It was a given going into National Signing Day 2017 that this year’s class wouldn’t quite stack up to the standard that Hugh Freeze has set since arriving in Oxford, best summarized by some interesting choice of words on his part at the end of the day. Still, seeing the group surge 22 spots up the rankings to 30th in the nation (using the 247 composite) was a decent alternative to what many fans had feared going into the day.
Last week, I broke down the progression of Ole Miss recruiting over the years, particularly how things have changed under Freeze. As easy as it is to simply conclude that things have improved in every regard, the recruiting success has been concentrated at some positions more than others.
Despite the 2017 class not being up to par all-around, it addressed the linebacker position much better than even the historically great class from the year before, as well as picking up some pleasantly surprising signatures from key defensive pieces in Chester Graves and D.D. Bowie, just to name a few. There’s obviously a ceiling to how much excitement this cycle can induce, but let’s see how it compares anyway.
In terms of national ranking, this year’s group certainly isn’t the school’s worst recruiting class in recent history, as Freeze’s first class in 2012 ranked 46th, similarly due to uncertainty surrounding the program.
It’s true that Ole Miss finished ahead of a handful of respectable programs despite being handicapped by the NCAA probe, such as TCU, Louisville, Colorado, and others. While that serves as a nice form of consolation, what ultimately matters is how they stack up to the teams they’ll be facing in-conference.
Just like in 2012, this year’s class was the third worst in the SEC. Freeze’s staff will have to get the most out of this group in order to bridge what currently looks like a pretty wide talent gap.
Here’s how this class compares to past ones when it comes to the percentage of overall prospects who are four or five-stars.
It doesn’t require a lengthy argument to determine that getting as many blue chips as possible is important for long-term success, and it’s not encouraging to see just three of 23 players labeled even just a four-star, especially considering the absurd blue chip ratio of 58 percent in 2016.
Mississippi State and Arkansas, who typically have been the bottom two recruiters in the SEC West both landed more four-star players than the Rebels. After them, the next worst team in terms of raw talent is Texas A&M, who finished 12th nationally.
While the coaching staff certainly adjusted their top targets as signing day neared, this led to some three-stars being made more of a priority than they would otherwise. One of the few encouraging takeaways from Wednesday was that the group finished with a stronger bottom compared to most of Freeze’s prior classes.
Here’s how the individual recruit ratings have been distributed over the past six cycles.
For every huge pickup in the Freeze era, there’s seemingly always been an unrated player or two-star to balance things out, leading to a good bit of variation in overall talent. One (perhaps unintended) effect of heavily pursuing three-stars like Kam White this year has been a fairly more consistent group, particularly towards the end of the pack. There was some worry that the staff was getting liberal with whom they offered, but the fact that this class isn’t composed of more unheralded, unrated recruits is a good sign.
A person can only go so far when trying to build up an ultimately disappointing class before sounding delusional, but there is some truth to the belief that several newcomers can make immediate contributions. One of the less convenient truths surrounding this squad, however, is that they may have to for the Rebels to become competitive again.