REBELS WON AREA RECRUITING WAR, AND THAT’S NO RUMOR

AUTHOR: PARRIS

REBELS WON AREA RECRUITING WAR, AND THAT’S NO RUMOR

OK, stop the rumors.

Signing Day is Wednesday. I understand rumors on the recruiting trail are as common as ice storms in Northeast Mississippi, but it’s time to set the record straight.

There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Ole Miss will change its colors to black and gold. Nor is Amory coach Bobby Hall leaving the Panthers to join the Ole Miss radio network as an analyst, and Monroe County is not bidding against Jackson and Memphis to host an Ole Miss home game.

It would easy to believe those things since the Rebels’ sweep of Amory’s big four, but it just isn’t true. It’s rumor.

Recruiting in general is just rumor until Wednesday. Until these high school kids sign that binding piece of paper any school from North Alabama to Northeast Louisiana is in the running for anyone of them. Technically, that is.

Assuming there are no 11th hour surprises this week, one thing is clear: Ole Miss owns Northeast Mississippi in 1996. And the Rebels didn’t just beat Mississippi State to take this land. They beat Tennessee and Florida.

Ole Miss took the top four Amory seniors — tight end Rufus French, linebacker Reggie Smith, defensive lineman Darius Brown and running back Joe Gunn — from a class that went 39-2. It’s one of the most celebrated senior classes this area has ever seen.

Ole Miss’ recruiting success suggests to bipartisan on-lookers that the Rebels have a pulse in the probation dungeon.

“It’s pretty obvious things are on the move there,” Hall said. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that.”

In addition to the Amory four the Rebels picked up commitments from linebackers Chad Cook of Calhoun City, Daniel Galloway of Pontotoc and Armegis Spearman of Bruce.

Spearman turned down Tennessee. French turned down more suitors than Miss Monroe County on a Friday night. He committed to Ole Miss the Monday after visiting Florida.

Dynasties in Knoxville and Gainesville will not crumble for losing Spearman and French. In the same manner, no dynasty in Oxford will spring forth from these commitments. But the gap closes. Repeat this process, and it closes more.

If you want a motto for this Ole Miss recruiting class, here’s one: “Hey Mississippi kids. We want you.”

“Their coaches just really worked,” Bruce assistant coach Robert Beckett said. “They really made an effort to get out and meet the high school coaches. At the coaches clinics in Jackson, every time we came out of a meeting there were several Ole Miss coaches in the lobby. You used to didn’t see one.”

The problem hasn’t always been that state schools weren’t recruiting Mississippi. It’s that everyone else was too.

“We’ve got great coaches and great talent in this state,” Hall said. “We can play some football.”

Hall, an Ole Miss graduate, says he didn’t poke his players toward Oxford with Col. Reb’s cane, as some have suggested.

“But I do want these guys to play in-state, Mississippi State and Ole Miss in particular,” he said. “I’m tired of watching Auburn, Alabama and Florida beat us with Mississippi boys.”

Hall said one factor that led the Amory quartet to Ole Miss was the chance to play early.

“They think they can do that there,” he said.

But there’s more.

“There’s just a different atmosphere there now. It’s an energy. You can just see it. Those guys are trying to recruit Mississippi players.”

Whether this energy becomes visible on next fall’s power bill remains to be seen. It is obvious, however, the something’s up in the recruiting. Of the area’s major prospects, only Pontotoc quarterback Ryan Hooker chose MSU.

The cloud of NCAA sanctions may have played a part there. Perhaps the feeling is Ole Miss will be out of jail first.

Whatever. When they start signing those documents Wednesday, you can give the recruiting nod to Ole Miss.

And that’s not just rumor.

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