When Hugh Freeze was hired by Ole Miss he had been a head coach for only one season and an on-field assistant for only two seasons, both of those at Arkansas State.
Coaches often make staff hires based on previous relationships, so it’s not uncommon to see a number of assistant coaches from the old school named as hires at the new school.
The more you coach the more your contacts grow. In theory, then, it becomes easier to hire an assistant coach the more you’ve coached, especially if you’ve coached at a higher level with more exposure. That was necessarily the case with this hire, Freeze says. More on that in a minute.
The exposure of thing was a factor, Jason Jones said, in his decision to leave the familiarity of six years at Oklahoma State to join the staff at Ole Miss as co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach. Geography was a factor at some level. He played at Alabama and began his coaching career there as a graduate assistant. “Being on the outside, there’s a lot of excitement now with Ole Miss. It’s unbelievable. Things are going in the right direction. You hear about the great recruiting class they’ve signed, and just to get on board with a great staff, work with an outstanding head coach and be a part of something special.”
Jones has had a lot of success at the BCS level, which is something Freeze was looking for. The amount of interest in the job made things harder, Freeze said.
“Actually, it was harder for me, not in attracting them. It was too many of them really. I want to get it right for our staff. When I look around that table and see so many families that hinge on us doing well … and the chemistry we had. I can’t tell you how good it was. The kids sense that, and recruits sense that, that we’re all on one page.
“I knew I was drawn toward Jason at the beginning of it. Certainly I never wavered from that totally. I had a lot of great people call me, because of the word that’s out there, that we’re going in the right direction, you got a coach that’s pretty stable right now, and we’re in the SEC. The only guys I talked to were either NFL or BCS. I’d say I talked to 10 on the phone, to three as far as getting down and interviewing hard.
“I felt like I had to, and whether this is right or wrong, and I know there are great coaches, because I brought some from Arkansas State who are doing great jobs, but in my mind after losing (Wesley) McGriff after one year, I was pretty stubborn and felt like I needed a guy that was not so much a rising star from a mid-major conference. I wanted a guy from one of the bigger conferences that has been in these battles. That doesn’t say that coaches can’t do it from there, because I’m from there, and I’m willing to do that. But in this one hire I really felt like I needed to get a guy to replace McGriff who has been through it.”