We were reminded on Tuesday that we are just entering year two of the Hugh Freeze era and this was just his second trip to SEC media days. Despite the love for Freeze and all he’s done in his short time in Oxford, he was still asked about winning Tennessee state championships in girls basketball just five questions in.
That sort of goes along with what Freeze mentioned in his opening statement. He, like he has since the end of last season, said that he wanted to maintain the momentum they built in year one and he wants the fans to be excited, but that high expectations lead to disappointment.
“Our task in year two is to maintain the enthusiasm and energy from both our fans and our players and everyone that is involved in our program, as we continue to strive to be relevant in the SEC West,” Freeze said. “We have made strides. But, again, those young men we’ve recruited to help us with our depth issues, they’re 18-year-old kids. How quick they’ll adjust to this game and this league, you really don’t know.”
While some people and even experts are floating around the notion that Ole Miss could win nine or possibly even 10 games this season, what is Freeze saying?
He’s talking about a lack of depth his team has along the offensive line, at defensive end, in the secondary and so on.
While many are anointing his team for what they did last season, Freeze is trying to do what he’s done all offseason, temper expectations.
Expectations for the jump start Rebels in year two under Freeze wasn’t the only thing mentioned on Tuesday. There was some friendly banter between Freeze and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, as well.
Freeze was asked a question about visors and he responded and said that he began to wear visors because of Spurrier.
Spurrier responded with this, “We have a lot in common. We both fish, we both golf, we both wear visors and we both call plays. How could you not like a guy like Hugh Freeze?”
While Spurrier isn’t always so friendly with his fellow SEC head coaches, I think this friendly exchange between Freeze and Spurrier is noteworthy, especially after their back and forth last year.
Freeze also spoke about his healing quarterback, Bo Wallace.
“He feels very good about where he’s at in his progress,” Freeze said. “They released him about four weeks ago to start tossing. Last week he began throwing full go. He’s had some soreness, of course, but everything seems to be moving along very nicely.”
He said that this happened while he was at Arkansas State with another quarterback and they were concerned because it changed his motion a bit. This is why they filed for the waiver for quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Dan Werner to be able to observe Wallace this summer. He hasn’t seen him throw this summer, obviously, but said he hears that he is making good progress.
The Rebels will be on the road for the first four of five games, but in turn won’t leave the state of Mississippi for the last seven games. Freeze said while the scheduling is inconvenient, it is something that he can’t control.
“We have a motto around our place,” he said. “We talk about what we can control. I can’t control that we’re playing those five on the road right out of the gate. But I can control how we prepare for them. So we try not to give much power to that as far as it being a negative.”
Lastly, there have been attacks on the spread offense, mostly from defensive-minded coaches, that say the spread offense should not be allowed to use such a fast tempo because it presents an unfair advantage and it could cause injuries. There have been attacks on the success Freeze has had on the recruiting trail so far as well. I found something Freeze said to be very interesting and kind of representative to how he takes this criticism and how he will handle future criticism.
He was referring to what he learned calling plays for the first season in the SEC, but I think this answer tells you a lot about the person Freeze is.
“Still be yourself. Obviously there are a lot of times that I’m getting yelled at from the stands on how stupid a call was,” Freeze said. “Half the time I want to turn around and tell them I agree with them, it was pretty stupid.”
Freeze shows a humility that is hard to find in his profession and he also has proven time and time again at each stop and even when he came to the big bad SEC, he will always be himself, whether you love him or not.