A Mississippi native, inspirational leader and one of the nation’s top rising coaches, Hugh Freeze was the first choice to return championships to Ole Miss Football and was introduced as the Rebels’ 37th head coach on December 5, 2011.
Freeze, a noted speaker and recruiter throughout his career, has enjoyed success at nearly every coaching level over the past 18 years, from high school to NAIA to FBS, and each stop has featured a high scoring offense and the ability to motivate young people. The most recent stop for the former Ole Miss assistant was a record-setting run at Arkansas State.
With Freeze as head coach in 2011, the Red Wolves captured the Sun Belt Conference championship and became just the third school in Sun Belt history to finish undefeated in league play with a perfect 8-0 mark. The 10-2 overall record marked the program’s first 10-win season since 1986, when ASU was a member of the I-AA Southland Conference.
In the best debut season ever by an A-State head coach, Freeze became just the 14th FBS first-year head coach to win 10 regular season games. He also returned ASU to a bowl game for the first time since 2005.
Freeze was named Sun Belt Coach of the Year, while 13 of his pupils earned all-league honors, including both the Offensive Player of the Year in junior quarterback Ryan Aplin and the Defensive Player of the Year in senior lineman Brandon Joiner.
While dominating the Sun Belt statistical categories, the Red Wolves finished the season ranked top-25 in the nation in total offense (24th), total defense (24th), passing offense (16th), rushing defense (13th), pass efficiency defense (21st), scoring defense (25th), tackles for loss (eighth) and sacks (15th). They were also one of only two teams in the NCAA to lead their conference in both total offense and defense.
Freeze’s high octane offense saw Aplin shatter the school record for career pass completions. He established new single-season standards for total offense and passing yards per game while ranking No. 10 in the nation in total offense. Wide receiver Dwayne Frampton broke the Red Wolves’ single-season record for receptions and ranks 13th nationally.
The Freeze defense also impressed in 2011 led by Joiner, who tied for third in the NCAA in sacks and 10th in TFLs. Senior DB Darryl Feemster registered six interceptions and tied for 14th in the nation in that category.
Freeze’s first season in Jonesboro saw him serve as Arkansas State’s offensive coordinator, guiding the Red Wolves’ offense to a record-breaking year in 2010.
He made an immediate impact on ASU’s program, leading the offense to a No. 43 national ranking in total offense one year after the Red Wolves finished toward the bottom of the NCAA FBS rankings at No. 95. In just their first year under Freeze’s up-tempo spread offense, the Red Wolves broke nine offensive school records that included 4,841 yards of total offense ranked No. 2 in the Sun Belt Conference.
Freeze led the ASU offense to other school records such as total plays (856), first downs (262), pass attempts (438), pass completions (266), completion percentage (.607), passing yards (3,057), passing yards per game (254.8) and passing touchdowns (23).
The Red Wolves’ potent offensive attack averaged 403.4 yards per game, eclipsing over 300 yards all 12 times it took the field for the first time in the history of the program. A-State posted at least 400 yards of total offense in seven games during the 2010 campaign, the most ever as an NCAA FBS member.
ASU, ranked 42nd in the nation in scoring offense, finished the season averaging 30 points a game and recorded at least 20 points in 11 consecutive games for the first time in school history. Freeze’s offense scored 46 touchdowns, including 23 on the ground and 23 through the air, for the fourth most in school history and the most since the 1975 season. While the Red Wolves’ 23 passing touchdowns broke the school record, their 23 scores on the ground were the most by an ASU team since 2002. Their 360 total points were the most since 1987 and tied the fourth most in ASU history.
Under Freeze, the A-State offense was among the most dangerous in the Sun Belt Conference in 2010. The Red Wolves were ranked among the top two teams in the league in scoring offense, passing offense, total offense, pass efficiency, red zone offense and first downs. In addition to its No. 40 national ranking in total offense and No. 42 spot in scoring offense, ASU ranked among the top 50 teams in the nation in red zone offense at No. 28.
In addition to working as ASU’s offensive coordinator, Freeze was also the quarterbacks coach for the Red Wolves. Under Freeze’s direction, Aplin exploded onto the scene in 2010 to emerge as a Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year candidate as a sophomore. Aplin not only broke the ASU records for total offense, passing yards, passing touchdowns and completions, he posted numbers that rank among the top 10 in Sun Belt Conference history in the same categories. Aplin was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week three times during the 2010 season.
Prior to his arrival at Arkansas State, Freeze compiled a 20-5 record over the 2008 and 2009 seasons at the helm of the Lambuth University football program.
Freeze was named the American Football Coaches Association’s Southeast Region Coach of the Year in 2009 after leading the Eagles to their best regular season in school history with an 11-0 record. Under Freeze’s direction, Lambuth won the Mid-South Conference West Division, advanced to the second round of the NAIA playoffs for the first time since 1999, finished the year with a 12-1 mark and ascended to the No. 6 ranking in NAIA.
The Mid-South Conference Coach of the Year oversaw the offense and called the plays for a Lambuth team that averaged over 40 points per game and ranked ninth nationally in total yards per game (465 ypg). The Eagles also ranked first in the nation in fourth down conversions, fourth in first downs per game and third down conversions, fifth in passing offense and eighth in scoring offense per game.
Prior to taking over as head coach at Lambuth, Freeze served on the Ole Miss staff from 2005-07, including the final two seasons as an assistant coach. He originally arrived in Oxford as Assistant Athletics Director for External Affairs before being named the Rebels’ recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach before the 2006 season.
In his first year as recruiting coordinator, he helped bring in the nation’s ninth-ranked recruiting class, the highest recorded rank in the history of the program. Ole Miss’ 2007 signing class was tabbed 25th nationally, and he was responsible for nine commitments in the 2008 signing class.
While maintaining his duties as recruiting coordinator, he moved to wide receivers coach in 2007 and tutored current NFL star Mike Wallace to a top-10 SEC finish in receiving yards.
Before going to Ole Miss, Freeze served 13 years at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, Tenn., as a classroom teacher, coach and administrator. He was the Saints’ head football coach from 1995 to 2004, running the no huddle “spread system” for six years that led to six straight state championship games.
Freeze compiled a 99-23 record, which included an undefeated season in 1996, while at Briarcrest and led the school to state championship titles in 2002 and 2004. Briarcrest won regional championships in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2001 and 2002, and Freeze was named the Region 8-AA Coach of the Year five times and Associated Press Coach of the Year four times.
Among his talented pupils during that period were eventual Rebels and current NFL starters Michael Oher and Greg Hardy.
Before assuming the role of head coach at Briarcrest, Freeze served as the Saints’ offensive coordinator and defensive backs coach from 1992-94, as the Saints reached the TSSAA state semifinals twice.
A 1988 graduate of Senatobia High School, Freeze received an associate’s degree from Northwest Mississippi Community College in 1990 and earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in coaching and sports administration from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1992.
It was while attending USM that he became active in mission projects, serving as a missionary in Houston, Salt Lake City, St. Petersburg, Russia and Australia. Freeze also served as the state president for the Mississippi Baptist Student Union.
Hugh, 42, and his wife, Jill, are the parents of three daughters, Ragan (13), Jordan (12), and Madison (9).