Matt Luke believes Ole Miss keeping 5-star RB Jerrion Ealy home 'makes a statement' for many reasons
Ole Miss had arguably the best National Signing Day in the nation on Wednesday thanks to five-star running back Jerrion Ealy, four-star receiver Jonathan Mingo, four-star linebacker Lakia Henry and three-star defensive lineman LaDarrius Cox all signing with the Rebels.
Those additions, along with the large number of prospects Ole Miss signed during the Early Signing Period, 31 new players in total will be added to the Ole Miss roster this offseason, should give the Rebels a solid foundation to build upon moving forward.
The key to the big day was landing arguably the nation’s top running back prospect in Ealy.
So how did Ole Miss manage to keep Clemson and Alabama at bay in order to land Ealy’s signature? According to Luke, it all came down to the relationships the staff had developed with Ealy spanning his entire recruitment.
“I think it comes back to relationships. Running backs coach Derrick Nix had known him since the 9th grade and been recruiting him. I am really proud of the way he has worked and built that relationship,” Luke said. “He knew the whole family, and I think in the end, when Jerrion came back, he felt at home.
“I think him making the decision to stay in Mississippi makes a statement for a lot of different reasons. Not only is he a great player, but he is also a very good person. He is one of the top players, if not the top player in Mississippi. I am very excited about that decision.”
While some have questioned Luke’s future in Oxford, many Ole Miss fans view him simply as a lame-duck coach, the school made a tremendous investment in its head coach this offseason by landing former head coaches Rich Rodriguez and Mike MacIntyre to come coordinate the Ole Miss offense and defensive, respectively, in 2019.
The level of commitment has not been lost on Luke.
“As soon as they were hired, it just kind of put everybody on notice,” Luke continued. “Hey, these guys made a commitment to winning, and I think it did that to the recruits as a whole. And then, just getting those guys out there – they’re both former head coaches, they have the confidence about them when they walk into a living room.
“John Rhys Plumlee, he loved what Rich Rod was telling him. Jerrion Ealy, he loved what Rich Rod was telling him. Mingo loved what Rich Rod was telling him. And I think that’s important. Lakia, hearing Mike McIntyre talk about his pro-style defense – hey, this is the exact same defense that the Chicago Bears are using, and showing him cut-ups of that. I think that’s a big deal.”
Ole Miss has the coaching and now has taken a big step forward in landing the talent necessary to compete at the highest level. While the team will still be a ways from truly contending in the SEC, if Luke and company can stack recruiting class after recruiting class on top of each other, that time will eventually come for the Rebels.