Ole Miss head coach met the media following the final practice of spring Saturday

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media following the Rebels' final practice of spring Saturday afternoon.

On the final practice of spring: “I’ll have to watch the film. I’ve tried the last couple of scrimmages to stand back and kind of control whether or not the quarterback had pressure on him or not and manage it. That seems to be the debate that’s ongoing. There were some good things, obviously. I thought the defense stopped the run very well. They gave up too many explosive plays, particularly on third down. Offensively, we didn’t win first down, never got into tempo, really. Had some really good, explosive plays. I thought Shea (Patterson) made some really good throws. (Derrick Jones) made some really good catches, (Damarkus) Lodge made a really good catch on a third down. We were able to put the ball in the end zone in the red zone stuff. Never really threatened in the drives, but it was really because of the defense creating some negative plays or the offense creating some negative plays. That’s the whole staple of our offense. If you create negative plays, you’re probably not going to be very effective. Some of that is a credit to our d-line, and some of it was the offense. We’ve got to continue to battle and make sure we understand how to get out of a possible negative play. I know Jason (Pellerin), on three occasions, on our run-pass options, the ball definitely should have come out with the pass. He hands it off, and you have a minus-three. You’re not going to overcome that very often.

“A lot of work got done that was good this spring. Loved our energy, loved our attitude, loved our teaching session on uncommon man. We all have to make that a priority if that’s what we want to be in life, whether it’s sports or not. We had some really good talks on that. So it was a good spring. We missed some kids. I wish we’d had Issac (Gross) and Tony (Conner) and Fadol (Brown) and Robert Conyers and Rod Taylor and Chad (Kelly) and some of those others to really get the reps, but we didn’t. There are other programs that have the same issues in spring. But the ones we had out there really got better. I really thought Shea, from week two to the end, really started picking things up. He’s got a really good football I.Q. and high understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

On John Youngblood winning the Chucky Mullins Award: “There were several good candidates for it, and that makes it hard. That’s also a good thing for our program, that we have several that we think would be good candidates. But it’s hard to argue John was not very, very deserving of it. He’ll represent everything that Chucky was and stood for in a great manner as he represents this university and this football team. Really happy for him and his family.”

On goals for spring, if team accomplished those goals: “I really wanted to set the tone of tempo of which we want to play at offensively. And defensively, I thought we struggled last year getting our cleats in the ground in critical downs and improving on third down. There were days that I thought our tempo was really good. Today we didn’t go a lot until right at the end. There were some good things, and then there was a total blown assignment that got us behind the chains as you have a drive going. That was frustrating to see on the 15th practice, us blow a tempo deal and get us behind the chains. Defensively, we’ve got to continue to fight to improve on third down. I think our red zone defense has got to get some more work, too. We’ve got to look and study that. The last two scrimmages seemed like we gave up too many touchdowns in the tight red zone in particular. Got to hold them to field goals there. But they were very, very excellent at getting takeaways this spring. They took the ball away a bunch. That’s good. But just continue to work on third downs, and we did get better. But we’re still giving up too many on third-and-long.”

On Shea Patterson: “I said in recruiting I thought he was the most college-ready quarterback I’d seen in my short college career. His mechanics are really good, he understands the game. He’s fearless, confident. But he had a learning curve. Those first two weeks, he’s got a thousand different looks coming at him and different terminology and you’ve got to set the protection this way or that way. First couple of weeks, it was ‘How are you going to handle the struggles?’ He’s not used do struggling a whole lot. The learning curve I saw from week two to the end, I was extremely impressed. Probably more impressed than I thought I would be.”

On Patterson’s role in the fall: “It’s so hard to say. You certainly don’t want to put him in a position where … there’s a lot of factors. You don’t want to put him in a position where he plays 10 plays and that’s his season. At the same time, you’ve got to think about the new world we live in. There’s a lot of three-and-dones and all of those things. You just don’t know. We’ll communicate all the way through with him and his family and see how it goes.”

On the offensive line: “I thought Daronte Bouldin had a really good spring. I thought Alex Givens had a decent spring. Jeremy (Liggins) is still learning but does some pretty good things when he’s not tired. This summer he’s got to get in great shape. We know about Javon (Patterson) and Jordan (Sims); think they’re going to be solid. Sean (Rawlings) finished the spring, but he’s got a broken hand, so he was kind of one-handed. I think Michael Howard is getting strong. He’s getting bigger, but he’s got to continue to gain weight, and we’ve got to get these signees in here to give us some depth. There were signs that we improved. Today, I’ve got to look at the film. You don’t game-plan for a day like today. You could call a run play that is a really bad play against what they’re doing. We try not to do that when you’re planning. I thought we improved there.”

On the safeties: “I like our safeties. I do. I think we’ve got to continue to improve not giving up the big plays, but I thought the young kids — (Myles) Hartsfield and Greg Eisworth, along with the (A.J.) Moore and (C.J.) Hampton and Armani (Linton) — I thought they all did some good things as this spring went along. I think Custis is doing well at the husky spot, too, with Moore. Hopefully we’ll get Tony back there. I’m excited. I think we can be solid back there.”

On Tony Conner’s rehab: “Good. Everything looks really good.”

On spring football standouts: “Van Jefferson. I thought he just had a really solid spring. He understands every day there’s a decision that has to be made that, you know what, I’m going to be intentional to compete today. As individuals that’s the hardest thing for any of us, is to consistently, over and over, have the mental toughness to make the right decisions and get the end result you want. ‘I just don’t want to do that today.’ Van’s wired a little different. He really understands what to do with the time that he has at work. He really stood out. Marquis Haynes. D.J. Jones stood out constantly. Breeland (Speaks). I think Myles Hartsfield stood out most every day in drills or team segments. Excited about some of those young guys.”

On not holding a traditional spring game: “I think we got more out of practicing today than we would have with a spring game. But I will say I am a proponent of playing another school at the end of each other’s spring practice. Charge $5, and give every bit of the money -- after the travel team gets their expenses paid -- to a charity of choice. I think we would all get a lot out of that. You can play ones on ones, twos on twos and threes on threes and just get a lot done. I’m sure there’s some negative. I can’t think of one. We’ll be back to doing our spring game next year, I’m sure. Hopefully we’ll have people that aren’t injured and you can have a legitimate competition. But I watched some of the ones that are on TV this year. I can’t say that it broke my heart that we didn’t have that kind of game.”

On Rod Taylor: “Anytime we have a young man that makes a poor decision that gets arrested, there is going to be consequences. I have plans that can decide how severe those consequences are based on what you do from this point forward with the poor decision. We all make them. It’s what you do with it after that. I wish none of them do. But we do. Kids make poor decisions, adults make poor decisions. He knows exactly where we’re headed from here. We’ll see what happens. But there are consequences, there will be.”

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