Just how attractive is the Ole Miss coaching job? After the stunning news about Hugh Freeze resigning Thursday, Rebels fans filled message boards with pipe dreams of Chip Kelly and Les Miles. They’re logical names to throw around because of course Ole Miss should want to aim high.
But the reality? This isn’t an attractive job for a host of reasons:
- They’re tied for the fewest returning starters in the SEC (11) but unlike the two teams they’re tied with (Alabama and LSU), Ole Miss doesn’t return its QB. Fortunately, the out-of-conference schedule is soft, so 4-0 is possible (Cal has a new QB and a new coach, but the Bears aren’t very good). Then the SEC schedule opens at Alabama and at Auburn, and it’ll be all downhill from there. To get to 6-6 would be a miracle.
- The Rebels enter this season with an average recruiting class. Rivals has them 39th, with only four 4-star recruits – the same number that vastly inferior programs Georgia Tech and Arizona State have. So if Ole Miss is far worse than 6-6, feel free to get nervous – depth could be a problem, and the offense only has one senior.
- In the 2018 Rivals team rankings, Ole Miss is currently 48th, and the Rebels have to assume at least a couple of them will be poached by rivals in the wake of this Freeze disaster. So the next three years don’t look very promising.
- They play in the SEC West, one of the most challenging divisions in the country. Maybe there’s turnover at Auburn, Texas A&M & Arkansas next offseason, but if there’s not … the Rebels could be in the basement for awhile.
So how good of a job is Ole Miss, really? Their last two coaches, Houston Nutt and Hugh Freeze had their reigns end in ugly fashion. Nutt, who initially won with Ed Orgeron’s players, went 1-15 in SEC play in his final two seasons.
Freeze carried the program to its first Top 10 finish since the 1960s, but he leaves under a cloud of NCAA suspicion and his firing is tied to “personal misconduct,” the worst of which we probably haven’t heard.
I can’t imagine Les Miles would touch a rebuilding job of this magnitude. Chip Kelly can do way better. More realistic options after the season might be Skip Holtz (Louisiana Tech) or Derek Dooley (Cowboys’ WR coach), keep an eye on Rocky Long (San Diego State) and no, I’m not going to mention Lane Kiffin (yet).
The biggest storyline to watch at Ole Miss this season is QB Shea Patterson. Billed as a Johnny Manziel-type playmaker, Patterson looked promising in three games as a true freshman, and the job and program are his for the next three years. He was a 5-star recruit who Freeze was enamored with. You can bet his phone will be pinging all week from “friends” who would love to see him transfer.