Hugh Freeze does not mince words when it comes to being on the field as a position coach versus his duties at Ole Miss last year as the Director of Football Operations.
"I enjoyed what I did last year. I learned a lot, but that position was a means to an end," Freeze, recently named the Rebs' tight end coach, stated. "It was no secret my dream was to be a position coach at Ole Miss. Now, my dream is coming true."
Freeze got a crash-course indoctrination into one of the most vital aspects of being a position coach - recruiting - when he was thrust into going on the road in early December to replace one of the departed assistants.
"That was a challenge," he continued, "but I was confident in my ability to do some positive things in recruiting. Recruiting is extremely competitive and there are a lot of highs and lows. When you get a commitment from a top recruit, there is a lot of satisfaction, but when you get turned down, you get just as low. You have to learn to get up and keep getting after it. Thee's no time to sulk."
Freeze was instrumental in landing all the Memphis players Ole Miss signed and the two Olive Branch stars the Rebs inked. He was also heavily involved in some other recruiting success stories. He won't say it, but we will - what he accomplished in his first go-around in college recruiting was nothing short of remarkable. A couple also "got away," but he shrugged getting thrown off and climbed back on his recruiting horse.
"You dust yourself off and move on to the next guy. You never want to get used to getting a 'no,' you always want it to hurt some so you can remember the sting to try harder to keep it from happening again. You have to be able to objectively look at what you did and correct what you may have done wrong with a particular prospect, but you also understand the reality is that you aren't going to get them all," he explained. "Coach O (Ed Orgeron) taught me to always believe you are going to get all the players you go after, but to be able to get over the ones you don't quickly."
With his first recruiting rodeo behind him, and even though recruiting on Orgeron's staff never stops, Freeze is now concentrating more prominently on the Rebel tight ends.
"We are currently able to work an hour a day four days a week with our players. We can't use a ball, but we can run drills and things like that. I'm breaking my time up into 30 minutes on the field doing drills and 30 minutes in the film room teaching Coach (Dan) Werner's offense and the tight ends' role in it," Freeze, who is also the recruiting coordinator on the staff, stated.
"We are both in a learning curve with the offense, but Coach Werner keeps things simple and easy to understand. Right now, we are concentrating on the five things that make a tight end a success. If a tight end can drive block, reach block, execute a cutoff block, execute pass sets and run routes - assuming they have good ball instincts and skills, he can be good and be a success. That's what we are working on now - the fundamentals of those five things as they relate to the offensive schemes."
Freeze said it's a process, just like everything else.
"You start with baby steps and build from there, adding something daily and trying to master it as you go," Hugh added.
Freeze is currently working with five tight ends this spring: rising senior Lawrence Lilly (6-4, 280), rising juniors Robert Lane (6-3, 230), Jason Hawkins (6-3, 255)and Robert Hough (6-4, 230), and RS frosh walkon Ewan McCauley (6-3, 235).
"We have a lot of improvement to make at our position, individually and as a group, if we want to be a big part of the team and the offense," he stated bluntly. "Coach Werner loves to throw to the tight end, but unless we develop as true threats in the passing game, that won't take place as often. It's up to us.
"We talked as a staff some about Robert going through spring at QB to learn the offense and provide some insurance there, but we opted to put him at tight end for experience reasons. When Robert transitioned to tight end/fullback last year, we were limited to just putting him into pass routes. We did not have time to teach him the fundamentals of blocking. He's never been asked to execute a reach block or a pass set or any other kind of block. He's never had to cut off a linebacker and learn angles of pursuit and attack. We felt it would be best for him and us to just put him at TE and let him learn everything he needs to know this spring and fine-tune it in August.
"Based on last year, Lawrence has something to prove to himself and to me, but I know he's capable and has shown a great attitude to this point. Jason has not been able to practice yet because of a bout of mono, but he's been very attentive in film work and in observing what we are doing on the field. Robert (Hough) has gained a little weight and has impressed me with his work ethic. Ewan is working hard to make his mark.
"Overall, I love the attitude this group has. They have worked hard and that will be rewarded with improvement."
Freeze believes in his group and, much like his confidence in his recruiting ability, his prowess to coach them up.
"We're going to get it done. It will take time with a new coach and a new offense to install, but we'll be there in September ready to rumble," he closed.
Freeze looks for TE improvement
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