Making the Grade

OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss received good news on Monday.

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Batesville, Miss., safety Antonio Conner, a five-star prospect who signed with Ole Miss in February, has met NCAA academic qualifications for enrollment, according to sources. The hope is Conner will report to Ole Miss for the second summer session, which begins next month.

Conner was one of four five-star signees to sign with Ole Miss in the class of 2013, a consensus top-10 class across all recruiting services. Conner was joined by defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's top overall prospect, and offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Tunsil, Nkemdiche and Treadwell all enrolled for the first summer term.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Conner was rated the No. 3 safety in the country by and the No. 18 overall prospect. He held offers from, among others, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU and Mississippi State.

In the end, however, Conner said his decision came down to Ole Miss and Alabama.

"It was a hard decision," he said following his decision on ESPN on National Signing Day in February. "I looked at the depth chart. (Alabama) had some good great safeties come in last year. (Alabama head coach Nick Saban) was telling me I might get early playing time over there, but I think I have a better chance in my home state.

Antonio Conner

"(Ole Miss head) Coach (Hugh) Freeze, me and him are real close. We're like buddies. Coach Freeze is a great coach."

Conner helped lead South Panola to a 6A state championship as a senior, his third state championship in four seasons as a Tiger. He was named Mr. Football in Mississippi, after recording 74 tackles and three interceptions.

From Nick Brassell to Peria and John Jerry, Jamarca Sanford, Eddie Strong and Issac Gross, South Panola has been good to Ole Miss, churning out talent each and every year.

However, despite a long tradition of talented former Tigers graduating from South Panola to Ole Miss, Conner said his decision to spurn Alabama, who has won three of the last four national championships, for the Rebels was his decision and no one else's.

"I'm my own man," he said. "I made my own decision. I talked it over with my mom and them. I don't care what other people think. It was about me and my family."

The addition of Conner only continues the momentum for Freeze and his program.

Ole Miss finished 7-6 last season, the first under Freeze. It marked a five-win improvement for the Rebels, who a season prior had finished 2-10, including a winless mark in the Southeastern Conference.

Ole Miss reached its first bowl game in three seasons - the BBVA Compass Bowl, held in Birmingham, Ala., where the Rebels easily handled Pittsburgh.

"They have a good program," Conner said. "Things are going to be turned around over there."

Ole Miss did receive some disappointing news on Monday, as well. Three-star tight end A.J. Jackson, who, like Conner, signed with Ole Miss in February, was ruled academically ineligible, per sources.

The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Jackson finished his senior season at Lovejoy High School with 27 catches for 367 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was one of three tight ends to sign with Ole Miss, the others being four-star Christian Morgan and three-star Evan Engram. Morgan enrolled in December and was hurt during spring practices. His status for the upcoming season is unclear. Engram enrolled in June.

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