Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze The Big Winner on National Signing Day

By Patrick Schmidt
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

After going 6-18 and having a grand total of one SEC win from 2010-2011 under then head coach Houston Nutt, the 2012 season was a revival for the Ole Miss program under Hugh Freeze, who returned to the city of his birth and the school that gave him first college coaching gig after coaching at Briarcrest high school in Tennessee for 13 years.

Freeze has hit the recruiting trail hard after a 7-6 season that included a win in the Egg Bowl over Mississippi State and a win in the BBVA Compass Bowl over Pittsburgh, but his impact on the program wasn’t felt on the field, but rather off it where his principles, values, and work ethic have transformed a downtrodden program into a revitalized and optimistic program with big dreams and goals.

Two years ago dreams of recruiting the top player in the nation would have been silly, and the thought that Ole Miss could compete and win against SEC heavyweights like Alabama, LSU, Florida and Georgia on the recruiting trail would have raised more than an eyebrow. But that’s exactly what Freeze has done–and he did so in just one season–and the fan base is as excited now as they were when Eli Manning returned for his senior season and led the team to a 10-3 season and a the school’s first bowl win since 1970.

The success Freeze has had on the recruiting trail has made some question what’s going in Oxford, Ms and whether or not there is something dirty going on behind closed doors. That is about as ugly as accusations get in college athletics, and while it is extremely rare to see a team like Ole Miss sitting near the top of recruiting rankings, throwing around accusations and slandering players and coaches is nothing but unsubstantiated statements.

The big question is how quickly this recruiting class can make an impact on the field and how it translates to the win-loss record. The next question is will Freeze be able to do it again in 2014 and stack up two great recruiting classes on top of each other.

The latter we won’t know for a year, but the former I think is an easier one to answer and a number of freshmen should be counted on being key contributors and the 2013 Rebels could challenge for a nine win season. If they pull off an upset from the trio of Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M, then a 10-win season and a New Year’s Day bowl will no longer be a fantasy, but rather a reality.

Ole Miss fans may feel like this is too good to be true and feel the need to pinch themselves when they look at all these recruits signing on to play for Freeze to see if they’re dreaming, but go ahead and pinch yourself, because this is not a dream, it is a reality, and not one even Freeze’s wildest dreams could have envisioned.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt

Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” on Sportstownchicago.com airing Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here

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