HOOVER, Ala. | Welp, we’re all done, heading home, and I’ll be packing for vacation soon. Let’s wrap up the final day here.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze made his SEC Media Days debut, and the essence of his talk was that they have a lot of work ahead and not everyone is pulling in the same direction just yet.
“I’ve been real pleased that we have a core group of young men that are excited about change and about developing some personal accountability that will lead us out of this wilderness, so to speak.”
Outside that core of excited players, not everybody in the Ole Miss locker room has gotten on the Freeze train. And he openly admitted that.
“I think we’re sitting around 60 percent of our team that has bought in. I think you need to get it to about 80 percent to have a fighting chance. Hopefully we can get that done before the fall.”
It’s gonna be a long year in Oxford, friends.
Freeze was asked about the Egg Bowl rivalry, but he didn’t really engage the way Dan Mullen does beyond pointing out that Ole Miss holds the overall series edge. My previous blog entry looked at that and the fact that Freeze is too focused on fixing the program to worry about MSU four months before they play.
“There will be a little extra incentive that week to be a little bit more energized, probably a little different feeling in your stomach, I guess,” he said. “It would be hard because you feel that way in this conference every single week it seems like. Certainly I get what it means to the people there and to Rebel nation, and our kids will understand that very clearly when that time comes. Right now our focus is on other issues.”
Backtracking to earlier in the day, Alabama’s Nick Saban started things off and took a hard stance on scheduling and the four-team playoff. He’s in favor of the SEC moving to a nine-game league schedule. “Everybody’s got a self-absorbed opinion about why we shouldn’t do it because maybe they won’t get bowl eligible.” Boom.
He was later asked about whether being a conference champion should be a criteria for making the new four-team playoff. Remember, Alabama did not win the SEC last year but won the BCS title.
“I think, to be quite honest with you, whoever’s making the statements about conference champions is really making a statement against the SEC and against any league who has more than one good team who would qualify, trying to enhance the opportunity for somebody from their league to get in.”
Oh snap, Jim Delany. Rebuttal?
Tennessee’s Derek Dooley brought a little swagger to the stage, finally matching his hair’s swagger. Tennessee has notably struggled in recent years, not winning more than seven games since 2007 and was 5-7 last year.
Dooley likes what he sees in this group, though.
“I know the SEC has enjoyed taking advantage of our tough times. But there’s a nice mood on our team right now that you’re not going to have Tennessee to kick around any more,” he said.
Future Matlock fielded only 10 questions, which might’ve been fewest for any coach this week, although I missed the Joker Phillips session. One question was about losing quarterback Tyler Bray and other key players to injury last season.
“Our spirit was broken,” Dooley said.
The day wrapped up with Georgia’s Mark Richt, who of course was asked at length about discipline issues. He recently had to boot Isaiah Crowell to the curb, Sanders Commings will serve a two-game suspension to open the season, and three other players could get benched for reportedly violating the school’s drug policy.
All of this makes Steve Spurrier giggle, but Richt explained the raft of off-field incidents this way: “People are human. People make mistakes. When they do, you discipline them. … The bottom line is I love every guy on our team. Part of love is to be able to help teach them right from wrong, and when they make mistakes you discipline in hopes they become better men down the road.”