osborne, Bob Stoops, my dad and then talking stuff with the people I've been with. Ed Orgeron, Steve Roberts, Mike MacIntyre, guys I've had the chance to coach under. I think all of those are a melting pot of who you really become and then you really put it to your personality. The core values of who I am basically come from my family. You look at how head coaches like those guys dealt with issues and you take the good and learn from the bad that you witnessed and you make it fit you. I used to study Bob Stoops and Tom Osborne a lot, and listen to those guys and saw how they did things. I don't really know any of them but I kind of studied those guys a bit.  Ken Smith is my mentor, you don't know who he is, but he traveled this circuit for many years.  He was a 14-year Chaplin at Florida State and he was a high school coach first. Then was at South Carolina with Brad Scott and he even over in Starkville with Jackie Sherill for some time. He spends time with me every day in some way but he will spend time with our team too. Every job I've had, he comes and spends a week with us and he'll be doing that with our team soon."

Question from Twitter: How do you feel about playing the Texas Longhorns in Oxford?

"Are we, 2-0? I'm excited I think it's going to be a phenomenal atmosphere. I think it's obviously going to be a difficult challenge. They are returning a lot of players and they should be one of the top teams in the nation.  To get them here on a Saturday night, in primetime with the possibility of Gameday being here, I think is a great recruiting tool. Also, something our fans will enjoy and I know our kids will enjoy the challenge that we will have that night so we are looking forward to that."







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