When Hugh Freeze was hired as Ole Miss's new head coach, it's a safe bet that -- despite his success at Arkansas State -- many college football fans knew him first and foremost as "that coach from 'The Blind Side'."
As it turns out, Freeze is OK with that, at least on the recruiting trail.
“No doubt, it helps … it's an instant icebreaker for our assistant coaches or me, particularly for kids who have not heard of Hugh Freeze outside of the states of Mississippi, Tennessee or Arkansas — places I have coached,” Freeze told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Tuesday. “I think everyone has at least knowledge, if not seen the movie ‘The Blind Side,' the story of Michael Oher, which is a great introduction to who we are and how we want to go about treating your young son if he joins us. I definitely think it's something we should use [in recruiting].”
Oher, of course, was the impoverished jumbo athlete who came to play for Freeze's Briarcest Christian High in Memphis and then for Ed Oregeron's Freeze-featuring staff at Ole Miss, making Freeze a critical "character" in both the original Michael Lewis book and the immensely popular Sandra Bullock film. How happy is Freeze for recruits to make the connection? Happy enough that if they don't make it themselves, Freeze will simply do it for them.
“It's going to get discussed," he said.
How successful this tactic will be for Freeze remains a matter of conjecture. Though the Rebels' 2012 class was ranked one of the weaker in the SEC, Freeze's late arrival on the scene following the dismissal of Houston Nutt meant it was only going to be so strong no matter what Freeze did. The early returns for 2013 are more encouraging, and the Rebels even have a foothold with consensus No. 1 national prospect Robert Nkemdiche. Even if Alabama remains the heavy favorite for Nkemdiche's signature, it's a sign of progress.
But it's also going to take a lot of progress to get Ole Miss back onto level footing with the rest of the SEC West, maybe even -- metaphorically speaking -- the kind of progress that took Oher from the Memphis projects to the pinnacle of his sport. It makes a lot of sense for Freeze to bring up a blockbuster movie in which he's a principal character; it makes even more sense considering where Ole Miss is now and where it wants to go.
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