Practice report: Freeze looks for defensive improvement

Posted on Aug 24 2016 - 8:01am by Brian Scott Rippee

Ole Miss will be young defensively this year. There’s no hiding that. It lost some key pieces to graduation and the NFL, and Sunday’s scrimmage was a reminder of that to head coach Hugh Freeze. The fifth-year head coach said he said some good things from the scrimmage, but also saw just how much improvement is needed in other areas as well.

“We’ve got a ways to go. We were not where I had hoped we’d be after the scrimmage,” Freeze said. “Probably some of it has to (do) with I probably could have scheduled the second week a little bit differently. Maybe we would have been a little more mentally fresh. Too many penalties, too many missed assignments primarily defensively.”

The offense showed signs of explosiveness and broke some big plays, and while Freeze said he saw that as a positive, he also saw it as an indictment on his defense.

Tony Bridges

Senior Tony Bridges runs during a practice drill last weekend. Head Coach Hugh Freeze highlighted how young this year’s defense is while talking to the media about the results of Sunday’s scrimmage. (Photo by: Taylor Cook)

“Our offense likes to create them, and certainly defensively you can’t give up those. We’ve given up too many in the first two weeks,” Freeze said. “We are very young back there. I forget how young we are sometimes. We are playing a lot of young kids on the back end of our defense right now. I do think they have potential to be very good, but they are young.”

The coaching staff on had said on Saturday that Sunday’s scrimmage would be a great opportunity to get an in depth look at a lot of areas, and aid greatly with some tough decisions that lie ahead. Freeze noted that he’s not down on his team, and knows that this is what fall camp is for – correcting mistakes –but with the looming schedule that includes the likes of Florida State, Alabama and Georgia in the first month, he wants his group to be that much sharper.

“You make one mistake against a team like the ones we have to play early on and it can be very costly,” he said.

Freeze also gave a couple of injury updates. Freshman safety Deontay Anderson fractured his wrist in the scrimmage. The first year player will need a cast on his arm, but Freeze didn’t think that it would cost him much time.

Senior defensive tackle Fadol Brown has been held out of fall camp for a foot injury he suffered last fall, and his prognosis has been relatively unknown throughout, and it remains that way this week as the medical staff tries different methods to help the six-foot-four 273 pound Charleston, South Carolina product back onto the field.

“I’m not sure how that’s going to play out,” Freeze said. “We’ve got one more treatment that they’re attempting to try this week and then it is just a matter of if that one doesn’t make him feel comfortable playing, then it’s just how much he wants to go with whatever he can tolerate.”

He also gave an update on the offensive line, and more specifically left tackle, which has been a three-way race between freshmen Greg Little and Alex Givens, and junior Rod Taylor, who is now the front runner to start in Orlando on Sept. 5.

Taylor has the build of an interior lineman, and doesn’t necessarily have the reach that tackles typically have to stop quick defensive ends in the SEC, but it’s his footwork and athleticism that makes up for that.

“He’s just an athletic guy,” Freeze said. “Playing tackle is a little new for him, but he’s got the athletic ability to give us a chance against the types of ends that we’re going to play early on. He’s just one of the better athletes we have.”

One other offensive line note that Freeze offered: freshman Jack Defoor had surgery on his shoulder and will redshirt this season.