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August 16, 2012
Hugh Freeze meets with the media following Thursday morning's practice.
OXFORD, Miss. -- Hugh Freeze's reputation, at least in some quarters, is that of a coach who wants pass-happy basketball on grass.
Freeze loves a fast tempo, sure, and he does love to put the football in the air. However, his affection for the running game often goes under-reported.
What Freeze really likes, he said Thursday following Ole Miss' practice on a hot, humid day in Oxford, is balance. A stable of running backs just might let him have that in his first season leading the Rebels.
"It is a helpless feeling as a play-caller in a game if you can't run the ball," Freeze said. "You really feel helpless, now. So I don't enjoy those games at all. I don't mind throwing it. People know that, but it's not a comfortable feeling if you don't feel like you can run the ball."
As an offensive coordinator at Arkansas State in 2010, the Red Wolves threw the football 55 percent of the time. Last season as Arkansas State's head coach, Freeze called running plays 51 percent of the time.
"Now we were ahead in a lot of games and I guess you could say that's skewed some, but neither year, even though we passed for a bunch of yards, were we really skewed on the play calls."
The Rebels' depth at running back, a critical issue in the spring, is becoming a pleasantly surprising strength in fall camp. Jeff Scott, the starter after spring drills, is now fighting converted quarterback Randall Mackey and freshmen I'Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton for the top spot. Senior Devin Thomas has had a solid camp, and sophomore Nick Parker was perhaps the star of the day Thursday.
"I'm really pleased with the performance of Nick Parker today," Freeze said. "I thought he ran behind his pads like he hasn't all camp, and that was really, really good to see. Justin Bell and Emmanuel (McCray) blocked really well on the left side on a couple of those runs, I know.
"Certainly if we can run the ball and be more of a controlled-passing (team), that would be very advantageous to us. The key to that is staying on schedule and not putting yourself behind the chains in second-and-9 or 10. We have to run the ball to do that and hopefully we can find a way to run it some and keep us in manageable situations. No doubt running the ball affects your play-calling."
Freeze said he thought the entire group "could help us in some way. Certainly you can't travel six tailbacks every single game, I don't think. We'll have to look at the numbers, but I wouldn't be afraid to use all of them at something."
REBEL RUMBLINGS: Freeze said Scott, Walton, Trae Elston and Senquez Golson are the top candidates to handle kickoff return duties this season. Philander Moore, Korvic Neat and Scott appear to be the top candidates to return punts. Cornerbacks Wesley Pendleton (knee) and Cliff Coleman (knee), wide receiver Collins Moore (labrum) and safety Charles Sawyer (quadriceps) missed Thursday's practice. Defensive tackle Uriah Grant (labrum) continued to be held out of full-contact drills. He's expected to be cleared for contact at some point next week. Ole Miss practices again Friday at 9:45 a.m. The Rebels will scrimmage Saturday morning at 9:30. That session is open to the public.
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