Last Saturday was eerie. It felt a lot like a feeling that I had five years ago. Back when a gallon of gas was $3.52 and a gallon of milk was $3.39. Back when going to the movies was under $10 and people were occupying Wall Street to protest income inequality in the United States and around the world.
I’m talking about 2011.
Houston Nutt’s last year at the helm in Oxford, in which the Rebels limped to the final chapter of their embarrassing season, finishing 2-10 and 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference. There’s an even eerily similar meteoric rise to “fame” for Nutt and former coach Hugh Freeze. Hootie took the Rebs from the doldrums of the Ed Orgeron era to back-to-back Cotton Bowls and a preseason top five ranking while Hugh Freeze defeated Nick Saban in back-to-back years, recruited two top 10 classes to Oxford, and guided the Rebs to their first Sugar Bowl since a gallon of gas was 30 cents.
Now, after relieving Freeze of his duties, promoting Matt Luke to interim head coach, and suffering through some growing pains after four games, the Rebels are heading into a road game against No. 12 Auburn with a lot of question marks. You might even say that Ole Miss finds themselves at a crossroads.
But, actually the answer is not as hard as people want to make it out to be. Granted, it is barely October and we still have eight games left on the schedule, but the Rebels and Ross Bjork do not need to waste time in getting their man.
And that man is Frank Wilson. Here’s why.
Building depth in the SEC is paramount.
It is no secret that Ole Miss is incredibly thin and not as talented at certain spots — running back, defensive line, linebacker, and safety, just to highlight a few. Before becoming the head man at UT-San Antonio, the 43-year old has been known almost exclusively for being a top-notch recruiter and was thought by many to be Les Miles’ closer while he was employed at LSU. Now, he is slowly morphing into a head coach that is awfully attractive to a lot of people. This is something that has been desperately needed at Ole Miss since Freeze, despite all the success on signing day for the offense, failed to close so many times in the homestretch of recruiting on defense.
In fact, the top three tacklers in the conference at this time (Devin White, Daniel Bituli, Emmanuel Smith) were all former Freeze targets who never became signees. But, during his time at LSU, Frank Wilson was able to secure signatures from quite a few top-flight croots. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?
- 5-star RB Leonard Fournette
- 5-star DL Anthony Johnson
- 5-star WR Jarvis Landry
- 5-star WR Malachi Dupre (Ole Miss target)
- 5-star WR Tyron Johnson
- 5-star LB Clifton Garrett (Ole Miss target)
- 4-star RB Derrius Guice
- 4-star DB Donte Jackson
- 4-star OL Ethan Pocic
- 4-star LB Michael Divinity
- 4-star LB Kendall Beckwith
- 4-star QB Brandon Harris
- 4-star OL Garrett Brumfield
- 4-star DB Jeryl Brazil (Ole Miss target)
- 4-star RB Kenny Hilliard
- 4-star LB Devin White (Ole Miss target)
I think you get the picture.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it certainly helps to be at LSU, have a national champion coach, and a perennial top 10 program to recruit to. But, it also definitely helps that Wilson is a New Orleans native, has experience in the high school system there, and has coached in the SEC at three different programs in the last 10+ years.
His footprint in the Southeast is immense and you best believe his presence would be felt if he were to be the head man at Ole Miss, which is still a desirable place to recruits, regardless of how people perceive the program right now. And by God, by now folks know and have seen that playing time is aplenty in Oxford and Frank has a fantastic track record of convincing recruits that he can get them said playing time and to the next level.
His defense is salty.
The Roadrunners are 3-0 and will take on Southern Miss this weekend at The Alamodome. They held a Baylor offense to just 10 points who scored 41(!) against No. 3 Oklahoma. Southern only scored 17 and Texas State only scored 14 against the Roadrunners. Now, obviously the competition will ramp up a bit in the SEC once Frank arrives, but the personnel he is operating with now at UTSA and the numbers he is putting up with them is quite staggering.
