Freeze the Choice

As announced Monday, Hugh Freeze has agreed to become the next head coach of Ole Miss football. A press conference is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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A message from Archie Manning from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

Freeze, who served as Arkansas State head coach for one season, replaces Houston Nutt. Nutt was dismissed Nov. 7. He coached the Rebels for four seasons.

"Our coaches and players love coming to work every day," Freeze told local Jonesboro media in November. "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."

After enjoying successful stints as both a head and assistant coach at the NCAA FBS, NAIA and high school levels over the past 18 years, Freeze was named Arkansas State's 27th head football coach on Dec. 2, 2010.

Arkansas State finished the regular season 10-2 overall on the year with wins over Florida International, Troy and Louisiana-Lafayette, among others, and received votes in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll. Arkansas State accepted a bid to play in the Bowl.

A native of Senatobia, Miss., Freeze was an assistant at Ole Miss under Ed Orgeron for three seasons. He served as wide receivers coach. He earned the reputation of being a strong recruiter, chiefly due to his familiarity with the area, namely Memphis.

Hugh Freeze
US Presswire

Freeze is an offensive-minded coach. 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.

While dominating the Sun Belt statistical categories, the Red Wolves rank top-25 in the nation in total offense (25th), total defense (20th), passing offense (17th), rushing defense (15th), pass efficiency defense (17th), scoring defense (15th), tackles for loss (12th) and sacks (17th). They are also one of only two teams in the NCAA to lead their conference in both total offense and defense.

Freeze's high octane offense has seen quarterback Ryan Aplin shatter the school record for career pass completions. This year, Aplin established new single-season standards for total offense and passing yards per game while ranking No. 10 in the nation in total offense. Wide receiver Dwayne Frampton broke the Red Wolves' single-season record for receptions and ranks 11th nationally.

The Freeze defense also impressed in 2011 led by senior lineman Brandon Joiner, who is fourth in the NCAA in sacks. Senior DB Darryl Feemster registered six interceptions and is tied for 11th in the nation in that category.

Possibly more than anything, however, Freeze was credited for the turnaround at Arkansas State because of his ability to gain trust amongst his team.

Arkansas State had but two new players offensively from last season's four-win team, and defensively, two key players were drafted. The talent level was 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, a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in Jackson, Tenn., where he won 20 games and lost only five in two seasons -- but in speaking engagements.

"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."

The soon-to-come announcement of Freeze ends a month-long coaching search led by a five-member search committee. Co-chairmen Archie Manning, a former Ole Miss and NFL quarterback, and Mike Glenn, the executive vice president of Market Development and Corporate Communications for FedEx Corp, spearheaded the search.

Information was scarce, with little by way of concrete information surfacing. Freeze was one of three candidates whose names gained steamed throughout the process, along with Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

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. Freeze had a base salary of $151,660. His buyout is $225,000.

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