Sense of Relief

C.J. Beathard followed the Ole Miss coaching search closely. His commitment status directly correlated with who the Rebels hired to replace Houston Nutt, who was dismissed a month ago.

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Beathard, a traditional drop-back passer, hoped Ole Miss would hire the right coach for his playing style. Former Ole Miss offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach David Lee targeted Beathard early, quickly extending the Franklin, Tenn., quarterback a scholarship offer.

Beathard was understandably excited to hear the news of Hugh Freeze's hiring as head coach. He has a longstanding relationship with Freeze, who has recruited Beathard throughout the year. Freeze continued to pursue Beathard despite his commitment to Ole Miss in May.

"I was told by some people around here that they were going to hire Hugh Freeze or the Southern Miss coach (Larry Fedora)," he said. "I was excited to here both of those names, because I like both the coaches. When I heard it was Coach Freeze, it was exciting to hear. One, finally having a coach who can continue the recruiting and stuff like that, and I just like Coach Freeze and what he did at Arkansas State and his offense. I was excited."

Freeze quickly turned around Arkansas State in his first year as head coach. The Red Wolves were 4-8 in 2010. They finished 10-2 a year later, and claimed the Sun Bult Conference championship outright.

All the while, Freeze was recruiting Beathard to Arkansas State. Ole Miss announced Nutt wouldn't return Nov. 7. Freeze quickly picked up the phone and called Beathard.

C.J. Beathard
File Photo

"We actually only talked on the phone once or twice. It was probably a couple of days after Coach Nutt got fired, he called me and was just trying to convince me of what they do and the offense they have, how it's made for a quarterback like me," Beathard said.

"They like to throw the ball. He was kind of explaining how the quarterback they had at Arkansas State, he led the division or something like that. He said I'd fit into the offense really well. I'd be suited to play in an offense like that."

Arkansas State dominated the Sun Belt statistical categories under Freeze. The Red Wolves ranked top-25 in the nation in total offense (25th) and passing offense (17th).

Freeze's high octane offense was led by quarterback Ryan Aplin, who shattered 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.

"The type of offense he has, you have to have something different in the SEC to be able to compete. I think he brings that to the table, and I think he'll definitely be able to turn things around quickly," at Ole Miss, Beathard said.

Beathard said he was relieved when he learned Freeze would be taking over. Among the schools that have shown interest in Beathard are Ole Miss, Duke, Tulane, SMU, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.

"In one sense I was (relieved) ‘cause when it first happened, when Coach Nutt first go fired, the first question was what if the coach coming in runs an offense you don't like or doesn't want your type of quarterback," Beathard said. "There was that type of questioning and I was a little nervous about that. But once they started narrowing it down … everything happens for a reason. I knew it was going to work out whatever way it worked out. It was exciting to hear it's Coach Freeze. I really like him."

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