Jeffery Johnson’s phone was dead around 7:30 ET on July 20 — the night Hugh Freeze resigned as Ole Miss’ head football coach.
Johnson, a 3-star defensive tackle from Brookhaven (Miss.) High School, is one of Ole Miss’ top priority targets in the Class of 2018, and for several hours, he didn’t know Freeze was no longer the Rebels’ coach.
“I turned my phone on and my phone was blowing up from everyone asking me how it affects my decision,” Johnson told SEC Country. “I didn’t talk to anyone but the [Ole Miss] coaches after that. “I talked to Coach [Derrick] Nix and Coach [Freddie] Roach. They were explaining it all to me, and I told them it wouldn’t affect my decision.”
The nation’s No. 37 defensive tackle also reached out to Freeze directly after he heard what transpired. Johnson contemplated whether or not he should text him in that moment because he figured Freeze’s phone was overloaded with calls and messages.
He decided to go ahead and reach out to the coach because they have developed a strong bond ever since Ole Miss has started recruiting Johnson.
“I texted Coach Freeze and told him what I think of it all,” Johnson said. “I told him that I still think he’s a great guy after all of this.”
Freeze actually replied back to Johnson’s message.
“I was shocked he responded because I was just saying there was no way he’d respond back,” Johnson said. “I went ahead and did it. He didn’t text back immediately because I’m sure his phone was busy. He just told me, ‘Thank you and I’m really proud of you.'”
Johnson said this is the first time he’s talked about Ole Miss and Freeze’s situation since the coach’s resignation. He’s been overwhelmed with messages and calls from people asking how Freeze no longer being there affects his recruitment.
“I don’t think it changes my decision at all,” Johnson said. “What they have going on — it has nothing to do with me. That’s a whole different story. I think Hugh Freeze is a great guy. I’ve been to Ole Miss probably like 20 times. I developed a strong relationship with him and all of the other coaches there. Hugh would call and check on me from time to time. This doesn’t affect my recruitment. I still love Ole Miss and everything about them.”
It did, however, alter his recruitment somewhat. Johnson said he was planning on making a commitment at the end of this month between Florida State and Ole Miss. All signs were pointing toward the Rebels, but he’s going to hold off on making a decision now. He’s not sure when a commitment could come, but he’s an early enrollee so he wants to get it done as soon as possible.
“It’s kind of hard. I have a really hard decision to make,” Johnson said. “I was planning on making a decision at the end of this month, but I told myself that it’s too hard. I have Alabama now in the picture. It’s going to be hard to make a decision with Ole Miss having everything going on. And, again, it doesn’t affect me, but it’s something that will be on my mind.”