Yea, the NCAA situation hurt Ole Miss this recruiting cycle. A couple of hours after piecing together the country’s No. 30 overall class on National Signing Day, Hugh Freeze himself referred to 2017 as “a penalty” and griped about other schools using the ongoing investigation for negative recruiting.
It was a decent class considering the limitations, but the reality is that the Rebels can’t have another one like it and continue to compete with the top of the SEC (this year’s class ranked 12th in the conference). Ole Miss needs a bounce-back cycle in 2018.
Whether or not the NCAA will break camp by next Signing Day is anyone’s guess, though it’s hard to believe they can drag this thing out for another full year. Even if the suits in Indy slam Ole Miss with coaching suspensions and a bowl ban, those will be an improvement over the atmosphere of uncertainty that crippled the Rebels’ recruiting ability this year.
So who are the top 2018 prospects to keep an eye on? We put together a list of ‘croots who could end up in Oxford next year.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite. Click on each name to see highlights.
Overall rank: 17
Wide receiver rank: 2
Hometown: Bossier City, La.
The 6’4, 190-pounder is one of the top pass-catchers in the country, nabbing 55 receptions for 1,250 yards and 15 touchdowns as a junior. LSU is the favorite, but Ole Miss has an enticing offense for wideouts and a new, young receivers coach to help recruit.
Overall rank: 13
Safety rank: 1
Hometown: Angleton, Tex.
Freeze has had tremendous success in the state of Texas and the addition of new linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto should make that connection even stronger. Ole Miss was able to snag Deontay Anderson away from the Longhorns two years ago, so it’s not out of the question that they could land another top safety. Foster is a tremendous athlete who while being a standout defensive back also ran for 573 yards and seven touchdowns in 2016.
Overall rank: 19
Weak-side defensive end rank: 1
Hometown: Snellville, Ga.
The Rebels weren’t able to sign a lot of defensive linemen in 2017, so stockpiling the position will be important in the next cycle for new defensive line coach Tray Scott. Georgia is probably the favorite right now, with Clemson also in the mix.
Overall rank: 40
Strong-side defensive end rank: 28
Hometown: Katy, Tex.
Wright is an extremely talented defensive end who did it all for Taylor High School, collecting 75 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, nine sacks, two blocked kicks and six touchdowns as a junior. Coach Scott and Peveto have a tall task to pull him out Texas, but don’t count the Rebels out.
Overall rank: 66
Tight end rank: 2
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev.
The 6’3, 240-pounder looks like an Evan Engram replica and could be the same sort of matchup nightmare. Turning on Engram’s Ole Miss highlight tape could help attract Jordan, who scored nine touchdowns for Bishop Gorman High School last season, leading them to another national title.
Overall rank: 69
Running back rank: 6
Hometown: Hattiesburg, Miss.
The first Magnolia State product on this list is a stud running back from Hattiesburg who’s accumulated 1,990 yards and 27 touchdowns in his last two years on varsity despite some nagging injuries. At 5’11 and 200-pounds, he already has a nice frame to go along with his home run speed that would be more than welcomed in Oxford after the Rebs missed out on Cam Akers. He recently told The Clarion-Ledger that LSU is his No. 1 team.
Overall rank: 78
Pro-style quarterback rank: 4
Hometown: Bradenton, Fla.
Originally from New Jersey, Sitkowski has transferred to IMG Academy for his senior season, the same Florida power house that produced current Rebel Shea Patterson. Florida is in the lead, according to his 247Sports Crystal Ball.
Overall rank: 157
Wide receiver rank: 26
Hometown: Jackson, Miss.
Heath committed to Mississippi State last April but his Crystal Ball currently favors the Rebs. Ole Miss has had success recruiting Callaway High School and the 6’3, 205-pounder could be the next in line. He runs a 4.4 and posted 1,276 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior.
Overall rank: 164
Wide receiver rank: 27
Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
Johnson is a 6’1, 182-pound athlete from Brentwood Academy who also stars on the hardwood. The in-state Vols will have a say in this recruitment but the Rebels’ Volunteer State correspondent, tight ends coach Maurice Harris, will be looking to avenge the loss of Trey Smith in 2017. Camron has had over 1,000 yards receiving in his sophomore and junior years combined and should be the Eagles go-to guy in 2017.
Overall rank: 179
Defensive tackle rank: 18
Hometown: Murfreesboro, Tenn.
The 6’3, 290-pounder is an athletic trench fella who would be an eventual replacement Benito Jones. He currently holds offers from Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Florida. Litaker tore his ACL last season and will more than likely shoot up crootin boards once he gets back on the field.
Overall rank: 227
Tight end rank: 11
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
The 6’5, 205-pound tight end prospect is a versatile prospect from Florida who fits the bill for the type of mismatch that the Rebs covet at the position. As a junior at The Providence School, he collected 920 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns. He already holds notable offers from Alabama, Clemson and Michigan.
Overall rank: 231
Running back rank: 10
Hometown: Decatur, Ala.
The former IMG Academy star has transferred back to Austin High in Decatur, Ala. He’s a versatile back who’s dangerous in space and would be a nice addition for Phil Longo’s wide-open offense. He recently said Ole Miss is “definitely up top.”
Overall rank: 249
Dual-threat quarterback rank: 16
Hometown: Bossier City, La.
As a junior, Rogers posted an absurd 3,730 total yards and 42 touchdowns for Parkway High School. The fact that LSU signed two quarterbacks in 2017 (4-stars Myles Brennan and Lowell Narcisse) could help Ole Miss, which will need to look for an eventual replacement for Shea Patterson in this class.
Overall rank: 294
Offensive guard rank: 16
Hometown: Stone Mountain, Ga.
The first offensive lineman on the list is a 6’4, 280-pound athlete with the size to play inside at guard and the length to play on the edge at tackle. Ole Miss O-line coach Matt Luke has had success in Georgia, including the signing of Under Armour All-American OT Tony Gray in 2017. Ole Miss has done well recruiting offensive linemen in the last two classes but needs to continue to build depth.
Overall rank: 298
Athlete rank: 24
Hometown: West Point, Miss.
Murphy was a key cog in West Point’s 2016 title run (1,756 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns) and will more than likely be a Mississippi State/Ole Miss battle before it is all said and done, though Jim Harbaugh jumped in the fray by offering him last month.
Overall rank: 383
Weak-side defensive end rank: 16
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
The big guy from the Bluff City committed to Alabama in December almost immediately after receiving an offer from the Tide, but his recruitment could get interesting now that he’s on the map. The 6’6, 240-pound prospect from Southwind High School would be a nice get for a defense that will lose Marquis Haynes after next season.
Overall rank: 380
Offensive tackle rank: 28
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Lawrence may just be a three-star, but he has offers from just about everyone: Alabama, Clemson, LSU, Michigan and Ohio State among others. The 6’4, 285-pounder is just up the road from Oxford and should be one of the top targets for Coach Luke this cycle. He has started on varsity since his freshman year and has been a name to know in the Southeast for the last few years. If he performs well on the camp circuit, he should be a top prospect in this cycle.
Overall rank: 671
Cornerback rank: 66
Hometown: Olive Branch, Miss.
The 6’1, 165-pounder may not have had the best junior year (Olive Branch went 0-12) but his recruitment is about to really heat up. He has the length the Rebels want in the secondary and the recent hiring of D-coordiantor Wesley McGriff could help convince him to head to Oxford. Reed ran a 4.52 at the Rebels summer camp last year and was offered on the spot.