By Parrish Alford
OXFORD – For Ole Miss, there was signing day drama with the Rebels’ two biggest SEC rivals, and Hugh Freeze batted .500.
The Rebels’ coach was unable to flip longtime LSU commit Davon Godchaux, the nation’s No. 9-rated defensive end, but Ole Miss did reel in help from a Mississippi State commit at cornerback, a critical need position.
“We lost a few battles with some really good schools that we were in at the end with some really good players,” Freeze said. “Our focus is totally on the players that we get, because those are the Rebels. Those are the ones who have chosen to come with us.”
Hinds Community College standout Tee Shepard, a native of Fresno, Calif., announced for the Bulldogs on Feb. 2.
His signing with the Rebels was welcome news after River Ridge, La., cornerback Terrence Alexander said he was signing with Stanford.
Freeze said he and his staff had dropped off Shepard’s recruiting and when they returned gave Shepard the chance to say “take a hike.”
“I was clear with Tee at the beginning and told him if he was not interested say so, and we’d move on. We had a Plan B to go to,” Freeze said. “I did not want to muddy the water.”
Shepard has work to do academically, but Freeze is confident he can get things done.
“I assure I feel like he can do it, and it’s very attainable,” Freeze said.
The Rebels also added four-star cornerback Kendarius Webster of Stockbridge, Ga.
“We really needed two corners we felt could come in and contribute,” Freeze said.
Contributions could come at a number of positions.
Offensive lineman Rod Taylor is the consensus top-rated prospect in Mississippi. Ole Miss landed four of the state’s top six players according to Rivals.com ratings.
One of those is defensive lineman Breeland Speaks, who, along with wide receiver Dayall Harris, rounds out the Callaway trio of Rebels’ signees.
Freeze gave his second full Ole Miss class high marks when comparing it to 2013’s consensus top 10 group.
“Last year we had some top-heavy guys who got a lot of attention,” Freeze said. “We also evaluated guys like Derrick Jones and Evan Engram. We feel like this class might be better from top to bottom.”
Scout.com ranks the class No. 14, Rivals.com No. 18.
Many in the 2013 class were needed to start or play big snaps right away. A year later a signee like Meridian safety C.J. Hampton, the No. 2-rated prospect in the state, will be counted on to rest the first-teamers.
“We got our team faster and deeper. I can’t wait to get them here and get them on the grass and get to practicing,” Freeze said.