Historic signing day for Ole Miss could be ‘program changer’

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (Photo by Justin Ford)

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze (Photo by Justin Ford)

The unlikely post season bowl appearance is continuing to bring success to the Ole Miss Rebels football program.  National signing day 2013 will go down in history as one of the best recruiting classes of all time to sign a national letter of intent (NIT) with the Rebels.

The major recruiting services rank Ole Miss at No. 2 (247Sports), No. 5 (ESPN), No. 6 (MaxPreps), No. 7 (Rivals) and No. 9 (Scout).  These ranking are fluid and will not be finalized until all NIT are received by the institutions.

“I think today has the possibility of being a program changer,” Hugh Freeze said. “Obviously, it’s all on paper right now. We’ll start having to manage expectations now. We’ll still be in the second year of our journey together, but I do think we took a huge step forward today on that journey toward being where we all want to be, and that’s competing for an SEC West championship. We’re thrilled with today.”

Ole Miss reeled in the nation’s No. 1 defensive end in Robert Nkemdiche,, the country’s No. 1 offensive tackle in Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla.), the No. 1 wide receiver in Laquon Treadwell (Crete, Ill.) and the No. 2 safety in Tony Conner (Batesville, Miss.). That quartet highlights a class that includes 16 players rated 4 stars or better by the various recruiting services.

The Rebels pulled in prospects from eight states, including Mississippi (eight), Georgia (six), Tennessee (four), Alabama (three), Texas (three), Florida (two), Illinois (one) and Louisiana (one).

Nkemdiche will join his older brother, sophomore linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche, on the Rebel roster. Denzel earned All-SEC honors as a redshirt-freshman in 2012 while leading Ole Miss to a turnaround 7-6 season and a victory in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Robert Nkemdiche could become the best player ever in the history of Ole Miss football.

Robert Nkemdiche could become the best player ever in the history of Ole Miss football.

Tunsil is regarded as the third-best overall prospect in the country by 247Sports.com, Treadwell is rated the nation’s fifth-best player by Rivals.com, and Conner is ranked 24th by MaxPreps and ESPN.com. Other signees among the nation’s top 150 include OL Austin Golson (Prattville, Ala.), RB Kailo Moore (Rosedale, Miss.) and RB Mark Dodson (Memphis, Tenn.).  The Rebels also signed Marcus Robinson, LB, Herbert Moore, DT, and Jordan Wilkins RB all are from Memphis.

“Derrick Jones may be one of the hidden gems of this class,” Freeze said. “The guy’s a phenomenal athlete. I’ve seen him play basketball. He plays above the rim. I think he can play a lot of places for us from safety to receiver.”

The Rebels received 22 high school signatures on Wednesday to go with three junior college players and three high schoolers that had already signed. One of those junior college recruits, DT Lavon Hooks (Atlanta, Ga.), is rated by 247Sports.com as the top overall JUCO prospect in the country.

Managing expectation will be tough considering Alabama, Florida and LSU also grabbed some impressive recruits in this year’s signing class.  If the Rebels are able to combine the talented new additions with the experience they obtained last year, Ole Miss could be playing in a bowl game played on New Year’s Day.

Terry Davis is a regular contributor for MemphiSport. Follow him @Terryd515.

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