Freeze says Tunsil’s return is giving the Rebels “a little extra pep”
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze and Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin spoke during the SEC Coaches Weekly Media Teleconference on Wednesday in advance of the upcoming game between their two SEC West teams this Saturday in Oxford.
Coach Freeze began his portion of the teleconference by expressing how much the Rebels need Ole Miss fans in attendance Saturday. “We need our fan base to pack our stadium and be a 12th Man for us,” he said.
Though Rebels everywhere—including the team and staff—are disappointed with the loss to Memphis, Coach Freeze explained the need to move on. “Coaches and players just can’t afford to stay in the past,” he said. “They have to move forward.”
Freeze on practices this week
When asked how his kids have responded so far this week following the loss, Freeze explained the Rebels practiced Sunday and Tuesday this week with Monday being their academic day. Freeze has been pleased with the teams’ performance so far this week. “I enjoyed the heck out of practice yesterday and look forward to it today,” the Rebels’ head coach said.
“We’ve had a great two days. I’m anxious to get back on the field,” he added. “We’ve got to have some next-man-up in some areas that we have some injuries at. That’s exciting for those kids and we as coaches have to prepare them to play their best on Saturday.
Freeze on the return of Laremy Tunsil
There’s no doubt Ole Miss is looking forward to the return Saturday of left tackle Laremy Tunsil, following Tunsil’s seven-game NCAA suspension. Coach Freeze said he thinks Tunsil’s return is giving the offense a bit of a lift.
“The offensive practice yesterday was quite enthusiastic and I think he is a part of the reason,” Freeze said. “And it kind of gets some other people back where they were slotted to play–Justin Bell back to center, Fahn Cooper back to right tackle. We seemed to have a little extra pep yesterday, and I would guess that he’s part of the reason for sure.”
Freeze on how Tunsil handled the suspension
“It’s been a difficult process, but he’s handled it as well as I think one could. Most days, though, he was very in the moment and did the things he could do that day to make sure he was getting better on that given day and tried to isolate that in his mind somewhere where it didn’t affect all the other areas in his life.”
Freeze on the status of Robert Nkemdiche
Freeze reported that starting defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche is continuing through the Ole Miss concussion protocol. He noted that the Ole Miss protocols begin on Mondays and added: “Usually if things go well, they usually kind of wind up (protocols) on Thursday or Friday. That’s what we hope and anticipate but I can’t say that for sure.”
Freeze on whether Nkemdiche will be used on offense again when he returns
When asked if Ole Miss will use Nkemdiche on offense again, Freeze replied: “The package is in; it’s just a matter if we decide to use it or not. It was definitely a freak deal. A concussion can happen on any play. The way his head hit the ground certainly caused that. We’ll do what’s best for him and the team. We just haven’t made that decision yet.”
Once again, however, Freeze emphasized that Ole Miss will be cautious and wants to make sure Robert is healthy so as not to risk any additional injury to the star defensive tackle.
Texas A&M Head Coach Kevin Sumlin
Coach Freeze was followed by the Aggies’ head coach Kevin Sumlin. Sumlin commented on his friendship over the years with Freeze and added: “Obviously, he (Freeze) is a talented guy and a bright mind. His success doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has known him.”
When asked by a reporter if the message to his A&M team was different following a loss, Coach Sumlin responded, “Our message remains consistent. We lost one football game.” Sumlin said the loss to Alabama does not change the message for his team—if anything, he said, it reinforces the importance of the attention to detail.
“Every game is important from here on out. All our goals and things we want to accomplish are still out in front of us,” he added. “Our message, internally, that’s not going to change one bit.”