When Ole Miss responded to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations, it proposed several self-imposed sanctions. The most significant of these is the loss of four scholarships per year for three years. There's more to it than that, as Ole Miss would like to count back some of the "self-imposed" roster room it kept last year and this year, but suffice it to say, four is the magic number Ole Miss administrators have proposed.
(It should also be noted that this is just what Ole Miss is self-imposing -- the NCAA may well tack on additional scholarship reductions when it finally announces its punishment.)
So what does 12 scholarships over three years really mean? Well, the first thing you need to know is that the football program is only able to place twenty-five new players on scholarship every year. It doesn't matter whether they come to Oxford from high school, junior college, or another NCAA institution. Secondly, they can only have 85 players on scholarship in any given year.
This reduction would lower the yearly total to 21 new players each year and lower the overall total to 81. So does that really make a difference?
To get a sense of the impact, I looked at the four lowest-rated players in each of Hugh Freeze's signing classes.
Let's imagine these guys were scholarship cuts and never ended up on campus.
This is a very inexact approach for several reasons.
- It assumes the recruiting sites (I used the 247Composite rankings) have similar evaluations to the Ole Miss coaches. For instance, I know Ole Miss coaches liked defensive back Zedrick Woods from the beginning of the 2016 recruiting cycle, but he's on this list because the recruiting sites did not rate him highly.
- This list does not take into account positional need or who got last-second offers when things went south with higher rated prospects. Some of these guys would have been offered over higher-rated prospects because they filled a position of need (lookin at you, linebackers).
- Ole Miss didn't sign 25 players every season (though it's tough to really know if other players ultimately ended up on scholarship who weren't picked up by the recruiting services), so there are potentially players at the end of this list who could have conceivably made the cut.
The purpose of this exercise isn't to provide an exact list of prospects. More generally, it seeks to provide an idea of the caliber of player that typically fills out the bottom of a given class and who could conceivably be left out if Ole Miss had four fewer scholarships to offer.
Players are listed from lowest to highest, with their national position rank in parentheses.
|Tariquious Tisdale (3-star, No. 52 WDE)||Jack Defoor (3-star, No. 60 OT)||Jarion Street (3-star, No. 37 RB)||Chandler Tuitt (3-star, No. 23 OG)|
|2015||Shawn Curtis (3-star, No. 140 OLB)||Zedrick Woods (3-star, No. 69 OLB)||Terry Caldwell (3-star, No. 6 JUCO OLB)||Montrell Custis (3-star, No. 74 CB)|
|2014||Alex Weber (2-star, No. 330 WR)||C.J. Moore (3-star, No. 82 ATH)||A.J. Moore (3-star, No. 42 ILB)||Sean Rawlings (3-star, No. 87 OT)|
|2013||David Kamara (3-star, No. 101 CB)||Will Gleeson (2-star, No. 8 punter)||Trey Bledsoe (2-star, No. 112 S)||Bobby Hill (3-star, No. 147 WR)|
Andy Pappanastos (2-star, No. 35 K)
|John Youngblood (2-star, No. 107 TE)||Quintavius Burdette (2-star, No. 121 RB)||Cody Core (3-star, No. 227 WR)|
Overall, the team wouldn't be any different without the vast majority of these players. Several have done things but not really impacted the team in a wins and losses way.
There are some notable names, though:
- Cody Core, who was taken in the sixth-round of the 2016 draft by the Bengals, would have been the biggest loss. He racked up 1,202 yards and 10 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons and was often a receiver who made big plays when Ole Miss needed them.
- Sean Rawlings was a stabilizing force as a freshman at right tackle during Laremy Tunsil's seven-game suspension.
- John Youngblood has provided solid depth over his three years as a reserve defensive end and recently won the Chucky Mullins Award.
- Zedrick Woods carved out a role in the secondary late last season and figures to compete for a starting safety job as a sophomore.
Overall though, this reduction theoretically wouldn't make a huge difference. The real problem is that fewer scholarships requires the coaches to hit on a much higher percentage of their signees. If they're already taking four fewer players each year, they can't afford to mis-evaluate four more. They have to be on the money to maintain the depth that has kept Ole Miss competitive during their time at the helm.
TL;DR: clipping 12 schollies over three years is far from a catastrophic blow, but it lessens depth and gives the coaches a smaller margin for error on the crootin trail.