Published on August 31st, 2015 | by TLV News0
Ole Miss Football Press Conference Recap: August 31, 2015 (by Alex Thiel)
The 2015 football season kicked off in earnest today at the first weekly press conference, featuring comments from both Coach Hugh Freeze and Athletics Director Ross Bjork. Both noted the upward trajectory of the football program and the athletics department as a whole.
“If you look at the momentum around Ole Miss right now, [there’s] probably never been a better time to be an Ole Miss Rebel,” said Bjork in an opening statement. “We all feel it every day, with traffic and parking and packed restaurants.”
“There’s a dump truck or a cement truck or a hard hat crew on every corner right now, and that’s a good thing.”
Among the improvements to which Bjork alluded Monday morning were the ongoing renovations to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and the new Pavilion at Ole Miss. All told, $175 million in athletic improvements are already underway and slated for completion by 2020.
Some of the biggest news was that this football season will be the last with artificial turf at Vaught-Hemingway, with natural grass to be installed during spring of 2016. This means that there will be no public Grove Bowl in the stadium in 2016. However, Bjork did also announce a Letter Winner’s Walk addition to the new plaza that is set to link the Walk of Champions to the stadium’s renovated north end zone. This will feature columns bearing the name of every letter-winner in Ole Miss history, numbering some 7,000 student-athletes.
A number of new scoreboard video screens were also announced, most notably one in The Pavilion that will be “the largest in college basketball.” Consisting of four screens, each 12 feet tall and 22 feet wide, Bjork announced the video board alongside brand new boards for baseball, softball, soccer (their first video board ever), and eventually, three for football.
Other notes from Bjork included the confirmation of the widely-rumored on-campus Steak & Shake and Raising Cane’s locations in the Pavilion’s food court area, as well as plans for a “technology hub” in the Pavilion that is still in development.
He also mentioned that the Athletics Department has extended its contract with Nike for another twelve years, and over double the previous $1.9m of product annually.
Hugh Freeze’s time at the podium was largely defined by his lingering reluctance to name a starting quarterback for the season. He did, however, divulge that transfer Chad Kelly will take the first snaps against UT-Martin, seemingly naming Kelly as the favorite to win long-term job in the process.
“He has a slight edge on the other two,” said Freeze. “All three competed extremely well last week. The one that I had the gut feeling about didn’t have a terrible week, but he didn’t have the best week. Unless something changes this week, I’m not ready [to name a permanent starter].”
In terms of the week’s opponent, Freeze was very complimentary of the Skyhawks, citing a balanced offensive attack and returning experience on defense and special teams.
“We respect every opponent that we play,” said Freeze. He noted that they “moved the ball very effectively,” against their two SEC opponents in 2014, Kentucky and Mississippi State.
He also expressed readiness to see star receiver Laquon Treadwell return to the field in a live game situation: “To see him go through the recovery process and to battle back is quite rewarding… [I] guess, in a strange kind of way, I look forward to seeing him get tackled.”