Profile: Hugh Freeze

The search for a new head coach to replace Houston Nutt is in its infancy stages. However, a number of names have surfaced in connection with the job, including Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze.


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Freeze is in his first year as head coach of the Red Wolves, who have eight wins to just two losses through 10 games. Arkansas State, undefeated in the Sun Belt Conference, most recently defeated Louisiana-Lafayette in a critical game, and with the win is in prime position for a Sun Belt championship and its choice of potential bowl destinations for postseason play.

Arkansas State was 4-8 a year ago.

"He's got a confidence and swagger about him," James Bryant, who covers Arkansas State for Scout.com, said of Freeze. "He feels like he can take your team and beat you with them. He just has a lot of confidence. He knows what to do to make people believe in themselves. It's a neat situation."

Freeze addressed the speculation of him being a candidate to replace Nutt at Ole Miss following his team's 30-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday night.

"That's just part of the nature of this business," Freeze said in response to a question posed by Kyle Veazey of the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "I certainly do not try to pay attention to anything other than getting Arkansas State prepared for our next game."

Freeze is an offense-oriented coach. He has Ole Miss ties as a former staff member under Ed Orgeron, head coach of Ole Miss from 2005-07. Freeze runs a wide-open variation of the spread offense, which borrows from other successful spread offenses such as Auburn, Missouri and Oklahoma State.

Actually, the blocking schemes are the same as Auburn, whose offensive coordinator, Gus Malzahn, is a pioneer of his own variation of the spread. Put simply, Freeze's offense is based in the same family, but an original interpretation.


Hugh Freeze
File Photo

The philosophy is complex in nature, relying heavily on the pass -- including a number of empty and four-wide sets unlike, say, Auburn -- though the run is given added emphasis.

Run/pass splits are dependent upon the flow of a particular game and the exploitation of the weaknesses of the opposing defense.

On the year, Arkansas State ranks 30th in the country in total offense, averaging 441.60 yards per game. Its passing offense is 25th nationally, and its rushing offense is 55th.

"He has the defense spread out so much, there's always somebody open," Bryant, who also covered Freeze at Ole Miss, said. "He has a lot of success in his play-calling. He's calmer than I expected him to be. He's kind of a gambler at times. He's detail-oriented. He's very organized."

Schematically, Freeze relies on multiple personnel groupings and formations. The personnel groupings are subject to change at the line of scrimmage depending on defensive matchups, meaning a defense can't prepare for the Red Wolves based solely on personnel. Run calls have pass plays attached to them and vice versa. The quarterback has freedom at the line of scrimmage.

Possibly more than anything, however, Freeze is credited for the turnaround at Arkansas State because of his ability to gain trust amongst his team. Arkansas State has but two new players offensively from last season's four-win team, and defensively, two key players were drafted. The talent level is virtually the same.

Changing the mindset was critical. Freeze arrived at Arkansas State declaring the mantra of "making it happen," a motivational tool Freeze has used not only with his football team -- and also as head coach at Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., where he won 20 games and lost only five -- but in speaking engagements.

"Our coaches and players love coming to work every day," Freeze told local Jonesboro media earlier this month. "They care about one another and they are having a lot of fun. Winning will do that, but it goes beyond that with this team. I'm blessed to be a part of it, the way our coaches and team has bought into what we are doing."

Throughout the season, Freeze has asked of his players to expect more, and the team has bought in.

"A lot of teams might say they are close like a family," junior quarterback Ryan Aplin said. "Here, it's really real. The chemistry on this team and coaching staff is amazing."

However, there are concerns surrounding Freeze's potential candidacy at Ole Miss. Again, he has been a head coach at the Division-I level for only one year. He spent two seasons at Lambuth, a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

The Southeastern Conference is a sizeable leap forward from the Sun Belt. Arkansas State has a football budget of $2.7 million, ranking 199 of 200 schools in Division-I. He has a base salary of $151,660, though bonus pay -- including a $17,500 payout for winning a conference championship and participating in a bowl game -- would push his earnings well north of $200,000. His buyout is $225,000.

A five-member committee co-chaired by Archie Manning and Mike Glenn – who, like Freeze, is from Memphis, Tenn. -- is leading the search for a new head coach. Glenn and Freeze have a longstanding relationship.


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