By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Former Ole Miss wide receiver Shay Hodge couldn’t quite put into words his mental picture of Hugh Freeze the disciplinarian.
But he knows it was good.
Hodge finished his career as the Rebels’ career leader in receiving yards. Now training in his hometown of Morton and awaiting his next professional opportunity, Hodge was a sophomore in 2007, the season Freeze spent as wide receivers coach.
Freeze spent three seasons at Ole Miss under former coach Ed Orgeron. He was in an administrative position in 2005 and coached tight ends in 2006. He was the recruiting coordinator his last two seasons.
Hodge remembers Freeze as the wide receivers coach being very involved with game-planning.
Hodge says Orgeron and offensive coordinator Dan Werner allowed Freeze to help design ways to get the ball to playmakers like Dexter McCluster.
“Coach O and coach Werner picked his brain and got new ideas from him, and when we ran those plays in games, they were perfect,” Hodge said. “He had a play with five wides and said, ‘This is going to take out that safety, and we’ll bring Dex through the middle.’ When we ran that in the game it was wide open and went for a touchdown.”
Over the past two seasons, key Ole Miss players have been suspended for team rules violations, unable to get on the field and make plays.
In 2011 quarterback Randall Mackey (twice), offensive linemen Alex Washington and A.J. Hawkins, receivers Philander Moore and Korvic Neat and running backs Brandon Bolden and Jeff Scott all missed time with suspensions.
Mackey and Scott ranked first and second on the team in total offense when they, and Neat, were suspended for the final two games of the year.
“The discipline on our football team falls on my shoulders, period,” Freeze said. “We’ll have a coach that is in charge of each accountability group, and he’ll have a mixture of every single person from every different position on it. If someone in that group chooses not to do things the proper way, the right way, that whole group has to pay a price. It’s worked for me everywhere I’ve been in the last few years, particularly in the spring.”
The groups will begin when players return from Christmas break.
Suspensions cost Mackey three games this season. He would have been the Rebels’ starting quarterback in the season opener against Brigham Young if not for an Aug. 23 arrest on a disorderly conduct charge.
The second suspension kept him out of the LSU and Mississippi State games.
The list of offenders is lengthy, but all who have eligibility remaining have one thing in common now – a fresh start.
“I certainly don’t know all the discipline issues that were here, and quite frankly, I don’t want to get caught up in whatever happened in the past,” Freeze said. “These kids have a clean slate with me. What they do from this point forward is what they’ll be judged upon, unless there are things carrying over that we’ll have to address.”
When introduced on Monday, Freeze stressed the family aspect of football, players playing not for themselves but for their teammates.
He says he can administer discipline in a way that keeps the respect of the disciplined. Hodge agrees.
“It’s kind of weird to say he was nice and a disciplinarian too,” Hodge said. “He was not overbearing like coach O was. He was more like … just nice. He would talk to you and tell you life stuff and tell you about God like a father would. That makes you want to be a good person. It makes you want to do the right thing.”