Ranked as High as Fourth Nationally by ESPN.com
OXFORD, Miss. – Strong relationships built with recruits and their families, first-class academic and training facilities and a winning product on the field have helped Ole Miss significantly raise the level of talent within the football program since head coach Hugh Freeze arrived in 2012.
The Rebels took another step forward Wednesday by signing their highest-rated class on record, one Freeze characterizes as the “deepest” since he’s been the head coach.
“I don’t know if our staff has ever done a better job of developing relationships that can withstand the onslaught of difficult things that are thrown at you through the course of recruiting,” said Freeze. “That’s been the case during this cycle quite a bit, and it’s a testament to everything we are doing here and what we stand for and the relationships we’ve built over the last 18 to 24 months that allowed us to bring home arguably a top-five class.”
At the end of National Signing Day, Ole Miss ranked as high as No. 4 in the country by ESPN.com and anywhere from fifth to seventh in the other major national recruiting rankings. That matches the 2013 haul that finished with a high ranking of fourth by 247Sports.
Under Freeze, the Rebels have brought in four straight top-15 ranked signing classes. The program had just two such classes prior to Freeze’s arrival.
This year’s class is headlined by a trio of 5-star prospects in quarterback Shea Patterson (Shreveport, La.), offensive tackle Greg Little (Allen, Texas) and defensive tackle Benito Jones (Waynesboro, Miss.). They are among the 13 high school All-Americans represented in the group. Freeze and his staff inked a total of 19 athletes ranked as 4-star prospects or better (by at least one of the major recruiting services) in the 24-man class.
Ole Miss has now brought in 11 5-star recruits during the Freeze era.
Four Rebel signees are tabbed by at least one recruiting outlet as the No. 1 prospect at their position, including Patterson, Little, No. 1 safety Deontay Anderson (Manvel, Texas) and No. 1 tight end/H-back Jacob Mathis (Tampa, Fla.).
National Signing Day had its fair share of excitement for the Rebels, as they gained signatures from three players who were not already publicly committed to Ole Miss – Anderson, Mathis and wide receiver A.J. Brown (Starkville, Miss.).
Ole Miss loaded up on elite receiver talents, including wideouts and tight ends. Brown, D.K. Metcalf (Oxford, Miss.) and Tre Nixon (Viera, Fla.) all rank among the top 100 overall national recruits by at least one outlet and boast some of the best wide receiver accolades in the country. Mathis leads a group of tight ends that includes Octavious Cooley (Laurel, Miss.) and Gabe Angel (Cookeville, Tenn.), all of whom are highly regarded.
The future of the Rebels’ quarterback position after All-SEC senior Chad Kelly graduates looks to be in good hands with the top-ranked signal-caller in the land in Patterson. He most recently earned MVP honors at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and is among eight early enrollees who will be able to compete in spring drills.
The offensive line also received a particular boost from a total of six new Rebels, headlined by two-time high school All-American Little, who could see early playing time at tackle next fall after the departure of All-America left tackle Laremy Tunsil. Four-star prospects like Bryce Mathews (Brentwood, Tenn.), Royce Newman (Nashville, Ill.) and Chandler Tuitt (Tyrone, Ga.) will help anchor the line for years to come in Freeze’s high-powered, up-tempo offense.
The Landshark defense will be bolstered by an influx of talent, led by highly rated prospects and Under Armour All-Americans Deontay Anderson and Benito Jones. Super-athletic 4-star defensive end Charles Wiley (Stockbridge, Ga.) and 4-star defensive backs Greg Eisworth (Grand Prairie, Texas), Myles Hartsfield (Sayreville, N.J.) and Jaylon Jones (Allen, Texas) could all be a factor early in their college careers.
“We’re consistently bringing in top players and I think that’s why we’re continuing to improve on the field,” noted Freeze. “There will be some areas of need that we’ll need to address at mid-year next year, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the young men that have joined us and our family. I can’t wait to go to work with them.”
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