Strap in. Buckle up. Put on a helmet. All that stuff. The recruiting homestretch is finally here. And Ole Miss is starting things off this weekend with a few top targets at big-time positions of need.
There are three weeks and three days until National Signing Day and there is not a moment to lose. Especially for Matt Luke and his staff who are trying to fill spots at linebacker, offensive line, and receiver, among others.
CROOTAPALOOZA ‘18 is here, y’all.
10 recruits, including five four-stars and five three-stars, will begin arriving in Oxford on Thursday, and then trickle in as the weekend goes on. And those are just the official visitors.
As always, when we hear of anything changing, visitors being added, removed, MYSTERY CROOT RUMORS, we will update this post accordingly.
And once again, here is your refresher on what exactly happens on a CROOTAPALOOZA weekend, courtesy of our very own Jeff Gray:
So what all happens during Crootapalooza? A quick perusal of the aforementioned Clanga message boards tells us it will be a weekend full of prostitutes, unending lines of cocaine, those sacks of cash with the big green dollar sign that are super convenient for cartoon bank robbers, prostitutes, Bible burnings, a convoy of Cannon Motors “rentals” and more prostitutes. In actuality, it’s more like a bunch of high school kids touring campus and probably having a good time at the bar, but hey, that’s probably just a #Network cover up.
Below is the list of official visitors as accumulated by OMSpirit.com and crosschecked against Twitter by us. Keep in mind that this list is fluid: some of these guys won’t show and others may jump on at the last minute. This list does not include unofficial visitors or the early enrollees that are already on campus.
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite
4-star William Barnes
Overall rank: 46
Offensive tackle rank: 5
Hometown: Apopka, Fla.
The four-star prototypical left tackle just returned from an official visit to Chapel Hill and is now scheduled to come visit Oxford. After this weekend, he will close his official visit tour with Florida and Auburn. The U.S. Army All-American undoubetly had Ole Miss signee Matt Corral in his ear in San Antonio, but it remains to seen what Barnes wants to do. At the moment, I would venture to guess he will stay home and sign with the Gators.
4-star Richard Gouraige
Overall rank: 88
Offensive tackle rank: 7
Hometown: Tampa, Florida
The Florida commit and Under Armour All-American chose not to sign early with Dan Mullen and is now visiting Oxford, per Rebel Grove’s Russell Johnson. Although he is still committed to the Gators, he is obviously taking a visit to Oxford to see what’s what. He was set to visit Auburn but obviously something changed. Ole Miss still has a long way to go with Richard, but having four-star quarterback Matt Corral on campus to show him around along with fellow Floridians Barnes and Montilus, things could get interesting. Oh, yeah, then there’s that whole “be the next Laremy Tunsil” thing.
4-star Tommy Bush
Overall rank: 193
Wide receiver rank: 37
Hometown: Schertz, Texas
A late addition to the party, Bush tweeted out Monday evening that he will be visiting Ole Miss officially this weekend. The Texas pass catcher hasn’t been mentioned a lot as of late, mainly due to Ole Miss focusing their efforts elsewhere, but he will visit nonetheless. The Rebels were one of Bush’s first Power 5 offers way back when, but it may not be enough with the way the Rebs are recruiting a few other receiver targets. Right now, it appears Georgia has the momentum.
4-star Cam’ron Jones
Overall rank: 300
Safety rank: 25
Hometown: Mansfield, Texas
The big-time safety prospect from the Lone Star State has been vocal on Twitter about how much he likes Ole Miss and their staff, but as of late there’s a strong Nebraska vibe to his recruitment. The 6’0, 200-pound safety has already taken officials to Lincoln and to Baylor. Will his official to Oxford be enough to upset everyone? Getting him on campus right before he decides where he ends up is a start.
