Hugh Freeze Press Conference: 09.23

Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)

Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)

Sept. 23, 2013

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media on Monday and discussed the Rebels' upcoming SEC West showdown at No. 1 Alabama.

Full Video of Press Conference (Freeze at 16:20 mark)

BLOG: Another 'Measuring Stick' For Ole Miss

Opening statement: 

“We were excited to have last week off. It was very critical for us to get some kids healthy, heading into this stretch of games in particular. It’s a brutal stretch. We’ve talked about that. It’s a beginning. It doesn’t get any more difficult than to go over to Alabama and play on a Saturday night. That’s the way we’ll kick it off with three other tough ones to follow it. The open week came at a good time to get everyone healthy. I feel like we’re right on track with having everyone that’s available to play very ready to go full speed. We’re excited about that. We’ll need everybody over the course of the next few weeks to be able to compete at a high level. For several years now, Alabama has been the standard to which you measure yourself in this conference. That hasn’t changed. We look forward to the opportunity to go over. It’s another opportunity for us to measure ourselves and see where we are. I’m OK with the results as long as our best effort is put forth. I expect our kids to do that. They’re excited about the opportunity. Coming off of the two road wins that we’ve had this year, can only give us some added confidence going into these places to play. It’s a tall task. Coach (Nick) Saban and his staff will have their guys ready to go. They always seem to do what it takes to get the job done. They’ll be ready. Ours will, too. I look forward to this challenge.”

On issues with officials and ball placement time last season:

“The more accustomed that conferences become with this type of offense, it only becomes natural to be better at it. It’s been much better. I always want it to be faster. It may not have been as bad as what it seems to some people. I have great respect for the officials in our league. Steve Shaw does a great job leading those guys. They’ve been very, very good.

On Alabama’s defense:

“They’re going to have new wrinkles every game. They’re going to switch in between their 3-4 stuff and 4-2-5 stuff. They’ll give you every look that you can imagine. Those of us who are into this pace or tempo offense, right now, it’s the cutting edge. It will fade out at some point. Coach Saban has done the same thing defensively, in my opinion. He kind of came in and has been on the cutting edge of the defensive stuff. He’s going to give you some new stuff. Every game he’s going to give you a new wrinkle, on third down in particular. You may or may not be ready for it. It’s very multiple. They’re very physical up front. You have a difficult time consistently having drives on them. That’s the thing that stands out game, after game, after game against (Texas) A&M. You don’t put on the film and just see a consistent drive with a great play or a phenomenal one-on-one play. Those make you uncomfortable because you don’t like to depend on something like that to have a consistent drive. They’re just so good. They fit the proper gaps. They don’t blow coverages. They just do it the right way. It’s very difficult to consistently have drives on them that produce points. We had two very, very good drives against them last year, but two is not enough to win against that kind of team. They present a lot of issues for you.”

On Vince Sanders:

“Vince will play. He went through a full practice yesterday. We’ll incorporate him in just like we would anybody. He’ll be ready to go. You’ll see him, Laquon (Treadwell), Ja-mes (Logan) and Donte (Moncrief) all out there at the same time. We’ll just rotate them and keep him fresh. We love having him back. It gives us another threat for sure.”

On Denzel Nkemdiche and depth issues at linebacker:

“We’ve been thin at linebacker all year. That won’t change. Even if Denzel goes, we’re still thin. He says he’s going. Tomorrow he’s planning on practicing. We’ll evaluate him in practice tomorrow. I will not play him if I don’t feel like he’s ready. It’s a long season. We’re going to need all of the capable bodies to make it through. If he’s ready to go, certainly we’ll play him. It will probably be Friday before we know for sure.”

On the tempo offense against Alabama:

“We’re going to go our tempo any game we play, we have it ready. I would love to say that we’re going to do it a lot, but you’ve got to win first down to do that. They were able to win first down an awful lot of the time. Even though we’re similar schematically, at a lot of things, I don’t think you treat us the same if you’re defending us. That’s because of who’s taking the snap for them. I don’t think that’s what we’ll see. You treat them differently because of what he can do to extend plays and hurt you with his legs. I don’t think you treat us the same. If you compare the two films from last year, there’s nothing similar, really. I think we’ll see traditionally Alabama tough defense, the 3-4 and 4-2-5. They’ll be playing their assignments and doing their job. They’ll be playing with the exotic blitzes that he likes to draw up on certain downs. If we win first down, absolutely. You’re going to see us going as fast as we can go.”

