Hugh Freeze Press Conference: 09.24

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)
Hugh Freeze (photo by Joshua McCoy)

Sept. 24, 2012

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media Monday and discussed the Rebels' upcoming SEC opener against No. 1 Alabama.


Opening Statement:

“After watching the film, I’m really pleased with the effort of our kids. I was not near as pleased after the game because of the number of balls that were on the ground. After watching the film and breaking it down, our kids had great effort. We got better in a lot of places. Unfortunately when you put the ball on the ground it’s hard to feel good about your game. Besides our punt return unit, this was our most complete game thus far. We’re thrilled to be heading into SEC play at 3-1. Hopefully we’ve matured some since our last experience in primetime play against Texas. We’ll get another opportunity to do that again this week. It’s just another step along the way in our journey. We get to play a great football team with a great staff. They’re the gold standard in football right now. Being a competitor you want to play in those environments. It will be a fun environment to play in. We’ll get to see where we are in the next step of our journey. Hopefully we’ll handle that atmosphere a little better than we did the last time we had that opportunity.”

On the status of Bo Wallace:

“I think he’ll be fine, but you never know when you’re dealing with injuries to quarterbacks. He was moving around yesterday and doing OK. He was sore like a lot of our kids are. It’s that time of the year. We’re very thin. Hopefully we can get Uriah (Grant) and Woody (Woodrow Hamilton) back, maybe Korvic (Neat). I don’t know if Bo will be ready on Tuesday, but I do expect him to go.”

On dynamics of playing Texas and Alabama:

“There were a lot of dynamics in that Texas game that we weren’t used to. Being an 8:21 p.m. kickoff, we had never experienced that before. The atmosphere was incredible. We’re playing so many young kids. I thought we played very poorly at the beginning which got us in a hole. After that, we settled in offensively and had some success. Defensively we struggled all night but kept playing hard. There are a lot of things we can take from that and learn from it. We’ve talked about that with our young men. We’re going to change that day up a little bit because it’s such a long time to be around a hotel. We’re going to break that day up a little bit, and hopefully our kids will be calm and go out and execute early to the best of their ability in a difficult environment.”

On Wallace’s numbers decreasing during week four:

“He had two drops and just had some bad balls. He had Donte (Moncrief) open on a long play that could have been big for us. He just under threw it. That was after his shoulder had started bothering him some. That attributed to two or three throws that weren’t quality throws from him. It’s a combination of things. He didn’t play his best. He didn’t prepare very well all week. I’ve shared that with him. He’ll say the same thing. Hopefully he’ll learn from that, move forward and prepare better.”

On depth at the running back position:

“I’m hesitant to ever talk about depth because we’re so thin in so many places. That is one place right now that we do have some guys that are able to rotate in, and we can feel like the drop off is not too much. Randall (Mackey), Jeff (Scott), I’Tavius (Mathers) and Jaylen (Walton) have done well. Getting into the game the other night, Nick (Parker) had a great run and so did Devin Thomas. We do have some depth at that position. The challenge we have at that spot is none of them are prepared to do everything we do. That sometimes gets us in trouble when we make a call and we look out there and say that’s not playing to his strength. You get caught in those sometimes because of the way we like to go with tempo. All of a sudden you make a call and cringe because you hope that the young man can succeed at what you ask him to do.”

On reaction to leading the SEC in rushing through four games:

“I’d say I’m surprised, if you go back to spring ball and you look at where we are now. Coach (Matt) Luke has done a great job of getting the kids we have better. Obviously we haven’t played the likes of Alabama on defense yet or many others in this conference. That’s where we are right now, but we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

On the importance of being a balanced offense heading into SEC play:

“We want to be close to 50-50. We’re probably skewed a little bit right now towards the rush. We’ve been in some games where we’re able to take control of the game, in three of them, and not have to throw as much. Hopefully as we get into league play it will be more balanced.”

On the importance of Aaron Morris stepping up as a leader on the offensive line:

“It’s very critical. He is the most talented lineman we have. He is an SEC lineman for sure. We need him to be effective. He did have his best game (against Tulane). When he knows what to do and is comfortable with what is going on, he can be very good. This is the first lineman we’ve had grade out over 80 percent this year. Coach Luke is very difficult on his grading system and expects a lot out of them. Aaron had his best game and that is good to see going into SEC play.”

On being able to tell when a player is not fully prepared:

“On our Friday walk through, you know when a man misses a couple of motions that we have that are vital for a play to happen. You know his mind may not be where it needs to be at that moment. It continued on into Saturday walk through. We had a couple of issues there. We’re very open with each other in our dialogue. He (Bo Wallace) was the first one to admit that he didn’t prepare well. He called me that night and told me that. I told him to forget about it, it’s over. Let’s move on. There are signs you can see.”

On a possible weakness in Alabama’s defending of vertical passes:

“I certainly wouldn’t say that they have any weakness. I’ve watched quite a few films yesterday and today on them. Coach (Nick) Saban and his staff do a phenomenal job. The thing you don’t see is they just don’t get out of position. It is very, very rare. They’re just not giving up big plays. They’re always in position and very fundamentally sound. When you add to that how talented they are, it is very difficult to say they have a weakness. Our challenge will be just to stay on schedule and not put ourselves behind the chains very much. That’s the truth every game, but against them it’s even more important.”

