Hugh Freeze focused on Rebels’ defensive improvement as game with FSU approaches
OXFORD – Following his team’s scrimmage on Sunday, Ole Miss head football coach Hugh Freeze said his team, specifically the defense, has plenty of room for improvement in the coming days before the Rebels take on No. 4 Florida State September 5.
Freeze described the way the Rebels performed in the scrimmage by saying, “We’ve got a ways to go. We were not where I’d hoped we would be. Too many penalties, too many missed assignments—primarily, mostly defensively.”
But following Tuesday’s practice, Freeze also made it clear his team and staff will buckle down and take care of some of the problem areas.
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze
Freeze focused much of his concern on the defensive side of the ball, but he explained that part of that could come from the Rebels’ explosive offense led by senior quarterback Chad Kelly.
“Our offense likes to create them,” Freeze said of his offense’s ability to create explosive plays. “Certainly, defensively, you can’t give up those. We’ve given up too many in the first two weeks. We are very young back there.”
Freeze and his staff continue to move guys around in the secondary to see where they will fit best. As it stands now at the safety/huskie position, senior defensive back Tony Conner is the most experienced, having started at the huskie position for the past three seasons, despite being hampered by a knee injury last season that caused him to miss eight of the team’s 13 games.
Juniors C.J. Hampton, A.J. Moore and freshman Jarrion Street will have to fill holes in the secondary left by Trae Elston, Mike Hilton, and Chief Brown. C.J. Moore’s part in the secondary is still up in the air as he’s recovering from recent surgery on a torn pectoral muscle.
The good news is Ole Miss returns both players who made every start at cornerback last season—senior Tony Bridges and junior Ken Webster. Seniors Carlos Davis and Kalio Moore and sophomore Cam Ordway will be called upon to provide depth.
Coach Freeze on his defense’s youth
Coach Freeze is pleased with the work of Ole Miss safeties coach Corey Batoon and understands it can be challenging with so many young players. “Corey does a good job back there of getting them prepared,” said Freeze. “They are young, though. They’ll make some mistakes.”
When it comes to potential, sophomore defensive back Zedrick Woods and freshman defensive back Myles Hartsfield are at the top of the list. Both the coaching staff and fellow teammates have been pleased with how Woods and Hartsfield have grown comfortable with most of the defensive schemes early on in fall camp.
Tony Conner mentioned Woods, specifically, saying he thinks the sophomore from Lake City, Florida has come a long way from last season and believes “he’s going to be a big help to our team.”
Woods played in all 13 games – started two – for Ole Miss last season, recording 25 tackles and one tackle for a loss of one yard. As for Hartsfield, Freeze saw a few mental mistakes in Sunday’s scrimmage while Hartsfield played with the first team defense, with whom he’s mostly been practicing.
But Freeze was quick to point out he has faith in the talented freshman. “He’s running with the ones for a reason,” he said. “We’ve got confidence in him and think he can do the job. That doesn’t mean mistakes won’t be made, but we’ve got confidence in him.”
Freshman DB Deontay Anderson has a fracture in his hand and may, according to Coach Freeze, have to play with his hand in a cast. However, Freeze said he does not expect Anderson to miss time. Anderson, who is working out with the second string, has had a good camp, and Freeze says he is “coming on.”
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.