The future of Hugh Freeze’s Ole Miss offense will, in part, be decided on Dec. 27. That’s when the country’s No. 1 running back prospect, Cam Akers, will make his highly-anticipated public commitment, according to a video tweeted out Tuesday night.
The announcement will be streamed live by the High School Football Network at 7 p.m. CT. The five-star, do-it-all running back was originally expected to make his announcement during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 7.
Akers is the potential savior for a 2017 Rebel class that currently ranks 47th in the country thanks to never-ending NCAA investigation. A commitment from the most coveted prospect in Mississippi could not only provide Ole Miss with its first bonafide feature back of the Freeze era, but would provide a powerful message to other recruits hesitant to sign with a program shadowed by forthcoming NCAA punishment.
Whether the in-state product will actually pick up an Ole Miss hat is anyone’s guess. The other six caps featured in the promo video are those of Georgia, LSU, Alabama, Florida State and Tennessee. (It’s worth noting that Big 10 powers Ohio State and Michigan, which heavily recruited Akers, didn’t make the cut.) All of those teams ran the ball more than 53 percent of the time in 2016, compared to the Rebels’ 45 percent rate. LSU and Florida State will have running backs selected in the first round of the NFL Draft come April. Georgia’s Todd Gurley went top 10 last year and the Bulldogs will have two more drafted in 2017. Bama’s backfield has churned out two of the last eight Heisman winners.
The 247Sports Crystal Ball, which averages the predictions of various of recruiting experts, currently has the Seminoles in the lead.
Still, the Rebs have the emotional appeal of being the in-state program. Ole Miss, which is about two and half hours north of Akers’ hometown of Clinton, has been recruiting him longer than anyone. And while some fans in Oxford are worried that new offensive coordinator Phil Longo and his Air Raid system will turn Akers off, his commitment to the run game might actually provide a boost. Longo’s Sam Houston State team threw the ball a lot in 2016 with star QB Jeremiah Briscoe on the roster, but actually ran the ball 59 percent of the time in 2014 and 2015 combined.
Then there’s this:
Cam Akers announcing Dec 27 8 ET. Ole Miss recruiting reporters say mom wants Ole Miss. We'll see if FSU can overcome that & geography.— Bud Elliott (@TomahawkNation) December 21, 2016
Of course, there’s the long shadow of the NCAA probe to contend with, but that didn’t seem to be much of a determining factor when Akers spoke with the Ole Miss Spirit three weeks ago.
“We went over the situation and the scenarios that could happen,” Akers said. “They kind of laid it out for me. I feel comfortable with what could happen. It’s all right. They kind of told me what it was. It don’t make a difference.”