Hugh Freeze Press Conference: 10.22

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

Oct. 22, 2012

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media Monday and discussed the Rebels' upcoming game at Arkansas on Saturday.


Opening Statement:

“We’re very excited about coming off of the open week. We’re trying to go get ready to play Arkansas in Little Rock. We’re just excited to get back on the field. That is a place that is very difficult to play and they’ve been very, very good there. They’re playing with great confidence right now. They’re coming off of two wins, both of which both sides of their ball and special teams played really well. Obviously they have NFL-caliber players there at certain positions that always grab your attention when watching the film. The confidence that they’ve gained and the job Coach (John L.) Smith and his staff have done in rallying them amidst difficult times at the start of their season, speaks volumes for their character and the way they want to finish the year. I’m expecting to have a great test and a great battle there.”

On healing injuries during the off week:

“We’re still waiting on a couple of kids before practice tomorrow. We have another day of treatment today. It was a good time for it because we had some bodies that were beat up. I expect to have everybody back tomorrow, with the exception of the guys that are out for the year.”

On Arkansas:

“Defensively they’ve played quite a bit better the past two weeks. They’ve taken care of the ball. Their offense has moved the ball in every single game that they’ve been in, but they did struggle with taking care of it, just like we did in our losses. It’s hard to win any game, especially in this conference, if you don’t take care of the football. If you look at the past two weeks, that’s what they have done. There’s certainly no argument that Tyler Wilson will be one of the top two or three quarterbacks taken (in next year’s NFL Draft). Cobi Hamilton is probably a first-rounder, as is Knile Davis. The backup running backs (Dennis) Johnson and (Ronnie) Wingo are pretty talented as well. They also get an all-conference tight end back this week. They’ve got great talent. Now they’re taking care of the ball and their defense is playing better.”

On the Arkansas defense:

“Their front four are very talented. They’re very physical and they’ve done a good job against the run. I’m sure having (Tenarius) Wright and (Alonzo) Highsmith out hurts them some, but I’m impressed with the other kids that have been playing. I know A.J. Turner very, very well. I recruited him hard when I was at Arkansas State. He was right down the road so he was always on our campus. I know he’ll get to start in one of those. He’s a freshman, but he’s a very talented young man. They’ve got quality backups. They’re like any of us, they hate to lose leadership. They’ve had two weeks to get these other kids prepared and I’m sure they’ll be ready to play.”

On Bo Wallace becoming a leader on the team:

“He’s done a nice job of gaining (his teammates’) respect. There’s no doubt that the kids have confidence in him. They know he’s a competitor and he’s going to compete on every snap to make a play. With him taking care of the ball the last couple of weeks and being productive offensively and moving us down the field, particularly the drive right before halftime to tie Auburn and the drive coming out of halftime, that adds to his leadership as others see him. He’s done a nice job of it. He has to continue doing that and continue to take care of the ball like he has. Coach (Dan) Werner has done a nice job the last few weeks of making sure he understands the expectations, the plan and make sure he feels comfortable with those things. No question that our kids have confidence in him.”

On the opportunity to go against a high-powered offense and how to prepare for it:

“We’ve improved a little bit every week. We’re still short on depth at a lot of places and that shows up from time to time. Our coaches and kids have done a nice job of making game day adjustments within the game to try to slow down or stop what the opponent is doing. You look at what Arkansas is averaging offensively and no one has really stopped them. They’ve hurt themselves at time. When (Tyler) Wilson is healthy and has played, they’re very difficult to stop. We have to be very good at not allowing big plays. We have to be very stingy in the red zone. They’re going to get their opportunities. We’ve been pretty decent in the red zone and we have to continue to do that and try to keep them out of the end zone. We’re better equipped because we have some more experience for some young kids that are playing on the back end. That’s still a tall task for us.”

On the decision to play Issac Gross so much early:

“The main thing is we believe that Issac Gross is going to be a phenomenal football player. The last thing we wanted him to do at 260 pounds was go through that stretch of Texas, Texas A&M, Alabama and Auburn and get dumped on his head a few times and his confidence be rattled. We’re proud to say that that has not happened. Issac has answered every challenge that he’s been issued. That was the discussion. It would be nice to redshirt every freshman. He kept showing up in practice as a guy that just makes plays. He’s so explosive off of the football. Yes he’s 260 pounds, but he is what he is. He’s more than held his own. In the things Dave (Wommack) does, very seldom do we ask him to sit still and have to take on a double team. That really is what led to us moving forward, him making plays and constantly showing up on film. We use his quickness as an advantage and try to put him on the move some.”

