by Chris Bahn
Posted 4/26/2011 01:00 pm
Updated 7 months ago
Every facet of the Arkansas State football program under first-year Coach Hugh Freeze can seemingly be boiled down into one, succinct mission statement. For example, Freeze has what he labels as an “It” for his offensive, defensive and special teams philosophies.
Freeze wants his offense to be “a fundamentally efficient scoring machine.” His defensive “It” is to “relentlessly pursue the football and knock the ever-loving crap out of the opponent.” ASU’s special teams are charged with “finding that winning edge.”
Certainly, there’s more to each part of the game, but those “Its” are something Freeze and his staff repeated to each other and players on a daily basis during spring practice. Freeze hopes each mantra finds its way into the minds and hearts of players during summer workouts.
Freeze’s “It” when talking about recruiting? That’s not so simple to define.
There’s really no single sentence breakdown for what the first-year coach hopes to accomplish when trying to fill the Red Wolves’ roster. Paring down Freeze’s recruiting philosophy to one simple phrase? Not happening.
“That’s a whole book. That’s too much to describe to you,” Freeze said during a recent visit. “I’ve got to find a shorter version of what ‘It’ is when we’re taking recruiting. I can tell you it’s a 12-month plan.”
While there is an “It” for recruiting, instead of a short and memorable quote, Freeze has a half-inch thick, three-ring binder. Each of Arkansas State’s nine assistant coaches is as familiar with this plan as they are with the offensive, defensive and special teams bullet points.
They’re putting it to work beginning this week during an open evaluation period for recruiting. Each stop on the recruiting trail — Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, California and Dallas — will be guided by that binder. Sections inside include the recruiting calendar for the year, a mail out schedule, profile sheets for prospects, a plan for in-home visits and a section on character.
Freeze, like all head coaches, is required to stay off the road during this evaluation period. He trusts his coaches are following the plan as they head out in search of prospects and building relationships.
Not being able to go see coaches and prospects himself isn’t something Freeze likes. But in a move that tells you a lot about Freeze’s ability to work around rules (or within the rules if you prefer to look at it that way,) ASU recently hosted a clinic for high school coaches. If Freeze can’t get out to see the Mid-South high school coaches, he can bring them to him.
It’s the sort of crafty and detailed approach to recruiting that Freeze learned while on Ole Miss’ staff under Ed Orgeron, widely considered one of the best recruiters in college football.
Freeze has taken Orgeron’s philosophies, added to them and put them to paper. There is plenty of tangible evidence that Orgeron’s approach works.
Orgeron and his assistants, including Freeze, secured a Top 15 class in 2006 and a couple of Top 30 classes. That 2006 group included two five-star prospects and seven four-star players, the foundation for Rebels teams that went to consecutive Cotton Bowls in 2008 and 2009 under Houston Nutt.
Players in that 2006 class included defensive lineman Greg Hardy, wide receiver/running back Dexter McCluster, offensive lineman John Jerry and athletes Casius Vaughn and Allen Walker. Those players were highly regarded and speak to that staff’s ability to sell recruits.
If you’re looking for examples of Freeze’s ability to evaluate under-the-radar guys, Ole Miss starting tackle Bradley Sowell and Lambauth wide receiver Roderick Jefferson are as good as any. Neither received great attention out of high school, but both are tabbed as NFL possibilities – Jefferson in 2011 and Sowell in 2012.
Naturally, the Red Wolves will be targeting a different caliber of prospect than a SEC school. But Freeze sees no reason his program can’t compete with schools in Conference USA and the WAC. Those are the caliber of players he envisions luring to ASU and the school’s success in sending players to the NFL — five years and counting with Derek Newton a strong possibility to become a sixth this week – make it a more attractive option than some recruits might realize, Freeze believes.
Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin worked with Freeze at Ole Miss. What they learned from Orgeron was invaluable and can be boiled down to this: “It’s about the Billy’s and Joes,” Kiffin said. “It’s about who you can get. We’ll be recruiting year-round. That’s what you have to do to win.”
Freeze’s plan has only been in place since December. But if Kiffin’s comments are any indication, the Red Wolves staff gets it, even if they can’t easily define “It.”