By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – As a Mississippi guy, Hugh Freeze knew it was important to land Tony Conner.
It was late in the game, though, before he knew he’d won the battle.
Ole Miss has had a lot of success recruiting South Panola, but Alabama made a late push for Conner, rated a five-star recruit by Scout.
“I understand you’re supposed to win that recruit,” Freeze said.
When decision time came the mother’s guiding hand was an influence as much as either coach.
“As we went on visits I looked back and looked at my mom to see how happy she was,” Conner said. “She was happy at Alabama, and she was happy at Ole Miss. She was a little bit more happy at Ole Miss.”
Freeze said Conner never tipped his hand throughout the process.
‘Superstars’ of class
While Ole Miss signed a consensus top 10 class, it was only the fourth-best SEC class according to Rivals, the third-best according to ESPN.
Freeze doesn’t believe he has to sign a top 10 class next year in order to start rising in the SEC West on the field.
In fact, while there’s a lot of attention right now for the highest ranked players in the class – guys like Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell, Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson – it’s the more anonymous members of the group that stand out for Freeze.
“I think one of the strengths of our class are the four-star and high-three stars we got,” he said. “Those guys are not getting talked about a lot, and we think they’re superstars.”
He singled out running backs Jordan Wilkins, Mark Dodson and Kailo Moore, quarterbacks Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade, offensive linemen Davion Johnson and Daronte Bouldin and wide receiver Derrick Jones.
Brassell and grades
Dodson is one of a handful of early enrollees which includes junior college transfer Nick Brassell.
While Brassell is in school, he’s not out of the academic wilderness. Freeze wants to make sure Brassell’s grades are in order to help the team next fall.
Brassell was already in the program – and was called an “NFL corner” by Freeze – when he went through spring drills in 2012. He was not going to be eligible for the fall and ended up at East Mississippi Community College for his sophomore season.
“He’ll have an opportunity to earn eligibility by going through the process that we’ve outlined for him,” Freeze said. “Should he make it, he will be a welcome addition to us.”