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Ole Miss Rebels at Alabama 2015: What Would A Win Today Mean For Ole Miss

Ole Miss enters today’s battle with mortal enemy Alabama with a chance to make history.

The Rebels from North Mississippi rarely have the chance to beat Alabama two years in a row.  Ole Miss has only beat Alabama three times in the last 20 years.

Eli Manning beat ‘Bama two of three years with impressive home wins but even he got blasted in Tuscaloosa, 42-7 in 2002.

The vaunted Cotton Bowl teams of 2008,2009 never beat ‘Bama once, so Chad Kelly steps into a bright spotlight today hoping to complete a tag team series with Bo Wallace over Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin.

Bo Wallace struggled last year in Oxford without much of a running game, willing his team against the odds.  Down 17-10 in the fourth quarter Wallace tossed two touchdowns over the last six minutes of the game and still needed two Alabama turnovers to eek out a 23-17 win last year.

bo wallace alabama

Today’s match up in Tuscaloosa is likely to be a very similar format.  Expect Alabama and Derrick Henry to come out early and pop Ole Miss in the mouth.

Ole Miss’ defense has to play even better than last year without the home field advantage (and the Alabama refs…. cough, cough).   And Ole Miss’ offense can not make mistakes.

The Rebels win this game if first year starter Jake Coker cannot pass on Ole Miss or if Ole Miss can be a balanced offense and run the dang football.

Hugh Freeze has a great opportunity.  Derrick Henry couldn’t run for over 50 yards against Ole Miss last year and so far Alabama QB Jake Coker has not proved he is much of a scoring threat, with only two touchdowns in the first two games.

If all the dominos fall into place today for Ole Miss, I think you better strap on a seat belt for the rest of this season, cause it will be a wild ride!

Ole Miss is four quarters from being the favorite to win the SEC outright.

Ole Miss is four quarters from being a favorite to be CFB playoff team.

Ole Miss is four quarters from Hugh Freeze becoming the best coach in the nation for what he has accomplished in just over three years.

Ole Miss is four quarters from Chad Kelly getting a recording contract and a rap album (probably).

I can’t emphasize enough what the next four quarters means to Ole Miss, the program, the fan base and this state.

Mississippi, always the runt of the SEC litter, will be the big boys.

Will the spotlight be too much for a emotional, young quarterback that has not played an SEC game ever?  Will the revenge factor and the Alabama home luck be too much to overcome, like so many years in the past for Ole Miss?

We will find out in just four short quarters.

As for me, I am ready to light this couch up!

old couch

#HottyDamnToddy #BeatBama


Spruce Derden, USA Today Sports, September 27, 2014

Ole Miss 2011: The Year That Would Change Everything

2011 was a rock-bottom year of disappointment and embarrassment for the Ole Miss program.

The 2010 Houston Nutt led Ole Miss Rebels had just finished 4-8 on the season. They lost to FCS foe Jacksonville St. and going into 2011, had no true identity on either side of the ball.

Rebel Nation morale was at an all-time low.  The “Forward Rebels” Campaign was splitting the fan base and no one knew where they wanted the program to go.

The 2011 season started off just as 2010 had ended, with inconsistent play, academically ineligible players, and fans calling for Houston Nutt’s job.

When Nutt was fired at the end of 2011 after a devastating 2-10 season, it gave the fans hope and excitement with some high profile coaches available, such as Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach. But the coach chosen for the job was a young coach from Arkansas State University by the name of Hugh Freeze. Everyone, admittedly even myself was like “Hugh who”?

Hugh Freeze, best known as a high school football and women’s basketball coach at Memphis’ Briarcrest Christian (94-30) had only been a D1 head football coach for only one season (10-2 Arkansas State 2011) before being named as the Ole Miss head coach.

A lot of Rebel fans were simply not yet sold on the guy. He would have to prove himself, against impossible odds. Ole Miss’ program was in shambles. As many as 25 players were in danger of academic probation and Ole Miss plays in the best division of the best conference in the nation.

