Hugh Freeze has been a busy man since signing day earlier this month.
Getting a couple of minutes with him during all the hiring of new coaches, endless meetings with each new coach and staff meetings to plan spring training - which begins next Tuesday, February 28th, has been difficult, but we finally bumped into him long enough for a couple of general questions.
Coming off a losing season, with an NCAA investigation hanging over the program (Ole Miss released its response to the amended Notice of Allegations yesterday, prior to publishing this article), Freeze's first spring priority, he said, will be working on the mental state of the team during spring training.
"The staff has not had any team contact with them since after the last game, but (Strength & Conditioning Coach) Paul (Jackson), who is very critical of the offseason workouts, said they have only had one bad day during the time they have worked since the Egg Bowl, and that's pretty encouraging to get a gauge of where their heads are," Freeze said. "Our message to them this spring is going to be that we cannot control anything outside of the Manning Center, but we can control out attitudes and how we approach and attack spring training, the offseason and next season.
"It is going to be very important for us to take advantage of every opportunity to get better and to get our confidence and momentum back. As coaches, the mental state of the team is going to be very important to us as we move forward toward next season, starting with spring training. That will be a challenge, and it will be on our minds constantly. We will do everything in our power to get a positive feel back and to get the bad taste of last year out of our mouths."
The next most important general item on the agenda involves having two new coordinators, Wesley McGriff on defense and Phil Longo running the show on offense.
"Understanding the installation of the new stuff, what we are putting in on both sides of the ball, is critical. New terminology, new plays, new formations, everything. We know this is going to be a process, so our philosophy is to install it as fast as we can to the point where the players are grasping it. If they are not grasping something, we will slow down until they do in terms of installation. On offense, want them executing and understanding," he noted. "On defense we want them playing fast and physical.
"If either side has a breaking point, where they are not getting it and they are playing slow and not very physical, we will back off of installation until they are playing fast and physical and are understanding what we are doing and then we will resume installation"
Freeze expects the offense to be behind the defense through the first week or so, but then start to catch up as more and more sinks in.
"We will catch on, but usually defense will be ahead of offense in this type of situation," he closed. "I do not know if we are going to be able to get everything in this spring, but that will be the goal provided we are playing, as I said, fast and physical."