There are six commits here with a very clear two-pronged strategy. Find Laremy Tunsil’s replacement and also build for the future.
Only five-star offensive tackle Greg Little of Allen, Texas is expected to make an immediate impact. It is hoped that Little will move into the lineup at left tackle this season as a true freshman.
Whether that happens remains to be seen, but he’s been evaluated to have that kind of ability.
Four of the remaining five commits – Royce Newman, Eli Johnson, Chandler Tuitt and Jack DeFoor – are three star guys according to Rivals.com.
Bryce Mathews is a four-star player.
Remember that heights and weights may be a little sketchy on recruiting profiles, but of the five not named Little – who is listed at 6-5, 318 – the heaviest is Johnson at 288. All are at least 6-3 with Mathews standing 6-6 and Newman, the former Missouri commit, 6-7.
Those are the kinds of frames to which bulk can carefully be added with time in a college strength and conditioning program.
It appears that Freeze and his staff have focused on footwork and athleticism with the idea that strength can be added.
With the experience gained by Sean Rawlings and Jordan Sims last year, a season of experience for Javon Patterson and the anticipated return to health for Rod Taylor and Robert Conyers Ole Miss has a chance to put together a solid line if it answers the left tackle question. A lot of hope riding on Little there, but five-star signees will believe they are up to the challenge.
There is little experience behind those guys but some interesting names. Michael Howard redshirted this past season as a true freshman. He was ranked No. 239 and listed as a four-star prospect by ESPN last year but was listed as a three-star by the other services. The Sugar Bowl media guide lists him at only 232 pounds.
Tyler Putman was ranked as a top-50 tackle by Rivals and the No. 19 tackle by ESPN coming out of DeSoto Central. A redshirt freshman this past season, he’s dealt with some health issues and hasn’t gotten on the field yet.
Keep an eye on tackle Alex Givens, who will be a redshirt freshman in 2016.
There are a lot of bodies departing the OL – Aaron Morris, Justin Bell, Ben Still in addition to Tunsil.
If a freshman not named Little comes in ahead of the game he could get on the field.
There’s only one commit in the class, but what a big one.
If Hugh Freeze and his staff have properly evaluated Patterson – and with the five stars by his name it appears lots of people have evaluated Patterson as a big deal – he could be the most important signee in Freeze’s quest to turn a program that has reached New Year’s Six bowls in the last two years into one with staying power.
As with most positions in this growing program Patterson won’t be counted on to play right away as Ole Miss returns what will likely be the preseason All-SEC quarterback in Chad Kelly.
When you sign guys this highly rated, however, they’re not usually thinking a four-year college career. It will be interesting to see how Freeze handles Patterson, if he redshirts behind Kelly or if he plays in certain situations to be ahead of the game to take over as the starting quarterback as a true sophomore.
If Patterson is redshirted, he’ll still be eligible to apply for the draft after his redshirt sophomore season. Rules say only that a player must be three years out of high school according to NFL.com.
If Patterson excels as a redshirt freshman starter and then a third-year sophomore, he could choose to leave early.
It’s an interesting question. I think I’d redshirt Patterson but prepare him as the No. 2 quarterback in case something bad happens to Kelly early in the season.
Patterson is mobile enough. His vision and arm strength seem to set him a part. Rivals rates him the No. 1 quarterback, the No. 3 overall recruit.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
There are two committed.
Tre Nixon of Viera, Fla., came on last week, and that slowed momentum that Ole Miss was gaining with a couple of other prospects in Quartney Davis and Mykel Jones.
There’s not a lot of difference in these guys. They’re all of similar size and ranking.
Nixon is rated four stars and the No. 36 wide receiver in the 247Sports composite rankings.
Oxford’s D.K. Metcalf if the No. 18 wide receiver and at 6-foot-3, pushing 6-4, and 205 pounds, he’s bigger than Nixon.
Metcalf was a huge play-maker on Oxford High School’s very successful teams the last couple of years.
Freeze is juggling numbers here and will make room for Starkville’s A.J. Brown, a physical player at 6-1, 220, if Brown chooses Ole Miss. He’s rated the No. 5 wide receiver by 247 and will announced his choice Wednesday morning at 8:45 at Starkville High School.
This is a deep position for Ole Miss. The Rebels are losing a once-in-a-generation type player in Laquon Treadwell, and a talented senior in Cody Core, but they are returning productive players in Damore’ea Stringfellow, Quincy Adeboyejo and Markell Pack.
Ole Miss redshirted the No. 11 wide receiver last year in Van Jefferson and also signed the No. 6 wide receiver in Damarkus Lodge.
That said, physicality could lead to early playing time for Metcalf or Brown if he comes.
Two tight ends are committed in Gabe Angel and Octavious Cooley, both three-star players. Angel is in fact already in school.
Ole Miss is also in good position with Jacob Mathis, a four-star prep school tight end from Tampa.
These are the lean, athletic tight ends that Freeze likes. Cooley carries the most bulk at 6-2, 240.
Mathis could play another position, presumably wide receiver.
There are two commits in the class. Justin Conner, a four-star recruit, played running back at North Panola but is being recruited as an athlete.
Four-star running back DeVaughn Pennamon has been committed since last July but has wavered down the stretch.
Alabama has made a late push, as has Texas A&M, his home-state school.
Most of the recruiting services still list Pennamon as a commit, but it’s wait and see for him.
It’s not wait and see for Jarrion Street, a three-star from Trussville, Ala., near Birmingham.
Street also committed last July.
Pennamon, if he comes, gives Ole Miss a bigger back who can gain yards after contact.
Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins were both doing that quite nicely at the end of 2015. Judd will be a senior and Wilkins a junior.
Pennamon is listed at 5-10, 221. That’s the kind of frame that could be at 231 or 236 in a couple of years of hard work in the conditioning program.
His decision is not as important as it was a year ago. The Rebels signed Eric Swinney last year, a guy Freeze described as a franchise back. His face absolutely lit up when talking about Swinney as he described how he made his coaching staff understand that Eric Swinney was absolutely the priority at running back.
Swinney likely would have played a key role in 2015 had a foot injury not forced him to redshirt.
If Pennamon signs and develops it could be a dynamic running back tandem in a couple of years.