Whoever our next coach is will have to hit the ground running in terms of recruiting. We can't afford to have a terrible class immediately following the best freshman class we've had since 2007. The state of Mississippi isn't very deep in terms of SEC talent this year, but there are players to be had, and we've got to get some of them.
It's also important for our next coach to evaluate what we already have committed and decide who to keep from that bunch. After the jump, check out five players we have committed that we should keep and five players who are uncommitted but need to be pursued.
Five Players We Need To Keep
1. RB I'Tavius Mathers - Blackman High School - Murfreesboro, TN
Mathers is rated as the #16 RB and #237 overall player nationally by Rivals.com. He ranks as the #5 player in Tennessee.
Scouting: Mathers flashes good vision and an aggressive running style. Based solely on highlight film, he doesn't appear to have trouble making decisions of where to run next, taking the ball and following holes where he can. He certainly doesn't have elite speed, and that's something about which to worry.
Why we need him: Mathers is our most decorated recruit by far. He has offers from Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and South Carolina (as well as several others). So other people seem to think him a worthy recruit. On top of that, we won't have any bruising backs next season with Brandon Bolden and Enrique "The Freakay" Davis graduating. We've got to be able to get tough yards when we need them, and Mathers is the most likely of our backs to do that.
2. DT/DE Isaac Gross - South Panola High School - Batesville, MS
Gross is listed as the #25 defensive tackle nationally and the #4 player in Mississippi.
Scouting: The South Panola star is a bit undersized at defensive tackle (270 lbs.), but he has good strength and speed. A pocket disruptor, Gross is in the backfield quickly after the ball is snapped. He does have trouble fighting blocks and has been able to get around that with speed in high school. He'll need to use more than that at the next level.
Why we need him: Gross is incredibly useful to whoever our new coach is. If we stick with a traditional 4-3 defense, he can be the pass rushing defensive tackle who also plays some defensive end. If we transition to a 3-4, he's a great fit at defensive end. Either way, you get a big guy with above average speed on the defensive line. You can see how ineffective defenses are when they can't get to the quarterback. Adding Gross would go a long way to remedying that.
3. RB Jaylen Walton - Ridgeway High School - Memphis, TN
Walton is listed as the #8 all-purpose back nationally and the #8 player in Tennessee.
Scouting: Walton is exceptionally fast and possesses the ability to change direction quickly. While undersized, he's the type of gimmick player around which some offensive sets can be designed. If we can get Walton the ball in open space, he could be trouble for opposing defenses. That said, he's very small.
Why we need him: Our scholarship halfbacks returning next year are SR Devin Thomas, JR Jeff Scott (tentatively), and SO Nick Parker. We've got to add players to that list in order to have any sort of competition at the position. A youth infusion is needed at halfback, and Walton is a wanted man. The back has offers from Arkansas, Auburn, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Penn State.
4. DE/OLB Temario Strong - South Panola High School - Batesville, MS
Strong is listed as the #16 player in Mississippi.
Scouting: Strong is undersized at defensive end (in height and weight), so the defensive end spot probably isn't right for him, particularly if we switch to a 3-4. He has good technique in tackling, speed, and anticipation. At linebacker, he could contribute.
Why we need him: He may be too slow to ever be a starter, but there's no real way to know that at this point. What we know right now is that he has a good frame, attends South Panola, has good bloodlines, and wants to attend Ole Miss. You take that kid every year.
5. OT Jake Meador - Whiteland High School - Whiteland, Indiana
Meador is listed as the #30 offensive tackle nationally and the #2 player in Indiana.
Scouting: Meador is a little slow, but he does a good job of keeping faster defenders engaged in blocks long enough to spring running backs. He doesn't dominate high school competition, but his highlights suggest he has good technique at this stage in his career. He has a huge frame.
Why we need him: Meador's offer sheet includes Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Missouri, and Vanderbilt. While that's not incredible, it's not bad. We've got to sign offensive linemen this year, and Meador is the best one we have committed.
Five Players We Need to Sign
1. DE Channing Ward - Aberdeen High School - Aberdeen, MS
Ward is listed as the #6 strongside defensive end and #88 player nationally. He ranks as the #2 player in Mississippi.
Scouting: Ward is the closest thing to a can't miss prospect in Mississippi. He's big, fast, and smart. He has good technique in pass rushing and displays excellent agility, etc.
Why we want him: Channing's other offers come from every SEC school but Vanderbilt and South Carolina. I'll take any player with those offers regardless of position. That said, Ward provides a pass rush to a team that doesn't have one. He could potentially start immediately and help our defense a great deal.
2. DT Quay Evans - Morton High School - Morton, MS
Evans is listed as the # 15 defensive tackle and #190 player nationally. He ranks as the #3 player in Mississippi.
Scouting: It's not at all normal for a player who weighs three hundred pounds to move as quickly as Quay Evans does. He's got elite athleticism, speed, burst, and strength for a defensive tackle. If Evans weighed 30 pounds more, he'd be an incredible 3-4 nose tackle. As it stands, he's a dominant defensive tackle who can disrupt nearly every play. The problem with Quay lies between the ears. Quay committed to Ole Miss when he was a sophomore only to decommit later. He was quoted as saying college players should be paid over 150k dollars per year. He has been kicked out of several games, and there are always rumors that something he did was the last straw for his high school coach. The only thing stopping Evans from being a can't miss prospect is his personality.
Why we want him: Evans could immediately start for Ole Miss. When coupled with the other potential defensive line recruits in this group, he could potentially give the Rebels the most talented class of defensive linemen in the country. He has offers from LSU, Bama, and anywhere else he wants.
3. QB Jeremy Liggins - Lafayette High School - Oxford, MS
Liggins is listed as the #14 dual-threat quarterback nationally and the #7 player in Mississippi.
Scouting: Liggins is huge (6'3" 270 lbs.) and uses his body to help him run in an aggressive way. He doesn't shy away from contact and falls forward. I've heard his throws are sometimes erratic, but you can't gauge that by his highlight tape. I know he can sling the football. People say his footwork is the issue, and you can see a little of that on tape. I would hope our next OC could help fix that.
Why we want him: First off, we need help at quarterback. Liggins' other offers come from the rest of the SEC. The only SEC team who hasn't offered him is South Carolina. Regardless of whether he'll work out as a quarterback, you take a guy with his athleticism.
4. OT Cordarrly Gaines - Provine High School - Jackson, MS
Gaines is listed as the #9 player in Mississippi.
Scouting: I can't find any film on Gaines. He's 6'5" and weighs 320 lbs. Both recruiting sites like him. He's the consensus #1 offensive lineman in Mississippi.
Why we need him: He plays on the offensive line. We need some people who do that.
5. LB Richie Brown - Long Beach High School - Long Beach, MS
Brown is listed as the #8 player in Mississippi.
Scouting: Brown is very fast and physical. He is patient but doesn't let patience mean a lot of extra yardage for ball carriers. The one thing I would say is he doesn't tackle all that well. I mean, in his highlights he obviously always tackles, but he struggles to wrap up and hits pretty high. Also, he needs to gain weight.
Why we want him: Honestly, we want him because he's a talented linebacker. While that's not a major need position for us right now, you can't pass that up. He can redshirt in his first year then be a backup for a year or so before starting. His noteworthy offer comes from LSU, and they may lead. I heard he was turned off by our coaching staff though, so new blood might actually help.
So.... that said...
Obviously there are players we need to sign who aren't on this list. I'm just throwing out a list of people the next coach will OBVIOUSLY pursue. It's tough to know which players he'll approach who are out-of-state. If we can sign these ten players though, we'll have a good foundation for the first class.