Freeze ready for Rebels’ return to gridiron to face QB Jacob Eason and No. 11 Georgia
In the first three games of 2016, Hugh Freeze has seen the growth in Georgia’s freshman quarterback Jacob Eason. And on Saturday, Freeze wants the Ole Miss fan base to make things difficult for the young signal-caller.
Eason will be the third freshman quarterback the No. 21-ranked Rebels (1-2, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) will have seen so far this season. But the 6-foot-5, 235-lb Eason isn’t a dual-threat quarterback like Florida State’s Deondre Francois and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts; he likes to sit inside the pocket if his offensive line gives him time to do so.
Freeze had a chance to look at film on Eason’s performance against Missouri, watching as the first-year player led the Bulldogs to a 28-27 victory in the team’s SEC opener.
Eason completed 29-of-55 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns—all career highs. In the win over the Tigers, No. 11 Georgia (3-0, 1-0) converted on a 4th-and-10 with 1:29 left that resulted in a 20-yard scoring strike to junior Isaiah McKenzie. The game-winning touchdown capped an 80-yard, 10-play drive.
Hugh Freeze on Georgia QB Jacob Eason
Freeze on Eason: "He has a big arm, has all the tools & now has played on road which will be an advantage, which is why we need our crowd."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) September 19, 2016
Rebels ready to get back on the gridiron
Just like seniors Evan Engram, Chad Kelly and Issac Gross, Freeze has been upbeat this week, eager to return to the gridiron after losses against Florida State and Alabama. Going into this season, Ole Miss’ fifth-year coach knew the month of September would be tough for the Rebels but expects his team to respond in a positive manner.
Ole Miss faced similar adversity last season after losses to Florida, Memphis, and Arkansas but redeemed themselves after each loss, defeating New Mexico State, Texas A&M, and LSU.
Freeze: "We are excited, hungry and ready to get back on the field." #OleMiss
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) September 21, 2016
Georgia’s Smart familiar with Kelly and the Rebels
Bulldogs’ first-year coach Kirby Smart is very familiar with the Rebels, having faced Ole Miss while on the Crimson Tide coaching staff. In nine seasons in Tuscaloosa, including seven as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, Smart helped the Tide win four national championships and three SEC Championships.
During Smart’s tenure with Alabama, the Rebels defeated the Crimson Tide two years in a row.
“We’ve got a great challenge in front of us,” Smart said. “They have a very good head coach who does a great job in all aspects of their program. I’m very familiar with their program, and they’ve been very successful since Coach (Hugh) Freeze arrived.”
Smart is also familiar with senior quarterback Chad Kelly, who was recruited by Alabama when he was attending junior college. Georgia’s defense has already faced a potent passer in Missouri’s Drew Lock, but Smart thinks Kelly is “as talented as I’ve seen throwing the ball.”
Kelly currently leads the SEC with 10 passing TD’s.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart on QB Chad Kelly
This is the 46th meeting between the Rebels and Bulldogs. Georgia holds a 32-12-1 series lead. Mississippi will be looking to snap the Bulldog’s 10-game win streak in the series. The teams last met in 2012 in Athens. They played every year from 1966-2002.
- Two Rebels who may be available to play Saturday are Derrick Jones and Jeremy Liggins, according to Hugh Freeze after Wednesday’s practice. Liggins and Jones were suspended from the Rebels’ first three games for an unspecified violation of team standards. Jones has been playing wide receiver but will move to cornerback to give Ole Miss some additional depth and Liggins will help out on the offensive line. “As of today, they are (available for Saturday),” Freeze said Wednesday. “They have to do what we’ve set forth every single day to be ready to go.”
- Running back Eugene Brazley didn’t practice on Tuesday, dealing with some neck pain after last Saturday’s game against the Crimson Tide.
- Defensive end Victor Evans practiced on Tuesday and looked healthy, according to defensive line coach Chris Kiffin. Evans suffered a head injury in the win over Wofford and began going through the concussion protocol, before ultimately being held out of the game with Alabama.
- Kiffin was asked who could help fill the void left by senior Fadol Brown, out still due to injury, and Charles Wiley’s name was mentioned. Wiley, a freshman from Stockbridge, Georgia, had been suspended from the team as a result of an arrest in late July for domestic violence. On Thursday morning, Wiley’s lawyer, Steve Farese, said the charges against the 6-foot-2, 253-pound defensive end were dismissed. Wiley has suffered from a sprained ankle this fall.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016
Time: 11:00 p.m. CT
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Venue: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)
Live Stats and Audio: OleMissSports.com
Feature image credit: Joey Brent, The Rebel Walk
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.