Twas the day before Signing Day

Twas the day before signing day.

Some analysts had predicted a big finish from Ole Miss, but the Rebels have been unable to keep some of their highest-profiled commits, LB Leo Lewis and OL Drew Richmond.

It looks like they are in good shape with DE Cece Jefferson, a Florida native, and WR DaMarkus Lodge, of Cedar Hill, Texas. They are certainly highly rated recruits and would help with the class ranking if that’s important to you.

That’s not the only place they would help, of course.

The absence of Richmond, though, is a tremendous loss at a need position, offensive line.

While Ole Miss has amassed talent at a number of positions offensive line has been a work in progress. It was a struggle for the Rebels to run the ball and protect the quarterback consistently in 2014, and the likelihood is that the one elite player up front, left tackle Laremy Tunsil, will be gone after 2015.

There are pieces to work with, some guys redshirted last year, some getting older and more experienced.

Richmond, rated the No. 2 offensive tackle by Rivals, would have been a huge addition to an evolving position.

The timing of his departure is another problem. It’s come so late in the process that it hasn’t allowed Hugh Freeze and staff to adequately spend more time with other offensive linemen.

The loss of Lewis is less impactful. The numbers are down at linebacker, and he’d had have been a huge get, a guy likely to get meaningful playing time next year.

Offensive line, though, is the greater need. Defensive is instinctive, and linebacker is a position where you’re most likely to move a player in and have that player be successful. That’s not the preferred method, of course, because that negatively impacts your depth in other areas. But it can be done.

Freeze was concerned about wide receiver depth last year, and that depth was thinner at season’s end minus Laquon Treadwell and Vince Sanders.

If Freeze lands Lodge that gives the Rebels another tremendous talent – He’s ranked by Rivals as the No. 7 wide receiver, the No. 61 overall player – but the class may not have great receiver depth. The only other committed receiver right now is Van Jefferson, of Brentwood, Tenn., and there are mixed signals as to whether Jefferson, a four-star and the No. 13 wide receiver, will follow through and sign.

Freeze has added some defensive line depth in recent days with Rasool Clemons and Ross Donelly. That’s not a bad thing, but it will take keeping Jefferson and pulling in Jefferson and Lodge to finish with a flurry tomorrow.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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