Hugh Freeze holds press conference to kick off spring practices
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze held a press conference Tuesday afternoon that marked the beginning of spring football practices. The Rebels’ coach addressed numerous topics including injuries, his quarterbacks, the NCAA investigation into the football program and how his players have responded, and one additional coaching duty he will assume this fall.
Freeze offered the following information regarding players who were injured last season:
- Sophomore running back Eric Swinney, who tore his ACL last season in the Rebels’ first game of the season, will practice; however, it will be limited.
- Sophomore wide receiver D.K. Metcalf is cleared to practice and will be at full speed following a foot injury that caused him to miss much of his freshman year.
- Senior cornerback Ken Webster is recovering right on schedule, but will be held out of spring practices. Webster suffered a horrific, season-ending knee injury in the season-opener against Florida State.
- Sophomore defensive back Armani Linton had an off-season appendectomy and will be limited this spring.
- Redshirt freshman tight end Jacob Mathis will not participate in spring practices following an ankle injury.
Shea Patterson: Freeze made it clear he believes quarterback Shea Patterson is exactly who Ole Miss needs as a leader during the uncertain times created as a result of the NCAA investigation.
“He’s determined to be a tremendous leader for this program,” Freeze said.
“He’s the right man for the right job for such a time as this. He’s the type of player who can lead a program through a difficult era. I think he has the ability to do it.”
Hugh Freeze on QB Shea Patterson
Jason Pellerin: Whether or not sophomore quarterback Jason Pellerin will be Patterson’s backup this fall remains to be seen; however, what is not in doubt is that the athletic Pellerin will be used somewhere on the field for the Rebels. It could be at tight end, quarterback—or elsewhere.
“I think with the system that we have he can sit in the quarterback room and learn two spots,” Freeze explained.
“He’s one of our better 22 players. He needs to be on the field. That’s my objective, that’s my goal. He’s a phenomenal athlete and a phenomenal kid.”
Hugh Freeze on Jason Pellerin
Return of Jordan Wilkins
Freeze was asked about the return of running back Jordan Wilkins who was declared academically ineligible before the first game last season, due to an academic administrative error.
“Jordan’s one of my heroes right now,” Freeze said. “The way he’s matured and handled some unfair things that I think happened to him… there’s no question he’s one of the leaders of the team. I think he’s ready to carry the ball 20-25 times if need be. We’re praying he stays healthy, and I think he’s going to have a dynamic year.”
When Coach Freeze was asked about his job security in light of the Notice of Allegations received last week, he responded confidently. “I’m not really concerned. I’ve got administrators who’ve watched me and how I do things closely for five years. They’ve supported me and been unwavering in that.”
The Rebels’ head coach was also queried about the NCAA’s charges of Lack of Institutional Control and Failure to Monitor. “I can’t comment on the specific NOA,” he said. “I haven’t been really involved with the institutional one. Mine is more with the failure to monitor that I’ll obviously concentrate on hard. We’ll get our day to stand before the Committee on Infractions and be accountable for the things we agree with and hopefully share our perspective to change some of those.
Player reaction to bowl ban
Freeze was asked about how his team is reacting to the announcement last week that the Rebels would self-impose a one-year bowl ban. He said he has been pleased with what he has seen so far.
“I think the players have been our greatest testimony to the climate here and the future here. It fell in their lap, something they had nothing to do with and they’re going to pay a penalty. I was blown away with how they handled it. They said they’re going to make the most out of the 12 opportunities that we have. I haven’t seen any of our kids be negative towards anybody. They’ve all been positive about uniting. I’ve been just really pleased with that.”
Additional coaching duties for Freeze
Coach Freeze said he will be in charge of the punt team this season, in part because new Offensive Coordinator Phil Longo will be on the sidelines instead of in the booth.
“I’m excited; I want to coach the punt team because I think we can be creative,” Freeze said.
“With Phil on the field, I think I can help with the transition, and I think I can help make us a little more unpredictable and maybe steal a possession here and there.”
Tuesday was the first of 15 spring practices for the Rebels before the Grove Bowl on April 8.