The 2020 Ole Miss football recruiting class is a closed case now, barring additions from the likes of five-star Zachary Evans and four-stars Marc Britt and Leonard Manuel.
Lane Kiffin has finally completed his staff with the final additions of defensive line coach Deke Adams and staffers Devin Bush, Sr. and Matt Lindsey. Now, with a full compliment of assistants and off-field assistants, Ole Miss’ quest for a top-10 class in 2021 can officially begin. But, as you know, recruiting never stops and it is time to look ahead to the new crop of recruits that the Rebels will be trying to sign.
As it stands, the Rebs only have three commits right now, but after only signing 17 in 2020, this cycle should be, pardon the hyperbole, a free-for-all. And, no, this is not a concrete list that will never change and the staff will only concentrate on these 15 names, but as of this writing I think these are the top names to know.
That is obviously subject to change.
So who are the top 2021 prospects to keep an eye on? I put together a list of who I think Lane Kiffin’s potential top prep targets are as we embark on yet another recruiting cycle.
All ratings are from Rivals. Click on each name to see highlights.
Offensive tackle rank: 1
Hometown: Cochran, Ga.
The nation’s top tackle is being recruited by Ole Miss’ new offensive line coach Randy Clements and will be a name to know moving forward due to his status as one of the most impressive technicians in this class. He has ideal length (6’7) and weight (300-pounds) for an every day SEC left tackle and the Rebels along with Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, and Georgia among others will be after him hard as well.
Safety rank: 1
Hometown: Plantation, Fla.
This staff’s ties to Florida are going to be put to the test in 2021. Williams is wanted by literally everyone, but running backs coach Kevin Smith along with Terrell Buckley, Devin Bush, Sr., and Jeff Lebby will do their damndest to sign the 6’4, 202-pounder from American Heritage. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, and Miami made Williams’ early top-five, but I would venture to bet this staff will recruit him until the very end.
Outside linebacker rank: 1
Hometown: Hollywood, Fla.
The emphasis put on the Sunshine State this class should be quite evident and Lewis should be at the top of this staff’s list. The 6’1, 200-pounder from Chaminade Madonna College Preparatory already has notable offers from Florida, Miami, Penn State, Tennessee, and Texas A&M.
Defensive tackle rank: 3
Hometown: Belleville, Mich.
Ole Miss is casting a nationwide net in 2021 and Payne is more evidence of that. Smith has been recruiting The Great Lake State already and co-defensive coordinator Chris Partridge should be active up there as well given his experience while on Jim Harbaugh’s staff. Payne’s 6’4, 295-pound frame should be enticing not only because it is a great frame to work with as an incoming freshman, but also because the Rebels desperately need to focus on the defensive line in this class after missing out on McKinnley Jackson and Omari Thomas.
Running back rank: 3
Hometown: West Bloomfield, Mich.
Speaking of Michigan, Smith has offered Edwards and visited him already. The 5’11, 193-pounder would be a nice addition to a running back room that already has Snoop Conner, Jerrion Ealy, Kentrel Bullock, and Henry Parrish. The Rebels will certainly have to fend off Michigan and Ohio State, but Smith seems to be putting an emphasis on Edwards in this class and the sub-11 second 100m sprinter could be looking to change things up and head to the SEC.
Inside linebacker rank: 4
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Partridge’s hire paid immediate dividends when the Rebels were able to sign former LSU commit and four-star weak-side defensive end Demon Clowney. Now the Rebels’ co-defensive coordinator and frequent DMV recruiter will go back to St. Frances Academy in hopes of signing one of the better linebackers in the country. Willis is built like a prototypical SEC linebacker (6’0, 200-pounds) and has the offer sheet that most SEC backers, too. Alabama, Clemson, LSU, and Michigan figure to be Ole Miss’ stiffest competition here.
Defensive tackle rank: 4
Hometown: Oradell, N.J.
Speaking of Partridge’s connections, the former Paramus Catholic head coach will almost certainly be back in the Garden State to check on Malone. The 6’4, 300-pounder would be a welcomed addition to a defensive line that will be looking to replace interior mainstays Benito Jones and Josiah Coatney who have used up all their eligibility. Another thing that might help Ole Miss out in their pursuit of the big fella from Jersey is that he is a two-sport star at Bergen Catholic, playing first base for the Crusaders. For a defensive tackle, he has an impressive swing and is an athletic infielder.
