Hugh Freeze is now almost two months into his tenure as Auburn head coach and early reviews from former Tigers players are mostly positive. Ex-Auburn linebacker Takeo Spikes, a first-round pick in the 1998 NFL draft, says Freeze is going all out in changing culture in The Plains.
Between hiring coaching staff and taking over transfer portals, Spikes says the basis for success in Freeze’s tenure is already clear.
“I think he’s done a pretty good job of bringing in new blood up to that point,” Spikes, a two-time Pro Bowl pick in the NFL, said this week McElroy & Cubelic in the morning at WJOX in Birmingham, Alabama. “You have to change the culture. As you mentioned, Hugh brings in external people from other schools. And he taps into the portal where you have people with different experiences, some of them from successful programs. I think he’s doing a good job of winning over the boys so far. Ideally we’d like to see more 5 stars, but at the end of the day I don’t let that get to me too much.
“And that’s something I really want to emphasize to the Auburn family: at the end of the day, the majority of players are only going to be as good as they’re developed. You will have special players who will still be special. But now a good harvest will help Hugh develop not only depth but quality across the board as the boys compete for different spots. I’m looking forward to next year guys.”
On the transfer front, Auburn has only smiled so far. Auburn’s 2023 transfer class ranks third nationally, with players having an average rating of 90.18. Justin Rogers, Kentucky defensive lineman, and ECU internal offensive lineman Avery Jones are the top two rated individuals in this class, each with player ratings of 92.00. There are currently eleven transfers tied to Auburn in total.
When he was hired, Freeze was asked directly what “culture” means to him. Freeze comes to Auburn with several previous stints as head coach, most recently at Liberty where he was hired. Other past stops for Freeze include Ole Miss, Arkansas State and Lambuth.
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“Each day, following the standard of our culture as best we can,” Freeze said in December. “With faith, attitude, mental toughness, integrity and love—pursue these things. And we need to define what those mean for everyone, which is what I did in the press conference and we’re going to do it again. I did it with the team this morning. But living that out, with the choices we make, the way we work, the energy, the passion, the positive energy, the accountability. All of it.
“I have to have a group of people in the dressing room to drive this train. I can be the voice in the team room, Cadillac [Williams] can be the voice in the team room, but you have to get it in the dressing room. I need to find out who these guys are.”