UTSA is currently 2nd in the the entire country in total defense (207 yards per game), trailing only Michigan by four yards. They are yielding only 3.53 yards per play and have surrendered four offensive touchdowns all year. Frank’s defensive line have been downright dynamic this year, led by former Alabama defensive line coach, Bo Davis. They are averaging a ridiculous nine tackles for loss per game and that is thanks in large part to the hogs up front eating up double teams and opening gaps for linebackers and blitzing safeties. Something Ole Miss simply cannot do right now.
In Davis’ first season with the Roadrunners, he has put together an impressive unit. Wilson’s recruiting blueprint coupled with Davis’ reputation coaching and recruiting for the Tide has created an influx of elite play-making and confidence in their scheme.
Also, if Wilson is hired, guess what? He is probably going to bring Davis with him. Guess what that means ...
- 5-star LB Ben Davis (Ole Miss target)
- 5-star DB Kendall Sheffield
- 5-star DL Da’Ron Payne
- 4-star DB Nigel Knott (Ole Miss target)
- 4-star DL Terrell Lewis (Ole Miss target)
- 4-star DL Josh Frazier (Ole Miss target)
- 4-star DL Shiro Davis
- 4-star DL Raekwon Davis (Ole Miss target)
- 4-star DL Kendell Jones
- 4-star QB Jalen Hurts
- 4-star OL Scott Lashley (Ole Miss target)
You get where I’m going with this, right? Not identical results but not a bad baseline to work off of.
That offense ain’t too shabby either.
Don’t let the top five defense fool you, Frank is an offensive guy. He was an all-conference running back at Nicholls State before making his mark on the crootin trail and in the running back rooms at his various stops in the SEC. You already know during his time at LSU he was able to sign Fournette and Guice but in just one year at Tennessee, he was able to sign former five-star Bryce Brown and former four-star David Oku. And in his last year on campus in Oxford, he almost single-handedly signed former five-star and No. 1 overall player Joe McKnight to an Ole Miss program that was a doormat at the time and a first-time head coach was at the helm.
But, it’s not just all about recruiting for Frank. His Roadrunner offense is currently ranked 21st in the country in total offense, totaling 482 yards per game and 7.09 yards per play. And get this, y’all, his rushing offense is 17th in the country, running for 248 yards per game and 5.77 yards per carry. Last time I checked, Ole Miss had plenty of talent in that running back room but nothing to show for it. Despite several talented backs in the backfield, the Rebs are averaging just 74.2 yards per game and 2.9(!) yards per rush. Insert my man, Frank Wilson, and things could drastically change.
The man recruits all over the Southeast.
During his stints on the staffs at Ole Miss, Tennessee, and LSU, Frank has become quite familiar with the recruiting landscape of the Southeastern Conference. All three of those hunt in very different and similar areas. Ole Miss operates primarily in the Southeast, Texas, and Florida. Tennessee is in the Southeast as well as the Carolinas, Ohio, and out on the West Coast. And LSU is heavy in the Pelican State, Texas, and the rest of the Southeast. Point made: the dude knows how to identify and sign talent regardless of geographical location.
He made his mark under Les Miles putting a proverbial fence around Louisiana and now he is doing much of the same in Texas while also poaching from other SEC states. His first full class at UTSA in 2017 featured signees from California, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and of course Texas and finished 75th nationally and 3rd in C-USA. This year, his class currently ranks 72nd nationally and 2nd in the conference. His 2018 class features commits from Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. Regardless of how you feel about him recruiting primarily three-star talent, he refuses to star chase, recognizes the talent that fits his system, and closes the deal.
That is something that was missing in the latter part of Freeze’s tenure in Oxford and is the main reason that the defense is so incredibly thin at all three levels and has been outclassed at times the past two seasons.
We have mentioned that it is almost certainly, probably too early to name a No. 1 candidate or a “right man for the job” but, hell, where is the fun in that? Also, there could be a myriad of openings in the SEC at the end of the season due to the early struggles at Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M, so the sooner the Rebels get out there and start flashing the checkbook, the better.
But, no worries, Rebel Nation. Here at the Cup, we have gone out of our way in the middle of the 2017 season to assist Ole Miss in finding their head coach for 2018 and beyond. And we think it’s Frank Wilson.