On Alabama tight ends:

“They’re going to play two or three of them. They force you in committing so many to the box so they can stop the run. They want to take a shot over your head. They’ve got quality receivers that can do that. Of course A.J. (McCarron) has proven what he is to that offense. He’s a winner and he’s proven that through the course of time. They just put you in a position where you’re going to have to win one-on-ones. That what this game ends up being about most of the time: How many one-on-ones did you win? Our kids are going to have to win some of those. We’re not going to stop them the whole night. Hopefully we can score enough points and stop them enough that we have a shot in the fourth quarter. Our kids will play the entire 60 minutes and see what happens. That sure would be nice to be in it. We’re going to have to win some one-on-ones when they put their tight end packages in there. They’re going to force you to play some one-on-one stuff.”

On how big a win in Tuscaloosa would be:

“It would mean that we’re definitely ahead of schedule in our program, to go there and win or beat them here. We won’t talk about Ole Miss winning just once there. That really doesn’t matter to these kids. They don’t care. Our coaches probably don’t even know that. I know it because I’ve followed this program. I don’t think that would motivate us one way or another. What should motivate us, and I think will, is an opportunity to go stand in front of the measuring stick right now and prove that you deserve to be there. That’s what we’ll focus on. If it does go our way, it would certainly be a huge boost to our program and move us a few steps forward quicker than anybody thought, including myself.”

On Pierce Burton and Emmanuel McCray:

“They’re good. Last week off was a godsend for Pierce and E-man. They both looked good last night. We got a jump start and actually got more of a practice in than we typically do on Sundays. They both look very, very good. We’ll rotate the three of them. You can’t keep Laremy (Tunsil) off the field. He’s that talented and that good. I’m not sure exactly how we’ll do the numbers. We’ll try to keep them all fresh. All three will play significant snaps. Patrick Junen is back healthy, too. That’s good for us.”

On preparation for Alabama with this year’s team:

“Physically they’re (Alabama) very, very good. They’re not going to make the mistake that allows you to have many explosive plays. That’s been their staple of their defense. They’re going to stay in the right position. Very rarely do you see explosive plays. We’ve got to find a way to create those, or find a way to stay in and convert on third and shorts to stay on the field. Do I think we’re better prepared for this year? I do. We have a better understanding of who we are and what we want to do. Bo (Wallace) has taken care of the ball better. If you look at that last year, those three turnovers resulted in a touchdown and two field goals, 13 points or so. If you don’t have those, maybe we’re in it in the fourth quarter last year. He’s proven this year to this point that he’s been more conscious about it, and hopefully he will be again.”

On Ole Miss receivers against Alabama secondary:

“I like our receivers against any secondary. I don’t think Alabama is weak there. There’s been talk that they’re weaker at certain positions. They’ve held quite a few kids out, too, that I think will be ready to go this game. They’re not weak anywhere. I like our receivers. I’ve said that from day one of camp. I think they block and catch well. They have speed and size, as well as athletic ability. I’m a fan of our receivers. They have a chance to put us in a lot of games because of their ability. I feel good going into this game about our receivers, but I do every game.

On impressions of A.J. McCarron:

“He’s a winner. He wants the ball in his hands at critical moments and has proven that he can make those plays at critical times, which is a special quality. To be a quarterback and a leader of a football team that has the caliber of players that Alabama has, and you are the leader to make sure you’re putting them in the right position or the right call. It appears to me that they’re giving him some flexibility to have some run-pass checks. He knows exactly what they want.”

On Alabama holding out some of their defensive backs last week:

They’re going to be healthy. I’m sure they’ll be ready to go against us. I’m not sure the exact reason that they were held out, but I’ve got to believe they’ll be ready this Saturday night and be at full strength.

