What is Hugh Freeze doing over at Ole Miss?

Why is Hugh Freeze having so much success at Ole Miss? I thought he could recruit well there but top 10?

Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst, left, congratulates Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze following the BBVA Compass Bowl NCAA college football game at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. Mississippi won 38-17. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst, left, congratulates Mississippi head coach Hugh Freeze following the BBVA Compass Bowl NCAA college football game at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. Mississippi won 38-17. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

MEMPHIS – People who live and breathe college

football recruiting for a living can’t recall if they’ve seen anything like it.

“I don’t think even (Kentucky coach) John Calipari in

basketball has done what Hugh Freeze has a chance to do, and that’s get three of the top three players in the country at their positions,” said JD Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247sports.com. “You might have to go back to Michigan signing the Fab Five in basketball (in 1991) to find anything comparable.”

A 7-6 season in Freeze’s first year as Rebels’ head coach last season has apparently placed his program on a speeding train toward the top of the various recruiting service standings. With signing day on Wednesday, Ole Miss, not far removed from the 2010-11 seasons when it was a combined 1-15 in the SEC, has a solid chance to have its first top 10 recruiting class.

Freeze has a commitment from five-star wide receiver Laquoin Treadwell, ranked as Rivals.com best high school receiver in the nation. Already enrolled in school at Ole Miss is defensive tackle Lavon Hooks, the nation’s No. 1 junior college prospect according to 247sports.com. And Wednesday at about sunrise, Freeze is hoping defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, ranked by every recruiting service as the nation’s No. 1 recruit, will join his younger brother Denzel, one of the SEC’s best freshmen last year as an Ole Miss seek-and-destroy linebacker.

“We’re in on the right guys, we’ve just got to find a way to close on a good number of them,” said Freeze, despite the fact he and his staff have eight commitments from four-star players and 13 commitments from three-star players, marking just the second time in recent memory that all of the Rebels’ commitments are rated three stars or higher.

Besides Nkemdiche, who took his last official visit to LSU last weekend where he rubbed elbows with former NBA and LSU star Shaquille O’Neal, Ole Miss is still in the thick of the battle for five-star prospects Chris Jones and Laremy Tunsil, and four-star players Austin Golson and Antonio Connor.

Jones, who played for Houston (Miss.) High, is a Mississippi State commitment who’s ranked by Rivals.com as the state of Mississippi’s best high school prospect and the nation’s second best defensive end. Yet Jones, according to pictures posted by RebelGrove.com, was on the Ole Miss campus this past weekend while also visiting State.

The ability of Freeze and his staff to continue recruiting players committed to another school has been a strength. This past weekend, four-star running back Jordan Wilkins of St. Benedict, who committed to Auburn last July 18, flipped to the Rebels.

A perfect storm of events helped Ole Miss land Wilkins, starting with Auburn firing head coach Gene Chizik on Nov. 25 after a 3-9 season (0-8 in the SEC).

“Ole Miss really came after me hard after Auburn fired

the coach,” Wilkins said. “Ole Miss recruited me since I was a sophomore, but it had been in a slump the last two seasons. Auburn’s coaching change turned me off, and Ole Miss competed with just about everybody this season. Then, the recruiting class Ole Miss is putting together was another bonus for me, as was my relationship with the coaches.”

The relationship theme is one that has been repeated by several Rebels’ commitments like Treadwell, a 6-3, 198-pound pass-catching machine for Crete-Monee (Ill.) High, who had 81 catches for 1,424 yards and 16 touchdowns this past season. A year ago, Ole Miss wasn’t on his radar, with Oklahoma State, Michigan and others as his top choices.

But when Treadwell decided to visit to Ole Miss last summer to see his former high school teammate, Rebels’ freshman cornerback Anthony Standifer, he fell in love with the school. Ole Miss started recruiting him immediately.

“I love what coach Freeze is doing,” Treadwell said when he committed. “He’s always positive and is a great role model for his players.”

Freeze’s potential recruiting haul is so unbelievable that there’s the usual public reaction on social media from non-Rebel fans that “Ole Miss must be cheating, breaking NCAA rules” to commit so many such highly rated players.

Last week, a miffed Freeze fired back on Twitter, saying “If you have facts about a violation, e-mail compliance@olemiss.edu. If not, please don’t slander the young men.”

“I loved what Hugh Freeze did on Twitter, defending his program, his coaches and his integrity,” said Tom Luginbill, ESPN’s national director of recruiting.

“I understand when you’ve done what he’s done, creating a positive buzz when they hadn’t any of that, you will have your doubters and detractors. That’s a part of the Twitter and Facebook worlds.

“But Hugh and his staff have a plan to accentuate the program’s strengths. He’s selling creativity, enthusiasm and the youthfulness of a staff that are excellent recruiters. I think people are undervaluing Ole Miss’ on-the-field performance last season, how quickly that can turn around the perception of a program.”

© 2013 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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