2013 Evaluation

The Ole Miss football staff is taking a needed and well-deserved break for a couple of days, but Rebel Coach Hugh Freeze always has football on his mind. Hence, a brief evaluation of the 2013 season, an 8-5 effort that culminated in a victory over Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl.

Due to the new recruiting rules, which designate a dead period from December 16th-January 15th, the Ole Miss coaching staff is recharging their batteries for a couple of days before getting back into the grind that is college football coaching.

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze, however, has wheels that never stop spinning.

Until the mid-summer break, it's all football all the time for Freeze.

Before he puts 2013 on the shelf for good, some reflection is in order.

What did the Rebels do well in 2013? What do they need to improve on moving forward?

"We need to improve on everything. I don't think you can ever be completely satisfied in this profession. You are always striving to be better," Freeze said flatly, "but breaking everything down, we did some things well and some things not so well."

So, let's get at it. . .

"I think any time you are in the top half in total offense and total defense in the SEC, you are doing something right," Freeze began. "There's no doubt we were doing some good things on both sides of the ball.

Hugh Freeze
File Photo

"We finished with over 6,100 yards on offense and we were sixth or seventh in total defense. Those are pretty good numbers in this league based on where we are in building our program. It tells me we've got a pretty good plan. Certainly, we are going to constantly evaluate what we are doing and change things as needed, but our base stuff is producing for us on both sides of the ball.

"We were third in the league in passing offense and eighth in rushing offense, fifth in total offense, which are OK numbers for now. On defense, I thought we did a pretty good job, overall, against the run. We had a couple of games, like Missouri in the second half and Auburn in the first half, where we didn't do as well against the run, but sometimes teams just have your number and have a good plan. It happens in this league to the best of them."

From a total output standpoint, there are several things Freeze wants to see improvement in, but three areas are his biggest concerns.

"Our Red Zone production was not good at all," he continued. "I think we were 13th in the league. That won't get it done. We didn't score the points we should have based on the offensive production we had. That jumps off the page for me. Some of that was personnel and some of it was our Red Zone plan. We will have to work on that very hard in spring and August.

"On defense, we did not create enough pressure. I think we were 11th in the conference in sacks/tackles for loss. Some of that was trying to protect our secondary as they developed. Some of that was gambling and losing one-on-ones. The other thing that jumps off the page - and I am sure (DC) Dave (Wommack) would agree - is getting off the field on third downs, particularly third-and-longs. That goes back to our pass rush and it goes back to when you want to gamble knowing our situation in the secondary. While I did think we got better in the secondary as the year progressed with some young kids improving, what we felt we could call at times was limited."

The Rebels broke even this year on turnover margin - a zero "rating."

"The top team in the SEC had a +16 turnover margin. We need to get in the plus figures. There are only two ways to do that - cut back on our turnovers and create more turnovers," Freeze noted. "I believe we can do both those things in the future."

Ole Miss finished ninth in the SEC in penalties. That's another area Freeze wants to improve on.

"We were fairly disciplined, for the most part, but we can work on that and get in the top half of the league," he said.

The kicking game started strong but tapered off at the end. Overall, however, Freeze felt the special teams got a passing grade, all things considered.

Hugh Freeze
File Photo

"We had some special moments out of our fifth-year senior kickers, but both slumped toward the end of the year. Our coverage teams were OK and our return game was efficient until we lost Jeff Scott returning punts," Freeze added. "Our special teams schemes are good. We just have to keep building depth to fill in all the special teams spots and we have to become more consistent with our kicking game."

Freeze's plan, which started about an hour after the Music City Bowl win over Georgia Tech, is pretty basic and simple.

"Our roster is still not balanced. I have said all along it will take 3-4 recruiting cycles to get it right. I consider this signing class our second full one," Freeze assessed. "Having said that, we have made good progress toward that end.

"We have to continue to study our deficiencies and recruit to them. We have to get more balance in our roster. After two years, I believe our plan is solid, we just have to recruit to it."

Next: In the near future, we will take a closer look at the returning roster and how each position, in Freeze's eyes, breaks down as the Rebels move forward.

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