Who is the True Mississippian: Freeze or Mullen?


Oct 11, 2014; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs head coach Dan Mullen leads the team out on the field before the game against the Auburn Tigers at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Hugh Freeze is from Independence, Mississippi and graduated from Southern Miss. Dan Mullen is from Manchester, New Hampshire and graduated from Ursinus College (in Pennsylvania). If you asked someone from the west coast, who doesn’t pay attention to football at all, ‘which Mississippi SEC head coach is more adamant about winning with in-state talent?’, they’d for sure say Freeze. But that’s not the case – the answer is Mullen.

Dan Mullen is a man whose introduction to living in the deep south came in 2009, after he had just finished up a highly successful four-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Florida (not the deep south despite its geography). He spent the first hand full of years in his coaching career in New York. Then on to Indiana, Kentucky and Utah before arriving in Florida. With a track record like that, recruiting nationally would seem to fit the bill.

Oct 18, 2014; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze during the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Hugh Freeze has made a career coaching in the mid-south. He was a high school coach in Memphis before getting hired as an assistant at Ole Miss. Then on to be a Division II head coach in west Tennessee, and offensive coordinator at Arkansas State prior to getting the head job in Oxford. Knowing that region of the country, it would seem like the state of Mississippi and the Memphis area would be on the only place he’d want to recruit.

Dan Mullen embraced Mississippi from day one, suggesting he wanted to lock down the borders of the state and win with home-grown talent. He has also built his recruiting philosophy on the premise that all the talent that’s needed to win at MSU is within a 5-hour radius of Starkville.

Hugh Freeze has been known as an excellent recruiter from day one, suggesting that Ole Miss will find the best talent available whether they are in Mississippi or not. They are ready and willing to recruit nationally.

The facts bear out the direction these coaches are going –

2015 signing class:

  • Ole Miss: 4 of 22 from Mississippi (18%)
  • Mississippi State: 15 of 28 from Mississippi (54%)

Ole Miss has 46 players on their 105 man roster from the state of Mississippi (44%).

Mississippi State has 55 players on their 105 man roster from the state of Mississippi (52%).

It appears as though Dan Mullen is aiming to get more Mississippi players, and the divide will continue to get bigger and bigger from the amount of in-state talent Hugh Freeze is bringing in. So far in 2016, each school has six Mississippi players among the nine and ten that MSU and OM have respectively. But who knows how many more Freeze will add – after all, he did sign three star players from Florida (2), New York and Texas; I’m not sure that quite fits the definition of “national recruiting”.

Who has the state locked down? That’s hard to say, but it does seem apparent that Dan Mullen is more focused on winning with Mississippi talent. And that seems odd considering each coach’s personal background.