On the helpfulness of moving Charles Sawyer to corner:

“He’s been very solid. It allows us to get our best kids on the field at a certain time. When you do that, you’re lessening your safety position by one and you have to get somebody else ready to play there. It is kind of give and take. No question he’s been a very solid corner. Trae (Elston) is continuing to improve at safety. Cody (Prewitt) is continuing to improve. When Chief (Brown) gets snaps he’s been very consistent also. We’re going to move Brishen (Mathews) back there this weekend to get him some more snaps with the emergence of Mike Hilton playing extremely well at the Huskie. We’ll have Dehendret Collins and Hilton at the Huskie. We’ll try to get Brishen ready to play both. That will kind of give us some more depth at the safety position and the Huskie position.”

On the difference in Knile Davis’ and Dennis Johnson’s running styles:

“Davis is more of a physical runner, but he has great speed, too. He’s a big-time back. Johnson’s in the mode of a Jeff Scott type that’s going to make you miss, but he’s a little stronger. His lateral quickness is really good. Knile is maybe not the lateral guy that Johnson is. They both are homerun threats because they both have straightaway great speed. They’re a little different at the point of attack.”

On Dehendret Collins not receiving any snaps in the game against Auburn:

“He chose to make a poor decision. We’re big on accountability right now. You own up to something when you make a poor decision. That’s the only way I know to get this program built. He made a poor decision and he paid the price. It’s over with and we will move forward from there.”

On Dave Wommack and the experience he brings to the program:

“I have great confidence in Dave being with him last year and watching what he did in turning a team that was ranked 95th in the nation at Arkansas State and put them in the top 15 nationally in one year there. The job he’s doing with the young men here - he’s got some challenges cut out for him from what we inherited at certain positions depth wise. Dave sits in the booth on Saturday and he understands what the offense is trying to do to us and he always has a plan and adjustments. He’s a good compliment to me in the way our attitudes are. I’m a little more emotional. He’s very calm. He makes great adjustments on game days and I’m very pleased with the job he’s doing. The experience he has from being in this league is invaluable.”

On the Arkansas secondary improving:

“They’re very similar to us. As I watch us progress throughout the year I would like to say when you put us on tape now compared to earlier in the year that our kids like Mike Hilton, Trae Elston and the young kids we’re playing back there, I would hope that all of those young kids have improved. I think Arkansas is very similar to that. As you watch them progress through their games, they’ve gotten better and better.”

On the Arkansas corners:

“They are playing a lot better. They don’t give up the big plays like they did early in the year against Rutgers, Monroe and some of those others. All of their kids are playing better defensively. They’re a part of that and I’m impressed with their improvement.”

On the chemistry between Freeze and Bo Wallace and Jeff Scott:

“I don’t know that they’ve totally come together yet, but they are better than they were. I couldn’t be more pleased with the progress that Bo and Jeff are making. They both have matured quite significantly in different areas. Their struggles weren’t the same, nor are any of ours. We all have struggles in different areas. They both have certainly made better decisions and are maturing quite nicely. I hope it continues.”

On Arkansas struggling with defending athletic quarterbacks:

“(Johnny) Manziel is a whole different animal. Everyone is going to struggle with him. He’s like watching a video game from the sidelines. I watched that film very closely. His were not designed quarterback runs. Those were him creating things just like he did against almost everyone. Kolton Browning, they did have some designed quarterback runs that were effective at times. He’s a heck of competitor also. There’s no secret that quarterback runs are a part of our offense.

On the game atmosphere in Little Rock:

I’ve talked to a couple of my buddies that coach in that area. I was very curious as to what the atmosphere would be like compared to at Fayetteville. Everyone without exception has said the environment there will be even more disturbing. We have to get prepared for that. I know their fans will show up. It seems to be on film that they’re right on top of you. It’s been a place that they’ve gladly called home for many years and done very well there. I can’t compare them firsthand. From everything I’ve been told, they’re not going to be at a disadvantage.”

On how the coaching staff makes halftime adjustments:

“Hopefully experience tells you. I make fun of our staff and staffs we’ve been on. We put all of this time into (the game plan) and at the same time another staff is planning and it may be totally different than what you worked on. Particularly when you’re facing a team that doesn’t do things similar to what you do, they can come out totally different. Everyone has a flavor of the week at what they think will be successful against us. It certainly isn’t just me or Dave (Wommack). Coach Matt Luke does a great job of getting a feel of here’s how they’re playing up front and here’s how we need to be in protection mode or run game. Dan (Werner) has been in this for many years and certainly helps us on that too. We’re going to be who we are offensively with an exception of a few things we might tweak. Most of those adjustments come defensively. You’ve seen things that hurt us in the first half and then we get them fixed in the second half. I’ve been pleased with that up until this point.”

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