Rallying The Troops

Last season Ole Miss stayed away from a major injury list. This year, halfway through, the list is lengthy.


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In Monday's press conference, Hugh Freeze was asked about it, so he addressed it. His 3-3 team, 1-3 in Southeastern Conference play, hosts LSU Saturday night.

"We're a beat-up football team right now. But we'll get ready for it and we're looking forward to the challenge," Freeze said.

Let's take a look.

"We have a lot of kids out. Serderius Bryant, Robert Nkemdiche, Temario Strong, Jeff Scott, Mike Hilton, Issac Gross, Barry Brunetti, Chief Brown, C.J. Johnson, Carlos Thompson. And Aaron Morris already out. We have a laundry list and are reeling a bit with injuries. We called upon some in the fourth quarter who hadn't been in those situations before. It's part of the game. You hate it for the kids. You fear that because of our depth issues that we won't be able to adequately represent the progress we're making against these top teams. We won't blink. We'll get the ones we have ready that can play. And I know they'll compete with great passion for our university Saturday evening."

Here's what Freeze said further about some specific players and the chances they might play Saturday.

"I'm not sure about Barry. I don't know that he injured it any worse than it was, so hopefully he'll be fine. Issac will try to go, I'm sure. I doubt Temario will make it. Robert, no. Serderius I'm not sure. C.J. probably not. Carlos definitely not. Hilton doubtful. So we've got a challenge ahead of us."

Ole Miss likely needed to be at full strength to play LSU, and certainly had hoped to be. That won't be nearly the case at this point.

The tough schedule has definitely taken its medical toll on an Ole Miss team that has talent but not enough of it, depth but not what it will have into the future.

"We've got another Top 10 team coming in this week," he said. This is the toughest stretch of games I can recall. It's been a great challenge. We've learned quite a bit about ourselves."

Freeze said playing a home game again at Vaught-Hemingway was a huge boost for his team.

"It's been great playing at home in front of the home crowd," he said. "That definitely boosts our level of play. We're disappointed in the loss of course. Hate to let a game slip and not go our way against A&M. There are a lot of things we've got to try to improve. Making plays at a critical time is a part of that. Give credit to A&M. They did that."

Freeze Frames:

* On an incident with a fan in the stands that verbally interacted with Freeze as he left the field: "After the game we just witnessed I was shocked that was a part of it. There are a lot of factors to that. I don't think it's typical of me. We had just lost a gut-wrenching loss. We had a kid going to the hospital that wasn't moving. We had six kids that were injured and not in the game. There are certain experiences in life you'd rather your daughters and wife not have to experience. That was one of those. Wish I could have kept more composure and still had a conversation with him. But at that moment in time...I will defend our program. I will defend our kids. I will defend my family. If I offended anyone, I'm certainly sorry. I don't think I was disrespectful to anyone. I just got my point across."

* More Freeze on his explanation of the after-game exit from the field: "Let me say this. The greatest thing about Ole Miss is family. That is our selling point, and it is working. Every time a recruit comes on this campus with their family, we have a chance to get them because the strongest thing we have is family. I have disagreements with my brother. I have disagreements with my sister. I have disagreements with my daughters and my wife at times. And there are ways that I try to go about those things. The greatest thing about family is you can have a disagreement and move past it. There's no question in my mind that everyone in the Ole Miss family wants us to get to a certain spot, to a certain place. And we are on the way. I know everyone's expectations were different coming into the year. I preached all summer that we're still thin at places, this schedule is brutal. Right now we could be 1-5 with the teams we've played. We also could be 5-1. But we're 3-3 and the expectation level when it's different and it doesn't happen, some get frustrated. When it's a game of 80-something plays, they may agree with calls on 75 of them. They may disagree with five. That's OK. I don't mind that. I get that. Sometimes I agree with them that it was not the right thing. But if we really all want to get where we want to go, the way to go about it is not the public demeaning of a player or a program or our staff. Email me. I'll try my best to respond to it. But if we all want to get to that place - because that does not help us move forward – we are moving forward and our kids know that. I said all summer when expectations aren't met, frustration will set in. All of us are frustrated. That deal, I don't think there is as much to it as some media would like to make. They're looking for a story. But I will defend our program. I will defend our kids. I will defend my family. I wish I had been more composed. I apologize that I wasn't. I will try not to let that happen again. That's not the first time I've been yelled at, of course. And I have nothing against whoever the individual was. Would love to talk to them. Because we're family. That's what we are. And we'll move forward."

* On Serderius Bryant: "So much support from Rebel Nation and A&M family and other people throughout our conference. That reminds of the goodness of people out there, even though we battle extremely hard in recruiting and in the games. A lot of people recognize there's a lot more important (than a game). We appreciate those prayers and thank God all he suffered was a concussion. He was knocked out. He was back in meetings yesterday. He started our protocol this week of how you come back from one. We'll see how he progresses.

* On the last offensive series: "We had a little deal we've done the whole second half where we try short motion and see exactly what they're in and make the call accordingly. They were going to a boundary hammer, which is an eight-man front which is very difficult to run against. We checked to a pass, and unfortunately it didn't go to the right place on that play. We had a guy in the flat open for a nice gainer to get a good drive started. We made a bad decision, but to me that was better than running it and being in second and ten or nine or 11, which I saw was coming. They checked out of it which took away the two verticals but definitely had the flat open. Then we came back with another route we felt good about and should have made the play but didn't. We've got to make those when those times are like that to continue the drive that then gives us the flexibility of run or pass."

* On LSU QB Zach Mettenberger: "He's very good and has certainly improved. They're certainly playing to their strengths of winning one on one matchups on the outside when you have to load the box to stop the run. He's not missing many open receivers. He's managing the game extremely well. He's one of the better guys we've faced this year."

* On receiver drops: "When I coached receivers here my last year here, the receivers had a phenomenal year catching the football until that last game. I can't tell you why. I can't explain it. But we really hadn't had any of that all year. This year in at least two games we've dropped some critical balls. It's kinda like having a case of the shanks in golf. You don't want to say too much about it. You want to work on it. We'll get them more on the JUGS machine and continue to throw and catch. But to explain exactly what is happening I don't have one. But they're happening at bad times for us."

* On Charles Sawyer: "Pretty solid game. Gave up too much cushion a couple of times. He didn't get beat. Played extremely hard and sound. I thought it was a decent game for Charles. We need him this week for sure."


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