Getting Better

With a productive early signing period yesterday, young players getting extra reps in bowl practice and veterans wanting to go out on a winning note, Ole Miss football "got better" in the past 48 hours, according to Coach Hugh Freeze as he addressed the media after Thursday's practice.

As far as Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze is concerned, Ole Miss football has taken some steps forward in the past 48 hours, including bowl practices.

"We work every single day with one thing in mind - getting better," he said. "I think we have done that here lately. We had a real good early signing period, our young kids who will help next year have gotten productive reps in bowl practice and our veterans have shown a lot of energy in an attempt to get the bad taste from the last two games out of their mouths.

"I really like the reps we are getting for some of the younger players and giving them a jump on spring training. Robert Conyers, Durante Bouldin, Davion Johnson and Ben Still are getting a lot of work. We have seen some good things and we've seen some bad things, but the more reps they get, the further along they will be when spring comes around. On defense, Herbert Moore, Fadol Brown and Anthony Alford have really shown up and stood out. It's been good."

Freeze was blunt in saying his team needs a boost after the way the regular season ended.

"I'm going to talk out of both sides of my mouth right now. Where we are in the journey of building a program is further along than I anticipated, but where we ended the season doesn't make us feel that way," he said. "I think everyone will agree to that. We can talk about all the reasons, but it is what it is and we don't feel good right now to have ended things like we did. That's why we are anxious to play again, to recapture the feelings we had after Texas and LSU and some of our other wins.

"Two years, two bowls. That's exciting. But not finishing strong, especially in the Egg Bowl, leaves a bad taste in our mouths than we have to erase. Right now, I can't make too much out of one game, win or lose, because we are still a young team that is developing, but a win in the Music City Bowl would certainly help in giving us back some momentum as we finish up recruiting and head into the offseason. We know, however, we are playing a really good football team that has given a lot of teams a lot of problems and we know we could lose it if we don't play well. I just want us to play well and let the chips fall where they may and get out of this funk we closed the season in."

A good starting point would be to do a better job in the Red Zone.

"We've broken down every Red Zone opportunity - good and bad. When we have failed, it's been a combination of bad calls, bad execution and not being able to run the ball," Hugh assessed. "We have to do better. From the calls to the execution to the mentality of not being denied and getting it in the end zone. That's the bottom line."

The Rebel defense continued their effort to get indoctrinated to the triple option offense Georgia Tech will run in the Music City Bowl.

"We know what to expect. Our staff has done a good job of preparing them for what they will see and the kids have worked hard to tune in to it," said Freeze. "The remaining issue will be the tempo of their offense. As the game gets underway, hopefully we will adjust to the speed of the game, but it will definitely be faster than what we have practiced.

"But as far as having our assignments down and knowing what to do, I am confident. We'll have a good understanding of it, we'll just have to adjust to the speed of it early on in the game."

Random Notes:

* For sure, OL Aaron Morris and Austin Golson will not play against Georgia Tech. It's still up in the air about LT Laremy Tunsil, who came to practice for the first time Wednesday, was braced up and had a noticeable limp still. Without those three, what does it do to the dynamic of the offensive line? "It's just part of the game. It doesn't just happen to us. We can't make excuses or complain about it, you just have to get the next guy ready and go recruit more depth," Freeze said. "We need to get to teh point in our program where those injuries do not take as big a toll on you as they have this year. I am proud of the way the available players are preparing and I feel they will find a way to do the job with a winning effort. The toughest part of coaching is when you lose kids to injuries, but it happens."

Hugh Freeze
File Photo
* At the end of practice Wednesday, Freeze only had one signee - Christian Russell - in the bank he could talk about by rule. He was asked about the others - Jeremy Liggins, Kendrick Doss, Fahn Cooper and Christian Morris - after Thursday's practice. "I thought Jeremy was one of the best athletes in the country when he was a senior at Lafayette County. We recruited him extremely hard when we got here, but just didn't have enough time to close the deal with him. We are thrilled to have him now. We have to get him in great shape and see where he lands. The possibilities are quite broad on how he can help us. Hopefully we can get the waiver and get him in here in spring and see where he is going to help us," said Freeze. "Where he will play depends on who we have available when we start spring ball. We'd like to see him work out and see what kind of shape he's in and what his weight is. It wouldn't shock me to see him take some snaps at QB. He could be a quality DL in this league too," said Freeze. "We are hoping Christian (Morris) will not have to sit out a year. We will file an appeal on that too due to his grandmother's health, but he's a big, athletic body who will help us. I'm anxious to see him in spring. We cannot file the appeal until he gets enrolled.

"Fahn is another big body who impressed us on film with his start when he was at Bowling Green in The Swamp. He's long and he played almost the whole game and held his own against Florida two years ago. We are excited about him. Kendrick is a big, strong, athletic kid who can help us in a lot of ways. He's a great kid with great grades and we are anxious to see how many different ways he can help us. We are thrilled with all these guys. There is no question we got better yesterday."

* WR Ja-Mes Logan, Freeze said, will not play in the Music City Bowl. The senior stalwart dropped the ball, pardon the pun, academically and is not eligible to participate.

* The defense did not go through the cut blocking drills they have used the past week on Thursday, but they did replace it with a pursuit drill that is usually reserved for August practice. When the ball is snapped, every defensive lineman has to do an up-down, get up and chase the ball with a ballcarrier sweeping outside. The purpose? Hustle, obviously, but it also teaches using proper pursuit angles for the offside chasers.

* The new team meeting room in the Manning Center expansion is nearing completion and it is magnificent. There is seating for 207 in comfortable, thickly padded seats, a 21-foot projection screen and JBL studio speakers strategically placed. Awesome.

* Although he is on the scout team defense right now, walkon OLB Taylor Polk has been turning some heads recently in bowl practice going against the number 1 and 2 offenses. He's got a non-stop motor and great instincts to put him in the right position to make plays most of the time. The Brandon native also has good wheels and covers sideline to sideline. "Taylor is a baller," said Freeze. "I look for him to be, at least, a big part of our special teams next year and then we'll see how he develops from there."

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