National Signing Day has come and gone, and with it one of its great traditions: every single college football coach in the country telling you how happy they are with their class. It never fails. Every coach always talks about how they got all the players they wanted, filled every hole they had, and that this is a class that will ensure future success.
There was an exception to the rule this year, however. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze went on the same radio and television circuit other SEC coaches went on yesterday, and he wasn't nearly as chipper as you'd expect. In fact, he seemed downright sullen. After putting together a class ranked in the top 20 in every year from 2013 to 2016, Freeze's 2017 class finished ranked No. 30 in 247 Sports' Composite Rankings, and No. 12 in the SEC (last in the SEC West). It was the lowest ranked class Ole Miss has had since Freeze's first full season in Oxford in 2012.
Why the drop off?
Well, Freeze wasn't shy about expressing his theories on Wednesday: it's the NCAA cloud hanging over the program.
"There are a lot of issues around college football, and we're certainly having our share," said Freeze. "It has gone on for a long time. We've suffered penalties, and this recruiting class, it was a penalty to be under the cloud we're under."
Later Freeze went on The Paul Finebaum Show and expanded on the thoughts, saying negative recruiting definitely played a role.
"There's no doubt there were staffs that chose to talk about us," said Freeze. "I chose not to talk about other schools when recruiting."
Now, on the one hand, I completely understand Freeze's frustration. Recruiting a class, particularly one strong enough to help your team compete in the SEC, takes a lot of work. When you don't see all that work paying off as much as you'd hoped, it's a blow.
Having said all that, if I'm one of the players that just signed with Ole Miss, I'm not sure I'd be thrilled to hear my coach describing the class I'm a part of as the result of a "penalty." Whatever sanctions the NCAA may or may not eventually hand down against Ole Miss aren't my fault. I chose to sign with the school regardless.
If Freeze is truly upset and bothered by what happened to his recruiting class because of possible NCAA sanctions, and if he's angry about schools negatively recruiting against him and Ole Miss, he has nobody to blame but himself. Whatever possible violations the school committed under his watch are his responsibility, and he needs to own that.