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October 22, 2013

Notes: Freeze wants more focus

OXFORD, Miss. -- Hugh Freeze acknowledges the lack of pizazz with this week's opponent compared to the previous four or five, but he doesn't see it as an excuse.

Ole Miss practiced for approximately 90 minutes on Tuesday, and the head coach wasn't particularly happy with the focus and execution, as the Rebels prepare for 1-6 Idaho on Saturday night.

"I'm probably wound a little tighter this week than last week so everything is magnified a bit, I'll be the first to confess that," Freeze said. "I thought there were a lot of little things, the effort was good, but we sure did some little things I don't like. Just wasn't as sharp as I'd like us to be.

"I consider it to be somewhat of a letdown. Our whole team meeting was to elevate our level of focus. Obviously any team can beat you. They are young kids, and again, I probably made my mind up this morning it was going to be this way. That's my job to get them ready. I'll be guarding against that. It just seemed like our timing was a bit off."

That timing was partly due to a change at center. Evan Swindall, who has taken every meaningful snap this season at the position was held out Tuesday for pink eye. Ben Still and Robert Conyers are the reserves at the position, and guard Justin Bell worked on snapping after practice.

"We miss Evan Swindall when he's not out here," Freeze said. "We're not the same, timing isn't the same, snaps aren't the same. That throws us off. He just has pink eye, and with the center you sure don't want to spread that. Hopefully we can get him ready to go. We have to get Ben and Conyers ready to go and make sure our timing is the same as it is with our starter."

Freeze wasn't happy with the Rebels' effort against Southeast Missouri back in September and with a similar opponent upcoming, it's a major point of emphasis to take things seriously. The lag is understandable considering past opponents, but the task of doing things correctly remains the same.

"I don't care who is this week, if you go through the gauntlet of Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M in a row, I don't know, a lot of coaches may disagree, but I don't think it's a reasonable expectation that young kids will have same motivation every single week," Freeze said. "It has nothing to do with Idaho. The stretch we been through and then going out of conference is a bit of a less motivated crew, but it's our job to get them to execute regardless of their emotions."

WOMMACK PRAISES BENNETT, STRONG: Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said defensive tackle-turned-end Bryon Bennett was good against LSU last Saturday, adding the Madison, Miss., native is "athletic. He can play there. We're fortunate he's a smart guy and can pick things up. He made a few mistakes but I thought he did a very good job."

Temario Strong played some defensive end as well on Tuesday as the Rebels prepped for Idaho. Wommack said he believes Strong can give opposing offensive linemen some problems.

"He's not going to bull-rush a guy, but if you cut him loose and let him go, he's hard to block," Wommack said. "I'm excited. I'm anxious to see him."

WOMMACK TALKS VANDALS: Wommack said Idaho has had to mix and match offensive linemen and quarterbacks this year and that has likely impacted the Vandals' continuity. However, he had high praise for Idaho coach Paul Petrino and a memory of losing to the Vandals years ago.

"The last time I played Idaho I was at Southern Miss in the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl," Wommack said. "I think we were ranked seventh or eighth in the nation in total defense. We got ahead 21-0 and I think we lost 42-21. I've reminded them of that (this week). There are a lot of reasons our guys need to get up and get excited about this game."

REBEL RAMBLINGS: Jeff Scott practiced on Tuesday. If he doesn't return punts it will be Jordan Holder or Ja-Mes Logan… Freeze on Nkemdiche against LSU: "I thought last week was first time he looked back to normal. he got hurt in fourth quarter and gutted it out but he wasn't the same as he was in the second quarter. I did think he flew around in the first half."… Temario Strong practiced at defensive end. He'll need to play with Robert Nkemdiche and CJ Johnson out and Cameron Whigham questionable.


Ole Miss safety Cody Prewitt meets with the media following Tuesday's practice.


Ole Miss defensive coordinator Dave Wommack meets with reporters following Tuesday's practice.


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