Hugh Freeze not ready to admit what every Auburn fan needs to hear

Hugh Freeze, Auburn Tigers. (Photo by Johnnie Izquierdo/Getty Images)
Hugh Freeze, Auburn Tigers. (Photo by Johnnie Izquierdo/Getty Images) /

Hugh Freeze has every reason to be optimistic about Auburn’s future, but 2023 could be rough.

Although Auburn hiring Hugh Freeze was exactly who the Tigers needed to bring in for the long term, he doesn’t seem to grasp how challenging of a first year it could be for him down on The Plains.

Freeze spoke about how much he loves his new team at SEC Media Days week (why wouldn’t he?). While he has won everywhere he has been previously, whether that be Arkansas State, Ole Miss or Liberty, he is not inheriting a great Auburn team. In fact, he is taking over for the unmitigated disaster that was Bryan Harsin. It could get turned around quickly, but not in year one. No way…

Though he believes his team has improved, he is not so sure the Tigers have closed the SEC gap.

"“Here’s what I really believe. I want to be careful not to — I love our team. They’re my team. They’re Auburn’s team. We’re going to coach the heck out of them. Does our roster from top to bottom look like Alabama’s, Georgia’s, LSU’s, Florida, A&M, Ole Miss? I don’t know yet. I know a couple they don’t because I’ve watched the tape. Do I think we’ve improved Auburn with the additions that we’ve had since I’ve been there? Yes. Does that mean we close the gap at all? I have no clue.”"

To be fair, pretty much anything is an improvement over what Auburn was a year ago. The goal this season should be to get back to a bowl game and steal a conference game or two. If this team goes any better than 8-4 in year one under Freeze, then they are going to be a national title contender as early as 2024. In time, they probably will be later this decade, but let’s take this slow.

For War Eagle Nation, you just have to roll with the punches this year. Trust me, it is going to work!

Hugh Freeze is not ready to admit defeat heading into tough first year at Auburn

Look. Auburn is an unquestioned top-15 program of all time. It is one of only a select Power Five programs out there where you can reasonably expect to contend for national titles every so often. Unfortunately, its three biggest rivals are Alabama, Georgia and LSU. It is also the hardest job in college football for that reason. The expectations are insane, despite Auburn being a blue blood.

Freeze is absolutely right in that recruitment will be paramount. He did get blue-chippers to come to Oxford at his previous SEC post, albeit under very shady circumstances. Auburn does not have to get one top-five class after another to be in championship contention, especially with an expanded College Football Playoff field. The Tigers just need to capture lightning in a bottle again.

The good news is god is clearly an Auburn fan, as no program gets to experience the rollercoaster ride of emotions in the Power Five quite like the Tigers do. Freeze may be slimy and not for everyone, but that’s kind of Auburn for you. Anyway, here is the biggest reason to be bullish on Freeze and the Tigers going forward. Did his hire instill fear at Alabama, Georgia and LSU. You bet!

Overall, I feel like Auburn will be back to being a top-10 team come 2025 or 2026. Then again, for someone to get better, somebody has to get worse. The question is who will take a stumble in the next three or four years to allow Auburn to rise back towards the upper crust of the SEC where they belong? It is way too early to tell, but trust me, Freeze should work out at Auburn just fine.

Given the strength of the conference and the bad shape of the program, this will take some time.

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