Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said the Rebels need leaders in the secondary after a season-ending injury to junior CB Ken Webster.
With Webster out, Florida State was able to exploit the Ole Miss defense Monday night, scoring 33 straight unanswered points in less than two quarters.
“I looked out there the other night and we had four freshman DBs on the field,” Freeze said Wednesday on the SEC coaches teleconference. “So mistakes were made, and you’ve got to learn from those. They did some good things too, and I think they’re going to be really good players. But there is a transition period.”
The younger players in the secondary would be helped by a veteran presence, but they don’t really have one.
“We don’t have any upperclassmen there besides Tony Bridges,” Freeze said. “And when Ken went down the other night, (Bridges) was forced into going to the boundary some, which is not his normal deal. And he struggled some himself.”
Freeze said Bridges has to improve his own play. Then he and fellow senior DB Carlos Davis need to help the younger players grow up faster. The coach also said he’d like to see a young player like Zedrick Woods step into more of a leadership role.
The secondary will get a temporary reprieve against Wofford’s ground-heavy attack this week. The next two weeks, however, the entire defense will be tested against the explosive offenses of Alabama and Georgia. Those games, Freeze said, will offer a clearer picture of where the defense is.
As for Webster, Freeze said he and RB Eric Swinney, who also suffered a knee injury, are both in a “good mental state” after injuring his left knee against the Seminoles. He acknowledged, though, the difficulties that both injuries create.
“It’s very difficult to see those kids train as hard as they do and be kids that we’re depending on to have vital (roles) for our success as a team,” Freeze said, “and then not to have them after Week 1 is certainly disappointing and a great challenge to us.”