USA Today images

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 to preview Vanderbilt, as well as look back to the Rebels' 29-28 win over Texas A&M and more.

Opening Statement: “It was good meeting with our kids yesterday. We had a long night back and got back and got the kids in here around 2 o’clock yesterday and was able to give them the truth about what occurred in the game. The truth was, there were a lot of good things, a lot of improvement on a lot of areas, still things that we have to improve on and we’ve got to get better at. Kyle Field is a very difficult place to play in, and I’ve got to say, I am very impressed with their fan base too. I think ours treat them the same way when they come here, I think, and it seemed to be an environment that you wish a lot of college atmospheres had. They had tremendous energy and pulled for their team and it wasn’t the volatile things that you come into in a lot of places. There were a lot of great things about the game. Our defense deserves a lot of credit, they certainly have taken a lot of the beatings this year from me and from you and everybody else and deservedly so, but with the exception of five plays that accounted for 180 yards, our defense played a really good game and it was really fun to see it. I will tell you, about three weeks ago I kind of came to a spot in my own life where I just had a peace about the way we do things, why we do things and how we are going to go about it. I can’t control results and I have kind of just decided that I am going to handle the wins and losses about the same, but it was overwhelmingly joyous for me to see the young men have so much fun in the locker room, particularly on the defensive side, after the game, and our coaches. There are a lot of families that pour a lot into these games and you are having a difficult season and you have to go through the testing of self-evaluation and all the things that a great leader should do, it is really good to see the people have fun that are hooked with you in this journey. They had a lot of fun, but the defense played an outstanding second half, only created one turnover at the end, but I would give them credit for three. The two fourth down stops to me are turnovers and particularly the fourth-and-inches was a huge stop at that point in the game. I thought they played a solid half of football. Then, offensively, kind of up and down through the game, that was kind of to be expected when you put a freshman quarterback out in that environment with limited reps to get prepared for the game itself. He’d been on scout team the past four to five weeks, and they threw a lot of looks at him too. He missed a few protections early and missed a few reads early, but made a lot of plays too. We had some drops that really would have made his day better I think. As I look at it, I think there were five that easily could have been caught that kind of even make the day more impressive for him offensively. I thought Shea (Patterson) handled himself well; I knew he would or probably wouldn’t have done what I did in pulling his redshirt. A lot of playmakers made plays around him, the String (Damore’ea Stringfellow) catch, the Markell (Pack) catch, just a lot of good plays there, but I really think the heroes offensively are Robert Conyers and Sean Rawlings. Those are the kind of guys that go without attention and neither really probably felt good enough to play, didn’t practice all week. Then to have those two bail us out and really allow us to move Javon (Patterson) back to guard throughout the game was heroic and we owe them a debt of gratitude, but that’s how much they love this team, this university and this program. They deserve a lot to go through what they had to go through in the pain category to success for us. They did their part above and beyond. In special teams, I thought the plan was executed very well with the exception of the one kickoff return. We kept it away from their punt returners, we got points on the PAT field goal team every time it was out, and obviously the game winner was huge. That was Gary’s (Wunderlich) first in that situation and you’re never quite sure how – not just his but Will Few and Will Gleeson and those guys that have to do it – they do it a lot but you haven’t done it on the road with 105,000 with the game on the line, and they executed it flawlessly. Celebrating it with them was nice, we accomplished our goal last week which was to be 1-0. This week’s theme I introduced yesterday is just, ‘Do the next right thing’, what is the next right thing for each individual? I don’t know. I gave them some ideas of what it was for them yesterday and then today and we will get to meet again tomorrow and I will give them some more ideas what the next right thing is to be 1-0 and in your life also. We play a difficult Vanderbilt team; they are very good at home. Derek Mason is one of the guys that I have great respect for in this league, I think he is what is all good about coaching. I love the guy. I think he gets it first that he is developing men and doesn’t get caught up in trying to define himself by a win loss record or what the scoreboard says or what people say. He is a man’s man and he believes confidently in himself and his core values and you can see him building character in those young men that play for him; they compete hard for him. He knows what he’s doing defensively, and offensively they are getting better so it’s definitely not an easy out. It never is in this league, but playing a team like coach Mason’s is always difficult for us.”

