Hugh Freeze Press Conference: 09.30

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

Sept. 30, 2013

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media on Monday and discussed the Rebels' upcoming SEC West showdown at Auburn.


BLOG: Connections Abound In Ole Miss-Auburn Matchup

Opening statement: 

"We're excited to get back on the field after last week's loss. We're 5-1 in the last six games that we've played, which we think has provided a very good foundation in where we are headed with the program. Sitting at 3-1 with the schedule we've had, is something that's a good start to year two of our building here. We're excited to get back out. You never like losing. You never like looking at the what-ifs or wishing you had done something different. It's part of the game. 60 teams do that every Saturday. What kind of team you become is defined after difficult moments. They're the No. 1 team in the nation for a reason. We had a chance defensively to put us in the game, but we didn't make enough plays to keep us in it late in the game. Moving on to Auburn, they remind me a lot of us last year. They're a very, very hungry team that plays with great emotion, energy and passion. It doesn't surprise me at all with Gus' (Malzahn) leadership. I know that they're off to a great start. They have been very, very good at home, which we've got to go there. It's another road trip in a hostile environment on a Saturday night. It's a big game for both schools, sitting at 3-1. He will have them ready. They're extremely athletic at quarterback, running back, receivers and DBs. Their O-line and D-line are physical, like an SEC team should be. He's got them playing extremely hard. When you face an offense that's very balanced in rushing and passing, they give you a lot of looks, a lot of motions, a lot of smoke and mirrors. They're very efficient in what they do. Defensively, Ellis (Johnson) is one of the best in the business. It's very, very multiple. You have to prepare for almost anything."

On Alabama's Tyler Siskey:

"I don't know where he typically is. Certainly, I'll say that Alabama had a wonderful defensive plan for us. I give them a lot of credit for the work that they put in in preparing for us, whether it was in the summertime or just in the week. Nick (Saban) and Kirby (Smart) are two of the best in the business. Not that they need a lot of help in preparing a game plan, but I'm sure Siskey helped in some way. Tyler Siskey is a good man. I hate that it's been quite the drama. Did I feel like they had an excellent plan? For whatever reason, I did. I'm sure Nick prepares just like any of us would. I'm ready to move on to Auburn."

On whether or not Ole Miss has contacted the SEC regarding Siskey:

"I have no idea. I don't know what he exactly did. Our administration is great. Alabama, I'm sure, has great administration, too. I don't think for one minute that Nick would put himself or his program at risk in doing something. I don't want to get involved in something like that. They lined up and beat us. I'm ready to move on to Auburn."

On preparing for Auburn:

"We certainly can look just alike offensively, if we wanted to. We'll be able to simulate their looks very efficiently for our defense. Having said that, both of us can change a lot during the course of the week. He's got two weeks to do whatever he's going to do. I know that he'll dress things up and have some wrinkles we haven't seen. We are very, very similar in the things we do offensively. We can help prepare, but you never know exactly what to prepare for. We'll show them everything that our defense wants to see. There will be something we don't cover that we'll see Saturday night."

On challenges Auburn has with first-year head coach Gus Malzahn:

"He's on his way. He's off to a good start with getting them to buy in. I don't know his depth chart issues well enough to say exactly where he is on those things. I don't think that they were as down as we were when we came here. There was some talent that they had there. I'm certain he's not as deep as he would like to be. I can't really compare those. He's got them playing with some confidence. That's the first step and to buy into the little things, which I know he'll stress to them. They had their first setback on the road last week. That's always a new challenge for a team that's trying to build. We had to go through that last year several times. They're going through that right now. Playing at home helps with that - after a loss. I expect they'll be ready Saturday night."

