Over the next several days, The Ghost of Jay Cutler and I will be rolling out posts breaking down the recent Ole Miss signing class by position. While we're certainly not incredible talent evaluators (and don't profess to be so), we can spot glaring weaknesses and significant strengths. What follows are my thoughts on the linebackers who signed with the Rebels last Wednesday.
Heading into this year, it was important for us to sign a good group of linebackers. Two starters depart, and while we have some youth at the position, we don't have significant numbers of potential contributors. In the SEC, solid linebacker play is huge, particularly when running games are becoming more and more misdirection-oriented. The Ole Miss staff really stepped up in a big way with this group, and the results are exciting.
Of course, the prize of the class is C. J. Johnson. Johnson, the only five-star prospect in the class, is rated as the #2 ILB in the country. He held offers from Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Tennessee, and State. He apparently could have gotten an offer from anyone he wanted just by showing them interest. His seventeen tackles in the MS/AL All-Star game left many Ole Miss writers afraid that Mississippi State had gotten an incredible linebacker. When he finally flipped to Ole Miss, I was shocked. His film, which you can't see (sorry, no youtube), is awesome. His style of play is different than you would expect, as he doesn't immediately go downhill in highlight film, but he dissects the play and gets to teh ball-carrier quickly. Once he's there, the ball's not moving forward anymore.
Keith Lewis was probably our biggest get from the state of Florida. Lewis had offers from, among others, Auburn, Florida State, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas A&M, and USC. When he committed to us on December 3rd, the majority of those offers were probably commitable. Again, there's no free film of Lewis, but he shows good change of direction and hits hard. based on the one film I've gotten to see of him, I think we may have to work some on his tackling technique, but our staff has shown the ability to improve that in the past.
Another interesting player is Parade All-American Serderius Bryant. Bryant's 5'10" listing likely scares a lot of people, and it's certainly not ideal, but look at this film and tell me with any certainty that he won't play in the SEC.
Bryant gets to the ball well and is able to build big hits seemingly effortlessly. He'll obviously need to get bigger (205 lbs.), but we don't need him to contribute immediately anyway.
Marcus Mayers is the last of our linebacker signees and may be a grade casualty. He at one point held an offer from Oklahoma, though I'm not sure whether that was commitable (based on his grades). A Dandy Dozen selection, Mayers shows good speed. The only free video i could find of him is quite short, but here it is.
If he makes it to campus, he'll be a good addition to an already solid class. Rivals ranks this linebacker class as the fourth best in the country. It was essential that we bring in some players who can contribute, and we appear to have done that.