Ah, recruiting season. Isn't it the best of all seasons? Rampant speculation. Wild rumors. Utter heartbreak over people you've never met choosing to go to a school other than the one you attended.
As easy as it is to poke fun at people (like myself) who care way too much about recruiting, it's tough to argue about its importance. The teams who finish with top recruiting classes typically finish atop the polls. It's not a random coincidence. Recruiting may be the most important aspect of a college coach's job. If you don't have good players, it doesn't matter how good your scheming is. You will lose to teams that are much more talented than yours.
The Ole Miss coaches have set their annual huge recruiting weekend to begin this Friday and the visit list is full of important names for Rebel fans. The latest list from the Ole Miss Spirit has 18 guys showing up on campus, including CeCe Jefferson, Drew Richmond, Van Jefferson, Leo Lewis and Damarkus Lodge. I cannot vouch for the validity of the list. It's simply the most readily-available free list.
So let's take a look at the players who are coming to Oxford.
(All rankings via 247Sports unless otherwise stated)
The No. 7 prospect in the country and the No. 2 defensive end, Jefferson is Ole Miss' top priority between now and National Signing Day. He named Ole Miss his leader in late December, but Auburn appears to have made a late push after bringing on Will Muschamp as their defensive coordinator. He was on The Plains last weekend and told First Coast News that he will be a package deal with five-star Byron Cowart and four-star Jeff Holland. Holland will be accompanying him to Oxford this weekend.
Drew Richmond (committed)
I've talked about Richmond several times. He's a five-star offensive tackle that every program in the country would sign if they could. He was fantastic in the Under Armour All-Star game and was recently ranked by Rivals as the No. 1 offensive tackle nationally. He's still considering other options, but Richmond is very likely coming to Ole Miss.
The country's No. 11 wide receiver broke his longstanding commitment with Georgia earlier this week, which on the surface is great news for Ole Miss. But after a visit to Oklahoma, Jefferson was rumored to be on the verge of committing to the Sooners. The good news is that hasn't happened yet and the fact that he's showing up in Oxford would suggest the Rebels have a good chance to lock him down this weekend.
The Rebels appear to be the frontrunners for the No. 6 wideout in country, but things aren't as firm as they once were. Lodge was at Texas A&M (where he was once committed) last weekend, then took a surprise visit to Austin, Texas this week to meet with the Longhorns. We'll see if Freeze and his staff can lock him down this weekend.
Leo Lewis (committed)
Lewis is also known by almost anyone who follows Ole Miss recruiting in any capacity. The Brookhaven product is the star linebacker of the class. Lewis is still considering Mississippi State and I don't have tons of insider information on his recruitment, but I think it has to be a good sign that he left his visit to Starkville last weekend and was still committed to Ole Miss.
The top offensive guard out of the state of Florida, Norton is also considering Auburn, Miami and Michigan. Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit reports Ole Miss is fighting an "uphill battle" for his services, but does claim that Norton's mom wants him in Oxford.
Holland, a linebacker/running back in the top 150 prospects nationally, is significant because he's a good friend of CeCe Jefferson and has been rumored to be part of a package deal. It's a good sign that he's accompanying this five-star buddy to Oxford.
A 6'6, 212-pound defensive end prospect out of South Carolina, Clemons is reportedly down to Ole Miss, Florida and West Virginia.
Eric Swinney (committed)
Swinney is a consensus four-star running back who is being billed as a player who can compete for playing time immediately. With the number of running backs who have announced plans to transfer, there should be a little room for him to carve a niche. As best I can tell, he's firmly committed.
Armani Linton (committed)
Linton is a 6'3" safety ranked No. 14 at his position nationally. His height alone is pretty exciting to see in a safety prospect, but there's more to his game than just measurables. Linton is also firm with Ole Miss.
Jason Pellerin (committed)
Pellerin is the No. 15 dual threat quarterback in the country, but I think that's mostly a result of him being difficult to project. He plays in a nearly exclusively option-oriented offense and rarely passes more than 10 times in a game. It's tough to know much about how he will transition to college. Obviously, because of Pellerin's background, he can't be expected to compete for a starting job immediately, but he has vast potential.
The defensive back is currently committed to Alabama, but his recruitment is still very much open. Kentucky probably has the best chance to flip him, but Ole Miss is obviously still in the game.
Louisville and Notre Dame are still in the game, but Ole Miss is reportedly the leader for the cornerback.
The No. 1 offensive tackle out of New York (for whatever that's worth) is listing Maryland as his top choice, so the Rebels need a stellar weekend to flip him.
Alex Givens (committed)
The offensive guards been committed since September. That shouldn't change.
Willie Hibbler (committed)
Hibbler is a tight end prospect who has been committed to the Rebels since August, along with his teammate, 2016 four-star running back prospect Justin Connor. Hibbler is a bit of an unknown at the moment, so it will be interesting to see if any clarity comes out of his official visit.
Cameron Ordway (committed)
Ordway is an impressive cornerback prospect with the height the coaches love at the position. The 6'2 Pulaski, Tenn. native had offers from most of the good programs in the South and chose the Rebels over the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Clemson, Florida State and others. People aren't talking about him much now, but his commitment is a big deal.
Zedrick Woods (committed)
Woods, who could end up at either safety or linebacker, has been committed to Ole Miss since the summer and there's no indication that he's wavering.