Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze

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 for his weekly press conference, talking the Rebel QBs, injuries and more. Full transcript included.


Opening Statement: “Excited to win a game. It was a tough one in a lot of ways. Give credit to Georgia Southern. We spent a lot of time working on a lot of their option game and didn’t see an enormous amount of it and we had to make some adjustments, so give them credit for having a good game plan. Once our offense got rolling I thought we took control of the game and were able to put it away even after Chad (Kelly) went out. Offensively we have certain key performance indicators that we set and we were able to accomplish. Of the seven that we have we were able to accomplish five of those, not counting the last red zone scoring opportunity where we took the knee. I gave the guys a break on that one. Taking the knee there I thought we were good in the red zone which we worked extremely hard on. We took care of the ball, except for that one pick that their DB made on an opportunity that A.J. (Brown) had to make a catch. We were good on third down, need to be a little better, but we were good. Had very few penalties and we had explosive plays again defensively, just too many explosive runs again in the first half. We definitely need to build upon the second half, it was our best half of the year. There were some really good plays with the exception of the two penalties that gave them first downs. I thought that our defense played the best they had all year and we need to build on that because we will need them to play really well down the stretch. Outstanding effort by Fadol Brown. I thought 14 tackles, I think that’s the most a defensive lineman has had during our tenure here. Just played really outstanding football for us and played with tremendous effort, as did a lot of our kids in the second half, so that was really good to see. We’ve still got to create more turnovers, but really limit the explosive plays, particularly in the run game. One was totally on our staff, we had a bad call when the ball was in the middle of the field that caused a 68-yard touchdown run. If you take that out, we did limit them to less than four yards a carry and our goal is 3.4. You can’t take it out, they scored a touchdown on it and those are the things we’ve got to get fixed. Special teams, that was the first blocked punt we’ve had in a long time, totally a guy doing his own thing. We’ve got to get that fixed, he can’t do that. The coverage unit was the best I thought it’s been on kickoff cover. It was outstanding. PAT field goals continue to be really good. Gary (Wunderlich) is doing a nice job for us as is Will Few and Will Gleeson, our snapper and holder, and our protection was good. It was a solid effort, slow start, but solid effort and excited to get a win for sure. Next comes the road test at Texas A&M, which is a very difficult place to play against a talented football team. I think their running backs and wide receivers are as talented as any that you face, and their defensive front led by No. 10 and 15 are the best pass rushers that you see and their inside guys are very good also. It is another SEC defensive front that you have to prepare for. Certainly they are disappointed as they got beat on the road this past week. In this conference that can happen. I am sure they are anxious to correct things, it will be a difficult environment for us to play in especially without two of our leaders in John Youngblood and Chad Kelly. It is very disappointing to see seniors in their career like that, you hate to see any junior, sophomore, freshman, but at least they have an opportunity to come back and finish their course differently. Unfortunately, these two will now and that’s heart breaking in a lot of ways and we are indebted to them to their service to this university and to our program. John has been a rock ever since he has been here, a leader, a captain, a Chucky Mullins award winner, really could ask for nothing more from him. Chad (Kelly) came here wanting to rewrite his story and I have witnessed him to that to a large extent. It is not the ending we wanted, it’s not the last chapter that we wanted to write, but life has a way of doing that. I have watched him, I have been with him daily and he’s changed for the better. We all still have challenges in life, we all still have those things that haunt us and the shortcomings we all have, but man I have watched him do things and make impacts on people and the way he played the game here. They both played the game here like they had a debt to pay to this university that gave them a scholarship, and that’s kind of refreshing. It is not the norm in today’s society that people view it that way. ‘Man this university gave me a scholarship and I have a debt to pay and I want to do everything in my power to be worthy of that opportunity.’ I think both of them viewed it that way, and I think the way they played the game and represented the university, the opportunities they had on the field, it was obvious to all that watched them that they viewed it that way and that’s refreshing. Hurt for them, but honor them for the time that they were with us and led our program. We have to move on without them and that will create some challenges, and in the same time it creates opportunities. I have always viewed hardship in my life as another opportunity of God teaching me something in and through it, and it also kind of motivates you to try to figure out a way to get it done. That is the challenge we as a staff have this week. Injuries have not been kind to us this year, but that happens to a lot of programs and it is difficult to maintain to the standard in which you want when you lose a lot of kids like we have this year. It will create opportunities for someone else and we will get ready to go for A&M Saturday night.”

