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Ole Miss recruiting targets to watch in the 2019 class

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After securing another top 35 class, it’s (unfairly) now or never for Matt Luke.

Student Sports

The 2018 class is in the books and the Rebs did considerably good all things considered. For a transition class, this was a nice haul for Matt Luke’s first go-round. Even though there were some misses left on the table on signing day, the early signing period was gracious enough to keep Ole Miss in the top 35.

But, we all know that won’t get it done in the SEC. So onward to the 2019 class in which 8 of the top 10 targets inside the state of Mississippi are on the defensive side of the ball, per 247Sports Composite Rankings. Perfect, right?! Because that’s what the Rebs need, right? This next cycle is going to mold the next five years and dictate what kind of tenure Luke has as head coach of the Rebels. Fair or not, the heat is on.

As it stands, the Rebs have six commits already for next year’s class so we will not list those already committed below. Instead, we will take a gander at the undecided or flip candidates.

So who are the top 2019 prospects to keep an eye on? We put together a list of Matt Luke’s potential top prep targets who could end up in Oxford next year.

All ratings are from the 247Sports composite. Click on each name to see highlights.

4-star Nakobe Dean

Overall rank: 22
Inside linebacker rank: 1
Hometown: Horn Lake, Miss.

Dean is the most important Ole Miss recruit since Robert Nkemdiche. And he’s probably the best player to come out of the Magnolia State since Marcus Dupree. Yeah, better than Cam Akers, I said it. The 6’0, 215-pounder is so naturally gifted on the football field you can see it from a mile away. He is an instant starter and would give the program and recruiting class an immediate national presence, much like Big Rob did. Alabama wants him bad. LSU wants him bad. And if Matt Luke wants to keep his job and the good folks of Ole Miss happy, he better sign Nakobe.

4-star Theo Wease

Overall rank: 29
Wide receiver rank: 3
Hometown: Allen, Tex.

The 6’3, 194-pounder is one of the top pass-catchers in the country who had nearly 900 yards receiving as a junior and 14 touchdowns. Ole Miss will be recruiting Allen High School heavily this year for not only Wease, but his quarterback as well (we’ll get to him in a minute). As for Theo, he is your protoypical nWo receiver who would be an instant impact guy. But, with Jimbo in College Station now, this one is going to be tough to pull off.

4-star Nathan Pickering

Overall rank: 46
Strong-side defensive end rank: 4
Hometown: Seminary, Miss.

The next can’t-miss Magnolia product is the big man from Seminary. Pickering is already getting offers from EVERYONE so Freddie Roach is going to have his work cut out for him. Within the last few weeks, he has received offers from Florida, Florida State, LSU, Notre Dame, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. If any of the in-state kids are to venture outside the borders, Nathan is my pick to do so.

4-star Quinn Carroll

Overall rank: 57
Offensive tackle rank: 10
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minn.

The Rebels weren’t able to sign a lot of offensive linemen in 2018, so stockpiling the position will be important this cycle for Jack Bicknell. Carroll is a huge prospect (6’6, 290) who moves like a tight end. Notre Dame appears to be out front at the moment but they’re in line with eveyrone else. The need for linemen is great, so if the Rebs are out of the running early, they need to reevaluate and look elsewhere if it doesn’t look like Mr. Carroll is interested.

4-star Diwun Black

Overall rank: 65
Athlete rank: 6
Hometown: Forest, Miss.

The Mississippi State commit burst onto the scene as a safety in 2017 but has since then hit a growth spurt and now tips the scales at 6’4, 230-pounds. You best believe Matt Luke is geeked up for this potential flip. So is Jon Sumrall. Ole Miss missed on linebackers in 2018 and with Black and Dean in-state and built to play immediately, Ole Miss can NOT afford to miss in 2019. Diwun is another national name who could give the Rebels a huge boost if he were to flip allegiances.

4-star Keon Zipperer

Overall rank: 80
Tight end rank: 2
Hometown: Lakeland, Fla.

Evan Engram is doing his thing in the league now and former walk-on Dawson Knox is quietly making a case for himself to get a shot at the next level. Phil Longo’s offense needs a mismatch-type dude at the tight end position and after failing to sign one in 2018, Maurice Harris is on the hot seat now. Keon is an uber-athletic Y-tight end who is dangerous after the catch and plays like a receiver. The 6’2, 240-pounder is going to be wanted by everyone but coaches are already stopping by Lakeland High School to get in his ear.

4-star Brandon Turnage

Overall rank: 101
Athlete rank: 9
Hometown: Oxford, Miss.

