Why not Ole Miss?

We've often wondered how Ole Miss would do in recruiting with a more level playing field. That time has arrived. There's now nothing the Rebs don't have to entice players to Oxford, including a recent track record.

First, let's get this elephant out of the room.

I'm a homer and everyone who cares about the Rebels or pays attention knows it. It's a badge of honor to me, but that is beside the point.

Even a homer can deal in facts and that's our intention here.

Putting that aside, I have to admit I have often wondered in the not-too-distant past why a top-notch prospect who has other major options would choose Ole Miss.

There were some reasons for coming here that were legitimate - we play in the SEC, a really good recruit could help our program immediately, the university itself is beautiful and so are the girls - but there were areas where we simply didn't stack up.

That is no longer the case.

We are finally over those "humps" that seemed to make us a bridesmaid in countless instances in years past in the recruiting wars.

Facts only, please.

1) If facilities are your thing, the Rebels have some of the best football facilities in the nation. The Indoor Practice Facility could use a few things to enhance it, but for the basics of training football players, it's top-notch, with everything under one roof, so to speak, and everything within a stone's throw of the stadium, practice fields and state-of-the-art academic center. There may be better football "plants," but I haven't seen them and Ole Miss is certainly competitive with anyone in that arm's race.

2) Ole Miss was recently named one of the Top 25 public universities in the nation by Forbes. Only 24 others can say that.

3) Ole Miss has, for all intents and purposes, cast aside the images of the past. It used to be common to hear negative perceptions about us in recruiting, cast by our competition. Now, it's rare. There's nothing for rivals to sink their teeth into because we have shed those images and perceptions. That stuff, mostly fabricated anyway for the past 20-30 years, is a non-factor now.

4) Even though this is not new, there's still the draw of the Southeastern Conference. If I'm an elite and competitive athlete, I'd have to pay attention when an SEC school comes calling. The SEC has produced three straight national championships in football, the first time any conference has done that since the 1940s. There is no argument the SEC is the best football conference in America. Those who try to disagree just come across looking foolish. Only 12 schools can claim being in the SEC. Ole Miss is one of them. No revelation there, but something I think we sometimes take for granted as a selling point.

5) Young men like young women, as a general rule. Southern women rule. Ole Miss' women are the cream of the crop of Southern women. It's just fact. The eyes don't lie and I'm assuming the eyesight of most recruits is 20/20.

6) Recruit's Moms look for a safe environment. The one question they all ask, without fail, is 'will my baby be taken care of and be safe?' Oxford is safe. We have the low crime rate statistics to back that up.

7) The next question Moms (parents) have concerns about is education. The Ole Miss football program was recently named first in the SEC in graduation rates. Ahead of Vanderbilt, ahead of everyone in our conference. Proof positive about a quality education being available if a recruit signs our dotted line.

Those are the nuts and bolts of why a recruit should strongly consider Ole Miss, but perhaps the most important reasons have just come to light.

Houston Nutt and his staff are as player-friendly as any coaches I've ever been around.

Players love playing for them. They are treated fairly, they are cared for and there truly is a family atmosphere within the team. That was apparent throughout the 2008 season.

But it's more than that. Much more.

They are taught discipline, accountability, responsibility, teamwork, a solid work ethic, doing what's right, spirituality and how to succeed. Aren't those the things we want our young people to grasp? Aren't those the things most every young person craves? Aren't those the qualities that make people productive human beings? Houston is not directing a football factory. He is directing a quality human being factory and football success is the end result, one of the benefits of his methods.

And if it all just boils down to the football experience, which it does for some kids who are thinking football as a career, Ole Miss now has that too.

This Rebel staff not only coaches an exciting brand of football, they teach the skills that will translate to the next level.

No matter what position a recruit plays, he will be exposed to a winning philosophy on the collegiate level and a philosophy they can take with them to the professional level.

How do you keep a lot of skill players happy? By distributing the ball all over the field to a lot of different players, which also culminates in an exciting brand of football where "everyone" who has earned playing time will be rewarded. And what lineman would not want to block in this system? Run blocking skills and pass protection skills are equally important at Ole Miss and in the NFL. Ole Miss has a balanced offense. No gimmicks please, just good football, but it's also flashy, something kids love. Was there a more exciting team displayed during the bowl season? I'm biased, for sure, but I didn't see anyone as well-rounded and as exciting as the Rebels.

Between OC Kent Austin's imaginative passing game, OL Coach Mike Markuson's run game and the collaboration of Nutt and Austin calling creative offensive plays, defenses have no idea what angle the Rebs are coming from.

Defensively, players like aggression and applying pressure. Defensive Coordinator Tryone Nix's staff lives and breathes those qualities and embraces that philosophy of defense. Graham Harrell and a host of opposing QBs will attest to that.

I can honestly say, all homerism aside, I have never seen a happier football team than the 2008 Rebels, and it wasn't because they were winning. They were "happy" when they were 3-4. Certainly not about the results, but about what they were a part of.

That bred confidence, belief, not giving in when things soured and ultimately begat success.

And the success part? That's a story in itself. Think about this for a second.

Nutt can lay claim to being the only coach in America who beat the defending national champs (LSU) and recently-crowned national champs (Florida) in the same year. The 2008 Rebels did that. Remarkable.

And if that's not enough to prove his mettle, in his last game at "the other school," he beat LSU, who went on to win the national title. Think he's not a big-game coach? Think again. In his last 14 games, he has beaten a national champ not once, not twice, but three times.

So tell me, because I'm open to any detractors, why would any recruit, especially in this region of the country, not be open to the recruiting advances of Houston Nutt, his staff and Ole Miss?

If you can figure that out, you are way smarter than I am.

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