Ole Miss Press Conference: 08.25

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Aug. 25, 2014

Ole Miss football head coach Hugh Freeze and quarterback Bo Wallace met with the media Monday to discuss the Rebels' season opener against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta's Georgia Dome (Thursday, 7 p.m. CT., ESPN).

Head Coach Hugh Freeze

Opening statement…

“We’re excited that it’s almost here. It’s been an odd camp for me; this is my first camp to not have school until after three weeks. As coaches, you always sit around and think about how to handle those. The last thing you want to give your kids in fall camp is free time. We’ve tried to get all of our work done and at the same time keep their attention and keep them busy throughout the three weeks of camp. I’m glad that school started today. Our kids are in class and going about the normal business of a student-athlete. I’m really excited to kick it off. I know our kids are ready. I’m sure Coach (Bryan) Harsin’s kids are also ready to go. Opening up with a team like Boise in the Georgia Dome on national TV is a great opportunity for both teams. Their teams have embraced this type of atmosphere in the past. We’ve witnessed that on film, and I saw it when it happened with them. They understand winning. They have for many years. Over the last 10 years, their program has the No. 2 winning percentage in college football. No question in my mind that they’ll be prepared and anxious for the opportunity to play us. Our kids will embrace it, also. They’re excited about the challenge and also about the opportunity.”

On challenges Coach Harsin has entering his first game as Boise State’s head coach…

“He just experienced it last year at Arkansas State. Anytime you go into your first game, they’re much alike at different programs. He’s probably having the same emotions he had when he was the head coach for the first time. Now he’s back at a place that’s dear to his past and that’s kind of home. When I came back here the first game, I certainly learned a lot of things. To come back to a place that’s very dear to you, you know the results matter. I’m sure he feels the same way. There’s some anxiousness probably, and certainly a desire to deliver a product that makes the people proud. He’s probably battling some emotions. I still do that every year. I found myself yesterday feeling very anxious to get going. I’m sure he’s dealing with some of the same things.”

On preparing for various looks from Boise State (and their new coaching staff) …

“That’s the most difficult thing. That’s probably why I’m a bit more anxious. We sat in the offensive staff room and we go through our call sheet. ‘What do we like here the most?’ The response has been way too much, ‘Well, what are they going to do?’ The coordinator that he hired on the defense, Coach (Marcel) Yates, has never coordinated before. He’s been with some good people. When you get your deal, you’ll put your flavor to it. We really don’t know what that is. We’ve studied quite a bit of every staff he’s been on and there are a lot of different things. You can bet they’ll be sound at what they do. It will take some adjustment as the game goes on to find out kind of how they want to play us. It’s not the easiest thing. From our defensive side, it might be a bit easier, but it’s still not as comfortable as you would like for it to be. Coach Harsin has been an offensive guy so you would think that it will have his flavor to it, also. His coordinator is coming from Stanford. You would think you would have a mixture of that. We’ve tried to prepare for all of that. It is a bit more difficult than if a staff was returning for sure.”

On evaluating red zone performance…

“We did quite a bit in the offseason. We studied teams who did it well. We’ve been very good until last year in the red zone. You’ve got to be able to run the ball some. Some of the defenses that you’re getting down there now make it very difficult to throw it all the time. You’ve got to find ways to throw the football. That means your offensive line has to be able to handle a lot of different looks down there in their goal line packages. We’ve just tried to come up with the packages we felt like were very sound and hopefully our kids execute them better. We certainly got a few ideas in the offseason on how we can make something we do better. We just go through doing red zone in there and we’re just not sure. We don’t know. We’re going to have to be flexible and go in with something we feel like has a chance against all of it.”

On Tee Shepard rehabbing and Christian Morris’ and Damore’ea Stringfellow’s eligibility…

“Tee Shepard’s surgery went really well. The doctors feel good about it. He’s back in class today and starting rehab tomorrow. He’s got a bright smile on his face. He has one of the best smiles on campus. He’s doing well. I sure wish he was going with us to play corner. He’ll get through this and get ready for next season.”

On Christian Morris’ and Damore’ea Stringfellow’s eligibility…

“We have not heard any final word from the NCAA on Christian or Stringfellow. At this late juncture, it’s very difficult. We would have a hard time getting them prepared to play.”

