Petre Thomas

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze previewed Alabama at his weekly press conference Monday afternoon

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media for his weekly press conference Monday afternoon to preview Alabama. Full transcript included.

Opening Statement… 

“To play the number one team in the country at our home, it is an opportunity that I relish. I love the attitude we had yesterday and we are excited about this great challenge. They are an outstanding football team, they are a little better defensively, believe it or not, than what they have been. They seem faster and they are very difficult to create any drives on. I think they have given up about 40 yards rushing a game, a little over 200 total offense against two pretty good offensive teams so far. Western Kentucky does a good job and they did a really good job against them and of course, USC. It is very difficult to sustain drives on and offensively they are an explosive offense with the vertical passing game. Of course, their run game is always one that you have to worry about stopping. It is a typical Alabama football team that is going to be in the hunt for the SEC championship and the NCAA Championship if that comes to creation. We get an opportunity to play them at home and we are eager for that chance.”

On why Ole Miss has had such great success against Alabama the past two years...

“I think it is a combination of things that we all know that their depth is better than a lot of peoples, ours included. We are getting there to where our depth chart is more reflective to our players, so I think playing them early is an advantage. We typically are as healthy as you can be, this year is a little different, we have lost three really good players and you don’t like that; that has been one of the reasons. Two, I think our first year here, when we went there and played a very physical game against them, I thought we matched blow for blow, not on the scoreboard, but blow for blow with physical play and that is something that we have thought all week long, this was four years ago again, this is something we had to do to compete and our kids really drew a lot of confidence from that. I think it is a combination of the confidence that has been set through playing them the four years we have been here and playing them early is advantageous.”

On how Alabama’s defensive line has evolved over the years...

“They are just as talented as any group they’ve had, maybe a little quicker twitch. Very well coached, they understand down to distance football, they understand assignment football and you combine that with the fact that they are some of the best recruits in the country. It is a tall task for any offense.”

On what the identity of this team is now having played two games...

“Still a little early, I think the first half of Florida State we looked like one of the nation’s top 10 teams and the second half not so much. It is hard to tell about last week, I felt like we took care of business offensively, did what we needed to do defensively on a short week to win. We played a lot of kids. With the schedule set up and the way we performed in the first week it is kind of hard to tell exactly who we are yet.”

Victor Evans

On how he feels about the pass defense...

“Well again, off of just last week is not a test for that part of our defense because of the offense we faced. Week one, we didn’t handle it really well. We have been paying attention to it, starting yesterday. We couldn’t last week because we had two days to get ready for the wishbone and there weren’t a lot of things we could do. I will be confident by the time our game comes with our plans and hope that we’ve done a good job of communicating the proper techniques to try to defend their passing game.”

On Victor Evans...

“He is in the concussion protocol and I know he has already passed his test so he should be fine, but we leave that up to the docs.”

On being able to beat Alabama...

“Oh there is no doubt that the confidence, you have to believe that you can and our kids do. We believe that we can play with anyone in the country. That doesn’t mean we can beat them on any given day, but we do believe we have gotten to a point where we can step on a field and compete with them. You know, you get a few breaks that go your way and find a way to win one and we have done that a couple of times. Confidence does come from that and our kids will be confident Saturday, it is still a tall task, but it is one I think our kids will look forward to.”

On the difference in the defense without Kirby Smart...

“There’s not a lot of difference, they are all from the same family and I am sure Coach Saban has talked to all those guys the defense that he wants to have run. There are many, many similarities, for sure.”

On what player will help Akeem Judd with the loss of Eric Swinney and Jordan Wilkins...

“I think they all have to. I thought Eugene (Brazley) has some good vision and some good cuts, so did D.K. (Buford). (D’Vaughn) Pennamon didn’t have a lot of great opportunities, but we will need all four of them by the time the year is over, so you will see them all.”

On how Alabama’s defense has evolved...

