By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Some notes from Hugh Freeze and Ross Bjork from today’s Tupelo stop on the Rebel Road Trip.
The group was in Philadelphia before Tupelo, and weather conditions had them late in arriving. It was roughly noon when the RV pulled up to the front door of the BancorpSouth Conference Center.
Last year, the first for Rebel Road trip, the message was about “wilderness.” Freeze wanted his fan base to have a clear understanding of his interpretation of the team he was inheriting. This year the message is more about “journey.”
Bjork says the “foundation has been laid,” but that it’s continuing to be put in place. Like Freeze, he touched on the “depth issues” for football. Freeze says he needs another two recruiting classes, at least, to have the depth he feels is necessary to compete in the SEC.
Bjork also added this: “We believe in what we’re doing, and as the flagship institution we should be able to perform at a high level.”
When things got under way it was a capacity crowd for the lunch meeting with fans who could not find a seat standing along the back wall.
Video of Brittney Reese’s gold-medal winning long jump drew applause. Donte Moncrief’s Egg Bowl touchdown catches drew more. Basketball’s SEC tournament championship drew even more. Coverage of National Signing Day drew the most.
Last year the trip reached about 5,000 people around the region. The traveling party left Tupelo today en route to an evening meeting in Atlanta.
Here are some items of interest in a pre-meeting interview:
– Freeze said all the reps that went to cornerback Nick Brassell in the spring should not be interpreted to mean that Brassell has an easy path to eligibility in the fall.
“It’s an uphill climb. He created, definitely, a disadvantage for himself. He is doing much better and attempting to climb that hill. We’ll know a lot more after this semester,” Freeze said.
-Following the spring game Barry Brunetti sounded like a player who was expected a change in his role. He certainly was open to that and hoping for a discussion. Freeze sent a different message. “To me, Barry is our backup quarterback. There’s really nothing to discuss other than getting him a package that he feels comfortable with going into the game if that need arises.”
– He compared Bo Wallace’s shoulder injury to an injury of Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin when Freeze was coach there.
“We started with 10 yard throws, 20-yard throws. It probably was two months that he was dealing with the soreness and building his strength to get back right. The good thing is we’ve got time for Bo to do that. Aplin turned out being fine. Hopefully it will be the same case with Bo.”
Coming off surgery, Wallace is 10 days out from beginning the physical part of his rehab. He dressed out for every spring practice but only to stand behind the offense for “mental reps.” He did discuss those reps with Freeze, however. Freeze is hopeful those reps will have Wallace better prepared to make reads in game situations and thereby cut down on turnovers. Wallace threw 22 touchdown passes a year ago but also threw 17 interceptions.
– Defensive end CJ Johnson is two weeks from getting out of a boot. He’ll go directly into pool work and will begin his rehab. “We don’t expect him to miss any of camp,” Freeze said.
Read more on this story in Thursday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.