Transcript: Hugh Freeze Press Conference

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media for his weekly press conference on Monday.

Opening Statement...
“A disappointing Saturday for sure on a lot of fronts. Our staff hurts for the Ole Miss family. I understand when you love a place and want to give a great joy through the job you’re assigned, it is difficult. It’s disappointing. It’s testing at times. We’ll show great resolve and leadership and move forward. We’ll shut out the negativity and remain true to our core values. Our theme this year is, ‘take a stand,’ and this is a great teaching moment for our young men in their lives, for our coaching staff, and for everyone in this building to rally together and continue to work extremely hard. We are facing a lot of adversity in a lot of different ways, whether it is injuries or tough opponents. Disappointments are a part of life, and this is a great teaching time. We’ve got five great opportunities left. That’s 300 minutes. Yesterday’s team meeting circled upon those and how those minutes should look, what we should do prepping for those minutes, how we should focus, how we prepare, and how we control what we can control. I’m optimistic and confident that our young men are going to play with great passion for those last 300 minutes that we have and prepare daily for those. It starts with Texas A&M, a very talented team with extremely good athletes on both sides of the ball. Kevin (Sumlin) has done a really nice job there, and their defense is playing at a much higher level. They are going to be a really good test for us. It’s nice that we have them at home. I know our people will be excited to get a night game here. Another SEC game, and our kids will feel the support of the great Rebel fans.”

On what the team needs to do...
“Defensively, I have evaluated every one of them. It is very frustrating. Like I’ve told our coaching staff, it really doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what your kids know. Over five different occasions we had the perfect call and the play didn’t get made. We need to continue to see if we are not communicating it effectively, or what is causing the problem. We have to continue to work. There are times the other team gets you. Paxton Lynch is a good quarterback and he made some very good plays in that game that we had not seen. When you do have the right call, you need to get off the field. Offensively, we need to continue to work on what we think we can do and stay on those things.”

On defense missing tackles...
“We had 30 missed tackles in the game Saturday. In the last three weeks, we have laid off the indo (individual practices) trying to rest our legs in this 10 game stretch. Looks like we need to go back to extending practice a little bit and having the indo time to tackle because between the five right calls that you don’t have and the missed tackles, it made for a long afternoon.”

On pulling redshirts...
“We think about all of those things. Those are difficult decisions with five games left. We will continue to talk about that, but I don’t have anything to report about that today.”

On Laquon Treadwell ranking amongst Coach Freeze’s best recievers...
“Laquon is as good a receiver as any that I have coached. I was a receivers coach here and I had Mike Wallace, Shay Hodge and Dexter McCluster. They were all great players. Donte Moncrief was the best we had until that point. Laquon Treadwell is just as good as Moncrief, if not better. Treadwell is strong and physical. He is very talented. He is one of the best that I have coached.”

On playing with heart...
“We are going to see Saturday night if the heart is there. I’m sure we will do what we have done every week and prepare them to have that. It is an individual decision. I am going to do everything within my power that I can to make sure that occurs. I saw some passion yesterday in our team meeting and individuals. At the end of the day, every man has to decide his role and what that means to him. We are going to do our best to motivate them to be confident that we will play with great passion Saturday.”

On the fundamentals of tackling...
“I don’t know how else to describe it. When you miss tackles, your fundamentals are bad. That was the case Saturday. We need to go back to our tackling circuit and improve on it.”

On the injury situation...
“Our injuries continue to be an injury for us. Robert Nkemdiche will go through concussion protocol, as will Trae Elston and Will Gleeson. Robert Conyers is unfortunately done for the year with an ACL tear. We have several others that will be day-to-day. That is an issue that we seem to have our fair share with this year. You have to keep on with the players you have. As far as Robert (Nkemdiche), you just don’t know. I know he loves to play the game. I am not in charge of protocols but I know he loves the game and wants to play. We have to make sure he is safe and ready to play. Ultimately, the doctors will have to clear them.”

On Breeland Speaks...
“I thought Breeland Speaks played with tremendous effort. Sometimes when you don’t have success, fight is lost. He is a young kid that played extremely hard. He might have played too many snaps, but he had to. He might have played about 70 snaps, but he played at a very high level.”

On Laremy Tunsil's return...
“We’ll move Fahn Cooper back to right, and that will give us Laremy Tunsil at left. Justin Bell will go to center now, along with Ben Still. Rod Taylor and Jordan Sims at right guard, then Aaron Morris and Javon Patterson at left guard with Christian Morris at left tackle. Hopefully we will be able to stay healthy with those guys. We are very optimistic in getting that crew back together.

On the decision of Texas A&M’s quarterback potential quarterback change affecting defensive scheme...
“It would change our scheme. They are two different guys, for sure (Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray). You have to change. I’m not real sure of what the injury was, I’ve been locked in on us. But, it would change us.”