This year’s Alabama junior commit special is Lafayette’s own, Brandon Turnage. He joins famous Tide early commits like D.D. Bowie, Benito Jones, Leo Lewis, and Cam Akers who were in awe of Nick Saban’s Mercedes and his Little Debbie and McDonald’s coffee stench. Will this commitment stick though? Me thinks no, but will Ole Miss push for a guy who really doesn’t have a position and is coming off not one but two leg injuries and surgeries? If he has a big-time senior year, yes. Question is, will he?

4-star Maurice Hampton

Overall rank: 122
Cornerback rank: 10
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.

Offensive line wasn’t the only struggle for Ole Miss in the 2018 class, secondary was another position that was neglected. Hampton is another potential flip candidate who has been committed to Ed Orgeron since the summer of 2016. The two-sport star at Memphis University School would easily play for Charles Clark at corner and in the outfield for Mike Bianco in year one. He would also be the biggest get from the Bluff City since Mark Dodson.

4-star Dannis Jackson

Overall rank: 124
Wide receiver rank: 22
Hometown: Sumrall, Miss.

Despite signing three very-talented pass-catchers in 2018, it is always next man up in Longo Ball. And Jacob Peeler very well could sew up his receiver class within the state’s borders this year. Dannis is the highest-rated of the bunch and is an early favorite to join the 2019 class. LSU, Tennessee, and Oregon are also coming after the Sumrall prospect.

4-star Jaren Handy

Overall rank: 130
Strong-side defensive end rank: 27
Hometown: New Augusta, Miss.

The next front seven product in the Magnolia State on the Rebels’ radar is built ready to compete just like the other ones. Handy is a 6’4, 250-pounder who could play inside or outside at the next level. He possesses an impressive frame that could be fine-tuned or beefed up, depending on what coaches want him to play. Ole Miss holds an early lead for now but Auburn, Georgia, and LSU have already offered.

4-star Shamar Nash

Overall rank: 165
Wide receiver rank: 31
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.

Speaking of the Bluff City, Nash is another prospect who would be a humongous coup for Matt Luke and Co. The Central High School receiver has early offers from Auburn and Florida and will only get more as the year goes on. Right now, Ole Miss is the favorite and Peeler would like nothing more than to break down the barrier between Lafayette and Shelby County.

4-star Bill Norton

Overall rank: 146
Strong-side defensive end rank: 11
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.

The 6’6, 270-pounder is being looked at by some for offensive line but Freddie Roach wants him up front with his hand in the dirt. The Christian Brothers product is starting to blow up (Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Penn State have all offered) so the Rebs better get a move on it. He unofficially visited Oxford a few weeks ago and is just up the road off I-40 so if there was ever a time to kick in the door on Memphis, it’s this year.

4-star Byron Young

Overall rank: 197
Strong-side defensive end rank: 15
Hometown: Laurel, Miss.

There’s an overall theme here if you can’t sense it by now. Young is yet another big, defensive end in Ole Miss’ backyard that is a must get. Byron is one that might come down to the two SEC West schools in-state despite offers from Alabama, Florida, and LSU. The 6’5, 250-pounder is an immediate impact candidate who is only going to get better as he attends more camps and continues to grow in the weightroom.

4-star Derick Hall

Overall rank: 221
Outside linebacker rank: 15
Hometown: Gulfport, Miss.

When you talk about a prospect blowing up and coming out of nowhere, Hall is a perfect example. The 6’5, 210-pounder from Matt Luke’s hometown received his first offer from the Rebels on January 2nd. Since then, he has been offered by Mississippi State, Kansas, South Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Auburn. Many more will follow and he could be one of the top prospects in the state when it’s all said and done. And due to the position he plays, he should be one of Jon Sumrall’s top targets. As a junior, he had 80 total tackles and 13 tackles for loss.

4-star De’Monte Russell

Overall rank: 223
Weak-side defensive end rank: 14
Hometown: Jackson, Miss.

The next potential Landshark is in the Marquis Haynes mold, but a bit taller. Russell checks in at 6’5, 225-pounds and could be someone who either is an impact edge rusher or hits a growth spurt, and becomes a run stopper on the strong-side. But, for now, he is going to be an elite pass rusher with athleticism and quickness. Florida, Florida State, Oregon, and Tennessee are showing interest early and have submitted offers.

4-star Eric Gray

Overall rank: 255
All-purpose back rank: 2
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.

