Mississippi State fans, this isn’t about you. Let me get that out of the way. But I can’t join in the apparent media fun of hammering Ole Miss’ recruiting just to balance out positive and negative. The truth is this could be you next year should you also choose to upset the order of power in the SEC, and I will come to your defense as well. You’ll face the same questions because surely Mississippi schools can’t compete with the rest of the SEC. Right? Bull.
I’m tired of seeing Hugh Freeze in defense mode of his latest recruiting class. Every time I see him interviewed or hear him on the radio, he’s being questioned indirectly about his personal integrity. But really, he’s questioned as to why his program cannot and should not be doing what he just did.
It’s insulting, and completely disregards some obvious factors. Perhaps he’s just that good. Perhaps his staff did that good of a job. Or God forbid, maybe Ole Miss should have done this a long time ago.
The man should be celebrating an unbelievable accomplishment, one that I have never seen in my lifetime. He shouldn’t have to make the case for why it wasn’t extraordinary when it obviously was. Coach Freeze, that’s not necessary. Allow yourself to be proud of what you did. In the future when faced with that particular question, tell people to get used to it.
Is it really hard to believe that Ole Miss could be an attractive destination for a national recruit? Here are 10 reasons why Ole Miss can recruit with most anybody.
- The SEC “big dogs” were fat and happy. I’ve heard for a year now numerous behind the scenes stories from coaches and recruits of how Ole Miss was outworking everyone. The often overlooked extra mile stuff adds up. People are crazy to think it doesn’t matter to kids. These other SEC schools obviously didn’t think it mattered, until they were beaten for kids and suddenly cried foul. Here’s some free advice for those schools. Work harder. But most importantly, don’t underestimate Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss.
- Hugh Freeze learned from the best. It’s amazing what a good plan and some insight can do for you in life. In anything. Freeze learned from one of the best recruiters college football has ever seen in Ed Orgeron. If the man had better head coach skills, he’d still be at Ole Miss because getting players has never been his problem. Recruiting is as much a science as anything. Knowing the answers to that particular test is invaluable.
- Hugh Freeze has “it”. There is a reason CBS college football writer Bruce Feldman said Freeze was the most dynamic speaker in front of a group he has ever seen. Think about that for a second, because Feldman has spent plenty of time around college football’s absolute best and can’t be labeled a Mississippi homer. Throw in that Freeze is not ashamed of a Faith that mothers of recruits flock to. They want coaches to care for their babies and treat them as more than commodities. Freeze sells a family approach as well as anybody in America.
- Ole Miss has continuity. Constant reshuffling of the coaching deck can kill a recruiting class. The Ole Miss staff is now going on their third recruiting class with zero staff changes, and the staff effort has been lauded as exemplary by several outside coaches and media representatives. When you find good coaches, do everything in your power to keep them, because they are not easy to replace.
- I realize this is shocking to many, but Ole Miss has some advantages. Ole Miss is the only major university within an hour of Memphis, a city with an equal amount of talent within a 25-mile radius as the entire state of Mississippi. That is a huge advantage, especially considering Freeze has great contacts in the city where he once piled up high school state championships.
- The Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges. I have not heard once on radio or television in the last week that the top junior college talent Ole Miss attracted came from in-state. Mississippi has the nation’s top junior college system, which consistently produces NFL talent. Should we apologize for that too? Ole Miss took advantage of it by landing the nation’s #1 JUCO prospect, and two others also among the nation’s elite. And all they had to do was move down the road a bit.
- The scenery isn’t bad in Oxford. Is it that shocking to hear a teenage boy is impressed with a school that claims to redshirt future Miss America’s? That’s all I will say about that, but a walk through the Grove on a Saturday gameday will stay embedded in your mind for the rest of your life.
- SEC TV Contract. While other SEC programs have thrived on a national stage, smaller schools have quietly cashed those large resulting checks and have turned them into facility improvements. The SEC’s revenue-sharing plan has helped better level the playing field. The facilities’ gap is much smaller than it was 10-20 years ago. The same can be said of coaches’ salaries.
- Ole Miss has been close before. Ole Miss has produced three top 15 recruiting classes in the previous seven years. This particular recruiting class averaged out as the nation’s #5 class. Is an improvement of ten spots that hard to imagine?
- Recruiting Connections. I don’t like that Hugh Freeze has constantly had to turn to this reasoning when other programs apparently do not, but the Rebels had some amazing good fortune. Those advantages are common knowledge at this point, but no doubt it had a great impact. And keep in mind, Ole Miss also pulled in a couple of big transfers that some recruiting services didn’t factor in the rankings. Anthony Alford was a national quarterback prospect in 2012, and Nick Brassell already proved himself SEC-worthy as a Rebel freshman. Maybe it’s good they weren’t considered, because if this class had risen a couple more spots it might have been too much for some people to handle.
If Ole Miss is cheating, how did they not flip Chris Jones? And how did they lose two late commitments to an Auburn program that racked up as many national signees on signing day as Ole Miss did? And how do the Tigers escape criticism after an 0-8 record in the SEC last year, a head coach on the job two months, and only a couple of years removed from the Cam Newton recruiting saga? Auburn committed more 4-star and 5-star players on the final weekend than Ole Miss did in what was an abbreviated recruiting year for their staff, and Ole Miss is the school on trial?
The question is can Ole Miss, or Mississippi State, compete for championships in the SEC? I would label this as primary evidence. LSU picked up one outright SEC championship from 1970-2001. That might not be 50 years of no titles, but 30 years with one championship is still a big number. The previous 11 years before Nick Saban rode in to the rescue saw the Tigers win four or fewer games five times. The Tigers won five games or less in eight of those eleven seasons. Does that mean they were destined for eternal irrelevance in the world of college football?
One right hire can completely change the future fortunes of a program, as LSU found out when they brought in a somewhat questionable Michigan State head coach. The same could happen in Oxford, MS, and quite possibly already has.
Tune in to SuperSport 930 in Jackson at 10:00 am every day for Gridiron Radio with Chris Brooks, and discuss all that’s happening with football in the Magnolia state.