Could Rebel leader rule Rocky Top?

Hugh Freeze

Tennessee is tradition-rich and a place to be treasured. That should not be forgotten. Go inside for a special read on why being the Vols head coach would be an honor and why the man for the job is already in the SEC.

It's a special place, not many like it.

The traditions are revered and cherished.

From the Vol Walk, the Vol Navy and let's not forget running through the ‘T' at Neyland Stadium.

The Vols deserve a coach that will reunite this fractured team and fan base, a coach that has that "It" factor about everything he does, and, yes, you need a coach that has a history of winning on every level.

You need to hire a man of character and high integrity and someone who will have his team playing its heart out for him.

A coach that fits this description is already in the SEC. Hugh Freeze is in his first year as the head football coach at Ole Miss.

He has accomplished a lot in his first year in the SEC West. His Rebels won six ballgames this fall compared to just two last year, with basically the same football players.

Ole Miss defeated its archrival Mississippi State in dominating style, a feat that hasn't happen for three years straight since Dan Mullen took over in Starkville.

The six wins didn't come easy, but it was the ones that got away from Ole Miss that fans across the country should examine closely. Freeze had his team very close from defeating two 10-win teams in Texas A&M and LSU, one on the road and one at home. They also dropped a one-point decision to Vanderbilt.

As a writer, I got the opportunity to cover this coach for two different schools, and I got to see up close how he interacts with his team, his coaching staff and his fan base.

Freeze definitely has that "It" factor as a coach. He sees the big picture. He relates to his players like few coaches are capable of doing.

He led an Arkansas State team to a 10-2 record in his first head coaching job in 2011. Their only two losses were to Illinois and Virginia Tech. He served as the offensive coordinator the year before for the Red Wolves and set all types of offensive records, despite not having a good defensive year and ended up going 4-8 for the second straight year, but only the first under Freeze's offense.

Freeze took that 4-8 team made up mostly of the same players and taught them to believe in themselves, to expect more out of themselves and to expect more out of their teammates. He created accountability groups, and he pushed them to work harder than they had worked in a very long time.

While he demanded that they expect more from themselves, he related to them unlike a lot of coaches I have been around. He is a true players' coach.

After each victory during his 10-win season at Arkansas State his players encouraged Freeze to do a little victory dance. When asked about it after a game, he smiled and said the "kids" wanted him to do it, and he had promised to do so after victories.

Should athletics director Dave Hart consider Freeze as a viable candidate?
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)

While everyone should be glad that he is a better coach than a performer – "Dancing with Stars" won't be calling – he changed the culture of the Arkansas State program in just 10 months.

From playing spiritual contemporary music on Sunday evenings, to upbeat classical pop music during the week during practices, Freeze set a new tone.

He opened practices to the media, and he encouraged the families of his coaches to feel welcome anytime at the athletic facilities.

I will always remember how close he is to his three girls.

After school each day, his girls would run on the practice field and give their father a hug. While he is very intense in his coaching, he would always take a second or two to greet his children.

He made his football team feel like that they were his kids as well.

He is also a coach that believes in family and discipline. He required every member of his team to be accountable to themselves, their teammates and their coaches and more importantly to their community.

One of the first things Freeze did after taking over as head coach, during his first fall camp, was to take off an afternoon after 10 days of work, fill charter buses and take the team to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in Memphis.

"At that stage of fall camp everyone was feeling sorry for themselves, exhausted," Freeze said in an earlier interview. "I wanted each one of our players and coaches to see how good they have it.

"It was simply amazing to see how this team responded after the trip. I loved the way our young men interacted with those kids and their families. It touched us a team and made a difference in some very sick children. It puts things in perspective."

I got the chance to observe his coaching staff on a daily basis.

When you talk about team chemistry everyone knows how important it is for success. The chemistry of a coaching staff is just as important, if not more.

This was a group of men of high character that truly loved each other as brothers and were great leaders of their players.

Freeze runs a fun and aggressive spread offense that is high tempo.

His defensive coordinator, Dave Womack, and his staff were some of the best I had ever seen with halftime adjustments.

Arkansas State football player, DeMario Davis, now in the NFL with the New York Jets, explained his feelings about Freeze and his coaching staff.

"They have made football fun again," Davis told AStateNation.com last fall. "I have never had this much fun in the four years here at Arkansas State. This coaching staff gets it, they definitely get the most out of their players."

Getting the most out of his players is what Freeze is known for best.

His players will run through walls for him. The proof can be found in Jonesboro, Ark., and Oxford, Miss.

He has won state championships in both high school football and girls' basketball, and he won a conference championship both at the NAIA level and Division 1 levels.

"He is a true winner," one college coach expressed last fall. "He wins at everything he does. He has a unique spirit that makes him the man and coach that he has become."

Dave Hart at Tennessee should pick up the phone, call Oxford and inquire about talking to Hugh Freeze.

Hart deserves the opportunity to meet this outstanding coach, someone who will win a national championship at some school during his coaching tenure.

The question is would coach Freeze leave his new home of Ole Miss to venture to the Smoky Mountains?

There is a good chance that Freeze wouldn't leave, but Hart needs to get a firsthand look at one of the up-and-coming coaches in the country.

If Hart can't convince Freeze to leave home, he will at least get the opportunity to see the "It" factor that he possesses.

He is definitely the type of coach that Tennessee deserves to have, even if it isn't meant to be.

Hopefully, Tennessee will find that coach that can reunite this Volunteer football team, their fan base and their cherished traditions.

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