Maybe it is time to give Hugh Freeze some credit due

Giving credit where it is due, Hugh Freeze's Auburn 2025 class of verbal commits is impressive given the state of the Auburn program.

Based on On3 Industry Team Rankings, Hugh Freeze and the Auburn Tigers have college football's No. 9 class of commits. As impressive is that among SEC football programs, Auburn's 2025 class trails only LSU, Georgia, and Alabama.

Being fair to Hugh Freeze has never made one of my many 'to do' lists. I have often criticized the Reverend, not just for duplicity during his Ole Miss tenure, but also because of an unimpressive coaching career. Even aided by his well-known shenanigans in Oxford, his Ole Miss teams won less than 61% of their games. In his six seasons as an SEC head coach, the success rate for Freeze is 58.4%.

The mystique about Hugh Freeze results from two wins over Nick Saban. Those wins are the main reason Auburn hired him away from Liberty. Ironically, Iron Bowl wins did not save Gus Malzahn, but two Freeze wins, not far away from a decade ago, qualified Freeze as a top get for Auburn.

Alabama football fans remember the two Ole Miss wins included some Ole Miss luck and at least one bizarre result in a play. Freeze got lucky again in January when Nick Saban decided to retire. Auburn celebrations included predictions that Hugh Freeze would dominate Kalen DeBoer in recruiting. For months Auburn fans have crowed about Auburn out-recruiting Alabama in the 2025 cycle.

There is little evidence for Auburn fans to make that claim, so a new theme has surfaced. Auburn fans now admit Freeze might not out-recruit DeBoer nationally, but the Tigers' success with in-state recruiting will build a roster less vulnerable to transfer exits. While that could prove valid, another possibility is Auburn will be less vulnerable to attrition because it attracts so few elite recruits.

Looking closely at the On3 Industry Team Rankings, Auburn's No. 9 class does not include a single player ranked in the top 100. Malik Autry, Auburn's highest-ranked 4-star commit, has a national average of No. 109. On3 does not even rank him as a 4-star.

Auburn has four more commits in the top 200 players; Jakaleb Faulk (No. 110), Tyler Lockhart (No. 148), Broderick Shull (No. 150) and Jourdin Crawford (No. 174). By comparison the Alabama Crimson Tide group of 2025 commits includes four, top 100 players.

Being fair to Hugh Freeze

Getting back to being fair to Hugh Freeze, it should be said his current recruiting success is impressive. Given Auburn's downtrodden program, having Auburn in the top 10, 2025 classes of commits is no small feat. Freeze has brought enthusiasm to Auburn and high school recruits are attracted to immediate playing opportunities.

But how long will Auburn's current enthusiasm last? Can it be maintained with eight wins in 2024? Will less than eight wins cause an implosion? Answers to those questions will not come before late fall. Another question was recently posed by recruiting analyst, Brian Smith. It was "If you’re not going to beat DeBoer this year in recruiting and then he gets a year under his belt and his staff is familiar, how are you going to do in years 2, 3…?"

Nick Saban's retirement saved Hugh Freeze. His reputation was untarnished by Auburn's 6-7 season because the Aubies saw a future of not having to compete against the GOAT. Only a few months later, that clear vision has become cloudy.