Ole Miss football at SEC Media Days: Live updates from Hoover

Published 7:08 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

HOOVER, Ala. — Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze along with quarterback Chad Kelly, tight end Evan Engram and defensive lineman D.J. Jones took their turn today through the annual car wash that is Southeastern Conference Football Media Days at The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

Freeze started his day by speaking with local media members early this morning, fielding questions on a number of topics from the NCAA’s investigation into the football program to offseason arrests to the status of players who missed all or part of the spring because of injuries and more. Ole Miss will report for fall camp Aug. 7.

Video of that interview can be seen below.

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Some quick hits from the interview with Freeze:

— Freeze said he has “zero update” on the NCAA’s investigation into the program for rules violations and that he has hasn’t been given any timetable on when closure could come in the case. He also said there’s been no talk of adding a bowl ban to the penalties the school has already self-imposed.

“Obviously we can’t discuss any ongoing matters,” Freeze said. “That’s the frustrating thing, but out of respect for the process, you just can’t do it. … I think it’s moving, but it would be a total guess if we started talking timelines.”

— Three assistants — defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, tight ends coach Maurice Harris and running backs coach Derrick Nix — were implicated in wrongdoing in the Notice of Allegations sent to Ole Miss, though the school disagreed in its response with Nix’s alleged role in providing impermissible benefits to recruits.

Freeze doesn’t anticipate having to fire any coaches at this point, but with the investigation ongoing, he said he won’t hesitate to do it should he feel he needs to in the future.

“One area that is not a temptation for me to is cut corners to try to have success,” Freeze said. “That doesn’t interest me at all. Our staff knows that.”

— Freeze declined to get into specifics of the punishment for defensive lineman Breeland Speaks (DUI) and guard Rod Taylor (shoplifting) as a result of their arrests this spring, but the coach said both have “done everything that’s been asked” of them since then. Each controls his own fate as to whether that punishment will include missing any playing time.

“That will be up to them and how they fulfill it,” Freeze said. “If another episode happens, it won’t be up to them. On the first (offense) with these misdemeanor-type deals, they can earn their way without missing playing time.”

— On the injury front, defensive end Fadol Brown, who missed the spring following surgery on his fractured foot, is starting a new treatment after recovering slower than expected and will be in a walking boot for the next four weeks, Freeze said.

Safety Tony Conner (meniscus surgery), center Robert Conyers (ACL surgery), wideout Damore’ea Stringellow (ankle) and Taylor (shoulder surgery) are all on track to be full speed in time for the start of fall camp next month.

— Linebacker signee Tariqious Tisdale likely won’t qualify academically, Freeze said. Running back Jarrion Street is the only other incoming freshman the team is waiting on to be fully cleared for enrollment, Freeze said.


Kelly, Engram and Jones were also asked about the ongoing investigation, but the trio said it’s not a big topic of conversation for the players. Kelly also addressed his comfort level with Jeremy Liggins and Alex Givens at left tackle as the Rebels look for Laremy Tunsil’s replacement, a minor dust-up between he and Freeze during practice last fall that he says brought the two closer and more.

Other topics of conversation for Jones and Engram included the dangers of social media following Tunsil’s draft-night fallout that has become a part of a separate investigation between the NCAA and the school and the task of replacing Ole Miss’ other two first-round draft picks, Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell.

Watch all three player interviews in the following videos.

See Friday’s edition of the EAGLE for full coverage of Ole Miss’ time at SEC Media Days.