Top Five Candidates to Replace Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss

Spread the love

This past Thursday afternoon, Hugh Freeze resigned his post as head football coach at Ole Miss. Freeze took over the program in December of 2011 after the firing of Houston Nutt. In Freeze’s first season, the Rebels overcame poor expectations and won seven games including a bowl win. Ole Miss then signed the best recruiting class in school history. The class included future first round NFL draft picks Laquon Treadwell, Robert Nkemdiche, and Laremy Tunsil. Ole Miss’s win total would increase by one win every season culminating in a 10-win season in 2015. However, in 2016, things began going south and the Rebels only managed five wins.

The following offseason would result in a notice of several major NCAA violations against the program and against Freeze. The school self-enforced penalties which included scholarship reductions and a bowl ban for the 2017 season. To make a bad situation worse, Nutt filed a lawsuit against the university alleging a smear campaign was purposefully orchestrated by Freeze and the administration. To make a long story short, phone records that were subsequently collected showed that Freeze had made contact with a female escort service. When this was made public, Freeze quickly offered his resignation.

That leaves us where we are now. Co-offensive coordinator, Matt Luke, was named interim head coach for the 2017 season. While the administration must have some sort of confidence in Luke, it is rare to see an interim coach receive the full time job. So, here are my top five candidates to be named the head coach after the 2017 season (in no specific order).

Matt Luke

This would be a “best of a bad situation” pick for Ole Miss. However, Luke has yet to coach a game as the head in Oxford and will have 12 chances to prove himself this season.  If he can keep the locker room from dismantling while also winning six or seven games, this may not be that far fetched. Luke is an Ole Miss alum and may very well be the only one with any interest in the job depending on how the NCAA situation pans out.

Jay Hopson

Hopson is currently the head coach at Southern Miss and was the head coach at Alcorn State from 2012 through 2015. While at Alcorn State, Hopson won 32 games including two SWAC Championships. While his first season at Southern Miss only yielded six regular season wins, he will have a chance to prove his worth this season. Most importantly, Hopson is an Ole Miss alum and former defensive back for the Rebels. Hopson was a position coach (DB’s) in Oxford during the 2004 season.

Les Miles

Many would consider Miles to be an odd fit in Oxford, but wouldn’t he be an odd fit anywhere considering his personality? Miles was fired as LSU’s head coach last September. The easiest thing to be critical of with Miles is that he could never pull together an elite offense with the tremendous pool of talent he had at LSU. With the right offensive coordinator, Miles could win almost anywhere. Ole Miss will most likely be the only chance in the near future for Miles to return to coaching in the SEC.  If he’s given the offer, don’t be surprised to see him in Oxford.

Blake Anderson

Anderson is currently the head coach at Arkansas State. He worked his way up through the ranks with his first job being a position coach at Eastern New Mexico. Anderson coached with Larry Fedora as offensive coordinator at Southern Miss and North Carolina before being hired as Arkansas State’s head coach in 2014. He has won two consecutive Sun Belt Championships with a 15-1 conference record through 2015 and 2016.

Charlie Strong

Strong could very easily be the most gifted coach on this list. He served as the head coach at Louisville and made a name for himself rather quickly. He was hired to be Mack Brown‘s replacement at Texas after the 2013 season. Strong basically had to blow up the program and start from scratch. Paired with a very impatient fan base and booster population, his job was close to impossible.

Strong was fired at the conclusion of the 2016 season. He was hired in December to be the head coach at South Florida. With the talent that USF has combined with a relatively weak schedule, don’t be surprised if they win all of their games. While it most likely wouldn’t be much of a factor, Strong did serve as receivers coach at Ole Miss for the 1990 season. Strong will be highly sought after once the 2017 season is over.

While the Ole Miss football program has a lot going against it right now, there are still factors that could attract a good head coach. The new coach would have a chance to coach in the SEC along with at least a four or five million dollar salary. Mississippi is one of the best states in the country for high school talent and the new coach would only have to recruit against one major in-state university. A huge factor in choosing a new head coach will, of course, be the outcome of the ongoing NCAA investigation. One good thing is that the administration at Ole Miss will have several months to make phone calls and go over their options.

Main Photo