Five Burning Questions

With the 2011 signing class in the books, Yancy Porter, the Ole Miss Spirit's recruiting analyst, answers five burning questions.

Did Ole Miss meet its needs in the signing class of 2011?

"Ole Miss filled its needs at quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line, defensive tackle, linebacker and safety. But there are holes to fill at cornerback and running back. I would've liked to have seen Ole Miss add another big-time rush end, maybe a junior college guy, to help out for next year's team, but that didn't appear to be a big priority.

Obviously the strength of Ole Miss' class lies with its wide receivers and linebackers. The Rebels are adding the top three wide receivers in the state of Mississippi (Nickolas Brassell, Donte Moncrief, Tobias Singleton).

Four-star wide receiver Nickolas Brassell
Courtesy: Yancy Porter
All three are major-impact players, who each bring something different to the table. It's a very diverse group.

At linebacker, Ole Miss is adding two Parade All-Americans in C.J. Johnson and Serderius Bryant, while adding a Dandy Dozen player in Marcus Mayers. And I haven't even mentioned Keith Lewis who, to me, is one of the more underrated outside linebackers in the country.

If there's a better group of wide receivers or linebackers than the ones Ole Miss signed Wednesday, I'd like to see it."

Who is the key recruit(s) that got away?

"The first player that comes to mind is Jermaine Whitehead. We're talking about a kid who publicly said for months that he trusted and felt more comfortable around the Ole Miss coaching staff than any other staff involved in his recruitment. On top of that, his whole click of friends, who he talked about wanting to play with all year long, ended up at the school that he said he felt the most comfortable.

Auburn was always in the picture for Whitehead, despite what some Ole Miss fans might think. Having said that, Whitehead was 100 percent Ole Miss up until the Saturday before signing day. Auburn came in for a home visit the Friday before, with the intentions of Whitehead leaving for Auburn for an official visit that night. He declined, choosing instead to stay home. But on Saturday, he changed his mind and went to Auburn for a one-day visit. In a matter of 24 hours, he changed his course for the next four to five years. But that's recruiting sometimes.

Tre Mason comes to mind, as well. And, yes, it was the same team, Auburn, who spoiled Ole Miss' party. It's rare for any school to sign one player at a position outside of quarterback. Ole Miss told Mason from day one it was signing only one running back. Mason was the guy. Ole Miss was the only school to have a home visit that included Mason's father. And Ole Miss was the only school Mason's father visited with Tre.

Tre Mason, rated a four-star running back, spurned Ole Miss for Auburn
File Photo
Ole Miss put in twice the amount of recruiting time as (Auburn head coach) Gene Chizik, who never stepped foot in his house. Mason left from his official visit to Ole Miss with every intention of signing with Ole Miss. But when Auburn lost two highly-ranked running backs to other schools, the Tigers turned their focus to Mason and were able to land him.

Without a doubt, the strangest signing-day story I've covered in my 12 years in the business was Floyd Raven. Raven was a player who committed to Ole Miss two different times. He even proudly announced he signed with Ole Miss multiple times on signing day. But he had his mind changed by Texas A&M, and signed with the Aggies at the 11th hour."

If you had to pick one, which signee do you consider the standout of the class?

"That's tough. I'd have to go with both C.J. Johnson and Nickolas Brassell. It's hard to put one over the other, because I think both will make an immediate impact not only on the field, but from a leadership standpoint.

Due to the loss of Raven and Whitehead, not only will Brassell make an immediate impact at wide receiver, but he'll also make an immediate impact at defensive back -- a la Charles Woodson at Michigan. He also has the speed and quickness like a Dexter McCluster, which no current player possesses from an offensive standpoint. He has the athletic ability to stay with the receivers, but flip to corner or safety and be a standout at the position.

If you close your eyes and visualize C.J. Johnson, D.T. Shackelford immediately comes to mind. They're built very similar. They both demand respect from their teammates. And, like Shackelford, Johnson has an infectious smile. He's a born leader.

Channing Ward, of Aberdeen, is arguably the top 2012 prospect in Mississippi
Courtesy: Ben Garrett
Johnson's versatile enough to move around. He can play middle linebacker, or even slide down to defensive end and rush the passer."

What are Ole Miss' need areas for the 2012 class?

"It's going to start with running back. Ole Miss graduates Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis, and only one proven running back, Jeff Scott, returns. Don't be surprised if Ole Miss signs two to three tailbacks in the 2012 class. They'll need a power back and they'll need another speed back.

After that, I suspect they'll go heavy after cornerbacks once again. But how many Ole Miss ultimately signs depends on the contributions of Brassell and Aaron Garbutt, who is versatile enough to play safety or corner. If neither happens, you could see Ole Miss sign as many as four or five cornerbacks next February.

Don't sleep on tight end, either. Ole Miss will be looking to ink two tight ends in next year's class so they can toil for a year under the two (Ferbia Allen, Jamal Mosley) who are leaving as seniors."

Which Mississippi prospect is the most likely to garner the most attention in 2012?

"Some might say Morton's Quay Evans. Some might point to Long Beach's Nick James. But, undoubtedly, the most attention will be focused on Aberdeen's Channing Ward -- arguably Mississippi's top pass rusher in a decade. The 6-4, 245-pound pass-rushing specialist creates havoc all over the field. He has legit 4.5 speed and is athletic enough to play linebacker if needed. Channing has a chance to be the top defensive end prospect in the country next year. Add that to the fact that his big brother, Taurus, plays for Ole Miss, and there's no question all eyes will be focused on Channing Ward."

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