Ten Rebel defensive recruits set to report January 18
Italian philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli writes: “It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.”
Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin and the staff he brought in have done just that. They’ve injected a vibe of positivity and enthusiasm into a program that had been battered and bruised from the machinations of the NCAA and the turnover in coaches.
Make no mistake, that’s not to say it’s been easy. In the ensuing year since Kiffin was hired in December of 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic affected things in ways no one could have predicted. No spring training, adjusted fall camp, an SEC-only schedule, testings and contact tracing protocols, and the postponement and cancellation of games are just some of the ways the season jumped the track.
But although the Rebels were knocked down a time or two over the course of the fall, they picked themselves up off the mat and went right back into battle. Ole Miss fans learned not to ever count this team out, whether on the field or on the recruiting trail.
A month before the early signing period began on December 16, most were dubious that Coach Kiffin and his staff would be able to put together a top 50 class for 2021, much less a Top 25 class. But when the dust settled, the Rebels closed in a big way — jumping all the way to the No. 18 recruiting class in the nation, en route to finishing No. 7 in the SEC.
The numbers for the Rebels could still rise a bit with the February 3 signing date, but even if nothing changes it is still a remarkable turnaround.
Coach Kiffin can be witty and a tad eccentric, but his demeanor on the recruiting trail was similar to that of a silent warrior who built his arsenal one by one. From Philly to Mississippi, Coach Kiffin and staff signed some of the top defensive talent in the country, players who will step in and have the opportunity to make an early impact.
Let’s revisit the newest Landshark defenders!
Safety | 6-2, 185 | Composite 247Sports: 4-Star, NATL # 319 S #21 FL #49
Dink could make an instant impact for the Rebels. He’s athletic, quick, and an instinctive pass-rusher. He plays with passion and his agility helps him with his relentless pursuit. Like many in this class of new Rebels, he is very athletic and also played offense for his high school (running back). Ole Miss coaches are excited about ability to chase down the ball.
ATH | 5-10, 190 |Composite 247Sports: 4-Star, NATL #257 S #11 PA #16
There probably isn’t a position Johnson couldn’t handle. In high school, he’s played everything from a running back to a return specialist — and made an impact at every spot. The Philly native will bring his northeast toughness to the Rebels where the coaches are excited about his elite, short-area quickness and his explosiveness. He will start out on defense for the Ole Miss, most likely at safety — but his athleticism makes it likely he will see some time in on the return game and possibly on offense.
DT | 6-4, 280 | JUCO Composite 247 Sports: #3-Star, NATL #9 DT #1 MS #4
Sometimes the best talent and the most productive for a team is right in your backyard. Plain and simple, this kid from Meridian and East Mississippi Community College is instinctive and a straight beast. His ability to shed blockers and make some big tackles will be something the Rebs have needed. The coaches are looking forward to having this big, physical player who is strong and will bring leadership to the room.
DT | 6-3, 295 | JUCO Composite 247Sports: #3-Star, NATL #12 DT #3 TX #4
There’s a reason for the old adage, ‘Don’t Mess With Texas,” and Isiah Iton might be why. Just take a look at his highlights from his days playing high school ball in Texas and you will see why he was sought out. Obviously, his size is one reason, but his quick and instinctive reaction coming off the line is exciting. Look for him to create some havoc for the offensive lines he will be across from in seasons to come.
SDE | 6-4, 272 | Composite 247Sports: 3-Star, NATL #709 SDE #45 AL #29
Demarcus Smith will bring great length, versatility, and athleticism to the Rebels. The Ole Miss coaches look for him to be able to play defensive end and defensive tackle. He’s another defensive recruit who also played offense (tight end, in his case) in high school. During his junior year, he accounted for 11 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and 4 forced fumbles.
SDE | 6-3, 245| Composite 247Sports: 3-Star, NATL # 751 SDE#48 GA #67
Jibran is yet another defensive recruit in the Class of ’21 who also played some offense (running back) for his high school. During his junior season, he notched 30 tackles — 19 of them solo — and he recorded two sacks, and a forced fumble. He also rushed 19 times for 109 yards and five touchdowns. The coaches love Jibran’s athleticism and versatility.
CB | 6-0, 195 | Composite 247Sports: 3-Star, NATL # 1111 CB #98 AL #42
Washington is just the type of athlete the Rebels are looking for — he’s got the physicality and the size to really be a great cover corner.
