By Parrish Alford / NEMS Daily Journal
Houston Nutt thanked the mothers of Mississippi on Wednesday, and there was plenty to be thankful for in a top 20 recruiting class.
Ole Miss helped itself in a lot of areas but not in all areas.
The momentum the Rebels seemed to build heading into signing day didn’t evaporate on national signing day, but the train did slow down.
After a 4-8 season there are a lot of need areas, but none was bigger for Ole Miss than cornerback, and the final list of signees was thin at that position.
Now it appears Nutt will be banking on Wesley Pendleton, a junior college transfer who didn’t play football at Natchez until the 11th grade and was lightly recruited out of Co-Lin.
With a reported speed of 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, the game came easily for Pendleton at other levels. Perhaps it will again.
Down the stretch, the Ole Miss staff put all its effort into high school corners Jermaine Whitehead and Floyd Raven, both of whom signed elsewhere – Raven in a bizarre signing day episode that included scholarship papers forged by his mother.
Overall, the class is deep and talented. It also includes high school corner Senquez Golson of Pascagoula and versatile four-star recruit Nick Brassell of South Panola, a receiver by trade.
Either could take the edge off the losses of Whitehead and Raven, but both come with an asterisk. Brassell has yet to take the ACT, and the staff will sweat through the MLB draft to see if Golson, a projected fourth-round pick, will embark on a pro baseball career.
Strong in state
Cornerback aside, there’s a lot to celebrate for Nutt, who signed the top five players in Mississippi as rated by Rivals.com.
Philadelphia linebacker C.J. Johnson, the state’s top recruit, can make a quick impact.
With the speed of Tobias Singleton and the physical nature of Donte Moncrief the wide receiver group has unique ability without Brassell. It’s obviously stronger with him.
There are offensive linemen who can provide depth next year and who can redshirt and build for the future.
With many signs pointing to Ole Miss signing both Whitehead and Raven in the days leading up to the finish, it’s natural to focus on what might have been.
Maybe the staff shake-up, which includes the addition of defensive backs coach Keith Burns, can work with what’s in house and develop cornerbacks. The good news is Pendleton is enrolled and will go through spring drills.
The Rebels have to be better in pass coverage, or Nutt will need to make sure Mississippi mothers lock up on a corner next season.
In the meantime, the overall quality of the class gives Ole Miss some momentum to carry into spring ball and is the first step toward improvement from the 2010 debacle.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ journalinc.com) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.