“We know we've got a tall task ahead, but it's one that we're excited,” said Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze during his opening spiel at SEC football media days.
Some would call that tall task a tall tale, as Auburn football enters a new era with changes in every direction they look, from new teams joining the SEC, changes in how players get recruited, and mostly importantly a new man in the captain’s chair.
Hugh Freeze is the man who has been called upon to lead Auburn football after a disappointing 5-7. It is not Freeze’s first time at SEC media days as a head coach however, it was his seventh time after previously speaking for the Ole Miss Rebels from 2012-2017.
Six years is a lifetime for head coaches in the SEC matching other greats including Urban Myer, Lou Holtz, and Auburn great Terry Bowden.
A second chance in the SEC is a scarce thing to get your hands on if you’re a head coach, something that Freeze seems to understand. When asked if he knew if he would be back in the SEC and he said, “when the ending at Ole Miss occurred it was hard to truthfully process would you ever get that opportunity again, so I would have to say at that point no.”
To take full advantage of this second chance, Freeze will need to conquer many different challenges including the changes that will affect the SEC with the expansion of two storied programs in the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners.
“I would see us in the upper echelon of this conference,” said Freeze, “we have the facilities We have the support We have the administration.”
Being the upper echelon of the SEC is a goal that many programs hope to achieve, as the SEC currently holds the most national championships with 30 since 1936. With the SEC adding two programs that help tell the rich history of collegiate football including Vince Young’s run with the Longhorns and legendary coaches like Bob Stoops, there’s no telling where that history will end up.
However, history is written by the winners, and to be a winner in the SEC you must recruit. This is a fact that Freeze seems to understand.
“I do think that the '24 and '25 recruiting cycle will tell a large portion of the story of my tenure there,” said Freeze “I believe that, maybe '26 we might get three cycles.”
Helping Freeze with the process of bringing the biggest and brightest is his team including the three men he brought with him to SEC media days Kameron Stutts, Luke Deal, and Eliija McAllister. McAllister mentioned some other players that are great at recruiting including Keionte Scott and Austin Keys.
A big thought that goes into the thought of young men being recruited is the wild west of NIL, once at a college, these young men are given money for their name image, and likeness and must choose what to do with that money hitting their accounts.
Consideration has been given to financial literacy according to Hugh Freeze when asked about it he said, “I have five people that work in that arena. They don't have anything to do with football. They have to do with our player development, and how are we going to educate them.”
Time will tell if Freeze’s tenure as a head coach is a tale of triumph and second chances, or a cautionary tale to the tune of Icarus and the Sun. All Auburn fans can do now is hold onto hope as they await the start of a new era on September second.