But he said the restoration process was begun long before opening kickoff later this month.
"The biggest thing I saw was a major need to recommit to the weight room," Freeman said. "You've got to entice kids to be a part of a program. Kids don't play sports just to play sports. They play sports because they really like it or because they get a chance to play at the next level. Kids have so many other distractions nowadays. When I was in high school not too long ago, kids played sports to make friends, to hang out with friends, and because it was a good time.
"We have to get kids involved and start getting them back to committing to the weight room and try to rebuild that toughness back. Riverside was known as a physical football team with big kids and a few athletes. The area is a blue-collar community and, at the end of the day, the kids have lost that mentality over the last couple of years."
While the players and community will have to adjust to the 26-year-old's style and change of philosophy, maybe it's Freeman who has the most adjusting to do, both positively and negatively.
"My players' parents and uncles come in and they played for really good football teams," Freeman said. "Most of these people have played for state championships and won state championships, so I don't get the 'You're being too hard on my kid' routine, I get, 'You're not being hard enough.'
"But the grass is always greener on the other side too. In Cabell County, we had complaints about having no support from the administration. But we had turf fields at Huntington and Midland. Kanawha County is so big, you just can't fund eight high schools to have turf fields and upgrade facilities and such. I'm our grounds crew and our equipment guy."
Freeman is excited about the talent he is inheriting, giving particular credit to his crop of sophomores and juniors.
He also has a pair of senior offensive tackles in Tyler Eplin and William White who played in every game last year.
He also mentioned rising sophomore Dajon Watkins as being impressive in workouts.
But with practice beginning on Monday, Freeman has a broad statement to describe his personnel this year and into the future.
"We're going to have kids like Riverside used to have," he said.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pr...@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.