Positive momentum.

It’s what all coaches welcome when changing the culture at a struggling football program.

The cache’s there this season for Ole Miss, a team on the brink if you ask anyone in Oxford and especially Hugh Freeze, who in two seasons has transitioned the Rebels from a 10-loss embarrassment to consecutive bowl wins with slivers of national respect.

“One good thing about Media Days is coach (Steve) Spurrier isn’t talking about Ole Miss as much, wanting to play us every year and maybe that’s a good thing,” Freeze said Thursday. “The expectations have been risen around our program which we embrace.”

Entering his third season, Freeze anticipates a breakout year for the Rebels, a conference title-caliber effort anchored by senior quarterback Bo Wallace and nine returning starters on the defensive side of the football.

Picked by the media to finish fourth in the ultra-competitive West, Ole Miss is one of three teams to never appear in the SEC Championship Game. Flanked by Wallace, all-league safety Cody Prewitt and pass rusher C.J. Johnson, Freeze was candid at the podium and said the rebuilding process has taken place much faster than he expected.

“I think the journey that we’ve been on, I think it’s faster than I thought possible,” Freeze said. “When I first arrived there, I really thought we would be going to hopefully a bowl game in year three. We were able to do that in year one and two, and win both of them.”

More from Freeze’s SEC Media Days appearance:

  • On how his 15-year-old daughter, Ragan, ranks SEC head coaches: “My daughter keeps a ranking of the SEC coaches. If you’re at any of our games and viewing her an hour before game time, she’s at midfield trying to find the other head coach. That’s how into this football season she is. I don’t know that I will give you the whole ranking. But number one in her book is Coach Miles.”
  • On budding friendship with Gus Malzahn, Steve Spurrier and the trio’s offseason golfing trip to Destin, Fla.: “There’s not many practice swings in that group. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember any. So it was a quick round of golf. We got to play with Gus several times this summer. We understand that. My hair is quite shorter than normal today. Spurrier takes credit for that. If he won our match, come to Media Day, you had to buzz cut your hair, so that’s why my hair is so short today (laughter).”
  • On how he embraces social media, specifically Twitter: “I got to where I feel a bit guilty about posting the big fish I catch because I think people think I’m being braggadocios of some sort and I’m spoiled with the lake I get to fish in. I try to use social media really to get the brand of who I am and the core values of our program out. I think it’s important that any student‑athlete or anyone that chooses to use it knows that when you hit send, tweet, retweet, you’re building a brand for yourself.”
  • On expectations for the Rebels’ star-studded sophomore class: “I certainly hope that another year in the off‑season program with Paul Jackson and being a college student‑athlete, that the grind of what we ask them to go through is more common to them so that they are better equipped and better prepared to go through the grind of the season that we’re going to ask them to go through.”