When Ole Miss landed a top-10 recruiting class back in 2013, most folks (myself included) wrote it of as a fluke. It was a perfect storm of happenstance, not something that could be replicated any time soon by Hugh Freeze's fledgling program.
As things sit heading into National Signing Day 2016 on Wednesday, Freeze is set to not only match the 2013 class, but surpass it. Ole Miss is ranked in the top four nationally by every major crootin site and is as high No. 3 at both Scout and ESPN. For reference, Ole Miss was no higher than No. 5 in 2013. The Rebs have 22 prospects currently committed or enrolled (not including special teamers), including three five-stars and 11 four-stars*. They also have two of the top four players in the country: offensive tackle Greg Little and quarterback Shea Patterson.
But there's still plenty of time for movement (up or down) on NSD itself. So let's take a look at some frequently asked questions to get us ready for Crootin Christmas.
*All stars and ratings in this post come from the 247Sports Composite
Is Ole Miss still in play for the No. 1 overall croot?
Nope. Once considered a serious contender for five-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary, Ole Miss has fallen by the wayside. He trimmed his list to Michigan and Clemson on Monday, though the Rebs have probably been out of the race for a while now.
Not to worry, because Ole Miss is still in the game for several other five-star D-lineman. Benito Jones, rated the sixth-best DT in the country by 247, is already on campus as an early enrollee; things are sounding increasingly positive for Jeffery Simmons, the top rated prospect in Mississippi; and Jonathan Kongbo, the best JUCO player in the country, is thought to have Ole Miss in his top three (though Freeze is going to have a tough time flipping him from his McDonald's commitment).
What positions do the Rebs need to need to fill?
Linebacker, linebacker, linebacker. Starters C.J. Johnson and Denzel Nkemdiche are gone, which leaves only DeMarquis Gates as a viable option to start in 2016. Four-star JUCO David Luafatasaga is reportedly firm with his commitment, which should provide an immediate contender for the second starting gig. Three-star Donta Evans is already enrolled and four-star tight end Jacob Mathis, who's currently uncommitted but thought to be an Ole Miss lean, is expected to switch positions. Landing five-star Mique Juarez (who has Ole Miss in his top three with UCLA and Bama) would be the dream, but prying the California native off the West Coast is a tall order.
Offensive tackle is another desperate area of need (Laremy Tunsil and Fahn Cooper are both gone), but one that Freeze has recruited well this cycle. Five-star Greg Little, the No. 3 prospect in the country, and four-star Bryce Mathews are potential bookends of the future. Little will likely be called upon to step in immediately to replace Tunsil on the left side.
What big names is Ole Miss still in the hunt for?
In addition to Jeffery Simmons, Jonathan Kongbo and Mique Juarez, the top remaining targets are four-star wideout A.J. Brown and four-star safety Deontay Anderson. Brown in particular would be a good pickup because he's from Starkville and OH GOD CAN YOU IMAGINE THE MELTDOWN? The country's fifth-best receiver has a top three of Bama, Ole Miss and State and Scout's Barton Simmons is projecting him to the Rebs. He and Anderson were both in Oxford last weekend and are very realistic shots to sign with Ole Miss.
Five-star defensive end Terrell Hall and four-star corner Shyheim Carter are other blue chippers to keep an eye on.
What are Ole Miss' chances of landing those big names?
We assigned a confidence rating to every single Rebel prospect, then ranked 'em. Check it out the results here.
What about that hotshot QB?
You mean five-star Shea Patterson? He graduated high school a semester early and is already in Oxford taking classes, so he's locked in as a Rebel. Patterson's ranked as the best QB in the 2016 class and will be the long-term solution after Chad Kelly graduates.
Who's already committed?
The only name to worry about on this list is four-star running back D'Vaughn Pennamon. He's been committed to the Rebs since last summer but visited College Station and Tuscaloosa last month (his last official visit was to Oxford, though). He was supposed to announce a final decision on Monday night but postponed.
- 5-star OT Greg Little
- 4-star WR DeKaylin Metcalf
- 4-star WR Octavious Cooley
- 4-star WR Tre Nixon
- 4-star RB D'Vaughn Pennamon
- 4-star OT Bryce Mathews
- 4-star ATH Justin Connor
- 4-star OT Royce Newman
- 4-star CB Jaylon Jones
- 4-star LB David Luafatasaga (JUCO)
- 3-star OG Chandler Tuitt
- 3-star RB Jarrion Street
- 3-star OT Jack DeFoor
- 3-star DE Tariqious Tisdale
And who's already enrolled?
I've mentioned five-stars Shea Patterson and Benito Jones. Here's who else is already on campus taking classes:
- 4-star DE Charles Wiley
- 4-star TE Gabe Angel
- 3-star C Eli Johnson
- 3-star S Greg Eisworth
- 3-star LB Donta Evans
- 3-star S Myles Hartsfield
Should I tweet at croots to help sway them to Ole Miss?