10 best Ole Miss freshmen of the past 5 seasons
Ole Miss wrapped up spring ball and now awaits the arrival of the remaining members of its 2021 signing class. Time will tell which freshmen will make an immediate impact.
Speedster J.J. Henry has a chance to replace Elijah Moore in the slot position and joins a receiving corps that’s littered with uncertainty and looking for a dominant possession receiver to emerge. Brandon Buckhaulter is in a similar has a chance to play immediately on the outside. Tywone Malone was a huge addition to this class and will join a defensive line in desperate need of a talent upgrade. Dink Jackson and Tysheem Johnson could make a push to play in the secondary. All of these guys are candidates to join this list of the 10 best freshmen in the past 5 seasons.
10. RB/DB Tylan Knight (2018)
Knight makes this list simply because of his versatility. The 5-7, 180 lb spark plug played on both sides of the ball for an Ole Miss team still reeling from NCAA sanctions, seeing time at both running back and defensive back. He totaled 16 tackles and 19 carries for 107 yards. He’s since found a home on the defensive side of the ball and the late addition to the 2018 class is quite the story.
9. LB Jacquez Jones (2018)
Jones found playing time immediately on one of the worst SEC defenses of the last half-decade but made the most of the opportunity. He compiled 36 tackles and was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. Jones will be an important piece of the Rebels’ linebacking corps next season.
8. DL Benito Jones (2016)
Jones was a 5-star prospect in the star-studded 2016 class. The defensive line struggled that season, but Jones played his way into being a mainstay. He played in every game and started 4. He finished with 39 tackles, including a half-sack.
7. RB Isaiah Woullard (2018)
Woullard is an interesting case considering he is not expected to contribute much in the Rebels’ backfield next season, much like the last 2 years in which he’s compiled a grand total of 10 carries. But as a true freshman, Woullard was a workhorse and compiled 428 yards on 84 touches with 4 touchdowns. He was the Rebels’ No. 2 running back behind Scottie Phillips and started the final 2 games of the season when Phillips was sidelined with an ankle injury.
6. WR AJ Brown (2016)
Brown’s signing class rivals the 2013 class as the best in school history and it was largely because of the collection of receivers in it like Lodge and Metcalf. Brown caught 29 passes for 412 yards with a pair of touchdowns and flashed the ability that later led him to becoming arguably the most decorated receiver in the program history.
5. WR Elijah Moore (2018)
Moore caught 36 passes for 398 yards and 2 touchdowns. Maybe the most impressive aspect of Moore’s true freshman season was earning the amount of playing time he did amongst a receiving corps that included the likes of AJ Brown, DK Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge. Moore’s career went on to be as good or better than those 3 and the seeds were planted as a true freshman.
4. RB Snoop Conner (2019)
As good as Ealy was, Conner wasn’t far behind. He carried the ball 82 times for 512 yards and 5 touchdowns as a true freshman. Conner was one of the last guys taken in this 2019 class and was not expected to be a heavy contributor, but he played in all 12 games and was in the running back rotation from the start of the season. He was by far the brightest diamond in the rough in the 2019 class.
3. RB Jerrion Ealy (2019)
Ealy was a prize get in the 2019 cycle and led Rebels running backs with 722 yards rushing and 6 TDs that season. (Plumlee was the Rebels’ leading rusher.) Ealy finished 4th in the SEC in yards per carry (6.94).
2. OL Greg Little (2016)
Little had the impossible task of replacing Laremy Tunsil. Little played in all 12 games with 5 starts and was named Freshman-All American and first-team Freshman All-SEC. Little went on to have a fine career despite the impossibly large hype surrounding coming out of high school as the next Tunsil.
1. QB/WR John Rhys Plumlee (2019)
Plumlee’s elite speed created some unexpected quarterback drama in the 2019 season for Ole Miss. Just 4 games into his collegiate career, he unexpectedly earned a start against Alabama in Tuscaloosa and never relinquished the starting job after that, even when Matt Corral returned from the rib injury that gave Plumlee his opportunity. Plumlee threw for 910 yards with 4 touchdowns and ran for 1,023 and 12 scores in just 9 full games as he thrived in Rich Rodriguez’s run-first spread system.
Plumlee since relinquished the job back to Corral when Lane Kiffin took over and his future at quarterback remains uncertain. He lined up at slot receiver in the Rebels’ bowl in over Indiana and could potentially make that his permanent home next fall.
We won’t know until fall camp gets going because Plumlee has missed spring practice due to playing outfield for the baseball team. Wherever he ends up, he’ll make an impact in Kiffin and Jeff Lebby’s offense next season.