Hugh Freeze (Arkansas State) is about to be a huge name. He has ASU at 7-2, best season in school history already, and will play Mark Hudspeth's Louisiana Cajuns for the Sun Belt title on Saturday in Jonesboro. He is in his FIRST season and has already surpassed everything his predecessor Steve Roberts was able to do in 7 years. Almost impossible to win at ASU and he's done it.
Houston Nutt will be done at the end of just his fourth season. Athletic director Pete Boone will be gone sometime in the next year. And Archie Manning, Rebel nation once more turns its lonely eyes to you. (Woo, woo, woo.)
A look at what’s making news in Oxford, Mississippi this morning:
Changing of the Guard
Nutt asked for the right to coach out the season, saying his staff will give Ole Miss their “very, very best these next few weeks. Because this program deserves the very best we can give. I’d feel real bad if I couldn’t coach the next three. Because we always tell our guys to finish. So I don’t see how anybody could walk away.”
Manning Gets the Ball
The ex-Rebel great will head up a five-person search committee that it will look for a football coach and an AD to replace Boone (at some point in the coming year). A national search firm will also be hired to give assistance.
Chancellor Dan Jones said he would be involved in the search, but “when it comes to which are opinions are more important, my opinion or Archie Manning’s, I’ll let Archie take the lead on that.”
Names are being kicked around left and right at this point. Yesterday, we listed four candidates we believe fans would most like to see hired: Mike Leach (former Texas Tech coach, former Kentucky assistant in the SEC), Kevin Sumlin (Houston’s coach), Gus Malzahn (Auburn’s offensive coordinator), and Kirby Smart (Alabama’s defensive coordinator).
Do we think any of those candidates will be offered the job or accept it? Maybe on the offered part, no on the taking part. Smart and Malzahn know the issues Ole Miss faces from coaching in the same division. If Malzahn wasn’t enamored with Vanderbilt or Maryland, why would he jump at the Rebels’ job?
Leach is kooky so there’s no telling if Archie and his crew would like what they found during a visit with the Pirate-lovin’ coach.
Sumlin is an up-and-comer, his Cougars are currently unbeaten, and there’s a chance he’ll get a better offer somewhere else.
Other names being mentioned:
Brent Venables — Oklahoma defensive coordinator
Larry Fedora — Southern Miss head coach
Sonny Dykes — Louisiana Tech head coach and former Leach and Mike Stoops assistant
Tommy Tuberville — Texas Tech head coach and former Rebel head coach (mentioned by Parrish Alford of The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal… an interesting idea if old wounds have healed)
Hugh Freeze — Arkansas State head coach
Manny Diaz — Texas defensive coordinator and former Mississippi State assistant
Mark Hudspeth — Louisiana-Lafeyette head coach and another former Dan Mullen assistant
Rich Rodriguez — Former Michigan coach who had great success at West Virginia
Skip Holtz — South Florida head coach
Charlie Strong — Louisville head coach and a former Ole Miss assistant for one season
Stewart Mandel of SI.com says Ole Miss’ opening is “good timing” because “there are big names out there to be had. Whether they would come to Ole Miss, I don’t know.”
Not surprisingly, many of Nutt’s recruits are taking a wait-and-see approach to Ole Miss’ plans.
Rick Cleveland — the longtime columnist for The Jackson Clarion-Ledger — believes Nutt’s demise can be traced directly back to his recruiting.
Even Nutt admitted that he found the going tougher in Mississippi than he did in Arkansas. “The one thing that makes it a little more difficult here is that you’re not far from Memphis, Southern Miss, Mississippi State. … And then you have to fight off Alabama from coming in your state. Auburn. LSU. … I wish there was just one university in Mississippi. That’d make it real, real nice. But it’s harder here. It’s harder.”