Ole Miss compiling second elite class in four years

Ole Miss compiling second elite class in four years

January 24th, 2016 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Quarterback Shea Patterson, top, was named MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl earlier this month and has enrolled early at Ole Miss.

Photo by Darren Abate


Southeastern Conference recruiting classes, according to 247Sports.com (including national rank):

1. LSU (1)

2. Florida (5)

3. Ole Miss (6)

4. Georgia (7)

5. Alabama (9)

6. Auburn (11)

7. Texas A&M (17)

8. Tennessee (21)

9. Arkansas (24)

10. Kentucky (29)

11. South Carolina (31)

12. Mississippi State (46)

13. Vanderbilt (47)

14. Missouri (58)

The Ole Miss Rebels signed a once-in-a-lifetime class in 2013, landing the heralded likes of tackle Laremy Tunsil, receiver Laquon Treadwell, tight end Evan Engram, defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche and safety Tony Conner.

Then again, maybe it was a once-in-three-years class.

Ole Miss fifth-year coach Hugh Freeze has assembled a 2016 crop of commitments that entered this weekend ranked No. 3 nationally by ESPN and Rivals.com, No. 5 by Scout.com and No. 6 by 247Sports.com. Topping the charts for the Rebels are quarterback Shea Patterson and offensive tackle Greg Little, who have been rated top-five national prospects by multiple recruiting services.

The Ole Miss class also includes a northwest Georgia standout — Jack DeFoor, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound tackle prospect out of Calhoun High School.

"Even though the 2013 class got all the headlines because it was so unprecedented, this class could end up having a bigger impact and taking them even further," Southeastern Conference recruiting analyst J.C. Shurburtt said. "We all know that the SEC West is brutal, but you're talking about a program now that has been to two straight Big Six bowl games. SEC schools recruit at a high level at a lot of spots, but if you look around the league, very few have an ideal situation at quarterback.

"It's been rough at that position, so you add value and points to their class when you can get a big-time quarterback like Shea Patterson. That, to me, speaks to a next-level move by Ole Miss."

Patterson played this past season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The 6-2, 190-pounder was named MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl earlier this month and is an early enrollee.

The Rebels already have the SEC's top returning quarterback with Chad Kelly, who capped his first season in Oxford by throwing for 302 yards and rushing for 73 during the 48-20 shellacking of Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's night. Kelly is heading toward his senior season, but the addition of Patterson could give Ole Miss the best quarterback situation in the SEC for the foreseeable future.

"Since I first went there, I knew that was a place I could see myself," Patterson told reporters when he committed to the Rebels last February. "I only saw it with one school."

Ole Miss swiped Tunsil out of Florida three years ago and has snatched Little out of Texas. Little was previously committed to Texas A&M but committed to the Rebels last month, much to the delight of Patterson.

"Having him will make my job a lot easier," Patterson told USA Today, "and by adding him, I think we will add a few others and make this a legendary class."

The Rebels also are doing well within the state, landing Waynesboro defensive tackle Benito Jones and Oxford receiver DeKaylin Metcalf. Jones is rated the No. 45 overall prospect nationally by 247Sports.com and flipped from Alabama to Ole Miss in August.

Metcalf, who is ranked No. 103 nationally, is the son of Terrence Metcalf, an All-SEC offensive lineman with the Rebels in 2000 and '01.

"They do two things really well," Shurburtt said. "You can trace the rise of them and Mississippi State about four cycles ago, because they started shutting down the borders. I don't think more than two of the top-10 prospects in Mississippi the last four cycles have left the state, so that gives you a core every single year.

"Secondly, they are really good at building relationships out of state and targeting guys they can get in the game with and then ultimately closing the deal. You saw that with Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell three years ago, and you're seeing it with Greg Little and Shea Patterson this year."

The 2013 class signed after Freeze's first season, when the Rebels bounced back from a 2-10 record in Houston Nutt's final season to go 7-6, which included a 38-17 whipping of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl. Ole Miss went 8-5 with its talented freshman class in 2013, defeating Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl, and posted a 9-3 regular season in 2014 before getting thumped by TCU in the Peach Bowl.

This past season, the 2013 class served as the nucleus as the Rebels won 10 games and reached the Sugar Bowl for the first time since Archie Manning's junior year in 1969, with Freeze praising the group long before the team arrived in New Orleans.

"When you're able to sign kids that are that highly sought after, and then they play at a high level for the three years, there is no question that gives us some validity in homes of recruits that are similar in nature," Freeze said in November. "I don't know that I can ever overstate the gratitude I have for people like Robert and Laremy and Laquon and Tony choosing to believe that we can do something new here and make this a new normal of recruiting."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.