Will Ole Miss be distracted when it faces Georgia?

Hugh Freeze took the NCAA questions head on during his SEC media days appearances.

HOOVER, Ala. – Three-and-a-half years ago, as Laremy Tunsil and other high-profile prospects were shocking people by signing with Ole Miss, head coach Hugh Freeze sent out a tweet challenging people with any proof of recruiting violations to contact their athletics department.

The tweet has since been quietly deleted.

“Yeah. Sometimes you make decisions that probably aren’t the sharpest,” Freeze acknowledged on Thursday. “Do I regret doing it? Absolutely.”

Those were the final words Freeze said in the main room of an SEC media days appearance that ended up being dominated by the ongoing NCAA investigation into his program.

Five of the 11 questions Freeze got in the main room were related to the investigation. That was even after he addressed it in his opening statement, reading from a prepared statement that said, essentially, that he welcomed the speedy conclusion and was confident that he had done the right things.

The skepticism in the room was palpable. But the room was full of media members with less standard of proof than the NCAA.

“Look. Everybody has — everybody’s got a narrative,” Freeze said. “You have one, I have one, our rivals have one. All of us have one in regards to us going on in the world and in our world with the NCAA. It’s obvious that the allegations have come. We’ve got our notice. I would encourage you to read our response, and we look forward to that day.”

Freeze also doubtlessly looks forward to the distraction of football season. The overhanging question will still be this: Does the NCAA investigation serve as a distraction … especially, say, when Georgia visits on Sept. 24?

Tunsil, the center of the investigation after the NFL draft drama in May, was expected to go to Georgia until his Ole Miss visit. But he’s gone from the program now, along with the other heralded members of that highly-ranked class.

But Ole Miss does return plenty more talent, including quarterback Chad Kelly, who has his own past troubles, but came to SEC media days proclaiming his goal to be the best quarterback in the country.

The Rebels came in at No. 10 nationally in the Athlon preseason poll. Freeze and his staff, it seems, have continued to recruit pretty well.

 

Senior defensive lineman D.J. Jones was asked what Freeze’s message to the team has been through all this mess.

“Stay the course,” Jones said. “We have bigger things going on. We have a season coming up and a big game in September. So just stay the course.”

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