Freeze Frames

Questions abound as Ole Miss opens spring practices for the fourth time under head coach Hugh Freeze. He attempted to tackle a few in his pre-spring press conference Tuesday afternoon.


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Opening statement:

“The demands will be 15 days of great attitude and effort. We’ve got to develop great leadership on this team. I think we have some quality leaders, we’ve just got to help them find their niche, find their role in how to go about leading. We’re very excited about getting it started.”

On injuries:

“I expect Denzel and Laquon both to be back. Denzel right away, Laquon after spring break. He’ll do some things but not a lot this week. Robert Conyers, I think he will go after spring break also. The others – Daronte (Bouldin) and Aaron Morris – will not participate in spring ball. Tee’s full go. Carlos Davis will be after spring. We’ll see where he is.”

On Treadwell’s rehab:

“I give a lot of credit, first and foremost, to Laquon. He’s very determined to bounce back and be better than ever. His recovery’s gone faster than expected because of his attitude and how he’s gone about working at it. And also give credit to Pat Jernigan and our doctors. They’ve monitored his recovery, his repairs very, very closely, as they are the other guys right now. I’m impressed with how we’re getting to the next level and even greater than that in making sure that we feel like everything on a weekly basis is where it should be if not ahead.”

On the quarterback competition:

“We’re going to be very thorough in our evaluations and charting every single drill that they do. We’ll look at stats from those. It’s going to be a very competitive three-man deal. I think they drew straws last night to see who gets to the first set of (reps). Ryan won the draw. There will be a constant rotation and everyone will get equal reps with the ones and the twos. The main thing you want to see is who can handle hard coaching, who can understand what we’re trying to get accomplished with what we have called and then being able to execute it. Taking care of the ball is always a priority. I’m excited about all three. I like how they’ve studied and prepared. I’m anxious to see them get out and compete.”

On the secondary:

“We think we’ve got a lot of options there. We’re going to start Tony and Tee at corner. We’re actually going to start Mike Hilton at one of the safeties, knowing that he’s played them all. He can do that. If we think there’s a better rotation, we won’t hesitate to move them around. Excited about both the Bassfield kids. Also, Trae’s back, Chief’s back. We’re excited about the possibilities of Kailo Moore, Ken Webster. We’ve got some decent depth back there. We’ll try to find the best rotation.”

On if a starting QB will be named in spring:

“It would probably have to be so clear-cut for me to do that this spring knowing the personalities of who I’m dealing with and the time between now and fall. A lot of dynamics play into that. It’s probably not going to be a clear-cut decision at the end of spring. It would continue through summer workouts. It’s time for that room to be the leaders of this team. With that comes some responsibility, and want them to understand that in the summer months also.”

On if not naming a starter is a disadvantage:

“I don’t think it’s a disadvantage. We’ve done that (before). I haven’t seen that as a disadvantage. If there’s a clear-cut leader after spring, we’ll probably name that, which lead you to believe that’s the clear-cut leader going into fall camp provided the summer goes well and everybody makes good decisions and does what’s expected of that room.”

On Javon Patterson:

“I told him yesterday that he’ll get all the reps he wants and then some. It’s going to be good for him; he’s going to get plenty of reps. Really excited about him. I think he’s the exact type of student-athlete you want. What a great kid he is first, and I think he’s going to be an outstanding player. Getting an extra spring by enrolling early will be big for him. He’s going to get plenty of reps to get looked at.”

On depth issues at linebacker:

“I think linebacker is really the area we have to get settled on. I think our secondary is going to be fine provided we stay healthy. But I think we’ve moved some guys around there that can help us. I think we can run there, we’ve gotten longer there. At linebacker there are some concerns about who exactly the guys are. I’m looking forward to trying C.J. Johnson out at MIKE linebacker, along with Christian and Temario. Outside we’ve got of course Denzel and Gates. They’re two long guys, and then signing Terry Caldwell to go with Ray Ray Smith and Tayler Polk. We’ve got some decent depth at the STINGER position, we’ve just got to find the best fit, who can do what and play to their strengths. The MIKE linebacker is the biggest question mark right now.”

