Hugh Freeze Press Conference: 10.29

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Hugh Freeze (photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications)
Hugh Freeze (photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications)

Oct. 29, 2012

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media Monday and discussed the Rebels' upcoming game at No. 6 Georgia on Saturday.


Opening Statement:

“We’re excited to get a road win. In this conference, anytime you can go on the road and get a win, you don’t take that lightly. You’re very excited, particularly in the state in which our program has been in and struggling to win an SEC game period, much less on the road. For our kids to find a way to win that, in the fashion that they did, speaks to their maturity. Now we turn our attention to Georgia, which is going to be a tremendous task. It’s an exciting one and our kids and coaching staff will be excited to go play a fine Georgia program there in their home field on CBS. Growing up in the South, that was always a tradition. That 2:30 p.m. game is a special time slot for SEC football. To be playing in that Saturday against Coach (Mark) Richt’s team is quite exciting for us. It will be another step to kind of see how we’re maturing. It’s a tall task. They’re an excellent football team. I don’t see many weaknesses at all, if any. Coach Richt is a fine coach, and he’s one of the good guys in this business. You kind of find yourself pulling for them when you’re not playing them. We’ve got a great challenge. We need to have a great week of practice. Hopefully we can get a few kids healthy and at full strength going over to Athens on Saturday.”

On dealing with Georgia’s balanced offense:

“It’s very difficult. The easy thing is matching them personnel for personnel. We will count on everybody to do their exact job, fit their exact gap and guard their guy. The problem with that is you’ve got a lot of one-on-one matchups, whether it is offensive line-defensive line, receiver-defensive back or running back-linebacker. You have to feel like you can win those a lot of the time. You hopefully have a good game plan and can guess right a good bit, whether you’re playing a run-stop defense or playing them for the pass, you would hope you can guess right. They’re a very difficult offense to defend because of their balance and their talent. They have a great scheme. They have a trigger guy that is excellent, two great running backs and good receivers. It’s going to be arguably one of our tallest tasks this year.”

On Georgia’s physicality and their game against Florida:

“You turn on the film for the Georgia-Florida game and you see so many great athletes on the field on both sides. The margin of error in that game, when you’re playing with those types of athletes, is none. I did not see a Georgia team that shied away from any physicality. They’re a very physical football team. Their interior defensive line has huge guys, and they surround them with all of those linebackers that can run. They’re not too small themselves. Their secondary is very sound. They’re solid tacklers and big, physical kids. When you look at it, you certainly see an SEC defense.”

On injuries:

“I’m very doubtful that Wesley (Pendleton) will be able to go. He has a pretty good ankle sprain. Senquez (Golson) is kind of a day-to-day deal. They’re treating him with concussion-like symptoms. He’ll have to go through a battery of tests. Hopefully he’ll be cleared to play, but it will be later in the week before that is determined. We’re optimistic with that. Cameron (Whigham), we’re optimistic. He couldn’t practice today if we had practice, but he is feeling better. It’s nothing really structural. It’s more of a bone bruise type deal. We’re really optimistic that he’ll be OK.”

On the offensive line giving up six sacks in October and the threat of Jarvis Jones this weekend:

“What we’ve tried to do is get the ball out a little quicker. Coach (Matt) Luke has done a great job of them maturing some and getting better in their one on ones. It’s a combination of those two things. As far as Jarvis goes, Abry Jones on the other side is almost as good. We haven’t had our blitz appreciation meeting yet. We’ll have that later tonight, but I know Coach Luke will have some ideas. Just from me watching the amount I’ve watched this morning, I’m equally concerned about both of those guys. We’re going to have to get it out in a short amount of time.”

On the team building confidence from the first SEC road win:

“Anytime you win, particularly on the road, it builds confidence. We’re playing so many young kids, for them to experience that on the road it helps expedite the journey that we’re on. It doesn’t mean we’ve arrived or done anything great yet, but it certainly helps for them to win in that fashion. Our PAT-field goal unit was solid, particularly in the second half. We had offensive struggles the entire second half. For us to come through with a drive at the time that we needed it the most and to win the game certainly builds confidence.”

On using Jeff Scott and Randall Mackey as slot receivers:

“It’s something a little new. We’re trying to get our best players on the field. The challenge you have with that is a mental overload, if you try to put too much on them. We had a small package with them doing that. Mackey seemed to thrive in it pretty well. He had six or seven catches for 100 yards or so. We can at any time bring him back in the backfield and allow him to be our tailback. It’s just a matter of us trying to get all of our playmakers on the field.”

On how big Saturday’s game against Georgia will be from a recruiting standpoint:

“Georgia is such a highly recruited state and there are so many players there. You know that their eyes are going to be on this game, so I do think it’s important. I don’t necessarily say that you have to go in there and actually pull off the win. It’s important that they see there is progress being made within our program and that there’s an opportunity for them to add to that depth and make the difference in the winning and losing. They’ll see great team energy, a great passion from our kids and hopefully a competitive spirit that will be attractive to them.”

On what goes into the decision to run in a high-tempo offense or not:

“We’re playing now with around 64 scholarship kids with the injuries that we have. Saturday, when they’re playing guys like Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton and Dennis Johnson, you just want to limit their possessions. In the first half we did because we were five for six on third downs. Then in the second half we were awful. After watching the tape, I give a lot of credit to both defensive staffs for the adjustments that were made at halftime. After our last drive of the first half, they decided they couldn’t fit our runs and started doing some things we had not seen on tape and not prepared for. It took us until about the last drive to wise up. I give them a lot of credit. They had a good plan in the second half, as did our defense. Really what goes into it is trying to put your team in the best situation that they can be the most competitive in. You don’t want to go a bunch of three-and-outs in tempo and your defense is back out there inside of a minute. It didn’t work out for us perfectly on Saturday, but that’s what goes into the thinking.”

