Transcript: Hugh Freeze Press Conference

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media to preview Fresno State, as well as talk Laremy Tunsil and more, in his weekly press conference on Monday.

Opening statement…
“Happy Labor Day. On Sundasy for us, we have a saying that it is always about the truth, and we go through the previous game with our kids. We make sure they understand what is what. As you know, our theme is ‘take a stand.’ The ‘T’ is for teachable. I think all of us are teachable people: coaches, players and everyone involved. You take the truth and you learn from it. Those who end up being great teams learn from week to week what we did well and what we didn’t do well. Then you try to improve on that. You have an opportunity to improve from week to week and that is one of the greatest things about coaching. As a coach, in your position room, as a playcaller and from every other facet of the game you can certainly improve. We did some things well. I think anytime we rush for 200 yards our record is pretty good in our tenure here. I believe someone had a stat on that. Total defense was less than 300 yards. That is usually pretty good. I thought our punting was solid. Our punt return unit was pretty good. We need to improve on kickoff returns. We are evaluating people in that regard. We had a couple of opportunities and did not fare as well as we could have on those. I thought Nathan Noble did a good job kicking off for us. He put the ball in places that it is hard to get quality returns. We need to continue that. That is a big advantage for us. We did have a defensive touchdown, which is big. We are very good on third down defense, and just so-so on offense. I thought we were excellent on third down in the red zone; we were 5-for-5 there. We had explosive plays, which is something I think is very important. When you talk about scoring points you have to have some explosive plays. We had nine on offense, but we gave up two. We need to eliminate those defensively. I thought the effort was better on tape than what I felt we did defensively in the game. It had seemed like we didn’t have a sense of urgency on third downs when UT-Martin went up tempo and we need to correct that. But, they were getting the ball out extremely fast. It was kind of hard for us to get a lot of pressure there. So, we put that one behind us and move on to Fresno State. From my short time in San Jose, one thing was evident to me from the kids at Fresno that play for Coach DeRuyter: they love challenges. They love playing in environments against schools people would consider the bigger schools. I have gotten to know Coach DeRuyter the last few years on the Nike trip. He is one of my golfing buddies on those trips. He is a great guy. He does a really nice job coaching the defense. They are a 3-3 multiple defense that gives you a lot of problems. They can come from a lot of different areas. They have five returning starters on both sides. Offensively they spread you out all over the field with tempo, which will be a great challenge for us to be prepared for that. It will be a better test for us this Saturday to judge exactly where we are. I am glad we have them at home. Our crowd was phenomenal last Saturday for an opening game at 11 in the morning. Our fans showed up and I was just really, really happy to see that. The energy that was there for us for a morning game was just better than any I have experienced here. So, thank you to our fans and the great support we have.”

On the shuffle of the offensive line with Laremy Tunsil out…
That’ll be determined as the week goes on. We do expect Rod (Taylor) to practice tomorrow, so that will give us a little more flexibility. He will probably get some reps at left tackle. We will see how he does there. He’s athletic enough to play that position. Christian (Morris) had some good things too that he did. We’ll try to ride some there and see how that goes, but it’s way too early for me to say how that is going to juggle around. We do expect him to practice tomorrow."

On the quarterback competition after the first game…
"I know this isn’t probably the answer that everyone wants to hear, but I like all three right now. Chad (Kelly) certainly played well. He did seem comfortable, probably much more comfortable than I anticipated him being. Love the way that he is engaged with the defense and the special teams. He’s really into the game and a competitor, as are the others too. I thought Ryan (Buchanan) played well, I thought (DeVante) Kincade did some really nice things too. Because of the way the game was going, we probably didn’t get to see him make too many reads. But we’ll get him ready and see how the game goes. Chad will start next game provided everything goes well this week. I like all three. I thought they played well as a unit."

On Laquon Treadwell’s return…
"I think he would be the first to tell you that he was a little rusty. He had a couple balls that he typically would catch and he didn’t. I was just like the crowd, excited to see his first catch, tackle, and bounce back up and play the next play. I think he just needed that. And whether or not I prepared him adequately to play the game probably could be questioned. I question myself on that. But I’m glad he’s healthy and ready to go now."

On how the quarterback position will eventually play out…

"Time will tell. I like all three of them. It wouldn’t surprise me if I had a package for all three, and they really zone in and work on that package that week. I hope that they’d know the answers to whatever that package is that they’d have, not to say they wouldn’t get reps with the others, because they never know when they will be called upon. I tell them all the time to prepare for your opportunity, even if it doesn’t come. You prepare for it, and I know they will. I wouldn’t hesitate to play any of them."

On when Laremy Tunsil will return…
"I know everyone is surprised, but the way these things go for me is that I am not really included in a lot of the behind-the-scene things that are going on. That can be quite frustrating and make you anxious at times. But I am confident that our people and whatever process is going on, that they are on top of it."

On his first-time starters…
"Sean (Rawlings) played more snaps than anyone on the offense line. His grade was average. He did some really good things, but I think the reason why his grade was average was because we probably played him a little too much, and he probably got a bit gassed a few series there. But I was proud of the way he played. (Tony) Bridges played solid. We struggled a bit at corner, had a few cramps there, and that kind of messed the rotation up a little bit. He played more snaps than the others. I think the others all played in the mid-20s and he played in the 40s, but he played well. I thought he was disciplined. We missed 16 tackles as a defensive unit, which is too much. It could be a problem that we didn’t tackle too much in fall camp. So we need to get that corrected. Tony played well. I think (co-offensive coordinator) Matt (Luke) said Javon (Patterson) graded out higher than any freshman that we ever had. Obviously the competition is going to get more difficult, but we’ll see how he does. He played well Saturday."

