I appreciate you showing up. We are very excited. Today's come and it's been a long road but we're very happy about the signatures we got. I want to thank a few people before we get going. First of all, I really want to thank our university. I want to start with our chancellor. If you look at this campus, one of the things that moms and student-athletes talked about in every living room was the beauty of our campus. I hate that he is retiring. He's just done an awesome job of laying everything out for us and I appreciate him. I appreciate Pete Boone, the things that he supplies us, the airplanes that he supplies us, the tools that he gave us this recruiting season are very important. I want to thank our staff. Our staff rolled up their sleeves went to work and did a great job. They are the guys out there beating the bushes and developing those relationships. Chris Vaughn did an excellent job coordinating this thing, but it took everybody. When we say everybody, I mean everybody and we're talking about faculty, our academic people, Karen Schiferl, her staff and just everybody from our ambassadors all the way down. It's been a team effort and it has to be. We're excited about this class. We feel like we got our needs. We had some real needs. When you lose a Peria Jerry, Michael Oher, Jamarca Sanford, players like that, you have got to go replace them and our best salesman on campus were our players. Our guys have worked so hard all the way through since last May. Hats off to our players. They sold it hard, they believe in us and believe in Ole Miss. It's been a magical season for us. I'm proud to be here. It's probably been the most fun time of coaching that we've had. These coaches that have been with me a long time and even the coaches I just hired will tell you that they had the most fun year of coaching. In trying to make a difference in a young person's life and that's what it's all about. I'm excited.
Q: How much did the successful season help recruiting?
I think it meant everything. Recruiting is such a sport now and if you look back in the summer, you know we were getting some concerns from our own fans that keep up with everything, ‘why aren't we getting more commitments, why don't we have this.' One thing that we try to do is be very thorough, try to develop a relationship, try to pick the right one that fits us and also fits them. You want that relationship and I tell you what, of course the Florida game kept getting bigger and bigger. Then LSU; our road fans are the best because of the atmosphere they create. To answer your question, that momentum when we started to believe, and when you start to believe the way we did, that's when you start to achieve. We did it those last few games, ending with Mississippi State and then for 30 days practicing in the beautiful indoor practice facility. You practice and develop all those guys that have been scout team members. Your name going across the screen saying that Ole Miss is playing Texas Tech, a seventh-ranked team in America, in one of the best bowls in America, the ATT&T Cotton Bowl. All that build up helped us, especially right here at the end. I would sum it up this way, our recruiting class ended just the way our season ended, very strong.
Q: How did you land Bobbie Massie?
Mike Markuson did a great job of having a relationship with Bobbie. We have a very good relationship with Hargrave coach Robert Prunty. We had some Hargrave players on campus, I think that is first and foremost. When you have Hargrave players here and they tell the young man as soon as he gets off the plane, ‘you want to come here, you want to be at Ole Miss.' You've got Enrique Davis, Andrew Harris, just feeding him, selling him what we have. Then of course, the work of going up there. That's where that jet came in handy. It's really hard because you have to see the mother the same day you see the son and its hard. Chatham, Virginia is not real easy to get to. Coach Markuson did an excellent job of developing that relationship. We used Michael Oher as an example of a senior left tackle that we are losing and felt like that right here is the best place for him to play. I was just really proud that we were able to get Bobbie.
Q: Talk about signing Raymond Cotton.
When Kent Austin showed me the film, it blows your mind. I've been fooled by film before, but when you watch him, physically he's 6'5" or over. He's ‘yes sir, no sir' and Kent (Austin) has tried to explain to me that he is a disciplined young man. He comes from a great home life. His father is in the military. You watch him on film and that ball comes off his hand and comes off with RPM's and he's accurate. What I loved about him is when Kent Austin took me into that living room. I knew right then you wanted him in the huddle. He's a leader and he's a winner. Very few people at his age would be worth it. We had to go to the home and then the mother and dad said, ‘let's go see our son now' I'm thinking where is he? Well he's working. And that's during a school night and it just shows you what type of character he has. So again, that relationship our coaches develop with our players is the difference. I had the reputation of running the ball and running the ball. With the way we finished with Jevan Snead throwing the ball to Michael Wallace, Shay Hodge, Dexter McCluster, Lionel Breaux, Markeith Summers and Gerald Harris, it made a difference because they see you've got a quarterback throwing for over 2,500 yards. You're averaging about 37 points a game the last 7 games. I want to be a part of that. Again, it goes back to the relationship that Coach Austin had with him.
Q: Talk about balance of the class.
