After winning nine games in each of Houston Nutt’s first two seasons in Oxford, the Ole Miss program has been in a complete freefall. The Rebels went 4-8 last year, and the 2011 season has actually been worse. Ole Miss has now lost 12 consecutive SEC games and looks to be headed for a 2-10 campaign. The last time the Rebels finished a year with two wins was 1946, a year before the legendary John Vaught took over in Oxford. Nutt was fired on November 7 after a 30-13 loss at Kentucky, which was followed by an embarrassing defeat to Louisiana Tech, at home, 27-7. Having hit rock bottom, the only conversation in The Grove these days concerns the next coach. With the SEC as tough as ever, Ole Miss cannot miss on this hire and cement itself in the cellar of the league.
Who is your favorite to be the next coach at Ole Miss?
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
This is an extremely important hire for Ole Miss. With Mississippi State getting better under Dan Mullen, plus the addition of Texas A&M to the SEC West, the Rebels need to make some progress in 2012 and 2013. I think a proven coach will be sought and that leads me to a couple of names: former Michigan and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, Southern Miss’ Larry Fedora, Arkansas State’s Hugh Freeze and UL Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth. Rodriguez would be an interesting fit in the SEC and would be my first choice if I was making the hire. However, I don’t think he will get the job. I think it’s much more likely that Freeze or Fedora is the next head coach in Oxford. Between those two, I will take Freeze. He has already coached at Ole Miss under Ed Orgeron and would be a hit on the recruiting trail, as well as with the boosters. In one season at Arkansas State, Freeze has the Red Wolves in position to win the Sun Belt title and was a successful coach at Lambuth. It’s going to take a year or two to make the Rebels into a consistent bowl team, but Freeze is the right man for the job.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It’s a shame that this question comes right after Southern Miss lost to UAB, but I still believe USM’s Larry Fedora is the hire for Ole Miss. He is in his fourth year in Hattiesburg, and the Golden Eagles will finish 10-2 this season and play for the Conference USA title. Fedora is a bright offensive mind and was an offensive coordinator in the SEC (Florida) and Big 12 (Oklahoma State) before becoming a head coach. He also has extensive ties to Texas prep football, which will serve as a major asset in recruiting. I do think Rich Rodriguez or Mike Leach would fit in Oxford because they can be successful without having to win the major recruiting battles against the superpowers in the SEC. However with Archie Manning co-chairing the search, I don’t expect much ‘drama’ with this hire. Hugh Freeze and Mark Hudspeth are intriguing candidates as well, but Larry Fedora is the best fit for Ole Miss.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I would hire Hugh Freeze, the current head coach at Arkansas State. He has done a terrific job in two seasons in Jonesboro, first as the offensive coordinator (2010) and now as the man in charge. The Red Wolves are 8–2 overall and a perfect 6–0 in the Sun Belt Conference. This is a significant improvement from the last season of the Steve Roberts era, when ASU went 4–8 overall and 4–4 in the league. Freeze was also successful in a previous stint as a head coach, going 20–5 in two seasons at Lambuth College, an NAIA school in Jackson, Tenn. Freeze, best known as Michael Oher’s high school coach in Memphis, has experience at Ole Miss, having served on Ed Orgeron’s staff from 2006-07. He might not be the flashiest name, but Freeze has all the qualities that Ole Miss should be looking for — success as a head coach, ties to the program and a familiarity with the school’s primary recruiting area.
Tell that swashbuckling former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach to grow a Colonel Reb mustache, mix a Hot Toddy and head down to The Grove, because he's my first choice to coach Ole Miss following the firing of Houston Nutt. In 10 seasons as the coach of the Red Raiders, Leach posted an 84–43 overall record, 47–33 mark in the Big 12 and was invited to a bowl game every year he coached in Lubbock. Leach's wide open spread passing attack also worked at Kentucky and Oklahoma, where he was offensive coordinator before being hired by Texas Tech in 2000. Leach would be a controversial hire, but one that would bring immediate excitement to a program that has grown stagnant. Oxford is a great college town and Ole Miss' facilities are better than most fans realize; the right coach should be able to take the Rebels to a bowl every season. I've decided Leach is that coach; now I'm going to The Library.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Who I would hire if I was the new Ole Miss athletic director and who I think will land the job are two totally different questions. I would call Guz Malzahn first, Mike Leach second and Rich Rodriguez third. Those unique offensive schemes are perfect for leveling the playing field against the bigger, more powerful athletic departments of the SEC West. But, for a variety of reasons, I do not see any of those names coaching in Oxford next fall. Larry Fedora of Southern Miss, Mark Hudspeth of UL Lafayette and Hugh Freeze of Arkansas State are the most likely candidates to make the final cut. Fair or not, Freeze is entirely to closely tied to Ed Orgeron for me to offer him the job, but I think he will win the day and land the Ole Miss gig over rising stars Fedora and Hudspeth.