By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
Ole Miss continues to take a business-like approach to the weekly grind in the SEC. Head coach Hugh Freeze said he has seen his players grow and mature in the way they handle things, both on and off, the field.
“The leadership of our team, I think, gets it,” Freeze said following Wednesday’s practice. “We have to play a very difficult team in a difficult environment and in a difficult rivalry series. Who knows what the outcome will be? But I do think they have to beat us, and it won’t be because our kids aren’t ready.”
A great example that the team has fully bought in and realizes that there is a lot more to gain revolves around class attendance. This is the first season in Freeze’s tenure that not a single player has missed a quarter for missing a class during the week.
“The academic people send class checkers out everyday and we could have missed somewhere along the way, but it’s very rare that they miss someone if they’re absent,” Freeze said. “Our kids are being accountable. It’s a part of the process, part of the journey. It takes time and everything that we’re experiencing is a part of it. There are a lot of aspects to it, recruiting more talent, more depth, but if you don’t get the kids you have to buy in, it’s probably doesn’t matter how much talent you have.”
Freeze said that over the last two weeks, there has been a greater interest with prospects in regard to Ole Miss. Some of them are national recruits that Freeze and his staff weren’t sure they were in with until recently.
“The board has probably gotten a little bigger in the last couple of weeks, which is a good thing,” Freeze said. “I wish we had a full class for sure, so we’ll have to manage it the best we can. It would be nice to have a full class for sure.”
Ben Still, Ole Miss’ starting center, was still progressing from an injury standpoint heading into the final practice today before traveling to LSU for Saturday’s game.
“I just don’t know how he will be Saturday,” Freeze said. “The good thing is he knows everything and he doesn’t have to get reps. If he can go, he certainly will.”
If Still can’t play, sophomore Robert Conyers will start in his place. Freeze said he has done a good job with the line calls.
“It just lessens our depth at other places, but he had a real good game against Tennessee,” Freeze said. “He’s very athletic. Maybe not as strong or as much mass as Ben on some certain blocks, but he did really well with his snaps this week.”
Managing the game
The success of punter Will Gleeson, who ranks second in the SEC in average per punt, is a huge factor in how Freeze manages the game on offense. So is the way the Rebels cover punts.
“We’ve won field positioning with that and with the way our defense has played, and the way our coverage has done and the way Will is placing the ball different places, it has allowed us to be very, very patient at times offensively,” Freeze said.