On the possibility of pulling Shea Patterson’s redshirt: “That’s a very difficult thing to do this time in the year with three games left. All options are on the table sitting here Monday morning. We have looked at Markell (Pack) who has played quarterback, Evan Engram can throw, and Kentucky played a whole game with a running back at quarterback. Hopefully Jason (Pellerin) will stay healthy. I would rule nothing out at this point today. I am just trying to figure out what is best for individuals and for the team, that is not something I want to rush to make a decision on. It certainly would be difficult to do that, but I wouldn’t quite totally rule it out just yet, but I want to take my time and think through it for sure and we are looking at all the options.”

On the quarterback position during practice this week: “Jason (Pellerin) is going to get most of the reps. I thought Jason played well last week. He threw two beautiful balls that both could have been caught and we will look at (Markell) Pack some, Jeremy Liggins, Evan Engram. Shea (Patterson) has been getting reps with the scout team and I am sure he will get some this week just until we make a decision as to what’s best for team first and individual kind of second, and that’s a really tough question when you get to this point in the season. When it is what’s best for the individual and what’s best for the team, that’s a difficult question that you have to answer.”

On current injuries: “(Van) Jefferson has a hip-pointer, no fracture or anything, but those are tender,  and won’t know until we see how he progresses through the week. Robert (Conyers) is going to be what he is, he has suffered through a lot of injuries and really probably doesn’t need to play a lot, will travel with us and he has a heart for us, he will go in if he has to if he needs to. (Sean) Rawlings and Rod (Taylor) we just have to see how the week progresses; they are definitely not well. We sure do need one, would be great if we could get both of those available for Saturday night, but we aren’t sure standing here today. They couldn’t play today if we were playing.”

On Javon Patterson’s play: “Good. He had two bad snaps, which that was my biggest concern. I knew physically he could handle the things going on. Our o-line had to play too many snaps of course, but that’s kind of where we are right now and you could tell. Paul Jackson tracks all our intensity output with all of those devices that we have. There was a decline based upon the number of snaps those five kids have had to have the past two weeks. We have to address that in practice this week and sure would be nice to get a few back. Patterson had a real solid game.”

On the possibility of Shea Patterson remaining at Ole Miss for five years: “I can’t foresee what’s going to happen that far down the road. You never know how things are going to play out over three, four or five years. That really doesn’t play into it for me. I just think you have to look at the whole scenario for what’s best for individuals and what’s best for the team and how many games are left, and if you want his first start to be in front of 115,000 at A&M or the first game next year. You want to set a kid up for success, we obviously believe he is a super talent, but those are all the kinds of things going on in your mind.”

On if Shea Patterson will have equal reps this week at practice: “No. Again, today there are no options that are off the table, but today I am trying to figure out a way to see if others can do that job first.”

On the defensive ends and tackles out of position: “Well, it cost us a 68-yard touchdown and it was on the coaches. The ball was in the middle of the field, and the call that was made we can’t run from the middle of the field. It is a hash call and that’s on us, that’s not on the kids.”

On Jason Pellerin: “I think that with a week of practice it can be expanded from what you saw the other night, but will it be what Chad (Kelly) has done? Probably not. Regardless of who goes at quarterback whether it is him, (Markell) Pack, whoever, Jeremy Liggins, Shea Patterson, it would be crazy for us to expect to carry the whole playbook into this game. We need to pick the things we really like and the things he feels good about, (Jason) Pellerin, and his preparation and go with those.”

On how Chad Kelly and the team are mentally: “He had a difficult day yesterday, it was tough to hear. Last night he was going much better. Just saying, ‘God has a plan for me and I am going to come back much stronger and work hard to get myself back ready’. I know it will be hard, because he is such a competitor, when we start playing these games without him. The team I haven’t been with as we didn’t get the news until after I had finished the team meeting yesterday. They will rally though and they will handle it well. Chad (Kelly), it was difficult for him to hear it, he wanted to finish his journey here, in a different way.”

