Category Archives: SEC Media Days

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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.

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Guidelines of Tweeting Recruits….

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It’s finally here!! The eve of National Signing Day for college football  recruits. Many of you have waited for this day ever since the regular season was over. Many of you have seen, talked, tweeted about your opinions  on creeps/creepers out there when it comes to tweeting at/to recruits so I figured we would give you some guidelines of what you should and shouldn’t do when tweeting recruits.

But let us first remember these kids get on social media for the attention and they love it. If they didn’t want the attention they wouldn’t be on social media asking “show me some love” at a particular school/fan base. Not to mention the negative stuff they see I would assume they just look over and keep on going.  Even though these are kids, they aren’t dumb or naive enough to have social media sway their future life changing decision.

Dont’s:

  1. Promises to get him laid.                                                                                             -Why do you think it’s a great idea to promise or tell a recruit that you can get him laid? The truth is you probably can’t get laid yourself, so just don’t.
  2. Show your assets!                                                                                                           -Ladies no need to show your tits or cleavage to a recruit via tweet.
  3. Negative shots at a recruit.                                                                                       -If they don’t pick your school, why do you feel the need to tweet negative comments to them?
  4. Negativity tweets about Rival Schools                                                             -If a recruit is looking at your rival school and NOT your school at all don’t be that guy that tracks them and sends them delusions of grandeur lies/rumors about said rival school. You look like an even bigger toolbag than normal.
  5. Try to be their best friends.                                                                                        -You don’t care about this kid so don’t pretend you have his best interest in mind.
  6. Using Faith or Religion.                                                                                               -Now there is NOTHING wrong with you professing your faith if you you’re going to live it but if you use it in some attempt to use it as a recruiting tool, you’ve got bigger issues in life that you need to address… and PLEASE don’t give me I’m being a hypocrite while you profess you’re a christian in your bio all the while you’re tearing down a recruit, constantly cussing/slandering your so called “rival” twitter handles.

Acceptable things to do:

  1. Tweet AT them.                                                                                                              -Its okay to tweet at them. Meaning “Would love to have “Recruit Name” stop by campus for a visit.
  2. Congratulate them on their accomplishments
  3. Congratulate them on their signing decision                                                 -Once they have committed somewhere congratulate them and move on. There is no point for you to belittle a kid for not choosing your school or your rival school as mentioned above. MOVE ON!!!

Don’t give me an “It’s wrong” or it’s a “NCAA violation” crap. Bottom line with NCAA, they can’t govern their own selves much less try to monitor every single piece of social media out there.  Social Media and Recruits are here to stay. As hard as it is for me to say, like it, deal with it or ignore all together. But don’t sit there and say you’ll ignore it and troll the people who do it.  So take note people and start doing right!

#TheNetwork

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Ole Miss Is the Last Group That Should Ever Criticize Hype or Heisman Campaign

All off- season long the hype has been building around Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott.  After his comeback performance against rival Mississippi and his bowl game efforts, along with many memorable moments in 2013 as a “part time quarterback”, many around the country have taken notice of the 6-3 235lb quarterback and his skill set. Some have even tagged him a possible Heisman Trophy contender.

Prescott continued to build momentum off the field at SEC Media Days this week as more and more people are buying in to “Dak”.

Do I personally think Dak Prescott will win the Heisman Trophy?  Probably not but, do I think he can have one heck of a season and help Mississippi State climb the ladder in the SEC West?  Absolutely.

But – when a player’s name is out there like Prescott’s it’s good for the kid, the school, the brand and more.

We see this every year, where fan bases grab hold of a player or two and they become superstars.  Prescott just happens to be one of those guys in 2014 and to his credit he has earned it.

But, with big time praise comes big time criticism and typically the first place you get it is from your rival.

Ole Miss fans have moaned and belly ached since January calling Prescott a fraud, no good and screaming to anyone that will listen that he is NOT worthy of praise.

All of this will work itself out here in just a few months but, the last group that should ever criticize hype or Heisman campaign is Ole Miss.

If you looked up hype in the dictionary it would probably be painted in red and blue.  Since 1971 Ole Miss has been for the most part an average, to below average SEC football program and since the East-West merger Ole Miss is the only school in the West to not play for an SEC Championship, (Yes Texas A&M hasn’t either but, this is their third year in the league).

Yet behind all that, every year is THE year for Ole Miss and if you don’t believe them, just ask them.

Last year was going to be “the rising of the Rebels” as Seph Anderson and others proclaimed 2013 was the year of the Rebel.

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Of course we all know how last year panned out.  But we’ve seen this countless times before.

In the late nineties, Ole Miss launched a campaign  for running back Deuce McCallister for the Heisman Trophy and while McCallister ended up a New Orleans Saints great, he only produced one season of over 1,000 yards rushing while at Mississippi.

 

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In 2009 Ole Miss officially launched the Jevan Sneed for Heisman campaign and even launched a University run web site that can be seen here. 

