In less than five days, the Rebels could make this post-season bowl game a more memorable venture than in the past years.
The Rebels ended the weekend with their first practice at the New Orleans Saints Complex. Let me tell you: the Rebels have a different air about them. They looked focused and ready for the Cowboys on Saturday. Don’t be surprised if you see a few tricks on both sides of the ball from Coach Freeze and the Rebels this weekend.
The Rebels started off the week with a Monday Offensive press conference. Here is the daily Sugar Bowl Snapshot from that press conference with Co-Offensive Coordinator Dan Werner.
On the battle between [Laquon] Treadwell versus [Kevin] Peterson: “The thing I have seen is that they will lock up on those outside receivers. And we feel good about all of our receivers. And they, obviously, feel good about their corners because they have been doing it all year. That, to me, is a key part of the game. Because, obviously, if we get the matchups, we’re going to take our shots. And, if they’re able to cover us the way they have against a lot of good receivers that they faced, then we’ve got to change our game plan. And that would be tough situation for us.”
On the offensive game plan: “We’re always a 50/50 team and depending on what the defense is trying to stop, if they’re trying to play soft and stop the pass, we will run it and vice versa.”
On the battle, everybody is looking forward to is [Laremy] Tunsil versus [Emmanuel] Ogbah. Tell us about that matchup: “That’s going to be a good one. Both of them probably, future NFL players so that will be interesting to see. You know, he moves around a lot. So it’s not like it will be he will be going against Laremy every play. But, when they do, it will be interesting to watch.”
On Chad Kelly’s scrambling: “He does (keep his eyes downfield). That’s when we call it “scramble rules,” which the receivers know that they need to stay alive. And, when you do it in practice and the receivers see that they have a chance to catch a ball because of it, it creates a lot of throwing lanes. And Chad is really good at that. And, if it’s not there, he will tuck it and run it. And he has been real successful with the run game here lately.”
On the attribute of a being a great quarterback: “And it’s all decision making. Because, you know, sometimes you will think a guy is open because of the lane. But, when you’re on the run trying to throw across your body, he is not. So the big key is decision making. Also, like I said, if he does make the right decision to pull it and run it and get the first down. If it’s third and eight and you feel like he is running and get eight, go get. And he has done a good job with that.”
On Oklahoma State: “It’s so hard to tell, because in their league everybody scores a lot of points. So they’re all up tempo, like we are. And they’re probably all similar to our offense. So their stats are not going to be great. But I just look their talent and their scheme. And they have got a couple of really good players. Their corners are really good. And they have had a defensive end that is projected to be a first round pick. And, schematically, they do a lot of things that caused some problems. So we’re going to have to, obviously, play well.”
On the approach and focus of the team: “That’s the one thing that Coach Freeze has been hammering home. We come here. This is a business trip. Obviously, we want our players to have fun. And that’s part of the bowl experience. But this is all business, and we want to go and play well.”
On the difference of this year’s team and last year’s team: “I do (notice a difference). And it’s really more the coaching staff, I think last year it was sort of like, hey, let’s go have some fun and we will go win this game. And this year, like I said, we want to have fun and we want our guys to enjoy it, but this is business this year.”
On the fans voicing the importance of a Sugar Bowl win: “The fact that we haven’t been here in so long and that Ole Miss has a tradition back in the old days of the Sugar Bowl, it’s a big deal. We understand that. We don’t need somebody else to tell us that. That has been something that we shot for when we took the job here. And the fact that we’re here, Archie Manning is around, it’s been awesome for us. And we want to come out and give a good showing.”
On the lesson learned from last year’s bowl game: “You want to learn from everything you do, good or bad. And, obviously, that didn’t work out well. So it’s easy as a coach to say, hey, for you guys who were here last year, obviously, we did something wrong. We’ve got to fix it. And we have gone through and talked about the things that we felt like we needed to fix. And, hopefully, we will learn from it.”
On Treadwell: “Well, it’s nice when you can tell your quarterback, look, if he is singled up, whether it’s a run or pass, throw it to him. And it’s not quite that simple, but it’s pretty close. And for the most part he has made plays for us in a lot of huge games.He is definitely one of our leaders. And we have a few really good leaders, and he is definitely one of them. And I know the guys look up to them.”
On the Oklahoma State Defense: “The big thing is the defensive end is a guy that you’re going to have to account for. And then the fact that they have a lot of confidence in those corners. And I just haven’t seen a whole lot of teams and they, obviously, played a bunch of really good receivers. And I haven’t seen whole lot of receivers just beat them. So that’s a big part of our package. If we get singled up, we want to take shots. And, if they can cover our guys, that’s a problem.”
On Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah, their defensive end: “He is a guy that is very physical but also has a lot of speed. One time he may speed rush you. Next time he may bull rush you which puts a lot of pressure on an offensive tackle.”
On dealing with Oklahoma State’s two-quarterback offense: “When you have a certain guy that does one thing well, another guy that does something else well, it’s sort of been a little bit of a trend here lately because of the quarterback runs and things. And when I was a younger coach, I never would have even thought about answering that question. But it’s true and we have done it here at Ole Miss. It just so happens Chad [Kelly] right now is doing both things well. So we feel like we can just work with him.”
On the run game since the return of Laremy Tunsil: “I think the fact that we sort of settled in and said, ‘Look, these are the runs that we want to do and let’s run it,’ and with our pass options obviously off it. But I think that the other thing is a lot of the defenses have started to soften up a little bit. Because we’re throwing the ball down the field so much, we had so much success throwing it, the people said, We can’t let this team just throw fade balls all the time and beat us so they’re playing softer. And, obviously, the run game is going to flourish because of that.”
On recruiting: “I don’t talk a whole lot about recruiting, but I know we’re on some really good players and our staff does a phenomenal job. And it starts from Coach Freeze on down. And it’s all about relationships and, obviously, the success on the field. I think the type of scheme that we run helps. We have got guys putting up stats and things like that. But we definitely are in on some guys not only just in the South but all over the country.”
On Coach Freeze: “I think just like an athlete, some guys have it and some don’t. He has just got it. I was on the staff with him when we were at Ole Miss the previous time. And here he was a high school coach just coming in. His first snap ever coaching college football, he was a tight end coach and I was the offensive coordinator. And to see him go and move up so quickly was astonishing to me. To be honest, when I took the job, I felt, ‘I don’t know about this, I don’t know he is ready for this level.’ And the very first staff meeting he came in and just took charge. The very first team meeting he just captures those players and has been phenomenal for me to see how he has done it and it’s amazing. And obviously the proof is in what we have done.”
Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a HottyToddy.com contributor, veteran SEC sports journalist and Brown University graduate. She loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.