The television washed over me with my sixth cup of coffee in hand Wednesday afternoon as I eagerly waited to hear the words “University of Ole Miss” come out of the mouths of players who I now don’t care about anymore.
There were some major whiffs on Early Signing Day 2018, and we’re not here to rehash the specifics of Nakobe Dean, Raydar Jones, Derick Hall, etc.
If you’re on this Ole Miss coaching staff, February’s National Signing Day looms extremely large to change the narrative for next season. All is not yet lost by any stretch as there are still more than a handful of players who could step in to immediately affect next football season who could sign with the Rebels.
So who are the top targets that Ole Miss needs to close to dynamically and miraculously propel this recruiting class? Let’s take a look.
4-star Byron Young
Yes, he’s committed to Alabama. It’s a flip that every coach is dreaming about however, and the Laurel, Miss. four-star strong-side defensive end is one of the best players in the state this year. He unofficially visited the Rebels this past fall and could still choose to officially visit in January after having already visited Florida and Alabama and postponing his signing until February, much to the chagrin of Nick Saban.
4-star John Rhys Plumlee
The four-star dual-threat quarterback out of Oak Grove (MS) is still committed to the Georgia Bulldogs, but Kirby Smart also took in one of the top recruits in the nation in Dwan Mathis on early signing day earlier this morning. The Rebels signed Grant Tisdale and Kinkead Dent to its roster, but let’s be honest here and say Plumlee can 100 percent compete with Tisdale for a starting job day one while Dent may not be a factor for a couple years. And did we mention that he can waltz on over to Mike Bianco’s office and give him a bonafide Perfect Game All-American as a “walk-on”?
4-star Maurice Hampton
Arguably the most talented player in the state of Tennessee right now is committed to LSU but he will be on campus in January for his official visit. The blue chipper from Memphis University School plays cornerback and wide receiver for the Owls, but will most likely end up as a defender at the next level. He has to be pitched playing time at Ole Miss above all, along with playing under new defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre who coached defensive backs in the NFL. Oh, and he could start immediately for Mike Bianco down the road at Swayze Field, too.
3-star LeDarrius Cox
The Rebels need help and fast on the defensive line to generate some kind of pass rush to ensure they don’t finish 109th in defense again. The Alabama native has an official visit scheduled to Oxford on January 26th and despite his commitment to Tennessee still being intact, you best believe after missing on in-state guys like Jaren Handy and De’Monte Russell they will come after him hard.
3-star Jamond Gordon
Oh, another defensive end from Mississippi who the Rebels are in on? Gordon comes out of Meridian, a program that has churned out FBS prospects plenty of times before. A January 26th official visit date will put the Rebels and again the dadgum Auburn Tigers on his mind for where to spend the next four years. The coaching staffs at Auburn and Ole Miss have to think they’ll potentially split Gordon and Handy one way or another.
3-star Brandon Mack
Another Alabama native who the Rebels have been pursuing that is committed elsewhere, the Montgomery product visits Oxford the same weekend as Cox and would be a fantastic addition to Mike MacIntyre’s 3-4 defense given his length (6’4) and athleticism. Mack was a terror on the field as a senior, collecting 18 tackles for loss and as we alluded to the missing pass rush, he would be a welcomed piece to Mac’s defensive conundrum playing at either outside linebacker or weak-side defensive end.
3-star A’Montae Spivey
A running back out of Phenix City, Ala., Spivey is currently is committed to Arkansas. And despite the Rebels having already signed three-star Jarod Conner and having four-star committed back Jerrion Ealy in the commit column, it may not be enough due to the future prospect of Jerrion Ealy playing football is not likely. Spivey would shore up the depleted RB corps that features a couple guys who have battled injuries (Eric Swinney, D’Vaughn Pennamon) and another who may end up staying on defense (Tylan Knight).
3-star Octavius Brothers
The Rebs whiffed on Nakobe Dean and missed out on Jeremiah Jean-Baptiste as well so they’ve gotta find a linebacker somewhere, right? Well, the Rockledge, Fla. product might be on the docket for February now. Secondary coach Charles Clark went down to Florida recently to check in on the 6’2, 210-pounder, but Ole Miss will have some stiff competition down the stretch now that Miami has offered.
And there’s always the transfer market!
The graduate transfer market is always a last ditch effort to bring in a player or two to fill a gap with a dependable level of talent. This market is incredibly fluid as players can announce and commit to its next school very quickly without so much fanfare.
So far, the Cup hasn’t seen one of these grad transfers shake loose that would garner a ton of attention, but as bowl games are played, there could be more activity here to keep a watch on for the Rebels.
Undoubtedly, this is not the path any team wants to take to getting new players added to the roster, but when these players only last one season and immediately free up scholarships for the coming year, sometimes the risk can be worth the reward.