Banner Day

Some national pundits scoffed at the idea. There were opposing fans crying foul at every turn.


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This is Ole Miss, they thought; a low-to-mid tier Southeastern Conference program fresh off an average 7-6 season by most standards. Hugh Freeze couldn't pull off a top-10 recruiting class, could he? Not a still-green head coach one year removed from Arkansas State, and most certainly not at Ole Miss.

I mean, c'mon. Ole Miss? We're talking about Ole Miss here - the same Ole Miss that lost 15 straight league games over a two-year period prior to its five-game turnaround in 2012.

There had to be something fishy going on in Oxford. Because Ole Miss can't recruit against Alabama. Or LSU. Or Georgia. Not without shady dealings, at least. No way.

Well, the results are in. Robert Nkemdiche. Laremy Tunsil. Laquon Treadwell. Antonio Conner. I could keep going, but I won't belabor the point. In short, Freeze just landed far and away the best class in school history, ranked No. 9 nationally by Scout.com. Ole Miss was the story of National Signing Day. Even NBA superstar LeBron James chimed in.


Ole Miss is relevant again.

Every program has its come-to-Jesus moment. From Oklahoma to Oregon to Ole Miss to Vanderbilt, a time arrives when a program has to decide what it wants to be, if it wants to move away from its past.

Ole Miss met its crossroads in 2011-12. After a blowout loss at Vanderbilt, Houston Nutt was nearing his end as head coach. Apathy had set in amongst Ole Miss fans, and public pushback to athletics director Pete Boone was at an all-time high.

Angry alumni published ads in newspapers from Tupelo, Miss., to Memphis, Tenn., calling for the firing of Boone.


Hugh Freeze
File Photo

Nutt's popularity after back-to-back nine-win seasons in his first two years dissipated quickly in his final two, when the Rebels combined to win six total games.

Nutt was fired following the season. Boone, too. Freeze was hired, followed by Ross Bjork. Freeze wasn't a surprise hire by any stretch.

Though he had coached under Ed Orgeron - a divisive figure, to say the least, in his three seasons as head coach -Freeze remained a popular figure, especially with Mike Glenn, co-chair of the selection committee with former Ole Miss great Archie Manning.

He loved Ole Miss. He knew Ole Miss. More than anything, however, he believed Ole Miss could be more. Up next was Bjork, an energetic, driven, up-and-comer of an A.D. hired away from Western Kentucky. He shared in Freeze's belief.

See, they thought Ole Miss could be more. Ole Miss could shed its defeatist attitude and win instead. Ole Miss had more going for it than the Grove or the girls or the Southern charm. More than the Square and its nightlife.

Today, signing day, provided even more vindication of that belief.

National pundits will continue to scoff. Opposing fans will always cry foul. Such vitriol comes with the territory for programs that aspire to be greater than their pasts. Top-ranked teams, and the fans that follow those teams, don't take kindly to what they see as a possible threat to the norm.

So to you, Ole Miss fan, be prepared for anything and everything, be it message-board allegations or threats. As with Ole Miss and its recruiting class ranked among the nation's elite, these are uncharted waters. Ole Miss has a renewed belief in itself.

Yes, the 2013 recruiting season was a perfect storm for Freeze and staff. Ole Miss had an in with Nkemdiche, the top overall prospect in the country. Had Denzel not been on the team - and performed well, I might add, leading Ole Miss in tackles - Ole Miss never would have had a shot with brother Robert.

Ole Miss got in the door with Treadwell because of Anthony Standifer, the freshman defensive back who saw playing time, albeit very little, in his true freshman season. Freeze deserves credit for finishing the job, for getting Treadwell on campus unofficially during the season, where he was blown away, and then back for an official visit in late-January.


Kailo Moore
John Davis

Conner is from nearby Batesville, Miss., home of powerhouse South Panola. Ole Miss is always a contender for South Panola kids, with current Rebels Nick Brassell and Issac Gross, as well as former Rebels Peria and John Jerry and Jamarca Sanford, as perfect examples.

Tunsil? Ole Miss sent at least 25 handwritten letters a day to the five-star offensive lineman for most, if not all, of the recruiting season, according to sources. Suffice to say, Ole Miss wasn't outworked for Tunsil, who could be a starter along the offensive line from day one.

When he confirmed an official visit on the same weekend as Treadwell and Nkemdiche in January, the race was on.

And Freeze closed better than Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.

Ole Miss fan, you're allowed to celebrate today. You have my permission, a 26-year-old cynic whose only rooting interests are the Atlanta Braves and Dallas Cowboys.