On the performance of his younger players…
“I’m really pleased with him (D.K. Buford). He’s got natural vision, good balance. He’s strong, and he finished runs. I thought all of our backs played well, not just DK, but really pleased to see him have success. Hopefully we’ll get confidence in those guys should their number be called. But he played really well. Tee Shepard played his first game in a long time for him. He has some challenges with the disability that he has. We just need to find a way that he always makes sure he knows if we have a check going on. We need to do some things coaching-wise a little better so that he understands and is getting everything communicating to him there effectively.”

On what to take away from the running game…
“I’ve said throughout fall camp that I have been cautiously optimistic that we have done some things that are going to help us improve. One of which is hopefully having a healthy offensive line. We’re hoping to get totally to where all of the offensive linemen on our team are available. I went back to some of my old stuff where we changed that track of the running back and track of the offensive line. That seems to be creating less negative plays for us. We only had one negative play the whole game. It really was just a missed landmark by an offensive lineman that caused that. I thought Jaylen (Walton) was explosive. I thought Jordan (Wilkins) ran physically. I though Akeem (Judd) was physical, except one run that he didn’t. I thought D.K. and Eugene (Brazley) played well. Eugene showed a burst, and he was really patient. He and D.K. are good at being patient. They have this stutter to them that can create a crease and allow them to get through it. I thought all five of them played very well.”

On how he, as a coach, communicates with Laremy regarding the suspension…
“It’s difficult. He’s one of my favorite kids. I think he’s a great kid. I love him dearly. It’s difficult. We don’t talk about it a whole lot. I communicated to him that we were going to be very cautious and sit him out. It hurts a guy like him, so we are just anxious for the end of that to come.”

On his new long snapper Will Few and punt returner Carlos Davis
“That was a little anxious for me. I don’t believe in being anxious for anything. It’s not always the easiest thing to fulfill for me. I’ve been spoiled. We had the same long snapper for three seasons, and we never had any issues with that. So any time you play a new guy, you want to see how he does in the line of fire. He had two opportunities for some snaps, and they were good. The times were good. The PATs were good as well. Carlos Davis, I told you last year, I really felt like we really had something with him and he gets hurt in fall camp. I thought you saw on Saturday that he’s got a little something to him.”

On playing Laremy before a ruling from the NCAA…
“I don’t know. I would have to feel very comfortable with that and know that our program wasn’t at risk. That would have to come from our administration above me.”

On the quarterback play as the team approaches SEC play…
“We don’t play an SEC opponent this week. You know me well enough. We play Fresno State, and that is the only game that matters. This week, I am getting all three ready to play.”

On his linebacker play and C.J. Johnson
“Number 10 is ready to go. I know he is ready to go. I thought he did a good job of leading on the sideline and helping teach some of the younger kids some of the adjustments they have to make. Christian (Russell) played very hard, so did (DeMarquis) Yates. We got lined up wrong a few times, and that’s our linebacker’s responsibility to keep that front right. We had some late movement going on. We need to continue to improve and work hard. We’ve got some young guys that played well. Ray-Ray Smith played well, other than that one play where he blew the coverage and gave up the wheel route. But it was good to get all those guys in for sure. We had a lot of guys that got in on special teams and bust their tail every week. That is always good to see.”

On C.J. Hampton’s return…
“We’re going to evaluate as the week goes on. I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I feel pretty good about it, but we’re going to have to take that as the week goes.”

On Breeland Speaks and D.J. Jones
“I think both of those guys have a high ceiling. DJ is really talented, plays with his hands and has a low pad level. Breeland sat out the first half and didn’t get as many snaps. He played well in the second half. I knew he was going to be good. He’s had a great fall camp. We’re going to need him this week. We need him to get that big paw up and bat down some of these quick throws they (Fresno State) like to make. He’s very talented and has a knack for that. He played really well in the second half. Ross Donelly played very well. He did some good things and played some quality snaps also. We planned all along to play him, I just kept forgetting to let you know. I say all along, we started planning that week and felt that he was smart. Just with the grind on those defensive linemen that you have, you are fortunate to rest one of those guys that you have, whether it is Rob (Nkemdiche) or Issac (Gross) or Woodrow (Hamilton), you’re going to need a sixth guy. And with Herbert (Moore) going down, he kind of filled that slot.”

On Chad Kelly and his explosive plays…
“We’re just judging off of one game. He really made some good throws, some deep throws. It doesn’t take his ball a long time to get there. He has a strong arm. I love explosive plays, and he has that ability to help us with that for sure. We’ll see how that progression goes. He had some wide open guys the other day too. So how does that same guy respond when they are covered on that initial read, I think will be the initial test for how well he or the other guys will play. I think time will be a better judge for that. He obviously has the ability to help us have more explosive plays.”

On his receiving corps and the decision on playing the freshmen in that group…
"We went back and forth with him (DaMarkus Lodge) and Van (Jefferson), just kind of looking at the length of the season and the rotation that we will have with outside people. Really, the difference came down to right now we feel like we are deeper at the slot. Cody Core can move there easily because he has done that before. We would need one more outside guy right now, and he is talented enough to do that right now, as is Van. Van has been very beneficial. He’s done well in the weight room. Just to be clear about redshirts, there isn’t a date where you say that is done. That is the process. Who knows? I think there is a misconception that you have to decide before Saturday that you have to make a decision. You can decide any time over the course of a year if you are going to play a kid. So, you want them to keep working hard and stay motivated. Hopefully we stay healthy and those who need one (a redshirt) will get one."


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