How did O and staff do it?

It's been said a million times, but rarely explained, how Coach Ed Orgeron and his staff were able to put together a Top 15 signing class on the heels of a 3-8 season. It's pretty basic stuff that involved the old adage of rolling up your sleeves and going to work. Read about it inside.

A lot of coaches give lip service to recruiting in the same way they do special teams.

They claim complete dedication to it, but do they really deliver? Does the average staff really recruit 365 days a year? Does the average staff really devote enough time to special teams?

For most, the answer is "no" on both counts, but that cannot be said about Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron and his staff when it comes to recruiting and securing top talent.

Orgeron came to Ole Miss with the tag "nation's top recruiter." After his first full year of non-stop recruiting was over, and the final results were in the hopper, it appears it is a title that is warranted.

In the aftermath of one of the most memorable signing days in Ole Miss history, and already four commitments deep into the 2007 season, one has to ask "how did they do it?"

The answer is fairly simple.

Work, work and more work. Planning, planning and more planning.

Organization, locating talent early in the process, being sure enough of their evaluation skills to be able to make a decision on offer/no offer before the prospects have even begun their senior seasons, attention to detail, leaving no stone unturned, developing deep, early, personal relationships with not only the prospect but everyone he cares about and listens to, are all vital to the process, but that all comes back to one word - effort.

We aren't about to single out anyone on the staff as being better than another. To me, that is pure folly for two reasons. One, it's a team effort. Every member on the staff, and even a couple of former members, had a vital hand in the success they achieved. Two, claiming one assistant is better than another diminishes what all did as one unit and it also ignores the help they gave each other in subtle ways in landing signees.

Individually, you have to start at the top when passing out kudos.

Orgeron is the catalyst. He sets the bar, dictates the pace, requires the intensity, outlines expected results, organizes the operation and is the lead "dog" pulling the sled. Like most successful bosses, he didn't ask any assistant to do anything he wasn't willing to do himself in terms of work ethic.

I've been around this business a long time and one thing I know for sure, in any given year recruiting is only as good as the head coach is at it. Obviously, Orgeron has his Masters of Recruiting as an assistant coach and is working on his PhD as a head coach.

Recruiting off of a 3-8 season is difficult enough, to say the least. Doing it with a "short" staff is doubly tough. Orgeron and company were working the whole gamut of the recruiting game a large portion of the time with one, two, and sometimes three staff members short. That meant the remaining guys had to take up a lot of slack and tack those missing hours of effort onto their already-heavy workload.

Not a single coach on the staff blinked. They took it all in stride and buckled down even more. That pace could have broken lesser men. Our guys thrived on it.

When trying to analyze the efforts of individuals, I have a hard time ranking them in order of their effectiveness.

In no particular order, here are the kudos I feel deserve mentioning.

TE Coach Hugh Freeze was thrown out on the road recruiting right after the season ended. He wasn't even a member of the on-the-field staff at the time and had never recruited anyone on this level. He succeeded in landing several Memphis players and the two Olive Branch studs. He kept a torrid pace throughout and it paid dividends for him, Orgeron and Ole Miss football.

RB Coach Frank Wilson led a sleep-in-his-car existance for months. Like Coach O, he slept, ate, drank and focused on recruiting from the wee hours of the morning to, well, the wee hours of the morning. He ignored exhaustion and simply got the job done, seven days a week. Even though he is young and only has one full year under his belt in college recruiting, he has a special look to him in this monster called recruiting. A look of a winner.

This was DB Coach Tony Hughes' first rodeo in "big-time" recruiting and he came up smelling like roses. He not only was directly responsible for the signature of several players, but had peripheral influence on several others.

WR Coach Matt Lubick and DL Coach Ryan Nielsen were shipped out to the netherlands of each coast - Matt went East to fertile Florida, Ryan West to talent-rich California. Both coaxed two or three highly-touted youngsters to come this way. On the surface, that doesn't seem like as much as some of the others accomplished, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the further away a prospect lives, the harder it is to get them to leave for your area. Again, can-til-can't efforts by those two reaped rewards.

Former LB Coach Shawn Slocum had an area that wasn't real productive in terms of available prospects/suspects, but he was the main cog in landing Marcus Tillman and he helped out where he could with prospects outside of his assigned area. Ditto with DB Coach Chris Rippon - a team player who didn't have a lot of prospects in his area, but helped the others land theirs.

When OC Dan Werner and OL Coach Art Kehoe came on board, they immediately pitched in and had an impact. Neither wants to take much credit due to the fact they were only around for the last three weeks of recruiting, but as soon as they came on board recruiting took on a more positive look and their influence and reputation was felt.

Behind the scenes, Kent McLeod, who runs the on-campus evaluation/recruiting, should also receive praise and credit. He helped keep the pistons of the recruiting machine well-oiled and aimed in the right direction.

And I think it would be an injustice not to mention the efforts former coaches George DeLeone, Matt Luke and Noel Mazzone, while still at Ole Miss, put in and the impact they had on the signing class. Orgeron mentioned their efforts in his post-signing day press conference. Even though they weren't around, they had sweat equity in the final results.

You can thank the administration for giving Coach O and his staff the facilities and wherewithal in the recruiting budget to be successful. You can thank the players who hosted the prospects. You can thank their families and friends for having understanding during the coaches' extended absences. You can thank the prospects themselves for recognizing we have a chance to have something special here. All deserve mention and praise.

But the first thanks goes to O and his staff. The long hours paid off. The leadership paid off. The planning paid off. The organization paid off.

And they did it together, with each link in the chain being just as important as the next.

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