On C.J. Johnson moving to linebacker:

“We’re going to see this spring. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. I know he can run, I know he can tackle. I know he’s smart and understands the defense. That’s a different world playing there, but that’s where we’re going to play him this spring and see. We know we can always move him back down, so we’re going to find out how he performs this spring playing MIKE.”

On the running backs:

“Take care of the ball. When you have a chance to carry it, that’ll be the No. 1 thing. You can’t play if you don’t take care of the ball. I love what I’ve seen and how Jordan Wilkins has developed physically. He looks the part. Akeem Judd has lost weight and looks really good, and Eugene Brazley also. We may also look at D.K. Buford some also at running back. Jaylen has been solid for years, he probably won’t get as many reps as those other guys this spring. We know what he we can do. I think we got quality guys there. We just have to get them comfortable and excited about competing for the spot.”

On discipline for Trae Elston and Damore’ea Stringfellow:

“They got some consequences that are coming their way. I don’t ever like to say exactly what they are until they’ve proven that they’ve learned their lesson, but they will have some consequences when the fall gets here. I thought long and hard about what we were going to do, and I do think they made a mistake in being in the wrong place. I want to make sure they’ve learned their lesson before it’s final. They will have some consequences and game-time stuff in the fall but I don’t want to say exactly what it is yet.”

On the lack of a big tight end on the roster:

“Go recruit one. We obviously still can use Jeremy in that spot, just by manipulating the personnel group that is on the field. We’re excited to see Sammie get a bunch of reps and of course Evan. We have a couple walkons. Matt Brown, Elliot Markuson, Taz Zettergreen, Tyler Quick guys that we think can be physical guys if we need that. But we can still move Jeremy there also.”

More on the running backs:

“Depends on what the defense does on a given play, probably. But we’re going to rotate guys and keep them fresh. If a guy separates himself -- we’re excited about Eric Swinney joining us obviously, we think he’s a talented kid. It depends on the game, really. This spring we’ll see and we got to improve running the football. We know that. Does it mean that somebody gets 20 carries? I don’t know. I always look at the unit corporately instead of individuals, until we get one really that we feel like is deserving of getting that many more than the other guys. We might have that guy, we might not, but it really depends on the game and the looks we get.”

On Laremy Tunsil’s recovery from injury:

“It’s going good. His is going longer because he had a little damage at the joint, not only the break. So we kept him in a boot a little longer and he got out of the book last week. He seems to be moving well, and it’s progressing nicely.”

On Chad Kelly’s responsibility to the team off the field:

“Absolutely. The responsibility that comes with that position, it never stops. It’s 24 hours a day. He knows that. I share with him every single day insight that I see and how he can improve himself in that regard. He’s going to Haiti with me on our mission trip this spring break. I look forward to spending time with him there, in an environment that challenges leadership skills and even helps develop them. There’s no question what you do off the field in that role certainly matters.”

On Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade:

“There was no question they’re ahead of the game. We have changed quite a bit of terminology but they know what we’re talking about when we say, ‘This is what it is used to be.’ They’re far ahead because some of it is like Chinese to a new guy who has to sit in and here it. Once you explain it he says, ‘Oh yeah.’ He’s done it before. He’s played in systems very familiar.”

On focal points this spring:

“The run game, for sure, is an emphasis. I wish we had all the o-linemen, but we are putting an emphasis on that. We changed a few things that we think are going to help us. Special teams-wise, we will focus on kickoff cover, punt cover, maybe some punt return. The punt return deal is if you look nationally with the spread punts now you just are not getting hardly any returns. We got to improve when we do get the chance, but I don’t know if that will be a big emphasis this spring though.”

On if he suggested the Haiti trip to Kelly:

“I suggested it to him. He agreed. He’s excited about going. We’re taking about 30 people there that chose to go. We adopted a village there that we’ve been to these last two spring breaks. … This will be the first year we hope to give them fresh water.”


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