By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss celebrated a top 10 football signing class last week but did so with the knowledge that not everyone was sharing in the celebration.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze’s class was ranked inside the top 10 by each of the four major recruiting services peaking with a No. 5 ranking from ESPN.
The fact that the Rebels had not been ranked so highly before had some people asking questions.
And making accusations.
In the days leading to signing day, Freeze fired back.
With the approval of athletics director Ross Bjork, Freeze – on his personal Twitter account – encouraged the accusers to take their case to the Ole Miss compliance office. Many did just that.
Freeze’s challenge generated a buzz of email to compliance. Some leads were followed, but Bjork says the school has not determined that anything improper took place.
“I don’t know the exact number of responses,” Bjork said on Thursday. “I think it was 75 or 80 on that first Friday that coach Freeze put out that message. Most of them were not anything of substance. There were a few that had stories that caused us to say, ‘OK, we need to look into these.’ But nothing has come to light from those.”
Freeze took the accusations to heart.
“I’m a head-on guy, I don’t like to see people just randomly feeling the freedom to take shots,” he said at his signing day press conference.
Freeze openly talked about the good fortune of having what he termed “natural ins” that helped with the recruiting of two of the most highly ranked signees – Robert Nkemdiche, who was rated the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect, and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, the nation’s No. 5 prospect.
Nkemdiche has a brother who was already on the team, and Treadwell had a good high school friend already on the roster.
There was no natural in for Laremy Tunsil, the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle.
“That part of it was unfortunate, because I know how hard our staff has worked. I know the momentum that was created with the key relationships we had to capitalize on two of the top five players in the country,” Bjork said.
Like Freeze, Bjork also took the accusations personally and says he takes seriously the duty and obligation to run a clean program.
“Those threats, if you will, those were taken personally by all of us, and I think we did the right thing by saying, ‘Look. We run a program with integrity. If there’s something out there that we should be aware of, here’s a process to do it,’” Bjork said.