Dec 30, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze walks the field as his team warms up before a game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at LP Field. The Rebels beat the Yellow Jackets 25-17. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Our very own Croom Diaries stirred up a little dust yesterday when he published his article about the different recruiting philosophies of Ole Miss and Mississippi State. I saw a number of Ole Miss Twitter accounts that thought it was funny because to them it was ludicrous. The mistake they made was that they assumed that Croom Diaries believed the philosophy of Mississippi State was better. He stated that he didn’t say one was better than the other, that they were just different. Despite the bally hooed rankings of the Ole Miss recruiting classes, Mississippi State has won 6 of the last 10 Egg Bowls. We seem to be doing pretty well with our strategy. The first thing Ole Miss fans said was you can’t count anything before Hugh Freeze. Even if you only factored in the two years Freeze has been at Ole Miss, Mississippi State has a record in those two years of 15-11 overall with a 7-9 SEC mark, and the Bulldogs and Rebels have split the Egg Bowl. The record for the Rebels in those same two years is 15-11 overall and a 6-10 mark in the SEC. About as even as it gets.
Ole Miss fans may disagree with how effective each strategy is, the one thing that is difficult to argue against is that the Ole Miss recruiting machine is built on hype and flash. Hugh Freeze has had players decommit this year, just to have them commit right back later on. The purpose? To get people talking about Ole Miss recruiting.
Ole Miss has their biggest recruiting weekend this year starting tonight. Don’t be surprised if there are lots of tweets, Facebook posts, and Instagram pics of the recruits tearing up the town. The Ole Miss coaching staff wants this. Perception is important when it comes to recruiting. The Ole Miss staff wants current and future recruits to believe there is no better place on Earth than Oxford, Mississippi. If you don’t believe me, just go back to some of the things that were posted to various social media sites during their biggest weekend last year. That one got even more important because Chris Jones made his way to Oxford. The coaching staff at Ole Miss not only wanted all of their recruits to spam Twitter with their posts, they wanted to put as many seeds of doubt as possible in the minds of Mississippi State fans about Jones arriving to Starkville. Enough doubt would cause State fans to send hateful messages to Jones and make him want to flip to Ole Miss. It almost worked.
I expect the recruits at every school they visit this weekend to have a good time. Because the new January dead period was instituted this year, there are only three weekends that coaches can conduct recruiting visits in January and February before National Signing Day. They will host recruits every weekend, but they normally have one that they try to focus on more than any other. That just so happens to be the upcoming weekend for Ole Miss.
So what can Mississippi State do to spoil it? The biggest recruiting weekend is normally centered around a big event on campus. If the basketball schedule works out, then the big event is around that. Mississippi State’s basketball schedule hasn’t been as helpful this year. The only home weekend game State has had since the end of the dead period was Texas A&M. Ole Miss is centering their weekend around their home game against us.
I don’t know if this weekend’s game was always planned as the big recruiting weekend for Ole Miss or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Ole Miss coaching staff honed in on it after they lost the Egg Bowl. It has to be important to get Ole Miss beating State, regardless of the sport, in the minds of recruits. Most people believe that Ole Miss will win the game on Saturday, and that makes sense. They have the best scorer on the floor in Marshall Henderson, they are at home, and they simply have more talent. Yes, the Bulldogs did beat Ole Miss a few weeks ago, but they played without Henderson and it was in Starkville, a place that Ole Miss just can’t seem to win. The Ole Miss coaching staff believes that they will be able to show the recruits Ole Miss beating Mississippi State and tell them how good it will feel to do that on the football field. Chris Kiffin might even tell them they won’t ever lose to State again.
So wouldn’t it be great if Rick Ray and his band of scrappy Dogs walk into the Sad Pad on Saturday and pulled off the upset? A lively, excited campus is so much better for recruiting purposes than one that is mad. Losing to the Bulldogs on Saturday would be devastating to the Rebels’ basketball team. That would be their second loss to a team that will likely finish with an RPI outside the top 100. It wouldn’t kill their chances at a NCAA tournament berth, but it certainly would put a large hole in their resume. Beating the Rebels might make Oxford a slightly less fun place to be this weekend.
Bulldog fans don’t have a lot to be excited about when it comes to this year’s basketball team. We are hoping to at least make the NIT, and that is going to be a long shot. So if you don’t get excited about it, get excited about this one. A loss could, even though slightly, hurt the Rebels’ recruiting efforts. There is nothing more important to an Ole Miss fan than recruiting, so let’s all hope the basketball team can rain on their parade Saturday.