BLOG – HOOVER, Ala. — Hugh Freeze made his first trip to the Southeastern Conference’s Media Day session Thursday morning with players Charles Sawyer, Mike Marry and Donte Moncrief alongside.Freeze’s first question revolved the recruiting tool Oxford has been while he tackled subjects relating to his new up-tempo offense, academics and the annual meeting with Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Mississippi State’s Johnathan Banks said Wednesday at SEC Media Days that the Bulldogs would win a fourth straight game over Ole Miss, or The School Up North ,as he calls the Rebels.
Freeze’s answer to the rivalry started with a complement to MSU coach Dan Mullen and then ended with his thoughts on just how important the game is.
“Coach Mullen’s staff, his players have done a good job of capturing the momentum in that series. I give credit where credit is due. We’re not talking about that right now because we have so many other issues to prepare for in getting us ready for the home opener. I know that’s a cliché, but it really is the truth,” Freeze said. “When that week comes, obviously I was born and raised in the state of Mississippi. I understand the way it divides families. I understand the emotions that are involved in it. I get all of that. There will be a little extra incentive that week to be a little bit more energized, probably at little different feeling in your stomach, I guess. 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.”
Ole Miss, which was picked to finish last in the SEC West today by the media, will open summer drills early next month. Freeze said that when the camp starts, Bo Wallace and Barry Brunetti would be co-No. 1 starters at quarterback. How long that remained the case depended on how each performs during the month leading up to the season opener, and maybe beyond.
“We will start with co‑number one quarterbacks. Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace will be guys that go into camp competing for that job. I said all along it wouldn’t shock me for that competition to extend into the early parts of the season,” Freeze said. “It may not. One may totally separate themself from the other. But both, I’ve been pleased with the way I’ve seen their physiques changing through (strength coach) Paul (Jackson’s) workouts. I’ve seen them coming around a lot to study on their own. That was much needed.”
When Freeze was introduced as Ole Miss’ replacement to Houston Nutt last December, he talked about the program being in the wilderness and searching to get out. That message has been emphasized by Freeze and his staff and he felt like the majority of the team has bought into his master plan to accomplish that goal.
“I think they hear the consistent message we give them every day, that winning the day is the process of getting out of the wilderness. That’s what they’re focused on. I know our staff is focused on how do we win today, not talking about the negatives of where we are, but being real,” Freeze said. “This is where we are, everybody knows it, it’s documented all over ESPN and everywhere else this week. So our kids hear that, they know that. What they hear from us is, ‘Here is how we’re going to change it.’ I’m thrilled we have a core group of guys that have bought in. I think we’re setting 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.”
For more on Freeze and the players, see Friday’s Sports section. (July 19, 2012)