Freshman Report

It hasn't been all that hot this summer in North Mississippi. So, why take such a big gulp of Kool-Aid?

That's what some of you might think to yourself after reading this article.

And you know what? That's OK. I wouldn't print this if I didn't believe it to be true. Count me in. This crop of newcomers has me buying stock in the Rebels.

The 2014 class was rated anywhere from No. 13-18 depending on the recruiting service you choose to follow. had the class rated No. 18, but Ole Miss was one 3-Star away from being rated No. 14. That's how close the point differential was from 13-19.

The 2013 class was rated anywhere from No. 3 to No. 10, led, as you're well aware, by four 5-Stars: Robert Nkemdiche, Laquon Treadwell, Tony Conner and Laremy Tunsil. That class is hard to beat and is up there with the 2006 class that hauled in Dexter McCluster, Greg Hardy, Jerrell Powe, Kentrell Lockett, John Jerry, Kendrick Lewis and company.

Lots of star power.

But like the 2006 class, it wasn't ranked in the top-10. The 2006 class was ranked anywhere from No. 15 to No. 18. You had players like McCluster, Jerry, Lewis and Hardy who were 3-Star rated players. Those of us who followed recruiting really close knew the players listed were underrated, but the national talent evaluators didn't.

When I look at this collection of new talent, I see star power, but more importantly it's balanced with impact players along the corners, (how long has it been since there have been multiple impact cornerbacks coming in one class?), offensive and defensive linemen, wide receivers, linebackers, tight end and safeties.

Ole Miss center Sean Rawlings.

It all starts up front with five newcomers: OT Fahn Cooper, OT Christian Morris, OG Roderick Taylor, Jordan Sims and OC Sean Rawlings.

This is as solid and balanced of a group of offensive linemen that Ole Miss has brought in in years. During practice Saturday morning, Taylor displayed the light feet that made him such a coveted prospect. Sims has dropped 40 pounds this summer and doesn't look far off from a conditioning standpoint. I'll admit, however, I simply missed on Rawlings. I had him rated the No. 25 prospect in Mississippi last year. I missed on him. No question. Had no clue his frame had grown into 6' 5", 285 pounds. We hear that he's already one of the hardest workers on the team and soaks up everything like a sponge. I'll be very surprised if he doesn't become a three-year starter at center in the future. Cooper was everything he was billed to be and more. It doesn't take but one glance to know the body is already in place. Now it's just a matter of time of him getting to know the playbook. It's not if he will get there, but rather when. Christian Morris is only seven months removed from tearing his Achilles tendon. Having said that, he's not far away from where he was pre-injury.

Seeing the new faces along the offensive line eased my fears about the future up front. It's in good hands, now it's just a matter of how long it takes to develop them. The talent is there.

If things hold up with this group, I look for Ole Miss to ink three linemen in the upcoming class. Look for two offensive tackles and one inside guy (OG/OC), but don't think for a second they would turn down OT Drew Richmond, OG Javon Patterson, OT Alex Givins or OT Martinas Rankin.Those four are the "option A" guys for the 2015 recruiting cycle. They'll always have a spot.

Ole Miss wide receiver Dayall Harris.

The wide receiver group consists of Markell Pack, Damore'ea Stringfellow and Dayall Harris, with Jeremy Liggins and Sammie Epps coming in at tight end. No, I don't see a Laquon Treadwell-type in this group, but I do see a bunch of impact players. Not a one is borderline; they can all play in the SEC. That's what you have to have to not only survive in the SEC, but thrive. You must build quality depth, and that's exactly what Ole Miss is getting in this class.

The sleeper in this group is Harris, without question. In fact, truth be told, he's made the biggest impact of all of the wideouts through summer conditioning and the first day of practice. Like Rawlings, he was rated the lowest out of the group but could end up being the best. If you see a trend, it goes back to the 2006 class where you see a bunch of 3-Star guys who end up going to the NFL.

We look for them to bring in two receivers and one, possibly two, tight ends in the 2015 class. They've already committed WR LaMichael Pettway and TE Willie Hibbler.

