Hugh Freeze and A.J. Moore

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

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference. He previewed Arkansas, as well as discussed quarterback Chad Kelly and more. Full transcript inside.

Opening Statement: “We enjoyed an off week. There is still a lot of work to be done, and when you say off week it’s certainly not that you are off, there’s still a lot of recruiting to be done. Get on the road and visit with some schools and some coaches. Watched some kids play and at the same time try to improve your football team and get them a little healthier for a stretch run. I think we were successful in a lot of areas with that and we had three good workouts, and a lot of good vibes on the recruiting trail. Ole Miss continues to be in the mix for a lot of the top players, so it validates the job our coaches are doing at building relationships with the high school coaches and with the players that we are recruiting right now. This league continues to just amaze me, it has changed in a lot of ways and yet the difficulty still remains. The offensive outputs that teams are putting up now is not what is the norm in the Southeastern Conference, it is making for some exciting football games for sure. You watch these games, as I got to between watching my daughters play volleyball Saturday and I TiVo all the games. One thing you kept seeing was these games are never over. The offenses and the skill guys, the way the clock is used in college football is just always a chance that you can make a comeback, and you saw that in the Tennessee vs. Texas A&M game and obviously the Alabama vs. Arkansas game. That is very interesting to me, left me feeling like we are playing another one of the top teams in the nation in Arkansas. Alabama to their credit, they got some points in unconventional ways which they are good at and you give them credit for that. It certainly changes the outlook on the game. This Arkansas team is an extremely gritty football team and I think they get that of course from their coaches and also from their quarterback. This guy (quarterback Austin Allen) is a heck of a competitor. He stands in there and takes hit after hit and continues to throw accurate balls and put up almost 500 yards on an Alabama defense, which is very, very good. Up there, it is going to be a difficult challenge. They have been a tough matchup for us the past two years. I think matchups are important in college football, sometimes you look at them and feel ‘Oh I like this matchup’ and then other teams seem to give you more of a problem. They’ve been that to us the past few years. We have a lot of work to do to make sure our plans are efficient. We are asking our young men to do something they can do so that they have the best chance to win on the road in a tough environment Saturday night in Fayetteville.”

On Arkansas beating Ole Miss the past two years: “(They were) two totally different games really. The first one was in November in Fayetteville, the weather was awful and we were disappointed after a Laquon Treadwell injury that kind of nocked us out of things. I didn’t do a good job getting our team ready to play. Offensively we were atrocious that night up there. Last year was a shootout, we couldn’t stop them and they couldn’t stop us. I thought we won the game a couple times, obviously, but they made a miraculous play on the fourth down. We stopped them on the two-point play and then we had a penalty and they converted. That game could have been won or lost a lot of different times, but we certainly struggled to stop them. A lot of it has to do with the tight ends that they had last year, they have some good ones this year also. The way they use them, you have to add to the box to try to stop their run and then their quarterback that played extremely well, when you do that and using their tight ends and wide outs to win some one-on-ones and we struggled stopping that last year.”

On the incident this past weekend regarding Chad Kelly: “My statement is what it is. I said that he is very apologetic and that it brought a bad light on him and our program, but I think the events that happened could have happened to a lot of us. He knows he cannot continue to do that and his brand changed. That’s it, it’s over.”

On how the past two losses to Arkansas effects this team: “I think zero. I don’t think the players look at what happened last year or the year before. Certainly not the year before, they might remember last year a little bit because of the ending and what was at stake. It is not something I just don’t believe helps you prepare. If that is what my focus is on ‘Hey we got to get ready to beat them because they beat us last year’, I don’t really buy into that. I buy into, here’s the plan that gives us the best chance to succeed and now we’ve got to make sure we understand and can efficiently do it. That will be our focus.”

On Fadol Brown and DeMarquis Gates: “Again, I say Gates, it is totally up to him. He knows exactly what he has to do to be ready to play. I have no idea what Fadol’s will be because we haven’t practiced yet, but it will probably be a game time decision if that. I think he’s going to try to see what he can do.”

On Austin Allen following in his brothers footsteps at quarterback: “I feel like I am watching the same guy. I think they are extremely accurate, extremely tough, have a great understanding of defenses. The ball goes to the right spot, it’s accurate. Just a really good player.”

On reflection during the bye weekend: “Yeah, I reflect on it as soon as the game is over. During the open week you do a lot of self-scouting to see where you are. There are a lot of great things we are doing. We are really balanced. think a key stat on Saturday night in Fayetteville will be third downs, we’ve got to convert those and keep their offense off the field. We reflect on everything and I think we have played some really good football at times. We know that we are young and have some weaknesses on defense especially that we have to continue to improve. I have seen improvement from the young kids there. Now, outside of four turnovers, I feel like we are a pretty good football team.”

