Late Change

It was late morning on Wednesday when it was announced Tee Shepard was going to Ole Miss, just days after having committed to Mississippi State.

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The 6-foot-1, 195-pound defensive back from Holmes (Miss.) Community College and Fresno, Calif., had already heard from Ole Miss quite a bit in the recruiting process.

"We'd recruited him very heavily earlier," said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze. "There was some uncertainty with us about where he was going to be this semester and what his future plans were. Obviously we knew he was back at Holmes and had a shot at qualifying and getting out for next year. I would say last Tuesday or so is when we really started getting deep into the conversation."

It didn't take long for the positive relationship with Shepard and Ole Miss to take hold again. Freeze said he can help immediately.

"We really needed two corners we felt like could come in and contribute to us," he said. "He was the one we had the best relationship with, even though we had taken a hiatus for a period of time."

In the last couple of weeks, Shepard was high on the Rebels' wish list again.

"We immediately started doing what we do in most cases, recruiting the mom and dad, his high school coach and him," Freeze said. "I was very clear with Tee from the beginning, ‘If you have no interest, I certainly don't want to muddy the water.' We had a plan B. But he continued to go down the road with us."

Hugh Freeze
File Photo

Freeze said it came down to the end of that road, a recruiting road that has ended and a football career at Ole Miss road which has begun.

"Last night was a very late night," Freeze admitted. "Last night before I went to bed, I felt pretty good that he was coming with us. I had him and his mom on the phone at the same time. She probably ended up being the biggest influence of saying ‘I feel really comfortable of you going with these men.'

"And this morning of course you're not sure what's going to happen. I was thrilled when our compliance guy said it all came through on the fax machine."

Freeze said the Rebels got a good one in Shepard.

"You go after those that you feel will help your team, just like every staff does," he said. "Until it's over, you battle. We're thrilled we got him. He's a big physical guy that's what you need in this conference."

Freeze said he believes Shepard can be eligible to play this season.

"I assure you I feel like he can do it and it's very attainable. But there is some work left to do for sure."

Some highlights from Freeze:

* On players already in the program who are a part of this class: "Don't forget the midyear guys that are enrolled that can change our football program immediately. I'm glad the recruiting battle for C.J. Hampton didn't go on for another two months. And others like Fedal Brown and Anthony Alford who really are in this class."

* On the goals the coaches had for this year: "We set out as a goal to capture our state and the top guys in it first. Then identify positions of needs. I think we were able to accomplish both of those things in this class. We added significant depth to our young football team, especially at certain spots."

* On OL and DE improvements: "Fahn Cooper is a guy I feel can give us some quality depth at offensive tackle. Rod Taylor is as good as I've ever seen in drill tape. Jordan Sims the same way. It's because of what you see him do athletically. Tyler Putman. Sean Rawlings. Guys that want to be at Ole Miss and wear that helmet that says Ole Miss. I think Marquis Haynes has the potential to be a really phenomenal player. He's a C.J. Johnson mold.

C.J. Hampton
File Photo

Garrald McDowell's motor is unbelievable. Victor Evans is what you look for in this league. I look forward to his development. We've got some guys with speed off the edge now."

* On D.K. Buford and Breeland Speaks: "D.K. improves our team speed immediately. Whether we play him at the husky position or the slot I don't know yet. Local kid and we're thrilled to have him. Breeland Speaks is as good a defensive lineman as anywhere in the nation. He was a priority for us within our state. We had to battle the last two weeks with other SEC schools."

* On the class overall: "I think it's pretty well rounded. There are always people you wish you had maybe gotten to address more immediate needs. I'm very happy with the guys we have, and I feel we addressed most every position."

* On the impact of the class: "I sure hope we can redshirt more kids than we have the last two years. I think that's a sign we're headed in the right direction. In this class we might be better top to bottom (than last year)."

* Heading into season three, the program depth-wise and quality-wise: "I think we're close. I consider it two classes. That first year we had only three weeks. I said three full recruiting years I thought we should have our roster where you look at it and say this is an SEC roster. We're definitely a lot closer. We were at 68 scholarships that first year. We'll be at 85 next fall. So I think we're real close."

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