Hugh Freeze tweets message for Ole Miss recruiting critics
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s not exactly a newsflash to say that Ole Miss’ 2013 recruiting class is turning heads.
The Rebels class is currently ranked No. 11 by Rivals.com, and are poised to move higher – perhaps much higher – on Signing Day. Their current ranking doesn’t include the nation’s consensus No. 1 player, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, who is expected to ink with Ole Miss, or others like five-star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil or five-star safety Tony Conner who seriously considering the Rebs.
Hugh Freeze has turned Ole Miss into this year’s “it” school on the recruiting circuit.
That’s a pretty drastic change from the norm, and that’s what has people scratching their heads. Last year, Ole Miss finished No. 40 in the Rivals team rankings, and their average ranking over the past five classes is 27th. By any measure, it’s one of the biggest recruiting turnarounds ever.
Ole Miss supporters would tell you that the foundations to land top recruits have always been there – a beautiful campus; a small-but-sophisticated college town; lovely, um, coeds; the chance to play against SEC competition but to realistically compete for early playing time – it’s just taken a tireless working and excellent salesman like Freeze to bring them to light.
Still, it’s understandable that fans of college football’s blue bloods might be skeptical of an upstart stealing their recruits – especially when that team plays in the SEC West.
At least one of those recruits didn’t help the situation. Five-star Laquon Treadwell, the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver and a Rebel commit, caused a social media firestorm when he reportedly posted photos holding cash ($305 to be exact) on his Instagram page just after returning from his official visit to Oxford. (Though, as the Ole Miss blog Red Cup Rebellion points out, if all it took was $305 to secure Treadwell’s services, the Rebs are getting the steal of the century.)
Freeze has apparently had enough. Late Friday afternoon, he posted a message to Twitter calling out the Rebs’ accusers:
Freeze has been known as a dynamic personality, dating back to his days as head coach of Memphis’ Briarcrest Christian School. (If that name sounds familiar, Freeze and Briarcrest were depicted in Michael Lewis’ book and later movie The Blind Side.) Then, in his first college job, he worked on Ed Orgeron’s Ole Miss staff from 2007-07, learning the trade from one of the most tenacious recruiters around.
As a head coach, there’s no denying that Freeze has simply been a winner wherever he’s been. In 10 years at Briarcrest, his teams went 94-30. He was 20–5 in seasons seasons at NAIA Lambuth College, beating opponents by an average of 41-17. Freeze coached just one year at Arkansas State, leading the Red Wolves to a 10-2 record and their first Sun Belt Conference title since 2005, and his 7-6 record last season at Ole Miss surpassed anyone’s expectations.
Could this simply be a case of a hard-working, charismatic coach coupled with some incredibly fortunate circumstance – he happens to have Denzel Nkemdiche, Robert’s older brother, and Anthony Standifer, a former teammate and close friend of Treadwell, on his roster in Oxford – to create the recruiting equivalent of a perfect recruiting storm? Or, is the other side correct, and the Rebels’ recruiting turnaround a function of someone, somewhere at Ole Miss doing something untoward?
Talking to college coaches, it seems to be the former rather than the latter.
When they’re speaking about recruiting off-the-record about recruits they failed to land, college coaches are never shy about throwing around accusations about opposing coaches a – and oftentimes it’s pretty obviously sour grapes. But I’ve actually been shocked by how little chatter there’s been about Ole Miss’ current recruiting bonanza. Most have blamed circumstance (such as with Nkemdiche and Treadwell) or simply the Ole Miss staff doing a great job of selling the positives we mentioned previously.
Either way, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more compelling 2013 recruiting story than Ole Miss’ turnaround, and it will be fascinating to see how this one plays out on Feb. 6 and beyond.