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Ole Miss signing class 2016: Rebels reload with a trio of 4-star tight ends

Hugh Freeze, who loves incorporating tight ends into his offense, has struggled to stock depth behind Evan Engram. That changed on Wednesday.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

The infamous 2013 recruiting class included three tight ends: Christian Morgan, Arshad Jackson, and Evan Engram. Of the trio, Morgan and Jackson had elite SEC size and offers. With no incumbent scholarship tight ends on the roster, it was assumed that these two would be the de facto starters. We all know it didn't happen that way. Morgan injured his knee, Jackson failed to qualify, Evan Engram became a hero with his breakout performance that Fall.

In 2014, the Rebels signed Sammie Epps, then promptly lost him. Football scholarships are better than weed, Sam. They also signed Jeremy Liggins, who has split snaps between several positions at Ole Miss, adding the whimsical glee of a 300 pound QB to the roster, but not adding much reliable depth at TE. 2015 brought Willie Hibbler's signature; Hibbler redshirted last year, and could potentially be in line for a position change, due to depth issues on defense.

So needless to say, tight end was a priority for the 2016 class, and Freeze sincerely nailed it, signing the #6, #12, and #13 prospects in the country.

4-star Octavious Cooley

No. 6 TE, No. 174 overall
6'3, 220 pounds

Cooley played mostly wide receiver for Laurel, and was an extremely productive target for QB Keon Howard. Cooley is an extremely physical and aggressive receiver, who uses his strength while the ball is in the air, and also after the catch. He shows good balance, and doesn't go down easily. One odd observation: Cooley's stride appears to be a bit inflexible and rigid. He may stand to benefit, even more than most, from a college conditioning program.

4-star Gabe Angel

No. 12 TE, No. 331 overall
6'3, 212 pounds

Angel was a super versatile athlete for Cookeville (TN) high school, playing QB, WR, TE, and even some defensive back. Gabe's highlights show a different level of competition when compared to Cooley's or Mathis'. Angel is really doing everything for his team. That allows us to see some interesting things. First, Angel looks extremely fast for a TE. His initial burst when taking off from the shotgun is really impressive. We get to see more of Angel's running style than either of the other TE's, and he may really provide some interesting skills as a ball carrier after the catch. Angel doesn't display as many impressive highlights as a receiver, though that may well be because of the caliber of DBs he faced in these highlights; he really doesn't have to do much.

4-star Jacob Mathis

No. 13 TE, No. 338 overall
6'4, 223 pounds

If Cooley is more physical, and Angel is the faster, shiftier runner, Mathis may be the acrobat of the group. He's listed as a hair taller than either, but his wingspan appears significantly larger. His highlights feature a pretty ridiculous one handed grab that definitely reminds me of Engram. His team uses him at receiver and tight end, and also occasionally gives it to Mathis on an end-around. Mathis has plenty of speed and shiftiness for his size, and also shows several nasty crack-back blocks in his highlights.

It's also possible that Mathis makes a position switch to lend a hand at linebacker.


Signing three tight ends has given Hugh Freeze a lot of security and room for experimentation at the position. Angel has already reported, so he'll benefit from going through Spring football. I expect one or two of these guys to play next year. Despite the depth at receiver, and despite returning Engram, Liggins, and some above-average walk-ons, Freeze knows that he has to figure out how to replace Engram in his offense. This trio is so talented and so balanced that it's hard to guess who might step up first. Not a bad problem to have...