Freeze jumps right into Ole Miss fire
Posted: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 7:03 pm
By DAVID BRANDT
AP Sports Writer
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Hugh Freeze has spent his first weeks as Mississippi’s football coach playing catch-up, constantly on the road or on the phone trying to convince prospects to give the Rebels a chance.
He said it’s been encouraging experience. It’s also been a humbling one.
“We’ve been running wide open for about eight days now,” Freeze said. “Trying to make up some ground in recruiting is a priority. We are behind. We acknowledge that. But we’re also glass-half-full guys and think that we’ll do OK in this recruiting class.”
An optimistic outlook is probably best for the 42-year-old.
Before accepting the challenge at Mississippi, Freeze led Arkansas State to a 10-2 record and the Sun Belt Conference regular season title. The Senatobia, Miss., native was hired partly because of recruiting ties in Tennessee and Mississippi, and all those connections are being put to the test as Freeze tries to assemble a decent class in the aftermath of one of the worst seasons in Ole Miss history.
“Where there are great challenges, there’s an opportunity for greatness,” Freeze said.
The challenge certainly appears daunting.
Ole Miss is trying to ascend in what’s currently the toughest climate in all of college football — the Southeastern Conference Western Division. The division will be home to four of the five national champions after Alabama and LSU play on Jan. 9.
The Rebels are 1-15 in the SEC over the past two seasons, including 0-10 against the Western Division. And the roster has a myriad of holes — especially along the offensive line, at running back and in the secondary.
Freeze is certainly concerned about the on-the-field issues, but said the most pressing problem might be in the classroom. He indicated that several players didn’t take care of their coursework during the fall semester as the football season was crumbling and former coach Houston Nutt was fired.
“It’s scary,” Freeze said. “We’ve got some hurdles there. Some issues. I hate to go into individual players, but we’ve got a considerable problem there. It’s not one that we’ll back away from. We’ll hit it head on and start battling that in winter session.”
Published in The Messenger 12.21.11