By Parrish Alford and Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Friday begins the first day of the Hugh Freeze Era for Ole Miss football – a soft launch, so to speak.
The Rebels will have their first practice under their new coach and his assistants as spring drills begin.
At Ole Miss, Friday and Saturday workouts will be open to the public, others will be closed.
The annual spring game, the Grove Bowl, will at April 21 at 1 p.m.
Hired from Arkansas State in December, Freeze takes over an Ole Miss program at perhaps its lowest point in the modern era.
The Rebels were 2-10 last year, winless in the SEC for the second time in five seasons and riding a 14-game SEC losing streak.
Freeze has said he wants all his players to start with a clean slate.
“I’ve been asked a hundred times what I think about certain positions,” he said. “I honestly don’t know yet. I’m anxious to find out.”
Cleaning the slate is not only about competition on the field. Several players have academic issues to resolve to be eligible next fall.
In December Freeze said he had “25 or so players that have issues to correct if they’re going to continue in helping us change the mindset here.”
Some of those were academic, some were not, but he considered all of those to be examples of poor discipline and feels progress has been made in that area heading into spring drills.
“Some had hills to climb, some had mountains to climb. The ones that had hills, I’m pretty pleased. The ones that had mountains, we’re still battling,” Freeze said.
Teaching time for MSU
Dan Mullen is eager to start educating. The fourth-year Mississippi State coach will lead his team through spring drills starting Thursday, and all practices are open to the public.
So what fans and media will see is a lot of teaching, especially for the newcomers and young players.
“In the fall practices you have a lot of practices built into a very short period of time, which lead right up to a game,” Mullen said. “In spring, you have the ability to really take time to teach the offense, defense, special teams. … In an educational institution, it’s a much better way to educate.”
It’s also a time to evaluate players, and one group that’ll be watched closely is the offensive line. Both starting tackles are gone from last year, guard Tobias Smith is still coming back from injury, and a couple of junior college transfers will be in the mix.
“When you finish spring, you don’t have to have your lineup set, and there’s certainly no depth charts that are going to ever be set, but you do have an idea of who’s ready to go play,” Mullen said. “And then fall kind of puts it all in the exact order of how much and where and when, why, and how. …
“And O-line’s a huge position for that, because there are some guys we want to get on the field that haven’t played a whole lot.”
The Bulldogs’ annual spring game has also been scheduled for April 21.