Transcript: Hugh Freeze Press Conference

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met with the media Monday to review his team's play versus Fresno State, while also looking towards this week's game at No. 2 Alabama, the Rebels' first road contest of the season

Opening statement...
"We get to open up SEC play in a great environment against one of the best programs in the nation. It should be a good test for us, one that our kids will be very excited for. We have an opportunity to compete at a very high level and play our best football. That's why you want to coach in this league and play in this league, so we are excited. We were watching the film last week. There are a lot of positives. Obviously, (quarterback) Chad (Kelly) played extremely well, scoring touchdowns on every drive that he was in the game. I thought the receivers played very well and made very few mistakes. I thought the offensive line needs to clean up a few things because there were a few problems with our different alignments and different movements. Defensively, we have to improve. We gave up too many explosive players for the second week in a row, which is something you can't do. Most of it was because we weren't aligned right. So we need to get the communication from the guys that are supposed to be lining us up. We need to get that straightened out before Saturday for sure."

On Robert Conyers and Justin Bell...
"Justin Bell is fine. He went through workouts yesterday. Robert Conyers is going to be okay. He just has a sprain that we will have to treat this week. He'll give it a go on Saturday for sure."

On how much they can take from playing the previous two games...
"I can't really tell. I said that after the game. I am never very good at that. If you ask me if we are ready for SEC play, I really don't know. I think we have a confident football team right now that believes we can win. I believe we can win. I also know that you can lose these games because you are playing really good teams. That's why I don't make too much of one game, win or lose. It's the opportunity to compete at a high level. I don't know if we are ready, but I know that we can go and compete and our kids are ready."

On Ole Miss being ranked No. 1 in the ESPN power index...
"I don't even know what that is, so it's probably tough for me to comment on it. I don't know if we are worthy of that number one spot right now. It's year four and we are going into game three. For us to be in those discussions speaks volumes about our program and how far it has come in a short time. I don't know exactly what that is, but it sounds good."

On the progress of the receivers...
"I don't think I was overly critical, I think I was just speaking the truth during the spring. We needed to expect more out of that group. I continued that cry throughout fall camp and I think it has been heard. They played really well through the first two games. They have looked consistent and solid, and they have to be one of the strengths of our offense. They are a talented group and I think they have come along. We are blocking well, running good routes and being explosive. We are making very few mistakes with just a couple drops. I have been pleased thus far."

On the defense and Chad Kelly's quickness...
"I've said it for two weeks; we need to get our cleats into the ground and get ready to play. When they try to use a tight end with having a technique in the nose, that is typical of most teams who play the even front. We should get that call much quicker. That is coming from the second level guys. We've got to get that corrected for sure. As for Chad Kelly, the ball is coming out of his hands fast. We have really harped on him to understand the timing of things. I've got to give Dan Werner credit for preparing him. But, Chad studies more film than I do. I think that is obvious in the way that he has performed. I had one of my three or four meetings with him per week, last week, and he used a phrase that I believe he found in an article that has really stuck with me. Chad said, "Coach, I desperately want you to coach me." I think that speaks to his mindset right now. He doesn't just want to be coached in the X's and O's, but I think he is trying to rewrite his story in a really good way."

On where they need to improve the most in practice this week...
"The defense getting lined up and covering the proper gaps every single time needs to improve. Doing your assignment, not someone else's, and there are a lot of things we need to improve on offensive line play. Pads need to be lower and all of those things, which we will work on. Number one would be the defense getting lined up. We need to limit those explosive plays that happen because we are not lined up properly or not doing our assignment."

On their sense of focus...
"They are being preached to only focus on one game at a time. I don't talk about any opponent besides the one we have that week. I can't afford to look ahead. Our coaches listen to what I'm saying and hopefully the team does the same. It's really not about the opponent. It's about us preparing ourselves to be the best we can be on that given Saturday. If we play the best we can play but it's not good enough, I guess that's okay too, but I don't like it. No one does. That is part of life in this conference. You just want to have that laser focus to make sure you're preparing to be the best you can be on Saturday. You have to let those chips fall where they may and hopefully you played your best. I can certainly say I can live with that."

On Alabama's RB Derrick Henry...
"Alabama has a good scheme. They have a good offensive line and they are well coached. They will have a plan of attack. Derrick Henry is very talented. So are their numbers 17, 34, 13 and 88. Alabama has a bunch of playmakers who make them what they are. It gives them some explosive runs. It is not just Henry. You certainly have to tackle him low. He is big and he is physical. You also have to be aware of where all of their other weapons are."

