Auburn Coach Hugh Freeze Sends Strong Message About Facing Nick Saban

Getty Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze said he wants to "beat the c***" out of Nick Saban in their Iron Bowl matchups

Newly hired Auburn head coach Hugh Freeze sent a strong message to his friend Nick Saban ahead of the first Iron Bowl head coaches between the two in their storied personal head-to-head history in the SEC.

“Yeah, I want to beat the crap out of him during the Iron Bowl, but we are friends,” Freeze told Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger in a piece published on March 28 detailing the 53-year-old’s expectations coaching on the Plains following his November 28 hiring.

As Freeze reveals, Saban courted Freeze at one point in hopes the Oxford native would join his vaunted Alabama coaching staff following Freeze’s exodus from Ole Miss — one that had him rebuilding his career at Liberty the past four seasons.

“I interviewed with the guy up the road a couple times, and he took a lot of notes,” Freeze said of Saban.

As Dellenger noted, Freeze is one of  just three active head coaches who has beaten Saban at least twice, in 2014 and 2015 while coaching Ole Miss, with the other two being UCF head coach Gus Malzahn (at Auburn in 2017 and 2019) and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney during the 2016 and 2018 College Football Playoff National Championships.

Gus Malzahn Believes Hugh Freeze Can Challenge Nick Saban

Malzahn, Auburn’s head coach from 2013-2020, was high on the man he replaced as head coach at Arkansas State in 2012 — saying that Freeze will compete with Saban in college football’s most storied interstate rivalry.

“He will,” Malzahn said when asked by Dellenger. “I think Auburn and Hugh is a really good match. Auburn is an unbelievable place. Hugh is really, really good. I’m excited for both parties. You can win the whole thing there. Unbelievable fan base and support. He’s coming at a great time with NIL and the new facility. Everything came together.”

Alabama defeated Auburn the past three Iron Bowls, which were coached by three different men: Malzahn, Bryan Harsin, and interim head coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams.

Hugh Freeze: Alabama isn’t as Good Up Front as They Were

Freeze took a shot at Alabama’s trenches on both sides of the ball, saying the Crimson Tide’s guys up front aren’t the same now as they were then — referring to the last time Freeze coached in the SEC (2012-2016).

“I haven’t been in the league, but the teams I used to see when we played Alabama … we’re so behind that,” Freeze prefaced before asking, “Now, are they [Alabama] the same as they were then?”, and answering, “Watching tape, I don’t know if they’re as good up front as they were then”

Freeze did concede that he is no Saban or Kirby Smart when it comes to recruiting. “I think I’ve got to spend an enormous amount of time recruiting,” Freeze said. “I’m not Nick [Saban] or [Georgia coach] Kirby [Smart] right now. Not that they don’t work at it, but they’ve got it rolling. I’m going to have to be willing to do the extra to get us caught up some.”

The Auburn coach did give Alabama its due while pointing out that the Tigers are also behind Georgia and LSU in trench recruiting.

“(Alabama’s) still really, really good, but Georgia … we are considerably behind those two and LSU, too,” Freeze said. “We’ve got a ways to go.”

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