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Over the course of the next couple of weeks, we will be breaking down the pieces that made this signing class arguably the best Ole Miss signing class in school history. We'll throw in highlight videos whenever we can find them and will try to examine what we see with our biased, untrained eyes. With media and sports fans all over the country talking about Ole Miss recruits, it is our hope to generate some discussion about those recruits who didn't have four or five stars next to their names. Today, we look at the big men up front on defense.
Robert Nkemdiche - 5* - 6'5" 265 - Other Notable Offers: Everyone
In case you missed it, the nation's number one player signed with Ole Miss. He's not bad at football. Before the season, I tried to pigeonhole Nkemdiche into being a reliable defensive end who didn't have good pass rush skills but could develop them. Looking back, that's hilariously stupid of me. We saw him absolutely dominate at the Under Armour All-American game against the best offensive linemen in the country. Elite offensive players had to triple-team Nkemdiche to stop him. Obviously, if that happens in college, he'll have made an impact.
Honestly, I wasn't sure whether Nkemdiche would start from the beginning of his tenure until that moment. I like Channing Ward a lot but he doesn't have that type of impact on offenses. Both will play a lot of football for us this season, but I expect Nkemdiche to get most of the starts. He's just incredibly dominant and should command double teams early during his tenure.
You can see from this video what Nkemdiche can do when he isn't double-teamed. I expect him to have a big impact in year one. I'm not predicting he'll lead the team in sacks or anything, but he should help reduce the number of double-teams that Isaac Gross and CJ Johnson see in games. He's huge, fast, and strong.
Lavon Hooks - 4* - 6’4" 295 - Other Notable Offers: Auburn, State, Miami, Nebraska, Oklahoma
Hooks is the nations' #1 JUCO player regardless of position and rightfully so. He is huge, strong, and quick enough to make a difference. Obviously the Rebels needed to sign an impact defensive tackle in this class with the losses of Uriah Grant and Gilbert Pena, and Hooks will fill that role. He's expected by many to be a starter opposite Isaac Gross, though I wouldn't sleep on Bryon Bennett. Either way, Hooks will play a lot.
interestingly enough, Hooks was a wide receiver in high school. His freshman year in junior college, he transitioned to defensive end. This past season, he moved to defensive tackle. I don't want to overstate this, but that has to mean good things about his agility. If you watch his video (which isn't embeddable but can be found here), you can see that explosiveness Ole Miss fans are hoping will be a staple of the defensive line. A front featuring Nkemdiche, Hooks, Gross, and Johnson could be very tough for opponents to gameplan around as it isn't really deficient in a facet of defense (in theory of course).
Herbert Moore - 3* - 6'1" 335 - Other Notable Offers: Clemson, Arkansas, UNC, Vandy
At nearly 340 pounds, this Memphis high school star adds considerable size to a Rebel defensive line which has been somewhat undersized for the past few seasons. Rated as a consensus three-star prospect, 247 Sports has him as the No. 23 player in Tennessee and the No. 49 defensive tackle prospect overall. In watching his highlights, he definitely has the size necessary to... um... lose a lot of weight before putting on actual muscle, which really sin't a bad thing. It's just that his billing is a bit misleading. He is big, but he's not in SEC shape at all. Still, at his high school level, he commands a double team fairly routinely and disrupts the pocket well. He is a redshirt and a couple years of weightlifting away from being a regular contributor on the Rebel defensive line.