Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze takes the podium at SEC Media Days today, and he’ll most likely face a barrage of questions surrounding the NCAA investigation for the second straight year in Hoover, Alabama.
Questions about the team’s focus, the bowl ban, and outside noise will arise. There is enough firepower for the media in attendance before they can even think about asking about on-the-field performance. While everyone wants to know how the investigation will shake out, Rebel fans want to hear Freeze’s plan to recover from a disappointing 5-7 finish in 2017. Here are the top 5 questions you can expect to hear Coach Freeze face during today’s session in front of the media.
How has the bowl ban impacted your team’s ability to prepare for the upcoming season?
We’ve heard this question too many times to count, but don’t think that will stop those in attendance from taking the bait and asking it once more. During spring practice, Freeze answered questions on the matter and spoke of how it has taught his team how to face adversity.
What is your response to the Houston Nutt lawsuit?
In case you haven’t heard, former Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt is suing the University for running a “slander campaign” against him. His claim is that his name has been dragged through the mud in order to keep the current staff’s names clean during the NCAA investigation. The lawsuit alleges Freeze and AD Ross Bjork knowingly made false statements in order to keep recruits and money coming into the University and the Athletic Association. Valid or not, Freeze will undoubtedly have to answer questions about the lawsuit and his role in the conversation about the allegations in their early stages and beyond.
Can we expect a revamped defense at Ole Miss in 2017?
Finally getting to the field, Ole Miss has an abysmal defense in 2016, allowing 461 yards per game and over 33 points. The defense was particularly vulnerable in the second half, particularly against Alabama and Florida State which seemed to set the tone for the entire season. Highlighted by 4-star recruit Breon Dixon, the Rebels brought in seven recruits who will be able to compete for playing time; Marquis Haynes is back to provide senior leadership and anchor the defense. Freeze brought in Wesley McGriff to replace outgoing defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, and the new DC brought a new energy during the Spring and Freeze will be able to share his defense’s progress today.
What will be different with Phil Longo heading up the offense?
During the Spring Game, if you didn’t know the Rebels had a new offensive coordinator, you wouldn’t have thought anything changed. There’s no question that they were working with a small sample of the playbook and were early in the installation process, but the offense looked very similar to what we’ve seen in the past. We can expect to hear Freeze discuss what he hopes to see from his offense in the Summer leading up to the season. Longo comes to Ole Miss from Sam Houston State, so I’m sure there will continue to be questions about whether the system he ran can work in the SEC.
How has Shea Patterson stepped up as the leader of the team?
Shea will be able to answer this question for himself when he takes the stage, but reporters will want to hear it straight from the head coach. Patterson was able to test the waters with three games at the end of the season. The Texas A&M game looked to be the beginning of something special, but two subpar performances against Vanderbilt and in the Egg Bowl were a wake-up call for not just Patterson, but the entire team. With a full offseason to prepare, Patterson must now step up and become the leader of this team if they hope to improve on the 5-7 record.
Patterson, OL Javon Patterson, and DT Breeland Speaks will also speak during today’s session, and you can expect to hear more of the same when they stand in front of the media. Tune into the SEC Network for coverage all day long.
Steven Gagliano is the managing editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.HERE!