HOOVER, Ala. (AP) -- Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze says he's a
That's a good thing considering his difficult situation at Ole
Miss, a program with lots of work to do before becoming a
consistent threat in the Southeastern Conference.
"Our program is in a spot that none of us are happy with,"
Freeze said on Thursday at SEC media days. "I get that. I'm very,
very anxious about starting the process and the journey to get us
out of being where we are to back where we've been in the past."
It doesn't look like a quick fix, but the first-year coach has
guided fast turnarounds before. He took a strange road to his first
SEC head coaching job, working as a high school coach for more than
a decade before rebuilding programs at NAIA-level Lambuth (Tenn.)
and Arkansas State.
Now he's in a conference that has won the last six national
championships. Ole Miss has lost 15 of its last 16 SEC games and
had a 2-10 overall record last season.
The depressing season took quite a toll on the Rebels.
Not only did former coach Houston Nutt lose his job, but several
players fell behind with academics. Cornerback Nickolas Brassell
has already left the team because of academic issues, and Freeze
said there are four more players who have work to do this summer
before they are assured eligibility this fall -- though he didn't
name specific individuals.
"I really don't know exactly all the reasons for the situations
we inherited," Freeze said. "But it's well-documented that we did
inherit a significant challenge there academically ... I really
think it comes back to personal accountability and that was lost
for whatever reason within the program."
Ole Miss junior cornerback Charles Sawyer said change in the
program since Freeze has arrived is significant. Freeze estimated
that about "60 percent" of the team was working at a level he
deemed appropriate and the others would hopefully follow their
"Attitudes have changed a lot on the team," Sawyer said. "We
have guys actually ready to practice. They are ready to go to
weights, ready to go to 7 on 7. That changes a lot. This team has
come together. It takes effort every morning to get up and go to
Freeze isn't totally void of SEC experience. He was an on-field
assistant for two seasons under former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron in
2006 and '07, coaching receivers and serving as recruiting
coordinator. Though the Rebels didn't have much on-field success
during those years, they did amass multiple NFL-caliber players
that helped the program win back-to-back Cotton Bowls in 2008 and
He has employed a recruiting approach similar to his days with
Orgeron, and expects to build talent quickly.
But that won't help for the upcoming season, and the Rebels
aren't helped by a schedule that appears to be one of the hardest
in the nation. Not only must they navigate a conference schedule
that includes Alabama, Arkansas and LSU, but they also host Texas
in a non-conference game.
Considering wins might be hard to find this fall, Freeze has
other goals in mind during his first season.
"I think the reasonable expectation from our fans and our
administration ... is that we compete passionately for our
university for 60 minutes. Whatever the scoreboard says at the end
-- we'll have to live with that."