On managing the clock:

“We can slow it down anytime we want to, and we’ve done that quite a few games when we had the lead to try and milk some clock. When you go into your tempo, you certainly don’t want to have a mixture because now they can get all of their different personnel substitutions in and different calls. It’s a balancing act. The other day when we went our fastest tempo in the last possession of the first half and in the last of the game, it seemed to give them more problems for sure. Our kids had great poise in both drives. It didn’t seem to be hectic. It seemed to be pretty calm. We were able to have great success.”

On the improvements of the offense:

“I do know that we can be better, especially when we get to full strength of 85 scholarships, depth at the positions we need and maybe a few more offensive linemen that fit in exactly what we’re trying to do. It’s been proven with our limited success that we’ve had and Kevin Sumlin and the success that (Texas) A&M has had doing it. I see no reason why you can’t be successful. Matchups are big in this league. Some teams’ matchups are going to give you more problems than others and vice versa. I do think we’re multiple enough where we can do some of the other stuff also. If we need to do that to be competitive in games, we can.”

On making other teams uncomfortable with the high-tempo offense:

“I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of it in terms of taking joy in making them uncomfortable. I take joy in giving our kids a competitive advantage. When we are in our fastest tempos, it’s very common that you don’t see but a few different looks. You do not have to block 18 different fronts. It would be very difficult for a defense to carry their whole package when you’re in your fastest tempo. I do take pleasure in whether or not it gives us some type of advantage, but I do take pleasure in competing with other teams.”

On Bo Wallace’s decision-making skills improving:

“Dan (Werner) has done a good job with him, in maturing and preparing him. Early on we probably put too much on him; I know we did in the Alabama game. There’s no question in my mind that we tried to over-coach. We tried to do too much and we tried to carry too much. Ironically, the times we had success we just went back to doing what we do and doing it fast. We have carried less and made sure he felt very comfortable with what we were carrying and how he was going to set his protections. If he didn’t feel comfortable, let’s not carry it. Dan has done a good job in coaching him on how to prepare better. We’ve also made sure he feels more comfortable with the plan.”

On how tempting it is to run high-tempo all of the time:

“It is very tempting. These games are so long. When you’re playing teams like Georgia, who has those receivers and running backs, every time they touch it you hold your breath thinking they could score. I have a defensive staff that will hope you can slow this one down a little bit. It’s a balancing act. If we were a little deeper in the secondary and at defensive end, it would be even more tempting. It’s still tempting. It’s not going to be effective all of the time, and you know when it’s not effective you’re going to be out there a span of about 40-45 seconds. Certainly Georgia has the type of players and coaches that are going to make it unsuccessful at times. It’s a guessing game and I’m not saying I have all of the answers. You just take insight from your coaches, and you try to do what you think is best for your team at that point. That’s my nature, and it is what I would like to do. I’m not confident that we’re deep enough to go score 60 against Georgia to win a game. You kind of have to feel that way if you’re going to sell out and do that all of the time. You better be thinking you’re going to score a lot of points to win a game like this against the players they have.”

On having so many Georgia guys on the roster and the extra incentive they’ll have this weekend:

“Some of them will have to calm down a little bit. They’re emotional kids and they’re young and excited about going back home. They’ll have a lot of family and friends there. We want them to do well, but you still have to prepare just like any other game. There’s no question that those kids had a little extra pep in our team meeting yesterday. They’re excited to go back home.”

On the successfulness of mixing up different coverages to fool Tyler Wilson:

“Again I give credit to both defensive staffs, ours included. I was not very happy at halftime with the things we had done. I listened to them all at halftime, and I had complete confidence that Dave (Wommack) and his staff could make the right adjustments to give us a chance. They did beautifully. You noticed them checking at the line a lot, and we started checking things with them. It became a little bit of a chess match. Once they checked and gave us time to check, the play clock was low. We ended up winning quite a few of those. Again I give credit to our staff. We would go from a single-high coverage to a two-high coverage, a zone coverage to a man coverage or a man coverage to a zone coverage. If you go into that mode and the play clock gets so low, you either have to live with it or use your timeouts. Dave did a nice job with that.”

On special teams changes for the Arkansas game:

“We changed a few personnel and just continued to work on them. People like Carlos Davis, who we haven’t been playing until this week, what a phenomenal job he did. He was the first one down on every kick. He made a tackle and was prepared to make a few others if they had returned them. We put Channing Ward on kickoff cover team. He’s a big, physical guy. We put him at the position that normally gets double-teamed. That has helped us some also. Some of it is personnel changes, some of it is changing a few schemes on our punt pro to show some different protections so people couldn’t scheme our protections. They were beneficial to us. It’s just us continuing to work and getting kids who may be a little fresher to be on those teams.”

On giving Jim Broadway a chance to punt this season:

“I went and looked at his stats that he averaged at this level. Maybe not this league, but he started for another division one school and he punted a whole year. He averaged 36.7 or so yards. I knew that he had a possibility and was somebody we needed to look at. I hadn’t shared with anyone at that time my crazy idea of redshirting two seniors, but it was in the back of my mind all along. If we could just find somebody to rugby punt it right and left we might be able to get by this year. Then he comes out and he’s had a fairly consistent year. To this point, it’s been worth doing what we’re doing. I’m happy for him to go back and I know it will be a memory for him and his father.”

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