On Bo Wallace using negative talk as motivation…

“It’s different for each guy. What motivates one may not motivate the other. Bo is pretty self-motivated. He hasn’t shared that with me. I heard some talk of that on social media. I think he’s just hungry to go out and prove that he can have a better year than he had last year and the one before that. He had two pretty good ones. Obviously he knows the areas where he needs to improve. If that’s something he can use to motivate himself, I’m all for it. I’m thrilled that we have him. I like the demeanor he has right now. I like the leadership he’s trying to show and the way he’s studying film. It’s his last chance and he has a chance to do something special, and when you talk about putting him in the arena of breaking records from a guy like Eli Manning that’s pretty lofty. He has those chances. I hope that motivates him if that’s what he feels. I think knowing him, if he takes it to be that, it would motivate him.”

On Cody Prewitt’s experience in the secondary…

“He’s a good player. We all know that. We feel very comfortable when he’s in the game that the back end will be on the same page. That’s not always how it’s been in some close games with some mistakes made. With his maturity right now, I’d be shocked if he’s not yelling and screaming to get it right because he understands what we’re trying to do very, very well. We feel comfortable that he can help us on the back end. There’s a lot of motion shifts that Boise likes to throw at you. He’ll certainly have to be the leader back there to communicate all of those adjustments we have to make.”

On depth at wide receiver…

“The guys we’ll depend on in this game are, of course, Laquon (Treadwell) and Vince (Sanders), along with Cody (Core), Quincy (Adeboyejo) and Markell (Pack). Hopefully we can stay healthy there. Those guys will carry the bulk of the load. Q (Quintavius Burdette) will be the next inside guy after those. Trey Bledsoe would be the next outside guy. At this point, we’re hopeful that Collins (Moore) will be back next week. I think Dayall Harris will be a great player. I would hate to burn his redshirt in game one if Collins is coming back. Hopefully we can get through this game. Collins is running now and looks pretty good. I don’t think he’ll be ready for Thursday, but hopefully he’ll be ready for week two. Cody Core has had a phenomenal camp and deserves to be where he is on the depth chart.”

On checking tendencies…

“We do an offensive evaluation after every year. We know exactly how many times we ran something out of a certain formation and what its success ratio was. If you look at the stats, we went way up in year one from the year before I got here and last year we improved even more, everywhere except red zone scoring. That’s something we’ve paid the most attention to. Last year, we improved everywhere except for red zone scoring. That’s something we’ve paid most attention to. Both years we’ve been very balanced - 52-48 percent (offense-defense) last year. As long as you stay balanced and as long as you’re giving different looks, it’s hard. If you’re averaging 480-500 yards per game, you’re doing really well. We don’t tinker too much with what we do. We may try to find another smoke in mirrors way to disguise it. The main focus has been on us on third down efficiency, don’t turn the ball over and we have to score in the red zone. Touchdowns a large percentage of the time would be nice. At the end of the year last year, we had some field goals that could have made some differences and we didn’t covert those either.”

On whether or not the team accomplished everything they wanted to during fall camp…

“Our kids are hungry. We’re excited about our plans. We like what we do. We like our kids. We like that we’re deeper at some places. Hate we lost Chief (Brown), Tee and Carlos (Davis) for the year. We have to next man up and get ready to play the next guy. There’s no question we’re definitely deeper. We have to look out for C.J. Johnson now. When we lost him last year, our pass rush struggled to win some one-on-ones. Marquis Haynes gives us another burst off the edge, as does Fadol Brown. I’m really excited about us being able to put some pressure on guys without having to bring a lot of people. Our secondary has improved. We’ll see when we get into a game how they do and how we hold up at corner. We’ll miss Tee. We’ll miss his length. He’s a long corner that you feel like could win a bunch of one-on-ones. There are other guys that are anxious to step in that spot. We got everything accomplished. It’s now time to make sure they’re fresh for Thursday night and get ready to go.”

On if Boise State is the hardest team to scout…

“It’s been the hardest game for me to prepare for that I remember. I’ve had to do this one other time, but when you opened up you didn’t have new coordinators and you had some common opponents and people you could call. In this case, it really hasn’t been that way. It has been rather difficult to pinpoint our first down calls. ‘Well, what if they do this? Then we probably need to be calling something else.’ We’ll have to do some checks and it may slow us down some early just to see what’s going on and try to get a feel for them.”

