To be clear, this isn’t an article about how bad Ole Miss’ Early Signing Day was. The Rebels’ 2019 recruiting class currently ranks 22nd nationally. Not bad, all things considered—those things being the continued fallout of NCAA retribution, a 16-19 record over the past three seasons, a head coach on the hot seat and the replacement of both coordinators.
Matt Luke’s success or lack thereof in aggregating quality talent in the face of all that turmoil is a conversation separate from the one we’re having now. This isn’t a conversation about class rankings or star ratings or positions of need. This is a conversation about entertainment value, pure and simple.
And y’all, Ole Miss’ Early Signing Day was boring as hell.
Let’s say you, I don’t know, “worked from home” on Wednesday and are hoping your boss doesn’t read this particular article. Good or bad, you were expecting some entertainment! Some drama! It’s unfair to compare anything in this, The Era of Bowl Bans and Pestilence, to those glorious signing days of the Freeze years, but damn those were fun. In 2013, the year the Rebels bagged (pun intended) Robert Nkemdiche, Laremy Tunsil, Laquon Treadwell and Tony Conner, ESPN’s broadcast constituted a daylong marketing campaign for Ole Miss football. In 2016, when Ole Miss finished a program-record fifth in the final class rankings, it seemed like every 10 minutes brought a high-profile, nationally-sought recruit with a red and blue hat on the table. Even if that recruit picked up a different hat (which was, like, every defensive recruit), it was still damn exciting.
The climax of Wednesday’s action came when five-star Nakobe Dean, who lives 45 minutes from Oxford and has a brother playing for Ole Miss, lifted a red Georgia Bulldogs shirt out of a Nike shoe box. The 48-second delay caused by ESPN technical difficulties was the most suspense Rebel fans experienced all day.
If 2016 was the climactic episode of Breaking Bad, Wednesday was a daytime rerun of Mike and Molly.
The morning shift was an absolute slog. To the credit of Luke and his staff, the boring plot had a lot do with their ability to lock up 23 of 24 existing commitments before noon. They held off Ohio State’s advances on O-lineman Nick Broeker and kept quarterback Grant Tisdale from jumping ship after the departure of offensive coordinator Phil Longo. That’s good for the program but horrible TV. At least a Broeker or Tisdale flip would have added a plot twist, a layer of unpredictability.
Of course, it would have been much more exciting if Ole Miss had managed to flip somebody else’s commits. That didn’t happen either. There were rumors that Jaren Handy was going to back out of his Auburn pledge, but that was it (he signed with Auburn). It was one of those direct-to-Netflix releases where you predict the ending in the first five minutes and the plot never deviates.
Ole Miss signed the recruits we expected them to and nobody else. The only thing keeping folks tuned in was the persistent background buzz of Nakobe Dean rumors, and even that probably wouldn’t have been there if he hadn’t been so damn good at keeping his intentions hidden (who knows if he ever even seriously considered Ole Miss?).
There’s still time for something to happen, mind you. We have two days left in the early window and a few big names will wait until the traditional signing period in February. But the Early Signing Period, just in its second year, has already taken most of the shine off the traditional National Signing Day. Ole Miss has four or five spots left, but don’t expect any Shyamalan twists.
Some day we may look back on Wednesday as a day that brought Ole Miss a host of undervalued, quality prospects. We may look back on it as a bad whiff that presaged the end of the Luke era.
We sure as hell won’t remember it for it’s excitement.
I should have just gone to work.