We are excited today. This is our first class, and as you know, we came in here in a whirlwind. Pete Boone was trying to move all these families and these coaches. Some of them in the Cotton Bowl. It has just been a whirlwind. I want to thank the ladies, and we wore our compliance director out, David Wells with paperwork, really appreciate him. It was a total team effort. We were able to really know some people, lot of good parents and a lot of good people. We have some good student athletes that are going to be ready to go by August one, and I am really excited about that. I want to commend our players that were on campus too. They did a great job of being ambassadors for Ole Miss, being salesman. We were learning and figuring things out, our players had to sell them, and they did a great job, and I appreciate that. From the chancellor to Dr. Mullins, everyone was involved.
Recruiting isn't easy, and we first wanted to address the tight ends. We got a young man, Gerald Harris, early. He is in here right now and in the program. He is already working out and going to school, and if you were to see him walk in, you would say ‘that is what an SEC tight end looks like.' He is 6-7, 250 and Coach Decker has already put eight pounds on him. Things like that excite you. Ferbia Allen is another guy, 6-5, 225 from Pine Bluff, very athletic. Could play offensive end, could play defensive end. E.J. Epperson is very athletic. When I think of him, I think of him and going through storms. When you watch play basketball, he is inside the rim, and I am glad to have him on our football team.
We got four or five offensive linemen that we needed. Big guys. One from Alabama, 6-6, his grandmother, grandfather and mother all came here and said it was the most beautiful campus they had ever seen. Boy, that is what makes your heart smile. We knew we had him sold. When you get momma and grandma, you got them. So we are glad to get Josh out of the state of Alabama. Brandon Green is another guy already in our program. Got him from a JUCO. He is already in the system. He is a center, and we were a little shy at center. Kermit Tyler is a big guy from Louisiana, glad to have his size. A.J. Hawkins is another guy, a big man inside with good feet. Another quality family, and that is what I am excited about.
Wide receiver, we got four or five good ones, and first of all, you can say they are fast. It starts right here at home with Horatio Williams of Oxford High School. He is a 10.5, 100 meter. Very quick. These guys are tall. Andrew Harris, 6-2, military prep Hargrave. Then you get a guy from Atlanta that is 6-7, smooth, so fast, reminds me of Marcus Monk in Melvin Harris.
We got two quarterbacks this year – Chris Wilkes and Nathan Stanley. Chris from Orlando. He is accurate with a strong arm. He was offered early. We hung on, and he had a lot of people coming after him. And then Nathan Stanley, who I was very well aware of from summer camps. He is 6-5 and athletic. He has a lot of up-side and a lot of savvy and leadership qualities.
But today, what makes you happy is that you have got some tailbacks. And I mean they can play. I am excited about all of them. And I'm not worried about stars guys. I really don't. I like qualifiers that are eligible with character and speed. These guys can tote the mail and come downhill. They will hit you right in the mouth and maybe outrun you. I like that even better. It starts with Enrique Davis. He is solid at 212 and can run a 4.4. There is a reason why everybody wants him. It is because he is a difference maker, and he can make the first guy miss. Tremendous speed, but he can come downhill with power, and I love that. Brandon Bolden is another guy that is a 10.6, 10.5 100 meter. I can't wait for Coach Decker to get him. He reminds me of a Felix Jones-type. He has a burst and can explode. Also, a great mother and father. The upbringing of these guys is just awesome. And then Devin Thomas from Texas. He played 5-A football and anytime someone can go for 487 yards in one game and come back with 327 and then 290, you are doing something. And it isn't against Double-A. It is 5-A football in Texas. I am excited about these backs. And there is maybe one more we might sign this afternoon.
We needed some corners, so we got Julian Whitehead, Brandon Sanders, Derrick Herman. These guys are very athletic. They can play offense or defense. And Julian Whitehead is already in our system with a guy from Hargrave. One of the things that helped was the Hargrave connection. And then having some teammates really helped Enrique get here. Linebackers, we needed some linebackers. Jason Jones, Lekenwic Haynes and Patrick Trahan, these guys are sideline to sideline playmakers that will hit you. They chase the football and arrive in a bad mood. So, I am excited about them.
Can you talk a little about the process of getting Enrique?
The process was very long and very good. Recruiting starts way, way back. It started in December, and we began a great relationship. Any time you get the mother and father on campus, we fell like we have a chance because we can sell family. We can sell the campus and the education. You can sell the facilities. And the faculty, I can't say enough about our faculty. The academic people to really take the time to show the plan on how to get a degree. When people have a learning disability, when you are there to answer any concerns the mother has, it makes the mother know she can leave her son in our hands because it is a safe place, and he can play the best football in the country. That means we have a chance. We had the best visit for 48 hours. Our players did a great job, but it started with academics. We sold that. And it doesn't hurt any when you are coming from a place that led the league in rushing. We don't mind dotting the I. We want you to line up seven yards deep and take the football for us. That really sold him. That, the environment, the campus and the academic plan, I think it won out in the end. I was concerned that last week with the Tennessee visit. You always worry about the last visit. When they say ‘Coach Nutt, I really want to come and be a Rebel, but I am going to take that visit.' That always worries you. It isn't just the steaks and the pretty girls, you know they are going to put it on him during that last visit. So, we were very excited today.
