Ole Miss Press Conference: 09.01

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Head coach Hugh Freeze addressed the media Monday at the Manning Center.
Head coach Hugh Freeze addressed the media Monday at the Manning Center.
Sept. 1, 2014

Ole Miss football head coach Hugh Freeze and senior quarterback Bo Wallace met with the media Monday to discuss the Rebels' Southeastern Conference opener against Vanderbilt on Saturday at LP Field (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. CT).

Head Coach Hugh Freeze

Opening statement…
“We’re thrilled to be 1-0 and to come out with a victory against the team that has had the No. 1 winning percentage in America the last 10 years. Having not played extremely well, on one side of the ball especially, and come away with the win, I was really pleased. Obviously a lot of work to get done this week and make sure we’re better prepared for Vanderbilt. Watching them in the game the other night is one of those nightmarish games that I kind of felt like I was in during the first half when we were on offense. I’m sure Coach (Derek) Mason felt the same way. Their defense played really well actually, only gave up 300-or-so yards and had a short field quite a few times. I don’t expect us to go in there and get seven turnovers from them. I’m sure they are making corrections, and I expect it to be an SEC fight like all are. Our kids have to be prepared to go to Nashville and hopefully get a second road win of the year. The defensive front for them is very talented, very physical, as are their linebackers. Offensively, they are struggling a bit in week one. What that means, I don’t know. It may not be the same in week two. They struggled just like we did for part of the game and put defense in bad positions. It’ll be a great challenge for our offense to find a way to successfully sustain drives against them, and I’m certain they will get ready to fight us hard in Nashville Saturday.”

On the true freshmen who played Thursday…
“I thought they played really well. (Demarquis) Gates and the Moore twins (A.J. and C.J.) were phenomenal on special teams. I thought Kendarius Webster was really solid at his corner position. Markell Pack didn’t show any signs of fear returning punts and a few snaps on offense. I didn’t get Rod Taylor in nearly as much as we needed to. We will this week. We’ll make sure that happens. C.J. Hampton was solid. C.J. had one bad mental error that cost us a big play down the sideline on an option pass they threw, but he was solid after that. That was his first play in. Cody’s (Prewitt) helmet came off and C.J. came in and everything was moving fast. After that he was very solid. Marquis Haynes played well. I forget he’s a freshman because he’s been with us, but he played well. Two mistakes cost us some yards, nothing big, but he was too aggressive on a couple read plays and got up the field too far. The quarterback was able to hit us on a third down play there. He got his first sack and played well. Solid player.”

On run game difficulties…
“It was certainly a struggle. We did a poor job preparing our kids. I could sit here and say it was because we weren’t sure what Boise was going to do, which is the truth. They did do some things we weren’t ready for that we hadn’t worked, but I think the way we started had as much to do with it as anything. It made us really tentative, the shifting and the verbiage going on with the defense front and us having false starts. They really took us all back a little bit. We didn’t play physical in the run game, and they had a good scheme and were committed to stopping the run. They had safeties making tackles at line of scrimmage. They were going to commit to stop that and thus the passing game had big plays in it. There are some times against certain schemes it’s hard to run it period, but it was not just the scheme. We played very tentative, and we did a poor job preparing our kids for that, and we have to get that fixed.”

On senior quarterback Bo Wallace’s passing progressions…
“He doesn’t have freedom (to come off progressions). The first one he threw is not even part of the progression. He didn’t come off the progression. He threw it to a place that shouldn’t be a part of the progression. The second one, down in the end zone, was a combination, as it’s a part of the progression, but it shouldn’t have been his first look. The receiver had really bad spacing that called for one guy to guard two. That was a combination there. The third one was a play we really liked in that situation. We ran it, and the backer made a good play and Bo didn’t see him. That was where he should start his read. The other two weren’t where the ball should go on his first read.”

On injuries…
“I think we’re OK. We had Friday as the normal Sunday for us, and we had soreness after the first game. It was a physical game. Whether they hit us or we hit them it all takes its toll on your body. We had soreness, but this morning in the staff meeting everybody is expected to go through practice with the exception of Collins Moore. Issac Gross is expected to go today, also.”

On the running backs…
“We’ll start having packages for each running back and we’ll play to their strengths. I think I’Tavius (Mathers) and (Mark) Dodson and (Jordan) Wilkins can do anything we ask them to do. Jaylen (Walton) is a favorite but when he’s in the pass protection needs to be geared toward what he can do. I’m not overly concerned. I’m more concerned if we don’t get enough adequate looks to see what they can really do. Hopefully we get a few more plays this week. The other night they didn’t have anywhere to run. We did a poor job preparing and they had a good scheme to stop the run. We didn’t play physical, and that’s a result of the stemming and noise that was being made. We jumped offsides so many times. You know what we’re saying to them, and they think they better not jump offsides so they were a little tentative. We got it fixed at halftime, but it was still not physical in the second half in the run game.”