Hugh began as very humble and honest, saying at the time that it would take him 3 years to put together a bowl team. Fast-forward to November 24, 2012 and the Rebels beat MSU for the first time since 2008, and Ole-Miss became bowl eligible for the first time since the 2009 season.

The program was immediately back on track, fans were happy and traveled in droves to Birmingham for the Compass Bowl. Top recruits were starting to inquire about Ole Miss. The downtrodden Ole Miss fans were happy with a 7 win season, but still had no idea of what was yet to come. From 2012 to now, Hugh Freeze has had 3 top 25 recruiting classes, (Consensus top 10 in 2013) two bowl wins, and has beaten every SEC west opponent at least once in his tenure, including the famous Alabama win in 2014.

At Tuscaloosa Alabama today, Ole Miss is again the underdog, but not quite as much as in years past. It’s nothing the Rebels should worry about, as the Independence, MS Native Freeze has been an underdog all of his life.  With great confidence, hard work, and the motto “Win the Day”; no matter the outcome Saturday night Ole Miss has arrived. They are not only a top 15 Football program but just as important; there is a unified fan base. Coach Freeze has proved he belongs here, he has proven he can win in the SEC.

Today, win or lose, Hugh Freeze has changed everything in Oxford and you better believe that the best is yet to come.

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END OF AN ERA: Can Beat Writers Survive Social Media?

If the pen is mightier than the sword, the ultimate weapon must be a message board.

Nowhere else can you so quickly and effectively shape public opinion in the world of sports. If I could capitalize on free, worthless information, I would be posting this from my Destin beach house!

Let’s just face it, newspapers are the worst. Right? If you are a sports fan (of any team) you have likely convinced yourself that your local newspaper is owned by your rival.

(This article originally ran in

It’s one of the only things that Ole Miss fans have in common with all other fans. We all think the newspaper hates our team. It’s a clue to the fact that all fans are the same, fanatical to a fault and incapable of objectivity.

If you are a real, “degreed” journalist you likely scoff at the idea that the public would dare question your integrity and professional ethics.

Today, large newspapers are filled with ambitious 25 year olds that have likely never visited your college campus prior to being hired by your local paper. The idea that there is some sort of given bias for or against your school is really just a fantasy in your mind.

Your beat writer doesn’t hate your school. He is just being honest and that does not align with our base sensibilities.

Reality is a bitter pill and truth is no one’s friend. While those sayings are constant and 100% true; being brutally honest doesn’t really sell papers anymore.

Since the advent of free websites and keyboards, people have more options to read than fish-wrap to read every morning.

When I became a sports fan in the late 80’s there was virtually zero information during the summer about my favorite team. Recruiting was followed by the coaches that recruited. I assume beat writers prior to the 90’s had the same schedule as school teachers and great golf scores.

I longed for the Athlon’s and Lindy’s preseason magazines and would read them over and over during the summer until I basically had them memorized.

The information coming from a college town during the summer was slower than Billy Brewer’s drawl. The less information that got out during “arrest” season, the better for the coaches and the writers back then made sure to protect those relationships.

Now, stories are broken by college kids with a twitter account that saw the cops arrest the athlete in their dorm, complete with video of the arrest and extended commentary afterward. You no longer have to wait for the SID’s press conference 10 days later regarding “internal punishment” and all details have been expunged from the record.

Recruiting “gurus” have further turned the profession on its ear. Recruiting “news” is the exact opposite of what vetted news was like 20 years ago. The fewer details and the more exaggerated the claim the better actually.  At some point; the more the sites unfairly hyped players, the more money the “gurus” made.

I don’t know when the tipping point was reached but 2015 is clearly beyond the control of the beat writer. At the Clarion-Ledger, both MSU and Ole Miss beat writers have been roundly excommunicated by their fan bases for essentially reporting the news.  (Riley Blevins and Mike Bonner many times)

I know every Ole Miss fan thought Rick Cleveland was secretly a fan of MSU or USM back in the day but oh how we long for a Rick Cleveland today. We will never have that familiarity from a beat writer or editorial staff again.

