Philadelphia Phillies great Tug McGraw famously said, "kids should practice autographing baseballs. This is a skill that is often overlooked in Little League."
McGraw died in 2004, but if he were alive today, and a college football recruiting junkie, he'd probably love to take those words back. Many of the players who signed yesterday appear to be just a little too focused on finding people for whom to autograph baseballs. For many, the glitz and glamour of recruiting, aided in no small part by people like me who spend far too much time hanging on every word of any five-star recruit with a twitter account, has seemingly taken the top spot in a pros and cons list designed to help them decide on their college destinations.
And you shouldn't take this as some sort of sour statement of ire against anyone who decommitted from Ole Miss over the last week or so. I don't think this is resigned to them. The entirety of college football recruiting has just gotten out of hand. I'm all for kids having fun with pulling out a live alligator at a press conference when they're choosing a school, but the fact that, in August, recruits are tweeting things to "get their followers up" is pretty crazy. Crazier still is the "showing me the love" comments sometimes generated in interviews. T'were I not an unathletic 30 year-old man and instead a highly recruited high school senior, I think I'd probably choose the school I would play for based around NFL visibility, playing time, academics, and the way I fit in with the team. Maybe that's just me.
Anyway, on to actually talking about the class at hand. After a day to digest what happened yesterday, I think it's important for us to reflect on the class Ole Miss signed. We'll have some position-by-position analysis starting today and tomorrow, but I wanted to look at things a little more broadly.
Ole Miss Got More Talented
Make no mistake, Ole Miss coaches signed a class full of talented players. The average rating of all the players Ole Miss signed yesterday, according to the 247Sports Composite, is actually higher than the average rating in the 2013 class. The difference, and what makes that class better than this one, is the top group. However, while Javon Patterson, Damarkus Lodge, and Van Jefferson don't favorably compare to Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, and Laquon Treadwell, the strength of this class is just how many players had significant offers from other good schools, and the answer is many.
To give an example, the Rebels' three lowest rated players were LB Shawn Curtis, LB/Husky Zedrick Woods, and CB Montrell Custis. Curtis had offers from Wisconsin, Pitt, Duke, and Mississippi State. Woods' other offers were pretty bad. Montrell Custis, who had a committable offer to the #1 class in the country (Alabama) for quite some time before being cut to make room for a five star, had offers from Auburn, Florida, Clemson, Oregon, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, and many other schools. Remember: this player was rated third to last of the entire class. That's pretty good.
All this is to say, the Rebels improved the talent on the team. They replaced a pretty unspectacular senior class with a group full of potential.
Ole Miss Didn't Meet Its Needs
The two biggest things the Rebels had to come away with were an offensive tackle capable of stepping into the left tackle spot once Laremy Tunsil leaves and a linebacker who could replace all the talent leaving that position this year and next. The Rebels didn't really do either. They signed prospects at each position, sure, but none of them are expected to vie for immediate playing time or be ready to fill the holes next year's graduation and NFL draft could create.
Before I throw out a letter grade, I want to be clear. I'm very tough in terms of how I evaluate things. For instance, I probably would have given the 2013 class (Nkemdiche et. al.) an A. I certainly wouldn't have given it an A+. I believe in allowing room for greatness. All that being said, if I had to rate the class Ole Miss signed yesterday, I'd probably give it a B or B-. Had Ole Miss managed to sign Drew Richmond, Leo Lewis, and CeCe Jefferson, I would have raised that rating to a B+ or A-.