Signing Day always has its surprises.
Sometimes Ole Miss has benefitted from those. This time it did not.
Going into Signing Day Shawn Curtis didn’t come to mind. Curtis was a late switch to Ole Miss last year, a three-star middle linebacker who was once a Pittsburgh commit. A year ago Hugh Freeze talked about the possibility of Curtis playing in 2015 to add depth.
Eventually CJ Johnson would move from end to start at middle linebacker.
I thought about Curtis because he redshirted, and he’s the kind of guy that Ole Miss is going to have to find from within and continue to develop in order to get better at a position that still lacks depth, linebacker.
Maybe Tariq Tisdale or Donta Evans will be better than their recruiting rankings. Both are three-star guys. Evans is the No. 594-ranked player, Tisdale the No. 744 player.
The rankings say they are “coach ‘em up guys,” and the staff is capable of that.
But if you were looking for the “next big thing” at linebacker on signing day it didn’t come. It wasn’t Mique Juarez.
The Rebels also lost a long-time juco commit during the morning when David Luafatasaga flipped to Utah.
This class finished No. 6 in the country in the 247Sports composite rankings. How do you complain about that?
Well, you can complain in the sense that while Ole Miss added incredible talent on offense and a defensive tackle that Hugh Freeze says is as good as he’s ever seen coming out of high school, it left some talent on the table.
It didn’t address needs at corner when both Shyheim Carter and Nigel Knott signed with Alabama, and when Jeffery Simmons didn’t sign the remarkable rebuilding of the defensive front was something less than expected.
This is a great class, the highest-rated in school history.
But it’s like this. Multi-billionaire John D. Rockefeller was once asked, “How much money is enough?” His response was, “Just one more dollar.”
Rockefeller must have been a recruiting coordinator in the SEC.
It’s hard to feel the euphoric shouts of joy that Ole Miss should have for this class, because they swung at missed at some national guys like Simmons, Juarez, Jonathan Kongbo and Terrell Hall.
That’s the poor-mouthing take on this class. I thought I’d give you that first.
Here’s the good news on defense. Benito Jones appears ready to contribute, according to Freeze.
And while Simmons, who never publicly committed to Ole Miss apparently left the Rebels at the altar nonetheless, Charles Wiley is not a stiff. He’s a four-star guy, the No. 269 overall recruit. He’s a bit overlooked because Ole Miss was so close to Simmons at the end, and because Wiley is already in school. At 6-3, 234 he’s pretty athletic in his own right.
Freeze calls three-star prep school safety Myles Hartsfield – an early enrollee – the sleeper of the class and raves about safety Deontay Anderson, the No. 53 overall player. Those are names to remember as Ole Miss works to replace Trae Elston and Mike Hilton.
Improvement on defense will require some coaching up and might require some creative position changes along the way.
However, Signing Day 2016 did produce some “next big things” on offense.
Quarterback Shea Patterson is the No. 4 overall recruit. He wasn’t discussed much at the presser, because Ole Miss returns an All-SEC quarterback, and it’s not clear right now whether Patterson will play or redshirt.
Offensive tackle Greg Little is the No. 3 recruit. He needs to be the next big thing quicker than anyone else. It’s his job to replace Laremy Tunsil at left tackle, and if Ole Miss is to be the best it can be early in the season, Little has to become the starter earlier than Tunsil did. It took Tunsil a few games into his freshman season.
Freeze didn’t swing and miss on all the big recruits late.
Starkville wide receiver A.J. Brown played things extremely close to the vest. Freeze knew he was coming, but that information escaped the recruitniks of the internet.
Laquon Treadwell is a once-in-a-generation type player, but Ole Miss has added two incredibly physical talents in Brown and D.K. Metcalf.
With all the talent the Rebels have coming back at wide receiver it’s not a stretch to see both of these guys playing next year. Time will tell.
With elite talent at quarterback, offensive line and wide receiver, Freeze didn’t stop there.
He described the recruiting of Manvel, Texas running back D’Vaughn Pennamon as something of a lover’s quarrel. The two drifted apart but drifted back together quickly Freeze said.
The result is a four-star running back is in the fold, a guy that both Alabama and Texas A&M, his home state school made late pushes for.
Pennamon, listed at 220 or more on some recruiting profiles, weighed in at 215 on his Ole Miss visit last weekend. It’s a frame a strength and conditioning coach can work with.
So can five other offensive linemen not named Little.
Freeze says he doesn’t consider Bryce Mathews, Royce Newman, Chandler Tuitt, Jack DeFoor and Eli Johnson underrated. He’s excited about these guys and believes he has numbers and quality in this class.
Hopefully most of them can redshirt.
It will be interesting to see what he does with three tight ends. Jacob Mathis, a four-star prep school guy, was added Wednesday.
Gabe Angel is a four-star guy and rated the No. 12 tight end. He’s already in school.
Octavious Cooley is a bigger guy, listed in the 250 range by Ole Miss. He’s rated four stars and the No. 6 tight end.