On one hand, we have never had a time when the beat writers were more honest and un-biased towards our respective schools but at the same time; subscriptions have never been lower.

I am not blaming the current newspaper staff.  Nor am I saying they could even do anything to change their fate. This is just where technology is taking us today.

People want to get mass quantities of information and ideally with a tinge of propaganda, and if they can’t get that they will at least settle for negative news about their rival. The money spent on website subscriptions justify this form of journalism. It’s what the market demands. It’s what the people want.

Fox Sports Regional websites have seen heavy editorial layoffs. ESPN is slashing budgets in half or even deeper, Gannett has been liquidating their most top heavy talent from USA Today and replicating that process down to even the smallest market of Jackson, MS.

If you are looking for the worst examples of what passes for “journalism” today look no farther than fan sites such as Maroon and White Nation or Elite Dawgs. In the world of sports writing it is the Highlights-for-Kids equivalent. I have a hard time even saying they are MSU based outlets because they have as much Ole Miss related content as MSU.

But this is what fans like. M&W Nation was the #1 read Fansided blog last fall. This type of ridiculous, fan-centric, click baiting is what most fans read.  Apparently.

The big generic corporations can’t or either refuse to adapt to the blog site format. The audience is too fractured, there are too many outlets and fans certainly don’t care about the opinions of talking heads from New York or DC. There is no money to be made from twitter users.  Why would they pay a subscription fee when they get their high fives and chuckles for free on a blog site or a message board?

So what is the future?  Where is this going?

In the past we had very few media sources. Now we have too many choices.  Perhaps the future is the laziest option possible; being force fed information without paying or even searching for it.

The “Team Stream” concept from Bleacher Report or ESPN which aggregates news and social media and sends it to your phone at a moment’s notice as twitter and game scores break. Of course it uses mainly computer algorithms and very few flesh and blood experienced writers to put out an enormous amount of content daily.

It is likely this type of zero-effort social media content will also spell the end of the micro-market subscription sports services and message boards as well.

I guess you live by the sword and you die by the sword, but I won’t cry when M&W or Elite Dawgs dies.

freeze nascar

OLE MISS SEC MEDIA DAYS: Hugh Freeze Embraces Celebrity Status

Story originally featured in Rebel Nation Magazine

In many ways, Ole Miss’ head coach Hugh Freeze is an unlikely success story.

Relatively few private school coaches break through to the college ranks, much less to be a head coach of an SEC school.

He doesn’t have the pedigree of a Lane Kiffin and he can’t fall back on the coaching tree of a famous head coach (He is in the Orgeron coaching tree for goodness sakes).

Freeze has had to force his way into the limelight in virtually every job. He begged Orgeron for a position at Ole Miss at a big pay cut to prove himself. The son of a high school football coach and dairy farmer he knew all about hard work and Orgeron taught him the recruiting game.

But something Orgeron never completely embraced was marketing yourself. Every good coach has a bit of a politician in them. While the press can be a double edged sword, the media can certainly be used to help your program just as easily as it can turn against you.

Eight years after his first SEC job, Hugh Freeze has embraced his celebrity status as a SEC head coach and it is one of the reasons he has been so successful in his first three years at Ole Miss.

2015, is a new age of college football.

While some old football junkies will tell you there is nothing new under the sun in college football, the “old school” days of hard-as-nails coaches do not have as much success today.

The 1950’s crew cuts and the Bear Bryant “Junction Boys” style of play and practice won’t get you as far today. The players and fans don’t respond to it. Today is a new age, a different time.

Today, a head coach’s every move is instantly broadcast by the media and/or by fans on social media. There is no hiding injuries, or style of play from the media or opposing teams.

You can’t hide anything about your program from potential recruits in today’s world. So, rather than fight the system, Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss has embraced it and are producing great multimedia work that helps to improve the national impression of the program and bring more recruits to the school.

It is genius because with the media’s help, there is a snowball effect that helps Ole Miss improve faster, over time.

