Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin are just some of the names college football fans may think of when the term “coach of the year” is used. First year coach for Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze, has earned the right to be in that discussion as well.
The Rebels capped a five-game turnaround from 2011 to 2012 with a 38-17 win over Pitt in the BBVA Compass Bowl to finish the season 7-6. Ole Miss got out to a quick 14-0 start in the first quarter with the help of an interception from Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri, who played his final game with the program today.
Running back Ray Graham, Pitt’s leading rusher, missed the game because of an injury and freshman Rushel Shell filled in with 79 yards. Not that Graham would have changed the outcome of the game necessarily, but his absence represents what has helped Ole Miss over the past few months: catching a break or two.
The Rebels got some winnable early nonconference games while benefiting from bad years at Arkansas and Auburn. Ole Miss got close to few upsets against Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and LSU, but weren’t able to pull them off. If Freeze can recruit well — No.1 overall Robert Nkemdiche would be a nice start — the Rebels will start winning a few of those close games.
Based on the job he did in 2012, Freeze will be successful in Oxford.