Hugh Freeze Press Conference: 08.26



Aug 26, 2013

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media Monday and discussed the Rebels' season opener at Vanderbilt on Thursday.

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Opening statement: 

"We're excited about getting another season started. Opening the season with a conference game like Vanderbilt, in Nashville, is something that's certainly grabbed the attention of our staff and our kids. As I'm certain it has their kids and their staff. To open the college season on opening night on national TV is somewhat of a responsibility our staff and our kids have to this great university to represent it well. We don't take that lightly. We're very motivated. We've spent an enormous amount of time preparing, hopefully to go in with a very young football team in an environment with a very mature football team. That's somewhat of an unknown with how our young kids will perform. We don't get a warm-up shot with a tune-up game. We're going to have to do it for real in a tough environment against a team that's proven over the last few years that that opening game with them at home is something they're always ready for. No question Coach Franklin and his staff have his kids ready to play. They're a play or two away from knocking a top-10 team off last year. It's going to be a great challenge. It's one we're very excited about."

On answering questions from spring during fall camp:

"Recruiting helped clear it up more than August practice, in getting them reps and preparing for the opener. We're going to play a lot of young kids. Last year we played a lot of young kids. We're playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores. We have a few leadership seniors in some key spots. We'll need them to settle us down at times. It's helped. We're still thin at some spots. I don't look at our depth chart right now and say we're totally there. We're not at where I perceive SEC depth charts to be. We're better than we were this time last year. I don't know if that will equate to more wins or not, but it was a step in the right direction."

On offensive tempo during fall camp versus this time last year:

"We're a lot more comfortable in it. We do have some young offensive linemen that are not used to it that we're going to have to play. They'll probably be much like the ones were last year. There are times this last week where I thought that our tempo was good. I don't know if you'll get to see that Thursday night, it depends on our first down production and our third down conversions. We would like to get into it as much as we can. It will probably force us to play some young kids early in the game to make sure it's going to be fresh. It's going to be a warm day. I feel good about where our tempo is."

On considering redshirting young tailbacks due to a lot of depth:

"Of course we're considering it. In this conference, when you're playing 22-year-old men that have been around your program for a long time, it's advantageous for you. We would always consider that. We have six quality players there, which is what most SEC schools have. You're always contemplating redshirting some. At the same time, that's a position where you could lose three guys in a matter of a quarter with ankles or sprains here and there. It's very difficult to determine exactly what's going to happen there.  We've been very upfront and clear there with the families that that's a possibility. We look at that as a good thing. You get five years to stay at Ole Miss if you get redshirted. You probably want to stay there as long as you can. We're considering that for sure. There's no way we can say at a position like tailback exactly what will happen."

On preparing for season opener without having this year's game film:  

"The good thing in this case is the staff is still there. With the success they've had, I can't imagine them changing a lot from what they've done. They've won a lot of football games the last few years. We're pretty much creatures of habit. I can't imagine them changing a lot that they do, and they're returning a lot of seniors. Defensively, they're loaded with experience. They have the same coordinator back, so that's going to be similar. Offensively, it's a little bit of a challenge. We don't have a lot of film on the quarterback that they're playing. We've watched his high school tape and the games he played in last year, of course. We've watched a little bit from when he was at his previous school. He's a very athletic kid and can throw it. He could be a really good player. You really haven't seen a lot of him to know. That's a little bit more of a challenge there. They have two great receivers in Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews. We're preparing for both. I know they have an issue with one of those. We're preparing to play both."

On relief for cornerbacks if Boyd remains suspended:

"I would hope so. They may have another one sitting in the wings. They'll have another talented kid, I'm sure. James has had a few years to recruit there, and he's proven that he's a very good recruiter. I know he hasn't set around and not recruited someone to play in case of injuries. They've got good players. Boyd and Matthews have proven what they can do in this conference. You would hope that it eases some of the stress that it puts on your defense, but that's really speculation. I don't know exactly what the other guys are like."

On possibility of multiple defensive packages:

"I can't imagine Dave (Wommack) being anymore multiple than he is. We've seen about everything you can see through fall camp. If you can imagine it, we probably have it in some form or facet. He can't carry it all in a game. We're as multiple as you can get defensively."

On struggling to score against Vanderbilt in the red zone last year:  

"They brought a ton of field pressures, which is very difficult to run against in some of the sets we like to run. There are some ways to run against it, if you want to take the time to doctor it up. You can't play fast and do that. The amount of pressures that they were bringing against us kind of dictated what we would do. I've watched that game too many times to count. The difference in that game is we did not produce in the tight red zone. We'll give them credit. They had a good plan. All year long they were good in red zone defense. We had to settle for way too many field goals. We've worked extremely hard to figure out ways to get it in the end zone against those guys. The entire year we were excellent. We were one of the top-two in the conference in red zone scoring. That night, we couldn't get it in the end zone. That's one of the key matchups to watch in the game. If we're fortunate enough to get it down there, are we coming away with six points instead of three, some of the time at least?

On whether or not the team is glad it's game week: 

"There's no question. Our coaches are glad, and several of our kids text me this morning. I've seen some of their tweets. Everyone is excited about it. I'm sure Vandy is too. We're ready to go play and find our how we're going to start the season. This is year two of the journey. I have no idea what the results will be, but I do believe our kids are going to play extremely hard.

