Signing Day Preview: Defense


Defensive Line

D.J. Jones and Breeland Speaks showed Ole Miss fans in the Sugar Bowl that life without Robert Nkemdiche can be quite manageable.

While Nkemdiche has been the face of the defensive front the last couple of years one of the keys to Ole Miss success has been quality depth and moving players in and out.

Signing five-star tackles like Benito Jones, who is already in school, is a big step in continuing that pipeline of depth.

Jones is rated No. 6 in 247’s composite list.

The Rebels were in the conversation for Rashan Gary, a tackle from Paramus, N.J., and the nation’s No. 1 recruit, but now it looks like a long shot for Ole Miss to land Gary.

Jones’ partner in crime for the next few years could be Mississippi’s top prospect, end Jeffery Simmons of Noxubee County.

Ole Miss seems to have a lot of momentum here, and Simmons will announce at his school Wednesday morning at 11. Simmons is ranked by 247 as the No. 10 overall prospect and the No. 1 end.

Ole Miss commit Charles Wiley is already in school. He’s four-star defensive end from Stockbridge, Ga. He’s rated the No. 269 overall prospect and the No. 20 weak side end by 247.

The Rebels also have a solid commit from three-star weak side end Tariqious Tisdale.

Washington, D.C., end Terrell Hall played things close to the vest when leaving his official visit over the weekend. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of Ole Miss momentum for Hall.

Jonathan Kongbo, the nation’s top juco prospect, remains in play. It’s a wait-and-see.



This is a huge position of need, and while the Rebels will get some help they may not get as much help as they’d hoped.

Freeze got a long way down the road with MIque Juarez, 247 composite’s No. 11 overall recruit and No. 1 outside linebacker.

David Luafatasaga, the nation’s No. 19 juco prospect and a four-star outside linebacker, is a hard commit, and three-star inside linebacker Donta Evans is already in school.

Ole Miss loses C.J. Johnson from inside linebacker and was somewhat inconsistent behind him.

DeMarquis Gates did some really good things at outside linebacker — especially when pressed unexpectedly into a key role after the sudden departure of Denzel Nkemdiche – but depth is needed.



There are two commits in the class and a great chance to pick up a third.

This was a position of struggle for Ole Miss last year. Dave Wommack and staff were high on a couple of juco transfers, Tee Shepard and Tony Bridges, at this time last year.

Turned out that Shepard’s hearing disability was more of a problem than they thought it would be, and Bridges didn’t get off to a fast start.

He was playing better at the end of the season, his pick six against Dak Prescott an example of that.

Mike Hilton had to move to corner to help out at the end of the year.

On the whole the Rebels were fairly average in pass defense efficiency, ranking 47th in the nation but ninth in the SEC.

Bridges is back, and so is Kendarius Webster, who started all 13 games last year.

Commit Myles Hartsfield is already in school. Rivals calls him a cornerback, and 247 calls him a safety. Sounds pretty versatile to me. He’s a three-star recruit in both places.

Ole Miss also has a commit from Jaylon Jones. The Allen, Texas native is all in as they say. He was the most insistent about recruiting the uncommitted on last weekend’s official visits. Jones is rated the No. 219 overall prospect and No. 19 cornerback by 247.

Like Hartsfield, Jones could also play some safety, likely nickel back if that happens.

The Rebels look to be in good shape with No. 9 cornerback Shyheim Carter of Kentwood, La. They had been in contention for Central Mississippian Nigel Knott before he committed to Alabama on Monday.



One of the uncommitted players that Jones felt best about in his recruiting efforts over the weekend was Deontay Anderson, 247’s No. 53 composite player and the No. 2 safety.

Anderson stopped short of giving a public verbal commitment, but Jones was very confident that his fellow Texan would join him in Mississippi.

Anderson is from Manvel, Texas. Maybe there are some behind-the-scenes things going on that would help him firm up running back D’Vaughn Pennamon with Ole Miss as well.

Ole Miss is losing two on the back end of the secondary in Trae Elston, an All-American, and Hilton, who was just as valuable if not more because of his versatility.

Also gone is Chief Brown, an experienced hand who came up big at the end of the year.

Jones talked a lot about the possibility of playing nickel, or what Ole Miss calls the Huskie.

Tony Conner is expected to be back and healthy in 2016. The Rebels got a look at life without Conner when he was injured against Alabama, and it was disturbing.

Hartsfield could get a look at safety as could Greg Eisworth, a three-star prospect from Grand Prairie, Texas, who is already in school.

C.J. Hampton has the most experience of returning players, and Zedrick Woods was impressive as a true freshman.

The Moore twins, A.J. and C.J., are also back.




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.

Posted in Football, Recruiting Tagged with: , , ,
  • ripleyreb

    PA, good info in the previews, thanks. Can we expect updates as they roll off the fax machines tomorrow or will you wait until the end of the day to provide us a list?

    • Parrish Alford

      Ripley, that’s a great question. Right now the plan is to drive down for AJ Brown’s announcement at Starkville High School. He is supposed to announce around 9. I’ll check in on the blog as I can but may be doing a lot of driving before the middle of the day. Freeze’s presser is at 2.

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