Exclusive: Quotes from Hugh Freeze’s Mom, Ole Miss’s Recruiting “Magic” Examined


Dude’s Note: Let me head off a few arguments before I begin.  1. I’m not scared of Ole Miss.  I don’t even expect Hugh Freeze to be the Rebels’ coach by the time Georgia plays them again.  2. Yes, I’m a hater.  I hate things that don’t make sense just as much as I hate cheating.  Ole Miss’s 2013 recruiting class falls under one of those two categories as I’ll explain in the coming paragraphs.  3. I am not making a formal accusation of foul-play as I have no evidence, so save your “where’s your evidence?” holier-than-thou demands.  4. I have never, ever previously had any ill-will towards Ole Miss (unlike, say Auburn or Tennessee or Florida), so there is no “rivalry bias” in these opinions and facts.  5. This also isn’t a reflection of my frustration with Georgia’s 2013 Recruiting class.  I follow recruiting somewhat closely, I didn’t expect any surprises for the Dawgs and I wasn’t surprised.  But, I was generally very satisfied with Georgia’s class.  

Lastly, I use Rivals.com for all recruiting data/rankings and this database for records.

ADDRESSING THE OLE MISS ANGER:

A lot of people are outraged at the implications of foul play by Ole Miss that I and countless others have made.  Similarly, a lot of people, didn’t like things like this tweet:

@DudeYouCrazy: “Freeze’s experience at the likes of Briarcrest High, Lambuth and Arkansas State shows that he can develop elite talent.” – Hugh Freeze’s mom

A lot of people went from elated about Ole Miss’s success to defensive of the program to just plain angry.  Naturally those angry people all attended Ole Miss or root for the Rebels for some other reason.  Everybody else seemed to be on the same page.  Rebel fans were not, and they’re probably not on this page (webpage, see what I did there?) either.  But just in case I happen to have a stray Rebel fan here let me point out that one of two things is going on here:

  1. Ole Miss (or representatation of Ole Miss) is doing something illegal in the NCAA’s eyes.    OR
  2. Ole Miss is defying all conventional logic by demonstrating an unparalleled recruiting prowess despite a history of mediocrity.

I’ve heard a number of arguments from Rebel fans defending the 2013 signing class but those variations tend to boil down to just three main assertions:

  1. You have to start somewhere.  You don’t win games without talent.  Ole Miss went out and got talent.
  2. Ole Miss has a lot of momentum and Hugh Freeze has folks fired up about the Rebels.  It makes sense that elite recruits would come.
  3. You’re just jealous.  I hate you, DudeYouCrazy.

I’ll defend my stance on those three points before diving into the real data that supports what the general consensus of college football fans is saying.

  1. You do have to start somewhere, but you also have to win football games to get the attention of elite talent.  Ole Miss did not win enough football games in 2012 (seven games thanks to a bowl win) to garner that type of attention.  Ole Miss has 70th best winning percentage in the country over the past five seasons.  That’s not enough winning to justify this class.
  2. Ole Miss has some momentum on the field, but not a lot.  Keep in mind the Rebels went 7-6, not 12-1 last season.  Keep in mind that Ole Miss went 3-5 in the SEC last year.  Keep in mind that only one of Ole Miss’s conference wins came against a team that retained its coach for the 2013 season.  And, for what it’s worth the 7-6 season wasn’t as good as the back-to-back nine-win seasons the Rebs put up in 2009 and 2010.  Lastly, keep in mind Hugh Freeze – a relative no-namer to casual football fans until yesterday – is the Ole Miss coach, not some legend with a big stick.
  3. I wanted exactly one of the recruits that Ole Miss landed: Laremy Tunsil.  But I’m not jealous.  I’m logical.

Ready to move on?  Let’s do it. 

How ridiculous is it that Ole Miss landed three five-star recruits?  Consider this: Ole Miss landed just three five-star recruits over the preceding five classes.  Want a real-world parallel?  If Alabama pulled in as many five-star recruits in 2013 as the Tide totaled from 2008-2012 (the way Ole Miss did), Saban would have brought in 14 five-star players yesterday.  So what dude, what’s fourteen five-star players supposed to mean?  If you take the “old” SEC (pre-2012 SEC) and the states that composed it (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee) and worked on the assumption that Saban was going to be given a total of 14 five-star recruits, he could pull every five-star player from eight of those nine states and leave only Mississippi’s lone five-star prospect (DE Chris Jones) up for grabs.

