Hoover, Ala. -- "I'm a realist," said Mississippi's Hugh Freeze, perhaps the coach this year's assembly is the least familiar with. "Our program is in a spot none of us are happy with."
And then the recruitment began. Eli Manning still loves Oxford, the Rebels have won SEC championships before, Oxford is the nation's best college town, Patrick Willis and Michael Oher went there, and if the gathered reporters "wanna tweet that out, that would be great." Consider it tweeted.
But by no means is Freeze unaware of his challenge. He talked repeatedly about renewing accountability and various beatitudes in a messy program. At least attrition shouldn't be anywhere near what some had feared, thanks to a major reshuffling of the athletic department's academic protocols. As for the number of players in grades trouble, "We have serious concerns about four kids."
"Winning the day," Freeze said, "is the process of getting out of the wilderness."
It sounds as if at least half the depth chart is solid, despite Freeze's apparent admission that Arkansas State had more depth last year than his new team does. "Defensively, we've got some quality leaders," he said, "and offensively, I think we've got to get more." As expected, Barry Brunetti and Bo Wallace will compete for the quarterback job, perhaps even "early into the season." Officially, they're "co-No. 1s." Freeze listed defensive back Charles Sawyer first among team leaders, calling him a workout maniac.
"In 2013, they're on our schedule," Freeze said of South Carolina, whose coach cracked two days ago that he wishes he got to play the Rebels instead of LSU. "We will circle that date, and look forward to changing his perspective on Ole Miss football."
But first, the 2012 schedule, which is the SEC's toughest. Freeze finds light even in the impending Longhorns, naming that game as a possible College GameDay destination.
The freshly announced four-year series with Memphis feels like a run of home games to Freeze, as Memphis is as much Mississippi as it is Tennessee. Playing so close also frees up a little bit more recruiting budget, in addition to maintaining Ole Miss' presence the nearest big city.
Your updated Recruitedness Power Rankings, in which we rank how recruited we feel to each program after each coach has taken the podium:
- John L. Smith
- Steve Spurrier
- James Franklin
- Les Miles
- Derek Dooley
- Kevin Sumlin
- Nick Saban
- Will Muschamp
- Dan Mullen
- Hugh Freeze
- Joker Phillips
- Gary Pinkel
- Gene Chizik