SEC Media Days

HOOVER, Ala. - Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze was comfortable at the podium his first time at SEC Media Days a year ago. He looked, and responded, like even more of a veteran today in Hoover on his second trip to this annual media extravaganza.

Dapper in his grey suit with baby blue shirt and Navy and red tie, Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze looked relaxed and in command at the podium at SEC Media Days here Tuesday afternoon.

"We're excited about year two of our journey," Freeze opened. "We don't have what I would call an SEC depth chart yet, but we are getting there and we are looking forward to this season.

"Personal accountability was a key to our season last year and I think we are further along in that area than we were a year ago. We've had a good, hard summer and can't wait to get started."

Freeze expressed depth concerns in certain areas and expanded on that.

"First, all of the guys who had surgeries in the offseason - C.J. Johnson, Bo Wallace, Aaron Morris, Charles Sawyer and all the guys who had surgery - are key players and we are concerned about their return. They are all on schedule to be back, but we want to see it when August rolls around," he explained. "Beyond that, we are thin on the OL, we are thin at defensive end, tight end is really thin and we feel we need help at corner and safety.

"We need our young players to mature quickly and be able to fill some of those gaps. We are counting on that. Can they? We'll see soon enough."

Hugh Freeze
USA TODAY images

Freeze's offensive philosophy is built around tempo. He did not use the fast-pace as much as he would have liked in his first year, but anticipates doing it more this year for a specific reason.

"We did not have a lot of defensive depth last year, so I could not risk wearing them out by turning the ball over quickly on offense, so I held back," he stated. "I think we addressed some of our depth issues on defense and that will allow us to play a little faster on offense, I believe. That is certainly our plan right now. Again, depth on defense will be a determining factor on how fast we go offensively."

In regards to the tempo offense, some SEC coaches have expressed concerns for the health of their players facing the up-tempo.

"I have never seen any evidence of the tempo offense being a detriment to a player's health," Freeze said, almost scoffing. "Let's be honest, defensive linemen are more athletic than offensive linemen. If it hurt anyone, it would be my offensive players."

In other words, hogwash.

As expected, the Rebs' 2013 schedule came into question. Four out of the first five on the road and then six in a row at home.

"I wish it were different, but I can't control the schedule. All we can control is how we approach the challenge," Hugh noted. "It's certainly an interesting schedule, to say the least, but we are excited to see how it plays out and we are ready to tackle the challenge."

Freeze came into the league with the reputation of being somewhat of a gambler and unconventional. He does not see it that way.

"I told myself when I got this job to just be myself. We do what we feel good about. We try to come up with the best plan to help us win and go with it," he added. "I know there are times when people in the stands are saying that was a stupid call. About half the time, I wish I could turn around and agree with them, but we are who we are.

"The bottom line is that we are going to prepare hard and do everything we can to win. Once we get the program established a little more, maybe we won't have to gamble as much. Right now, we feel we have to take a few chances."

The Rebels, starting with Freeze, are facing some pretty high expectations from the fans, excited from last year's 7-6 showing and close-and-almost encounters in three games that could be tabbed "should have won" contests.

"Again, that is something we cannot control. We know where we are, we know who we are. Our goal is to get the most we can out of each other and this team," he closed. "We won't talk about expectations and we will not be held to anyone's expectations but our own and we will keep those in our locker room.

"I understand the excitement and welcome it. I just ask our fans to be realistic in their support and expectations. Like I said, when I look at our roster, I do not see the depth some of the teams we are facing have. They have had several years of the kind of recruiting we had last year. We are getting there, but we aren't there yet. That does not mean we aren't excited about this year and plan to do well, it is just reality."

Freeze said the things most pleasing to him from 2013 were that the team represented the university with class, the personal accountability was high, there was a modicum of success in turning things around and registering a winning season, and the team's APR went from 927 to 944 in one year.

"We have accomplished some good things and are building a foundation," he closed. "Step two is right around the corner and we can't wait to get started."

Year two at SEC Media Days for Freeze? Another success story.

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