On if he has spoken to Shea Patterson regarding playing: “Yes, I have talked to all our players and Shea is one of them. Shea will play anytime. He is ready to go, he wants to go play them, but it is not a decision I can make out of emotion, I want to really think through it.”

On how Chad Kelly will be remembered at Ole Miss: “I think he will be remembered as one of the best competitors that ever played here. He is the quarterback that helped lead us back to the Sugar Bowl since Archie (Manning). The Ole Miss people will remember that for a long time. He will be etched in a memory of everyone that followed our program as one of the greatest competitors to play that position here.”

On Rommel Mageo’s performance: “It was up and down. Made some really nice plays, was in the right spot most of the time. Just need him to be a little more aggressive, just play a little more downhill. Some of that, we really worked hard on to try to stop the option and it really left us kind of weak in some on the inside and that hopefully was some of it. We need him to play more downhill though and make more tackles for one and two yard gains instead of four or five.”

On Ryan Buchanan: “I haven’t called him yet. I kind of wanted to get to Monday and feel it out. I think Dan may have had a conversation with him. I probably shouldn’t have said that in the press conference – I love Ryan and Ryan loves this place – but I want to do what’s best for everybody and I haven’t decided if that’s something we need to do yet or not. He may have no interest; I am not sure what he’s up to those days other than getting his education. We are thinking through every option; every scenario is a possibility.”

On if redshirts weren’t a factor regarding the quarterback position: “You bring up an interesting point that I want to petition and maybe we can get some momentum behind it. I think Shea (Patterson) is one of the most complete quarterbacks that I have seen as a freshman. I do think with the 85 scholarships that we are allowed, I sure wish that because of years like we are having – and we are not the only school having it – that there was lee way to say a kid can play in a certain percentage of games, three or four games to get you through a stretch of injuries without burning a redshirt. The only way you could do that is play in the first few and have an injury. Like D.K. Metcalf, I sure wish there was something because there are other schools that are going through the same things we are. If you could play a freshman in a two-game span without burning his redshirt to get you through a pinch like we are in in the offensive line or at quarterback, it sure would help when you are having some of these years. I think that has some merit, maybe we can get that on the table somehow. I would certainly be a proponent of it.”

On if Shea Patterson will travel: “We don’t do travel squad until Thursday mornings. We haven’t even looked at the travel squad yet.”

On the kick coverage: “Our kickoff coverage has been getting better and better, so has our kickoff return unit when we have opportunities to return, but I thought we put them inside the 20 I believe four times, that’s a long field and as long as you don’t give up huge, explosive plays, the offenses that go that amount of distance without making mistakes at some point, I think that definitely is a great start for our defense.”

On how he is handling the adversity: “I am actually at peace, not content and not happy and don’t like where we are, but there is kind of a peace that I am at. Maybe it’s faith, maybe it’s the people that I am around or the university I am at, and I understand what is real and I know that in this league in the western division you can have years like this. You turn it over and you don’t make a play here or there, or you have a call or against you and you have injuries like we’ve had, I do know that it can happen. My whole mindset has been to make it about the kids, and what motivates us to make it on this journey and understanding that your positive energy has to be greater than all the stuff around you, all the negativity. Really when it is all said and done, it is not all about the scoreboard for these young men so the question really remains, what do we learn while going through a difficult season that changes us on the other side of it? It makes us better equipped for something else that is going to come in their life or my life that a difficult season can teach you. We probably learn a lot more about ourselves and about others when we go through difficulties opposed to successes. We’ve had successes here in a short amount of time, the way we turned this program around faster than I thought and the expectations got raised, which is a good thing, but in this league it sure can happen in a hurry where it flips on you. We have three opportunities left and those are the ones for these kids and our seniors that this focus should be upon. If you asked me that a couple of weeks ago, I probably wasn’t doing as well, but now that I am, you’ve got to find what you really view as important, whether it is personally, family, or with these young men and you’ve got to focus on that and not all the other stuff.”

On Benito Jones: “He plays so aggressive, you don’t have to worry about any loafs with him, he is going to be 100 mph. He has a bright future. He will make freshman mistakes, but they are going to be at 100 mph.”

On Breeland Speaks: “He had his best game this year and played really solid. Really proud of his effort. He had more attention to detail, and playing within the structure, he had a really nice game.”

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