On expectations for the tempo of the offense…

“You don’t want to call plays that don’t have a good chance of succeeding. We’ll have some grade plays, which to us those are go plays regardless of what they’re in. Those will try to win first down and get them into some tempo. It does weigh on your mind. How fast you really want to go until you figure out what they’re doing? We’ll get a feel for them. We definitely want to get into tempo. We’ll have those calls that we feel good about and that are good, sound things against whatever they’re doing. Hopefully we’ll get some of those called early and have some success in rhythm.”

On Cody Prewitt’s comments about team not being prepared in close games last season…

“It’s just part of the maturing process and the journey we’re on. We played so many young kids last year and we’re playing young kids this year, too. The leadership in our locker room has changed: Another year in the program; another year of being together; another year of the coaching staff staying together and the continuity that’s expressed around our building probably makes those kids feel that way. We still, just two years ago, inherited a program that hadn’t won an SEC game in two years. A lot of those kids had to go through this. You’re looking at the scoreboard and you have a lot of emotions that go through with some plays that cost us some critical things at the end of the close games. They found a way to win a few, too. The whole experience to their past to what we’ve done the last two years, has led people like Cody to feel that way. He’s been through the good, bad, ugly and some of both all the time. Now I think he sees himself as we have some guys that know we can win.”

On Issac Gross’ availability for game one…

“Issac practiced yesterday. We’re hopeful and confident. I got a report earlier that he had been in treatment room and didn’t feel any extra soreness from practice. We’ll test him out again today and see how he’s doing. Everyone else is ready to go that’s not out for the year.”

On Mississippi junior college football league…

“It’s a huge importance to us. We think that Mississippi JUCOs are arguably at least equal to the best in the nation. Being right here in state with us is something that’s a priority for us when we try to go that route to fill needs. The coaches in this league do a phenomenal job. Every year, we’ve been fortunate to be able to go in and get some of those kids that we have an immediate need at that position for. We’re blessed to have them in our state for sure. It gives us an advantage, I think.”

On remote places producing a lot of talent…

“It’s more that those coaches did a great job recruiting those kids to come there. There are only limited places that junior colleges have scholarship football programs. That attracts some from the necessity of need that they have to have. The commitment that those programs in those places have made to football and the relationship they have with their coaches and the ability that they have to get them out to go back to a Division I school is always in their decisions. They’ve got some great bologna sandwiches down in Five Points in Scooba, too, if you’ve never been there.”

On what freshmen will get significant snaps Thursday night…

“Rod Taylor, Marquis Haynes, C.J. Hampton. The Moore (A.J. and C.J) brothers will play on every special team. A.J. will be the backup Huskie. DeMarquis Gates will play. (Kendarius) Webster will play. Markell Pack just kind of depends on how the game goes. I expect him to play this year.”

On having leaders like Deterrian Shackelford on defense…

“I’m Excited. D.T. is as healthy as he’s been since I’ve been here. He wants to win in the worst kind of way, if he can just control his emotions. You want them to play with an edge. As long as he controls his emotions and his head’s in the right place, get our front set right, he won’t miss a beat. Christian (Russell) is a tremendous athlete. He doesn’t understand everything quite as well or as quickly as D.T. does. He can make up for some mistakes because he runs so well. He’s coming on in both regards. Both are going to be solid players.”

On Shackelford coming back for a sixth year and how far he’s come…

“He went two years without doing anything. When he first came back out, I seriously doubted whether or not he was ready to play last year. At the end of the year, we started seeing flashes of it. He worked so hard in the offseason to get himself to this point. In fall camp, he’s as healthy as I’ve seen him. There were times where I seriously doubted if he would get back to where he used to be.”

On Mike Hilton playing corner or Huskie…

“Mike Hilton is primary at corner now. Some of that would depend on what personnel we’re facing. He’s prepared to play both, depending on the personnel we get. You’ll see him at both before the year is over. We feel like A.J. is ready to play, should we need him to.”

On having fewer freshmen playing this year than previous two…

“Those are the conversations you have to have with them. They all want to play. When you sit down and explain to them the benefits of redshirting, most understand it. This circus around recruiting now and the social media and everything that builds these kids up to be something so, so phenomenal - they are good players, but when they get to the real world of this level of football, there are also a lot of good players here. We hope that continues to where we don’t have to play as many. Academically it is something that can be very beneficial to those young men. And physically. When you’re playing with a number of seniors that are now fifth-year seniors that are now 22, 23 years old, that’s a different ball game and they’re much more mature. It’s not the easiest thing for them to initially embrace. There may be more that we have to play. Breeland Speaks is going to be a great player. You want to do right by the kid. If we end up staying healthy there and he ends up having four years remaining, it may be the best for him. He’s traveling because you never know what’s going to happen with those trench guys. It’s a conversation we have openly with them to let them know where we are. We’ve had C.J. Moore who we’ve debated on. We were planning on redshirting him, then Carlos goes down, who was our best special teams cover guy. We think he can fill that role. We had the conversation with him and his dad just to see how they felt and let them have a couple days to mull it over, knowing that they may not play a lot on defense unless there are some injuries. You’ll play them every special team. He wants to play with his brother. We’re going to play him.”