On running a fast-paced offense with Alabama defensive substitutions:

“That can be an advantage or a disadvantage. The more possessions you give them on offense, the more times you have to stop them. They’ve been very efficient in what they do. We have to take all of that into consideration and come up with our game plan of what we think is most effective for our kids. Both have merit.”

On switching up the defensive scheme (from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3) against Alabama:

“Dave (Wommack) has all of that ready. We’ve been working with it. Unfortunately we still don’t have a lot of mass when we make that switch. It’s not a huge difference in what we have. We are who we are. We have to get our kids to play above and beyond what we’ve played before to be competitive in this game. They’ll be excited about it. It can be a David versus Goliath deal. Why not go and have fun with it? We have nothing to lose. Our defense is going to play better than it did against Texas. Taking nothing away from Texas, I don’t think we played our best football that night on the defensive side. I hope we come out and play more inspired, maybe be a little more disciplined with our eyes and tackle a little better.”

On evaluating the secondary after the game against Tulane:

“Charles (Sawyer) did great. He played really sound and very solid. Trae (Elston) did well. He still made some mistakes if they gave him something that was a little different than what we had practiced. He played sound. I thought Senquez Golson had his best game. He was really coachable all week. He’s one of our most talented kids. It would be great if he’d come on and continue getting better. He had his best game. We’ll probably look to him to get more reps, also.”

On Alabama’s depth and how they stack up against other teams:

“They’re deeper than any team we’ve faced, particularly in the offensive and defensive lines. Their defensive line, they can go three-deep, that are very talented kids. They’re able to keep them fresh and that allows them to play with a high motor all of the time. I know he (Nick Saban) requires that of his kids. When you’re able to play that many kids and not have a significant dropoff it helps even more. They have tremendous depth and talent.”

On Freeze’s initial excitement to use his offense against some of the best defenses in the SEC:

“It motivates you. It motivates our coaching staff. You always want to prove that you can do a job. I’ve said since I got here, one of the things that motivates me the most is wanting to be able to deliver for the Ole Miss people. It’s no different if you’re playing in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night or New Orleans last weekend as far as me wanting to prove that what we do can be effective and efficient. It’s a combination of having players that can do it, coaches and people buying in. I do think we’re on our way. Regardless of what happens Saturday night, the journey is still going to continue. I’m certainly motivated to go play and am going to work very, very hard to make sure we have a plan that is sound and solid. Hopefully our kids can go execute it and have some success early. That would breed some confidence for us.”

On the decision regarding Collins Moore:

“It looks like we’re going to proceed forward with him playing. It’s just a long season. As you can see already we’re getting beaten up some. We’re going to need him and he wants to play. Game six would be the end of it. There are several different ways you can go about it, but it looks like we’re going to proceed with him playing.”

On only needing three more wins to reach a bowl game:

“After the game the other night, our team was the first to mention that in the locker room. I assure you it is on our kids’ mind.”

On Saban’s comment about not adjusting their defense to up-tempo offenses:

What Coach Saban meant by that is they’re going to do what they do. They do it very well. They’re not going to let somebody, just because they snap it a little quicker, change their philosophy on what they do. They’re going to stop the run and not give up the big plays, regardless of whether you snap it with 25 seconds on the play clock or five seconds. That’s going to be their goal. I’m pretty sure that’s what he meant by it and I don’t blame him. What they do has been very effective for them. I don’t think they’ll change a whole lot.”

On how good Alabama really is when looking at their scores:

“When you start trying to compare scores you really get skewed. Rutgers goes and beats Arkansas the other night, Rutgers played Tulane and Tulane played them very close. A lot of people have hit me with that. That really doesn’t add up. When you get into a game and momentum goes your way and you have a good game plan, things can snowball in a hurry. I think Alabama is that good. I don’t think that Michigan is a bad football team, nor is Arkansas. Things are not going their way right now. A lot of that has to do with Alabama when you play them.”

On other wide receivers stepping up against Tulane:

“It was good to see Vince (Sanders) make a nice catch. Ja-Mes (Logan) had a couple of good plays. We just didn’t throw it that much. They had a couple of drops also. Collins (Moore) had a big catch. Philander (Moore) had a catch. We had a bunch of receivers that caught balls. I can’t remember the exact number, something like nine or 10 different guys. We spread it around pretty good which should help Donte (Moncrief).”

On the feelings of the team going into the Alabama game:

“We had our team meeting on Sunday where we do our character traits. As soon as that was over we put the last game behind us and we moved on to this one. This is the opening of SEC play in an environment like Tuscaloosa on a Saturday night on ESPN. It can’t help but motivate you. If you’re made to compete, that’s the kind of environment you want to be in. You sure hope you can go and put your best foot forward. That’s our plan and the way we’ll think. Everyone knows this is a tall challenge. It has been a tall challenge for everyone that has played them the last few years. They very rarely give up more than 200 yards to anyone. When you look on there and see them hold LSU to 92 yards last year, that’s somewhat intimidating. At the same time it motivates you to want to prepare.”

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