Hugh Freeze

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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Wednesday, Dec. 11

With Bryan Harsin named head coach at his alma mater Boise State, Arkansas State defensive coordinator John Thompson has been named the Red Wolves’ interim head coach.

Ed OrgeronThompson, who was head coach at East Carolina in 2003-04, will lead ASU in the GoDaddy Bowl vs. Ball State.

ASU’s last three head coaches — Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Auburn’s Gus Malzhan to Auburn, and Harsin — each stayed with the school just one season before moving on to bigger and better things, which should help the school attract some interesting candidates this time around.

A couple of interesting names to keep an eye on include Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, an Arkansas native who was with Malzahn with the Red Wolves, former USC assistant Ed Orgeron and Cincinnati offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.

Ravens assistant offensive line coach Todd Washington has been offered the USC o-line job by new Trojans coach Steve Sarkisian.

As first reported by CBS’ Bruce Feldman, Hawaii has fired defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer and linebackers coach Tony Tuioti.

Maryland defensive line coach Greg Gattuso has hired as head coach at Albany, according to multiple media reports.

Kate Hairopoulos of the Dallas Morning News reports that Texas A&M’s Board of Regents will hold a special conference call at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. The school’s president is seeking permission to execute a new contract with the head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Sumlin and athletic director Eric Hyman have an agreement in place for $5 million annually, up from $3.1 million per season.

Details of the contract should become available by open record request soon after details are finalized.

Iowa State offensive line coach Chris Klenakis will interview for the vacant offensive coordinator position.

Ole Miss has announced a one-year extension for Hugh Freeze. His base salary to will increase to $3 million per year. The salary pool for Freeze’s assistants will also increase by $400,000.

The offensive coordinator job at Florida remains in flux. We’re told the leading three candidates are UNC’s Blake Anderson, Arizona State’s Mike Norvell and Nebraska’s Tim Beck.

Sources indicate UCLA’s Noel Mazzone had an early interest, but decided to stay in Westwood.

Ball State offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky will be named head coach at FCS Elon.

Skrosky was an assistant at Elon from 2006-10 under former head coach Pete Lembo.

Photo: Don Ryan, AP

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Ok State's Jason Jones leaves for Ole Miss

Oklahoma State assistant Jason Jones will join Hugh Freeze's Ole Miss staff. (Photo: AP)

Oklahoma State assistant Jason Jones will join Hugh Freeze’s Ole Miss staff. (Photo: AP)

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]klahoma State cornerbacks coach Jason Jones is leaving for Ole Miss, OSU officials have confirmed.

Jones has spent the past five seasons with the Cowboys.

He replaces Ole Miss secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff, who joined the New Orleans Saints’ staff earlier this month.

Prior to Oklahoma State, Jones had two stints at Tulsa (2005, 2007) and spent one season at Rice (2006).

A two-year starter at defensive back for Alabama, Jones served as a graduate assistant there in 2004.

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Signing Day Winner: Chris Kiffin, Ole Miss

Head coaches may get the glory at the press conferences, but its the assistant coaches whose year-round grind that builds the relationships that ultimately make National Signing Day either a success or failure. Today, we’re recognizing some assistants whose hard work paid off with huge Signing Day hauls.-CoachScoop (Note: These profiles are focused on assistants who had particular success on National Signing Day. We’ll release our ranking of the naton’s top recruiters later this week.)

Ole Miss assistant Chris Kiffin played a key role in the Rebels' recruiting success. (Photo: Rebels247.com)

Ole Miss assistant Chris Kiffin played a key role in the Rebels’ recruiting success. (Photo: Rebels247.com)

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s no secret that Ole Miss has been the story of the 2013 recruiting season.

The Rebels have had tons of buzz the past few months, and that culminated with a huge haul on Wednesday.

There’s undoubtedly several things that played into their success, but one factor that cannot be overlooked is assistant coach Chris Kiffin.

Kiffin, who followed Hugh Freeze from Arkansas State last year, served as lead recruiter for both Robert Nkemdiche (6-5, 260), the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit, and Laremy Tunsil (6-6, 295), the No. 1 offensive line prospect in the country. Both Nkemdiche and Tunsil committed and signed with the Rebs on Signing Day.

Nkemdiche, whose brother Denzel is a starting linebacker for the Rebs, kicked things off with an early-morning announcement on ESPNU. Long thought to be a lock to join his brother, the Grayson (Ga.) High defensive end chose Ole Miss over LSU and Florida in the end, but had offers from virtually every school in the country.

Tunsil was a different story entirely. On Jan. 22, three days before his official visit to Oxford, the Lake City (Fla.) Columbia High product told UGASports.com’s Jake Rowe, “I’m just taking a visit to Ole Miss and stuff to see how the campus is, but I just have a top two and that is Georgia and Alabama.”

That changed quickly after his trip to Oxford, and Kiffin’s hard work certainly played a part in Ole Miss’ move to the front of the pack. Like Nkemdiche, he announced for the Rebels on ESPNU Wednesday morning.

Freeze hired Kiffin as Arkansas State’s defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator in 2011. It was Kiffin’s first opportunity to coach on-the-field after serving in administrative and quality control roles at USC and Nebraska, and it has turned out to be a wise decision.

In addition to Nkemdiche and Tunsil, Kiffin also served as lead recruiter for Laquon Treadwell (6-3, 198, Crete, Ill.), an Ole Miss signee and the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver prospect.

Before Wednesday, Ole Miss had never signed a single top-20 rated recruit. Now, with Kiffin leading the charged, they’ve signed three.

The Rebels are currently No. 7 in the Rivals.com Team Recruiting Rankings after entering the day at No. 11.

[colored_box color="grey"]Talk about Chris Kiffin’s Signing Day victories in The Inside Scoop.[/colored_box]

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Hugh Freeze tweets message for Ole Miss recruiting critics

Hugh Freeze has Ole Miss doing a recruiting 180. (Photo: Ole Miss Athletics)

Hugh Freeze has Ole Miss doing a recruiting 180. (Photo: Ole Miss Athletics)

[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:

Hugh Freeze tweet

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.

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