Of course there are some things you can plan and some you cannot that have helped Freeze become a media darling.

For one, you can enter the SEC coach’s golf tournament but you can’t fake winning the long drive contest, or you can’t luck up and win the SEC spring meeting tournament.

You can only ride the attention from a Hollywood movie like The Blind Side for so long until you need some wins on the field. Freeze has backed it up by getting a #3 national ranking in only his third year.

Coach Freeze is also taking calculated steps to broaden his appeal. This year he served as the pace car driver at Talladega and has included large regional churches in his speaking circuit this offseason. You might see him at the opening of a Bass Pro Shop in Memphis, doing missionary work in Haiti or calling randomly to the Paul Finebaum radio show.

“Celebrity” is something of a given for the head coach of a major college program but what makes Hugh Freeze so appealing is he is not trying to be something he is not.

Over time, people can see through you if you are faking it. Hugh Freeze is a Mississippi boy and people here understand that and can easily relate to him.

This is a head coach that goes bass fishing barefoot and tweets his photos immediately for everyone to see. You feel like he is your next door neighbor. Freeze broke out a terrible celebratory break dance in the locker room after winning the Music City Bowl in 2013 but it was honest and fun.

He spends a certain amount of time on twitter to respond and converse with fans. Very few multi-million dollar coaches allow this type of personal access and it pays off.

In short order, Ole Miss under Hugh Freeze has transformed from the zero SEC-win season to a preseason top 15 team with high expectations. Ole Miss has historically had a hard time beating MSU for in-state recruiting battles, now they are pulling the top players out of Florida, Georgia and Texas.

Is Hugh Freeze a salesman?  In a way; yes. But the best salesman are just honest and they know their product and they know their market.

Coach Freeze adapts his play calling to his players. He adapts his rhetoric and his motivation to the situation at hand. So many coaches have a “my way or the highway” philosophy which doesn’t work in all situations.

Freeze has a “we work together” system and players and fans can trust that he will find a way to be successful.

Even old school coaches will tell you the best coaches can, “Take his and beat yours and take yours and beat his” (the immortal words of Bum Phillips). That is a perfect description for Hugh Freeze.  Some coaches might work harder but Freeze also works smarter and will find that edge to make his team better.

Players recognize that and trust him with their future.

Hugh Freeze is the perfect person to lead Ole Miss, he is from Mississippi and he knows how to sell Mississippi. He doesn’t fight with the media like some in the SEC. He won’t hide injuries or try to limit access to his program.

The celebrity aspect of Hugh Freeze is a big part of the success of his program and it appears the best is yet to come for Ole Miss.




For several weeks now, I’ve read so many articles that explain why MSU will finish 6th or 7th in the SEC Western division.

I read these same articles last preseason. I’ve read a lot of “MSU just doesn’t have enough to compete in 2014″, and “Mullen has not recruited well enough to win big in Starkville.” Well, we all know how that ended, don’t we?

As I scan over the 2015 preseason articles, it amazes me how they always begin with “this MSU team lost too many starters to repeat the 2014 season” and end with “the MSU staff just has not recruited well enough to lose that much talent and compete again in 2015″

For one, that’s the media being extremely lazy. Last year it was “Dan Mullen could not win big because he hadn’t recruited well enough,” and now it’s “he can’t win because the Bulldogs lost too much talent”.

Well, according to recruiting gurus and the star ranking system, the players replacing last years starters in 2015 are far more talented, aren’t they?

Help me out here. It can’t be both ways, so which is it? Something just isn’t adding up.

Secondly, this MSU team returns the undisputed best quarterback in the SEC, and possibly in the entire nation. That itself should count for something, right?

Nope, not with today’s media, which is either lazy or blind. You make the call.


Last but not least, when you actually take the time and do a little research, the Bulldogs didn’t lose as many starters as it might seem. At first glance, most don’t realize that. So, I appeal to the media with this: “Dig a little deeper, guys, it’s not that hard.”