On Freeze's relationship with Malzahn:

"We met when we were high school coaches. We really didn't get to know each other that well then. We knew who each other were, and we each traveled in the same circles of clinics and speaking at the same clinics. We were aware of who each other was, what we were doing and that we were similar. Our friendship really started to grow when he went to Arkansas and I came here. We really stayed in touch a lot then. My days at Lambuth and his days at Tulsa, we would talk pretty much weekly. Even last year, when he replaced me at Arkansas State, we stayed in touch quite frequently. It is difficult playing people that you're close to and have a friendship with. That's never easy competing because of all of the staffs that are involved, the families and your program that you're wanting to move it to the next step. That's always one week at a time. Everything in society now is it's all about this week. You're great one week. You're awful one week. It's amazing to me the culture that surrounds the programs that we coach, and all of the things that the kids have to hear and go through. It's difficult playing your friends. I sent him a text yesterday and said, `I don't enjoy playing my friends. I'll talk to you after it's over.' That'll be the last time we talk. He sent me one back saying the feeling was mutual. We don't enjoy it, but we've got to do it."

On adjustments after Alabama game:

"I try to be my hardest critic. We looked at the plan, particularly run-game wise, that we had and what they decided to do to try to stop us. With the exception of one thing we could have done, what we had was really sound in trying to attack what they were doing. We lost a lot of one-on-one battles up front. It reminded me of the Georgia game last year. They were able to run some base stuff and win. It reminded me of that. We could have done one thing differently, that maybe would have helped us. We've still got to win some battles. I wish we would have tried that one other thing to see. Matt (Luke) and I sat down and went through everything that we tried to do in the run game. If you draw it up on the board it looks really good. You have to win some battles. They're good. They played with an edge and a little attitude Saturday night."

On the job the receivers have done blocking the perimeter:

"It's been phenomenal. It's as good as I have ever seen and coached. It's still a young season. I'm basing that primarily on the Vanderbilt and Texas games. We didn't get a lot of opportunities the other night to see how they would have done in that game. In the earlier games, it was a good as I've ever seen."

On having guys used to getting the ball buy in to other ideas:

"It depends on the kid and the philosophy of the room. We're very clear. Coach Heard does a nice job of making sure. He's very clear for us to be successful. If you want to get balls and set yourself up for some explosive plays, you consider blocking as the most important thing you have to do."

On defensive line personnel changes for Alabama game:

"We'll look at it this week. We thought it was best for that game. Some of it depends on injuries and who's able to go full speed and not. We played Robert (Nkemdiche) some at tackle. We'll continue to look at where it's best to put him week to week. I wouldn't say it's permanent. We'll have to look at what we're facing. I haven't discussed that with the defense this week. We'll meet tonight after everybody has watched film all day and discuss those options."

On defense shifting from conventional offense back to tempo:

"I wouldn't consider Gus, or myself, really spread. Tempo is a good way to describe it. He can be spread. We can, too. He can also run it right at you with some gap schemes. Fitting those will be very similar to the ones we fit the other night, with the exception of Alabama having tight ends. That's not typical for them to be that way, not that they couldn't be. I don't know that it's that difficult other than the smoke and mirrors certainly is different - the things that distract your eyes from fitting your gap properly. Your coverage zone is quite a bit different"

On health:

"We're in decent shape for this point in the year. C.J. (Johnson) has an ankle issue. He's been fighting that the whole year. We'll just have to see how that comes around this week. Robert (Nkemdiche) may have broken his finger. That won't result in anything, any time. Carlton Martin didn't make the trip, but we expect him to be able to go this week. Donte (Moncrief) sprained a shoulder, but he ran around yesterday. I expect him to be fine, too. "

On Robert Nkemdiche moving to tackle:

"He did fine. He made a few mistakes, so did everyone else. I think he graded out at 82 percent. He only had a few MAs and several tackles. He's a very strong tough guy to move around. He played really solid for a game of that magnitude. To be a true freshman, he did really well."

On interest in Shiloh Christian job after Gus Malzahn left:

"There were some phone conversations. I never got to the point where I went over there. Yes, there was some interest at that time."

On almost following Malzahn and having Malzahn follow him:

"I've gotten to the point in life where hardly anything is very weird anymore. There's some ironic things that happen in God's plan with your life that you just sit back and laugh at. I'm sure God was laughing and smiling the whole time. It's somewhat ironic."

