By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Reader’s Note: This column is a fictional account of a conversation between former Ole Miss football coaches. It didn’t take place.
OXFORD – What would they talk about if they all got together? Let’s imagine …
David Cutcliffe was getting settled with his coffee when the jingling bell caught his attention. He turned over his shoulder and saw the man of average height in the red Ole Miss golf shirt heading out to the Square.
“Who was that?” he asked.
Ed Orgeron answered enthusiastically. “Freeze,” he said. “He helped me get a pretty good player when I hired him to my staff.”
“I almost hired him,” said Houston Nutt, and the annual summer meeting of former 21st Century Ole Miss football coaches was under way.
Nutt, in fact, had the chance to retain Hugh Freeze, the Rebels’ current head coach, when he replaced Orgeron, who replaced Cutcliffe – all in a span of seven years.
“Sounds like he’s been getting a lot of players lately,” said Cutcliffe.
His own tenure ended in what the administration described as a talent drain following the departure of Eli Manning.
Recruiting was a priority in the transition that followed, and Orgeron brought that to the table.
“I taught him everything he knows,” Orgeron said, a statement with some measure of truth.
In fact Freeze, at his introductory press conference/celebration spoke of learning about recruiting from Orgeron.
Ultimately recruiting is about relationships. Freeze and Orgeron have different personalities and probably different approaches to building those relationships.
Freeze is welcoming a consensus top 10 class this summer and has a bit of summer momentum with a 2014 class ranked No. 11 by Rivals.com.
“It’s about more than recruiting,” Nutt chimed in. “You gotta keep ’em in the program, keep ’em healthy and off the suspension list.”
Support from your peeps is important, too. This spring Freeze completed his second “Rebel Road Trip” with new Ole Miss athletics director Ross Bjork.
The implied message is unity between football and the administration where that was often questioned when the three guys at the table worked with former AD Pete Boone.
“Bjork … I bet it’s good times working with that fella,” Nutt said, drawing an amen from Cutcliffe.
The caffeine was working its magic with Orgeron, and he jumped back into the conversation.
“I think Freeze is doing a great job, but right now he’s only won for one season, and the SEC is brutal,” said Orgeron, who won three conference games in three years.
“Absolutely. Toughest conference in America,” Nutt agreed.
Cutcliffe offered a few final thoughts before the meeting broke up.
“Those early road games are going to be extremely difficult. ‘Get Better Monday’ will be important. His players will have to be warriors to improve on last year’s success, but he’s hired a good staff. If he continues to treat them right they’ll be loyal, and that chemistry will help along the journey.”
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at InsideOleMissSports.com.