By John Luke McCord
The Daily Mississippian
After two straight losses and with the reigning Heisman winner on his way to Oxford, Hugh Freeze has focused on the basics with his team this week.
The Rebels started 3-0 before a trip to Tuscaloosa two weeks ago. After another trip to the state of Alabama last week, the Rebels are 3-2. The running game was effective in the first three games, but not so much in the two losses.
“We could take a whole hour and talk about the things we’ve done well and the things we haven’t done well,” Freeze said following Wednesday’s work. “We kinda got spoiled a little bit in the first couple of games, in particular our run game with the way people were playing us.”
“We were averaging 11 or 12 yards on certain perimeter runs, because people were playing us in a two-high shell. Totally different than what we’re getting now in the last couple of games. We’ve kind of had to take a look at the whole structure of it and gone back to some stuff that we think will help re-establish some of our stuff,” Freeze continued.
The Rebel offense will go against a defense this week that does not get a lot of talk, mainly because of the offense, but also because it has been torched this season. However, Freeze has found it hard to draw any correlation between what his offense does and what offenses have done to the Aggies this season.
“We’re nothing like Alabama, we’re nothing like Arkansas. So those games for us are not a whole lot we could look at schematically and say this is how they’ll treat us,” Freeze said.
The two offenses that Freeze believes the Rebels are most similar to that the Aggies have faced this season are Rice and Sam Houston State, but he notes that Texas A&M had too many players out in those games to be able to know for sure.
“We’re looking at a lot of stuff from last year and people that were similar to us. They’re younger than they were last year but they’re sure athletic. So it’ll be a good test. A lot of variety in what they do, so we’ll plan for a lot of things,” Freeze said.
Freeze also gave an update on injured defensive end CJ Johnson.
“The docs are coming in tonight to give him an MRI and x-ray just to make sure there’s nothing structurally wrong. If nothing’s wrong, then he’s going to try and give it a go, as long as I don’t think we’re going to do anything that would cause him to be out the rest of the season or something. If it’s just pain from a bone bruise, which we think it is, he’ll give it a go, or at least try. So we’ll know more after they do that tonight.”
The emergence of Mike Hilton at cornerback for the Rebel defense this season has helped the unit overcome injuries, but also helped solidify a cornerback position in need of more bodies.
“Mike, I’ve said it before, he’s a football player and he commits himself. If you come in here on Monday when it’s our off day, he’s going to be in here watching film, studying, wanting the coaches to spend time with him. He loves the game, he loves being around it and he’s athletic. He has adjusted fairly well, but he’s going to have a tall challenge against some of the receivers we’re coming up against. We’ll see how he fares there, but it won’t be because he’s out of position. Ever since we first put him there, he’s done well,” Freeze said.