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:
- Ole Miss (or representatation of Ole Miss) is doing something illegal in the NCAA’s eyes. OR
- 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:
- You have to start somewhere. You don’t win games without talent. Ole Miss went out and got talent.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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?
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.
|Class Rank||Wins Next Year||Wins 2 Years Later||Wins 3 Years Later||Wins 4 Years Later||To-Date Win %|
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).
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.
This is the program with momentum?
Work your magic, Hugh Freeze. Or maybe you already have.
That’s all I got/