On Robert Nkemdiche's progress as a freshman:

“Great. He’s given us tremendous effort. He’s certainly is a threat. He makes freshman mistakes like most of them do, but we’re glad we have him. He’s definitely made our defense a better defensive team. Adjusting to the grind is difficult for all of them, pretty much mentally. You have to get into a routine. They’re starting to settle in on that, he and all of the freshmen.”

On advantages to playing Barry Brunetti:

“It kind of depends on how the game goes. We go into every game with a package for Barry that we want to use him for. We’ll try some early to see how they line up and adjust to it. We’ll see if we think it can be advantageous for us. If so, you’ll see it some more. Bo is our guy. We won’t stray too far from what we know has work. We will always have a package for Barry. Hopefully we can have success with that, also.”

On his faith:

“It was an early age for me at seven years old. I’m thankful that my parents were people of faith. My faith is everything to me. I’m pretty clear and open about that. I was grateful to have a great family that introduced me to that. Hopefully I don’t bring a great embarrassment to the faith. I’m far from perfect, but I certainly know where my forgiveness comes from.”

On most memorable baptism moment:

“Baptizing my three girls is the most memorable thing for me.”

On the first areas addressed when taking over the program:

“Without question, personal accountability. Being accountable to yourself and to your teammates and staff and this university. Doing the little things right. It all starts there. If you don’t have personal accountability and those things, it would be difficult to sustain any level of success. Second thing I would say is buying in. Probably 85 percent of the guys is now necessary to achieve the maximum success.”

On what to focus on now:

“The same thing, besides recruiting and increasing the talent pool. Still the same core values.”

On challenge of playing Alabama (mental or physical?):

“Both. It’s still both. There’s still a discrepancy in depth chart level that they have as opposed to ours. We closed that gap some. It’s a mental challenge also because of the atmosphere. It’s one of the best in college football. I enjoy playing there. I love being in those atmospheres and those arenas. Hopefully our kids feel the same. There will be a mental challenge because you have to go silent count and you have to communicate a little better than you do playing out here. You have to really lock in to all of the different looks they’re going to give you. Physically, when I look at their depth chart, there’s still a difference. Not as far as it was, but there’s still a difference.”

On taking things away from a confidence perspective in last year’s game:

“Defensively, especially. We were one of the few teams last year that stopped the run. I know we were one of the few to hold their running backs under 100 yards, (Eddie) Lacy, anyway. Offensively, if you take the good from it, you gain some confidence. There was so much bad that it was difficult to look at it and not feel like the ‘what ifs’. That’s the one thing I hope we don’t have after Saturday night. Let’s go be solid at what we do. If they make a play on us, they make a play. They’re going to. They’re going to make adjustments. They’re going to stop something that was working earlier. It’s going to happen, then we have to make adjustments and still make plays. I don’t want to come back from that game with what ifs. It would be nice to stand here next Monday and say we either won it or lost it. That’s when I know our process is really getting to where we want to go. Whether or not we’re good enough to pull it off, I don’t know. I sure would like to stand here next Monday and say we executed what was called correctly, took care of the ball and played sound. We’ll see what happens.”

On second quarter struggles:

“I’ve said it before, every game is different. In the Texas game, we only had three possessions offensively. We messed them up. One with a turnover, one with a penalty and one was a bad call by me. That happens. We didn’t stop the run in the second quarter, thus, only three possessions. Coaches are going to make adjustments. We probably give too much credit sometimes and get away from what we were doing and say, ‘This can not continue to work.’ Sometimes it does. I don’t make much of that. I really don’t. You’ve got a lot of different looks that you’re going to see. Sometimes you get on something in the second quarter that’s working or not working. We’ll play a better second quarter this game.”

On momentum with program:

“It’s huge. The support we’re getting from our administration and our athletic director, Ross Bjork, is phenomenal. They get it. They understand what it takes to compete at a high level in this conference. One of those things is expansion and growth. Also, supporting your athletes with the best possible things you can give them. Our locker room is phenomenal. One website had it top five in the country. When you look at our new recruiting area, new team room, new dining room, new weight room, all of those things are certainly adding to the momentum. Winning games of course helps. We’re looking forward to eventually getting back home and getting some recruits on campus to see all of that. It’s going to be a big recruiting tool for us.”

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