Liberty has concluded its first five practices of August training camp and following Tuesday morning’s practice head coach Hugh Freeze held a press conference. Here’s everything Freeze had to say during his media session:
HOW WERE THINGS AT PRACTICE, ARE YOU IN FULL PADS?
“By the rules, we could go full pads but I never really do that. In the past few years, we hardly ever have gone full pads. We will this Saturday and maybe the next Saturday, but beyond that, maybe the mock game, just so we make sure everything fits but it won’t be because we need it. We went two days in shells and backed off today and went spiders again to try to limit the risk of the injuries on contact. The new plan that Dom and I have worked on together to try to make sure we’re as healthy as we can be and still get our work done.”
“A little disappointed in the way we went about that. I’ve got to do a better job expressing what the expectations are when we do that, particularly in camp. That that doesn’t mean that we pull back on the way we move around in between drills. It seemed like early on it may have caused a little of that. Then, we had a little meeting and it got a lot better after that. I’m pleased, five days in, with where we are. Obviously, we still got almost two weeks left of camp. We’ve got a lot of work left for sure, but fairly pleased to this point.”
DID YOU INTERACT WITH BOBBY BOWDEN AT ALL?
“I’m glad you asked me that. It’s almost amazing to me how Coach Bowden had the direct impact on so many people. If I could somehow get to half to emulate what he’s done. My first interaction with him I will never forget it. I was a high school coach. He didn’t know me from Adam. I went to his coaching clinic down at Florida State. At dinner, introduced myself to him, kinda told him a little bit about me and where I was, and he invited me to his office. I’m sure he did that with much more than me.”
“We had a great conversation there about faith and how that transcends coaching philosophies. We stayed in touch somewhat all of my days at Ole Miss. I brought him in a couple of times to speak. Man, the way he treated people, don’t matter what your status was or what your influence was and certainly it had nothing to do with what you could do for him. He had that amazing knack to make everyone feel important and valued and listened to. That’s probably a lost art somewhat in today’s times. I sure hope the rest of my career I can somewhat emulate everything that he did as a coach and as a man.”
YOU MENTIONED YOU WERE DISAPPOINTED IN THE RECEIVERS ON FRIDAY, HOW HAVE THEY LOOKED THE LAST FEW DAYS?
“I thought we’ve improved. We had a really disappointing first day. Since then I think it’s picked up. I think we’ve certainly completed a higher percentage of the catchable balls. Coach Harris takes that personal. They work after practice, before practice on jugs just making sure we understand the priority is on us to defend our quarterback at all times and when the ball is thrown your way you have to fight every single time to make a great catch, or an easy catch, it doesn’t matter, but that’s the mentality that we want. I think we have improved that to this point.”
HOW HEALTHY ARE YOU GUYS?
“Been fortunate thus far. Scruggs is just a tweak of his hamstring that we don’t want to get worse. He knows what we’re doing so there’s certainly no need. TreShaun just has a calf strain. He was much better in the training room this morning, but again a guy that’s played for us for two years. Don’t expect either one of those to miss any time whatsoever at this point.”
“Daijahn Anthony, unfortunately, tore his meniscus. He is having surgery this week on that. Hope to get him back in a four-week span. Outside of that, Deon Biggins has a hamstring that we held him out a couple days with. Probably be a week before he returns to full activity. That’s it right now, thank goodness.”
ARE YOU JUST TRYING TO FIGURE OUT YOUR DEPTH BEHIND YOUR STARTERS NOW?
“We feel comfortable that we have 22 that already, fairly know what to do. We just want to improve the way we do it with them. Then, we certainly want to create great depth. Our 2s and 3s are getting equal reps. Hopefully we can feel comfortable going into the first few games being at least two deep at some places and maybe be able to rotate a third guy in there to really keep us fresh early in the season.”
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO SEE OUT OF KAIDON SALTER FOR YOU TO TRUST HIM ON AND OFF THE FIELD?
“That’s something you build with time in relationships. We had a lot of discussions throughout the process before he decided to come here and before we decided that we wanted to go that route. I’m not afraid of people, kids that may have had a bump in the road or an issue. I’m afraid of those that don’t want to chase a standard. I know of very few people that have gotten it right all the time. We had those honest conversations with he and his family. I’m convinced that he wants to write the next chapter of his life a little differently. I’m thrilled that I get the chance to play a role in it. Will I be successful in that? Will we here as a staff? I don’t know, but you know what, at the end of my life and the end of my coaching, that’s something I’ll be proud to say that I think in this case it was worth absolutely every chance that we could take on him to help him rewrite his story. I think he’s a good kid. He’s a heck of a talent too. We’re looking forward to hopefully helping him write the next chapter in a different way. We’re excited to have him.”
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU RELIED ON OTHER PLAYERS TO DRIVE THE NARRATIVE DURING CAMP?