4-star Marquez Ezzard
Overall rank: 331
Wide receiver rank: 16
Hometown: Stockbridge, Georgia
Another Peach State product, Ezzard is a former FSU commit who is a big-time talent at wide receiver in the mold of a “just get him the ball and get out of the way” much like former four-star, now All-American A.J. Brown. After a late surge from Mark Richt, the Miami Hurricanes have picked up some steam, but according to his 247Sports Crystal Ball, it will come down to the Noles and the Rebels. Wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler wants the 6’2, 213-pounder in the worst way.
3-star Kevontae’ Ruggs
Overall rank: 497
Outside linebacker rank: 31
Hometown: Montgomery, Alabama
Ole Miss needs linebackers. Plain and simple. Ruggs, the younger brother of Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs, III has been slated to join the Crimson Tide’s 2018 class for some time but it has yet to happen. Not sure why I understand the suspense if Nick Saban has a spot for him, but he could be buying his time to see if a spot opens up down the line. If not, I think Ole Miss has a shot at signing him. He’s a bit of a tweener (6’4, 190-pounds) but is a dynamic playmaker who is a thumper.
3-star Ed Montilus
Overall rank: 550
Offensive guard rank: 24
Hometown: Apopka, Florida
The high school teammate of Barnes is looking more and more like he is wanting to be a package deal with his four-star teammate and, hey, it’s not the worst plan. He has the exact same official visit list as Barnes and will get his chance at making his sales pitch to offensive line coach Jack Bicknell this weekend.
At the moment, it appears whoever is willing to take Ed and William both will win the Apopka Sweepstakes, according to Rebel Grove’s Russell Johnson. But, we know it’s not always that easy. The Rebels need depth on the o-line, especially after losing Jack DeFoor to transfer and eventually losing Greg Little, Javon Patterson, and Sean Rawlings. This is one to watch for sure.
3-star Fabien Lovett
Overall rank: 725
Strong-side defensive end rank: 29
Hometown: Olive Branch, Mississippi
The former Mississippi State commit opened things up on New Year’s Day, and this weekend seems almost like a formality when it comes to Fabien’s recruitment. Ole Miss has done an outstanding job making the 6’3, 285-pounder a priority and we all know how imperative it is to recruit the Memphis area well if you want to have success in Oxford. Especially with the 2019 class coming up.
One wrench that can mess up the plans is Dan Mullen. He offered after he took the job in Gainesville so it could be another old-fashioned Ole Miss vs. Dan the Man on the crootin trail again. But, for now, the Rebs are the runaway favorite.
3-star Caleb Kelly
Overall rank: 891
Outside linebacker rank: 56
Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia
The Hapeville Charter prospect appears to have a top five of Ole Miss, Stanford, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Virginia but has just now scheduled two official visits. One to Oxford this weekend, and the second to an out of nowhere team, Cal, next weekend. The Rebs could really use another linebacker or two in this class with Zedrick Woods and Shawn Curtis graduating after the 2018 season. And Matt Luke getting Kelly on campus is a step in the right direction.
3-star Nigel Brannon
Overall rank: 1433
Offensive tackle rank: 130
Hometown: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Memphis commit hopped on the radar back in December when the Rebs submitted an offer and Bicknell went in-home to see him face-to-face. He’s been committed to the Tigers since June but could be looking around if a bigger offer/opportunity presented itself. As of now, he only has visits lined up for Ole Miss and Memphis but he does hold offers from LSU and TCU. If a spot opens up in Baton Rouge or Ft. Worth, he could jump for it.
3-star Jaylen Moody
Overall rank: N/A
Inside linebacker rank: N/A
Hometown: Conway, South Carolina
The inside linebacker from The Palmetto State is a new name to keep an eye on. He was discovered by former linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto so his recruitment could be in a holding pattern for now. Maybe the new hire will want to give him a look, maybe he will want to move on and look elsewhere. But, the 6’2, 225-pounder looks the part and brings the wood. He visited Georgia State last weekend and has other visits lined up at Arkansas and East Carolina.
EDITOR’S NOTE: As I mentioned above, we will update this list throughout the week with any confirmed changes, defections, and/or additions.