There is a saying if you believe it you can achieve it. There is also a saying – work the room like you own the place. It’s all about mindset and confidence. You know – fake it till you make it.
Dan Mullen got blasted this week for saying his team was not far off from the SEC upper crust which in turn means his team was not far off from competing nationally. I wrote my thoughts on that in a recent piece on makeitrainsports.com and agree. Another thing you saw was his players tweeting about it, fired up and ready to go. His players believe in him and would run off the end of the earth for him.
Now shift gears to Hugh Freeze at the podium for his first media days. I watched this unfold and I listened like many. I can honestly say he truly seems like a super guy. Very well mannered, nice and a guy that would give you the shirt off his back – and he is brutally honest.
Rebel fans are clamoring about how good a guy he is, how honest he is and he is a breath of fresh air from what has been there (Houston Nutt). Careful Rebel fans as we all watched this happen in this state back in 2004.
Actually this is all too familiar and surreal. After Jackie Sherrill stepped down at Mississippi State in a similar situation, the Bulldogs hired Sylvester Croom. He was not their first choice much like Freeze was not Ole Miss’s first.
Croom spoke with honesty, intelligence, was compassionate and said maroon is all that matters. State fans felt he was exactly what the program needed. Honesty – and that’s what they got. Croom said there wasn’t a player worth having on the roster, he was four years away from competing and it would be tough. He didn’t lie about it being tough. It was a disaster.
Let’s now go back to Freeze’s time at the podium this week. He said only sixty percent of the team has bought in to his philosophy. When asked to compare his team’s talent verses his at Arkansas State he all but implied that is not a fair assessment as he had more on his Red Wolves team. When asked how far this team was from competing he said at least two recruiting cycles. When asked about his desire to run his up tempo style and have success he again referenced a lack of depth and talent and it would be a struggle to not put themselves in a hole by running an up temp style. Thank you Houston Nutt.
It is almost as if Freeze was consulted by Sylvester Croom on what to say. And the Ole Miss fan base reacted just like the 2004 State fan base. They ate it up. FYI that will give you heart burn. Just ask State fans about eating up words from a brutally honest coach.
Freeze was even asked when you talk about the program being in the wilderness right now are you concerned that your players hear that and maybe expect not to win?
Well I can tell you that is exactly what they think. Several former Mississippi State players that played for Sylvester Croom have come out over time and said they literally felt defeated before taking the field with him. You cannot publicly continue to brow beat, down grade and berate these kids. They hear what you say and take it to heart.
Those same players have said they sure wish they could have played for Mullen. The reason? Mullen believes in his players. Mullen came out his first year and proclaimed our goal is to win the west! People laughed and everyone knew he couldn’t do that but what he did was develop a mindset from his guys early that we can do this, you will do this and we believe in you. That team went 5-7 and lost three games they had every opportunity to win.
There is no doubt Freeze is probably a great guy, someone that would wash your dishes after dinner at your house and tell your kids a bed time story. But- good guys hardly ever equate into great football coaches. If you don’t believe me just ask Sylvester Croom. That’s exactly who I thought was speaking yesterday.
And for the Rebel faithful you better hope I am wrong (which I am not), because we have all seen this movie before.
You better hope your saying of a Freeze warning doesn’t mean your program is about to be frozen in time. Based on your coaches words at the podium yesterday though, I’d suggest you grab a jacket. It’s about to get real cold in Oxford.