“I don’t think a team has very good chances of reaching their total potential until the culture that you’re preaching and talking about in the team room is transferred into the locker room. Once that starts to happen, where you have a group of kids that start speaking the same language, the same themes, the same talk that they’re hearing in the team room and the position rooms about our culture and the way we do things, the way we go about things. When you start having that happen, your chances of success increase exponentially, I think. We’re still a work in progress, I think most teams are in that regard because your mind is a battlefield, in particular during the camp days. When you’re looking at roughly two more weeks and we’ve been going a little less than a week. The mind starts battling. These 6:30 mornings and these 10 o’clock nights are getting long. The battle begins in your mind. That’s when, if you’re not careful, your demeanor, your energy, your body language, your words spoken they can follow that path or if they tend to do that, if you have somebody in that locker room or enough in that locker room to say, woah woah woah, wait a minute. We all know this is part of us having success and that’s not the way we go about it. When you have that, and not just the coaches, you’re on to something.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR OUTSIDE RECEIVERS?
“There’s a bit of an unknown there, but we are optimistic and hopeful and love the way they are working. It’s way too early for me to give them a grade of really where we are. I will know a lot more probably after Saturday when you put the ball down a little bit and see how they perform. I’m optimistic with the improvement I’ve seen. Let’s give that a little more time before I give you a grade on them.”
IS THIS YEAR GOING TO SERVE AS A REDSHIRT YEAR FOR SALTER?
“The first thing is we have to find out from the NCAA if he’s eligible to play this year, first. Once we get that answered, that will tell us a lot. If he’s not eligible to play, then it absolutely would be a great opportunity for him to get ahead academically and mature and learn the system and do like Malik did and sit out and then be ready to compete for the job in the spring. Should he be eligible, we’ve got to decide where he stacks up with the other quarterbacks like JB and those that already know kinda our system. We will wait until we get that answer and then go from there.”
DO YOU HAVE A POTENTIAL TIMELINE FOR WHEN YOU MIGHT FIND OUT FROM THE NCAA?
“Man, who knows on that one.”
HOW EXCITED ARE YOU FOR SATURDAY’S FAN FEST AND WHAT WILL THEY SEE?
“I hate that our fans didn’t get to experience the magical ride last year. I think we would have had an outstanding home atmosphere. I’m hopeful that we get to experience that this year. Saturday is just kind of a teaser for fans that enjoy football to come out and watch practice. It won’t be an all out game type atmosphere or anything because I think we know who we are with some of those returners. It will be some live situations and scrimmage type deals. Excited that we can open up Williams Stadium and have some of our fans back in to see us. Hope that continues throughout the year.”
DOES SATURDAY PROVIDE AN INCENTIVE TO CHANGE UP THE PACE FOR THE PLAYERS?
“Oh yeah, there’s no doubt. There will be a little extra energy from the staff and the players Saturday. I’ve already heard sitting in meetings, you hear the offensive guys say, ‘oh we’re going to save that for Saturday. They can’t fit that right. Let’s not show it to them before so they don’t have time to fix it.’ Then you hear the same thing from the defensive coaches. It will be interesting for me to see. The energy definitely will be higher, no question, than us just going out the previous day in shells and try to create some type of jog-thru pace that is very difficult to do and feel great about. We will go back to shells Thursday and Friday, off day tomorrow. Then we will go full Saturday. That will be a tough three-day stretch before our next off day on Sunday. There will be some juices flowing Saturday for sure.
DID YOU HAVE FUN HANGING OUT WITH TRACE ADKINS?
“Absolutely love that guy, now. I got to meet him at the premier of I Can Only Imagine that I was fortunate enough to get invited to. I got to hang out with him a little bit there. Huge football fan. Loves college football. He and his wife go to a lot of bowl games every year. He’s a man’s man. Loves our United States of America. I really, really enjoyed. I hate I couldn’t go to his concert last night, I wanted to, sent my daughters, but we couldn’t go because we were still here working. He’s coming back for our Army game, looking forward to seeing him back then.”
CHAD KELLY WAS A HEISMAN CANDIDATE WHEN YOU WERE AT OLE MISS, BUT MALIK SEEMS TO NOT BUY INTO ALL THAT OUTSIDE HYPE. WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED ABOUT HIM IN PUSHING THOSE DISTRACTIONS AWAY?
“I think he’s done well with it. He doesn’t seem to really be into the hype of social media or what articles may say. In his mindset it is chasing the standard today. He’s got two years left to play here at Liberty. That’s his mindset. We had four more scouts here today. I think that puts us up, just five days into practice, up in the teens. He sees that, but I think he’s even-keeled. He understands that he’s only had one year of playing quarterback at the college game. The product he puts on the field is going to tell the story. That’s his resume. It’s not some campaign on social media that’s going to get him drafted anywhere. I think he understands that and seems to be handling it pretty well.”