The Arkansas State Red Wolves held their 2011 media day Thursday afternoon at the Red Wolf athletic complex. First year head coach Hugh Freeze addressed the media, and spoke about some of the things his team is focusing on.
"Defensively, we are really going to focus on stopping the big play," said Freeze. "We certainly don't want to give up the big play. We know we are going to, but we don't want to. The big thing is making sure our players have the mentality to overcome that when they do give up a big play."
Freeze gave credit to new defensive line coach Chris Kiffin for bringing a new energy to his players.
"I can't speak enough about Coach Kiffin," said Freeze. "He has brought a lot of energy to our defensive line, and the coaching pedigree he comes from has taught him a lot. He is an invaluable part to our defense."
He also spoke about new defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.
"Coach Wommack is one of the best in the business, and he has a hunger to prove that," said Freeze. "We interviewed several candidates for the defensive coordinator job, but he was the one that I really wanted. He helped to lead Georgia Tech to the ACC championship and the Orange Bowl his last year with them, but decided to walk away and take some time off for personal reasons after that."
"I do know that Coach Wommack welcomes the challenge, and he is a very methodical coach." said Freeze. "He brings balance to our team, and he always has an answer defensively. He has an outside of the box way of thinking and is out to prove he still has it. We are very fortunate to have him on our staff."
Freeze also spoke a bit about his offensive philosophy, and where he has picked things up over the years.
"I still use some of the things I used at Briercrest, which is the last high school I was at," said Freeze. "Now, I learned a lot while I was at Ole Miss also. They used a pro-style offense then, and that is not my philosophy, but there are some things that I still use from that."
"I keep in touch with Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn quite a bit, and pick his brain as well." said Freeze. "I'm always asking him what kind of tweaks he is adding to his offense, and he shares a lot with me, so there is some Malzahn influence in my offensive philosophy."
Despite Freeze's offense putting up record numbers last season while he was offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, he did say there was one area he was disappointed in.
"I was very disappointed that we did not put up more points last year," said Freeze. "One thing that we are taking focus on is our offensive line, and having the ability to run the ball better in third down and red zone situations."
"We have gone to a more leaner and agile style of offensive line, but we still have beef at the guard positions." Freeze said. "You better have that beef so you can battle those 300-pound defensive linemen. It is great having Tom Castilaw back. That was certainly a gift and a blessing for this team."
One question was asked regarding last season, and if Freeze believed his play calling was held back by former head coach Steve Roberts.
"I never once felt like I couldn't call the plays," said Freeze. "Of course Coach Roberts made suggestions, but I never once felt like I didn't have control of the play calling. One thing though, is this staff is not going to speak of last year. There is nothing we can do about the past. We are focused on the future, and changing the mentality and changing the mindset of this team."
Freeze also spoke of defensive lineman Derek Johnson who transferred to Arkansas State from Texas after facing several family issues.
"Derek is taking some time to think of what is best for him and his family," said Freeze. "I do not expect him back with the situation he has with his family, and the condition of his children. I have no hard feelings towards him, and I hope he will continue to work towards his degree here at Arkansas State. We will know more Friday when he and I sit down, but I do not expect him back."
Freeze also gave his thoughts on being named head coach of the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
"I am very humbled to have this job," said Freeze. "I'm very indebted to be given to be a head coach at the Division One level, and I am proud to be part of the ASU family. My wife and kids love the community, and the community fits me and the style of person I am. I am very happy to be here."
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