Recap of Early Signing Day: Rebels ink 15 and rise in national rankings
OXFORD, Miss. – Before Wednesday, the common theme among national analysts and media seemed to be that Ole Miss was going to have a “dead year” in recruiting. And, honestly, with all of the NCAA issues the program has had the last few years, it is easy to see why such dire predictions were made.
However, new head coach Matt Luke and his staff didn’t listen to the naysayers and, instead, simply went out and proved everyone wrong.
The Rebels landed top players, flipped some key targets, and filled spots in crucial areas. And, Luke and his staff aren’t done yet, as there are several key targets on board for National Signing Day in February.
As for the early signing period that began today and runs through Friday, Ole Miss managed to lock in 15 players with a National Letter of Intent—which is huge because it means the players cannot now be swayed to another program. The lone two who did not sign today, JaKorey Hawkins (cornerback from Alabama) and Deuntra Hyman (defensive end from Mississippi), have chosen to wait until February to sign.
Here is a rundown of the newest Ole Miss Rebels:
(Click here to see their bios, courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics.)
Matt Corral- Quarterback, Long Beach Poly (CA), 6’2 196, 4-star, #3 Pro-Style:
The crown jewel of the class—and the guy who got the ball rolling for this class. Corral has an absolute cannon of an arm and was compared to Brett Favre at the Elite 11 Camp this summer, which is a camp for the top QB’s in the nation.
Corral won the long toss competition, throwing the ball 77 yards without even taking a running start like most of the guys do. He’s also very athletic and could be used in the run game as well. Outstanding pocket presence. He will be a mid-year enrollee.
Elijah Moore- Wide Receiver, St. Thomas Aquinas (FL), 5’11 181, 4-star, #38/Slot WR:
Moore was a huge signing day flip from the Georgia Bulldogs for wide receiver coach Jacob Peeler. Ole Miss seemed to be the frontrunner for him early in his recruitment, but he backed off and chose Georgia when Hugh Freeze left the program.
Moore brings an added dimension to the already-talented NWO that just hasn’t been there the last several years. He brings elite speed at the slot position and will likely receive early playing time due to the losses of Van Jefferson and Tre’ Nixon at the slot.
James Williams- Defensive End/Defensive Tackle, Callaway (MS), 6’5 285, 3-star, #19 SDE:
Williams was the other massive signing day flip and was a surprise to most, as he chose to sign with Ole Miss over Mississippi State, where he was previously committed. Williams is a very versatile defensive lineman who can play all along the defensive front. Williams also had offers from Alabama, Georgia, Louisville, LSU, and Tennessee.
Isaiah Woullard- Running Back, Presbyterian Christian School (MS), 5’11 205, 2-star, #134 RB:
Woullard committed in the 2017 class but was asked to gray shirt to help with scholarship numbers last year. He is one of the best rushers in Mississippi history and will certainly help with competition at a position that is up in the air with the graduation of Jordan Wilkins and the injury to D’Vaughn Pennamon. He will be a mid-year enrollee.
Demarcus Gregory- Wide Receiver, Byrnes (SC), 6’3 204, 3-star, #80 WR:
Gregory committed early over South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Louisville, and West Virginia. He has been a big advocate for Ole Miss to others in his class and seems to be an early fan favorite. He will remind fans of Demore’ea Stringfellow with his hair and playing style. He will be a mid-year enrollee.
Jalen Cunningham- Defensive Tackle/ Offensive Guard, Odenville (AL), 6’6 345, 3-star, #39 DT:
Cunningham chose Ole Miss over Alabama and will start out at defensive tackle. Matt Luke said in his NSD press conference that he’ll start there but could end up at offensive guard and that he’s an NFL prospect at Guard.