Too convoluted? Take every five-star recruit that played high school ball in the following SEC States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.  If all of those five-star players except for three enrolled at the University of Alabama, then Nick Saban’s 2013 class would have brought in as many five-star talents as his 2008-2012 classes did combined.  Only then would he be at a level of recruiting improvement that matches what Ole Miss did this year.

But Saban didn’t do that.  He brought in only four five-star players.  And if any team had the “momentum” to bring in five years’ worth of five-star studs, it would be Alabama as the Tide has rolled three of the last four national titles and just landed their sixth number one recruiting class in seven years.  It would be Alabama that could do that.  It wouldn’t be Ole Miss.  And yet Ole Miss brought in three(!!!) five-star recruits.

Outside of Ole Miss, 11 other teams have brought in three or more five-star recruits in a single signing class since 2009 (the last five classes).  Those schools are Alabama, Florida, Stanford, FSU, Southern Cal, LSU, Clemson, Auburn, Ohio State, Texas and Notre Dame.  In name alone, Ole Miss doesn’t belong to be mentioned in that category.  Here are the win totals (from 2008-2012) for the teams who have pulled in such top-heavy classes over the past five years:

  • Alabama: 61
  • Florida: 52
  • Stanford: 48
  • FSU: 47
  • Southern Cal: 46
  • LSU: 51
  • Clemson: 43
  • Auburn: 38
  • Ohio State: 51
  • Texas:47
  • Notre Dame: 41

Those 11 schools have experienced their fair share of turmoil, so don’t think they’ve all been riding high for the past half decade.  Florida, Stanford  Florida State, Southern Cal, Clemson, Auburn, Ohio State and Notre Dame have all experienced coaching changes.  Southern Cal and Ohio State have come under the gun for major NCAA infractions.  Notre Dame had a star linebacker fall in love with a fake woman who turned out to be a man after getting in a near-fatal car accident and walking away with fatal leukemia.  But through all of those events, those 11 institutions have combined to win an average of 47.73 games over a five year span.

Over that time period Ole Miss has won 31 games.  But, I’m supposed to believe that it makes sense for Ole Miss to recruit at this level?

Click to enlarge.

Red line represents average number.  Click to enlarge.

The other 11 programs discussed above combine to average over 9.5 wins per season since 2008.  Ole Miss averaged 6.2.  But, I’m supposed to believe that it makes sense for Ole Miss to recruit at this level?

Combine a lack of winning with the fact that Ole Miss is comparatively a smaller school with smaller facilities and a less dominant football history and the 2013 recruiting class starts to seem awfully odd.  It’s downright ludicrous when you combine all of that with the notion that Ole Miss’s “X-Factor” is Hugh Freeze and he boasts the following 10-year football resume:

  • 2003: 6-6 as Head Coach of Briarcrest Christian School
  • 2004: 10-3 as Head Coach of Briarcrest Christian School
  • 2005: Assistant A.D. for Football External Affairs at Ole Miss
  • 2006: 4-8 as Tight Ends Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at Ole Miss
  • 2007: 3-9 as Tight Ends Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at Ole Miss
  • 2008: 8-4 as Head Coach at Lambuth University (NAIA)
  • 2009: 12-1 as Head Coach at Lambuth University (NAIA)
  • 2010: 4-8 as Offensive Coordinator at Arkansas State
  • 2011: 10-3 as Head Coach at Arkansas State
  • 2012: 7-6 as Head Coach of Ole Miss

When you analyze this and realize that Hugh Freeze has spent as many of the past 10 years as the Head Coach of a high school team as he has as the Head Coach of a NCAA team, don’t forget that these are Freeze’s best 10 years of coaching experience.  When you realize that at the FBS level (as a Head man or as an Assistant) Freeze is just 28-34, remember that these are his 10 best years of coaching.

With a resume like that, is it not even more ridiculous that so many elite players suddenly flocked to Ole Miss?  Is Freeze an elite coach?  I doubt it, but he could be.  Is he a great talent developer?  There’s nothing to indicate that.