Weak-side defensive end rank: 4
Hometown: Roanoke, Ala.
Co-defensive coordinator DJ Durkin will be coaching linebackers for the Rebels and Brooks should be a big-time target in the 2021 class. Auburn is the team to beat here with the other in-state school right behind them but Ole Miss will need to reload up front and the Handley High School standout provides plenty of flexibility with his 6’5 frame for Durkin and Partridge whether they will be in the 3-4, 4-3, or the 4-2-5.
Strong-side defensive end rank: 10
Hometown: Desoto, Tex.
Former Texas Longhorn Blake Gideon should be a prominent figure on the recruiting trail in 2021 and beyond and he seems to be honed in on Turner for this class. The 6’4, 266-pounder is an impressive athlete who moves well in space and is already drawing interest from just about everyone. He holds offers from the Longhorns, TCU, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Oregon among others. Gideon will have his work cut out for him if he wants to sign the state’s No. 21 player but he can offer ample amounts of playing time
Defensive tackle rank: 11
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Another Partridge target that should be a name to know moving forward. Evans attends St. Frances with Willis and it certainly doesn’t hurt the Rebels’ chances with Clowney already on campus. New defensive line coach Deke Adams has experience recruiting in the DMV as well and has an outstanding track record of signing, coaching, and developing guys en route to the NFL. Evans is another SEC-ready type player (6’5, 265-pounds) and will be wanted by the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Maryland, Ohio State, and Oregon among many others.
Safety rank: 12
Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
Ole Miss missed out on Donovan Kaufman in 2020 and will definitely be looking for some impact safeties in this year’s class. The Ensworth School safety is going to be a hot commodity and Partridge could potentially make him a priority as a cornerstone member of the secondary for years to come. The 6’0, 180-pounder already holds offers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, and Notre Dame among others.
Cornerback rank: 14
Hometown: Katy, Tex.
The secondary will also be a position that the Rebels will need to address in 2021 and Washington would be a great place to start. The 6’0, 175-pounder has already unofficially visited Oxford and seems to like new cornerbacks coach Terrell Buckley. It should also help Ole Miss’ chances with him with the added emphasis of Texas connections on this staff with the additions of Gideon, Randy Clements, and Joe Jon Finley. Katy is an outstanding program in the Lone Star State so conjuring up some kind of good faith or pipeline there would go a long way.
Pro-style quarterback rank: 15
Hometown: Dacula, Ga.
The Hebron Academy signal caller visited Oxford the first weekend in February and vowed that he would return in the spring. My take is he will want to decide on where he wants to play the next three-to-four years before the summer and due to his relationship with Lebby and Ole Miss’ recent hire of Lindsey, Gauthier seems to be Ole Miss’ to lose at this point. The 6’3, 205-pounder threw for 2,401 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior and should elevate his play during his second full year as the starter.
Wide receiver rank: 16
Hometown: Southaven, Miss.
One of the two wideouts to know from Mississippi is the 6’4, 190-pounder from DeSoto County. I imagine wide receivers coach Derrick Nix will focus on Brevard and Harmon primarily within the state’s limits in order to add some size and explosiveness to the outside receiver position. The Rebs could certainly use Brevard’s length and play-making ability once the dudes on the roster with any size are gone i.e. Miles Battle, Demarcus Gregory.
Wide receiver rank: 29
Hometown: Kosciusko, Miss.
The other wideout from the Magnolia State to know is the nephew of former Rebel Mike Harmon. Antonio is arguably the No. 1 in-state target for the 2021 class. The 6’3, 188-pounder suffers a tad in the rankings due to the Whippets running a Wing-T offense and not tossing it around the yard. But, the frame and ability cannot be denied and I think he will follow in the footsteps of AJ Brown and DK Metcalf as physical specimen receivers at Ole Miss. Kiffin and Co. missed on Malachi Wideman but Harmon could ease that pain.