How to Deal

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has had many an anxious moment this summer. He can't help it.

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NCAA rules stipulate that head coaches can only have limited contact with players in the summer. As Freeze puts it, "a less structured environment."

These months are different. He can talk to his players, but they're mostly left to themselves, outside of the time spent with strength and conditioning coach Paul Jackson.

If Freeze had it his way, he'd probably do away with the rule. I mean, he was just making progress a month or so ago.

"It's very difficult. I'm not a fan of the rule, particularly in our case when we feel like we're making a little headway and then they get out from under our structure somewhat," Freeze said.

Ole Miss finished 2-10 last season, its worst record since 1946. The Rebels have lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games. Freeze is in his first year of rebuilding a broken program.

"We can't do anything to hold them accountable in the summer months," Freeze said. "I understand the intent of (the rule), but to go two months without being able to hold kids to a structured environment in this world we live in and with everything they have out there to distract them, boy, I'm not a fan of it.

"It's a difficult time, but I do like what I'm hearing from the leadership on our team. I do think we've had some guys step up and attempt to do that and are doing it well. Our list of things that are not happening correctly has really dwindled. We're just keeping our fingers crossed that we can get through July with the same growth that we've made thus far."

Some surprising candidates, at least to Freeze, have emerged as leaders alongside longtime figureheads Charles Sawyer and Mike Marry.

Paul Jackson

Freeze named running back Jeff Scott, wide receiver Ja-Mes Logan, cornerback Dehendret Collins, defensive end C.J. Johnson and offensive lineman Aaron Morris as a few who are taking on a leadership role.

"Real pleased," he said. "When I first got here and looked at all the lists and all the issues, I certainly didn't immediately think Jeff Scott or Ja-Mes or C.J. is going to be one that we count on as leaders. But boy, I've been real pleased with their development."

Freeze receives daily reports from Jackson on the progress of his team in the weight room. There's a long way to go in terms of athleticism and conditioning, Freeze said, but the players are bringing the effort and attitude Freeze and staff are looking for.

"I think Paul's really pleased with the attitude and effort, which is the two things we've asked our kids to give us," he said. "We still have a ways to go in the athleticism part and conditioning part. But I have no doubt that he'll get them there. I love our strength and conditioning staff, their attitude and the way they go to work every day. I think our kids are feeding off of it."

Work on the field isn't the only focus in the summer months. Academics were a major issue during spring practices in April, when Freeze often made mention of a number of players who were in serious academic trouble.

Two players who were with the team in April are no longer on the roster: Nick Brassell and Zack Stoudt. Stoudt, as announced in an official school release, left the program due to health issues. Brassell was ruled academically ineligible. He has since enrolled at East Mississippi Community College.

Grades for the first summer session will arrive either later this week or the first of next week.

"We're battling through it. Fortunately, we're to this point and only down two kids from the issues we inherited," Freeze said. "I think everyone else still has a chance. Some are going to be down to the wire. First summer may clear it up in a negative and a positive way. We're kind of waiting. Grades will come out later this week, first of next week, and we should know more then. It appears everyone is still on track to make it."

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