By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
The Hugh Freeze Era of Ole Miss football begins on Saturday. Right now, the program is buzzing with the excitement that typically accompanies a fresh start, but it’s unfortunate that a new era is beginning for the third time since 2005.
Stability at the head coach position is something all parties involved with the program would like to see it achieve.
In a few seasons, we’ll know where Freeze stands in pursuit of that goal. We won’t know after Saturday, regardless of the result against FCS foe Central Arkansas.
Freeze talks about the process of rebuilding and urges fans not to expect a quick turnaround, such as the one Houston Nutt engineered when he inherited four players who would become All-Americans.
The post-spring assessment of inherited talent for Freeze went this way: “There are five or six guys I feel can really help us win in the SEC,” co-defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said.
In some ways there’s a mixed message on inherited talent.
Earlier this week, running backs coach Derrick Nix, a part of Nutt’s original staff and the only hold-over with Freeze, said the current talent is similar to the 2008 talent level.
“I think at some places we’re probably stronger, at some a little bit weaker. I think it’s kind of comparable,” he said.
Nutt inherited more talent at quarterback, though, he and his staff were never able to solve Jevan Snead’s interception problems.
Regardless of inherited talent, August is about building more depth, and it appears the Rebels have been able to do that at some positions, particularly Nix’s.
The offensive line has shown improvement and cohesiveness, and that’s boosted hope for what a guy like Randall Mackey might be able to do.
As the Bears arrive, Freeze stayed on point Monday by talking about the process and not wins and losses.
Sometimes the clouds align, and Jacksonville State happens. As a rule, though, there are more SEC players on an SEC roster than an FCS roster. That’s enough to make Ole Miss a favorite this weekend, and the Rebels will likely win.
It would be good for the Rebels to not only win but to play with emotion throughout the process … to compete. In short, they need to look different than the last three games of 2011, the most recent memory of Ole Miss football.
Freeze isn’t counting wins, but a win would be tangible evidence of improvement and would help him deliver his message by sparking the belief and confidence of inherited players and newcomers alike.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.