When did you know?
We were on the phone late, late last night. We felt good, but you never know. We felt good talking to the mom and the father and talking to Enrique. But again, until he says he is coming and the name is on the dotted line, and I don't know if you all realize, there is such things as commitment, soft commitment, soft verbal commitment, there are a lot of different stages, and it worries you as a coach. Until his name is on the line, you never know. He called me right before he was about to sign. His coach and mom got on the phone. They were all excited. He had the Ole Miss hat. They bought a hat. I was really excited.
Talk a little more about the Hargrave connection.
It goes way back. Coach and I have a really good relationship. He has done a great job with their young man. Hopefully, we can continue to use that. What I love about the program is that you can get them in your program a semester early. It is a disciplined program where they march to breakfast and have to make their bed. There are things there that help a young man, especially when they are behind academically.
What about the players from Hargrave being developed more?
With the Hargrave guys, you hit something on their development. It is one more year out of high school, and it is amazing the growth between a 17 and 18 year old. Sometimes out of high school, they aren't as mature and not as disciplined, they aren't as fast as they are going to be. They get that extra year, and the light comes on. It is a big factor.
How difficult was the process of developing relationship with Ole Miss?
Some of Ed's commitments, lets say Chris Wilkes. A great football player, a great competitor. Our coaches did a good job of keeping the relationships. We were starting over and rebuilding the program. We are brand new, and you don't know. You are trying to decipher everything. This was very good. It was a good situation for us. We were able to use the high school and JUCO coaches in Mississippi and in Florida, in Georgia. We knew a lot of them, and that really helped. I think the biggest thing is that the recruiting area doesn't change a lot. Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, that doesn't change. So we know. There is carryover.
Were you disappointed in the low number of Mississippi players?
I was disappointed in it, but I think it will be much different next year. They just didn't know us. Because of the lateness, we were unable to develop the relationships as much as we would have liked. That will come and get much better. We had some tell us if we had only been here a little earlier or they knew us a little better, things would have been different. So, that number will definitely change.
Is the class designed to have older guys and make immediate impacts?
Absolutely, we really went after the difference makers. You don't mind taking a few of those guys, especially if they were academically ready to go. They jumped off the screen on film. I am excited about those guys. They can come here and compete. You need depth at corner and linebackers and safety. Even offensive line. We signed four, and one of those guys may have to step up and fill depth early. We had very few tight ends on campus.
Are you confident with this class academically?
I am very confident. It is something I talked to Pete about. I need 25 guys that are ready to go August 1. It doesn't do any good to be all excited about four and five stars that aren't here. It is false hope. I think that is critical.
Is there a blanket number of four or five stars that you will take a chance on academically.
When I say four or five stars, I'm not cutting down the system. I am just thinking about Darren McFadden being a two star. And sometimes that gets out of whack. But we will sign three or four to include them in our family, put them in Mississippi at a very good junior college and then you come back and rejoin our family. There is nothing wrong with that. We did that this year.
Can you talk about the role you see for Randall Mackey?
I am really partial to him on offense. He is an outstanding athlete. He is the type that can play so many positions. Offensively, he can line up in the slot, at quarterback or at wideout. We are excited about his athleticism. He can start out wherever and get on the bus.
Any position you think you are a little short on?
I wish we had gotten a couple more defensive tackles. We were short on big guys in the middle. Justin Smith is very good and very smart. Gerald Rivers, 6-6, and edge guy. Excited about Emmanuel Stevens already in the program. We got three, but I would have liked some more size.
Do you see any of the backs taking carries right away?
That is what we sold them on. We aren't afraid of playing an 18-year old if he is mature enough to do one thing. Take care of the most precious thing we have: the football. These guys have proven they can get better after 25-30 carries, and they aren't scared to come downhill. These three guys will be given every opportunity to help us.
How many of these guys are dual-threat?
Five or six, the corners and wideouts are those guys. Hunter Miller played quarterback and safety in high school. He is capable as an athlete.
How many of the recruits did you know already?
There is a few that carried over, especially in Georgia and Hargrave. The ones we knew the least were Mississippi, but we will be better there next year. We'll have a high school clinic and get to know them. One of the first times now is re-evaluate Mississippi and zero in on the juniors. We'll be much more educated on the in-state guys.
What is it like recruiting to Ole Miss?
I love it. I am excited about this place and our program. I love the location. We are 55 minutes from Memphis. Memphis has always been good to us. We will be much better there next year. We can get to Atlanta quickly. We can get to Birmingham quickly. Florida a little better. Louisiana a little better. We are in a good spot.
Can you talk more about Horatio?
He was one of the first films our grad assistants showed me. The thing is he can run, and that overcomes coaching. It takes the stress off a coach. When you run a 10.5, 100 meter, it is easy to throw out numbers like 4.3 or 4.4, but when you run track times, a legitimate 10.5 means you have a chance. If you can run, then you have a chance in this league, and this guy can fly. He has a good body that we will make stronger.
Elaborate more on how important it was to have Nathan Stanley.
The first thing in our program you notice is Jevan Snead, but you have to have more than one in this league. I have lost two or three quarterbacks in one game, heaven forbid. You better have at least three ready to go. It was very important to get two guys in the program and ready to start in August.
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