Hugh Freeze sees Auburn in ‘upper echelon’ of SEC in ’23

Field Level Media

July 18, 2023 at 7:35 pm.

Hugh Freeze returns to the SEC as head coach at Auburn, where expectations are rising for the Tigers to be one of the league’s contenders.

Freeze signed a six-year deal with an average annual value of $6.5 million after four seasons with eight or more wins at Liberty.

“I would see us in the upper echelon of this conference,” Freeze said of Auburn. “We have the facilities, we have the support, we have the administration and you’re in an area that football’s important.”

Freeze, 53, was coach at Ole Miss for five seasons and inherits an Auburn program desperate to rediscover the glory days. He said he wasn’t expecting the door to re-open to the conference after he was dismissed by Ole Miss in the wake of a scandal involving female escorts.

The Plains opted for the change following the in-season dismissal of Bryan Harsin, who compiled a 9-12 record at Auburn before his contract was bought out. Carnell “Cadillac” Williams, a former star running back for the program, was named the interim coach after Harsin’s 3-5 start, and the Tigers finished 5-7. They’ve won only two bowl games — in 2015 and 2018 — the past 11 seasons.

One pressing question entering August practices: Where will Freeze turn at quarterback? There are four quarterbacks vying for the job in a competition Freeze said he prefers over anointing a No. 1 right now.

“Quarterback-wise, that’s going to be a challenge for us,” Freeze said.

Among them is Robby Ashford, a player Freeze is confident can help — somewhere — this season.

“He’s probably the absolute best athlete I’ve ever coached at that position,” Freeze said. “I think he’s dynamic in so many ways.”