The one thing that Tyrone (Nix) had talked to me hard about was we needed linebackers. We need some defensive linemen and we've got to have some secondary. That basically covers it all and so he put an emphasis on every position. The bottom line is you've got four defensive linemen that are solid. You look at Corey Gaines and Craig Drummond, who's already here. I'm excited about that. You look at Alex Williams, another good athlete, and Cameron Whigham. It goes back to those relationships Tyrone (Nix) and Chris Vaughn had with these guys. What was a real plus was to have Terry Price to come in here at the end. He went into the homes and just did an awesome job. I feel good about the balance. We got about three-to-four linebackers, seven-to-eight corners and safeties. We needed that, especially at corner since we had to move two wide receivers over to play defense. We need some corners that we can start developing and start getting ready. It was the same thing on the offensive line. We needed some good ones and we got four or five: Michael Brown, Bobbie Massie and A.J. Hawkins, who's already on campus. I really love the way Emmanuel McCray from right here in Jackson, Miss., looks. He is so athletic at 6-foot-4. I'm excited about the offensive line.
Q: Who is ready to contribute immediately?
We are going to tell them all to get ready. It's really hard to say he's going to play or he's going to play, but you always have to look at a guy that is a little older. You have to look at Jamar Hornsby. Kim Dameron recruited him. He is a safety, an older guy that has length speed, is tall and physical. Look at Bobbie Massie, a year older, 6-7, 320. We've seen with our eyes how he practices, his work ethic and his feet, so he'll be in the mix early. We have some speed on this team. When you look at the corners, you look at Rodney Scott. At tailback, Korvic Neat can run 10 300-meters. You have real speed. So I'm just excited, but it's just hard to say that he's going to play or he's going to play. Don't know.
Q: Talk about Pat Patterson.
Patrick Patterson is special, and Derrick Nix did a great job with him, built a tremendous relationship with the family. I really appreciate the mother. We had a great relationship with Gloria Patterson. The thing about Patrick is he doesn't say much. I mean this guy needs to be playing some poker big time. because he doesn't say much. He had me nervous all the way until the end. The only one that really felt good was Derrick Nix. And the mom kept telling me its ok, and I kept saying are you sure? Because I wasn't getting much feedback. He is 6-5, and when I shake hands with him, and I have big hands, his hands are out much further than mine. You love that, knowing he's going to play receiver, and you love what he does after the catch. After the catch, he's special, and of course he wants to get involved with the ‘Wild Rebel.' He's told Derrick numerous things, but he wants to have the ball in his hands and you love that. But here's what Patrick Patterson did for us, Patrick Patterson was really the number one guy in Mississippi, and we really needed Patrick Patterson. He made a statement for us, because he could have gone anywhere in the country. And Patrick Patterson said ‘I want to play for Ole Miss. I want to come to this university play for this staff. I love what we're doing on offense. It fits my personality.' And when he said those things, it excited me so much. But he didn't say it until right there at the end. He might have told Derrick, but he sure didn't tell me that. So he had me very, very nervous. Patrick Patterson really put the stamp on our class, and of course, a guy like Jamar Hornsby on the defensive side. I'm just proud of all of them, but the things that come to my mind especially in the state of Mississippi, I appreciate Patrick.
Q: Talk about having 38 signees.
There's no rule against that. One thing I do know is the rules. Of course, Mr. (David) Wells knows the rules and as long as Pete Boone gave the blessing. Here's the thing about it, I know it seems like a little high number, but the thing that it does for us is it helps Mississippi. It helps our junior colleges, and I've never been in a state where you've had that many junior colleges. Our staff really doesn't believe in taking 10 to 11 junior college players a year, but you do want to give back. You do want to help. There are going to be times when we need one, two, three, four difference-makers in junior college guys, like Patrick Trahan that comes from Northwest that has really helped our football team and has developed into one of our best linebackers. So I've got some guys that want to be a part of our family that probably will not make it academically. They have a chance to go and still feel a part of our family, and I think it's important to build those relationships. I haven't been here that long. You want people that want to be here. These guys want to be here. So I checked with David, and there's no rule that says that we can't sign 80. All I know is we have to have 25 ready to go in August ready and eligible.
Q: Talk about Darius "Tig" Barksdale.
I have an awesome respect for South Panola, because when I think of South Panola, I think of Peria Jerry and Jamarca Sanford. That's the first thing that comes to my mind, and I know how much heart they have. To see the tears they had in that Cotton Bowl lockerroom, I will never forget. Our seniors will never forget this year. When they go off, they'll have a total different view. When we first got here a year ago and walked in and saw their faces, to when they left out of the Cotton Bowl, they love Ole Miss and really feel like those guys will be givers back to Ole Miss. They're going to have such pride gong into the NFL camps. They're going to talk about Ole Miss, and their senior year that makes me feel good. Getting Tig, we all know that he's a great football player. He proved it in high school. We thought we were going to sign him last year, and for whatever reason, it didn't happen. But the bottom line is right now is he's an Ole Miss Rebel, and we're excited to have him in our family.
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