Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze managing expectations

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze managing expectations

July 17th, 2013 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze talks with reporters during the Southeastern Conference football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday, July 16, 2013.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.


The SEC on Tuesday released kickoff times for the first three weeks of the season. Here are the early schedules for Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama (all times Eastern):


Aug. 31 -- AUSTIN PEAY (6 on pay-per-view)

Sept. 7 -- WESTERN KENTUCKY (12:21 on SEC Network)

Sept. 14 -- at Oregon (3:30 on ABC)


Aug. 31 -- at Clemson (8 on ABC)

Sept. 7 -- SOUTH CAROLINA (4:30 on ESPN)

Sept. 14 -- Open


Aug. 31 -- Virginia Tech in Atlanta (5:30 on ESPN)

Sept. 7 -- Open

Sept. 14 -- at Texas A&M (3:30 on CBS)

HOOVER, Ala. - Ole Miss won seven games last football season after winning just two in 2011, so another five-game increase this season would result in ...

Wait. Rebels coach Hugh Freeze isn't about to go there.

Freeze stunned the Southeastern Conference a year ago by taking what was perceived as the league's worst program and leading it to a 7-6 record, culminating the winning season with a 38-17 defeat of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. It was a smashing debut for Freeze, who landed a touted recruiting class in February and has been dealing with bouncing-off-the-wall Rebels fans ever since.

"I'm very careful with the expectations that are coming now with our program," Freeze said Tuesday afternoon at SEC media days. "I told every group that I went to this spring -- and I tell our team quite often -- that unrealistic expectations always produce frustration. I don't care what area of life that you're in.

"If you have an unreal expectation and it does not come to pass, you get very frustrated. Our task in year two is to maintain the enthusiasm and energy from our fans and our players as we continue to strive to be relevant in the SEC West."

Ole Miss had the nation's No. 7 signing class according to Rivals.com and No. 4 according to 247sports.com. The Rebels snagged several prospects who were coveted by more successful SEC programs, which led to skeptics wondering if Freeze was playing by the rules.

"If you get your feelings hurt at this level, you'll always be on a roller-coaster ride," Freeze said. "You get tired of hearing those things, but you know, it looks like it's going to stay with us for a while."

Needing some updates

In his annual address that kicks off media days, SEC commissioner Mike Slive said the NCAA continues to lag behind when it comes to strengthening academic requirements, meeting the full cost of attendance for student-athletes and revising some recruiting rules in this age of social media.

"Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, early recruiting, club sports, cell phones, Internet access, distance learning and 3-D printers will continue to become more and more commonplace," Slive said. "The current regulatory approach would be more at home in the era of Johann Gutenberg's printing press than in our current, fast-paced, technology-driven society, and it will no longer serve to functionally govern recruiting behaviors moving forward."

Mixed reviews

Missouri sophomore receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was the top overall prospect in the 2012 signing class, but he had a modest 28 receptions for 395 yards and five touchdowns last season.

By comparison, Alabama's Amari Cooper racked up 59 receptions for 1,000 yards and 11 scores a year ago as a freshman. Cooper got to catch passes from A.J. McCarron, however, while Missouri's quarterback situation was a quagmire due to injuries.

"You've got to be able to distribute the ball, and we didn't get the ball distributed like we needed to," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I thought he did a lot of good things, though, and we saw glimpses as the season went on. We've got to get the football to him. He's got to touch the ball, and there has to be a number we've got to reach every week.

"I'm not going to talk about that number, because I don't want to talk about it every Monday, but he's got to touch the football."

Spurrier's 'Visor Guy'

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, even among SEC coaches.

Freeze often wore a visor last season and did the same during his stints at Arkansas State, Lambuth University and during his days at Briarcrest High School in Memphis. He admitted Tuesday that it was due to his admiration of Steve Spurrier.

"When I was a high-school coach, I wanted to be like Steve Spurrier," he said. "That's the truth. Ever since then, Steve and I have become really good friends. He calls me his visor guy."

Said Spurrier: "Hugh and I have a lot in common. We both play golf. We both wear visors. We both call plays. How can you not like a guy like that?"

Odds and ends

Ole Miss has to play on the road against Vanderbilt, Texas, Alabama and Auburn in four of its first five games before having six straight games in Oxford. ... Slive said the SEC Network, which will be operating before the 2014 season, will have a two-hour preview show each Saturday morning before televising three games. The preview show will be broadcast on the campuses. ... Florida coach Muschamp believes that conditioning will be crucial in preseason camp, with his Gators opening with lunchtime kickoffs against Toledo in Gainesville on Aug. 31 and at Miami on Sept. 7. ... The Chick-fil-A Classic announced Tuesday that its Aug. 31 matchup between Alabama and Virginia Tech has sold out.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.