Stickers were bought, hype was made and even Sports Illustrated jumped on the band wagon.

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Sneed finished the 2009 season with 20 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

And how can we ever forget about Brent Schaeffer.  Schaeffer joined the Mississippi football team after spending time at Tennessee and when Schaeffer enrolled in Oxford, you would have thought the second coming had arrived.

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Schaeffer finished his two year Rebel carrier with a modest 2,000-passing yards and 14 touchdowns while throwing 14 interceptions.

Finally there was Jeremiah Masoli, the transfer from Oregon that was going to rectify the program while winning the Heisman Trophy.

Masoli finished his Rebel carrier by throwing for 2,039-yards and 14-touchdowns and 13-interceptions.

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If there was ever a school or fan base that should never criticize another about hype – it’s Ole Miss.

Back to Prescott,  his hype and attention has been all fan and media driven.  Most all of Ole Miss hype is backed by the university.

Mississippi State has yet to officially release a website, sticker or statement backing a Prescott for Heisman campaign.

Yet still, the Prescott love is driving Ole Miss fans and media crazy.

So much so that even the Ole Miss Clarion Ledger beat writer Hugh Kellenburger got involved yesterday with a piece discrediting Prescott.  That can be read here.  You know you’ve really gotten under a fan bases skin when a supposedly unbiased news paper writes a piece, trying to discredit a rival school.

So the argument will continue for a few more weeks then the season will begin and we will see – is Prescott worth the praise or not?

One thing is for sure in all of this,  all of the Prescott love is driving Ole Miss fans crazy and I can promise you they are praying Prescott fails.

After-all, how ironic would it be for the school that lives on hype, might have to watch their rival actually have someone that lives up to it.  This is the perfect case of pot meet kettle.

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Recapping SEC Media Days – Mississippi State

Mississippi State took to the podium yesterday at the 2014 SEC Media Days and while the setting was the same, the feel was different.

Dan Mullen, Bendardrick McKinney, Jay Hughes and Dak Prescott talked about expectations, handling those expectations and what they want out of the 2014 season.

Quarterback Dak Prescott summed it up best when asked by a CBS reporter what he expects from the 2014 Bulldogs and Prescott did not hesitate.

CBS: “What are your expectations for the season?”

Dak: “Win every game.”

With 18-returning starters and a ton of momentum coming off the end of the 2013 season, this team is dead serious about their expectations and they aren’t the only ones believing that 2014 could be a big year for the Bulldogs.

ESPN Released their projections of how they feel the SEC West will shake out and they are also high on the Bulldogs.

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The grandest sports network of all has the Bulldogs third, behind only Auburn and Alabama.  The Bulldogs took both teams to the wire last year.

It’s also to note that sports writer Tom Luginbill released his top quarterbacks in the SEC and he is high on Dak Prescott heading into 2014.

Continue here. 

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Bielema snipes at Pinkel over ‘fiction’ comments

HOOVER, Ala. — If you’re ever cornered in an alley with a hoard of machete-wielding bandits bearing down on you, better hope you have Arkansas coach Bret Bielema on speed dial.

Bielema sniped at yet another coach Wednesday who dared to slander his view on up-tempo college football offenses as it relates to player safety.

Since before the rules committee shoved the 10-second pace of play rule into the carbon freezing chamber, Bielema, its most vocal supporter, has faced a slew of haymakers, both direct and indirect.

Either Bielema is the kind of fellow who refuses to admit he’s wrong, like Ron Burgundy in Anchorman, or he genuinely believes uptempo offenses are deadly. No matter how much pushback he’s gotten, he hasn’t budged.

“Have I softened my view of fast-paced offenses? The only thing I’m going to say to that, if you ask me in that tense, you’re asking me have I softened my view on player safety,” Bielema said. “The answer would be no. If I recruit somebody, bring them into my family, I’m going to do everything in my power to make … player safety a premium in our program.”

Last year, Bielema got into a chippy philosophical disagreement with Auburn coach Gus Malzahn that spilled over to the season. Wednesday’s media day featured Bielema vs. Gary Pinkel.

Earlier in the day, Pinkel called the notion of fast-paced offenses presenting additional safety concerns for players “fiction.” In so many words, he said it’s ludicrous to suggest that the in-vogue offense is dangerous to players.

A reporter made sure to inform Bielema of the comments.

“Not to carry from last year, but I’m probably more of a reality-based movie guy more than fiction, I guess,” Bielema said. “I think I deal more in what I know, what I see, what I believe.”

First, anyone wondering about Bielema’s assimilation into the culture of the Southeastern Conference can rest easy. The lip-service caveat is as Southern as it gets. (For those of you who live in the area, how often have you heard the tagline “bless his heart” attached to the end of a sentence, as if it somehow mitigates whatever ad hominem preceded it?)

Continue here.