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August 8, 2016

Hugh Freeze

University, Mississippi

HUGH FREEZE: It's good to get back in camp. Listening to our strength coaches talk about the off-season, I was extremely pleased, and I like the look of our team. Obviously haven't put pads on yet, but they seem to have a great spirit about them and want to compete.

Our theme this year is rise up. I really enjoy this two weeks of camp where we can really spend a lot of time speaking truth into our young men's lives hoping that it will take and impact their life outside of football. Our three things we're really concentrating on is being competitors that love to win and hate to lose in every area of our life, understanding the meaning of sacrifice, others before self, and learning to communicate, which builds trust and being a transparent young man. We've got a good kickoff. Got some great speakers lined up to come in and share some truth with us. I look forward to those guys, and then continuing to try to elevate our program to where we can compete year in, year out for the Southeastern Conference and the Western Division.

Really like the look of our team. Love our coaching staff, the chemistry and consistency that we've been able to maintain here. Thanks a lot to our core values and our administration for continuing to support and do things here that are making Ole Miss very relevant in the college football scene.

It's been a good two days. Look forward to getting media days done and really locking in for two weeks with our team and hopefully building chemistry. I've said it before, I really believe that one of the differences in this conference between winning close games and losing them, besides breaks that sometimes happen, is the chemistry that's formed in that locker room, so we'll depend upon the leadership of our team. We've got a leadership council that's been formed that has really spent some time with me, and I really like kind of the things they're trying to get accomplished in that locker room.

Looking forward to the season.

Q. I know it's only been a couple of days but you've got a couple of newcomers. What are your first impressions?
HUGH FREEZE: I love what I see. They're learning. It's a learning curve. We're splitting practices. The young kids are getting eight periods by themselves where I'll teach, and in the first two days really like what I've seen from those young guys. They're good kids, and they're obviously talented, but I think that -- I think this could be our best class from just two days of being out there.

We've had some good classes, but I really think from top to bottom this '16 class looks, after two days - for whatever that's worth - I haven't been disappointed.

Q. I didn't see Jeremy out there.
HUGH FREEZE: Yeah, Jeremy, he's being withheld from camp for a violation of team standards, and we're working with him to get him back out there as soon as we can.

Q. Do you have an update on Tony Conner? Is he close?
HUGH FREEZE: Well, you know, I haven't watched today's film, but my instructions to the coaches are get him to the bus. His reps will be -- he knows what we're doing. He knows our scheme. He's one of our better football players, and I asked him last night how he felt, he said he felt great after the first practice. I haven't seen him after today, but I know in the perimeter drill he caught my eye a couple times, being normal, and that's exciting for us.

Q. I know it's been kind of a tumultuous off-season and everything, but does the NCAA stuff and all that take away from the joy of kind of having the program where you want it right now or does that kind of go away?
HUGH FREEZE: Yeah, it hasn't stole our joy at all.

Q. What's your first impression of Rommel Mageo?
HUGH FREEZE: Quick learner, have to run him out of the building. He's a football junkie. I love that about him, and anxious to get pads on and see how he does, but didn't see many mistakes that he made yesterday, and it's brand new to him. Same thing for Bing-Dukes. I think both are very similar. They want to learn. They want to know what to do. It's still early, but they moved fine. I think we've got two guys there that are going to help us.

Q. You mentioned Rommel and Bing-Dukes are two guys that could help you. What other guys do you see out there that could help you in terms of position?
HUGH FREEZE: Well, it's still early. Myles Hartsfield has had flashes where you think -- so are some of those redshirt guys, Montrell Custis and Eric Swinney, Armani, all those guys we're depending on to see, but it's way too early for me to say these new guys are definitely, but I like all the O-linemen that we signed. I think they've got potential to be really good players, but it is a development time that most will have to have, but some will have to be quicker than others because of needs. But excited about all those kids you mentioned, and I think Ross Donelly has caught my eye, Herbert Moore is going to give us some reps. He's a really good two gapper, and that's something we haven't had a lot of besides Woody in the last two years. Issac Gross being back is like a breath of fresh air. There's a lot of guys that are catching my eye right now. Conyers being back, he's a leader.

