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Friday, April 18, 2014

Is coaching search winding down?

AROUND THE NET: Late last night several reports surfaced that former Ed Orgeron assistant and current Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze is expected to be offered — and accept — the Ole Miss gig.It appears Richard Cross of Head-to-Head Radio was the first to tweet the news, while RebelGrove.com was the first to post an actual story that Freeze is headed to Ole Miss. (Cross went a step further and said current ASU defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, who has been a DC at Georgia Tech, Arkansas, Southern Miss, UNLV, Missouri State and Bemidji State according to his ASU bio, is headed to Ole Miss with Freeze.

Freeze has not returned calls but did send a text to the Clarion Ledger’s Hugh Kellenberger: “Whatever reports there are out there, they are not true at this point.”

Freeze is coming off of a 10-2 season in Jonesboro, Ark., and has the Red Wolves headed to the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Arkansas State’s two losses came against Illinois (33-15) in the season opener and then-No. 13 Virginia Tech (26-7).

Freeze appears to have done a good job in turning the ASU football program around considering the Red Wolves won four games the year before under former head coach Steve Roberts.

That being said, Arkansas State is in the Sun Belt Conference, not the Southestern Conference, and the Red Wolves’ strength of schedule ranks 127th. (By comparison, Ole Miss’ schedule was ranked No. 12).

Perhaps the most telling of this rumor (it has yet to be announced by the university) is the fact Freeze has yet to deny reports via his Twitter account like he did on Nov. 26 when a BleacherReport.com reported he had accepted the Ole Miss gig.

BREWER HELPING BEATHARD: I had the opportunity to talk to current Ole Miss verbal commitment C.J. Beathard (Franklin, Tenn.) on Friday prior to covering Water Valley’s sweep over Vardaman on the hardwood.

Beathard said he had a good meeting with Gunter Brewer, the lone remaining Ole Miss assistant, on Wednesday evening.

“It was very reassuring. He said they’re going to find the best guy that they can find,” Beathard said. “It’s not going to be someone that’s not going to honor the scholarships.

“I was kind of wait-and-see, but after talking to Coach Brewer, he made me think better about the whole process so I’m pretty firm (with the commitment).”

The news of Nutt’s firing hit Beathard pretty hard.

“With Coach (Houston) Nutt getting fired it’s been stressful because those are the guys that wanted you to go there and recruited you there and now they’re gone,” Beathard said. “It was definitely shocking, especially with Coach (David) Lee because he believed in me wholeheartedly and liked me.”

Since the firing, Beathard said SMU and Mississippi State have shown him the most interest. Vanderbilt has also visited him.

With last night’s news, it’s worth mentioning Beathard said Arkansas State was hoping to get the 6-foot-2 drop-back quarterback to visit.

As of Friday, humors Freeze was named the next head Rebel had not surfaced. Beathard said he didn’t have any specific preference as to who the next coach would be.

“There’s not really anyone specifically that I really want. I’m just want someone that’s open to throwing the ball a lot and isn’t running the option,” he said.

Beathard does not currently have any official visits set up.

MATHERS EARNS HONOR: I’Tavius Mathers, a fellow Ole Miss verbal commitment that’s also friends with Beathard, was recently named a Mr. Football back for Class AAA in Tennessee.

According to Blackmon (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) High’s MaxPreps.com page, Mathers rushed for 2,203 yards and 25 touchdowns on 228 carries this season.

As a junior, Mathers rushed for 2,640 yards and 31 scores.

TOUGH GIG: In Bruce Feldman‘s mailbag on Dec. 2 he fielded a question regarding what makes the Ole Miss job “so tough.”

Here’s what Feldman, a CBS college football columnist who spent plenty of time around the program while writing the recruiting book Meat Market, had to say:

“The biggest hurdle has been the politics of the place and the leadership around you. The outgoing AD Pete Boone was a big headache/stumbling block. He treated football more like a C-USA program than an SEC program. The other big challenge is you have to bust your butt to find promising recruits and get on them before everyone else does because in all likelihood if that same kid gets offered by LSU, Alabama or Florida, you’ll miss out or if you’re not hustling, you’ll never get in the front door. Orgeron was very good at connecting with recruits early in the process. Some times it was rewarded (Dexter McCluster for example); sometimes it still wasn’t good enough (Drake Nevis). Houston Nutt, from what I’ve been told by people who were around the Ole Miss program, never really went as hard, treating it more like Arkansas than Ole Miss, and you can’t get away with that in Oxford.

Ole Miss’ facilities are pretty good, but by SEC standards, they’re still below average, especially when you compare stadiums.

They do have a solid recruiting pool around them, especially in terms of JUCO talent and there is the flexibility to get some of those good, borderline academics recruits admitted. But many others still can’t get into major four-year colleges. There’s also a delicate racial history that in some cases, makes it very tough to recruit players to Ole Miss. I know from talking to assistants who have coached at Ole Miss they’ve run into several situations where the kid’s parents or some grandparent or relative won’t allow them to go to Ole Miss because of the perception they have of it, which is something the football staff has to work hard to combat.”

ALL-STAR COVERAGE: With the Mississippi prep championships now in the books, the state’s top recruits will now turn their attention to various all-star games.

The L-O-U has a heightened number of folks involved in this year’s games.

Lafayette quarterback Jeremy Liggins and running back Demarkous Dennis, fresh off of defeating Laurel in the Class 4A championship game, are slated to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. Water Valley head coach Brad Embry is on the coaching staff and will handle receivers.

I had (what I found to be) a funny conversation while applying for credentials to cover the game in Montgomery, Ala.

While on the phone I asked the man on the other line what I needed to do to apply for the “Miss-Al. game.”

Man: “The Alabama-Mississippi game?”

Me: (A bit surprised I was corrected on something like this) “Um, yes. The Alabama-Mississippi game.”

Obviously a lot of pride is on the line in any game where state lines are shared, I just found the exchange funny and a bit telling.

Anyways, the Alabama-Mississippi game is on Saturday, Dec. 10 in Montgomery.

The following Saturday (Dec. 17) I’ll be in Biloxi covering the Bernard Blackwell All-Star Classic for the EAGLE.

L-O-U representatives in that game include defensive lineman D.Q. Reynolds (LHS), kicker Tyler Jackson (LHS), linebacker/fullback Jamel Dennis (LHS) and linebacker C.J. Jackson (WVHS).

WAIT, SHEP SMITH MENTIONS OLE MISS ON HIS SHOW?: I’ll try to end every Around the Net with some sort of video. I was going to post the video of Gus Malzahn’s wife ranting at a Christian convention last week, but opted not to when the original (unedited) video had been removed from YouTube.

This week’s gem is Shep. Smith having a back and forth with Chris Wallace (begins at 1:44-mark).

 (December 4, 2011)

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