On Benito Jones: “I don’t retweet much. I will send out a tweet, but I don’t understand all the retweeting too much, but I retweeted somebody sent a tweet out that said ‘Freshman throws to freshman being protected by a freshman, interception by a freshman,’ and I wanted to say ‘You left out big fourth down stop by a freshman,’ you know? Benito has gotten better and better every week. The thing that I constantly look at after games on the grade sheet is really several key indicators about effort and you don’t have to worry about his being a mistake of effort. He gets it and loves this place and is going to be a really great player.”

On Deontay Anderson getting more reps: “Deontay is coming on. Myles (Hartfield) had a spring to learn and Deontay didn’t, and I think he has learned his athletic ability and length and physicality. Once he starts learning everything it just put him in a positon to get more reps. Myles made a couple of missed assignments that cost us in the game. We changed our dime package and Myles went down to play on the backer level and Deontay played the safety. We moved Myles down and we were in diamond every third down I think and maybe some second downs.”

On the defensive line: “I think we have improved. I really think they have played well all year and unfortunately you don’t get to see it a lot. We have it. I watch the D-line pretty close after every game and there are not many games that I look and they have cost us, so I think the others are playing well within the scheme. I think we’ve changed some schemes and changed some people, we’ve just continued to work really. You just continue to work fits over and over with the backers and they’ve gotten better. The D-line did play well the other night, but I think they have played well most of the year. D.J. Jones was a wrecking crew, their center had a handful with him.”

On injuries from the game: “Robert (Conyers), he was trying to get us through the game and really didn’t need to play, so he got his ankle rolled up and Sean (Rawlings) came in to finish the game, I think 18 snaps. Sean is gimpy still, Rod Taylor and Robert all in the offensive line, so they will be probably game time decisions. Tony Bridges pulled a muscle in his lower back, but I think he will be ok. Issac Gross missed the second half with a strained neck, he seemed much better yesterday, but hasn’t gone out and hit or anything.”

On if pulling Shea Patterson’s redshirt felt better after a win: “Again, you’ve known me for a long time, does it matter what people think and that you get validation? Sometimes you sure like it and you want it, but I have really come to a place this year where I am just going to do what I think is right for the kids and for our program, and if I get validation through some means, great. Next week there will be something to invalidate me or to complain about again. I think it was Aristotle, (I said this in the postgame), ‘If you don’t want to be criticized, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.’ So I did what I knew in my heart was right for the program and for the team. As long as Shea (Patterson) and his parents were ok with it, I cannot look at those seniors, who changed the trajectory of this program and say to them, ‘I am not going to give you the best chance to win your last three games’, I can’t do that. If it hurts us four years from now or whenever his time is done here so be it, but I did right by these young men that are here and that’s really what the decision is and I really felt like we had a chance to win every game left, and I’m going to give those kids the best chance. They deserve to go to a bowl game. We need extra practice to continue to build our program and Shea (Patterson), in my opinion, gave us the best chance to do that. Again, how do you look at an Evan Engram and a D.J. Jones and those kids that have spent a lot of time here changing the program and say to them, ‘Hey you did a good job, but we are not going to give you the best chance to win.’ I am not saying we couldn’t have with Jason (Pellerin), we love Jason, but this is big boy football and you’ve got to go compete and Shea (Patterson) gave us the best chance to win.”

On how the win in Texas affects recruiting: “I have always said I don’t think recruiting comes down to a one game win or loss, but winning in those areas never hurt. That is a very prideful program there with a rich history, and we are doing well in Texas with recruiting. For whatever reason, there is a fit here, not only for the football athletes but for the college students. You ride around our campus, there’s Texas tags everywhere and I think someone told me it may be the second most represented state on our campus now. We have done well there and hopefully we will continue and certainly a win won’t hurt that.”

On Texas recruits starting right away as freshman: “I couldn’t say that. I think any freshman that we sign obviously wants to come in and contribute. That doesn’t always happen. There’s no doubt that the programs there (in Texas) are well taken care of and developed and funded, which gives kids a lot better chance early on to develop, but I don’t think there is any magic formula to it.”

On A.J. Brown: “We have said it all along, we thought those freshman receivers we signed, I would find it hard to believe there was a better class. There may be some equal, but with he and Trey (Bledsoe) and D.K. (Metcalf). A.J. is just continuing to come on like we knew he would. He has phenomenal hands, runs physical, and needs to improve his blocking some; he has to understand how important that is to give us some explosive runs. We had a couple opportunities the other night he could have maybe finished some of those to help us. We have to continue to do that, and that’s why we coach him but real pleased with him. We are real pleased with his progress and the way he is competing this year.”

