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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More on Hugh Freeze hire: What we learned

BLOG: Introductory press conferences that are open to the public are meant to be full of rah-rah, feel-good speak.

Hugh Freeze‘s press conference at the Gertrude Castellow Ford Center for the Performing Arts today had plenty of that.

If you sift through some of the coach speak there was actually plenty of information mixed in to his presser.

For starters, Freeze hinted at what the foundation of his coaching staff will look like.

Tom Allen, Maurice Harris, Chris Kiffin and Dave Wommack were all mentioned during Freeze’s speech.

Freeze said he won’t rush to assemble his staff.

“I have great coaches on the staff that we have at Arkansas State. I want to take my time. I think it is very important that I get it right on the front end. Whether it is a guy in the SEC that has been here of whatever conference they are from, they are going to have to capture the hearts and minds of his players, help us win football games and recruit. I feel comfortable where we are for the next week and a half. I am going to take my time and get that right.”

  • Allen just completed his first year as assistant head coach and linebackers coach at Arkansas State. He was previously the linebackers coach and defensive coordinator at Drake. He coached the same positions at Lambuth under Freeze in 2008 and 2009. Immediately after leaving the high school ranks in 2006, Allen served as the secondary coach and special teams coordinator at Wabash (Ind.) College in 2007.
  • Harris, the ASU tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, “is going to capture Memphis again for us” according to Freeze. Harris previously served as the offensive coordinator at Alabama State and the assistant athletic director for internal football operations at Ole Miss in 2006.
  • Kiffen is the younger brother of Southern Cal head coach Lane and was a graduate assistant on Ed Orgeron’s staff in 2007. Kiffen just completed his first season as the defensive line coach at Arkansas State. He has also served as the an administrative assistant at USC and was in charge of offensive quality control at Nebraska from 2008 to 20010.
  • Wommack just completed his first season as ASU’s defensive coordinator and safeties coach. Wommack has over 31 years of college coaching experience according to his ASU bio. He has served as the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, Arkansas, Southern Miss, UNLV, Missouri State and Bemidji State.

One name Freeze only mentioned in passing was interim head coach Gunter Brewer, who was “holding down the fort” while Archie & Co. interviewed candidates from coast to coast.

RECRUITING: That leads me to my next point. Freeze said all 11 of Ole Miss’ current verbal commitments would be evaluated individually.

Freeze said he met with Brewer earlier today and discussed where the program was with recruiting.

“As far as the commitments, I want to give credit to Gunter Brewer for holding things together in this interim time. We had a brief meeting today about the status of those commitments. I think they have done a remarkable job as far as how we will proceed with honoring those. That is the state of our program right now.  We have to figure out if these kids are the type of characters that fit our philosophies. Some of them I have watched and them some I am not as familiar with. We have to spend time digging into that in the next few days. That is never a comfortable feeling if you choose to go in a different direction, but it is a part of this business. The great thing is that if you do it ahead of time then they have time to reevaluate as well. I would not feel good about notifying them that late in the game. We are going to try to be respectful and do it as well as we can do it if we are going in a different direction.”

I spoke with top running backs recruit I’Tavius Mathers earlier today. Mathers said he has not heard from Freeze or the new staff, but hopes to soon.

“I just want to see what kind of offensive style he runs,” Mathers said.

Mathers said ASU has recruited him but admitted he didn’t know much about Freeze other than he coached Michael Oher.

It probably goes without saying that 6-foot-2 quarterback commit C.J. Beathard is happy with the Rebels’ hire.

I talked with Beathard a little last week and on Tuesday and he was just hoping the Rebels didn’t sign a coach that wanted to implement an option attack.

Beathard said ASU had began recruiting him over the last couple of weeks, so there’s at least some familiarity between the two parties.

HODGE APPROVES: Former Ole Miss receiver Shay Hodge seems to like the Rebels’ recent hire. During a brief phone interview, Hodge said he likes the Rebels hired his former position coach.

“I think it was a great hire. I remember when he was our (position) coach. He was very, very good with the offense,” Hodge said. “He did a lot of offensive things, kind of more like a coordinator when I was there. I like the hire.”

Asked where things went wrong under Houston Nutt, Hodge pointed to recruiting.

“The biggest thing I saw was recruiting, not the guys they recruited, but a lot of the guys got kicked out of school or flunked out of school or got kicked off of the team,” Hodge said. “There was a whole bunch of them, like basically two classes of recruits. You’re trying to go out and win with guys that you weren’t expecting to play that much and guys that weren’t that good. That’s the way I see it. You have to really improve that. (Nutt) just didn’t have all of the talent he needed.”

Hodge has a point. It’s relatively easy to list the so-called “big time” players Nutt signed that are no longer with the Rebels (Tig Barksdale, Pat Patterson, Clarence Jackson, Raymond Cotton, Nathan Stanley, Craig Drummond and the list goes on…).

A COUPLE OTHER QUICK-HIT NOTES:

  • “My personality is kind of like basketball on grass.” Freeze said he plans to spread the ball around and give the playmakers plenty of chances to… make plays.
  • Freeze credited Orgeron for teaching him how to recruit. He plans to utilize a 12-month plan with regard to recruiting. It’s a plan Orgeron used at Ole Miss and he brought with him to Arkansas State.
  • Chancellor Dan Jones said Freeze will make in the $1.5M range. Jones said the salary was a competitive salary and has plenty of performance (on-field and academics) based incentives.

Be sure to check Tuesday’s print edition of the Oxford EAGLE for more on Ole Miss’ 37th head football coach. (December 5, 2011)

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