Saturday, February 2, 2013

Can we get some evidence that Ole Miss is “cheating” before we convict Freeze?

I hear the same rumors that all Southeastern Conference football and recruitniks hear. I know recruiting insiders have been told things that disturb them enough to make them break their usual silence and speak up. But just because Ole Miss is poised to haul in a historically great recruiting class does not automatically mean they’re cheating.

In the SEC, every fan base believes that their school is totally on the up-and-up and that everyone else is cheating like the Mayans were a year off in their apocalyptic predictions. In truth, everyone cuts corners to some degree. It’s when somebody exceeds the speed limit by a dime instead of a nickel that eyebrows get raised and questions get asked.

Questions are being asked. Let’s see what the answers are before we throw Hugh Freeze in the slammer.

In summer 2012, Ole Miss flung about 250 offers to prospects for the 2013 signing class, a class that officially puts ink to Letter of Intent paper on Wednesday. According to Mike Herndon, among the group were 13 quarterbacks, 31 receivers and 39 defensive ends. When he was hired, Freeze promised a 12-month recruiting cycle. He’s followed up on that promise and hasn’t slowed down.

Factor in the truth that former coach Houston Nutt left Freeze with a very poorly stocked talent cupboard and that he’s selling something that always tends to attract interest from top recruits—early playing time in the nation’s best football conference—and the result is usually fruitful.

Again, the rumors and circumstantial evidence are out there and there’s a growing consensus among some recruiting insiders that what Ole Miss is doing is too good, too fast, too soon. They are on the verge of signing most of the Top 5 prospects in the country, including Robert Nkemdiche, who might be the best football prospect since Jadaveon Clowney. Nkemdiche has a brother on the Ole Miss team. But what about all of the other four- and five-star prospects who have committed to the Rebels or considered to be strong leans towards Oxford?

Are they being bought, or are they simply following a budding star to a developing program that’s offering them the chance to build something special? Are they being steered by boosters and handlers, or are they just feeding on the frenzy of excitement and anticipation that Freeze has been pitching to recruits since the day he walked in the door?

Those are legitimate questions and they’re going to be answered, one way or the other.

Eventually, the promise of early playing time becomes an unsustainable selling point. Probably sooner rather than later, the cupboard is better stocked and the ability to sell instant gratification is muted. Also working against Freeze is the fact that Ole Miss is one of the smallest schools in the league. Their facilities are well south of the standards set by powerhouses Alabama, Florida, Georgia and LSU. There are high school stadiums in some parts of SEC country that rival Vaught – Hemingway in terms of capacity and Oxford is still in the middle of nowhere. How Freeze maintains this momentum should say a lot.

The truth is that Ole Miss is at least a year from challenging the top of the league. They’re not gonna make the SEC West turn on its head in 2013. 2014? We’ll see.

So, let’s see what happens, shall we? Can we see some evidence?

This is a Bama blog. Y’all know where I come from and you know what team I root for. I still want to see some evidence before I throw a good, young, aggressive coach in the NCAA slammer.

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