“Yeah, it didn’t take them long to catch up. They have a great rotation, they have great depth, it is predetermined a lot of times when the rotation is occurring so it is like they are matching you really well in the tempo stuff. The thing they probably do the best is they win first down and there’s not a lot of people willing to go on tempo for the second down so it is a combination. There is no doubt they have made the adjustments they have needed to make to keep up with it. Their offense goes tempo, so they are seeing it in practice. They are seeing everything now, the RPO’s they are doing the tempo, so they are getting to see it all in practice.”

On the similarities between freshman QBs at Florida State and Alabama…

“They're similar. Big arms. Athletic. Can give you problems, for sure. (Alabama freshman Jalen Hurts) has been extremely accurate on vertical throws downfield. And they have receivers who can go get it. They force you to commit people to stopping the run. They do a great job with their splits with receivers and that can give you some issues. (Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin) does a great job scheming those things and his quarterback has been very accurate just like (Florida State freshman Deondre Francois). And he can hurt you with his legs also, so that's just another dimension that makes them very tough to defend."

On last year's tip pass…

“Well, you have to be calculated with your shots and be smart with them. One thing I'll say is he knows he shouldn't have done that, but in his thinking he knew that Laquon (Treadwell) was there and that he'd have a chance to fight for it — and he knew Laquon (Treadwell) would. So that's Chad's reasoning. That has a little merit. I'm not crazy about wildly doing that again, but you need a few breaks when you're playing great teams. We've had some of ours and we've had a few go against us. They had an onside kick that made the game a lot closer than it should've been last year. We got a couple turnovers that gave us a short field — so you need one of those ball bounces to your way every now and then. But I'd just as soon us not do that again."

Rommel Mageo

On graduate transfer linebacker Rommel Mageo's progress…

“It's still too early to tell. I keep saying that but last week is not a good judge of, how he's going to fit the zone and the power, because we didn't see it. I love the kid and I like the way he prepares, but it's just too early to tell.”

On how senior safety Tony Conner has looked…

“He was a little rusty the first week. Seemed to be a little more himself last week. But again, he didn't play a lot of snaps last week against the stuff we were facing. This will be a really good test for him and a measuring stick to see where we are.”

On the physicality of Ole Miss' running game with respect to the Alabama defense…

“My question would be, who is? I know we certainly have had struggles from time to time running the football. A lot of people do against some of these teams, in particular Alabama. So I don't think it's a matter of us not being physical. I think our guys do play physical. It's a matter of them being extremely talented at stopping the run. It's a difficult task. I think our kids are going to be very physical. I think we have to find a way to get some dirty yards, and I think we can. I believe in our guys that we can. But if you think we're going to line up and rush for 300 yards against this team, that doesn't happen. We need to do it enough to really stay balanced and I think we can.”

On the pass protection from the running back group…

“It's got to improve. Particularly the young kids. Eugene (Brazley) and Akeem (Judd) have a pretty good understanding. The other two are coming along but it still has a ways to go.”

On if Chad Kelly is free to run…

“Yeah if we call a run, he'll run it. And he knows if that clock goes off in his head it's time to use his legs. He's free to do that.”

On the play of the safeties…

“It's still too early to tell, but I thought we had four safeties — I thought (C.J.) Hampton and Deontay (Anderson) and Myles (Hartsfield) and Red (Zedrick Woods) played really solid. I think those young kids are going to be good players. They've done pretty well in two games. But again, it's really one that you have a sample size on, so it's probably not a big enough sample size to really say. They're going to be tested this week. With all the run defense and all the shot plays, they'll be tested."

On where the rest of the SEC stands alongside Alabama…

“I would love for you to ask me that on Saturday. We'll have a pretty good idea, based upon the last two years, where I think we are and how I see them live. You're never quite sure exactly what teams have when you see them on tape. (Alabama head coach Nick Saban), I have great respect for him and the job he's done. They just continue to stockpile depth with 4- and 5-star kids. It's very difficult to say that you're ever going to overcome the gap. I think we've closed it considerably, obviously, the proof is on the field. Do you ever overcome that? Probably not. But you don't have to if you stay healthy and get quality players. Your depth chart may not be on the even playing field. But, if you have a two deep who are good enough to play and you get the right system and the right plan that has a chance to be successful against them, I think you have a fighting chance. I'll know more about that after Saturday."


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