After A Deep Breath

Wednesday, February 6, 2013, will go down in the annals of Ole Miss football history as a game-changer. A place in the national spotlight was gained by a superb recruiting class.

National Signing Day was a whirlwind, a constant volley of good news for the Rebels as displayed non-stop by the four-letter network with their four-hour infomercial.

It started off with a shot to the body to the rest of the college football world with the nation's number one recruit – DE Robert Nkemdiche – announcing for the Rebels before most had finished their first cup of coffee.

Everyone who passionately follows recruiting – and there are millions – was tuned in.

After Nkemdiche, the dominos started falling with names that easily roll off the tongues of Reb fans.

Buchannan. . . D. Jones. . . Wilkins. . . Kincade. . . Adeboyejo. . . Johnson. . .

Then, a right cross. . . . another No. 1 – WR Laquon Treadwell, who signed with literally no fanfare. He quietly sent in his papers, which was fine and dandy. After all, the young man from Illinois had used Twitter as his own personal vehicle for effectively recruiting for Ole Miss since he committed. He didn't need the attention – he had been getting plenty for a couple of months from a tweet-happy Rebel fan base.

Bledsoe. . . Hill. . .

Left hook – the nation's number one offensive lineman, one Laremy Tunsil, put on his Ole Miss hat on ESPN and had analysts all over the country scratching their heads. "Uh, Ole Miss?"

Jackson. . . Brazley. . . Smith. . . Bouldin. . . Moore. . .

Then the old one-two. Five-star Safety Tony Conner from Batesville – the third national recruit to announce live on ESPN - and the third-rated OT in the country, Austin Golson out of Alabama.

H. Moore. . . Kamara. . . Robinson. . . icing on the most delicious cake served up in America Wednesday.

At the QB Club NSD event, attended by over 700 fired-up Rebels, I stood on the stage announcing the signees as they were officially released and saw a frenzy I have not seen in some time out of Rebel Nation.

Hugh Freeze
File Photo

Grown men were coming out of their seats screaming as if they had just won the lottery.

The national pundits were saying it clearly – Hugh Freeze and his staff had delivered a convincing knockout.

Between our QB Club duties (a pleasure to do), Freeze's press conference, endless radio interviews, a Rebel rally in Olive Branch I spoke at that night and a one-sided hoops game the Rebels took over MSU, I never had the opportunity to breath and really absorb the impact this class can, and will, have.

So here we are a couple of days removed from the huge day with time to reflect and project. How important is this class? "Huge" doesn't cover it. "Huge" needs an explanation. Freeze called it a possible program changer. I think he was understating things a bit.

Immediately, the day put Ole Miss in the national spotlight. Right up there with Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, LSU. You name it, Ole Miss was right there receiving as much attention as anyone and more than 99% of the college football world. That type of publicity, excitement and momentum cannot be bought and is priceless.

From a team standpoint, this class promises to deliver some immediate impact players and a bunch of depth, the one thing that was sorely lacking last season. Witness some fourth quarter out-of-gas losses.

From a fan standpoint, here's a word to the wise. Get your season tickets as soon as you can. They will be sold out next year. Book it. Fan enthusiasm and interest has never been higher.

The momentum gained from the improvement shown on the field, the strong finish to the season, the style of play and the excitement of the team just got a big shove from recruiting and picked up steam.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

If Freeze plays his cards right, and there is no reason to think he won't, he can parlay this class into the next one and the next one. The old ripple effect.

In a little over a year, and with one magnificent signing day, Ole Miss' national recognition has gone from Ole Miss? to Ole Miss!!!!

The residual effect of the 2013 signing class could bear fruit for years.

How did they do it? Briefly, a great plan, diligence, long hours, strategically picking the right targets, some fortuitous and natural connections and everyone pulling in the same direction, from the administration to the coaches to the current players to the fans to the recruits themselves.

Social media – mostly Twitter and Facebook – has shrunk our nation in terms of personal interaction. That is how people communicate, learn about each other and form bonds now. It's easy to see how a wideout from Illinois and a quarterback from Texas, for example, could become fast friends and develop a bond before they ever laid eyes on each other in person. That was not possible before.

And the Rebel coaches used that tool as well as any staff in the country, not only to communicate to recruits but to school them in the value of social media in the recruiting process.

Regardless of what factor you think was the strongest, it all worked and for one magical day in the history of Ole Miss recruiting, it all clicked.

Write it in your diary. February 6, 2013, will go down as a historical day in the annals of not only Ole Miss recruiting but of Ole Miss football and Ole Miss as a university.

Yes, it was that big.

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