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Ole Miss football recruiting: Which 2021 targets are Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss prioritizing during a pandemic?

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These are unprecedented times. But, let’s take a look anyways.

Rivals.com

For the last few months over at Rebel Grove, I have taken on the difficult task of trying to figure out which recruits the new Ole Miss staff is targeting at each position in the middle of a global pandemic. Sure, it’s been a little difficult, but there are some easy ones to pick out and the proverbial tea leaves help out some, too, when it comes to reading between the lines on the recruiting trail.

Here, we are going to take a look at who I deem to be the most important prospects in this class on both sides of the ball.

All ratings are from Rivals.com

4-star Hudson Wolfe

Overall rank: 40
Tight end rank: 1
Hometown: Savannah, Tenn.

The Savannah, Tenn., native committed to Tennessee earlier this summer, but I still think the Rebels are going to be in it until the end for the 6-foot-6, 235-pounder.

Ole Miss tight end coach Joe John Finley has done a tremendous job early on, making Wolfe a priority and really promoting Kiffin’s offense to him. Everyone has seen his work with former Alabama tight end OJ Howard and we saw what John Mackey Award winner Harrison Bryant did a year ago, so the prospect of being a Rebel in his offense has to be quite appealing despite an early commitment to the Vols.

As a junior, Wolfe caught 25 passes for 281 yards and nine touchdowns.

4-star Tywone Malone

Overall rank: 44
Defensive tackle rank: 4
Hometown: Oradell, N.J.

The New Jersey native is Ole Miss’ top priority, in my opinion. Ole Miss made his top 14 earlier this summer, but it is pretty clear at this point that he is focusing on Ohio State, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M.

The two-sport star is not only intrigued by the Rebels and Chris Partridge, but also the baseball program and Mike Bianco. Malone is no slouch on the diamond and he wants the opportunity to play both at the next level. Adam Friedman wrote in April that Ole Miss was running fourth behind the aforementioned top schools, but I think the baseball program and Partridge’s ties to New Jersey are going to pay dividends and keep the Rebels in this one until the end.

Last season, Bergen Catholic struggled in the win-loss column, but Malone had a great year on the field, finishing with 54 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

4-star Isaiah Brevard

Overall rank: 144
Wide receiver rank: 16
Hometown: Southaven, Miss.

The Southaven, Miss., native is long, can run, and is seemingly Power 5 ready with his 190-pound build. This is going to be an Ole Miss vs Oregon battle until National Signing Day. Joe Moorhead really wants Brevard to make his way to the Pacific Northwest, but Kiffin and Co. have done a fantastic job of making Isaiah feel wanted since arriving on campus.

Despite an early commitment to the Ducks, I think he is Ole Miss’ to lose. The Chargers’ go-to guy had 713 yards on just 32 catches last year, scoring four times.

4-star Antonio Harmon

Overall rank: 180
Wide receiver rank: 34
Hometown: Kosciusko, Miss.

They might be on the outside looking in for Brevard right now, but the Rebels are absolutely the opposite for the Kosciusko prospect. The family ties obviously drew Harmon to Ole Miss, but Kiffin’s hiring perked his ears up even more.

I’ve said it already, but I think it’s a matter of when and not if Harmon joins the 2021 class. He is a highly skilled big man who can really go and get the football and is the perfect outside receiver for this offense.

Despite playing in a run-heavy offense as a junior, Harmon still managed to catch 35 passes for 429 yards and four touchdowns.

4-star Jabari Ishmael

Overall rank: 196
Strongside defensive end rank: 4
Hometown: Miami, Fla.

Columbus High School should ring a bell here. 2020 signee Henry Parrish prepped there and now the Rebels are back in South Beach vying for another one. Ishmael has been driving offensive linemen crazy since he was a sophomore, making the 8A-6A All-Dade Team.

His father, Victor, is an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Miami, giving them the upper hand, but Lane Kiffin and running backs coach Kevin Smith are no slouches when it comes to recruiting the Sunshine State. Look for the Rebels to recruit him until the very end.

As a junior, Ishmael had 46 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and three sacks.

4-star Tim Keenan

Overall rank: 221
Defensive tackle rank: 14
Hometown: Birmingham, Ala.

The Birmingham native has already visited the Ole Miss campus and came away impressed with what he saw and heard from the Rebels’ new staff. The Ramsay High School star holds offers from notable programs like Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Oregon, and Texas A&M and his decision might go all the way to signing day.

I think Ole Miss put itself in a good position with him, bringing him in as soon as they were hired and making him feel like a top priority, but the in-state schools will be tough to beat here.

The No. 5 player in Alabama burst onto the scene as a sophomore, making 50 tackles, 10 tackles, for loss, five sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception.

4-star Luke Altmyer

Overall rank: 236
Pro-style quarterback rank: 11
Hometown: Starkville, Miss.

