5 main takeaways from Ole Miss' first day of Early Signing Period
The first day of the Early Signing Period is nearly in the books, and for the Ole Miss Rebels, it was a decent day all in all.
As of this writing (late Wednesday afternoon) the Rebels had signed 25 prospects, including three 4-stars. Per 247sports, the Rebels class is ranked 22nd nationally, which is good, but it’s only good enough for 11th in the SEC and last in the West Division.
Mississippi signed some very intriguing prospects but it’s hard not to feel like the misses outweigh the hits. It’s a good class, but it could’ve been great. Here are 5 takeaways from the Rebels first day of the Early Signing Period.
5. Receiving corps replenished
The Rebels are losing an exorbitant amount of talent from their receiving corps this offseason with both A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf forgoing their remaining eligibility to test the NFL Draft waters (wise decision, boys), and DaMarkus Lodge graduating. Elijah Moore and Braylon Sanders are both coming back, but Ole Miss still sought some impact receivers in this recruiting class to contribute immediately.
The Rebels signed four receivers, including a 4-star prospect and three 3-star prospects. The highest ranked receiver to sign, 4-star Dannis Jackson, is a long strider with the speed to take the top off a defense. He can win one-on-one matchups with his physicality and body control. All 4 who signed also have good size (at least 6-1), and can make plays after the catch. It would’ve been nice if 4-star Jonathan Mingo (still verbally committed) would’ve signed. But assuming they still land him in February, the Rebels will have done a great job of replenishing the receiving corps with this class.
4. Any impact players on defense?
Considering how bad the defense was this year, you’d think that this staff would’ve prioritized defense in this class. They did go after some impact defensive prospects, but failed to land any truly big fish. Of the 25 prospects to sign, 11 play defense and only JUCO edge rusher Sam Williams is a 4 or 5-star prospect.
Now, that’s not to say they didn’t land some quality players. There’s definitely some guys who will see time on the field like Williams, 3-star S Jonathan Haynes, 3-star CB Jamar Richardson and possibly 3-star DT Patrick Lucas. But the big question is, will any make an instant impact? Someone like, for instance, RB Scottie Phillips, a 3-star who was lightly recruited and became arguably the second-best player on the team last year. Considering the lack of playmakers on last year’s defense, Ole Miss needs some of these guys to make an impact right away.
3. Quality group of offensive linemen
Knowing they would lose three of five offensive line starters, the Rebels signed seven OL prospects. It’s a quality group, too. There may not be a Laremy Tunsil or Greg Little in the group, but it’s a nice combination of guys who can provide depth right away and show great upside to develop into very good SEC linemen after some time in the weight room with Paul Jackson.
Obviously, the big miss was 4-star OT Charles Cross, who was thought to be a long time Ole Miss lean, but ultimately signed with rival Mississippi State. Watching Cross’ footwork, he’ll be in the NFL someday, and has the length and athleticism to contribute early in 2019. Despite that huge miss, the Rebels have both quality and quantity with their 2019 class of offensive linemen. A couple, like Jeremy James, Nick Broeker and Darius Thomas, have legitimate All-SEC potential.
2. The misses are considerable
As a whole, again, Wednesday wasn’t a bad day for the Rebels. There are some quality prospects in this class. And coach Matt Luke is going to rave about all of these guys. Ole Miss certainly had some hits in this class, but its misses are arguably far greater, and rightfully present great consternation to the fan base.
Two especially stick out – 5-star LB Nakobe Dean and 4-star CB Brandon Turnage.
Dean, the No. 1 player in Mississippi and No. 14 player nationally, from just an hour down the road in Horn Lake, signed with Georgia. For a team that desperately needs impact players on defense (especially at LB), Dean was the white whale for the Rebels in 2019. They lost him even though his own brother is on the team.
Turnage hurts because not only does he play a position of need, but he is as local as it gets, from Lafayette High in Oxford. Turnage signed with Alabama on Wednesday morning.
Byron Young, Jaren Handy, Charles Cross, Derick Hall, De’Monte Russell and Raydarious Jones all were guys that Ole Miss went hard after, but came up empty (though Young and Handy are waiting to sign). And while the misses can, at times, be understandable, missing on in-state guys is unsettling to Ole Miss fans. In fact this staff…
1. Failed to capitalize on in-state class
The 2019 class of players from Mississippi has for years been billed as an historic year for the Magnolia State. The caliber of player from the state is always high, but the quantity rarely is, which makes sense as it’s the state with the lowest population in the SEC footprint. Over the past 10 years, according to 247, Mississippi has averaged 7.5 4 or 5-star prospects a year. The 2019 class has 16 recruits rated as 4 or 5-star.
This in-state class of 2019, you could argue, is why Luke was retained as head coach following his 6-6 interim campaign of 2017. In addition to keeping guys like A.J. Brown and Greg Little happy, Ross Bjork and the administration thought by keeping Luke and the bulk of the staff (which had been building relationships with the prospects in this class for years), they’d be in a good position to strike gold.
That didn’t happen.
Ole Miss swung and missed. Of those 16 top prospects, the Rebels signed just one on Wednesday. Not everyone in the class has signed letters of intent, but factor in verbal commitments yet to sign, and the total number is just 3. And their highest ranked commitment and No. 2 player in the state, RB Jerrion Ealy, is almost a lock to skip football altogether and play professional baseball.
So, assuming Mingo signs in February and assuming Ealy plays baseball next year, the Rebels will have signed just 2 of 16 of those 4 or 5-star in-state players. That’s going to be hard for Luke to rationalize in his celebratory press conference.
It’s easy to understand why some Rebels fans might not be too happy on Thursday morning.