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Freeze pleased with Thursday practice

Cain Madden/The Daily Mississippian

 
With just over a week before its first game, the Ole Miss football team is kicking things into high gear to prepare for Central Arkansas. Head coach Hugh Freeze was pleased with the effort his team put into Thursday afternoon’s practice.
 
“It was good,” he said. “Thought the energy was really good. We were pretty crisp.”
 
Freeze also stressed the importance of quarterback play and taking care of the ball.
 
“Right now, it’s about that ball and taking care of it,” he said. “We’re hoping to get through some practices here before we play where we take care of it totally.”
 
Freeze said that the only mishap of the day was a decision made by sophomore quarterback Bo Wallace that he called a “poor decision,” and that “we’ve got to coach him better.”
 
Epperson finding his way after switching to defensive end
 
Senior E.J. Epperson joined the Ole Miss football team as a tight end, but felt he was not seeing the field enough. Therefore, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Epperson made the switch to the defensive side of the ball.
 
“It’s been very difficult,” Epperson said. “I put a lot of work in during the summer.”
 
Epperson said that since it is his senior year he wanted to play more than he would have if he had stuck with tight end, and he has seen reps at defensive end with both the first and second teams.
 
“I was really the backup tight end,” he said. “I’m a senior and I don’t want to be a second-team guy. I just want to go out there and help the team and make some plays. I just want to be out there and play football.”
 
Epperson also said that the defensive line as a whole has really pushed each other both on and off the field, but he also looks at himself as a leader for the younger guys coming in.
 
“It’s competition,” he said. “I’ve got to come in every day and work hard. Once the competition gets going within the film room, the team gets better.”
 
Despite the tough transition, Epperson said that he feels he has progressed well on the defensive side of the ball.
 
“I’m getting better every day,” he said. “[Defensive line] coach [Chris] Kiffin is coaching me as hard as he can, and I’ve just been all ears and I’m being humble and just take things one day at a time.”
 
Offensive line picks things up
 
After having to learn a new offense and new blocking schemes, the Ole Miss offensive line has gotten better and, according to Freeze, they continue to get better every day.
 
“I think the understanding of what we’re trying to do, and [offensive line] coach Matt Luke being able to be with them for long periods of time certainly helped,” Freeze said. “Aaron [Morris] and Pierce [Burton] are playing really well right now, and we’ve got to get a few of them healthy. They are definitely playing better as a unit now than at any time before.”
 
Junior offensive lineman Emmanuel McCray said that the offensive line is also adapting well to the new pace that Freeze and his staff are attempting to install.
 
“[Strength and conditioning] coach [Paul] Jackson in the summer got us in good shape,” McCray said. “It’s still different from being game shape and that is what camp did for us, but definitely toward the end of camp we were moving just fine.”