Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Orgeron Assistants out in Cold


OXFORD — Early last week, Ole Miss recruiting coordinator Hugh Freeze was all over Mississippi, trying to sell high school recruits on a Rebel football program that was without a head coach.

That problem has been fixed, thanks to the hiring of former Arkansas coach Houston Nutt. But now Freeze has a much bigger problem.

He's likely out of a job.

Freeze, defensive coordinator John Thompson and tight ends coach Tony Hughes all interviewed with Nutt on Sunday and left with the same understanding: Barring the unforeseen, their time at Ole Miss is probably over.

"I've just been sitting in my office, kind of staring at the walls," said Freeze, who said he's under contract at Ole Miss through June 30. "It doesn't look like it's going to work out. Coach Nutt wants to go with the people he already knows and I respect that, but it's difficult because I'm from north Mississippi and wanted to stay here. I've never been in this situation before."

Freeze and Hughes were part of the backbone for local recruiting under former coach Ed Orgeron, who was fired on Nov. 24.

Both coaches grew up in Mississippi and graduated from Southern Miss. Both have been at Ole Miss for three years.

During Orgeron's three years, Ole Miss recruiting classes were ranked an average of 25th nationally by recruiting services Scout.com and Rivals.com.

"I thought (being from Mississippi) would be an advantage," Hughes said. "I think it makes a difference when you walk into a recruit's house and know the state."

Dandy Dozen selection Willie Packer, a defensive lineman from Moss Point who has given a non-binding verbal commitment to Ole Miss, said Hughes had been vital in his recruiting process.

"He was a real cool guy, somebody I really liked," Packer said.

Packer said he still wanted to play for Ole Miss, but because of the changes he was still considering Tennessee and Alabama.

Nutt, who signed a 4-year, $7.4-million deal to coach Ole Miss on Nov. 26, has already indicated that six of his assistants will follow him from Arkansas over to Ole Miss in early January. On Monday, The Monroe News-Star reported that Louisiana-Monroe defensive coordinator Kim Dameron and secondary coach Ron Dickerson had accepted jobs at Ole Miss. Their roles with the Rebels' coaching staff were unclear.

Nutt could not be reached for comment on Monday. An Ole Miss spokesman said Nutt would address coaching staff issues today.

On Sunday, Nutt hinted that it might be hard for any of Orgeron's former staff to remain, saying "I'm going to talk to the guys that I've been with the past 10, 11 years (at Arkansas) first."

Thompson, who is in the first year of a three-year contract at Ole Miss, was Arkansas' defensive coordinator under Nutt in 2000 and 2001 before leaving for Florida in 2002.

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