Aplin Reunites With Freeze, Wallace At Ole Miss

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Administrative intern and former Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin
Administrative intern and former Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin

Aug 27, 2013

By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com

OXFORD, Miss. — During the 2010 football season, Hugh Freeze, Bo Wallace and Ryan Aplin were together at Arkansas State.

Three years later, they have been reunited at Ole Miss, with Freeze as head coach, Wallace as a second-year starter at quarterback and Aplin, a two-time Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, as a recently hired administrative intern.

Aplin, a native of Tampa, Fla., led Arkansas State to back-to-back conference championships and completed his four-year career with more than 25 combined single-game, season and career school records and as the conference’s all-time leader in completions, passing yards and total offense.

From Arkansas State, Aplin competed in the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star Game, and then as an undrafted free agent, he participated in rookie mini-camps with the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins. Neither signed him, so he moved on to the Canadian Football League.

He got looks from three CFL teams, even participating in preseason workouts with the Montreal Alouettes, but between timing and a logjam of other quarterbacks on the respective teams, it didn’t work out for Aplin, so he turned his attention to his former coach, who he stayed in touch throughout the whole process and always told him, if he ever needed anything, to let him know.

“During this whole process, I called Freeze and told him I wasn't sure what was going to happen,” Aplin said. “He knows I still want to play, even now. If not, I would love to be with him coaching.

“After Montreal, it was so late, and Canadian football starts so early that I needed to find a job. I needed to find what I was going to do for the next year, so I called Coach Freeze, and he immediately went to work and see what he could do for me. A couple of weeks later, he told me he could get me a spot, and here I am.”

As an intern, Aplin works with co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Dan Werner, whether that’s charting data, analyzing film or performing other administrative duties.

From his starting quarterback for two seasons, to a member of his coaching staff, Aplin said Freeze has remained the same person. The biggest difference, Aplin joked, is he’s not the guy getting yelled at out there.

“One thing that outright amazes me is for me to see him be the exact same person he was at Arkansas State, from my position coach and offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, to the head coach at Arkansas State, to the head coach at an SEC school,” Aplin said. “To see him be himself and the same person, and not change, that really shows his character.

“To have somebody who can be themselves the whole time with all of the adversity that you have to face at this level, it's amazing. A lot of people don't see what he goes through. It's not easy. Everything is magnified by 100, 200, 1,000 times, from where he started to where he is now.”

When Wallace transferred from Arkansas State, Aplin remained in contact with him throughout and said Wallace has grown up a lot from his redshirt season with the Red Wolves.

This season, Wallace enters his second year as the Rebels’ starting quarterback, coming off the second-most total yards, third-most passing yards and fourth-most touchdown passes in a single season in school history.

“I wouldn't say he is my little brother, but that is how it felt at Arkansas State,” Aplin said. “I hosted him on his recruiting visit. He's somebody, who as a freshman, I tried to bring up under my wing. I had been there for a couple more years than he had, and it was his first time in college.

“I always tell people, when Bo first got there, he ran like a baby giraffe, like his legs were going everywhere. You could tell he was real young and still growing into his body. Now, you see him breaking 50-yard runs against LSU, one of the top defenses in the country. To see where he has come and the hard work he puts in, day in and day out, shows how much he has grown up not only as person, but also as a player.”

In 2010, Freeze’s first season at Arkansas State, then an offensive coordinator, and Aplin’s first season as starting quarterback, the Red Wolves finished 4-8.

The next season, with Freeze as head coach and Aplin in his second season as starting quarterback, Arkansas State won the Sun Belt Conference championship and finished with a 10-2 overall record. Freeze was named Coach of the Year, and Aplin was named Player of the Year, while the Red Wolves set school records for passing offense and total offense.

In year two at Arkansas State, Aplin noted, he and his teammates played faster and knew exactly where to line up, so Freeze was able to broaden the offense with new and different wrinkles.

He sees a lot of the same things at Ole Miss in Freeze’s second season, and it’s about comfort level, for both the coaches and the players.

“You have to be comfortable to be successful,” Aplin said. “In the second year, the transition was a lot easier. You know your guys. They have a lot better chemistry. You can see the guys starting to come together.

“Bo is throwing the ball when all four guys are coming out of their breaks because he knows where they are going to be. Bo is lined up, and he is seeing the blitzes and checking to them and getting his guys in good situations and calling routes that work against certain defenses. You can see the comfort level has skyrocketed. You can tell the guys feel really comfortable.”

Capturing the players, capturing their hearts, to get their attention to where they are going to come out every day and give you everything they got, Aplin said, is the biggest thing he has learned as an administrative intern under Freeze.

“To have a relationship with them on a personal level, know about his family life and be someone they are comfortable coming and talking to, not just about football, but about anything,” Aplin said. “And once you can capture them as person, you have guys going out there and playing for you 110 percent, and not playing for themselves. That's what makes great teams.”

At times during practice, Aplin said it’s been hard to watch the game from the sidelines. And after this season with Ole Miss, he will give professional football another shot.

“Coach Freeze and I have talked about it,” Aplin said. “I'm going to coach this year, which is big test for me. I want to be here. It is something I have always wanted to do. I have always wanted to be a coach, and this is something I have never dreamed I would ever be doing, being in the SEC my first year out of college helping out. But next spring, I'm going to give it one more run and try to play.

“When you're playing, you don't realize how much you enjoy the game, but when you don't have it, you realize how much you miss it. I'm definitely going to give it one more run in the spring because I'm not ready to put the ball down yet.”

Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller

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