Recruiting flurry deserves attention

Coach O and his troops are going on a much-needed vacation tomorrow, but before they left, they apparently wanted to make a statement in recruiting, committing seven prospects for the 2008 signing period on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

I'd like to say I've never seen anything like it, but that would be a lie.

After 53 years on this planet, I've seen some crazy stuff.

As a "city slicker" (Memphis) moving to Byhalia, MS, as a ninth-grader, I was forced to take shop and join the FFA (Future Farmers of America) despite the fact there was not a snowball's chance in hell I would ever plant a crop, as noble as that profession is. The first joke the "country boys" played on me was volunteering me to help extract a calf turned the wrong way from the womb of its mother. I was arm-deep in that cow, throwing up and gagging while my shop teacher and classmates were howling at the country newbie. Never seen anything like it.

I went to a rock festival when I was a teenager for three days and walked around in disbelief at the overdosing and dehydration. Looked like a war zone in a third-world country. Never seen anything like it.

I watched the O.J. chase and trial, suffered with the rest of America through 9/11 and its aftermath, lived through a country divided over Vietnam, and am currently - with the rest of you - living through the unexplainable fascination America seems to have with drunken, out-of-control "starlets" like that train wreck Paris Hilton. Never seen anything like it.

In the sports arena, I've been able to witness greatness, due mostly to my "position" as a sportswriter, up close and personal. Archie Manning, Jack Nicklaus, Jerry Rice, Nolan Ryan, Eli Manning, Deuce, Tiger (won a Masters pass one year in the annual press lottery), et al.

Through the years of covering Ole Miss athletics, true "suprises" rarely happen any more.

But Monday and Tuesday of this week was a real mouth opener. Certainly not on the level of anything previously listed, but surprising, and satisfying, for sure.

Seemingly out of the blue, with not much advance warning, Ole Miss Coach Ed Orgeron and his staff received verbal commitments to play football at Ole Miss from seven really good prospects in a 24-hour period.

This feat will not rock the world or change the course of human history. It won't even be a blip in the annals of Ole Miss sports lore when all is said and done, but, at the very least, it is significant in many ways to the health and welfare and standing of Ole Miss football.

The skeptical will ask "how many are qualified of those seven?" And "it's a long way until signing day in February. Will they still be with us?" Probably legitimate questions in today's recruiting arena, but that still does not alter the surprise factor of what those men accomplished on an innocuous Monday-Tuesday in the middle of the summer offseason when most football staffs are playing golf or fishing.

It's become the norm in recruiting to receive some commitments during spring recruiting in April and May when coaches are out scouring their geographical territories looking for talent, but then the commitments usually die down in the summer.

Most staffs come off the road from the spring blitz and spend the early summer getting a head start on the next season before July vacations when they can recharge their batteries for the grueling year ahead.

Not Coach O's staff. They go straight back into recruiting, and more recruiting. But even at that, summer commitments are kind of scarce.

Then, almost out of nowhere, commitments started coming in. The Barksdale duo, then another Sanford, then Packer on the Coast, then JUCO CB Demareo Marr, then another Tillman and finally Florida QB Chris Wilkes. All in a 24-hour span. Never seen anything like it.

What does this tell us?

One, the reception of recruits to the Ole Miss effort is very strong. Whatever the coaches are telling them, whatever they are seeing when they camp or visit here, they like. The perception of Rebel football is very good among prospects. These coaches are selling Ole Miss in an appealingand positive way, obviously.

Two, when Coach O says his staff will recruit "every day," he means it. And they do.

Three, our players are selling the program too. Don't think Josh Tillman hasn't talked to Marcus or the Barksdales and Sanford haven't talked to the Jerry brothers or Jamarca Sanford. Don't think Marr hasn't convesed with current Rebel squad members who have ties to NWCC. Don't think Wilkes hasn't picked Chris Warren's brain about Ole Miss. If anything was "wrong" with the environment, they'd know it and wouldn't be this eager to make a major life decision this quickly. Don't think recruits don't network info.

Four, our staff works when other staffs don't. Enough said.

The 24 hours spanning from Monday at noon through Tuesday at noon isn't going to change the Earth's rotation, but as surprises in Ole Miss athletics go, it was certainly a good one. Unexpected too.

And, frankly, I've never seen anything like it.

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