On looking back:

"It's certainly been a very enjoyable ride, not without its share of ups and downs. I can't speak for Gus and if there have been valleys in the journey. We certainly have in having to leave Ole Miss the first time, going to Lambuth and a short trip to San Jose. Those weren't the most enjoyable decisions that I had to make. They affect family. You're always wondering if it's the right decision for my future. You just never lose faith and trust in those people that are very close to you and believe in you. Gus' family is very dear to him, also. I can't speak for him, but it is somewhat eerily similar. We've shared many times that we wished we weren't in the same half of this conference. We'd see each other every so often and be able to help each other. That's not reality. We have to go and play."

On communication with Malzahn:

"In the offseason, quite a bit. Before this week, we would text probably once a week. Maybe a phone call, it depends on who he's playing and who I'm playing, and if we thought without compromising each other's plan. That's not real frequent. It's more of texting a `Good luck' or `How are you doing?' deal."

On sense of pride going from a high school coach to college:

"For sure. I'm proud of what Gus has done. I certainly don't think pride is a good quality for me. I feel very humbled and very blessed to have had this journey. The reality is there are many high school coaches that are some of the best coaches in the nation. If given the opportunity that Gus and I have been presented, they could do the same thing. I'm certainly proud of what Gus, Art (Briles) and Chad (Morris) have done. They were high school coaches and have done really well. I know in my heart that there are many others that could do it also. I feel humbled and blessed to have this opportunity."

On Chad Morris:

"Chad is friends with Gus and myself. We text, also. It's hard to get us on the phone too much this time of year. I DVR all of his games, probably he does likewise. If something comes up on the game and I have a question about whatever he's doing. He's always willing to talk with me and from me to him."

On coaching together as high school coaches:

"I was at Ole Miss when I met Chad. I'm not sure about Gus and Chad. I was at Ole Miss and he was coaching Jevan Snead. That's when I originally met him."

On moment with Malzahn before the game:

"Having him on the other side will certainly add a little extra feeling to it. Sort of like walking by him on the fairway in Augusta and we just think about how blessed we are and fortunate. It's surreal. Some of that, also."

On Ryan Aplin:

"What was behind it was nothing more than I like to hire good people who played for me. I like to take care of those guys. When Ryan's NFL deal fell through this year, it was a no brainer. I knew if I had a quality control spot open, I certainly would want him here. I will continue to try to hire good people that know what we do. Gus has hired people, too, like David Gunn and Anthony Quincy. One coached with me at Arkansas State and one played for me for two years there. We both have that dynamic going on. I had a conversation with Ryan early this week. He's very close to both of us. I don't want him to feel uncomfortable at all in anything that's going on. I'm sure Gus has changed everything from when Ryan was there. We have changed some things, too. People that have worked for you a while or played for you, there's only so much you can change and they can probably still tell if it's run or pass. If you can do that in time to make calls, I don't know, but we won't put Ryan in that position. We're actually going to move him down from the press box to the field in this game. He'll be involved this week in helping us. We want him to feel good about the way everything goes about."

On freshmen responding to loss:

"One of the things about our program that I hope our kids see is our coaches just don't blink. You have to play the next play. Yesterday, all of us didn't like losing. It's been a while since we lost, compared to a few years back. We came to the team meeting. Sunday's about the truth. We told the truth about the offense, defense and special teams. We put it in the trash and went out and practiced. I was really pleased with the way every one went out and their spirit. I think they'll follow our lead."

On Laquon Treadwell in the backfield:

"It's a certain personnel group that we haven't run out of. We felt like we could run out of that personnel group to make them model the run."

On coaches leaning on each other to promote the tempo style:

"I don't feel like any of us felt that way. I know we've either worked for people or been in systems where that wasn't the philosophy and you had to bite you tongue some if you feel like it can be advantageous for us. I don't know that they felt that way. Being in another system, I so badly wanted to say `I think this could help us.' That's my personality. That's what I knew. Not that other stuff is bad. Anything will work if you have great players that execute. You have to play to your personality and to your strengths. I don't know if they ever had to convince people that that's what would work. Certainly everyone has proven that it will at time, maybe more consistently than not."

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