Altmyer is someone that Kiffin and Jeff Lebby both really like and I expect them to continue to recruit him despite his FSU commitment. Certainly something to monitor during this cycle. That’s really all I can say at this point.

The Yellowjackets signal caller was impressive last month at the Elite 11 event, earning a ratings bump and impressing recruiting analysts and scouts alike with his accuracy, consistency, and ability to deliver the football off platform with ease.

As a junior, Altmyer threw for 3,093 yards and 37 touchdowns.

3-star Byron Turner

Overall rank: N/A
Weak-side defensive end rank: 16
Hometown: New Orleans, La.

The St. Augustine product is starting to shoot up the Rivals rankings after a big-time junior season and early camp circuit. Turner released a top 12 earlier this summer and the Rebels made the cut.

Ole Miss seems to have truly prioritized Turner, adding Blake Gideon and DJ Durkin to his recruitment task force as well. And they’re not the only ones. Baylor, Florida, Oklahoma and Texas are really recruiting the Louisiana product, too.

I’d venture to say that despite the star rating, Turner might be Ole Miss’ top target at weak-side defensive end.

4-star Tysheem Johnson

Overall rank: N/A
Athlete rank: 18
Hometown: Philadelphia, Pa.

The top target at this position is the dynamic athlete from Philly. Despite the measurements, he is pound-for-pound one of the best players in this class. The Rebels made him a priority early and seemingly lead for his services, but an offer from Alabama earlier this month could potentially change things. Arizona State, LSU, and Maryland are also in the mix.

Chris Partridge is his primary recruiter and has been recruiting him for close to three years. My FutureCast is in for Johnson to choose Ole Miss and I still think he signs with Kiffin when it’s all said and done.

4-star Dink Jackson

Overall rank: N/A
Outside linebacker rank: 20
Hometown: Melbourne, Fla.

The Rebels made Jackson’s top-10 list back in early May and they appear poised to be in the running for when he narrows it down again. Two familiar foes, Florida State and Tennessee, appear to be the biggest competition at the moment, but Kevin Smith has put in a ton of work for the Eau Gallie product.

The former Florida commit racked up 656 all-purpose yards, eight touchdowns, 80 total tackles, 26 tackles for loss, and one interception as a junior.

3-star Christian Burkhalter

Overall rank: N/A
Athlete rank: 21
Hometown: Spanish Fort, Ala.

The jumbo athlete from Alabama has been allegedly leaning to committing to Nebraska for months but has yet to announce anything. The Cornhuskers joined the Rebels as the only schools to offer both Christian and his brother, Jackson, a prep school quarterback in Massachusetts. Christian also holds notable offers from Michigan and Oregon.

As of now, it seems like the Huskers and Rebels are joined by Georgia Tech and Virginia as the programs vying for his services. In 2019, the Spanish Fort star made 92 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and had eight sacks.

3-star MJ Daniels

Overall rank: N/A
Athlete rank: 22
Hometown: Lucedale, Miss.

The former Ole Miss commit opened things back up last month and holds notable offers from Auburn, Georgia, and Texas A&M. Despite de-committing, he continues to tweet about the Rebels and is still considering them moving forward. Terrell Buckley and Derrick Nix are recruiting Daniels hard and are working to get him back in the 2021 class.

The long and athletic Magnolia State product made 39 tackles and had seven interceptions as a junior.

4-star Markevious Brown

Overall rank: N/A
Cornerback rank: 26
Hometown: Pahokee, Fla.

The Pahokee, Fla., native transferred to IMG Academy before his junior season and appears to be down to three schools: Auburn, Florida and Ole Miss. Buckley and Kevin Smith have prioritized Brown, seemingly making him their No. 1 target as of this writing.

He has plenty of length and athleticism to be an island corner and he seems like a prospect that is only going to get better with plenty of high-caliber football reps under his belt.

3-star Logan Diggs

Overall rank: N/A
Running back rank: 29
Hometown: Metairie, La.

The Rebs made the cut for Diggs’ top-10 and will be heavily involved moving forward, per sources. The Pelican State running back helped Archbishop Rummel to a 13-0 record and a state title, chipping in 924 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Despite the three-star rating, his offer sheet is impressive.

3-star Ryan Keeler

Overall rank: N/A
Strong-side defensive end rank: 32
Hometown: La Grange Park, Ill.

The Nazareth Academy product seems to be leaning towards Rutgers and new coach Greg Schiano, but he has yet to publicly declare. But, despite a potential looming verbal commitment, Adams and Chris Partridge are going to recruit Keeler until the ink is dry.

The Scarlet Knights and Rebels were joined by Michigan, Texas Tech and Virginia in his top five last month, but Keeler has mentioned in several interviews that he is unsure of when he will publicly decide.