On Boise State…

“They’re a great team. I’m really impressed on offense with 2 (Matt Miller) and 11 (Shane William-Rhodes). 27 (Jay Ajayi), that tailback, is the real deal. Those two receivers can play on any team. The quarterback is a really good player, too. He can run and throw. Their offensive line is a bit like ours, a bit unproven. Their corners, 1 (Bryan Douglas), 5 (Donte Deayon) and 9 (Mercy Maston), are really good. They’ll play all three of them. They can run. They’re great punt returners, kick returners. 51 (Ben Weaver), he plays like D.T., all over the field. He makes tackle, after tackle, after tackle. The defensive end, number 53 Beau Martin, is the returning sack leader for them. The kicking game is returning all of their guys that are really, really good. Their punter does a phenomenal job of kicking it away from you and putting it on the ground and making it roll. Their place kicker was really solid, one of the top in the nation last year. They’re a solid football team. It’s going to be a great challenge.”

Senior QB Bo Wallace

Opening statement…

“I’m ready for some competition and to go out there and compete and see what we have this season.”

On the difference for him between the start of this season compared to the two previous seasons…

”My confidence. I have a lot more confidence this year because I feel like I have had a great camp. Last year, I felt like I didn’t have a good camp at all. It took me two or three weeks to really get back in the groove of things. From day one, I felt good, and I still feel good. I’m excited about going out there and playing.”

On what impressed him about the Boise State defense on film…

“They all play hard. They have been in this position a lot. They have played in more of these type games than we have. They will come out trying to beat an SEC team. They are going to try to get after us, so we have to come out prepared from the start of the game.”

On school and Southeastern Conference records as motivation…

“It definitely motivates me, but I feel like I have the guys around me if I just get them the ball. Laquon (Treadwell)’s going to make big plays. Vince (Sanders), all of those guys are going to make big plays. One thing that no quarterback has ever done here is win an SEC Championship (Game). I want to be the first one to do that, and that’s the most important thing to me.”

On execution in the red zone…

“We have put some different things in that can make us better. Having Evan (Engram) down there and the matchups he creates with linebackers and things like that can be huge for us in the red zone this year. That’s going to be huge for us, if we can come away with touchdowns in the red zone. I think we’ll have a good plan for that. We will have guys who can go up and make plays on the ball.”

On his maturation…

”I just think I have matured. It’s crazy. You see your last year coming and you see your goals that you want to accomplish. You kind of self-reflect and look at things in the past that may have held you back from those things. For me, it was self-reflection and looking at what I want to accomplish and what I want to be remembered for. There were some things that I needed to cut out and grow up with, and that’s what the difference has been.”

On the development of the offensive line during camp…

“I feel a lot better than I thought would feel. I feel good behind them. Honestly, I feel like, especially going against our D-line like they have to every day, they will prepared for anything that they will go against this year. I’m comfortable back there behind them.”

On preparing to play Boise State’s defense…

“It’s difficult just because we have had to look at two teams and three different years of film to get a feel for what they’re going to do. But at the same time, that tempo can help us if they come at us with something totally different. We can just go to tempo and that’s what I’m comfortable with and that’s what I think our offense is comfortable in.”

On this defense being the best Ole Miss defense he has faced in practice…

“I think no doubt, especially on the D-line. I don’t see many D-lines in the conference being as good as our D-line. They’re pretty phenomenal.”

On his junior college football experience…

“It was definitely humbling. You go down there and you don’t really know what to expect. You see all these great athletes on your team that have different situations that put them back, but it was fun. It was a lot of fun. Looking back, it was one of the best years I have ever had in my life. It was fun to play with those guys. It was something I definitely don’t regret.”

On life in Scooba when he was at East Mississippi CC…

”I would actually think of it this way: I would think I have to make it these next four days here because I would leave after the game on Thursday since we didn’t have class on Friday, so really, it was like a week-to-week thing to just try to get through it.”

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