Isn’t that a lot to risk if you’re one of the top players in the country?  If I’m the best player at my position in the country and I want to win a National Championship, I go to Alabama.  If I want to play a little more early on and still challenge for Championships, I go to Georgia.  If I want to play for a rowdy fan base, I go to LSU.  If I want to play for an up-and-coming coach, I go to Florida.  If I want to play in an awesome uniform, I go to Oregon.  If I want to help bring a program back to prominence, I go to Tennessee or Auburn.   If I want to be over-hyped and not date real girls, I go to Notre Dame.  I’m not sure why – even if my brother was already there (as was the case with Robert Nkemdiche) – I would go to Ole Miss.  If I had no family ties, I wouldn’t even visit Oxford.

I’m not sure how Ole Miss is doing this.  This recruiting class doesn’t make sense.  Am I cynical?  Maybe.  But this feels a whole lot like when Ray Lewis’s arm was suddenly better waaaaay ahead of schedule and a whole lot like when Lance Armstrong was unbeatable.  It feels a whole lot like cheating.  Or maybe we should just chalk it up to magic.

The Bad News for Ole Miss 

The bad news for Ole Miss is that they’ve had good recruiting classes before, and little has come from it.  Here are three recent top-25 recruiting classes by Ole Miss and how those players have held up.

Year

Class Rank Wins Next Year Wins 2 Years Later Wins 3 Years Later Wins 4 Years Later To-Date Win %
2009 18 9 4 2 7 0.440
2010 18 4 2 7 ? 0.351
2011 19 2 7 ? ? 0.360

The graph below explains the table above.  It is worth noting that the bright red and rounded dot endpoints represent seasons in which the win total achieved was lower than the previous season (red = bad); the bright green square dot endpoints represent seasons in which the win total achieved was higher than the previous season (green = good).

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Two of the past three top-25 classes opened with freshmen performances that were worse than the preceding year.  Two of the three sophomore classes performed worse in their second year than they did in their first.  The third year is split 50/50 between improvement and regression.  None of the three classes examined yielded back-to-back years of improvement.  Two of the three managed back-to-back years of decreasing win totals.

The to-date winning percentages of those three top-25 recruiting classes speak volumes about Ole Miss football.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

This is the program with momentum?

Work your magic, Hugh Freeze.  Or maybe you already have.

That’s all I got/

Andrew

About dudeyoucrazy

College Football Writer

Posted on February 7, 2013, in Blog, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. They are not cheating. Just like Lance Armstrong was clean in all the TDFs he won.

  2. I agree there is something ROTTEN in Oxford, a great disservice may have been done to these young men, remember the tweet pic showing the pile of CASH ? I just sayin. GATA “GO DAWGS”

  3. Wow, I’ve had these exact thoughts rattling around my head the past couple of days, but couldn’t have written them nearly as well you did. Good post!

  4. Freeze seems a little quirky and maybe these recruits see him as a buddy. The real pressure now is on Mullen. He could win 9-10 and lose to Ole Miss again and State fans will melt down.

  5. Two reasons:
    1) Academics – fog a mirror and you get accepted.
    2) No testing for weed.

    That’s all I got.

    • Couldn’t agree more with Fred. Hugh definitely working some sort of magic. Not sure of the legality of the “magic.”

  6. michael mallette

    you guys are full of crap ! Why does this bother you so much ?

  7. HighLifeRebel

    You have no business trying to tell anyone about “conventional logic.”

    Of your three points that you claim OM fans use explain the OM recruiting class (as if there were only three), you’ve forgotten the reason that Hugh Freeze himself credited: Pure Luck. Houston Nutt, one of the worst OM coaches ever hired, is just as much to credit for this class as Freeze. I refuse to admit that Nutt’s influence on the class was anything but pure happenstance. Regardless, his recruitment of Denzel Nkimdiche to OM can probably be identified as the batting of butterfly wings that eventually led to the hurricane.