On third downs...
“Like I said earlier, I evaluate every one of those. I wouldn’t say there are a lot of soft zones. We didn’t make the plays. Give Memphis credit, they were tough to defend.”

On rush problems...
“It is some personnel, it is some schematics. We look at ourselves and our schemes. Some of it has to do with the defenses. One thing that does get lost is we called 15-run plays that had completed passes on. Where, if you hand those off you are going to get some positive yards. There are some where I know we would have. The read was to throw. They were positive yards. We count those in our rushing, people in stats don’t. It doesn’t take away from the back that when you need to rush the ball, we have got to be better. When you need to rush the ball on third and one, you have to be better than we are.”

On missing starters...
“There are probably several teams that could say that. I don’t like looking at this injury list and neither do our fans. People want results. They deserve better than we performed Saturday with the kids we had. It’s pretty simple. We played a good football team but we have to perform better. I have to coach better. All of the coaches have to coach better. But there is no question, losing kids like Issac Gross and C.J. Johnson and Tony Connor, who are the heart and soul of your defense, will affect you. Along with that, kids wouldn’t have to play as many snaps. It is what it is, and we are going to have to go with what we have.”

On pass defense...
“We really don’t have anyone else. That is who we have right now. We will continue to improve. It will be a competition this week between some guys who are back there. We just need to continue to work and improve on the things we are doing with those guys.”

On Robert Nkemdiche coming back on offense this season...
“If Robert Nkemdiche has anything to do with it, he will play on offense again. I don’t know, I will continue to debate that. Robert came to see me this morning to make sure I wasn’t thinking about keeping him from doing that. That is just the competitor in him for sure. It has been successful for us, but we will think through all of that for sure.”

On the “what-ifs”...
“I don’t think anybody worth their salt, when you don’t have success, doesn’t look back and reflect and evaluate what you should have done differently. I am the same way. In hindsight, we have to coach our kids and execute better. We had one blown assignment that cost us a hit in the backfield, and a second one I would do differently. At that time, the momentum had definitely shifted and I didn’t want to give it back to them when you have half a foot to make it. Looking back, I would do it differently.”

On Texas A&M’s defense with John Chavis...
“They are super talented. Coach John Chavis has been in this game a long time and he has good schemes. He keeps you off balance. Then you add that to the fact that they have very talented guys, it makes for a good defense. Texas A&M played very good ball last Saturday. They gave up 20 points against a very good team. They are a very solid defense and they have been all year. Their players are certainly part of it and so is Coach Chavis.”

On Tee Shepard...
“I love Tee Shepard. He actually called me yesterday and we had a good conversation. I know exactly what was told to him, and I know how much I tried to get him to stay and work through any issues. I’ll leave it at that. He is a good kid.”

On C.J. Johnson being back this weekend...
“We are going to look at C.J. He ran yesterday indoor. We haven’t seen him practice yet, and today is academic day, so we will give him a look tomorrow. We will see how he has progressed.”

On his relationship with Kevin Sumlin...
“Kevin Sumlin and I go back to our high school days. We had a common friend and developed a friendship. He has always been a great resource for me until we both came to this league and we are in the same half (of the division). We haven’t talked a lot of X’s and O’s, but I always consider him a friend and a guy that is going to be encouraging. He knows what we go through in this business. He has been through it. Last year he had a disappointing year in his estimation, and his people’s estimation. I try to encourage him when those things are going on and he does the same for me. I consider him a great friend in the business.”

On AFCA meetings with Kevin Sumlin...
“Again, this is more in the past because I don’t go to AFCA except for the head coaches' meetings. When I was a high school coach, I would go to some and I remember sitting with my tablet with him and just picking his brain for any advice he would give me. That is probably a span of two coaching conventions that I did that and he is very gracious for letting me do that.”

On the defense getting their identity back...
“I think it will take some success to return their swagger a little bit. We need to have some enthusiasm in practice. We are going to try our best to motivate that. It would certainly help if we could get guys like C.J. Johnson and Tony Conner back again. Even if we don’t, we still need to get that same identity back again. We need to get back to being the Landshark defense. We discussed that yesterday. We will spend a lot of time trying to get that back this week.”

On his evaluation of Chad Kelly so far...
“Chad Kelly has played well. He has been very positive in the things that he is doing. He is an ultra-competitive guy. Of course we would like to see us never have any turnovers. In the red zone, there is still a lot of learning to be done. He is a little unsure at times, it seems like. We have to continue to coach him on that. We missed an opportunity the other day to hit a route in the red zone, and we had to kick a field goal. That happens sometimes, but we have to continue to coach him.


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