As a junior in 2019, he totaled 38 tackles at corner. More impressively, he recorded three interceptions and 16 passes defended. He even played some offense, averaging 22 yards per catch on offense as a junior. The coaches believe Washington can come in and play not only corner but also special teams or anywhere in the back end.
DT| 6-3, 300 | Composite 247Sports: 3-Star, NATL #847 DT #52 PA #22
The future of the Rebels’ defensive line got even stronger with the addition of another ‘beast from the East,’ Taleeq Robbins from Philly.
Taleeq — who played basketball growing up — is a really athletic young man who is going to be disruptive inside. His athleticism is going to wreak havoc on opponents. He’s reportedly up to 300 pounds. He’s got great hands and has a natural pass-rushing ability.
CB | 5-10, 175 | Composite 247Sports: 3-Star, NATL # 730 CB #60 GA #65
Demarko is another huge addition to the Rebels’ defense. He will hit you hard and fast. He was a return man for his high school and could do the same for the Rebels. Look for him to start out at corner — but don’t be surprised to see him some at nickel. The Ole Miss coaches like him for his fast motor (he also ran track for his high school), aggressiveness, and leadership.
Safety | 6-1, 185 | Composite 247Sports: 3-Star, NATL #1055 S #86 MS #16
Elijah is yet another talented, versatile athlete who played safety, wide receiver and kick returner for his high school. The coaches believe the Biloxi native is one of the best athletes in the state of Mississippi.
During his junior season, Elijah notched 93 tackles, six pass break-ups, three interceptions and a forced fumble. Offensively, during his junior year, he totaled 238 yards receiving for an average of 23.8 yards per catch. He also returned a punt for a TD.
CB | 6-0, 170 | Composite 247Sports: 4-Star, NATL #342 CB#28 FL #56
Markevious is a talented young man from IMG Academy who is a natural at the cornerback position. The coaches are impressed with his athleticism and his football IQ. He has good length for a cornerback and has excellent ball skills. He has shown the ability to match up with bigger receivers and can turn and run with top wide receivers.
ATH | 6-3, 200 | Composite 247Sports: 3-Star, NATL # 388 ATH #26 MS #7
Daniels is another defender with a long, lean frame. Like many of the other recruits in this year’s class for the Rebels, he is versatile, having played QB and receiver in addition to several spots in the secondary at George County High School in Lucedale, MS. In 2019, he threw for 626 yards and 5 touchdownsH while rushing 44 times for 151 yards. He also caught 16 passes for 298 yards and 4 TD.
He has outstanding ball skills and the ability to come down with the 50-50 balls. He primarily played corner but can also slide over to safety. He is considered the nation’s No. 10 athlete and No. 4 player in the state of Mississippi (247 Sports). He was chosen to play in the MS/AL All-Star game. As a junior, he tallied 23 tackles and four interceptions. Another multi-sport star, Daniels lettered in basketball and baseball at his high school.
Athlete | 6’0, 180-lbs | 247Sports Composite: 3-star, No. 424 nationally
Breedlove is another versatile athlete the Rebels could look to play several spots. The coaches are excited about not only his ability at the cornerback position but also see him playing the nickel spot and possibly a returner. He has the ability to several of the skill positions. Breedlove helped lead his high school to back-to-back state titles in 2017 and 2019. In 2020, he notched 26 total tackles — 14 solo — with one INT. As a running back and wide receiver on offense, Breedlove had 601 rushing yards and 158 receiving yards with 12 total touchdowns. On defense, he had 21 total tackles and an interception.
He also lettered in track, helping his relay team to two state championships.
Reflecting on the 2021 defensive commits, one can’t help but think Coach Kiffin and his staff have taken a huge step toward revamping the Rebels’ defense. In this year’s class, the recruits are athletic and versatile, with many playing on both sides of the ball in high school.
Fifteen of the 24 players from whom Ole Miss received national letters of intent are enrolling early, officially arriving on Monday, January 18.
And of those 15 new Rebels on campus next week, ten of them are on the defensive side of the ball: Cornerback Demarko Williams, safety Elijah Sabbatini, defensive lineman Jamond Gordon, cornerback Trey Washington, safety Tysheem Johnson, safety Dink Jackson, defensive tackle Isaiah Iton, cornerback Markevious Brown, and athletes Kyndrich Breedlove and M.J. Daniels.
Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo
Lee Ann is the Director of Recruiting for The Rebel Walk. She is a veteran SEC sports journalist and NFL content writer. She is also the Sr. Editor for MESPORTS digital. Herring-Olvedo is a Brown University graduate who loves good cigars, good games, and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order.