I know what some of you are thinking. "But, Juco... recruiting doesn't matter until the month before players sign." To that I say, "Shmeshmuiting shmoesn't shmount shmuntil shme shmonth shmeshmore shmayshmers shmign." Recruiting always matters at all times. It's absolutely vital for Ole Miss to gain momentum and keep it going. Obviously yesterday's announcement that Shea Patterson was committing to Ole Miss helped with that, but there's plenty to be excited about outside of Patterson.
Knowing what they are losing, the Ole Miss coaches have to really elevate the team with this recruiting class. Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell, Tony Conner, and a strong senior class are all likely to be gone after this season. There will be holes all over the roster, and the coaches can reasonably pitch playing time to nearly every recruit. Suffice it to say, the team that takes the field in the 2016 opener against Florida State will be very, very different than the one that opens against UT-Martin in September.
Here's a list of the 2016 recruiting class as it stands right now, which has Ole Miss ranked No. 2 nationally according to the 247Sports Composite ranking. Notice the depth -- that ranking isn't just based on Shea Patterson and DK Metcalf. There's quality all throughout the class.
WR DK Metcalf
I've written about Metcalf before, but it bears repeating. He is a 6'3, 200-pound receiver with immense athletic ability. He makes highlight catches regularly, and he uses his body very well to bring in tough catches even when he's well-covered.
His highlights from this season are even more impressive than those linked in the article above. He's going to be special.
QB Shea Patterson
We just wrote several articles about the guy's commitment. Read them. He's really, really good.
DT Benito Jones
Benito Jones' sophomore highlight film is just absurd. His junior year highlights aren't available yet, but it doesn't matter. Jones is a 6'2, 270-pound wrecking ball who disrupts play after play. He's the type of defensive tackle that can just dominate (at least at the high school level). Jones, a one-time Alabama commitment, has a chance to make an immediate impact at Ole Miss, which loses Robert Nkemdiche, Isaac Gross, and Woodrow Hamilton.
RB Denzel Mitchell
Mithell is the No. 158 player in the country and currently weighs 200 pounds. He may just be the big back everyone has been clamoring for during the last few years.
This is film from his sophomore year, since junior highlights aren't on Youtube yet.. He runs with great power and appears to have good balance. He has offers from programs around the country, but so far he hasn't seemed to waver with his commitment.
RB Justin Connor
Connor is a 5'10, 290-pound running back and is rated as the No. 183 player in the country. The North Panola product committed to Ole Miss in August and was on campus regularly all Fall. Here are some highlights of the first few games of his junior year. Just like nearly everyone else in this class, he's highly rated and projects as an impact player in college.
WR/TE Octavious Cooley
Shea Patterson isn't going to have trouble finding capable receivers to catch the ball. Cooley is a 6'3, 220-pound target who moves like a much smaller receiver.
As you can see, he's fantastic at picking up extra yards after the catch and finding the ball at its highest point. When I watch his film, I see incredible upside and a very high floor. There's little doubt that he will contribute in college.
TE Gabe Angel
Angel is a 6'3, 212-pound tight end who the coaches have wanted for several years. His high school flexes him out wide or in the slot a good bit, but he likely doesn't have the speed necessary to be the type of receiving option Evan Engram is for the Rebels. Of course, I'm only looking at his sophomore highlights, so he certainly could have gotten faster since then.
WR Daniel Crowell
Crowell is a 6'2, 200-pound receiver whose only other offer is from Mississippi State. The Meridian High School product isn't rated as highly as many of the other prospects, obviously. It's tough for me to judge from his highlight video. It would be a lot easier to evaluate him if he wasn't constantly having to wait for balls that are left too short for him. He appears to be capable of blowing the top off Mississippi high school defenses, but he's just not being hit in stride. That might actually be a plus though. If you can see Crowell battling for badly thrown balls, you have to imagine he can catch balls that are thrown well. Still, it would be nice to see some highlights of him when things go right to see if he can actually get open. I don't mean any of this as a knock on his quarterback. It's a very difficult position to play, and he has obviously been quite successful.
