Talking Football

Hugh Freeze started season three of his Rebel regime with some updates of note at the preseason press conference Friday.

First things first: priorities. Freeze addressed academics.

“We’re pleased with the academic achievement and improvements we’ve had in that regard. In year three of that journey, this is the first day I can stand before you guys on the first day of camp and say everyone’s eligible and we’re not scrambling around trying to get someone eligible at this point, which is a great testimony to our academic support staff and the job they’ve done. And our kids’ heightened awareness of what really is important, and that’s getting an education.”

Freeze said having having the coaching staff back intact is big. He also said there are some immediate goals as camp opens.

“Developing more depth, especially at key positions,” he said. “Staying healthy, which is a quandary in my mind that I go through every single day of being fast and physical, which we were in the spring. I couldn’t be more pleased.

“Now we feel we can be good, and hopefully we can go from good to great. Everything changes if you have injuries. How do you get done what you need to develop depth, and create a competitive practice and also stay as healthy as you can?"

Questions not easily answered.

“We have to create more depth. I like where some guys are physically but they need to develop mentally,” Freeze said. “Continue to improve the buy-in. Our theme this year is “All In.” Show the kids the characteristics of being all in. If we can get that percentage of being all in up in the 80s and 90s, we can be a special team.”

Some more important points:

* On injuries: “Chief Brown will be out for the year. That’s very unfortunate for him. Christian Morris is ready to go. The only one that might not be ready to go is Woody (Hamilton), but he will do some things. We'll evaluate him as we go. We feel good about where he is but don’t want to rush him.”

* On some position questions: "C.J. Moore will start at defensive back, either rover or husky. D.K. (Buford) will be at husky. (Jeremy) Liggins will be a tight end."

* On Treadwell moving outside: “That’s his natural position and that helps us. We'll continue to move him around but he's primarily an outside guy. He's excited about that. Outside guys typically have the chance to make more explosive plays. He's physically ready. Got to continue to help him move mentally in year two of his journey with us. He really wants to be a leader.”

* On other receivers: “We’re probably not as deep there as I'd like to be. I’ve said all along it would take us three years to get the depth exactly right. But I like the ones we have.”

* On Tee Shepard: “I expect Tee to come in and potentially be a lockdown corner we may have been missing. He's excited to be here. He smiles all the time. I like our depth at corner, and that’s the first time I can say that. I expect Tee to come in and compete right away.”

* On the OL and depth: “We've got to be careful. We're OK inside depth-wise. On the edges we're very, very thin. Got to get some depth quickly. Hopefully we can stay healthy. One more recruiting class can help with (OL depth).”

* On getting from good to great: “It’s a little of both (physical and mental). And you need the ball to bounce your way. Make a field goal here and them miss one there. You need all that to go from good to great. How do we measure that? People will measure that with wins and losses. I try not to get caught up in that. I will measure that with the preparation and the attitude and the little things we do, and then continue to recruit. When I say good to great, I don't know if it's this year or it takes one more class.”

* Any reaction on Nebraska coach Bo Pellini's comments on Damore'ea Stringfellow?: “I think it's bad form anytime......we're colleagues in this together. Genuinely I think coaches are for the kids in general. We're confident in the way our coaches go about things. I reached out to him and asked him if he knew anything I didn't know to please call, and I got no response. I will say this, the lady I dealt with was very charming and intelligent and very observant. I think there are a lot of reasons it may have gone our way. I’m sure he had a reason and he said it. We're glad we have String.....and his mom.”

* On D.T. Shackelford: “He's definitely healthier this year than this time last year. He's mature. A leader in the locker room. He’s a great role model, a great student-athlete. He's the Chucky Mullins award winner. We have our fingers crossed he stays healthy. We need him to play well in the middle.”

* On Christian Morris eligibility process; “Haven't heard. Can practice. Same thing with String. They’re both in the appeal process and I have no idea how to tell you when those will come.”

* On the kicking game: "It’s wide open. I’m anxious to see where we are. Our field goal kicker and our punting guys. Still competitive battles. (Will) Gleeson has the punting edge. The kicking duty is wide open. Expect Andy Pappanastos and Gary (Wunderlich) to have great competition. (Andrew) Fletcher too. Nathan Noble will handle kickoff duties. I am excited, and we have some guys that could be really good.”

* On Bo Wallace: “The only person I really talk to is Bo. He’s as confident as I've ever seen him. Says it’s the first time in three years with no pain when he’s throwing. He's gained 12-15 pounds. Feel confident he's in best shape mentally and physically since he's been here.”

* On Jeremy Liggins: “Jeremy is one of my favorite kids. He ripped my heart out at one point in the recruiting process. Glad he's made his way back home. An athletic big guy. He’s starting at tight end but that doesn't mean he’ll end up there. People like him certainly help your football team. He’s just so athletic for a big guy and really wants to do well for this university.”

* On Channing Ward: “He’s back on defense. We’ve moved him around several times just trying to find a way to get him on the field and more snaps. Every kid wants to play. They want to play in front of their parents, in front of their friends, to represent their university, and they want to do well. It doesn’t always work out. It’s our job to help them navigate those issues in life. Channing and I have had several talks during the course of the summer. I think he wants to move back to the defensive side. He would probably have one package offensive that he can do. That’s all we would ask him to learn on that side. Hopefully everything comes together for him and he can turn it loose and play with a higher motor. He's such an athletic kid, he looks like he ought to be an All-SEC performer. Hopefully he will be before he leaves here.”

* On the fact that the school will honor Chucky Mullins by renaming Coliseum Drive for him, and also honor his legacy at the Memphis football game weekend in late September: “Hearing Ross (Bjork) talk about Chucky and what he’s really known for is “It’s time.” We’re glad to say it’s time again for football season here at The University of Mississippi. Our kids are excited, along with our staff and our fans. We can’t wait to get it started out on the field.”

* On the leadership at Ole Miss: “We're excited about the administration with Dr. (Dan) Jones and Ross, who continue to improve things around this great place. You can see the vision of our administration and our coaching staff so we can become the best we can be at the flagship university in regard to being relevant in academic achievement and getting our degrees, and also competing in the Southeastern Conference. If you’re competing there, you’re relevant.”

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