Before we get going, let’s be clear. This isn’t “spin” or “red and blue glasses”, this is being realistic and having perspective on what exactly this 2020 signing class is and will be. Lane Kiffin has been on the job for a little over a week and was tasked to scramble and set up in-home and official visits and try to sign a class with less than half a staff.
The Rebels 2020 signing class looks drastically different than it did a few months ago and it will continue to fluctuate and then some before National Signing Day on February 5th. Again, we’re just keeping it real here. Kiffin and his makeshift staff sifted through the commitment list when they got to Oxford and they had the tough conversations that you almost certainly never want to have as a head coach: telling a recruit that they do not fit in your plan for the future.
It’s the brutal truth that is part of recruiting in major college football and to Kiffin’s credit, not everyone can have those conversations successfully. The proverbial band-aid was ripped off and after the early signing day dust settled, the Rebels signed 12 players and sit at 40th in Rivals Team Rankings on December 19th.
To be honest, it’s a pretty good finish outside of the one glaring miss in four-star defensive tackle Josaih Hayes who signed with Kentucky on Wednesday. Kiffin and new offensive coordinator signed the quarterback they wanted in Kade Renfro, two large offensive tackles in Eli Acker and Tobias Braun, in-state play-maker Kentrel Bullock, four-star tight end DaMarcus Thomas, and five front seven players to continue to rebuild the Landshark defense.
Sure, they “missed” on guys like Jeremiah Pegues (Auburn), Alante Brown (Nebraska), Chris Morris (Texas A&M), and the aforementioned Hayes, but outside of the Horn Lake defensive tackle and the Oxford athlete, Ole Miss and Kiffin hadn’t talked or even reached out to these guys AT ALL. In fact, a guy like Morris who didn’t even have the Rebels in his top-12 in January and had all but told the old staff thanks, but no thanks, not only listened to Kiffin and the new staff, but he took an official visit and thought about flipping from the Aggies for at least a day or two.
Sure, it’s a small win and horseshoes and hand grenades and such, but the short-term optics here are very good as it pertains to Kiffin’s ability and credibility on the recruiting trail.
Again, it’s difficult to sign impact defensive players when you don’t have a full defensive staff. Kiffin is going to address that throughout the dead period, at the AFCA coaches convention, and at the beginning of January when NFL regular seasons are complete and some schools have played their bowl game.
Stand clear of the closing doors please, January is going to be a wild ride.