Hugh Freeze Press Conference: 09.16

Hugh Freeze

Hugh Freeze

Sept. 16, 2013

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media on Monday and discussed the Rebels' road win at Texas and plans for the bye week.

Full Video of Press Conference

BLOG: Wallace On Decision-Making, Tempo (with Wallace, Scott, Freeze Video)

Opening statement: 

"We've been grinding this morning on self-scouting to try and figure out what we're doing well, what we're not doing well and what our tendencies are to try and get ready for the next stretch of games we have. It's a very difficult stretch. To go to Texas and play with young kids in that environment, in front of 101,000 against a tradition-rich program that has athletes to play, was a great experience builder for our kids. Having come from behind at Vandy and at Texas now, in that atmosphere, will hopefully be some building blocks that we can reflect back upon and gain some valuable experience from. I'm very proud of our staff and our kids' effort. The second half was one of the better halves that we've played here at Ole Miss. I'm just really pleased with the way that they handled everything that came their way. We obviously have to go to Alabama and Auburn now in back-to-back weeks. Then we have (Texas) A&M and LSU right on their heels. It has to be the toughest stretch of games that anyone will have to play this year. We need this open week. We need to get people healthy. We need everyone that is able and eligible to be ready to go for these games. This week comes at a good time."

On the open week: 

"If I could design it, it would have been after Alabama, just because it would break that four-game stretch up a little bit. It is what it is. It's not a bad time, that's for sure. We've got some kids that we really need to get healthy. It also gives us extra time to look at ourselves and see how we can break our tendencies and our self-scouting. It gives us more time to study our opponent, also."

On things the team did well and struggles in the second quarter: 

"The second quarter was pretty simple. We had three possessions in the second quarter. The first one we had a holding call that put us behind the chains. We weren't able to convert there. The next one was a poor call by me that got us behind the chains. I got a little greedy. The third one was ball that slipped out of Bo (Wallace)'s hand. It could have been a 75-yard touchdown. We got the play and the coverage we wanted. We had the guy wide open running down the seam, but we turned it over. That was the three possessions we had in the second quarter, with the exception of the 20-second possession at the end of the quarter. That means a couple of things. One, we're not very good when we don't win first down. We've said that. You can't turn the ball over. When you have a chance to make an explosive play, you've got to make it. I've got to be more consistent and not get too greedy to get ahead. The second thing that means is they held the ball too long. We were not giving ourselves enough opportunity in that quarter. That's what happened. They weren't going to lie down. They are Texas and they play in a pretty good league. I'm sure they've been down 14 points before. They're going to make adjustments. They're going to fight, and they're going to battle. The same thing happened at Vanderbilt. We all want to know why you're not doing as well. Well, they've got players, too. They're going to line up and play you the whole time. That's part of it, too. They're going to rally."

On the defense in the second half vs. the first:

"They were bouncing the zone either to the front side or bringing it out the back side. We weren't stopping it effectively. That was creating for them a lot of second and shorts. That's tough to be a defensive play caller in second and short. You need to win first down there, also. You have to stop the run or it can be a long night. We really didn't feel like they could throw the ball consistently. We felt like our chances were really good if we could force them to throw the ball. We had to find a way to stop that. Dave (Wommack) and his staff did a good job of stopping that. We simplified quite a bit. We just said, `maybe we're giving them too much credit.' Let's just let our young kids play and see how they do, play some base coverages. The effort that our kids played with in the second half was phenomenal. We tackled well; we ran the football; we were in the right spot with the exception of one play. There was one play in the second half where we had some bad eyes and they got a little bender route open on us. That was the only play I could find where we weren't in the right spot with the scheme that was called. That's what I was most proud of. I told the staff that. Now we're getting our kids to be in the right spot. If they make the play great, but sometimes another team makes a play. I feel much better when we're in the right spots. That's what happened in the second half, and they played with great effort."

On Mike Hilton

"He played really well. He graded out high. I think that's going to be his spot right now. We'll get Charles (Sawyer) back. They'll share that spot. We'll move Dehendret (Collins) back to the husky position to give Tony (Conner) and Cliff (Coleman) a little help there. Tony played probably a few too many snaps. He's playing ever special team, and he got a little gassed. He still played really well, but he wasn't the same. He didn't have the same burst in the fourth quarter, but we played him like 65 snaps, plus every special teams play. That was a few too many. We'll move Dehendret back there. I've got confidence that he can play that role, also. Charles and Mike will help us at corner there."

