Let’s be clear from the start: This has nothing to do with Ole Miss’ recruitment of defensive end Robert Nkemdiche and defensive back Antonio Conner. This is not meant to diminish their importance to the Rebels’ 2013 recruiting class.
But the commitment Ole Miss gained Thursday afternoon from Laquon Treadwell was of earthquake proportions in the world of recruiting by Mississippi schools.
Treadwell is from Crete, Ill., which is 30 miles south of Chicago and 590 miles north of Oxford. He is rated by the recruiting service Rivals as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation and the No. 10 overall prospect. He is 6-foot-3, weighs 190 pounds and runs 40 yards in 4.5 seconds. He led Crete-Monee High to its first state championship this past season. He received scholarship offers from just about any big-time school one can name, including Alabama and LSU. Treadwell narrowed his favorites to Ole Miss, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
More than once at his announcement press conference, Treadwell said he chose Ole Miss because of head coach Hugh Freeze, whose team recently finished 7-6 in his first season when most experts said he would be lucky to win four games.
And here is what every Mississippian who is a fan of college football, and particularly recruiting, needs to understand: Before Freeze, the commitment of Treadwell would’ve never happened at ANY of the state’s universities.
The old mindset: Treadwell is the No. 1 wide receiver in the nation. He lives 600 miles away. Our time would be better served trying to sign a good but less-talented player closer to home that every school in the country isn’t chasing. Frankly, the old mindset was that a college program in Mississippi wasn’t worthy of a player with Treadwell’s credentials.
That is clearly not Hugh Freeze’s way of thinking. He will cast in the waters where the true lunkers live. If he gets a nibble, he will keep casting. Relentlessly.
Freeze obviously knows his X’s and O’s on offense, directing a Rebel unit that averaged 31 points per game (nearly double what Ole Miss averaged in 2011 when it won two games). His up-tempo style is attractive to playmakers. And give Treadwell credit for not shying away from competition. The Rebels return all three starting receivers.
The bottom line is, mamas like Hugh Freeze, who promised from the start to hire assistant coaches “who will capture the hearts of our players.” Recruits like him, too. Other highly-rated prospects say Freeze is the reason they are still considering Ole Miss.
Fans of other schools will roll their eyes at that, and that’s the natural knee-jerk reaction. But it’s the hard-boiled truth.
Freeze destroyed a football myth in the 2012 season. It’s always been said that a team can’t play emotionally charged every week of the season. The Rebels did — 13 times. And after three tough Southeastern Conference losses by a total of 10 points, they had every reason to feel sorry for themselves and allow it to affect their next week’s performance. But it never did. They didn’t always win, but they always left it all on the field. I’ve covered Mississippi sports for 37 years in some capacity and I could never have written that about another football team I have seen during that span.
Again, it’s because of Hugh Freeze, who was basically hand picked by Rebel legend Archie Manning last December to replace Houston Nutt. Now we know why.
And after three tough Southeastern Conference losses by a total of 10 points, they had every reason to feel sorry for themselves and allow it to affect their next week’s performance