Rebel head coach believes each of his three potential first round picks are destined for success

CHICAGO, Ill. — Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze walked three blocks to reach the pre-NFL Draft red carpet event.

A mixup left him without a car.

“I’m writing a book,” he said. “’The Day I Walked to the Draft.’”

The extra effort could prove to be well worth it.

Freeze is set to potentially have three of his players — Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell and Robert Nkemdiche — selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, which has never been done before in school history.

It’s the grand payoff of a three-year process that began with their commitments and ended with a win in the Sugar Bowl in January to cap a 10-win season. The journey continues on, but Thursday was yet another reminder that a program that was at its lowest point when Freeze was hired in 2012 has arrived on the national stage.

“I’ll probably shed a tear tonight,” he said. “Thinking about, over and over, the times we talked about it in recruiting, that you can do something new and different and make it a new normal and not just repeat what others have done. We could change the narrative around our program. They’re an integral part of it, obviously. But we have a chance to get seven or eight guys taken. The Cody Cores, a two-star guy who played every special teams for us, caught a lot of balls and made plays for us. Mike Hilton, Trae Elston, C.J. Johnson, Fahn Cooper. Those three we talk specially about this day, knowing they were probably going to be three-and-dones. So it’s a special day.”

Freeze said he probably talked to 20-plus teams over the last few months. Many of the conversations centered around Nkemdiche, but there were a number of questions on Tunsil and Treadwell. 

Freeze believes in all three.

“To me, the Laremy deal is a no-brainer. I could not pass him,” he said. “I just know how talented and special he is, and you want to get your quarterback protected. I have not seen a better college guy at protecting the quarterback than him. It would shock me if he slid very far. Quon’s is based on need. I don’t study it enough to claim to know that. He competes for the ball, and I think you see his competitive spirit by how he blocks and how he does the little things. He never takes a play off. He’s going to make somebody a special player, and I think he’s tough and durable. He’s proven he can fight through adversity. I have no idea where the needs are at receiver. He may not be the burner that some others are, but I don't know how many there are in the NFL like that. I do know you want a guy who can win the 50-50 balls, and he can do that. 

“Rob is just a matter of how they view Rob the person. I think they’re convinced from our conversations he loves the game and really does want to be good, and he’s fun to coach. That’s all accurate. He’s great in between the lines, he’s great in practice and in the weight room and the film room. You’ve got to understand he’s a different personality. Hopefully he learned from a poor choice. He tells me he has, and trust me, we’ve talked a lot. He’s trying. You’ve got to weigh those options. But I think he’ll make somebody look really smart, whoever takes him.”

The first round of the NFL Draft kicked off at 7 p.m. CT Thursday night. Ole Miss again had a night to remember. And Freeze was in the middle of it all, from the red carpet he had to walk to, to the green room when he hugged each of the players who tried something different and changed a program.

A new normal, indeed.

“In the previous years, it’s been tried to be used against us in recruiting, that Freeze’s kids aren’t getting drafted,” Freeze said. “They left out a major detail, that this is the first class that was eligible for the draft. I would love to talk about that in the next recruiting cycle. It is validation that not only can we recruit a star and he go out early, but we can also take kids and develop them like a Fahn Cooper, Cody Core, Trae Elston and Mike Hilton. They’re getting opportunities to play also at the next level.

“I think we have a few that will have a shot in the years to come. We’re going to enjoy today, for sure, and tonight.”

OM Spirit Top Stories