Will we win the SEC? Probably not. In my opinion, however, our chances are greater this year than they were last year. Dan Mullen has silently built a program that will have sustained success. I’m going to go ahead and predict that the world will realize exactly that fact in 2015.

And because nine out of ten media members are lazy, I’ve decided to dig a little deeper for you. You can thank me later. Actually, just wait until the 2015 season has come to a close. I’ll accept your, “thank you” then.


Starter lost:
Blaine Clausell: 2*

Martinas Rankin 4* or
Rufus Warren 3*

Losing a 4 year starter at left tackle normally isn’t the best thing in the world to have happen, but Rankin comes in as a highly rated juco prospect, and Warren had a very solid spring. Rankin was not able to secure the left tackle position during the spring.

Trust me, it’s not because he’s a bust. Rufus isn’t going to go away that easily. The kid has the size and athleticism to play in the NFL. He gained much needed experience last season after moving over from tight end. Left tackle will be a strength in 2015.

Starter lost:
Ben Beckwith 0* walkon.

Devon Desper 3*

Ben may not have even started a game last year if Jamal Clayborn had not been injured and hadn’t had a few personal issues on top of that. Don’t misunderstand me. Ben did a fabulous job, but Desper has much more upside and even started against Texas A&M last year. Desper graded out very well in that game. He’s no newcomer to SEC football.

Starter lost:
Dillon Day 2*

Jamaa Clayborn 3*

Jamaal has started before so this will not be anything new to him. This guy has tremendous upside. Jamaal will be a stud in 2015, if not an all-SEC performer. Day was a terrific player for the Bulldogs and a tough son-of-a-gun, but his talent level doesn’t compare to that of Jamaal Clayborn. I’m very high on this young man.


Starter lost:
Robert Johnson 4*

Fred Brown 3* or
Joe Morrow 3* or
Donald Gray 4*

This position is loaded. Actually every wide receiver position is loaded in 2015. Did anyone ever think that they would see the day where the rebels and Bulldogs had the top two wide receiver units in the SEC? I know I didn’t, but that could very well be the case in 2015. Fortunately we have the best quarterback in the SEC throwing it to ours.

Any three of these guys could start here next year. Gray has the most upside, but he’s the least experienced one. Morrow will be the starter much like Robert was in 2015 (only on the depth chart). Morrow came up big the last few games of the year, but Gray and Brown are the future here, and that future is bright.

Starter lost:
Jameon Lewis 2*

Fred Ross 4*

This is a massive upgrade. Again, unless you have done your homework, then you wouldn’t know this. Ross is the reason Jameon never gained his normal playing time after he healed last year. Fred Ross is a stud. Do not be surprised if he’s an All-SEC performer and our best receiver in 2015. I know that’s a bold statement with a guy like De’ Runnya Wilson on your team, but it could pan-out to be true.


Starter lost:
Malcolm Johnson 2*

Gus Walley 3* or
Darrion Hutcherson 3* or
Shelby Christy 3* or
BJ Hammond 3*

There are tons of options here, but Malcolm was very good. Walley is a better pass catcher than Malcolm, but Malcolm was a good football player with a high IQ. This is the toughest loss on offense by a wide margin. We “might” lose a little here, but then again we might not.

Starter lost:
Josh Robinson 3*

Ashton Shumpert 4* or
Aeris Williams 4* or
Dontavian Lee 3*

This unit will be a strength in 2015. There is a reason J-Rob lost carries at the end of last year. That reason is Ashton Shumpert. He may not even be the starter by mid season. There is tons of talent at running back, and if you’re a die-hard MSU fan, you know that you should never worry about this position. We are always good here. I don’t expect that to change in 2015.


Starter lost:
Jay Hughes 3*

Jamal Peters 4* or
Brandon Bryant 3*

Safety was a nightmare for the Bulldogs last year. Injuries, inexperience, and suspensions took its toll by year’s end. I fully expect that to change in 2015. Kivon Coleman locked down one safety position in the spring. His inexperience showed at times last year and at other times he looked very good. I fully expect him to be a different player this year.

