AUBURN, Ala. — Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze took part in the SEC coaches’ teleconference on Wednesday.
Here’s what Freeze had to say during his call with reporters, which lasted a shade just under nine minutes:
"Coming off the Alabama loss, but it was a good measuring stick to see where we are. We're still a young football team. (We) were in the game for a considerable amount (of time), but we just could not produce any plays offensively to keep us in it in the fourth quarter. Games like that make you very anxious to get back out and play again. So we're looking forward to going to Auburn this Saturday night and competing."
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On linebacker D.T. Shackelford's progression and what he means to the Ole Miss defense:
"He's such a competitor and a leader that we're thrilled we have him. And to see him come back from the injuries he's suffered is something we're very proud of him for."
On how Auburn's team this year compares to the one he saw last season:
"Well, they remind me a lot of us watching them on film. I think they've got an enormous amount of energy and passion. And now they're growing some confidence. I think when they play at home, they've played extremely well, and even on the road they played well after they settled in down at LSU. To watch them play is just eerily similar to what we were going through last year, and I have no question that they're getting better each week and that (Auburn coach Gus Malzahn) will have them ready to play this Saturday."
On the most plays he has run in a game and whether the combined number between the two teams this Saturday could set a record:
"If we're getting some first downs, I would think there's going to be a lot of plays run. We were doing pretty good with that until last week and didn't do so well. The most I've ever run in a game is 117 at Lambuth University in a game there."
On whether the team is where he thought it would be after its first four games of 2013:
"To be real candid, if you'd told me before the season that we would be sitting here 3-1 after having to go through Vandy, Texas and Alabama, I would have signed up for that pretty quick. You're disappointed in the way we performed the other night (versus Alabama), but I can't say that in Year 2 of our journey with where we've come from,to be sitting at 3-1 with the schedule we've had, I'm real pleased with the progress we're making. I think we're definitely headed in the right direction. But it doesn't get any easier going to Auburn and then having (Texas) A&M and LSU back-to-back."
On the Rebels' health:
"We've got some guys banged up, but I think everyone will try to play. We left Carlton Martin at home last week, but he practiced yesterday, so I think he's on the road to recovery. C.J. Johnson is still dealing with the same ankle (injury) he's been dealing with all year, but we're resting him a good bit this week and then we'll test him on Thursday to see if he can go again like he did last week. Of course we've lost some for the year that won't be back, but I think everyone that is able to play will give it a go."
On Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall:
"Phenomenal arm strength. Athlete that throws the deep ball extremely well and scares you with his running ability, scrambling ability and ability to extend play. I think he fits what Gus tries to do offensively very, very well.
On how to slow down Auburn's offense:
"You better be disciplined with your eyes and do your assignments. Don't get caught up in the smoke and mirrors and all the different pictures you'll see to try to disguise what they really want to do. Hopefully not give up big, explosive plays that result in points.
On whether the texts he traded with Malzahn will be the extent of their communication this week:
"Yeah, that'll be it this week, I'm sure. All I know is that we texted each other Sunday, I believe it was. I don't think either of us really enjoy playing your friends, but we're blessed to have the opportunity to do so. That'll probably be all that's said this week."
On the similar career paths he and Malzahn have taken to becoming head coaches in the SEC after starting in the high school ranks:
"It's very unique. It doesn't happen often. You see Gus, (Baylor head coach) Art (Briles) and (Clemson offensive coordinator) Chad (Morris) is making his way along really well also. It just makes me think how fortunate and blessed we are to have this opportunity. I certainly know that there are many other high school coaches that could do the same thing. It's just the opportunity does not come along that often, which makes it very unique."
On whether he had always dreamed of becoming an SEC head coach:
"I actually told my wife on our honeymoon that one day I was going to be a head coach of an SEC school. That dream started to fade a bit after 13 years of high school coaching, but she was willing for me to take a chance and take an off-field role just to get my foot in the door. And then when that occurred, I did have a 10-year plan in my mind and it did get sped up a little bit."
On whether he had noticed the Alabama loss having a lingering effect on his team:
"I think they've moved on. Hopefully they've followed our lead and done that. They were very effective and efficient at doing that last year, so I hope that'll be the case this year also. I've moved on so well that I don't know that I would notice it, but I don't think it's there."
On how it helps the Rebels' defense to prepare for an opponent with a similar offensive scheme
"You would think it would help. Typically when we're preparing, we do a good bit of scout team versus our offense and defense. This week, it's a little different. We're going two considerable, long periods of 'us against us,' just so that we can hopefully mirror some of the things that they may see on Saturday night."