Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze
Hugh Freeze is the top guy on a lot of people’s list right now, and there are obvious reasons for that. He had a successful tenor at Ole Miss, where he beat Nick Saban’s Alabama twice before being fired after going 5-7 in 2016.
Freeze has returned to the head coaching position at Liberty University, where he’s already led the Flames to some success. Liberty just finished the 2020 season with a 10-1 record, and Freeze is expected to keep the Flames in the double-digit wins category in the future.
The only reason he might not lead the Flames to double-digit wins in the future is if he takes a job at a Power 5 school, maybe a school where he snuck into the stadium and proposed to his wife on the football field of that school.
If Tennessee is looking for a coach that has proven he can be successful at the Power 5 level and in the SEC, then Freeze is the guy for the job.
He also has experience recruiting throughout Mississippi, Arkansas, and Memphis area, which are places Tennessee has failed to recruit successfully. That has recently been because Freeze has locked those areas down, forcing Tennessee to lean on North Georgia in recruiting instead of Memphis and North Mississippi.
The issue with Freeze is he’s had his run-ins with the NCAA over multiple investigations. Tennessee might be looking for a guy who has a clean record with the SEC and NCAA, and Freeze isn’t that guy. He might’ve learned his lesson and has changed, but with Tennessee just firing Jeremy Pruitt with cause, immediately hiring a guy with a troubled past at Ole Miss might not be the best decision.
That shouldn’t take away from his success on the field, though. Freeze could lead the Vols to success they haven’t seen since Philip Fulmer was Tennessee’s head coach.
I would be happy with Freeze becoming Tennessee’s head coach, but it might be a tough pitch to the SEC and donors after firing Pruitt for similar reasons Freeze was fired from Ole Miss. Maybe the Vols can make Kevin Steele the interim head coach and pull off the hire next year, but it’s a difficult pitch right now.
Regardless of where the Vols go to move forward for the 2021 season and beyond, the university and new A.D. will hope they get this hire right, or frustration and disappointment will continue to build.