The 2015 National Signing Day has come to a close for the Ole Miss Rebels. We’ve landed some top rated prospects, and if you composite all of the major recruiting sites’ national rankings, Hugh Freeze and his staff pulled in another top-20 class. Yes, we had some missed opportunities, but that doesn’t mean this class was a bust. In fact, to say it was a bust is a sure understatement.
Who were the biggest commits of this class?
The commits and signings of DaMarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson are a given as far as the biggest commitments. These two will see a lot of playing time as true freshmen. However, the signing of three-star cornerback Jalen Julius was a huge plus for Ole Miss. If Julius can stay academically eligible by the fall, Freeze will have a hidden weapon that can perform well on both sides of the ball. Julius is listed as a cornerback, but the kid could easily produce as a wide-receiver for Ole Miss.
Even though we didn’t land Richmond, the recruiting of the offensive line still was a success. The Rebels added two players who have great athleticism and run blocking skills, four-star offensive tackle Alex Givens and three-star offensive tackle Michael Howard. But, the biggest recruit on the offensive line was Javon Patterson, who was already enrolled by National Signing Day. Patterson was probably the biggest investment of the entire class. He is a five-star prospect and the No. 1 offensive guard in the country. Patterson was also the overall No. 1 recruit in the state of Mississippi in this class. So, that is back-to-back classes where Freeze has landed the overall No. 1 prospect in the state.
Where did the Rebels stock up the most?
Even without signing CeCe Jefferson, the results show once again Chris Kiffin is one hell of a recruiter. The Rebels’ defensive line coach racked up five new defensive linemen for the Landsharks. The most impressive of 2015 class is JUCO four-star prospect D.J. Jones, who signed with the Rebels’ back in December on JUCO National Signing Day. I also like the additions of three-star prospects SDE Austrian Robinson and DT Ross Donelly.
The Rebels secondary may lose Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson, but the additions of four-star safety Armani Linton and four-star JUCO cornerback Tony Bridges will be great additions to Ole Miss’ defense. Both of them could easily step in competing for starting roles. At worst, I see Linton and Bridges heading into the fall at second or third string on the depth charts. Which means they will receive a considerable amount of playing time and could make impacts next season.
What opportunities were missed?
The two biggest losses of the 2015 Ole Miss signing class did not involve CeCe Jefferson. Yes, Jefferson’s signing with Florida stung, but it was the losses of five-star offensive tackle Drew Richmond and four-star linebacker Leo Lewis that affected the Rebels recruiting class the most. Both were once committed to Ole Miss up until the final week before National Signing Day, and both were players of critically needed positions for the Rebels.
With their decommitments coming so late in the game, Freeze and his staff had no time to reach out to other top-rated prospects at these positions. Ole Miss’ staff had already given up in the recruitments of Toby Weathersby (four-star, OT) and Jeffery Holland (four-star, LB) due to the commitments of Richmond and Lewis.
Adding Jefferson would have added future to the defensive line, not an immediate fix. Richmond and Lewis were needed now, and would have been immediate impact players. However, hearing reports that the nation’s number one linebacker prospect (Lewis) had also signed with a JUCO school, showed the need of him could have been a struggle all throughout the summer.
Who may struggle enrolling?
Yes, this always seems to happen, and it is never fun to have go into details of academic struggles. However, it is a question that is often brought up each year. Sources indicate that Joe Anderson, Willie Hibbler, and Jalian Julius may have to drop back to the JUCO level. This has happened before, including last year, where Tee Shepard just made it in time to be enrolled. These guys will have time to improve their academics before fall.
Who will be immediate impact players?
There is no question that Lodge, Patterson, and Van all have the potiential to see immediate playing time this coming season. One guy I would keep an eye on this off-season is four-star running back Eric Swinney. Ole Miss just lost two running backs (Mark Dodson and I’Tavius Mathers) due to transfers. What makes Swinney so intriguing to watch for is his amazing speed and ability to run between the tackles. His talent was so impressive, Freeze and his staff stopped recruiting running backs after Swinney’s commitment in the summer of last year.
Then there is JUCO four-star quarterback Chad Kelly. He will be competing for the starting role at quarterback this off-season. I wouldn’t rule out DeVante Kincade or even Ryan Buchanan. The job will not be a give to Kelly. He’ll have to earn it. But, imagine if he does beat out Kincade and Buchanan. Kelly would potentially be the face of the program, and immediately receive high expectations in year one.
Who is a potiential redshirt from this class?
Since Freeze will already have three very talented quarterbacks eligible to start next season, I seriously doubt he will waste a year for the talented dual-threat prospect from Louisiana, Jason Pellerin. I could also see offensive tackles Michael Howard and Alex Givens and defensive end Rasool Clemons redshirted to help build onto their weight. Some of the defensive backs like Montrell Curtis and Cameron Ordway could see redshirts to build future depth in the Rebels’ secondary.
So, was it a good class?
Overall, yes it was another successful class for Freeze and his staff. Everyone would have liked to have seen Richmond and Lewis on board, and even CeCe. Had Ole Miss included those three in this year’s class, the Rebels would have easily had a class inside the top-15, maybe even higher. The level of success would have came very close to have matching the success of the 2013 class.