The 2012-13 season was a crucial step in Ole Miss moving away from settling. Settling for mediocrity. Settling for environment over performance. Settling for expecting little and celebrating perceived overachievement. National Signing Day was icing on the cake.

Ole Miss decided it could be more. Today, it was. The coming years will show if the belief, if today's achievement, is the springboard to something greater.


OM Spirit Top Stories

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\r\n

Ole Miss is relevant again. \r\n

\r\nEvery program has its come-to-Jesus moment. From Oklahoma to Oregon to Ole Miss to Vanderbilt, a time arrives when a program has to decide what it wants to be, if it wants to move away from its past. \r\n

\r\nOle Miss met its crossroads in 2011-12. After a blowout loss at Vanderbilt, Houston Nutt was nearing his end as head coach. Apathy had set in amongst Ole Miss fans, and public pushback to athletics director Pete Boone was at an all-time high.\r\n

\r\nAngry alumni published ads in newspapers from Tupelo, Miss., to Memphis, Tenn., calling for the firing of Boone.

\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n

\r\n Hugh Freeze
\r\n File Photo
\r\n
\r\n\r\n

Nutt's popularity after back-to-back nine-win seasons in his first two years dissipated quickly in his final two, when the Rebels combined to win six total games.\r\n

\r\nNutt was fired following the season. Boone, too. Freeze was hired, followed by Ross Bjork. Freeze wasn't a surprise hire by any stretch. \r\n

\r\nThough he had coached under Ed Orgeron - a divisive figure, to say the least, in his three seasons as head coach -Freeze remained a popular figure, especially with Mike Glenn, co-chair of the selection committee with former Ole Miss great Archie Manning.\r\n

\r\nHe loved Ole Miss. He knew Ole Miss. More than anything, however, he believed Ole Miss could be more. Up next was Bjork, an energetic, driven, up-and-comer of an A.D. hired away from Western Kentucky. He shared in Freeze's belief.\r\n

\r\nSee, they thought Ole Miss could be more. Ole Miss could shed its defeatist attitude and win instead. Ole Miss had more going for it than the Grove or the girls or the Southern charm. More than the Square and its nightlife.\r\n

\r\nToday, signing day, provided even more vindication of that belief.\r\n

\r\nNational pundits will continue to scoff. Opposing fans will always cry foul. Such vitriol comes with the territory for programs that aspire to be greater than their pasts. Top-ranked teams, and the fans that follow those teams, don't take kindly to what they see as a possible threat to the norm.\r\n

\r\nSo to you, Ole Miss fan, be prepared for anything and everything, be it message-board allegations or threats. As with Ole Miss and its recruiting class ranked among the nation's elite, these are uncharted waters. Ole Miss has a renewed belief in itself. \r\n

\r\nYes, the 2013 recruiting season was a perfect storm for Freeze and staff. Ole Miss had an in with Nkemdiche, the top overall prospect in the country. Had Denzel not been on the team - and performed well, I might add, leading Ole Miss in tackles - Ole Miss never would have had a shot with brother Robert.\r\n

\r\nOle Miss got in the door with Treadwell because of Anthony Standifer, the freshman defensive back who saw playing time, albeit very little, in his true freshman season. Freeze deserves credit for finishing the job, for getting Treadwell on campus unofficially during the season, where he was blown away, and then back for an official visit in late-January.\r\n

\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n

\r\n Kailo Moore
\r\n John Davis
\r\n
\r\n\r\n

Conner is from nearby Batesville, Miss., home of powerhouse South Panola. Ole Miss is always a contender for South Panola kids, with current Rebels Nick Brassell and Issac Gross, as well as former Rebels Peria and John Jerry and Jamarca Sanford, as perfect examples.\r\n

\r\nTunsil? Ole Miss sent at least 25 handwritten letters a day to the five-star offensive lineman for most, if not all, of the recruiting season, according to sources. Suffice to say, Ole Miss wasn't outworked for Tunsil, who could be a starter along the offensive line from day one.

\r\nWhen he confirmed an official visit on the same weekend as Treadwell and Nkemdiche in January, the race was on. \r\n

\r\nAnd Freeze closed better than Craig Kimbrel in the ninth.\r\n

\r\nOle Miss fan, you're allowed to celebrate today. You have my permission, a 26-year-old cynic whose only rooting interests are the Atlanta Braves and Dallas Cowboys. \r\n

\r\nThe 2012-13 season was a crucial step in Ole Miss moving away from settling. Settling for mediocrity. Settling for environment over performance. Settling for expecting little and celebrating perceived overachievement. National Signing Day was icing on the cake.\r\n

\r\nOle Miss decided it could be more. Today, it was. The coming years will show if the belief, if today's achievement, is the springboard to something greater.\r\n

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