On Tee Shepard's targeting call and Laremy Tunsil's timetable...
"I talked to the SEC offices this morning. The targeting call is as stands. Tee Shepard will have to sit out and be in the locker room for the first half of the Alabama game. He can play the second half. We made a statement on Laremy last week and that is really all I can say at this point."

On Alabama's front seven, defensive line and back end...
"They are as talented as I have ever seen. They are as deep and talented as you can imagine. They have had some really good defensive squads, and this is as talented as I have ever seen one."

On Coach Saban and Smart's defense stopping the Ole Miss tempo...
"This defense that they have has a good chance of stopping just about anybody. I think that we are confident and like what we are doing. We haven't done it yet in an environment like Tuscaloosa where we cannot communicate. Everything is going to have to be solid. That changes us a little bit. We have to adapt to that this week in practice and make sure we can still be who we are in the way we communicate. I think we have the ability to certainly stress a defense a little bit if we can stay balanced. If you can't stay balanced then Alabama can absolutely stop you.

On Alabama running tempo...
"I think they are averaging about 86 plays a game. That is quite a bit more than we have had. So, I don't know if they oppose tempo anymore. They are throwing passes off runs also. Alabama looks a lot like we play. They are in the tempo and run-pass options and all of those other things that have been on the table. It is good to have them come on our side of that for sure. Well, it's good in some ways, but it's not good to have to stop them."

On Alabama's defense...
"Their defense is not going to change a lot. You are going to get their mixture of odd and even fronts. They have guys that can two-gap you on one play and then get on the edge on the next play. Their back ends are going to keep you guessing on whether it is man or zone and they disguise it well. Alabama's defense has not changed a lot, and they probably don't need to. They are very good at what they do. You may see a new pattern or blitz every now and then, though."

On Chad Kelly staying emotionally grounded...
"I assure you I am trying to keep him grounded. I do think that Chad is very grounded right now. The national media will tend to say things that, in my opinion, they shouldn't say when they get a microphone. Chad has been called a ticking time bomb three or four times. I want to ask those guys if they have kids when I hear this. You know, he might be a ticking time bomb, but thus far he has not been. Chad seems to be really, really grounded. He is extremely hungry to be coached and do well. So, yes, it is always a concern of mine but so far I am confident he has his head in the right place."

On simulating Bryant-Denny Stadium in practice...
"Ken Crain has a playlist that we run in the offense's ears that we run for each stadium we go to in this league. We practiced with it yesterday and we will continue with it for the rest of the week as we keep preparing. Again, it is just about us handling and being who we are, even though it is a different environment. We are preparing for it."

On the offense and Sean Rawlings...
"To score that many points in two games it's great. We are finally who I'd like for us to be right now, I think. We are using the entire field. That makes it tougher on defenses. How much you can make of that, I'm not sure. We have certainly made some explosive plays that have scored some points. We haven't played a caliber of defense like Alabama's, but I thought Fresno State was pretty good coming into our game. I think you'll see what Fresno might be (in the later weeks). We just kind of got on a roll and good things happened. As for Sean Rawlings, he has done solid work. He still has improvement but he is basically a freshman. We desperately need him to play well. He has some things to improve on. He has to get his pads lower. We will work on that this week, but we are sure that he can play well."

On the offensive line having two games under their belts...
"I do feel more comfortable. The more you play together the more comfortable you feel. I wish we had everybody healthy. If we had all of our guys, I would feel better. Having two weeks with the guys we have had, gives us a more comfortable feeling."

On Fahn Cooper replacing Laremy Tunsil...
"He's the one we're going to go with if we don't have Tunsil. He has played very well. Anytime you go against really good teams you are going to have a lot of one-on-ones throughout the game. Some are going to go your way and some may not. You just have to play the next play and make sure you win about 70-80 percent of your one-on-ones. I think the key is our tempo and staying balanced. That is probably our best asset. When you get in third-and-longs you are going to lose some battles, so you have to stay in some manageable situations."

On Rod Taylor's showing on Saturday...
"I thought Rod Taylor was solid. He had a couple of opportunities that I thought he turned down - some was physicality at the point of attack, mostly when he was pulling. He is going to get more comfortable as he plays more. That was his first time back from injury so he will continue to get better as the weeks go on."


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