On the evolution of Jordan Holder:

"We have a commitment service every year at some point. We honored five walk-ons with scholarships, and Jordan was a unanimous selection from our coaching staff. He's just had a phenomenal camp. He loves Ole Miss. He's three hours away from graduation. He's going to get his degree. With the injuries of Korvic Neat and Vince Sanders, Jordan has become in our two-deep roster on offense. He's going to get quite a bit of minutes. He's played extremely well."

On the importance of Ole Miss-Vanderbilt game:

"It's really important. The one time I was around Pete Carroll, he gave me a piece of advice that I'll never forget, do not ever make too much out of one game. It's just one game. If you balance that with what you're saying, there's no question it's very important. I do think at the situation we're in with year two, we have to be very careful to continue to focus on the only thing that we can control. That's how we can prepare today. We start it all over next week. It's a long season. There are a lot of games.  I do believe we're talented enough to beat some teams. It is a big game."

On expectations of atmosphere in Nashville:  

"I'd be extremely disappointed if Ole Miss didn't turn out very, very strong in Nashville. I think you'll see our folks show up. I don't know how many tickets we have. I know Ross watches all of that. I know our folks will show up."

On current injury situation:

"We're as good as we've been. As you guys know, the guys who have had some surgeries from the spring semester, some of them missed considerable amounts of practice time. Yesterday we had everybody out there with the exception of Vince Sanders and Korvic Neat, who have had surgeries. We're optimistic that everybody's going to be ready to go."

On status of Senquez Golson and Charles Sawyer:

"For all of camp, Charles has been doing conditioning. The last week we turned him loose. The last few practices he's been in a normal jersey and playing. Senquez is not quite that way. He started Friday and was not as far along condition wise as Charles is. Quintavius (Burdette) will get the start. He's earned that. Senquez will come in. We'll see how the game goes. Charles is prepared to play both boundary and field corner."

On readiness of some of the freshmen:

"Physically, those guys are as ready as any freshmen I've ever seen, Robert (Nkemdiche) and Laquon (Treadwell) to a certain extent. Tony (Antonio) Connor gives us flexibility. Whether they're in their 21-personnel or their 10-personnel, he's a physical enough guy that we don't have to change our personnel defensively. He's a good fit for this game. You're not sure how they're going to respond when the lights come on and you're on national TV. Not only is it a college game, it's an SEC game. You look at Robert, he plays with such passion, like his brother does. Some of the time he is so determine he's going to win his one-on-one that he may compromise the integrity of the defense. We're going to have some of that. We had it last year. So many people did their own thing. They were young kids. We have to try to calm him down. As he's playing with great zeal and great passion, that he play within the system. We have to make sure the integrity of what's called, stays in tact. That's your biggest concern. It's not the physical stuff. They'll matchup fine. Laquon is the same way. He missed a few days will a little bruise on his leg. He came back yesterday. You could tell when we tried to go a little more up-tempo, he wasn't as fast as he's been. These next two to three days preparing for him are going to be critical. Tony is pretty calm, and I think he's going to play well. All of them are going to play well. Early on, we have to watch how they're handling the emotion of it."

On which freshman QB will travel:

"We're going to travel Devante (Kincade) to this game. I'm very excited about both of those freshmen quarterbacks. Ryan Buchanan has played outstanding. He needs to increase his arm strength and some fundamentals. Devante is a little more experienced at it. He's played in something similar to it. I hope I don't have to play him in the game. He would probably be the most prepared to go in and move the offense right now. Long term, I'm excited about both."

On Robert Nkemdiche:

"(Chris) Kiffin thinks he's improved quite a bit on the little things and improving his craft. There's certainly a long way to go. There's no question he's improved from the beginning of camp until now. When you get in those live situations and you evaluate his grade sheet, you don't see any loafs. The guy plays with great effort. You might see some MA's. They have increased a little in those live scrimmages as opposed to practice. In my mind, how is he going to react Thursday night when things get real, real heated? Physically he'll be fine. He'll matchup well. We just have to watch him."

On Andrew Ritter:

"He's been real consistent this week. It's been kind of up and down. We're thrilled we have him. We love his kickoffs. Hopefully we don't have to defend too many because he kicks them so deep. I'm excited to see how he does. Yesterday, he was awesome. He missed one out of 12. I'm excited about having him and Tyler (Campbell). They'll be added weapons to us."

On keys to game:

"When you look at the game, you see a mature experienced team versus a young inexperienced team. How our young kids handle something good that happens to Vandy. They're going to do something well. It's going to cause us to either settle in and do our deal, or it's going to cause some young kids to get rattled. Hopefully we've done a decent job at preparing them and that won't be the case. I do think that's one of the keys to the game, how our young kids handle it when good things happen to Vandy. Turnovers are always huge. Are we able to stop the run and not give up the big play? I think we're going to move the football. I always feel that we have a chance to do that. We've got to score touchdowns. Defensively, we've got to stop the run while not giving up big plays. At the end of last year, we were really good against stopping the run. We gave up way too many explosive plays."

On confidence in positions:

"I feel the most confident about our receivers. The area that concerns me the most is secondary. We're not very deep back there. Some of our more mature kids have not gotten a lot of reps in camp. We're going to be playing a lot of young kids back there. Depth is an issue there."

On starters at guard:

I think Matt (Luke) is going to start Justin Bell and Aaron Morris. You'll see Jared Duke and Austin Golson. All four of those guys are going to be in there. You'll possibly see Patrick Junen, also."

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