'A Good Spring'
"It was a good spring," Freeze began his presser after The Grove Bowl. "We had to fight through being shorthanded at some spots, particularly on the offensive line, but the kids did it and improved because of good effort throughout spring.
"We want more consistency at certain spots - receiver jumps out and QB of course. We are having way too many drops, as you saw today. Quarterback play has been pretty good, but we missed too many explosive plays, as you saw today. The kids get that and they will come around."
Freeze said he saw a lot of positives out of those two areas as well during the course of the spring.
"They all had their moments and so did the receivers, but we have to have more consistency, as I said," Hugh stated. "I thought we improved our run game and have some backs who are physical and a couple who are elusive. Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins made some real physical runs today in spring game."
Hugh was also pleased with what he saw on defense throughout spring and in The Grove Bowl.
"I thought (CB) Tee (Shepard) was solid all day and he had a pick to end the game," he noted. Tony (Bridges) got beat deep once, but he's had a real good spring. We just need to reel him in a little - he's too aggressive at times."
In short, Hugh believes the Rebels can be a good football team in 2015.
"We have the makings of a good football team. What that means in this competitive league, nobody knows right now, but I like where we are overall," Freeze assessed. "Now, I will spend my nights from here until August praying our 120 kids make good decisions - academically, socially and in how they prepare for next year.
"It all plays a role in how we will do next season. This is a time when coaches can spend a little time with their families, evaluate future talent, and plan for next year, but it's also a time when you don't have as much control over your team. Their decisions from now until August will affect everyone in this room."
There was some thought when Freeze opted to divide the teams for the Grove Bowl equally that the contest may be one-sided in favor of the defense, but there was quite a bit of offense as well.
"I wasn't too surprised. The last few days of spring, the offense moved the ball pretty well against what I believe is going to be a really fine defense," he said. "We did well in the first quarter with our tempo stuff, but then backed off of that.
"Really, we had an opportunity to put a couple of more TDs up and missed some throws. Our kids competed hard and some matchups that looked like they could be train wrecks, weren't. Some kids stepped up and performed."
Of course, the media's attention was on the quarterback race, which Freeze is not making any declarations about at this juncture.
"My mind would go back and forth from drill to drill this spring. One drill, I'd say he's ahead. The next, no, he's ahead. In my mind, Ryan (Buchanan) is slightly ahead, but it is very minute and doesn't mean he will be the starter.
"We still have a lot of evaluating to do. I may feel it's somebody else Monday. (laughs)"
Freeze said he has not eliminated the idea of going into next season using all three the first game or two, but not beyond.
"It may end up where we need to give them all a chance under the lights, but I won't do that beyond a game or two," he noted. "We have to make sure we have done our due diligence in identifying the guy and it may take that type of move to sort it all out. It's that close, but when it gets tough, we have to have someone who we can say 'this is our guy' and go with him."
As for the inconsistencies of the receivers, Freeze is searching for a reason and feels he knows part of it.
"I think working with three different QBs may have hindered their progress some and two or three of them missed some time with injuries and had to get back in the swing of things when they came back," Hugh noted. "It was odd - Derrick Jones had an outstanding spring,but he dropped a couple of balls in The Grove Bowl.
"I believe they will be fine when August rolls around, but we need them to be - we think they are a strength of this team."
One move drawing a lot of eyes this spring was C.J. Johnson from DE to middle linebacker.
"We still have a ways to go there. Christian (Russell) and Temario (Strong) made progress and we recently moved (DeMarquis) Gates there as a possible on third downs, but we have been pleased with C.J. and in how we have come a long way in defining his role and how he can help us there," Freeze allowed.
Inevitably, the questions rolled to QB Chad Kelly, who led the Blue Team on a nice opening drive for a TD, culminating in a 47-yard TD toss to TE Taz Zettergren.
"Chad has probably grown more as a person than he has as a player. He already had a high football IQ, but he's still adjusting to our system," Freeze said. "He'll adjust in our system beyond the transition period. He's done a fine job with his off-the-field adjustment - academically and socially."
A big emphasis, even though he did not show it much in The Grove Bowl, was getting the offense's tempo game revved up.
"What I found out last year is that it's hard to go from slow to fast, but you can go from fast to slow and keep a rhythm offensively. We did a lot of tempo work this spring and I think our kids handled it well. I think the tempo helped us be more effective and efficient this spring," he said.
Now, it's time for spring evaluations and planning.
"I will meet with each coach after they evaluate their positions and we will go over the entire spring. I will give my recommendations of where I think we need to improve in each area and then we will start planning for 2015 and how each kid can improve in the offseason," he closed.
Grove Bowl Quick Stats:
Passing: Buchanan (5-16, 49 yards, 1 Int.); Kelly (9-19, 104 yards 1TD, 1 Int); Kincade (9-18, 93 yards); Walton (1-1, 66 yards, TD)
Rushing: Brazley (10-44, 1 TD); Wilkins (6-62); Kincade (10-50); Judd (5-24)
Receiving: Jones (3-35); Stringfellow (3-98, 1 TD); Zettergren (2-55, 1TD); Judd (3-18)
Tackles: Gates 4, Webster 3, Brown 3, 1 QB sack, Ward 2, 1 QB sack.
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