Ole Miss filled its one and only quarterback slot with a player, Jason Pellerin, who can operate the run-spread and also has a better arm than many expected. Mark it down, he'll be the sleeper of the 2015 class like Rawlings, Harris, Marquis Haynes and DeMarquis Gates were for 2014.

The Rebels felt like they needed to add some more punch at tailback and targeted Akeem Judd (220 pounds) from the start. He looked more explosive than he did last fall when he went through his sophomore campaign with a bad toe. They don't graduate anyone at tailback this year, so they only want to sign one and got their "man" in Eric Swinney. The addition of Swinney and QB Pellerin closes the book at those positions.

Ole Miss defensive lineman Breeland Speaks.

The defensive line is as salty as I've seen in a while. Like the offensive line, it's filled with potential multi-year starters, consisting of DT Breeland Speaks, DE/DT Fadol Brown (no, he was not a part of 2014 class, but he's finally eligible to participate in games), DE/DT Garrald McDowell, DE Victor Evans and Haynes.

Ole Miss sorely needed to shore up its lack of pass rush and did that in hurry with this group. You want big, physical specimen? Look no further than the massive bodies of Speaks and Brown. You want just a pure pass rusher? Check out Haynes and Evans. You want some guys who can slide inside and outside like Nkemdiche? Check out Brown, Speaks and McDowell.

Look for the Rebels to add two defensive tackles and a defensive end in the incoming class. However, always remember this staff will never turn down an impact defensive end.

For the Ole Miss defense, the linebacker position consists of just two positions: stinger (Serderius Bryant/Denzel Nkemdiche) and mike linebacker (D.T Shackelford and Temario Strong). Stinger has now added DeMarquis Gates and, wow, talk about one good-looking linebacker on the hoof. He has all the physical tools to become a big-time stinger in this system. Love his motor, too. There was a reason why Texas A&M was trying to backdoor Ole Miss late in the recruiting process with Gates. Middle linebacker is being manned by Christian Russell. He's still "swimming" on where to be on each play, but once he learns the system the light will come on. Look for Ole Miss to sign one stinger, Jay Johnson, and one middle linebacker in February.

All eyes will be focused on middle linebackers Leo Lewis and Joshua McMillon in the upcoming class. This is one area Ole Miss must hit on in this class, as the Rebels missed on a few high school mike linebackers in the previous class and filled it with a junior college player.

Ole Miss ATH Calvin Moore.

The defensive back group, as a whole, could rival any group of backs I've seen brought into Ole Miss. You have star power with Tee Shepard (looks and moves as well as many expected he would), Kendarius Webster (now I know why he was Ole Miss' No. 1 high school cornerback on the board), SS Anthony Alford and FS C.J. Hampton, who will replace Cody Prewitt, one would presume, when he graduates. You also have players who have the potential to develop into impact players. D.K. Buford is one, and no, I didn't know how the transition from running back to defensive back would go. But his added speed and size is perfect for Husky. Twins Calvin Moore and Alvin Moore are others. Both have a chance to be special.

I firmly believe this could be the most balanced overall group of defensive backs Ole Miss has brought in since the post-Vaught days. They have the potential to be that special.

Ole Miss will most likely add three to four defensive backs in the upcoming class. CB Ugo Amadi, FS Armani Linton and Husky Zedrick Woods are already committed.

Keep an eye on names like Marcus Lewis, Jamal Peters, Jalen Julius, Cameron Ordway, Tony Bridges and Mook Reynolds.

Lastly, what about special teams? The newcomers consists of P Will Gleason, PK Andy Pappanastos and P/PK Gary Wunderlich. Gleason is going to be a really good one. He's so consistent with his punts. The ball explodes off the foot of Wunderlich like it did with Andrew Ritter, though Pappanastos could be ahead in the field-goal department.

We believe Ole Miss is satisfied with the young guys in special teams and will not use one of its 16 openings with that position. And, yes, if you're counting, Ole Miss now has 16 slots at its disposal following the transfer of Q Mireles to Eastern Illinois.

So, there you have it. A big gulp of red and blue Kool-Aid. I guess I need another sip. Mark me as a believer.


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