Hugh Freeze has led the Ole Miss football program to 24 wins in his first three years - the most by any Mississippi college coach in history during the same time frame, and he thinks he and his staff can keep it going based on spring training results to this point.
"I really like the way the kids are practicing. It's been very physical and competitive and the kids are giving us a lot of effort," Freeze noted. "We had a good day today - very competitive with both sides of the ball doing good things during the four live periods we had at the end of practice. We did positive things on offense against a defensive line that I know is quality.
"Our quarterback play has gotten better. We still need more consistencies, but it's better. I have been a little disappointed in our receivers right now - we have dropped a lot of catchable balls, but I know we have the skill set there to get it done. They'll work hard to correct that because they take it personally."
Back to the 24 wins, his definition of success and how he plans to continue along the same path in year four. . .
"It's important to me to first define success. To me, it's how my boys are doing 20 years from now. I was reminded that this morning while reading - that should be how I define success - how my buys are doing in life 20 years from now," he said. "That's my focus in terms of success, but as far as moving forward in year four and making sure we are successful now, we stress to our kids that we are good football team, something I believe.
"Our theme this year has been 'chasing greatness,' and we have shown them the path to that and what that looks like - football-wise, socially, academically and spiritually, if that is what you want to be. If we can stay healthy - something we can't control - I don't hesitate to say we should be competitive in the SEC West. I am excited and think we have a chance to be a really good football team."
Freeze has said since day one of his tenure that it would take three full recruiting cycles to get the depth he wants to be a real contender. For him, that time is now.
"When we get our newest signees in, we will have had that three full recruiting cycles and I think we will have the depth we need to be a good squad that can weather some storms," he added. "And, of course, we have to get those on the sidelines back playing and off the injury lost."
On the defensive side of the ball, Hugh likes the progress of the cornerbacks.
"When you can win a one-on-one out there on an island, that frees you up to do more things defensively and is a big plus. We feel we are closing in on that with the guys we have. And it's not only Tee (Shepard) and Tony (Bridges. Ken (Webster) is very good and Kailo Moore has improved a lot. Carlos Davis will be medically released soon and we feel we signed a couple of good ones," he explained.
Who has surprised Freeze this spring with improvement/impact?
"Derrick Jones at wideout, D.J. Jones at DT and C.J. Hampton at free safety have made a lot of progress," he noted. "OGs Jordan Sims and Javon Patterson have also come a long way. They are going to be good in time.
"D.J. knows how to play the game. He can run, he can bend and he's quick twitch. He's got work to do, but man, he can play the game."
Freeze announced the Rebs will divide up and play a simulated game at the Grove Bowl. Last year's "game" was more like a scrimmage - offense versus defense, but this year there was a draft and it will be more of a game format, but be forewarned, don't expect to see much in terms of playcalling.
"We are going to be very vanilla. There is so much television coverage and everyone has access to the film of the game, so we won't show much," he explained. "Fans will be able to see how physical we are and things like that, but we're not going to show our hand for the world to see.
"I have been pleased this spring with the progress we have made in the run game on offense even though quite a few offensive linemen are out with injury. We have improved. I'm excited what we've been able to accomplish, all things considered.
"When you are shorthanded and divide it up, I don't know what it's going to look like, but I want the fans and the kids to have fun and compete. The kids wanted that and so do our fans. The winners will get a steak dinner and the losers will get hot dogs."
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