On making adjustments at halftime: 

"They changed something to stop the zone-bounce play. (Chris) Kiffin came up with a great idea to do with the D-line that he thought would be a run stopper. There were a couple of changes. Within that, you could still say let's play some base coverages behind them and see if our guys can guard them in those. We simplified part of it and added a few things to it with the front guys. Dave made a couple of different calls in the second half that we didn't use in the first half that were good calls for us. They were in kind of a bit more twelve personnel than we expected. We really didn't know what to expect. They played twelve personnel and two tight ends quite a bit on early downs."

On managing halftime:

"If you preach something to your kids constantly, and then your actions don't show that when things get a little tough, I don't think what you say has any value to them. One of the things we constantly preach to them is we're confident in who we are, and we're going to play a game for 60 minutes. You can't win or lose a game in the first or second quarter. For me come in and resemble anything other than that, I think they would lose some credibility in the belief in who we are. We're a team that says we have to play for 60 minutes. We're going to miss some plays. We're going to miss a few. The great coaches I've ever been around. They would be visibly upset if you were winning at times, particularly if they were trying to get a point across. I've never really met one that would come in when things weren't necessarily going you way and didn't want your kids to know we believe in you. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. That's who I think I should be with the kids. That's how I want to be with them. I've never coached a kid that I felt like wanted to go out in front of 101,000, plus whoever is watching on TV, and mess up. That's the day that I've got to be there. I'm their biggest fan. I want to support them, except for selfish penalties. I will get upset about that when they hurt our team. I want to be consistent in my approach to them on game day. I want to be very confident in them and who they are."

On blocking: 

"Our blocking on the punt return was phenomenal. Our coverages were great, except for one kickoff coverage, we had one guy that took a play off and got side swiped. He ended up knocking two of our other guys off. Kailo (Moore) did his job. He's the safety on our kickoff returns. Kind of took a play off. He did a good job of getting the guy to the ground. That's his job. That was a big play for us for him to do that. We just had one guy break down in that. The blocking on that punt return, there was several key ones. Bobby Hill made a good one that looked like it could be bad at the time. Watching it, it definitely was in the side and not in the back. Temario Strong finished a guy off as good as you'll ever see. Temario had a phenomenal game on special teams. Phenomenal. He was physical and full speed. He did a great job. I'm really glad to see him take that next step. We've been pushing him to do that. The blocking of our receivers, I have never coached a game where it was any better. Ever. It was absolute. Ja-mes (Logan), Donte (Moncrief), Laquon (Treadwell) and Evan (Engram) blocked the perimeter as well as I've ever seen. That's why the perimeter runs were so successful for Jeff (Scott)."

On getting healthy: 

"Today and tomorrow our staff is self-scouting and studying one other team that we're similar to on both sides to make sure that everything we're doing, we have the full scope. Is there anything else that we can we add to our defense or our offense that we see someone else doing that is similar to us? We've got the GA's and everyone doing our self-scouting for us while we've been studying other teams this morning. We'll continue to do that today and tomorrow. We'll practice tomorrow afternoon and do a lot of fundamentals, teaching and individual work on special teams. On Wednesday we'll turn our attention towards watching some of our next opponent. Wednesday afternoon will still be a lot about us and maybe installing something new that we've found. We'll do about a 20 minute period of introducing the next opponent. We'll do the same thing Thursday. We'll let them off Friday and Saturday. This will be one of their few breaks. Saturday I'll probably be watching my daughters in volleyball that morning somewhere. I will lie on the couch and watch as many games as I can."

On Denzel Nkemdiche

"We like the way he's progressing. There starting this week with getting him off of the crutches and moving around in the pool. We'll just have to see how that goes from day to day. I'm not sure exactly how fast that will go. In his mind, he's playing the next game. I'm not sure if that's accurate or not. They'll push him this week."

On injuries:

"My biggest concern going into the game was offensive tackle, Emmanual McCray and Pierce Burton both were very, very questionable in our mind on whether or not they were going to play. Pierce had one of his most gutsy performances on an ankle that he struggled with all week. E-man went about 10 plays just to give Laremy (Tunsil) a break. Laremy had to play too many plays. We need to get both of those kids healthy. They're both seniors. We will sit them out all week. We won't worry about them. We need to get (Robert) Conyers more reps in practice anyway, as well as Ethan Hutson. We're going to let those two rest. We're got to get those two healthy. Trae Elston played the whole game, but he's got an ankle issue, we had to put him in a boot. He'll be ready for the game. Vince Sanders, we'll hopefully get him ready to go now, as well as Korvic Neat and Carlton Martin, he has a hamstring from the game. Hopefully he'll be OK."

