Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media to preview LSU Saturday night

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze met the media to preview LSU, among other topics, Monday afternoon. Full transcript included.

Opening Statement: “Another SEC road game week, which is a rival game with LSU down in Baton Rouge. This one I know means a lot to our people. We will educate our young kids on the history of it this week and hopefully get them prepared to go and play in another hostile environment and to play better than we did last week. Last week was frustrating. We talked about chances to make plays that have a direct outcome on the game that we failed to make, or making a call that would have been better in a certain situation. We all have those and we all have to improve ourselves this week as we get ready for an LSU team that is super talented. They have, in the last few weeks, offensively put up a lot of big numbers, 600 and something yards, 400 or so in the other and I think just 44 plays. We all know the talent that they have at receiver and they are utilizing that now. At running back, they are always special there. Offensive line wise they are good and the quarterback is making great decisions. They are doing a really nice job there defensively and they have always been one of the best in the country and continue to be that. I think we are playing one of the better teams in the country this Saturday night and it is a great opportunity. We will have to show a lot of resolve with the way the world works now around athletic programs that are this magnitude where the expectations are high. There are always a lot of things that you have to handle and manage that have a direct impact on the way your kids prepare and perform. We’ve got a lot of work to do this week and resolve will be tested and shown, but we are excited about going to play LSU.”

On his relationships with LSU interim head coach Ed Orgeron: “I have reached out to him several times (while he was at) at USC when he got the interim there and then here when he did. We spoke last week actually about some things that were going on and everyone comes up with their own opinions, but I am so indebted to coach Orgeron. I have great respect for him and everything that he has meant to my career. He gave me an opportunity just to come here and be in an off the field position, and to learn from him in recruiting and the things that I watched him do and how persistent, and how he did his things with great passion. I learned a lot from him and I am very indebted for the opportunity and the time I had and the opportunities he gave me. I really don’t know my career does what it does without the opportunity that he gave me. The opportunities that he has had at USC and then here, I think he has approached it differently. When I talked to him now he seems a bit different about his approach and I think it is working for him. It was no surprise that the kids are playing well under him right now, so I am very indebted to him.”

On injury issues or mental issues with the team: “I think he (Stringfellow) is healthy. A.J. (Brown) has a little tweak in his knee that he has to play with the rest of the year. I can’t put my hand on it. Our receivers have played extremely well and it just happened that we had critical drops at really difficult times. It wasn’t just one or two guys, it was several. I wish I could put my hand on it. If you had to say it was a lack of concentration, things just happen like that sometimes. There are drops that occur, but over the course of the season that has a been a big strength of our team. They were not happy after the game and if we are going to compete against LSU Saturday night those guys are going to have to play well and I think they know that.”

On miscommunication between Chad Kelly and receivers: “There were two blown routes. Some of the throws might have happened under distress where it might have looked. Chad kind of thought on one route that we were running something different, just kind of lost it on that deal. There were two that should have been runbacks and we didn’t get those done.”

On what Ed Orgeron is doing differently during this interim than in the past: “Well, they are playing with great passion and that is not something that they haven’t done I don’t think, but offensively they are different right now. They are very multiple. They give you a lot of different sets, staying balanced, using the skill at receiver; whether it is through speed sweeps or quick throws or shots down the field. Their run game has always been good and still is, but defensively they are what they have been. A little different system with a different coordinator, but athletically they have been the same they have always been. I know what I hear and read, I can’t speak because I am not in their offices day to day, but he has shortened practices and their kids are looking like they are having a lot of fun. Whatever he is doing is working, they have played two games and looked really good in them.”

On why Ole Miss teams in the past under Ed Orgeron were not more successful: “People are not patient. I really think that we had recruited well under Ed here and it was close to turning a corner. Hindsight is 20/20 and who knows what decisions were made. I am not second guessing any of those, I am just saying if you look at the athletes that Ed and his staff, our staff, had brought in, we thought we were really close. We didn’t win enough games that last year to satisfy everyone and the change was made. I would say in talking to Ed and listening to his interviews, he learned some things too, we all do. I learn stuff every year. He has continued to do that and continued to put himself in situation again and there’s people, obviously, that believe in him to give him the opportunities that he has right now. I think he is doing some good things that are working.”

On if the team is preparing for Leonard Fournette to play: “You have to for sure. He sat out two weeks, you’ve got to believe he is going to play in this game.”

