Earlier this week, it was reported by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports and The Athletic that former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze was “not in the mix” for the Vols’ offensive coordinator position. But another prominent college football writer has now spoken out against that report.
Chris Low of ESPN made an appearance on The Swain Event sports radio show in Knoxville on Wednesday morning. Low was asked about Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s search for an offensive coordinator, and he immediately offered up Freeze’s name as a possibility.
“He’s got several guys on his list, and one of those is Hugh Freeze.” Low said of Pruitt during his interview on The Swain Event. “I think Hugh Freeze is a real possibility. I don’t know that he’s the guy that’s at the head of that list, but he’s somebody that I do expect Jeremy to talk with.”
Freeze hasn’t coached in the college ranks since 2016 when he was the head coach of Ole Miss. He resigned amid an NCAA investigation, and Ole Miss was put on probation and received a bowl ban for his misconduct in recruiting.
But even with that baggage, Low believes Freeze would be a huge asset to Pruitt.
“I think Hugh could help Tennessee, could help Jeremy,” Low added. “He knows the league, and his offense is proven. He spent some time at Alabama last year before the season. In fact, when Saban was trying to hire him before the SEC squashed that, a lot of what he talked with Nick (Saban) and his staff about, they ran this year on offense at Alabama. Now, it helps to have Tua Tagovailoa and Jerry Jeudy and Josh Jacobs and that crowd and that offensive line.
“But I do think Freeze is in it, and I think he’ll be given serious consideration.”
Alabama’s offense is No. 2 in the FBS in points scored per game, and they’re No. 4 in total offensive yards per game this season. As Low stated, having players like Tua Tagovailoa certainly help in that regard, but the Tide’s offense has certainly looked more dynamic and multiple this year than in the past.
While at Ole Miss, Freeze’s offenses were consistently among the best in the SEC. For three of his five yeas as the Rebels’ head coach, Ole Miss ranked fifth or better in the conference in points per game and finished atop the league in that respect in 2015. His Ole Miss offenses finished in the top half of the SEC in total yards per game every year he was the head coach there.
But the conversation with Freeze will always go back to the off-field issues he had while at Ole Miss.
Not only were he and his staff charged with giving “impermissible benefits” to recruits while at Ole Miss, but Freeze was also found to have contacted a “female escort” on a university-issued cell phone. Ole Miss was looking into whether they could fire Freeze with cause due to morality clauses in his contract, but he wound up resigning before the university fired him.
Freeze tried to join Alabama as an assistant prior to the 2018 season, but the SEC strongly discouraged Nick Saban and the Tide from bringing him on board. Would the same thing happen to Tennessee should they try to him as their OC?
“I know a lot of people will say, ‘wait a minute, what about the baggage?'” Low said. “If Jeremy decides that’s who he wants, then I think it will happen. The SEC still might potentially put some kind of restrictions, at least on the first year or in the spring, on Freeze. I don’t think that’ll be anything long term. And again, if that’s what Jeremy wants to do, I don’t think that will be a deal breaker.”
Low also mentioned Alabama quarterbacks coach Dan Enos, Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, Cleveland Browns interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, and South Carolina offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon as candidates for the Vols’ offensive coordinator position as well.
It was reported late Tuesday night that Chip Lindsey is “strongly in the mix” for the Vols’ vacant OC job, and that same report also said Freeze “remains possible” for Tennessee.