What happened? NCAA scandal wrecks Rebels' chances of building elite recruiting class
The final big recruiting weekend at Ole Miss didn’t look anything like it did only 12 months ago.
For the past four seasons, Ole Miss has been a national figure on National Signing Day. Walking campus were 5-stars and 4-stars committed elsewhere, players the Rebels were at least making a run at if not snatching.
The past four classes were ranked Nos. 5, 17, 15 and 8 respectively. Just two days before National Signing Day, Ole Miss is No. 53 in the 247Sports composite rankings, eight spots lower than the combined sum of the past four recruiting rankings combined.
Ole Miss went 5-7 in 2016, nothing to brag about on the recruiting trail, but the NCAA investigation that seems to have no ending in sight has caused immeasurable damage to the Rebels rising’ recruiting efforts nationwide.
“I think that’s the primary culprit of what we’re seeing, more so than the 5-7 season,” said David Johnson, publisher of Rebels247. “There’s no doubt the pending sanctions and all the investigation is fodder that’s being used by other schools. I get that.
“There’s just no doubt that the uncertainty has pre-penalized Ole Miss.”
The Rebels lost a commitment from 4-star in-state linebacker Willie Gay, who now looks headed to either LSU or Mississippi State.
Will be Logging off of twitter till after Signing Day‼️
— Willie Gay Jr. (@WillieYRN) January 25, 2017
That was a blow to the biggest position of need for the Rebels. In-state running back Cam Akers, a 5-star and No. 2 overall player in the country went to Florida State.
“You don’t have to look any further than Cam Akers,” Johnson said. “I think he said in his recruitment he was paying close attention to the NCAA situation. That’s a once-in-a-generation prospect inside the state of Mississippi that Ole Miss recruited long and hard. I guess you could say the (NCAA) carnage in association with this 2017 class is everywhere.”
Ole Miss isn’t only losing in-state guys it looked like a lock to get only a year ago. The Rebels are losing out-of-state guys with strong family ties to the university.
“Start with Ty Chandler, whose father Chico played at Ole Miss, then Walker Little, whose brother and sister both are students at Ole Miss. There are other tie-ins as well,” Johnson said.
Chandler, a 4-star running back, is a Tennessee commit. Little, a 5-star offensive tackle is going to Stanford. The Rebels are desperate for help in both positions.
Ole Miss’ five wins in 2016 — and a blowout loss in the Egg Bowl to Mississippi State — isn’t enough to keep the top in-state talent coming. The looming NCAA decision has scared off the national names.
“There’s got to be an end in sight, anybody’s guess to when that’s going to happen,” Johnson said.
Further expected charges could extend the investigation into the 2017 season. The longer it goes, the lower Ole Miss falls down the recruiting rankings.
Without the NCAA camped out in Oxford, Ole Miss likely lands Akers and Gay, likely landing the state’s three biggest names. Five wins and the continued snooping has derailed the Rebels.