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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Freeze shows his ability to recruit with ‘13 class

COLUMN: In between interviews with ESPNU and Fox News, and meeting with the local Ole Miss Quarterback Club, Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze had to feel amazed and satisfied all at the same time.

Of course he shared his emotions on national TV and with the media during the annual signing day press conference, but I’m sure when everybody wasn’t looking, he took time reflect on this 2013 class.

How could he not? It’s not a regular occurrence to see a program 14 months removed from a 2-10 season land a consensus Top 10 ranked signing class. As good of a recruiter and finisher as Freeze is and as through and detailed as his assistants are, can anyone honestly say that this was expected? I have to admit, heading into the start of the 2013 cycle that Ole Miss would fare well in recruiting.

Ole Miss plays in the Southeastern Conference, an obvious destination for top players for a multitude of reasons. The state of Mississippi always has talented players, so due diligence with the best of the best here locally meant Freeze and company would fare well there as well. Of course the facilities are good and only going to get better and the offense that Freeze runs is exciting. Success on the field this year was a bonus as was the fact that many of the incoming freshmen should see early playing time.

But again, I ask, did we expect Freeze to land a class ranked the fifth best in the nation by ESPN? It’s an amazing accomplishment to say the least and a truly remarkable feat considering where this program was before he was hired.

What this class does for Ole Miss moving forward is add instant depth at key positions such as defensive back, running back and offensive line. Freeze has some big, strong and physical tight ends to use in his passing game and it looks like he has landed the quarterback of the future, whether that’s Jackson Prep’s Ryan Buchanan or Dallas Skyline’s Devante Kincade. Every need was met, even though I still believe one more defensive end would have been ideal.

A class like the one announced Wednesday does a ton for the fan base. Every Rebel, both near and far, can’t wait for the start of the 2013 season. Season tickets will be snapped up like never before, and rightfully so. Even if the Rebels don’t win many more games than they did last year, it’s hard to imagine they won’t be that much better on the field.

No, we may not have expected the finish that Freeze and his staff produced, but the reality of the situation is he delivered. He showed that he is more than up to the task of competing against the likes of Alabama and LSU and Florida. His first full class of signees is like no other class in school history and it’s hard to believe that they most, if not all, won’t make an impact down the road.

The next step is keeping the momentum going, into 2014, and if he is able to produce another gem, this program may just be in Atlanta playing for the SEC title like everyone has been hoping for the past 20 plus years.

 (February 7, 2013, Page 8)

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