On the offensive line’s effort due to injury: “I don’t think I have ever seen any better effort. Matt (Luke) has done a really nice job of building chemistry in that room. They are good kids. They believe in the process, and they want to represent this program with the core values that we want to develop. They are from good families, are good kids and they really care. That’s a good starting point and then are obviously willing to go the extra mile and making sure they do their part in making sure we are successful. Pretty proud of their group.”

On Shea Patterson being a fast learner: “We need to put some things in. The second half, we ran four plays, really, when you get down to it. They have different options on them, but really we ran four plays. There may be a play here or there sprinkled in outside of those four, but the others were our day one installation of four plays. He did pretty well with those, but we definitely need to expand it. We'll work on that this week.”

On the mental psyche of the freshman after the win: “They have been in the fire, for sure. They haven't experienced the other side of the fire like they did Saturday night. There's nothing that builds their confidence more than a night like that, particularly for young kids. They've experienced some tremendous battles, and we've been very close in some of the battles, but they haven't experienced that exciting joy of going on the road in a difficult environment in what I think is the most difficult conference in the nation in the SEC West and being able to come from behind. I think that was the first game we trailed at halftime all year, maybe we need to try that more often, I don't know, but there was something really sweet about them getting to do that, and there's no question that can build their confidence.”

On Vanderbilt’s downhill running approach: “That’s what they want to do, for sure. They have had more success throwing this year in some games. They threw for 252 yards last week, 221 the week before when they weren't able to run it as effectively. It's not that they can't throw it, but there's no doubt that's what they want to do (run the ball). They like to be in 22 personnel, 21 personnel, a lot of motions and shifts and things that have given us problems some, to be quite candid. I'm sure that's what they're hoping they're able to do. We've got to come up with a great plan to stop some of those explosive runs and win first downs. I think that'll be a critical stat in this game, to put them in situations where they might not be as comfortable calling some of those runs.”

On the defense responding after the onside kick: “The energy was really nice on the sideline. Everyone was into it. Whether you're on offense or defense, everybody was pulling together. I told them at halftime what was getting ready to happen with the onside kick. If it had been just a little slower rolling, we get it, because Carlos (Davis) was right there. But I told them, 'If we don’t, you've got to make a stop. It's time to rise up. You've played really well except for three plays. Eliminate those three things that cause explosive plays, you'll be fine.' And I think that gave them confidence at that moment when they got the stop.”

On the redshirt policy: “I understand with 105 scholarships and no freshmen play, but in today's time, we have 85 scholarships, and we play in the most physical game you can play. The seasons have gotten longer and it's a very difficult grind on the student-athlete, both physically and mentally. Every road game we have played has been at night. We get back at 3 or 4 (a.m.) in the morning and kids are banged up. Todd Berry (former ULM Head Coach) pushed this a couple of years ago, and I believe that if we're going to stay at 85 and we're going to have the interests of the health and safety of our kids in mind, there should be a percentage of games a true freshman can play to get you through the season, or let them play five seasons. That's something I'm going to bring up in our conference meetings, finding a way to help the football team stay healthy and safe throughout the year and give you a chance to win without costing a kid a complete year based on him playing two or three games.”

On Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason: “He’s given us problems every year. He's very good. He's a very good defensive coach and his kids play fundamentally extremely well. They play in the right spots. They're fundamentally sound. So, you've got to be careful against them not to get one play behind in the calls. Every call you have, we need to have answers for what we do. They're multiple in what they can do. I'm really impressed with Derek as a man and as a coach.”

On Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb: “He’s just like the others we've faced. We've faced some really good backs this year and he's another one that you put right in that category. He has tremendous balance, he finishes runs, elusive, speed, he's got it all. If you give him a crease, we'll be struggling like we have against some of the others. The goal will be to fit every gap so tight that he has a hard time getting through creases without resistance.”

On the red zone: “I think we're third in the conference and one of the tops in the nation in red zone scoring, so we haven't been terrible. But what this team needs is for us to be excellent in the red zone. It's not that we've been bad, but our team needs us to be excellent in the red zone in scoring touchdowns. I want to be clear how I define that. If you look statistically we're doing pretty well, but our team needs more. That's my constant harp on that. That's who we are this year and we've got to find a way to be more excellent in the red zone, so I'll continue this week. We have a new little P6 plan that started two weeks ago and it's been very helpful in a lot of ways. One of the areas that'll be addressed closer in a different way will be the tight red zone because we have to score touchdowns the next two weeks in the red zone.”

OM Spirit Top Stories