Had it been up to Hugh Freeze, Coach O might be still be on the Ole Miss sideline this weekend in Baton Rouge. Ahead of Saturday’s game against LSU—where Ed Orgeron has led somewhat of an offensive revival since taking over for Les Miles—Freeze said he wished his old boss had been given more time in Oxford.
“People are not patient. I really think that we had recruited well under Ed here and it was close to turning a corner,” said Freeze, who served as a recruiting coordinator and tights end coach under O in 2006-07. “Hindsight is 20/20 and who knows what decisions were made. I’m not second guessing any of those, I’m just saying if you look at the athletes that Ed and his staff, our staff, had brought in, we thought we were really close.”
It’s not as crazy as it sounds, either. Were it not for blowing a two-touchdown, fourth-quarter lead in Starkville during the last game of 2007, Coach O might have been given a fourth season at Ole Miss, which would have given him a chance with the rosters that carried Houston Nutt to consecutive Cotton Bowl wins.
Instead, that Egg Bowl loss dropped Orgeron’s head coaching record to 10-25 over three seasons and hastened his departure.
“We didn’t win enough games that last year to satisfy everyone and the change was made,” Freeze said on Monday.
Of course, it was his firing at Ole Miss that forced Coach O to evolve into the coach he is today. Orgeron told SB Nation’s Steven Godfrey last month that the lessons learned in Oxford (which include, among other things, not screaming all the damn time) are in part what set him up for success as an interim head coach at USC and now LSU. (Unsurprisingly, though, O doesn’t have particularly fond memories of his time at Ole Miss.)
“When I talked to him now he seems a bit different about his approach and I think it is working for him,” Freeze said. “It was no surprise that the kids are playing well under him right now, so I am very indebted to him.”
There isn’t much in the way of injury news.
Freeze said that Chad Kelly, who took a vicious hit on that game-ending fourth-down scramble against Arkansas, and tight end Evan Engram, who landed awkwardly on his shoulder, were sore but won’t miss practice time. The elbow injury that knocked defensive tackle D.J. Jones out for the second half is “just a bruise” and shouldn’t keep him off the field in Baton Rouge. We might also finally see defensive end Fadol Brown, who didn’t play in Fayetteville.
“He was close last week,” Freeze said of Brown. “I think he will be able to go this week.”
One other thing to keep an eye on: freshman wideout A.J. Brown has “a little tweak in his knee” that “he has to play with the rest of the year.”
Ole Miss is shuffling up its linebacker coaches.
The Arkansas game showed that, despite some personnel tweaks, Ole Miss isn’t any closer to fixing its mess at linebacker. Out of options in terms of players, the Rebs are shaking up the coaching: Freeze said that graduate assistant and former Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson will coach the middle backers, freeing up D-coordinator Dave Wommack to focus exclusively on the outside backers. Robinson graduated from Georgia in 2012 and, after a brief stint at St. Louis Rams minicamp, returned to Athens and spent two seasons as a defensive GA.
“We are going to put another set of eyes on one position and try to help them improve this week, because again, this week it will be vitally important,” Freeze said.