Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze joined the SEC teleconference on Monday

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze joined the SEC teleconference on Monday to discuss offseason rules changes, Shea Patterson and much, much more.

On the spring

“We had a very productive 15 days. I think if I had one thing that I wish wasn’t the case is we did suffer from injuries, particularly in the secondary. We needed those kids to get more reps than they did. It kind of goes in cycles there, and we had our share of injuries as spring went on. Other than that, I thought we were fairly healthy. I thought we improved ourselves, particularly at the defensive line with our young kids and the offensive line with those kids that we were able to redshirt last year. I was real pleased with that. We still have a ways to go at the safety position and the linebacker position. But I did think with the new coordinators that we brought in, particularly coach (Wesley) McGriff and coach (Bradley Dale) Peveto coaching the linebackers, we did take a step forward. We have to continue to do so in order to get to where we want to go.”

On pulling the redshirt off of Shea Patterson

“Obviously it was a decision that, at that point in the season, you’re looking at the Evan Engrams of the world, the D.J. Jones, Derrick Jones, those seniors. What gives them the best opportunity to finish strong? In my mind, I knew that Shea gave them the best chance to win, but you also know that, man, you’re getting ready to play a kid for a possible three games, maybe a fourth. That was the struggle that I would have. But he and his parents were all on board, so ultimately you make that decision based on what you think is best for the team. I think typically when you make decisions based on what’s best for the team it’s usually the right thing to do. That’s really what it came down to.”

Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson (Photo credit: Petre Thomas)

On the recent proposal regarding eligibility

“I love the new proposal that’s out there. I think it’s needed with everything that’s going on with college athletics. The season’s getting longer, and the more physical play that these kids are in year-around, the toll that’s on their bodies, I just think it’s a great option if you can play freshmen or a kid that’s going through a redshirt year in four games or less, I think it’s a very positive and needed change that we need to make. That would have affected (the Patterson) decision very easily. That would have been an easy decision to make. I’m a huge proponent of that. I think it’s going to be beneficial in bowl games when you can throw a kid in there and they get the experience. I’m excited about that.”

On eliminating redshirting altogether and players getting five years of eligibility

“I would be for that, for sure. We’ve tried that and it didn’t get much traction. That came up. I would be for either/or of those. I think either gives you some help where you need it.”

On two new coordinators

“It’s the first time that I’ve ever had to do that. I’ve been with Dave Wommack forever. He’s been so valuable to me. Him retiring was a different deal for me. But I have a comfort level with Wesley McGriff and loved what I saw from the energy and system that he’s going to put in defensively, I thought it went really well. Phil Longo is someone that I did not have a relationship with, but in our talks, I felt like he was just exactly what I needed. It’s going to be the same offense, obviously, because we’ve been very successful if you look at the numbers we’ve put up. We had some deficiencies in certain areas that I think he’s going to add some value to. I’m excited about how it’s gone thus far.”

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff

On the early signing period

“I’m in favor of the early signing period. I think it’ll allow you to know exactly where you stand quicker with players and they will know where schools stand with them a bit quicker. I think that could be beneficial for us in our situation. I’m not a fan of the early visits. I just think you’re tripping kids before they’ve even had a sixth-semester transcript. I wish that was not a part of it. But I’m OK with the early signing period. Originally my vote would have been to not change anything, but once it sounded like that’s the path we’re headed down regardless, I think signing in December is the best scenario. I just wish it didn’t carry those spring visits with it.”

On if the early signing period alters recruiting approach

“I think so. I’m a big fan of getting to know kids. That’s difficult. Another problem is you’re getting ready to trip a kid and you’ve never really had a conversation with them yet. I want to know the kid’s fit with us. That’s really important to me. The way it’s been expedited because of this is troubling to me a little bit. It could cause you to be a bit reckless. It’s really important you plan out your attempt to do this and how fast are we going to move? Are we going to wait and make sure it’s the right fit?”

On Shea Patterson in high school

“He was so good as a junior; that’s when I actually saw him play live in a state championship game when he was at Calvary (La.) Baptist. I left there that day feeling like he was as polished of a high school quarterback as I’d seen fundamentally. I did not go see him play live his senior year. He was very, very polished his junior year. Didn’t see any drop-off, for sure. He’s just one of those special talents who’s been taught from an early age.”

Ole Miss offensive line

On Jordan Wilkins

“The way he handled (his academic situation last season) kind of made you proud. He’s been listening to us about how you handle adversity in life. The leadership role he provides having gone through that gives him creditability. With the disappointing news about him not going to a bowl game because of our self-imposed deal, it was curious to see how he would react. He immediately took charge, took the lead on ‘This is how we’re going to handle it.’ I’m so proud of him. I’m praying he has a healthy year because I think he’s going to have a special year.”

On the offensive line

“I said from day one it would take us four to five years to get the offensive line the way we wanted it. If we stay healthy, we should have one of the better offensive lines in the country. I think the job Matt (Luke) has done in recruiting and being able to redshirt, finally, has paid off for us, and I’m really excited about the talent level and the chemistry that those guys have up there. We have most everybody back. We played a lot of young kids. We’re really going to have most everybody back for two more seasons in that group. We’re excited about how we’ve built that group.”

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