Despite a strong, recent history of signing elite offensive line recruits, Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss football appear to be on the cusp of signing the best group at the position in program history on National Signing Day 2017.
As I wrote back in February, the offensive line is reading for a blowout season. Even without an experienced left tackle returning, the talent and amongst the group is the best it has been since Hugh Freeze arrived.
Even with Laremy Tunsil, who was recently selected in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, moving on, the talent level is impressive due to stellar recruiting. Tunsil was ranked as the top offensive line recruit in the 2013 class, and the Rebels will usher in the top offensive line target from the 2016 class to replace him in Greg Little.
But Little might not start at left tackle after all due to the talented players who are returning. Alex Givens, a redshirt freshman from Nashville, Tennessee, picked Ole Miss over Tennessee and is now the possible day one starter for 2016.
Rod Taylor, who could see action at tackle or guard this season, as well as Javon Patterson, a projected starter at guard who can also play center, were both ranked as 4-star players according to the 247sports composite rankings in the 2014 and 2015 classes, respectively.
Then there are guys with valuable experience that should more than hold their own in helping the unit take a step forward. They are Sean Rawlings, Robert Conyers, Daronte Bouldin, Jordan Sims and others.
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It would appear the growth at the position, has made Ole Miss an attractive spot for elite offensive lineman from the high school ranks. In addition to Little, Freeze and offensive line coach Matt Luke also reeled in 4-star offensive tackle Bryce Mathews from Brentwood, Tennessee. Additionally, three-stars Eli Johnson, Royce Newman, Jack DeFoor and Chandler Tuitt, all have great potential and upside.
The position needed an influx of talent and they got it in February. In 2017 class, however, the Rebels can be more selective. In fact, it appears only three offensive linemen will be taken. However, the 2017 group could end up being the best haul at the position in program history.
Ben Brown, a legacy from Vicksburg, is already in the boat and 5-stars Trey Smith and Walker Little seem to favor Ole Miss. A class consisting of that trio of blue-chippers would stack up against any collection of signees for any other school in cycle. It would also be the best of the Freeze era.
Trey Smith was named the number one overall recruit in the 2017 class by ESPN Recruiting Nation a few weeks ago. The 247sports composite rankings have him as a 4-star, 55th overall, 11th best offensive tackle and third overall prospect in Tennessee. Here is a breakdown of how each site ranks Smith:
Rivals – 4-star / member of the Rivals250
Scout – 5-star / 15th overall in class / 3rd best offensive tackle
247sports – 5-star / 3rd overall in class / best offensive tackle / best prospect in TN
ESPN – 5-star / best prospect in class / best offensive tackle / best prospect in TN
For Ole Miss fans, there should be confidence. Not only were the Rebels Smith’s first offer, but also were the only school that he visited with his mom before she passes a few years ago. Additionally, he has made numerous trips to Oxford over the course of the last few months.
Smith seems comfortable in Oxford and he knows that the Ole Miss program can not only provide him a platform to be the next great offensive tackle in college football, but also a path to the NFL. Those factors should override the home-state Tennessee Volunteers, defending champion Alabama and the dozens of other blue-blood programs pursuing him from coast to coast.
Also a tackle prospect, Little, was recently tabbed as a five-star by rivals. It would mark two straight classes that Ole Miss has signed a blue-chip, mammoth tackle prospect with the same last name. T
Being from Texas, the Longhorns are sure to be factor for Little. Additionally, Oklahoma is trying to get in the thick of the race, while perhaps the Stanford Cardinal are the biggest threat to Ole Miss. However, with a brother and sister already in school at Ole Miss, the Rebels could have a feather in their cap that others schools are unable to match. Here is how he shakes out in the rankings.
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Rivals – 5-star / 24th overall in the Rivals 250
Scout – 4-star / 53rd overall prospect in class / 9th best offensive tackle / 8th best prospect in TX
247sports – 4-star / 58th overall in class / 12 best offensive tackle / 6th best prospect in TX
ESPN – 4-star / 191st overall in class / 23rd best offensive tackle / 32 best prospect in TX
On top of it all, Little is teammates with another 5-star in Marvin Wilson and the pair made a visit to Oxford together this Spring. Little’s recruitment is likely to go on, but expect the Rebels to be right there in the thick of it until the end. Getting his commitment could go a long way with Wilson, which would soothe a gaping need for Freeze and company in this cycle.
Brown is the least heralded of the three guys in focus on this list, but he could just have the most room to continue improving. While Smith and Little are very polished and well put together for their age, Brown is still coming into his body. When he first committed to the Rebels, it was believed he would be a guard.
After showing up the Ole Miss elite camp recently looking better than ever before, it appears that Brown could play inside or on the edge in the SEC. His body is starting to take shape and so is his game. Here is how he breaks down in the rankings.
Rivals – two-star / 5.4 rating
Scout – three-star / 60th best offensive tackle in class / best offensive tackle in MS
247sports – three-star / 56th best offensive tackle in class / 14th best prospect in MS
ESPN – three-star / 22nd best offensive guard / 9th best prospect in MS
He is the definition of a sleeper and when he signs on the dotted line next February he will officially be a steal for the Rebels.
So if Freeze is able to get Little and Smith to sign on National Signing day in 2017, it will be the best offensive line signing class in Ole Miss history. Which will provide even more depth to an already talented unit.