Q. What position do you feel like you need to develop the quickest for FSU?
HUGH FREEZE: You know, everybody is going to say O-line. That's probably going to be the answer every year, just because of the talented defensive lines that we face. They've got the toughest task. We need to develop some depth behind Evan at tight end. Octavious Cooley looks like he could be a special player. He's got a learning curve he's got to get quickly, but -- and then probably linebacker. Just making sure that we've got him back, and Willie Hibbler has caught my eye a couple of times, as well, playing the Mike linebacker, as well. It's early to tell. After a couple weeks I'll know more on that.

Q. With Jeremy being out, what does that do to the competition there, and what do you need from Alex and Greg to accelerate their progress?
HUGH FREEZE: Yeah, right now we're playing Alex, Rod Taylor and Greg at left tackle, and I kind of like all three of them. I think they all have potential to be good players. We obviously want Jeremy to be back quickly and then get in the swing of things, but to just provide even more depth and competition there, but those three are pretty good competing right now, also.

Q. Probably not fair this early in camp, but A.J. Brown kind of reminds us of Laquon Treadwell. Do you see that kind of fit for him?
HUGH FREEZE: If I were to compare -- I tried to do this; one of the scouts out there before we started practice asked me that and how would they compare day one to day one, and I would be hard-pressed to say that A.J. wasn't farther along at this point, and what that means long-term who knows, but he certainly has been impressive. So has D.K.

Q. With what you guys are doing, how do you keep your guys focused on what's going on on the field, not getting caught up in the distractions, and how important is that to get yourself ready?
HUGH FREEZE: Yeah, it's a lot easier than you guys really believe because of kids. They understand that they have zero control and zero to do with a lot of the things that are going on, and we kind of got the rise up theme from Ezra 10:4 where it says, rise up, you control this, and the whole deal is meant, you get to control what you can control, and that's everything that happens on that field, off the field and social decisions, academic decisions, and in this room, and that's what you should concentrate on, and when you see the kids doing that, it's quite a motivator for our coaches.

Q. Tayler Polk told me a couple years ago that his goal was to be the starting linebacker at one point and then leading the SEC in tackles. How far along is he in getting to that?
HUGH FREEZE: We're certainly glad we have him. He's had some injuries, and it has slowed him considerably in probably his desire to achieve that. But in the meeting this morning, staff meeting, our trainers think that he's close to being able to go every practice and every rep. We'll see when we get pads on. But he's had a difficult time this past spring and off-season with some shoulders, and he plays the game like it's supposed to be played, and sometimes our bodies don't hold up as well. But I think he's close to being 100 percent.

Q. Talk about Kelly at quarterback, and have you seen a change in him since the off-season going into his second year?
HUGH FREEZE: He's hungry. He's determined. Today in practice I thought he was very, very sharp, a little like he did at the end of the season last year. Our skelly competition, which is an offensive drill, I'll confess that on the front end, but typically there's decent competition in the first -- he completed the first 12 of 12 throws and was really, really sharp and the ball was going to the right place. He's getting the protections set right. I think that he's -- he looked really good.

Q. About Shea Patterson, how does he look?
HUGH FREEZE: Really good. For a true freshman to have the mental capacity that he has for the game, to be able to pick up as fast as he has, his mechanics are very, very good to begin with, but sometimes you would think that a true freshman gets out there and all the different things he's seen from defenses could rattle him some or confuse him some, it happens very few times on him, which is very pleasing to us.

Q. Do you have any idea about any redshirt plans or --
HUGH FREEZE: No, we probably won't think about that until we get into the games. He'll be traveling with us, ready to play, and we'll make that maybe even during the course of games. So it's not something we are going to discuss this early, but we're getting him prepared to play.

Q. How about Derrick Jones? How has he improved over the last few years heading into the season?
HUGH FREEZE: We're talking about the receiver Jones. He's a kid that I wish we could have redshirted when he started because we probably haven't given him the number of opportunities that his talent deserves, and we're hopeful that we can figure out a way to make that happen for him.

Q. Can you give us an update on Fadol Brown?
HUGH FREEZE: He came out of the boot today. I haven't had a chance to talk to anyone, but when I saw him on the field out there, I said, this, this, this, and he said, that. Did y'all get that on video, those of you that are tweeting it? I don't know how you tweet that, but I'm sure there's an emoji for it.

