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Train Talk: Crootin’ Edition

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Finally, Ole Miss experiences a Signing Day that is not filled with wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Three lifetimes ago way back in 2016 under the direction of the Tennessee job-wanter, Ole Miss signed one of the top recruiting classes in the country and, most importantly, the SEC. It was an exciting, jubilant day and had the Twitter hootin’ and hollerin’ meme been around then, every Ole Miss fan would’ve mashed the hell out of it.

Since that day, Ole Miss has finished 31st, 32nd, 22nd, and 34th, respectively, and missed on what felt like every first choice imaginable. That’s good for a borderline three-star NOT GREAT, BOB.

While this class isn’t one of the best in the country, the momentum behind it is important. Ole Miss flipped nearly every player they targeted for said flipping and didn’t lose any key committed players on Signing Day, which is teetering on the edge of being a CHRISTMAS MIRACLE.

In a pandemic with contact mostly limited to [teleconferencing service of your choice*] calls, Lane Kiffin and company pulled off the highest rated class since 2016. If your mind wanders to absurd thoughts about what they can do with in-person and on-campus visits in a full year, you are not alone, friend.

*As Grayson preaches to us, NO FREE ADS.

In the latest edition of this series, we take a look at 10 things we learned from Signing Day. As always, these may be as simple as stars = good or as deep as the Lane Train is neither a lane nor a train, talk amongst yourselves.

(1) For the losers and the haters, of which there are many

Lane Kiffin was definitely shown your tweets from June until November. From Wednesday’s press conference:

If they’re committed, it tells you who your challenge is, who you’re going against. It’s why we really don’t push for early commitments. Which if you look at us, month or two ago, I’m sure that everybody thought we suck and can’t recruit. There’s a plan when you’ve been doing this long enough. We don’t care about early commitments, but other guys and a number of our guys that signed today told us a long time ago that they were coming, and we told them not to put it out. It’s all a game until they sign.

As we all need reminding from time to time, TRUST THE PROCESS.

(2) Awards to the Ole Miss idea and design wizards cooking up content

I work on the creative side of an advertising agency, which means I have seen and personally produced plenty of ideas that seem like they’re on solid ground, until you try to bring them to life and realize they’re total garbage. I’ve also seen good ideas that, for whatever reason, aren’t executed in the right way. The work is fine, but it’s not quite right.

Neither of those scenarios are in play here. Awesome idea and execution.

Getting David Kellum* to record a play-by-play call for each signee was perfect. I’d like to think that in the recording session, DK offered to throw in one of his DK nicknames, like “T-Robb with the huge sack!”, before being told the script version was just fine.

LET THE MAN EXPLORE THE SPACE.

*I’ve never @’d DK or gotten up in the mentions on Twitter dot com, yet DK blocked me at some point. I am sorry for whatever very dumb tweet I did that slid into his timeline and offended our announcing dad. Apparently, I am a bad Rebel.

(3) Bonus DK story

Many moons ago, I was dining with some friends in a Mexican establishment in Oxford. As chance would have it, DK and his family were seated at the table next to us.

When it came time for them to order, DK did so for the entire family. To this day, few things have brought me as much joy as listening to DK, whose normal voice is full radio voice, order multiple items off a Mexican restaurant menu.

Though it was disappointing not to hear him give the food items a quick nickname. I would’ve died had I heard, “And while we’re waiting, let’s get some delicious C’s and Q!”.

(4) Before we go any further

Special shout-out to the Red Cup crew for the Signing Day coverage. Zach, per the usual, wrote a kabillion things and took a big picture look at the class. If you haven’t done so, read and become smarter.

Ruby and John Macon were also behind the scenes making sure nothing was overlooked. Great work from all of them.

As for me, my Signing Day contribution was occasionally popping into Red Cup Slack and saying, “This is good!”.

(5) 16 mid-years, you say?

More from the press conference:

We have 23 signees, three junior college kids. A really good part is 16 mid-years, especially as we know we need defensive help. If you watched our games this year, you know that. So, we knew we needed to sign defensive players, especially defensive line and secondary, with a lot of returning linebacker numbers that we have. Of the 13 defensive players so far 11 of those guys are mid-years, which is huge because if we need guys next year, obviously them being here next month, some of them even being here next week for bowl practices will be huge.

As a program that has been traumatized by a sequence of he’ll be here in May, jk June, double jk July, hoping he makes it to fall camp, and hoping he makes it the week of the game, we love to see guys getting there so soon.

More than likely, a decent number of these signees are going to be in the two-deep mix in 2021, plus special teams, and Ole Miss needs them to get acclimated to that college football life as quickly as possible.

(6) In an ideal world

The final judgment on this class will be rendered in two to three years, but I think there’s a chance Ole Miss gets exactly what they need out of this class. Ideally and given the ranking, that would be a few dynamic players, who will be key starters in a year or two, and a group of guys who are solid contributors and build depth.

I think of Hugh Freeze’s first class in 2012. It was ranked much lower than this class, but look at what Ole Miss got out of that group of 18 signees.

Key starters immediately or down the road:

  • Dr. Bo
  • Isaac Gross
  • Trae Elston
  • Jaylen Walton
  • Mike Hilton

Contributors/starters at some point:

  • Channing Ward
  • I’Tavius Mathers
  • Ben Still
  • Pierce Burton
  • Robert Conyers
  • Cody Core
  • John Youngblood

Obviously, you want more numbers than that, but if this year’s class can have a similar ratio of hits to misses, WOULD TAKE.

(7) JJ Henry, an Elijah Moore clone

LIT-TRALLY, his very first highlight is the same route Moore ran against South Carolina for a 91-yard touchdown. However, his was only a 69-yard touchdown, which SMH but NICELY SMH.

There is also this story about one of his best friends and mother both passing away, which he brought up at his Signing Day press conference. Rooting like hell for him because he deserves good things, but selfishly because I need someone else to call our slippery slot receiver son.

(8) Speaking of Elijah

Though not Signing Day related, we say farewell to our slippery slot receiver son.

I would’ve loved another performance where he dunked on yet another defense, but his decision is understandable and the right call. Classes are done, the season should’ve ended two weeks ago, the bowl game experience will not be an experience, he helped change the direction of Ole Miss football, and life-changing wealth awaits.

Godspeed, and we look forward to him forcing multiple NFL defensive backs into retirement.

(9) One more

Our former Temple Owl son also made the same decision Thursday.

What a treat it was to have such a talented tight end parachute into Ole Miss football and play well. I will always remember him fondly because his last name was fun to say, and he made half the people one state over scream at their TV and question whether Nick had anything left in the tank.

(10) Also unrelated, what should we expect on Saturday?

The offense takes a hit without Moore cooking in the slot and Yeboah maneuvering for space, but the good news is Kiffin and staff have been preparing for life without both. Does that mean they’ve solved the equation? Don’t know!

As they’ve proven throughout the season, they know what they’re doing and will at least have a plan to make up for the loss of production. Whether it works, we shall see, but I have Ole Miss +1.5 and feel good about NOT EVEN NEEDING ‘EM.