Open Week Monday

Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss find themselves ranked among the nation’s top 10 in the Associated Press poll Monday at No. 10. In the USA Today coaches’ poll, the Rebels are No. 12.

Pretty heady stuff for a program that in 2011 didn’t win a Southeastern Conference game and was 2-10 overall.

That was before Freeze became head coach. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for the Ole Miss Rebels.

“It’s exciting to everyone,” he said. “But to me every day has a life of its own. Every play in a game has a life of its own. Today. Tomorrow. Being ranked is a good thing.

“But if all you ever worry about is the ranking and scoreboard and what it says, I think you lose sight of some things. And that’s not what we’re about in our program. We've got to maintain our focus on the process. That's what we want to be about.”

Freeze continues to explain.

“Winning each play as a life of its own, and each day, and then looking up to see what the end result is. If all you’re worried about is how we can mess that up because that’s the single goal, you’ve missed the joy of the journey.”

Freeze mentioned the program he inherited was having a tough time winning not long ago.

“Just two and a half years ago this program was winless in this league,” he said. “In that amount of time, our kids, the people around this program, and our administration deserve a lot of credit for being recognized for (the ranking). Is it deserving at this point? I do know we have a very difficult stretch of games to come.”

Freeze said the Southeastern Conference Western Division is as tough as ever.

“I think all 7 SEC West teams should be ranked in the top 25,” he said. “I think it’s that strong.”

Freeze’s assessment of the league, or at least the half of it the Rebels are in, means a battle every week. And there are good teams throughout the SEC.

“We've come a long way in a short amount of time, but let's don't lose sight about enjoying the journey and keeping our eyes focused on the process and not so much the results."

Freeze believes the team will maintain its focus and direction and continue to progress, based on what he’s seen so far.

"I’m proud of our team the last two weeks with their business-like approach,” Freeze said. “Go about your business and find a way to win. They’ve done that the last couple of weeks.”

Tougher opponents are ahead, however, as Ole Miss stands at 3-0 with wins over Boise State, Vanderbilt, and Louisiana-Lafayette.

“Obviously there are games coming up where we’ll need to be sharper than we’ve been,” Freeze said. “Watching the film you see those things. But you also see a lot of good things. We’ve just got to continue to improve.”

Freeze said an open date this week comes at a good time. But he does kind of wish the Rebels were playing, given some momentum they’ve built.

“Having a week off is never a bad thing. We’ve got a couple of guys injured, and this week will help. I’Tavius Mathers, Jordan Wilkins, D.T. Shackelford all will be limited if we could go this week. So I don’t know if they will even be able to practice. Hopefully they’ll be healthy next week at this time as we get ready for our next game.”

Freeze Frames

* On how he and his staff will use this open week and then look ahead to playing Memphis on Sept. 27: “We do the same thing every off week. We’ll study ourselves and our next opponent, or two opponents, if we can. Then recruit. We’ll practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and our coaches will hit the road Wednesday night and be at some places Thursday and Friday. Today through Wednesday we study ourselves in the morning, our opponent in the afternoon, and recruit at night. So that’s what we do every open week.”

* On how difficult will it be to get a team not ranked this high before to keep from looking ahead to Alabama?: "I don't know that it's totally possible. We'll be proactive about it in relating to them the message of the process. It's about winning today and not tomorrow. We need to make sure we're prepared for the next step in this journey, which is Sept. 27. We’ll constantly remind them of that. Mature leadership in the locker room helps us with those things. It can be distracting to hear about things that are not next on your agenda."

* On Ben Still: “On the mental side, he’s sharp. He’s struggled at times with certain type of things we ask him to do against certain defenses. It’s just the more he sees it and recognizes it, (the better he will get). His snaps have been solid. He’s a tough kid that loves to play the game. He’s played more snaps than anybody in the offensive line. He graded out at 72 percent the alst game and has been solid.”

* On Rod Taylor: "He didn't grade out as well as I thought he might. But he's got the talent. He’s really an athlete. He stays on his feet. He had some good blocks that helped us have some really explosive plays. The more he plays, the better he’s going to be. I was encouraged on how he played with energy and fire and played physical."

* On the back up QBs, Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade: “I was extremely pleased with Ryan at Vandy. He looked really poised and did some things that don’t always come totally natural. He sees the field well. Ryan didn’t get as many opportunites (against ULL). DeVante got in there and had a 12 or 13 play drive and played well. We didn’t ask him to do a whole lot. But he made some good reads and threw some good balls right on target. I thought he played solid. So I’ve been pleased.”

On injuries: I'tavius Mathers (toe), Jordan Wilkins (ankle and knee), D.T. Shackelford (ankle) and DeMarquis Gates (deep thigh bruise).

* On the loss of Stan Sandroni: “Many of us went to the funeral today of Stan Sandroni. It’s been amazing the outpouring of love and support the Rebel family has shown Glenda and Chris. But certainly tougher times are ahead as they deal with the loss of a great man, and obviously to our family also here at Ole Miss. I just want to let Glenda and Chris know we’re certainly here for them.”

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