    Also, you tend to cull bad statistics when they don’t fit your argument, but keep them when they do. Freeze’s record, solely as a head coach, is 53-23. That’s a 70 percent win percentage. His head coaching record at the collegiate level is 37-14. His record at D1 is 17-9. The two worst records he posted as a head coach were at Briarcrest and in his first year taking over a poop diaper of a program with no talent that had won 2 games in the previous season. You can say whatever you want about his inexperience, but the guy has been nothing short of impressive as a head coach.

    They guy is an up and coming coach with an effective offensive philosophy who learned how to recruit from Ed Orgeron, one of the best recruiters in the country. Your counter-argument is history? That’s it?

    Your just gonna stand there and act like Clemson’s some sort of powerhouse? With a straight face?

    • First and foremost, thanks for reading. I appreciate your well-thought out arguments and opinions. But I don’t necessarily agree with them. I would counter with the following:

      Yes, I left out the argument about “luck.” I opened the article with a disclaimer that said (among other things), “I hate things that don’t make sense just as much as I hate cheating.” I file “luck,” under “things that don’t make sense,” as luck is very much “by chance” and not “by reason.”

      Regarding the “selective” statistics: Freeze’s coaching record as a high school coach does not matter to me at all. I only included those years to make the point that he was a high school coach in the last ten years (I think that point is indicative of a lack of experience). Freeze put up a .785 winning percentage as the head coach of Briarcrest Christian School. That’s great. How many coaches around the country can rival that at the high school level? I don’t have a number, but I’m guessing a lot. But I don’t think those numbers are remotely indicative of how a coach will perform coaching at the collegiate level – especially within the SEC. My old high school hired a new coach in 2008. He turned a 4-6 2007 team into a 5-5 team before racking up three straight 10-win seasons followed by an 8-3 campaign last year. He’s 43-13 in five years coaching in Georgia’s largest division. He’s coached 26 Division I football players over the past five seasons. His winning percentage is .767 (darn close to Freeze’s high school record). He is a great high school coach. But if he ends up coaching the Georgia Bulldogs in the next ten years I will be really worried about how things will turn out in Athens. I might be wrong about his abilities as a college coach, but I can guarantee I wouldn’t be comforted by his high school record.

      Similarly, Freeze’s record at the NAIA level carries no weight in my mind. Going 20-5 at a school that is no longer accredited as a university means absolutely nothing to me. (For the record: His stay at Lambuth only furthers my suspicion of him. If he was such a prodigy of a coach, why did he drop from SEC assistant, out of the SEC, out of BCS conferences, out of FBS as a whole, out of FCS, out of Division II and out of Division III down to lowly NAIA? It almost seems like it was a move to get out from under the arm of the NCAA. That is a nearly unparalleled decline in job status.)

      Conversely, I think Freeze’s time as an assistant – particularly as a coordinator – at the FBS level does matter. But even if we limit this to the smallest, most precise sample – his time as a FBS head coach – I would argue that he is “good,” but far from “great.” Over the past two seasons Freeze went 17-9. That .654 winning percentage came courtesy of two schools. But, pretend that it hadn’t. Pretend that Team Freeze University was its own school and over the last two years that school had posted a .654 winning percentage. If that was the case, Freeze U would be tied for 39th in the nation in winning percentage. I don’t think that justifies this recruiting class.

      Is Freeze up-and-coming? Maybe. He might be, or he might not be. It’s too soon to say. But I don’t know that one barely winning season at Ole Miss that followed a 10-3 season at Arkansas State is indicative of assure improvement.

      My counter-argument is history. My counter-argument is lack of experience. My counter-argument is lack of on-field success.

      With regard to Clemson, I’m no Clemson fan. But Clemson has won 43 games over the past five seasons. Ole Miss has won 31. Dabo Swinney (for all his flaws) has a .656 (better track record than Freeze) career winning percentage over a 4.5 year Head Coaching career (longer track record than Freeze), and not one of those seasons was in the Sun Belt Conference (stronger track record than Freeze). Dabo is 5-5 as a head coach against the SEC; Hugh Freeze is 3-5. If we want to talk longer-term, Clemson has won 195 games over the last 25 years. Ole Miss has won 156.

      I do think history matters. I don’t think this signing class made sense.

      At the very least, however, I think we can all agree that it will be interesting to see how Freeze develops this talent. Because there is talent in Oxford.

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