On not overlooking Vanderbilt…
“We’re not going to overlook them. We’ll get them ready. It’s an SEC football game on the road. They have really good players, particularly on the defensive line, which is a good place to start in this league. They have quite a bit of returners. Their tailbacks, both of them, are very talented. On the offensive line, they have some good returning players. They struggled at the quarterback position the other night and put their defense in such a hole. Each time we had a change of possession watching their defense they were on the bad side of the field fighting an uphill battle. You turn it over seven times, and I don’t know who is going to win. That is what happened the other night, and I don’t expect it to happen this week. I’ve been impressed with Coach Mason as I’ve seen him around these meetings. I know he’ll have his guys ready to go.”

On defense against Boise…
“It’s easy to talk about the things that weren’t done perfectly, but we certainly thought our special teams and defense played really well — only had a few busts and again that happens in early games when you haven’t seen enough tape on somebody to really know this is the whole spectrum of who they want to be. We had a few issues there, but as far as it being a physical, tough defense, I thought we were for the whole game. We got pressure on the quarterback with just our front four which is a welcome sight. That is something we didn’t have last year after C.J. (Johnson) went absent. I thought they played extremely well and kept us in the game. Those two goal line stands were really nice, and then special teams played well so we were solid. We got four turnovers. We should be in the plus side of it by a long margin, and we’re not so we need to get that fixed, but we’re still in the plus side of it.”

On recruiting needs…
“We have needs at linebacker. We need to continue to add depth at safety, another corner, tight ends and another big receiver. I like big receivers. We’ll get one tailback, one quarterback and a bunch of offensive linemen. All those need to be addressed but obviously everybody knows on the O-line we lose a bunch in two years and we don’t have great depth right now. That has to be a priority. You always have to have great defensive linemen, also, but we’re really going to need a Mike linebacker with the loss of Deterrian (Shackelford) and Christian (Russell) being a senior. We’re going to need a guy to play some there.”

On Derrick Jones…
“There’s great competition there (at cornerback). The other guys are playing really well, not that he didn’t play well. We’ll need him before the year is up, but the great thing about football is you get to compete. We certainly try to play the best kids out there, and we love Derrick. I expect him to play a lot of football for us before his time is over. Right now the others, Senquez (Golson) and Kendarius Webster and those are playing pretty solid. There are some things Derrick is better at than they are. They didn’t really threaten us, but if we get in the red zone against big receivers you’ll see Derrick. There are certain things he has to continue to improve on. But it’s nothing he’s done wrong. There’s just great competition there.”

On Wallace’s decision making…
“Our relationship has matured, and I think I’m easier on him than I used to be, and maybe I shouldn’t be, but I didn’t think that was working either. I think he was pressing the other night, and I’m hopeful that’s over with and you’ll see more like the second half when we didn’t have any of that. I’m hopeful that will carry over. I’m not exasperated with him. Obviously, I was disappointed. I was disappointed for him. He wants to do better than anybody, and I’m not going to beat him up over it. The guy has done a lot of great things for us and played a really good second half the other night. We just have to keep coaching him and making sure on Thursday, like we always do, that he understands each package. If he doesn’t understand it, then we don’t carry it. It’s his job then to make sure he goes out there and executes it. He didn’t in the first half like we’d like to see, but you don’t have to tell him that. He understands that. I hope its part of him pressing and maybe too emotional or so ready to play again. I hope that’s what it was and we see the Bo we saw in the second half carry over to Saturday.”

On sophomore Huskie Tony Conner’s improvement…
“He’s always been a good player and is athletic, but he’s doing much better in pass drops than he did last year. He has always been physical, but he made several really nice plays getting underneath stuff that caused the quarterback to make bad throws. He continues to improve mentally and physically. He’s been gifted from day one.”

On junior defensive end Channing Ward…
“To be perfectly candid, the game is why he played more. He plays better in the games than he practices. He played well the other night. I will tell you a main reason was one of their players made a comment to him that he didn’t like too much. It was quite funny, but it upset Channing. Channing maybe played a little better. He plays better in the game. We rotate that defensive line to keep it fresh. We have two afternoon games coming this Saturday and next. You have to keep them fresh. He keeps producing in games like that and he’ll certainly keep playing.”

