The Ole Miss Rebels, 5-3, don’t play Saturday. It’s the second and final open date of what has been a mostly brutal schedule so far.
Arkansas is up next, an 11:21 a.m. kickoff on Nov. 9. Freeze was also pleased with that, especially in that it should accommodate those fans for once who get home so late. The other four Ole Miss home games this season have been at night.
But for now, it’s all about reflecting a bit on the season to date, taking some time to work on themselves, recruit, and have a Saturday off.
“I usually like to play, but I feel more excited about this open week than I remember feeling about open weeks in the past,” Freeze said. “Great time for us. Got a little momentum, a little confidence, but an unhealthy football team. I do think we can get a few of those guys back that it’s not a season-ending deal.
“It gives us a chance as coaches to do some self-scouting us and getting a jump start on not only Arkansas but also our future plan of what we might want to add, take out, or do a little differently. And get a chance to look at some young kids and some quality indo (individual work). Also looking forward to recruiting, which is the lifeblood of our program and getting out to some schools.”
Freeze was asked to evaluate the overall season so far.
“We could easily have a couple more wins, and could easily have a couple more losses,” he said. “Your mind usually goes to those losses that got away. Winning these last two games has helped tremendously with that. I think we've gotten better in almost every spot.
“If you look at the beginning of the year until now, I think you’d say Bo has improved. I think you’d say the O-Line has improved. I think you definitely would say that the D-Line with the issues we’ve faced, you couldn’t ask for a whole lot more the last couple of weeks. Linebacker depth has been a struggle all year, so I feel like we’re getting the most out of that spot. And I know we’ve improved in the secondary. I think our special teams have been solid.”
With the ups and downs, twists and turns of a season, there’s been progress.
“We just didn’t play our best in some games in a couple of spots, and we didn’t finish one,” he said. “Those kind of stick in your craw a little bit. It's about finishing, and in year two with a young team, I think we've learned a lot even with some disappointments. We’ve been able to press on and find a way to win a big one. We'll try to build on that. All in all, I think we're probably a little bit ahead of schedule in the journey than I originally thought. I know everyone may not feel that way, and I don’t either at some points after certain games. I think we've gotten better.
"But if I look at the totality of what we’ve had to deal with injury-wise and schedule-wise and being on the road and where we are right now, I think we’ve gotten better.”
The injury situation appears to go something like this, according to Freeze.
“I'm confident (Mike) Hilton will be back. Confident Issac (Gross) should be healthy, hopefully. We’ll hold him out this week. Charles Sawyer we’ll hold out this week. Denzel we held out there other night, but I see no reason for him not to be ready. Robert, I need to answer that next Monday. We're hopeful on him. Jeff Scott is like that, and next Monday will be a better gauge on him. Carlos Thompson is doubtful. We’re really getting concerned about his nerve in his arm. Hopefully it will catch on this week and he can be back. But doubtful for Arkansas.”
Freeze said Jaylen Walton and I’Tavius Mathers are making their presence known and contributing, especially in the absence of Jeff Scott.
“I’ve always felt like those two guys were solid backs,” he said. “I think they’re proving it. In the bowl game last year, they showed me what they can be. I've had no reason to doubt that since then. And they've continued to improve since then. I also thought Mark Dodson had some bright spots the other night. He’ll get some looks for sure. I thought he ran with some pop and some explosion. We saw that in recruiting. We've got some good depth there. He got his chance and spoke loud and clear that he wanted to get a look. I like that. Compete.”
As far as moving on without one who had become a significant part of the offense, tight end Evan Engram, Freeze said they will continue to see who they are and what’s best in that regard.
“We felt we could win the (Idaho) game, but we have to figure it out moving forward,” he said. “We sure liked some of the things we were doing with him. We've got to piece that together with the guys we’ve got at that spot. The guys (who played tight end) are different from Evan. We've got to make sure we ask them to do what they can do.”