The new early signing period came and went for the Ole Miss Rebels, and it couldn’t have gone much better. But, Matt Luke and his staff won’t have to wait to play with all of their new toys as six January enrollees will enroll into the spring semester and go through spring practice.
- QB Matt Corral
- LB Vernon Dasher
- WR Demarcus Gregory
- LB Jacquez Jones
- DL Hal Northern
- RB Scottie Phillips
Half of the six players hail from junior college, but all of them hope arriving in Oxford a semester early with help adjusting to the speed of the game, learning their new roles, and getting a head start on earning some early playing time before their peers arrive in May.
Now that the six have faxed in their paperwork and will be joining the rest of the Rebels in Oxford, who stands out the most? Who already has a role carved out? Who do we expect to play immediately? Who will need a year to acclimate?
How do the early enrollees fit in?
The quarterback of the future is here.
It is only logical to start with the most prized recruit in the 2018 class: No. 3 pro-style quarterback Matt Corral. This class struggled getting off the ground, but once Corral came on board things really took off in just one week. Corral has a monster arm and a gunslingers’ mentality so with the backup position up for grabs, Corral has to like his chances to learn behind Jordan Ta’amu for a year before taking the reigns in 2019.
The future is all Corral’s and that should make Rebel fans quite confident. The only question that remains: will he redshirt? Barring Ta’amu getting another year of eligibility, Corral should get his chance to take over in 2019 as a redshirt freshman. Or, if Phil Longo wants him to go ahead and get acclimated ASAP against actual defenses and be ready if, God forbid, Skeeter gets hurt, then he could skip out on the redshirt and play as a true freshman in garbage time. Time will tell.
All-American depth is being added to the front seven.
Jacquez Jones and Vernon Dasher are two linebackers that could see playing time immediately. Dasher is a freak athlete that is as good at tackling as he is in space covering pass catchers. At 6’3 and 215-pounds, he may walk into the Landshark defense and start day one. The NJCAA first-team All-American intercepted two passes and scored four defensive touchdowns this past year at Coffeyville (KS) Community College and that versatility quite frankly would be welcomed with open arms. Dasher arriving in Oxford a few days after Christmas gives him nearly nine months to adjust to SEC speed and take over the starting role that Demarquis Gates left vacant.
The 2017 version of Ole Miss didn’t really lay the lumber. When the defense would make a tackle it was often from behind or a shove out of bounds. Insert Jacquez Jones. If Dasher is lightning, Jones is thunder. The 6’1, 220-pounder’s highlight film shows him destroying people on cutbacks and meeting running backs head on at the line of scrimmage. Tayler Polk and Demarquis Gates leave a gaping hole in the middle of what was a bad defense anyways, so Jones should like his chances of getting significant snaps and showing signs of improvement with his “thumper” style of play.
Hal Northern arrives from Northwest (MS) CC to help provide depth on the defensive front. Breeland Speaks and Northern both have a quick first step and an ability to track down plays that is hard to teach. With the lack of bodies on the outside Northern could also line up on the edge in running situations and provide size that Ole Miss has lacked there in recent years.
Speaking of, another thing that is hard to teach: size and speed working together in harmony. And Northern has plenty of that (6’3, 293-pounds) and then some (7.5 sacks). Players out of junior college sometimes take half a season or more to get a good feel for the game, so getting the NJCAA All-American on campus in January could be a huge factor in improving on last year’s defense and having him ready come September.
Who will replace Jordan Wilkins’ production?
Ole Miss also inked the best junior college running back in the 2018 class according to 247Sports. Scottie Phillips averaged over 110 yards per game on the ground and scored 27 touchdowns in his two years at Jones (MS) Junior College. With no feature back returning for the Rebels, Phillips could be getting plenty of carries. Jordan Wilkins carried the ball 155 times last season, so finding someone to tote the rock like that may be the first order of business for Phil Longo.
Isaiah Woullard played at Presbyterian Christian and set the MAIS record for yards in a career before taking a grayshirt and enrolling this January. He rushed for nearly five miles(!) of offense in high school, and he will get a look at running back, but he may be more suited to a special teams role during 2018.
New nWo member could play right away.
It’s not a signing class without a highly-touted wide receiver that looks more like a skinny tight end. The Rebels lose DaMarkus Lodge and possibly A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf at the end of next year, so they’ll need reinforcements quick. Nobody fits this better than A.J. and D.K.’s large adult son, 6’3, 205-pound Demarcus Gregory. He missed his senior year due to an ACL injury but there should be no problems getting Gregory into the weight and film room in the spring. Hell, Dan Mullen and Florida made a late run at him despite the injury, but he told them to get lost.
Jacob Peeler would like to add one to two more nWo’s to this class, but with 433 passing attempts last year, there is plenty to go around. Gregory is a big, aggressive receiver that will have no issue taking over the workload from A.J. Brown once he decides to enter the NFL Draft (probably next year).
The Rebels’ signing class will conclude on February 7th. The head start that they got on Wednesday was a helluva way to kick things off given the circumstances and events that have transpired over the past five years. Matt Luke and his staff have already begun to cleanse the awful taste out of everyone’s mouth left by the NCAA and the haters, of which there are many.
So now let’s see how they finish shall we?