Are you kidding me?

With mouth agape, we have reported 12 2007 football commitments and one 2006 commitment since the February 1st Signing Day. Don't look now, but the Ole Miss staff is not even a month into the recruiting process and they are basically half way home for their class. Are you kidding me? Read about it inside.

I've had an idea for a non-sports syndicated column for a few years that I keep threatening to pursue as a sideline business.

I'm going to call it "Are You Kidding Me?" and will go over all the things I believe are somewhat unbelievable that I read just about every day in the newspapers.

Things like George Bush not being able to pronounce "nuclear." Why anyone really cares about hotel heriess Paris Hilton, who has become an icon for being, well, I won't print it here.

The topics could be serious or humorous, depending on what is happening in the world that particular week.

For instance, one of the most touching stories I've seen in a long time is about the autistic kid up north who scored 20 points in a basketball game. Man, I cry watching that heartwarming story.

It definitely deserves an "Are You Kidding Me?"

In our local arena, more specifically Ole Miss athletics, a couple of topics deserve an AYKM? distinction.

After starting the season 13-3 overall and 3-0 in the SEC, the men's basketball team has slid into oblivion with a 1-10 worksheet since. That tailspin is a definite AYKM? candidate.

But on the positive side, what Coach Ed Orgeron and his staff are doing in recruiting right now is one of the most fascinating stories I have seen here in years.

Not even a month after 2006 Signing Day, Coach O and company have collected 12 2007 commitments and added one 2006 commitment (OL Daverin Geralds, who will sign sometime this week).

As Clarion-Ledger beat writer Robbie Neiswanger astutely pointed out in a piece he wrote recently, that is more '07 commitments than the rest of the SEC combined.

The reaction to this early flurry of Rebel commitments - which constitutes nearly half of next year's class already - has been mixed.

Some Rebel fans are saying the commitments won't hold that long. Some are saying the coaches should wait and do more evaluating through the prospects' senior seasons. Some believed - until yesterday when big OL Alex Williams and Bradley Sowell committed - the coaches were not getting enough "beef."

Most, however, are as excited as if we'd won a conference championship and were headed to the Sugar Bowl. Well, almost. Count me in that group.

Why would there be any consternation concerning this recruiting revolution? It has to stem from being in unfamiliar territory. This has never been done at Ole Miss, they say, so something must be wrong.

My rebuttal is simple. Look closely at the commitments.

The Rebel coaches have not committed 12 kids from Blue Mountain High School, where they don't even play football.

On the contrary, they have done their homework and committed - already - two preseason Top 100 in the nation players in Williams and South Panola LB Chris Strong. That equals their total of the "elite" from the ballyhooed 2006 class, by the way.

They have committed two other South Panola stars in RB Jeramie Griffin, a 230-pounder who can fly and has room on his frame to be a fleet 245-pounder, and QB/CB Leroy Diggs, who has jets for feet and will most likely be Dandy Dozen/All-State caliber.

They have committed huge Hernando OL Bradley Sowell, a 6-7, 350-pounder who is reported by his high school coach to be an "excellent" athlete. (I saw this guy on Junior Day and was somewhat awed that he wasn't "fat." He's just massive.)

They have gotten a "yes" from Charleston RB Johnny Brown and Ripley RB Robert Elliott, who folks in those areas claim are "electric" athletes and runners.

They have been the benefactor of a commitment from 6-6, 275-pound JUCO DL Dion Gales, who many believe has an NFL look.

West Bolivar (Rosedale, MS) LB Stanley Porter also gave the Rebs a nod of acceptance. That area of the Delta used to be my beat when I wrote sports for the Greenville Delta Democrat Times some 100 years ago (it seems). I am still connected in that area and my coaching buddies from down there tell me Stanley is legit and bonafide. These are the same people who recommended Fast Freddie Williams to the Rebs and have an eye for talent. These are coaches who are straight up and don't give out their recs for ordinary players.

The Rebs also got an early commit from Natchez FB Stevan Ridley, who the folks in that area say can do it all if it concerns a ball and a field. He is reported to be a terrific all-around athlete in every sport he attempts.

When the coaches got a commitment from Jamison Hughes, the son of Rebel DB Coach Tony Hughes, I have to be honest. The thought came across my mind that this might be a gimme deal - a courtesy for Tony. I went to see Oxford Coach Johnny Hill, who I played high school sports with and is one of the straightest shooters you will ever talk to. He is very secure in his position at OHS and simply will not pull punches. He said - without hesitation - Jamison is a "definite D-1 player." And Johnny has seen, and coached, a lot of them in his 30 year career.

And last, but not least, the Rebs got a commitment from Baton Rouge DL Drake Nevis, who was All-West Bank his junior year and got good reviews from several sources we talked to in that area.

I will have to admit, this rush of commitments took me by surprise too. Heck, we are still in the infancy of getting our 2007 recruiting data base loaded into our system and already Coach O and crew are halfway through - theoretically - with the class.

But the more Yancy Porter and I were able to research these kids, the more we started liking the results.

Sure, it is a long way to Signing Day and the schools we compete against are not going to give a lot of these kids up without a battle. Sure, there is a possibility of some bolting - there always is, regardless of when a kid commits in the recruiting process. But statistics bear out that a high percentage of commitments stick.

What's next? I get the feeling Coach O's master plan is to finish up in Mississippi as quickly as possible with a couple of more commitments and then "save" the rest of his scholarships for big out-of-state targets.

The staff will be in a retention mode in our fair state and in an attack mode outside the state. I look for Coach O to be very, very selective in the coming months and to target a handful of the truly best players to turn most of his attention to.

Personally, I see no down side to this strategy. There is a buzz among recruits, there are results already on the table, these are quality recruits, and half the hay, so to speak, is almost in the barn.

All I have to say is Are You Kidding Me?

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