Class of 2015: Defensive Backs

Last in a series …

Collectively, the six defensive backs signed might be the most exciting position grouping among the class.

It’s a mix of old and new, guys with stars and ratings, guys with potential.

I’m including Jalen Julius in the discussion because it’s a signing class, and you just never know.

Cornerback won’t be the first position for Julius, a Winter Garden, Fla., native listed at 6-0, 180. He played a lot of cornerback at West Orange High School, however, and 247Sports rated him No. 101 at the position.

Julius above all else is expected to help on special teams. He will start out at slot receiver, and if he ends up at cornerback, it likely means something has gone wrong with the others.

There’s a lot of potential at cornerback with players returning but also in this class.

The wild card of the whole group is Tee Shepard, who may finally make an impact on a college football roster.

Shepard (6-1, 195) was a five-star recruit when he signed with Notre Dame out of Washington Union High School in Fresno, Calif. He enrolled at Notre Dame for the 2012 spring semester but left school that March and played the 2013 season at Hinds Community College.

He was expected to make a big impact last year but missed the 2014 when a torn tendon in his toe required surgery. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze called him his best cover corner at the time.

Coaches are high on rising sophomore Kendarius Webster, and the versatile Mike Hilton, a rising senior, also return.

Hilton has played everywhere in the secondary, and it wouldn’t be stunning to see him end up at free safety in place of departed two-time All-American Cody Prewitt.

That’s especially true if mid-year juco signee Tony Bridges (6-2, 190) is a quick study at cornerback

He was listed in the top 10 among all juco prospects by Scout, Rivals and ESPN. All three rated him the top juco cornerback.

C.J. Hampton, a four-star signee in the Class of 2014, was signed with the idea of being Prewitt’s replacement. This will be a big spring for Hampton. It’s understandable that he wouldn’t get a lot of playing time while Prewitt was still on the roster.

One thing is certain. Mike Hilton will be a starter and will play a lot. Tony Conner is secure at Huskie. If coaches get comfortable with the idea of a cornerback rotation between Shepard, Bridges and Webster, it’s not a stretch to think Hilton could move to free safety.

Signee Cameron Ordway (6-1, 170) projects as a cornerback but played corner and safety at Giles County High School in Pulaski, Tenn., the same high school that produced Bo Wallace.

Ole Miss picked up a physical safety from a small Northeast Mississippi school, Walnut, in Armani Linton (6-3, 200). Linton was rated the No. 15 safety and the No. 190 overall player by Scout.com.

One intriguing late addition to the class was Montrell Custis (5-11, 180), of Jonesboro, Ga., where he played both cornerback and safety at Lovejoy High School. Custis, a teammate of current Ole Miss linebacker DeMarquis Gates at Lovejoy, was a long-time commit to Alabama before signing with Ole Miss.

Signee Zedrick Woods, a consensus three-star prospect, projects at Huskie. Woods (6-1, 200) was rated the No. 60 outside linebacker by 247Sports.

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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