At the other safety spot, either Peters or Bryant have superstar potential. Both will be freshmen in 2015, but there’s no denying their gift from God. Don’t be surprised if these two guys aren’t both starting at the safety position by mid season. Safety is a position that will be much improved next year.


Starter lost:
Bernardrick Mckinney 2*

Richie Brown 3* or
Gerri Green 4*

Richie will start and will be a solid linebacker for the Bulldogs before he leaves school, but Gerri Green is the future. This young man is a monster. He has B-Macs size and freak athleticism and he is a sideline to sideline guy. Barring injury, I don’t expect Gerri to stick around for a Senior season. He is that talented. At times we will see both of these guys on the field at the same time. Linebacker, like running back, should never be a concern for any MSU fan.


Starter lost:
Matt Wells 4*

Zack Jackson 3*
JT Gray 3*
Traver Jung 4*

“Cheetah” will be the toughest player to replace on the defense. I expect Zack to be the starter as far as the depth chart goes because he’s a senior, but Gray & Jung are the two who will play the most. They are highly athletic kids with great speed. I’m afraid to say which one will end the year as a starter, but I will say this position is easily three deep.

Starter lost:
Preston Smith 2*

AJ Jefferson 4*

Preston will not be easy to replace, but who outside of the MSU fan base even knew who this guy was last preseason?

His replacement? AJ Jefferson and please remember this name. Much like Preston, he is a very good candidate for a breakout year as a Junior. His motor is non stop and AJ makes up for his size with athleticism. Again, remember the name AJ Jefferson, because I have a good feeling that rival coaches already know the name after the spring that he had.

Starter lost:
Kaleb Eulls 4*

Chris Jones 5*

Much like Robert Johnson & several other “starters” on last years depth chart, Kaleb was just that. A depth chart starter. Kaleb did play a whole lot, but there’s no denying that Chris Jones is a major upgrade here. That’s not a shot at Kaleb, because Chris Jones would be an upgrade to almost every other defensive tackle in the SEC. He’s had a solid first two years in Starkville, but in 2015 he puts himself in talks of being a top five or top ten pick. The talent level and tools this young man possess are rivaled by no other defensive tackle in the country. In 2015 you will see just that.


Starter lost:
PJ Jones 4*

Nick James 4* or
Nelson Adams 3* or
Cory Thomas 3*

If spring is any indication of Nick James, then it looks like the switch has flipped. If that carries over, then this is a massive upgrade as well. PJ, like Kaleb had a very solid career at MSU. They provided a lot of experience last year and that was big, but these guys aren’t nearly as talented as their predecessors.

With that said, Nick isn’t a lock to be a starter. Both Nelson Adams and Cory Thomas will have a say in that. Nelson has a non stop motor and is a very difficult match-up whether he’s on the inside or outside. I love to watch him play football.

Cory on the other hand is a Chris Jones clone as far as build and skills. You put the same number on those two and put them on the field at the same time and you probably couldn’t figure out which is which. Am I saying Cory Thomas will be as good as Chris Jones before he leaves Starkville? No. What I am saying is that he has a opportunity to be that good. It will be up to him and what he’s willing to put into it. This guy’s size/speed/athleticism combination is off the charts.


Okay media, I’ve done the research for you. Now it’s your turn to take it and run. There’s a lot of talent returning in Starkville. In fact I would argue that the 2015 bulldog team is more talented than the 2014 bulldog team. I think I would be correct.

Don’t keep looking at last years depth chart and assume we cannot compete because of the starters we lost. It is quite simply misleading. Don’t be foolish and ignorant. Do your homework and you will know that the number one quarterback in the nation isn’t lacking talent behind him. In fact, he’s the leader of a more talented team. The ball is in your court. Let’s see if you take advantage of it or will you again underestimate MSU, like it is the MSU of the past?

Wake up – not only to the reality of talent on this bulldog team, but to the ability of Dan Mullen and his staff as well or you’ll be looking like foolish, AGAIN!