Rolling Along

Hugh Freeze has some unpacking to do. His life isn't consumed with recruiting like it was earlier this month and spring practices are a few months away. He's got some spare time, if only a little.

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Ole Miss is entrenched in its off-season strength and conditioning program, led by new strength coach Paul Jackson, formerly of Southern Miss, and "the most important hire I probably made," according to Freeze.

And so far, the response from players has been positive.

"Paul Jackson and his strength staff are doing a really nice job of creating an atmosphere of work," Freeze said, in an interview with Ben Garrett and Steven Godfrey on Rebel Sports Radio Wednesday.

"I do think the attitude has been really nice, but we still have a ways to go in learning how to work every day and win the day. The guys are really buying in. (Jackson) has got great energy, and they're working extremely hard. But we've got to learn how to do that and take baby steps before we get ready for next September. We need all the time we can get."

Freeze was named Ole Miss' head coach in December. He replaced Houston Nutt, who held the post for four seasons.

He hit the ground running, diving head-first into recruiting with but a few months to land a 2012 signing class. In the end, he signed 19 players. Headlining the class were quarterback Bo Wallace and defensive linemen Channing Ward and Issac Gross.

Now Freeze and staff are preparing for spring practices. He's been on the road as well, from Memphis to Jackson, racking up car mileage due to speaking engagements. Freeze sent out a tweet from his Twitter account, @CoachHughFreeze, Wednesday morning. He was headed to Memphis to meet with former players.

Hugh Freeze
Bruce Newman

"I just want to create an atmosphere of positive energy around our program," Freeze said of his outreach efforts, be it with fans or former players. "The best way I know to do that is communicate with them and make them feel a part."

Ole Miss has its issues moving forward, many of them off the field.

A number of players face academic issues. There's work to be done in the classroom, and Freeze and staff have demanded a commitment to the academic side in his short time on the job.

"It's been very positive. Been pleased with the kids' response," Freeze said. "Unfortunately, there's some kids that have put themselves in a big hole. We've got to work out of those holes. Hopefully all of them will. Right now, they're on the right track. But some of them are facing a mountainous climb."

Spring practices will be different under Freeze, to a certain extent. The Rebels will open with practices on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The reasoning behind the move is to avoid the daily distractions of student-athletes, including class interruptions.

Freeze said the plan is "to get 50 percent of who we are in." However, of utmost importance is for the players to learn to compete and play every play with great passion.

"Ultimately our goal for spring ball will not only be to install stuff but to make sure our kids are competing every day and that we as coaches bring an enormous amount of energy and passion to the practice field," Freeze said.

"We've got to come out (of spring drills) feeling for 15 days, our kids brought it."

Ole Miss will surely be without linebacker D.T. Shackelford this spring and possibly longer.

Shackelford missed all of last season due to injury, after tearing his ACL in spring practices a year ago. His recovery hasn't been what Freeze had hoped for. He'll visit with Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham soon for a re-evaluation of the knee.

"He's not healthy, and that's unfortunate ‘cause he is a kid that we feel could be a leader of this football team," Freeze said. "I think he's got an appointment next week that we'll know a lot more. He's certainly not where we'd like for him to be."

Junior quarterback Barry Brunetti is currently sporting a walking boot. He suffered a minor ankle injury recently but should be good to go for spring.

"If we played this week, he'd try to go," Freeze said.


To hear the full interview on The Flagship, tune in to You can also download the Rebel Sports Radio app for iPhone and Android. Follow Rebel Sports Radio on Twitter, @RebelSportRadio.

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