Report: Hugh Freeze to coach Ole Miss

Arkansas State's Hugh Freeze has agreed to take the Mississippi job, according to a person familiar to the coaching search.

A formal announcement is expected Monday, the person told The Associated Press on Sunday night on condition of anonymity because the school has not announced the hire.

The 42-year-old Freeze led Arkansas State to the 2011 Sun Belt Conference championship and 10-2 record in his first season as a coach at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Freeze is from Senatobia, Miss., and served as an assistant under former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron from 2005-07. During that time, he coached receivers, tight ends and also served as the program's recruiting coordinator. He had a 20-5 combined record as head coach at NAIA-level Lambuth (Tenn.) in 2008 and '09.

Arkansas State has accepted a bid to the GoDaddy.com Bowl, but it is not known if Freeze will coach the Red Wolves in the Jan. 8 game.

Terms of Freeze's contract weren't immediately released, but he's certain to get a significant raise. USA Today reported he made $202,160 this season, which made him the lowest paid FBS coach. Freeze is replacing Houston Nutt, who made about $2.7 million last season.

Freeze met with Ole Miss officials on Sunday night, according to a person familiar with the search. Arkansas State athletic director Dean Lee said in a statement released by the school on Sunday that he had given Ole Miss permission to talk with Freeze.

It's a somewhat risky hire for the Rebels, who are going with a relatively unproven coach instead of a more high-profile name. But Freeze does have strong regional ties, has had recruiting success and a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks over the past decade.

Now he's got to win in the tough Southeastern Conference -- which will capture its sixth consecutive national championship. He'll also be competing in the SEC Western Division against the likes of Alabama's Nick Saban, LSU's Les Miles and Arkansas' Bobby Petrino.

Freeze takes over for Nutt, who was fired following one of the worst seasons in Ole Miss history. The Rebels finished with a 2-10 record (0-8 SEC) and have holes up and down the roster. But Mississippi does have a young core of receivers -- including Donte Moncrief, Nickolas Brassell and Tobias Singleton -- that might be useful in Freeze's historically potent offense.

The Ole Miss coaching search was led by a five-person committee, including former Rebel quarterback Archie Manning and FedEx executive Mike Glenn.

Freeze worked at Briarcrest High School in Memphis, Tenn., for 13 years, including as the head football coach from 1995 to 2004. He amassed a 99-23 record and won two state championships, but was mostly known as the high school coach for left tackle Michael Oher, who was later featured in the best-selling book and popular movie "The Blind Side."

Freeze parlayed that high school success into a job with Orgeron's staff in 2005, first serving in an off-the-field capacity before joining the on-field staff in 2006 as the receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. Freeze was seen as an instrumental part of Orgeron's prowess as a recruiter -- bringing in future starts like running back Dexter McCluster, defensive end Greg Hardy, safety Kendrick Lewis and receiver Shay Hodge -- though that didn't immediately translate to on-field success.

Freeze briefly served as the Rebels' interim head coach after Orgeron was fired following the 2007 season, but was not retained by Nutt.

After his successful two-year stint at Lambuth, he joined Arkansas State's staff as the offensive coordinator in 2010. The Red Wolves broke nine offensive records that season and ranked second in the Sun Belt in total offense, but head coach Steve Roberts was fired after a 4-8 season.

Freeze was promoted and the Red Wolves took a dramatic step forward this fall, finishing undefeated in the Sun Belt. They finished first in the league in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense and total defense. His high-powered, spread offense has worked everywhere it's been, though it's never been tested against SEC competition.