Recruiting critical, as always

In looking over the recruiting efforts by Ole Miss to this point, two things become obvious. One, there are some players being recruited the Rebels just have to sign, and two, Coach Ed Orgeron is pulling every string he still has left from his USC coaching days in California.

In looking over the recruiting efforts by Ole Miss to this point, two things become obvious. One, there are some players being recruited the Rebels just have to sign, and two, Coach Ed Orgeron is pulling every string he still has left from his USC coaching days in California.

Jerrell Powe is one of the "must haves". This big (6-3/340) defensive lineman originally signed with the Rebels last year but didn't make his grades. Now he's at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, VA, and he's on the "to visit" list. Rebel fans and coaches are banking that nothing changes with his commitment to Ole Miss. One recruiting service lists him as a five-star prospect and that's five out of a maximum of five. He's in the "can't miss" category of recruits.

Ole Miss has verbal commitments from two quarterbacks. Both are said to be very talented but there's another five-star player in California and quarterback is his position. He played this past season at a JC school, the College of the Sequoias, and he plans to visit January 13th along with Powe. With the loss of Ethan Flatt, Ole Miss is down to Robert Lane and a redshirt quarterback so a lot of help is needed at that position. Another stud visiting that weekend is a four-star running back from Mission Viajo, California, along with three three-star players, two from Mississippi and one a teammate of Powe in Virginia. You all know their names like I know the back of my hand.

My point is to show you how wide the Rebel recruiting net is cast. Orgeron has four from California, plus others from Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and, of course, a host of young men from Mississippi.

Four of the prospects are JC players. The rest come from the high school ranks.

In addition to the pair of five-star players, we counted about eight four-star prospects on the Rebel list and 11 who rated three-stars. There are several two-star players too and somewhere on the list there must be a one-star or two but I didn't see them.

Mississippi State also is taking a hard look at the junior college ranks in an effort to find a quick fix. One list I saw of their campus visit invitees had no five-star players, two with four and five with three. They seem to be going the Southern Mississippi route of discovering unknown gems with potential to develop. Five of the kids coming to see their school January 20th are one-star players, according to the recruiting service.

The most impressive recruiting list I saw was from Alabama. They brought in 14 players for visits the December 9 weekend. Six of them were rated four-star, seven of the remaining eight were three-star and the 14th was a one-star kid from Mountain Brook, AL. That's pretty impressive stuff. I didn't see a single 300-pound lineman on the list, but if the food is right in Tuscaloosa they'll grow.

I peeked at Auburn's list too. Good but not as good as Alabama. There is word, however, the Tigers are really turning up the steam on the two Meridian running backs: Cordera Eason and Derrick Davis, but both are also planning to visit the Rebels January 20th.

Steve Spurrier at South Carolina lists three four-star players and five with three but what caught my eye is he is obviously taking advantage of his contacts also. He is wooing kids everywhere from Arkansas to South Carolina and all points in between. Like everyone else, he seems to be concentrating on big linemen. (Four of the prospects apparently on Orgeron's list are 300-pound people up front.)

Ole Miss seems to have the largest assortment of position players but then few teams need as much help as we do. We're recruiting offensive linemen, defensive linemen, quarterbacks, running backs, linebackers, wide receivers, cornerbacks and even a safety.

But I feel about these recruiting evaluations just about the same way I feel about preseason football magazines. They are designed to make a buck and that's what recruiting experts do, they make a buck giving opinions. You never know for certain how good kids really are until you get the players on campus and let them go against each other. It's not the fault of the recruiting gurus, and I am not knocking their products. It's the nature of the business. They are experts in an inexact science. Kind of like weather forecasters. They see all the signs, but exact predictions are difficult, despite having a lot of data at their disposal.

Some of the best high school players according to the recruiting gurus may turn out to be a paper tiger when they get on the college practice field and have to go against others his same size, strength and speed. Recruiting is a pig in a poke business. You watch, you measure, you evaluate but you really don't know for sure. How much "I want to play" is in his heart? Only time tells.

There is certainly merit to the elite five-star evaluations and a lot of four-star guys, but beyond that there is a lot of guesswork in comparing a kid from Spokane, WA, with a kid from Gainesville, FL, and saying one is a three-star and one a two-star. That's where coaches have to do their homework in terms of character, will, leadership, intelligence, etc.

On the other hand every coach believes he's likely to discover a couple of one-star gems in the harvest net. Recruiting is simply not an exact thing, good or bad.

It's also a perspiration business. Perspiration is a synonym for hard work. You travel, you knock on doors, you are indeed the traveling salesman with merchandise to sell, namely a four-year college scholarship and a chance for a certain type of notoriety. But then everyone is selling the same thing except some sell it better than others.

One thing January does not do, leading up to signing day. It doesn't help the family relationship. No coach sees much of his family during the months leading up to getting some youngster's name on the dotted line. It's a real strain. I wonder how many coach's wives were ever warned about that when they told their future husband they would marry him for better or for worse. Recruiting time is worse.

We in the media make it worse. Every story is a big deal. Every prospect can certainly turn your favorite school's program around. At least that's what we say. Therefore every coach is evaluated by how the media defines his recruiting success—or failure. As many coaches have lost their jobs by their inability to recruit as by their inability to coach.

It's just part of the game and we're in the fourth quarter, so to speak. Ed Orgeron and the Ole Miss program need to score. Next fall's wins depend partly, and maybe greatly, on how well they play the game now.

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