Ole Miss Wide Receivers Coach Hugh Freeze has not been smiling about the Rebs' 1-3 record, but he does get a measure of satisfaction the way his group has played - thus far.
"Every week is a new adventure with a young group, but to this point I have been very pleased with the way my guys have played," said Freeze, in his first year coaching the wideouts after mentoring the tight ends a year ago. "All of them have a little confidence about them right now and that's important.
"You can't put a price on confidence. It is so valuable for your kids to have a swagger about them as receivers. I always felt skill guys have to have a confidence in themselves to believe they will catch every ball, and when they do drop one, put it behind them and believe they are going to catch the next one. They cannot let a drop get to them."
Through four games, Shay Hodge has 19 catches for 189 yards and 2 TDs; Marshay Green has 17 receptions for 176 yards; Mike Wallace has 16 snags for a whopping 400 yards and 4 scores; and Mike Hicks has 6 catches for 125 yards.
"They are producing. Shay has become the complete receiver I always thought he could be and has overcome an injury and personal tragedy to do so. You have to love that kid," Freeze continued. "Hicks has come on strong here lately because he's now understanding his role and understands how important that role is to us. He has worked hard and is now running better routes. I've always known he has good hands. He feels valuable because he has a clear role. We have not gotten Marshay the ball enough in open space, but we're working on that and we're happy with how hard he's working to get it done.
"Wallace's percentage of long balls is phenomenal. It's not supposed to be that easy to get deep, but he's simply running by some very fast people. Now, he will be recognized by opposing defenses and played differently with some off soverages or rolling safeties to his side. That should open up other routes for him and open things up for everyone."
The wideouts like Freeze's relaxed, but at the same time intense, approach to coaching them.
"Coach Freeze is hard, but he's fair and he's not a yeller and screamer. He can get on us hard, but he does it the right way," said Wallace. "He makes you want to play hard for him."
"I'm glad they feel that way. I believe firmly that you can be hard on kids, but they also have to know that you can forget about the last play. We preach for them to do that, so they have to see you practice that philosophy as well," Hugh explained. "They handle it better when you are hard on them if they know you still believe in them. They keep their confidence that way. When they lose confidence, it's hard to regain it.
"When I started coaching, I was a yeller and screamer and I still do it at times, I suppose, but I try to do it in a way that they can accept. Each kid is different. Marshay can take any kind of criticism and it does not bother him. Some of the others, it does and isn't the best way to coach them. They are all different. Coach O always challenges us to know our players and know what gets the ready to play. You can't treat them all the same - each one has their own set of buttons to push to get them to respond."
Freeze also sprinkled in Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux into some PT against Florida last weekend.
"Markeith does a great job blocking, as does Hicks. I think he's going to be a good receiver in time. Until then, he has a role too and he's good at it," Hugh stated. "Lionel is starting to come on some too. He's getting confidence and learning on the run."
Freeze is also gaining notoriety with his "special plays" input on the staff. Several trick plays have worked well in recent games.
"We dusted off Wolfpack against Florida and got 15 yards on it only this time Marshay ran it instead of Dexter, who ran it against Memphis last year," he noted. "I like to try to come up with some special plays we can use. I like to give Coach O that option to use during games.
"On the fake punt to end the game, I talked Coach O into running that and it didn't work, we were three yards short, so there is a flip side to it that I know I'm responsible for if they don't succeed. Fourth and 11 is a tough call, no matter which way we had gone. We considered running our regular offense, we considered changing the play, we considered punting, but we felt even after Florida called timeout they didn't defend it right and we still might be able to get the 11. We took a shot that we calculated all the options and it didn't work. We actually sent in the signal to run it after Florida got lined up. We could have punted, but thought we had a shot after they came back out and lined up."
The special plays are a "bonus" to Freeze. His main focus is on keeping the wideouts rolling and going in an upward direction.
"We have some things going our way right now. I credit a lot of people for that, not just my guys. Seth Adams is doing a great job getting them the ball, the OL is protecting Seth, Coach (Dan) Werner is calling their number. We just hope it continues," he closed.
Hugh Freeze -
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