This is the problem that most Mississippi high school players face. If their position is predicated on a passing game, it usually doesn't produce the type of consistency necessary to really get a solid evaluation. Obviously he came to Ole Miss' camp, and the coaches liked what they saw.
C Eli Johnson
Eli Johnson is 247Sports' Ole Miss site leader David Johnson and is 6'3, 295 pounds, according to the same site. Johnson's other early offers of note are Nebraska, Duke, and Mississippi State.
I'll be honest... offensive line highlight film is almost impossible for me to judge. I'm not a guy who knows much about the technique they should use, and I definitely don't know the skill level they're facing on the defensive line. Anyway, here's his highlight film. He primarily plays right tackle for Lafayette.
UPDATE: The film I linked when this story was initially published was of Johnson's freshman season. Here's his junior tape.
Obviously Ole Miss is going to sign a big class this year. There will be a lot of seniors on the team this season, and there will be, I would assume, at least four players who declare early for the draft. I'm only going to name a few more players the Rebels are strongly pursuing. To list everyone they're going after, at this point, would make this post far, far too long.
OT Willie Allen
It's no surprise that Ole Miss has to sign high quality players at the offensive tackle position. Both starters are entering their final season in Oxford, and there's not a lot waiting behind them to take over.
A New Orleans native, Allen is ranked as the No. 28 player in the country. He's 6'8 and weighs 300 pounds, so he certainly has the size for the position. Again, I'm not a good judge of offensive linemen, but I can say that he looks like he's pretty successful in his film. It looks like an Alabama vs. LSU battle at the moment, but Allen likely excited Rebel fans when he tweeted this.
I know where @SheaPatterson_1 is going! I'm behind you %— willie allen (@Willie31Allen) February 17, 2015
It's a little early to be talking about "package deals," but it's at least a little bit intriguing that Allen, Patterson, and Devin White have been tweeting at one another a good bit.
RB/LB Devin White
White is rated as the No. 163 player in the country. He's a 6'1, 235-pound linebacker/running back with offers from Alabama, LSU, and many other schools. Like offensive tackle, Ole Miss has a big need at linebacker, having missed on Leo Lewis on signing day.
As you can see, his highlight film is almost exclusively of White at running back, and there's a chance he could end up there. He's fast and big. Whichever coaches end up signing White will get a freakish athlete to use on either side of the ball.
If that Willie Allen tweet wasn't interesting enough for you, maybe this one will be.
DE Jeffrey Simmons
Simmons, a Mississippi native, is a 6'4, 250-pound defensive end and is ranked as the No. 200 player in the country and No. 7 player in Mississippi.
His highlights aren't particularly explosive, but Simmons appears to be the type of player who is reliable to make the play. He had over 100 tackles last season from the defensive end position. That's not normal. I will say that he doesn't have the look of an elite pass rusher, but he has good size to hold up against larger offensive linemen. I've heard that the Rebels have the lead for Simmons.
CB Nigel Knott
If you've been in this corner of the intertubes long, you know that i have an affinity for tall cornerbacks, and Knott fits that description well at 6'0, 175. According to the 247Sports Composite, Knott is the No. 129 player nationally and No. 5 player in the state of Mississippi. He was an unknown a few months ago but has quickly earned offers from Ole Miss, Florida State, and Alabama, among others.
His highlight film makes you wonder why he was so unnoticed as a junior. Knott looks like a phenomenal tackler, one who can wrap up and hit hard, a rare combination for a cornerback. Playing primarily as a safety who stays close to the line (because a coach in Mississippi would be stupid to waste such an athlete as a traditional corner), Knott also had over 100 tackles last season. He's the son of David Knott, a former Ole Miss safety. Signing Nigel Knott would continue Ole Miss' trend of bringing in tall corners with good speed, something every school wants.