Last Monday, I wrote an article about our potential coaching candidates and the systems they ran. I wanted to look into, briefly, what we could expect from our major candidates. Fast forward just over a week, and the Rebels have hired Arkansas State Head Coach Hugh Freeze to right the ship. This story will take a more in depth look at our new head coach's abilities and tendencies and attempt to piece just how the Rebels will fit in with the Freeze system.
Freeze's offense at Arkansas State was a spread option ("sproption") designed in an effort to utilize athleticism and speed on the outsides as well as a scrambling quarterback. About Freeze's potential scheme, I said this in the aforementioned article.
Hugh Freeze's offense has already set more than ten Arkansas State offensive records. Freeze's no-huddle approach focuses on quarterbacks making the decision to run or pass in space. I'm sure most of you know this, but this offensive style eliminates the defense's advantage of not having to defend one player (the quarterback). When a defender in the flats is faced with covering a receiver or attacking the quarterback, they can easily end up caught between two options, allowing either.
Back to Freeze, there is a small concern that he tries to get too cute with playcalling, devising a significant number of trick plays. I understand how that could be disconcerting to several readers, but trick plays make highlights, and when they work, you smile. While Freeze was wide receivers and passing game coordinator under Ed Orgeron, we gave him one game to be offensive coordinator. In that game, 2007 against LSU, Freeze's offense put up 466 yards of offense and provided a blueprint to hang with the Tigers. The next week, we went away from Freeze (because Ed Orgeron was really silly).... and the rest is history.
I've been able to watch a good bit of Freeze's offense since writing that article - thank you YouTube. I've taken a lot away from what I've seen. Click the jump to read more about his offense and how we will presumably utilize it, per my analysis.
Because of the magic of the internet, there's a place to watch the highlights of nine Arkansas State games from this year. These highlights are typically 6-8 minutes long and are very helpful in illustrating Freeze's offensive style.
From the videos, I've gleaned a few things of note.
- Freeze runs an interesting sproption which uses play-action and reads to FREEZE (this is going to be so great) the defense, allowing players to get open deep or just behind linebackers. This is a way to generate time and separation when you have neither.
- The quarterback (in this case Ryan Aplin) is always lined up in the shotgun and generally makes an initial move out of the pocket. This allows a lesser offensive line to be relied on less in pass protection (something with which our line greatly struggles). On other plays, they rotate the pocket. Our linemen will have to slim down for a system that asks them not to take long breaks between plays and move a great deal during offensive possessions.
- Runs are generally of the read-option, speed-option, reverse, draw variety. If I'm Jeff Scott (assuming he's still on the team next year), I'm licking my chops. This offense could significantly highlight Scott's strengths while not asking him to create his own holes on the offensive line. Current commitment Jaylen Walton should be (and is) excited as well. Power backs, though, not so much. You need speed to the line of scrimmage to succeed as a spread back.
- Arkansas State passed a good bit down the sidelines to receivers who ran deep hooks and curls. I'm sure Donte Moncrief will be excited to learn this. We're likely to see Nick Brassell playing receiver as well, but this type of offense can really highlight a sure-handed receiver who runs great routes.
- They do not pass to tight ends (as evidenced by their stats). I don't know if that's a statement to the quality of their tight end talent or if that's just something we're not going to see. Sorry Jamal Mosley.
- The quarterback runs a lot. In fact, Alpin led Arky State in rushing attempts last season. Because of the lack of pocket importance, I would guess that Mackey's height won't be a major issue. Freeze could opt to use him, though my money is on Barry Brunetti. Freeze tried to get Brunetti to choose Arkansas State over Ole Miss as his destination, and I'm sure he's excited about coaching him now. Rebel recruiting targets Jeremy Liggins and Anthony Alford should be excited to come to Ole Miss. Of the schools both are considering (Alabama, LSU, MSU), Ole Miss is the only one that runs a spread that will play to their strengths on the ground while allowing them to throw a good bit. Hopefully Freeze can sell one or both on that.
If there's something you see of note in the highlights, tell me about it in the comments. I'm excited about what Freeze brings to us schematically.