With spring practice in the books, and less than 100 days until kickoff to the 2012 season, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze goes one-on-one with David Johnson to answer questions about the upcoming season.
REBELS247: Coach Freeze, I’m interested in what your take is on the 2012 schedule. There are those that have called it the toughest schedule in the nation this year. You alluded to it being a trip into the “wilderness.”
FREEZE: It’s more Mount Everest that the wilderness (laughs). It’s very difficult. The schedule in this conference is very difficult to begin with.
REBELS247: Even outside of the SEC, coach, there’s a game against Texas in Oxford on September 15.
FREEZE: Having to go to Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Georgia, and then throwing Texas in as a non-conference opponent, then add in the other SEC schools we play, I would argue that there is no one who has any more of a difficult schedule. It’s not something that we’ll sit around and complain and whine about. It is what it is. We better get ready to play them.
REBELS247: A glance at the schedule indicates that an opportunity exists for a quick and positive start to the season.
FREEZE: I learned a long time ago from some of my mentors don’t put too much on one game or too less on another. I try not to make statements that make it out to be a do-or-die situation. As you talk, your mindset becomes what you say. I do think that our team needs something to build some confidence from. Certainly, it would help. I don’t think it’s the end-all if we don’t start well, but it would be beneficial.
REBELS247: You obviously know a great deal more about this Ole Miss football program than you did on December 5, 2011, when you accepted this job. Can you talk about some of the surprises…good and bad…that you were unaware of when you were named the head coach?
FREEZE: I was not prepared…I knew there were some issues…but I did not grasp the severity of the academic issues we were facing. That certainly was dire and worse than I recognized. I was pleased with some of our depth on the defensive line. A negative was the depth at tailback and on the offensive line. It’s nothing like what an SEC school should have. There are some positives and some negatives. I like the mentality of our kids. I think they want to do better. They don’t want to be in the situation they’re in. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with that. I’ve been pretty pleased with the Rebel fans. A large percentage of the Rebel Nation is united and saying, hey, we recognize where we are, but let’s start working our way out of it.
REBELS247: You mention depth concerns. Which newcomers must be ready to step on the field and contribute immediately this fall?
FREEZE: Out of that signing class, we certainly expect Channing Ward and Isaac Gross and Trae Elston…three Under Armour All-Americans…to come in and contribute. I think the other kids…we are excited about what they will become and the depth that they will add to our program. One of the sleepers in the class I think will be Quintavius Burdette from up the road in Senatobia. I’m sure we’ll have some others, too. All of them, I hope, will come in with a little chip on their shoulders and try to compete and try to play.
REBELS247: You left spring practice with the understanding that you may play two quarterbacks, Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace, this fall. There’s an old saying that if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have A quarterback.
FREEZE: It doesn’t bother me at all, if we’re playing two. It will bother me if we’re playing two and we’re not effective. That will bother me, but if we’re playing two and we’re effective, I don’t care. It worked for me at Lambuth and it worked for me at Arkansas State my first year. I do think, and I mean this; I think you have to know who your guy is in the fourth quarter. I guess when I say we’re playing two, it’s a little different in the fact that we’ll have to know this is our guy when it comes down to it.
REBELS247: There is depth concern, as you have mentioned, at the running back position.
FREEZE: We have to address it, or we’ll be in trouble. We tinkered with Tobias Singleton and Randall Mackey back there in the spring. We’re going to have to play some of those young kids that are coming in like I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton. We’re just going to have to play kids that have not played there before.