On junior linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche returning from suspension…
“Last year, after the knee injury and surgery after the Vanderbilt game, I don’t know that he ever recovered. He always had a little gimp in his leg, and I don’t see that during fall camp. I see a kid who is hungry to play and hungry to prove himself again. He has gone through everything with us, and he’s ready to play. It’s just a matter of getting the game plan down this week. He and Serderius (Bryant) will split time at that spot.  I’m sure we’ll have a third-down package for both of them on the field. We’re excited to have him back. You saw the other night we had him out and then Serderius goes out and then Keith (Lewis) goes out and we’re playing our fourth team stinger in walk-on Tayler Polk, who by the way played really well. We’ll need them all before it’s over. We’re glad to have him back and hopefully he’s learned valuable lessons from all he has been through. He values the opportunity he has to change that. Hopefully we’ll continue to see that.”

On senior linebacker Serderius Bryant’s availability vs. Vanderbilt…
“I need clarification, but I’m pretty sure if it’s in the first half you sit out the rest of that game and then you play again the next game. If it’s the second half it would have affected it.”

On sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche’s number of snaps Thursday…
“He probably played too many plays. I talked to Coach (Chris) Kiffin about that yesterday. We have to make sure – it’s hard to make yourself in a tight game pull him off the field, but you benefit him in the fourth quarter being a better, fresher player and obviously in the weeks to come, so we have to continue to watch that closely.”

On junior defensive back Mike Hilton…
“Mike is a little different animal because the smaller, athletic guys can handle more of that, but he has a lot on his plate because he’s on a lot of special teams, and he plays Huskie and he plays corner. We won’t monitor that like we do the big guys. We might this week if we see how hot it is. And we’re trying to bring the Moore twins along to give Hilton a break on special teams. I just wasn’t sure they’d be ready in every scenario in week one.”

On the pass rush…
“You have to start on the defensive line in this league. If the defensive line can get pressure without additional people from the back end and back seven it’s very advantageous if that can happen. The guys we have are taking great pride in calling themselves the Rush Men and hopefully that can continue on. I stand here today and can’t tell you how good we are. I don’t know how good Boise is. I don’t know. But I know we’re 1-0 and we have a chance to get better this week, and that’s what we are excited about. At this moment, I’m really pleased with the defensive line.”

Senior QB Bo Wallace

On his game against Boise State…
“I made plays. I feel like I played good except for three throws. In big-time games like we’re about to get into, especially SEC games, you throw three (interceptions) in the first half and you’re probably down by three scores. I’ve just got to get better at that. In the second half, I was just taking what they game me. We started scoring points once that started happening.”

On pressing in the first half…
“It was the first game.  I feel as healthy as I have, and I was trying to make a statement with my play. I was forcing the balls in places that I shouldn’t have thrown it. Going forward I know what I have to do. I have to play the way I did in the second half, check the ball down and take my completions. Especially with our backs, with those check downs, we were getting 20-25 yards a pop on the check downs. I’ve got to get the check downs and let my guys do what they do.”

On confidence with healthy shoulder and taking chances…
“When I saw it there, I wanted to take it. I just have to scale back and play within the offense. I just have to take care of the ball.”

On the fourth quarter…
“We were moving the ball the whole game. We were racking up yards.  The turnovers in their territory were just killing us. Once we weren’t turning the ball over and jumping offside, that’s when we started putting up points.”

On junior wide receiver Cody Core…
“I remember when he came in as a freshman we thought he had the ability to play. We just had so many great guys in front of him. It was his opportunity to get in the game and make some plays. He did that. It was nothing that surprised us. We’ve always felt like he’s had great ability.”

On false starts…
“It was frustrating. It was them (Boise State) moving and shifting and making calls. You watch it on film and it was something they were trying to do. It was something they were blatantly trying to get us to jump on. It’s something we’ll work on, and I don’t expect to see it again this week.

On the run game…
“A couple of times I could have checked to a different run from watching the film. That could have helped us. Other times we’ve got to get a better push on the offensive line and guys have to hit the holes.”

On redshirt freshman running back Jordan Wilkins…
“He had a big third down run where he pushed the pile. He’s physical. He’s done a great job from his freshman year to this year in the physicality of the run game. He’s going to be a weapon for us. We just have to get a better push on the offensive line. I’m sure Coach (Matt) Luke and those guys will be ready for Saturday.”

On getting sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell involved…
“Defensively, it was one-on-ones. He’s 6-3, 230. Anytime I get one-on-one coverage, that’s what I want for Laquon. They were giving us that so we were taking it.”

On bounce back…
“I was sore just from first game. It was the first time I’ve been hit. I’m good now. I feel fine.”

On quarterback and run game…
“With ours, we have so many pass reads with it. If they give us too much in the box, check into a different run play that we like versus that look. Watching the film, I didn’t realize we could have checked some things and done some things better. That’s what a quarterback can do, check the run game.”
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