Scottie Phillips- Running Back, Jones County Junior College (MS), 5’9 205, 3-star, #1 JUCO RB:
Phillips is an absolute stud whom the staff identified and gained a commitment from early. If not for the early commitment, Phillips likely would have been a household name and had plenty more offers, but he maintained his strong commitment to the Rebels. The staff seems to think he could be a starter next year at running back. He certainly has the talent to be in the thick of a position battle with Eric Swinney, D.K. Buford, Isaiah Woullard, and possibly Charles Strong, should he decide to play for the Rebs. He will be a mid-year enrollee.
Jacquez Jones- Linebacker, Hillcrest (AL), 6’1 225, 3-star, #43 OLB:
Jones, who is related to Ole Miss defensive line coach Freddie Roach, has been solid to the Rebels since verbally committing to Ole Miss. He ultimately chose Ole Miss over, Mississippi State, LSU, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Michigan, and West Virginia.
Cam White- Safety, Madison Central (MS), 6’1 185, 3-star, #59 S:
White played running back all season for 6A powerhouse Madison Central, but in previous seasons played in the secondary so defensive back isn’t all that new to him. When watching him live, it was easy to see he wasn’t afraid to run over people and was able to pull away once in open space. That will serve him well as a ball-hawking safety in Oxford.
Hal Northern- Defensive Tackle, Northwest Mississippi CC (MS), 6’3 293, 3-star, #17 JUCO DT:
Northern, originally from Tunica Rosa Fort, was downright dominate in the JUCO ranks, earning 1st team All-American honors this season. He looks like an instant impact guy to play on the interior defensive line for the Rebels. He will be a mid-year enrollee.
Vernon Dasher- Linebacker, Coffeyville CC (KS), 6’3 215, 3-star, #6 JUCO LB:
Dasher was a signing day commitment who chose the Rebels over Kansas State. He instantly brings quality to a major position of need. He was another 1st team All-American selection in JUCO and has the size and speed a team needs at linebacker in the SEC. He is originally from Georgia and will be a mid-year enrollee.
Quentin Bivens- Defensive Tackle, Wayne County (MS) 6’3 288 3-star #81 DT:
Bivens hails from Wayne County, a place that has churned out Rebels such as Jerrell Powe and Benito Jones in the last few years. Bivens has the talent to be as good as those two if he can add a little more muscle. In the MS/AL practices and game, he blew by guys with his speed. Once he gets into the weight program, watch out.
K. D. Hill- Defensive Tackle, Eufala (AL), 6’1 270, 3-star, #85 DT:
Hill chose Ole Miss over offers from Auburn, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Virginia Tech. He comes in at a position of need for this class and can help bolster the Landshark defense.
Keidron Smith- Cornerback, Oxbridge Academy (FL), 6’2 180, 3-star, #103 CB:
Smith is a huge commit at a position at which it can be hard hard to land top guys. He is listed as a 3-star, but his offer sheet screams 4-star all day long. He chose the Rebels over offers from Baylor, Duke, Oklahoma, Louisville, LSU, Mississippi State, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Michigan, and Wisconsin. His length and speed is something Ole Miss just hasn’t had at this position in a while.
Interestingly, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh tried to call Smith and get him to hold off on his commitment on signing day, but Smith chose to stick with the Rebels instead.
Jonathan Hess- Linebacker, Vestavia Hills (AL), 6’5 215, 3-star, #94 OLB:
Hess brings size at a crucial position that Ole Miss hasn’t had in many years. He is athletic enough to play linebacker, and that is where he was recruited, but he has the frame to possibly grow into a defensive end, should the staff decide that’s his best spot in the future. He chose Ole Miss over offers from LA Tech, Memphis, Missouri, and Vanderbilt.