On being able to have a personal break during the bye weekend: “It’s not really a break for coaches. I was on the road three days recruiting and then did the three practices and Saturday I got lucky to see my girls play volleyball and then watched a lot of games. I took a little time off Sunday, went to church and then didn’t come in until around 3 yesterday afternoon. You’re not expecting time off during the season really, that is just not what this profession is about. I think we do as good of a job as any staff with taking breaks when we can. We are not late night guys here; we don’t stay here all night. We usually go home Wednesday and Thursday nights to be with our families if at all possible. We are getting some time in there, but the off week really is more for the players because there are a lot of things coaches have to do to catch up on.”

On Arkansas’ run defense: “It was a weird game to watch and people question us all the time about our run game. I keep telling everyone, it is very hard to run the ball in this league. You saw that the other night, I think Arkansas rushed for 60 or 70 yards against Alabama. You felt like watching the game that they couldn’t rush the ball, their play action really wasn’t working that well, he was getting hit and sacked. “But, then you look up and he’s scored 30-something points with 470 yards which tells me a lot about the character and grit of their team. They had some pivotal turnarounds there with turnovers being returned for touchdowns and the same kind of thing we did. I think they are a really good football team, right there to beat (Texas) A&M and the goal line stand really kind of turned that game and I thought the turnovers kind of affected the game, so I think we are playing a really talented team.”

On Arkansas’ run defense continued: “I think they do what they do and they try to make you make mistakes, that is the way they have been. We had a lot of success last year against it. The year before not so much. I know in his press conference he talked about having to tweak and change some things possibly, so we have no idea what that will be, so we will have to be prepared for it. We will have a good plan for what we’ve seen, there could be some things we don’t see. They have given up some rush yards, but there are some good teams that can do that. Typically, they’ve been a lot like us, just bend and don’t break, you try to hold teams to field goals and banking on your offense scoring some touchdowns. They’ve been very good at that.”

On movement in the linebacker position: “That continues. It will continue through this week. We are working six different guys at those spots and just trying to find the best combinations for what we are asking them to do. It will probably continue on throughout the season really.”

On coaches changing their philosophies to win games: “I think coaches, the good ones are always going to play the strengths of their team. If you are able to consistently run the football, its advantageous to do that. It is hard to do that week in and week out in this league. They’ve changed some, they still have the identity. They can make themselves look like they’ve always looked, but there’s no doubt the system had changed at both places (Arkansas and Alabama). They are reaping great reward for it. I have always kind of been in this system so I don’t know what would make me change and go the other way because I see the benefits of, I think you can move the ball and score points. I think we have proven to do that here and it is working for other schools also.”

On Chad Kelly’s improvement: “I think he has played extremely well outside of the four turnovers. I think if you take those four things away it would be hard to argue with many mistakes that he has had. He has been efficient, he is accurate and led us to explosive plays. Just taking care of the ball is the thing that we’ve got to continue to work on and improve. I see him in spirts playing as well as he did in those last seven games last year, which is pretty efficient.”

On Arkansas’ defense struggling: “I think that the offenses of today, the way they are so flexible and can come in the games and do different things to you that you may have not totally prepared for. All of a sudden they’ve got some momentum and they are feeling confident about running the football. We have had our struggles with some of that also so it is not surprising every week to try to get things fixed for the next one. Again, matchups seem to be important also. I know that Bret (Bielema) and his staff, Robb Smith has done a great job coordinating defenses, I am sure they will get some things worked on and have them fixed for this week.”

On matchups affecting the momentum: “I think the demeanor of your kids in that certain game, what happened the week before, the health of your team, momentum starts to go one way. If you don’t recapture it, pretty soon before you know it you’re in a fight and you can lose it because all the teams in this conference have quality and enough players to beat you on a given night. I think momentum is huge and matchups are a part of that that can create some momentum.”

On Arkansas’ play style: “Yeah like I said earlier in years past, the ability of their tight ends and quarterbacks to be really balanced and you commit people you felt like you had to commit to stop the run, then those guys winning in space on you and a lot of one on ones, whether it be the receivers or their tight ends. They have done a really nice job staying balanced with that. It has given us a lot of problems.”

On how the off days affect the team: “I think it has to help you be more healthy and ready, I don’t know other than that if it’s a huge advantage. The kids’ focus is typically not the same in those three days of practices that you typically have. But there is no question that those days off help you get your legs back under you and hopefully get a few kids healthier.”

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