On who Ed Orgeron is as a person: “Ed was always very, very good to me. We were very close at the very end of it and everything was strained around here for sure, but I think he had great confidence in me and I appreciated that the whole time we were here. Again, I am very indebted to him. I am not going to go into whatever legends you have. I will say this about Ed Orgeron, I don’t know that I have ever been around a coach that is more passionate and that came to work every single day with that same energy, same passion, same drive. It wasn’t a rollercoaster in that regard, he was driven as much as I have ever seen.”

On clarifying the message to the team: “We have assigned Christian Robinson to take the Mike linebackers this week and coach them from this point forward. Dave (Wommack) will handle the stingers to try to get more attention to them in practice. There were times where it was done correctly and we had success and there were times that it wasn’t. There were other times that it wasn’t necessarily the linebacker’s fits. We had three critical third downs, one on the five yard line on the option and two others on drives they scored on. We have a good call and an unblocked guy and he misses the tackle so we’ve got to improve that also. Then there were other times where we wish we had a different call, then other there’s times where we didn’t fit the gaps exactly right, it is a combination of all those things. There were times the fits were good, but there still too many that it’s not. We are going to put another set of eyes on one position and try to help them improve this week, because again, this week it will be vitally important.”

On Ole Miss representing the SEC in the AP top 25: “I think the West is extremely strong and talented and getting better as weeks go on. It has to have something to do with that and the schedule we’ve played and how we have performed for a large portion of those games. We always talk about strength of schedule in this nation and I think this message is being heard. I didn’t even look at the polls yesterday, so I am not sure where we are, if you say we are in it, I assume we are. I would think that the message is carrying some weight that strength of schedule does matter and we have had a very difficult schedule. Going on the road to Arkansas and now to LSU and then Auburn in a row is another stretch of another three difficult games that we’ve got. LSU is playing a lot better than they did earlier, so is Auburn, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

On if this game will be harder to coach than past games based on the standings: “It feels like that standing here today, for sure. It is one though that I think this is when you find out a lot about yourself, your team and your kids. It won’t be done just because I come to work and say we are fixing to bow up and get it done. It is going got take a collaborative effort from a lot of people and a lot of kids, and a lot of young kids that this is a bit foreign to when expectations aren’t quite met early on. I again preach to them that this life, this football team, it is not about an individual event, it is about a journey. That journey for some, this is their last year, for some this is a three-year journey. I hope for me it is a long journey, but you have to approach it like that and then you have to go answer the bell. There’s a lot of teams that are faced with the same things, there are very few that can just have the depth and the talent all the time that they are expected to roll out there and win. We are a team that can win, we have proven that, we are also a team that can lose because everybody’s got good talent. Finding the way to continue to motivate and when those difficult losses come is certainly a great challenge, but it’s what we have to do, it is what we are called to do. It is what our great University expects, it’s what people deserve and we’ve got to rally and respond.”

On the results this year: “Well you have looked at the schedule haven’t you? Again, we have played well in some of those losses, minus a few turnovers against some really talented teams. When you play the quality of teams that we play, you can get beat. That doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t play great or that you made two mistakes here or three mistakes here that cost you. Whether it is players or coaches or a combination, that doesn’t mean you didn’t play well. I think our offense has been really consistent minus a few turnovers. Defensively we have had some inconsistencies. They’ve been in the wins and the losses also.”

On impressions of LSU quarterback Danny Etling: “He has been very consistent. He understands what they are trying to get done. He loves to hit his check downs when he needs to, which are a quarterback’s best friend. He takes his shots when he needs to, has receivers that can get one-on-ones, but he has a really good understanding of the system, his fundamentals are good. I think he has been really consistent.”

On if playing at night will affect the preparation: “I think night games or away games in general on the road in the SEC are all difficult. Theirs is certainly no exception, it is a larger crowd than you face at a lot of places. I don’t know what the stadium holds there now, but they are passionate fans. They are into it because they pull for their team and when it is hard to communicate and hard to hear, they give extra energy to the home team that always makes it difficult on the road in this conference. This is certainly not different, but you prepare the same.”

On D.J. Jones not playing in the second half: “Had a bruised elbow, and he went through practices yesterday. Of course we didn’t hit yesterday and his MRI was fine, it is just a bruise. We anticipate him being able to go tomorrow hopefully. He is moving it better today.”

On the health of the team: “Just little things. Evan’s (Engram) shoulder, he played the rest of the game, he looked fine yesterday, its sore. Chad (Kelly) was sore, but went through practice. We had nobody miss practices yesterday, just a lot of soreness, nothing that I think would cause anybody to miss a game.”

On Fadol Brown traveling: “I would think so, he was close last week. I think he will be able to go this week.”

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