5 Coaches Who Could Replace Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss
Now that the Hugh Freeze era at Ole Miss has come to a sudden end, who’ll be his long-term successor with the Rebels in 2018?
Hugh Freeze was forced to resign in disgrace, marking the final chapter of a volatile tenure at Ole Miss. Co-offensive coordinator Matt Luke will hold down the fort in 2017, while attempting to become more Clay Helton than Luke Fickell as interim coaches go. But who’ll be AD Ross Bjork’s permanent solution for the 2018 campaign and beyond? Like every other SEC athletic director, Bjork will be aiming high. However, his search is going to be hindered by looming NCAA penalties likely to scare off many of his top targets. In other words, Chip Kelly might look good on paper, but there’s no way one of the profession’s most coveted free agents would even consider this scandal-ridden tinderbox.
5. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
Anderson has quietly been tucked away in Jonesboro, Ark. and the Sun Belt Conference. However, his work with the Red Wolves has not been lost on decision-makers in the region. Anderson has had a winning record in each of his three seasons, going 15-1 in the conference the past two years. Arkansas State has been a launching pad for coaches in recent years, including Freeze, and Anderson could be next in line to make the leap to a higher profile gig.
4. Willie Fritz, Tulane
Fritz left a perfectly secure job at Georgia Southern to assume the Tulane rebuild, so he’s obviously undeterred by stiff challenges. He’d represent the adult in the room on a campus in dire need of veteran stability, and he’s won at every stop of a 25-year head-coaching career. The caveats to Fritz are that he’s never been a part of a major program and his ground-based system would mesh poorly with what Ole Miss has been trying to do on offense in recent years.
3. Neal Brown, Troy
If Bjork is searching for a fresh face to reboot his program, Brown would be a strong option. At only 37, he’s already bagged his first 10-win season as a head coach. And he’s been hailed as one of the game’s emerging offensive minds, going back to his days as a coordinator with Texas Tech and Kentucky. Brown’s third Trojan offense, fueled by QB Brandon Silvers, RB Jordan Chunn and WR Emanuel Thompson, could propel the coach back to the SEC in time for the start of the 2018 season.
2. Mike Norvell, Memphis
Norvell, like Brown, is a very young coach with a very high ceiling that should reach into a Power Five conference before too long. He’s just 35, but his reputation as an offensive coach and a developer of quarterbacks have him on the fast track within the coaching profession. Norvell got off to a decent start in his Memphis debut, winning eight, and the returns of QB Riley Ferguson and WR Anthony Miller could jolt the attack into a higher gear. It’ll help Norvell’s candidacy that he’s been recruiting a similar territory as Ole Miss over the past two years.
1. Les Miles, Free Agent
There are two distinctly different schools of thought regarding Miles and Ole Miss. Some suggest he’s too old, 63, and too resistant to offensive ingenuity and change. Others point out that the Rebs could do a lot worse than a motivated man who’s won a national championship and 62 career SEC games while at LSU. Miles clearly wants to get back on the sidelines, but does he want it badly enough to lead a program through yet-to-be-determined NCAA penalties? Who knows, but Bjork would have to at least gauge interest and entertain the possibility of giving Miles a platform for a second act in the West Division.