Keeler has a ready-made frame for SEC football and is nimble in the open field and already has an array of moves when dealing with guards and tackles. Expect the Rebels to come after him until the very end.

3-star Kenji Christian

Overall rank: N/A
Running back rank: 32
Hometown: Pinson, Ala.

One running back on this list that I believe Ole Miss has a good shot at signing is the Pinson, Ala., native. He is a sturdy, powerful back who can really run and has been a part of two state champion teams at Pinson Valley. Alabama’s 37th-ranked player has announced that he will be committing in August.

3-star Rod Orr

Overall rank: N/A
Offensive tackle rank: 70
Hometown: Gadsen, Ala.

Orr visited Ole Miss earlier this year for their camp and impressed the staff enough to earn an offer a few months later. The Alabama native has also seen his recruitment take off, receiving offers from Arkansas, Florida State, Minnesota, and Oregon during the COVID-19 shutdown.

If there is one name on here I think Ole Miss is in the best shape for, it’s Orr.

3-star Maddox Kopp

Overall rank: N/A
Pro-style quarterback rank: N/A
Hometown: Houston, Tex.

The Lone Star gunslinger went from unrated to a highly-ranked three-star after showing off his arm talent at the Elite 11 competition last month in Murfreesboro, Tenn. The Rebels offered him after the last day of Trent Dilfer’s event and he seems to be incredibly interested in what Kiffin has to offer.

After three days of turning heads in the Volunteer State, Kopp had folks attention as he started hearing from Power 5 programs like Colorado, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Vanderbilt.

As a junior at St. Thomas, Kopp passed for 3,076 yards and 28 touchdowns in his first year as the starter. I expect his offer sheet to continue to grow and for his decision to get even harder once the options continue to expand.

3-star Mikai Gbayor

Overall rank: N/A
Inside linebacker rank: N/A
Hometown: Irvington, N.J.

The New Jersey native is being heavily pursued by Chris Partridge and it is paying dividends clearly after Ole Miss made Mikai’s top-five last month. Kentucky, Michigan State, Nebraska, and West Virginia are also in hot pursuit of the Irvington native.

Gbayor hasn’t tipped his hand on where he is leaning as of now, but if you’re Ole Miss, you have to like your standing with Partridge leading the charge.

3-star Tyvoris Cooper

Overall rank: N/A
Strong-side defensive end rank: N/A
Hometown: Louisville, Miss.

The 6’4. 235-pounder from the Magnolia State was finally offered by Deke Adams and Chris Partridge and it appears that Colorado, Illinois, and Mississippi State are the Rebels’ top competition for this services. Despite being a bit under-the-radar, he is an impressive prospect and has been extremely productive for the Wildcats.

As a junior, Cooper blew up Mississippi Class 4A football for the Wildcats, making 63 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss, nine sacks, one forced fumble and one interception.

3-star Trey Washington

Overall rank: N/A
Strong-side defensive end rank: N/A
Hometown: Trussville, Ala.

The 5’11, 185-pound cornerback released a top-10 last month, including notable Power 5 programs Duke, Kansas, Louisville, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss. Despite the low ranking, the Alabama defensive back is an impressive player with an SEC-ready frame and speed to burn.

As a junior at Hewitt-Trussville, Washington made 38 tackles, defended 16(!) passes, and intercepted three as well.

2-star Damarius McGhee

Overall rank: N/A
Cornerback rank: N/A
Hometown: Chesapeake, Va.

If Brown isn’t the No. 1 overall target for Buckley, McGhee might be.

The underrated prospect from Pensacola Catholic sure doesn’t look like a two-star on paper. He’s added offers from Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee since the Rebels joined the race for the 6-foot playmaker. His high school classmate, TJ McCants, signed with Mike Bianco and Ole Miss so there is some familiarity there along with Smith and Buckley tag-teaming his recruitment as Florida natives.

The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs muddy the waters here a bit, but the Rebels being in on him first might be the difference.

He announced a top 12 in May and of those named, I think Georgia and Tennessee will be the Rebels’ biggest competition. Joining Ole Miss In his top five are the aforementioned Bulldogs and Vols along with Louisville and Miami.

The Under Armour All-America Game selection made 47 tackles and intercepted six passes a season ago, scoring on two of them.

2-star Maurice Freeman

Overall rank: N/A
Athlete rank: N/A
Hometown: Chesapeake, Va.

The final name on the list Is the game-breaking athlete from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Freeman announced that he will be committing the first week of August and as of now, I expect Ole Miss to receive good news when he does. Georgia Tech, Indiana, and Pittsburgh are the Rebels biggest competition.

Last year, Freeman made 55 tackles, including 11 tackles for loss, five sacks, and forced five fumbles, broke up four passes, and intercepted one pass.