Q. It's never easy, but have you ever seen a schedule like this where there's really no time to ease into fall camp before October 1 when you play?
HUGH FREEZE: Yeah, no, I haven't. I've never been on a staff that faced a September quite like what we're facing. It's not hard to motivate our kids. They understand what's in front of them, so that's a positive. The negative is you're playing some very difficult teams, and you can be a top-15 team and you're going to be in some battles right away, and you're not sure how they'll go. It is a very difficult schedule, and I don't discount even playing the Wofford on week 2 on a short week. They play on a Thursday night, and they have a long week to get ready for us, and we're going to get back early Tuesday morning and get ready to play an offense that's not the easiest to defend. So I think the entire September is the challenging one.

Q. You've done so much for this program over the last couple years, but is there some motivation that there's still work to be done and there's so many people that don't realize the step this program has taken?
HUGH FREEZE: Yeah, we could talk a long time on that one. I assure you there's motivation. I'm more motivated than I've ever been to prove that the young men that choose to come to this wonderful university and sacrifice to try to change the narratives around this program, we're very motivated to develop them and give them the best chance to compete in a very difficult conference and a very difficult schedule, and they deserve that, and we believe in our staff, we believe in our core values, and we believe in these young men. There's a tremendous amount of motivation to remain consistent.

Q. You guys were awfully complimentary of Van Jefferson back in spring, and it looked like he was running with the ones as much as you run with the ones this early. What does he bring to your receiving corps and the offense?
HUGH FREEZE: I think he is the -- in space he's the best route runner we have, as far as getting in and out of breaks, and his hands are very, very steady. He's got adequate speed to stretch the field. But really in tight quarters, I think when he gets out of a break, his separation is as good as any I've coached here, and I think that's his gift. You can tell he's been coached -- of course his dad is a wide receiver coach in the NFL for years, and there's probably no accident that that's the case. But I think when you start watching one-on-ones and grading those one-on-ones, the guy is very difficult to guard in and out of breaks in a one-on-one situation. He understands the spacing, understands when to tone the route down, when to speed through a zone. He kind of just has a feel for it.

Q. Is there a time that you would like to see your (inaudible) competition settled?
HUGH FREEZE: As long as we have the two deep, the guys that we're going to -- know we're going to play, you're going to play both of them early on in all likelihood. We'll travel three for that position, I'm sure. You know, I don't get hung up on really who's the starter in game 1. I just want kids that are ready to compete and have a knowledge of what we're doing, and I'm confident that Matt will get them there.

Q. Has there been any change to Charles Wiley's status?
HUGH FREEZE: Charles is -- if we played a game today, Charles would not play, but all the knowledge that has been given to me, all the information that's been given to me, I feel like he should still be practicing until things -- until whatever the courts decide whatever the case is and then we'll make a decision at that point.

Q. And with Greg Little as far as playing left tackle, how difficult is that for a true freshman to come in and play that position in a starting role?
HUGH FREEZE: You know, with him coming in and getting in shape like they do in the summer, it's really how much they contain of the knowledge of how to play that position. We obviously think he's super athletic. As all freshmen, he could stand to be stronger, and Paul will get him there no doubt in time. We do think he's a really good future left tackle. When that takes place is hard to say. But he wants to do it, and he learns and he studies, so I think the learning curve, he'll handle that well.

Q. A handful of scouts out there; what are they looking at?
HUGH FREEZE: Football players. We have a few here. Yeah, they're going to make their rounds to every school in this conference, so that's what they're doing now. We had a bunch here yesterday and today. We'll let them come throughout the first two weeks of camp, so they'll be here every day looking at all the kids that are on their radar.

Q. (Inaudible) holding a head coach accountable for players with rules violations, are you worried about any possible suspension or personal penalty?
HUGH FREEZE: I'm worried about our football team. I think y'all -- several of y'all got some good sources, though, that could probably give you more information than we have.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about just the running back situation now? Are you hoping one guy stands out over the next four weeks?
HUGH FREEZE: Yeah, I think I'm excited about Akeem and Swinney. Jordan Wilkins has been around a long time, too, and I trust any of those right now. Eric has got some learning to do, but I think we've got some bigger backs now that are exciting to me.

Q. (No microphone.)
HUGH FREEZE: Yeah, I mean, just -- he's good at everything, the protections, the routes, the running. So is Akeem. I thought both of them came on at the end of last year and really did some really nice things. I'm comfortable with that position. I think we're deep enough there. I think we're good enough there that that won't be a reason we're not a competitive football team.

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