Looking ahead, Ole Miss has tremendous momentum going into the traditional National Signing Day on February 7th, 2018, and the Rebels are in tight recruiting battles for several big name players. These include:
- 3-star RB Charles Strong 6’1 220 – recent FSU de-commit
- 4-star RB Harold Joiner 6’3 218 – seems to be an uphill climb with LSU and Alabama in the mix
- 4-star WR Jalen Hall 6’4 192 – teammates with Matt Corral
- 4-star WR Miles Battle 6’4 188 – Oregon de-commit who has been high on the Rebels
- 4-star WR Marquez Ezzard 6’2 215 – likely Ole Miss’ top WR target. FSU is the competiton
- 4-star TE Camren McDonald 6’4 210 – outlier, but is teammates with Corral
- 3-star TE Glenn Beal 6’5 250 – competing with Tennessee and LSU
- 4-star OT Richard Gouriage 6’5 271 – Florida commit who is intrigued by former Florida commit Corral and possibility of early playing time at LT once Greg Little likely leaves for NFL draft in 2019
- 3-star OT/OG Hamilton Hall 6’5 315- Indiana, Maryland, and MSU are the main competion
- 3-star OT Nigel Brannon 6’5 333- Memphis commit.
- 4-star OG Tank Jenkins 6’3 325- Man-mountain who will likely decide between Ole Miss, Louisville, and in-state Auburn
- 4-star DE Dorian Gerald 6’3 260- Ole Miss, Florida, and Tennessee seem to be the top choices for #1 JUCO DE in the country
- 3-star DE Fabian Lovett 6’3 305- MSU commit but has been flirting with Ole Miss for a while. Could come down to a signing day decision in February. DT likely at next level
- 3-star DT Noah Jefferson 6’6 330- former 5-star USC signee, now JUCO is likely choosing between Ole Miss, Florida, and Arkansas
- 3-star DL Devin Winters 6’4 245- Bradley Dale Peveto recently visited him.
- 3-star DT Jamarcus Chatman 6’2 258- Recently de-committed from Tennessee. Likely will fall down to Georgia Tech, Michigan State, and North Carolina with Ole Miss making a possible move.
- Unranked- ILB Jaylen Moody 6’2 225- Ole Miss recently had an in-home with him.
- 4-star LB Christopher Oats- depending on whether he is a take or not for Ohio State, Ole Miss could be the option for this Ohio native
- 3-star LB Kevontae’ Ruggs- Brother of Alabama WR Henry Ruggs. If he doesn’t land a committable offer from Alabama, Ole Miss or Louisville could be the likely destination
- Unranked LB Rahsaan York 6’0 210- JUCO LB
- Unranked LB Lorenzo McCaskill- JUCO LB Holmes CC
- 3-star LB KJ Robertson 6’2 205- Troy commit who showed well at MS/AL game.
- 3-star LB Jayden McDonald- chose to withhold signing with Rutgers until February. Once he decided that, quickly earned offers from Ole Miss, Kansas State, and Cincinnati
- 3-star CB Jaylon Reed 6’1 170- recent de-commit from MSU
- 4-star S Cam’ron Jones 6’0 200- Nebraska seems to have surged ahead with the addition of Scott Frost, but Ole Miss is still in for the stud from Texas
- 2-star DB Jeremiah Salaam 5’10 165
- 3-star ATH Kenny Gainewell 5’11 185- If things fall a certain way, could possibly earn a scholarship based off performance at the MS/AL game
There are plenty other names in the mix, and more will crop up the closer we get to National Signing Day in February. However, the guys listed above are the main ones on which the Rebels are currently keeping an eye.
Moving on Up
The Ole Miss 2018 class currently ranks 35th in the nation per 247Sports Composite ratings, and it looks as if the Rebels could climb even higher with, as Matt Luke said today, “possibly 8 or 9 spots left” to sign.
Tucker Italiano is currently a junior Sports Journalism major at Mississippi College and hails from Ridgeland, Miss. He played soccer at Holmes Community College and has been an avid sports fan for many years. As well as working with The Rebel Walk, Tucker is employed by Southern Elite Sports covering high school football in Mississippi. Previously, he worked for OleHottyToddy.com as a recruiting writer.