On quarterbacks in the league: 

"I look at the differences in Bo's and LSU's guy. Those guys have elevated their game to join guys like (A.J.) McCarron, (Johnny) Manziel and the other ones that were already really good. We're putting so much emphasis on quarterback play, functioning and taking care of the ball in the system in which we're asked to run. I know how hard we worked at it, and I'm sure others have done the same. It seems to be that it's been raised to another level."

On attitude: 

"I think if you asked our kids would play Saturday. They're excited and feel good about the progress we're making. I don't know that this week helps or hurts in this regard. We're pretty straight with them. We don't really think about having to stay grounded too much. We just want them to be confident. At the same time, they need to understand that that was just one game. They hear that from us all the time. That's the approach our coaches take. On Sundays, we have a little deal we do where we put the game in the trash and it's over. Whether it was good or bad, and no matter what happened. Our kids won't get the luxury of talking about how many good things they did with us in the last game. Our attention now will turn to improving on the things we're not doing really well. Hopefully that will keep them grounded."

On how big the win at Texas is for the Ole Miss program:

"It's definitely a big step in the right direction. If you would have told me on my first day on the job, that in year two we would go to a place like Texas and pull off a win at their place, it probably would have been difficult for me to believe at that point. I do think that it is a sign that we're moving in the right direction. Like I said in the postgame, it is just one game. It is a sign. We didn't take 10 steps forward, but we did take a couple. It's certainly a good win. Experience is the best teacher in life. It will be something that we can reflect upon and gain confidence."

On freshmen class: 

"Austin Golson has had to play a lot more snaps than I thought he would at the start, and of course Laremy (Tunsil). He played 74 snaps Saturday. I wasn't planning on that occurring. Robert (Nkemdiche) had to play too many, also. Laquon (Treadwell) had a few breaks. Evan Engram has been great. We knew he was talented. We knew he was good when we evaluated him in camp, but he has probably surpassed our expectations a bit. They've had to play a lot of snaps. We're playing kids like Bobby Hill and David Kamara and many others on special teams that are true freshmen. They're getting good experience, also."

On tempo: 

"We're looking as we study other teams that are very similar to us. Are they doing anything that can increase our tempo? Then schematically, what are they doing to win first downs? We're always looking at how we can improve that. We believe in it. It's advantageous to us. I've been pleased in the times we've wanted to go fast. The other night we didn't do it the entire game, but a big part of that was looking at the kids playing a lot of snaps. We've got to be careful. We're going to study that. Hopefully we can find a way or two to make us even more efficient at it."

On personnel changes: 

"Derrick Jones, he has a chance to be a really good player. We're going to evaluate him through this open week. There are a few others that I need to talk to the kids first. Derrick Jones knows. We think he may end up being a really good, big corner. We've got to get him over there and get him some reps at it. As you know we're going to face some bigger receivers coming up soon. I don't care how good you are, if you're in the right spot and there's just a physical mismatch, you're going to lose some of those battles. We've got to see if we've got another plan that we can come up with where a guy like Derrick Jones who is 6-foot-3 and has a tremendous vertical jump, maybe that's a possibility in some situations that could help us."

On offense in college football: 

"The game has definitely changed. They want you to get rid of your defensive staff. Have you looked at what's happening in college football? The game has just changed, whether we like it or not. These offenses are making you defend from sideline to sideline, all 53 yard, every play. Then you add to it the tempo and the rule changes, that the defense can only do certain things. It definitely has been advantageous for the offense. It's difficult to just totally stop the type of offenses that we're seeing now. The high schools are doing it more and more. The kids are so athletic and they're coming up in these systems. It's hard to defend the 53-yard field that we have when you're using it on every play. It's why I love what we do. It gives us a lot of options. I've had some teams that I didn't think we could put many yards on them. Then you play them and you're getting 400 yards. It makes you feel good that your system is good. It doesn't mean you're going to win games. It's very difficult for defenses these days. I don't even know where our defense is ranked. I think we're 33rd and fourth in the conference. That's pretty good from when we got here. Some are still in the world of thinking `we used to hold those teams to 200 yards.' Those days are few and far between now."

On self-scouting:

"I've got a guy that does it every game. During an open week, we'll combined the three games we've played to this point and give me an update on exactly where we are with our personnel and formations. We'll do it every game. We don't really study it as hard as we probably should, until the open weeks. He'll bring it to me sometimes and say, `Here's something that really stands out.' They do that from week to week. We really study it today and tomorrow. We'll study it again that next open week, also." 

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