With the possibility of Ole Miss commit Jerrion Ealy going pro in baseball inevitable, Gray becomes that much more important for Derrick Nix this cycle. Especially since he missed out on Charles Strong and Jeremy Banks as well. The 5’10, 185-pounder from Lausanne Collegiate School is a cheat code. He ran for 3,151 yards and 49 touchdowns as a junior and in doing so has earned high-level offers from programs such as LSU, Michigan, Stanford, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. If the Rebs were to get a commitment from Gray, it might be slim pickings after that, that’s how much they covet the APB in my opinion.

4-star Grant Tisdale

Overall rank: 281
Dual quarterback rank: 7
Hometown: Allen, Tex.

Quarterback isn’t exactly a must-have in this class. In fact, in my opinion, the Rebs need to focus on offensive line, defensive end, secondary and linebackers. But, if they’re going to focus on one or two this cycle, Grant is one to keep an eye on. The 6’1, 204-pounder passed and ran for 2,939 total yards and 42 total touchdowns as a junior. He’s got offers from just about everyone and could be someone to gauge early on and decide if there needs to be attention put elsewhere. But make no mistake about it, Phil Longo really likes Tisdale and would take him in a heartbeat.

4-star Zach Edwards

Overall rank: 340
Inside linebacker rank: 16
Hometown: Starkville, Miss.

It takes a special person to leave Starkville and go play for Ole Miss. A.J. Brown did it a few years ago, but is Zach Edwards ready for that? In an interview with 247Sports’ David Johnson, he named Ole Miss his leader, but did he really? I will believe it when I see it. But, maybe that’s what it takes, right? Maybe Jon Sumrall needs to be fearless and recruit him like he’s from Cuero, Tex. because Ole Miss needs impact linebackers ASAP. And Edwards, at 6’3, 217-pounds, is just that.

3-star Raydarious Jones

Overall rank: 455
Cornerback rank: 40
Hometown: Horn Lake, Miss.

The teammate of all-everything ‘backer Nakobe Dean, the man known as “Raydar (pronounced like ‘radar’)” is making a name for himself, mind you. Despite most likely being courted to try and be a package deal for Dean, Jones is an impressive prospect. He ran a legit 4.37 at Ole Miss’ Elite Camp last summer and will only get better as he gets bigger, faster, stronger. He’s already 6’2, 171-pounds and could potentially grow into a Derrick Jones-type corner for the Rebels. A guy who not only has the size to match up but can run with anyone on the field. Look for Ole Miss to zero in on Raydar and not just because of Dean.

3-star Brandon Cunningham

Overall rank: 467
Offensive tackle rank: 51
Hometown: Ocean Springs, Miss.

The Miami commit from the Coast is a big body who Jack Bicknell would like to get on board sooner rather than later. At 6’5, 270-pounds he’s got the length and frame you want in a tackle and he would arrive just in time to take over for either Greg Little at left or Alex Givens at right. He is still committed to Mark Richt but for how much longer? And is this the start of some success down South in Mississippi for Ole Miss?

3-star Jarrian Jones

Overall rank: 480
Safety rank: 34
Hometown: Flowood, Miss.

The next safety from the ‘ssip, Jones is a big-bodied safety who is physical and can turn a turnover into six points rather quickly. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Oklahoma have already offered but the Bulldogs and Rebels are going to do their damnedest to keep him in-state. Charles Clark and Jason Jones would love to get Jones on board ASAP after missing out on a few safety prospects in 2018.

3-star Bryce Ramsey

Overall rank: 635
Offensive guard rank: 21
Hometown: Gulfport, Miss.

Bryce hails from Luke’s hometown and made a name for himself at the U.S. Army All-American Combine last month. He is a potential center at the next level because of his incredible ability to stone just about anyone at the point of attack. At 6’2, 346-pounds, he could be the next Daverin Geralds. Florida State and Memphis are also hot on his trail, but if Luke and Bicknell push for a commitment, me thinks he will join the movement.

3-star John Plumlee

Overall rank: N/A
Athlete rank: N/A
Hometown: Hattiesburg, Miss.

The wild card of the class is the 6’0, 180-pounder from Oak Grove. He may not be rated on 247Sports yet, but the kid’s athleticism has got folks’ attention. Alabama has already extended an offer to the Baker Mayfield look-a-like and the Rebs could be close to offering as well if he impresses Longo at the Ole Miss Junior Day in March. It’s not official yet but his profile claims he runs a 4.40 and to be honest, when you see him on tape, it’s believable. The junior signal caller is a play-maker who can evade the rush and keep plays alive with his feet while also being able to make all the throws with his cannon-like arm (outfielder and pitcher as well). Question is, will Ole Miss offer him as a quarterback or an athlete? Because if it’s legit, you can’t teach 4.40 speed. And that’s something that Longo Ball would like to have.