Rebels Land Back-To-Back Top-15 Classes

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Head coach Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss football program signed another top-15 class Wednesday.
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Head coach Hugh Freeze and the Ole Miss football program signed another top-15 class Wednesday.
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Feb. 5, 2014

Signing Day Central | Signee Bios | Video: Press Conference | Press Conference Transcript Get Acrobat Reader | Photo Gallery | Finished Storify Feed

OXFORD, Miss. — After assembling a consensus top-10 signing class a year ago, the Ole Miss football program hauled in a top-15 class for the second straight year Wednesday. Headlining this year’s class are 14 high school and junior college All-Americans and the top four high school players in the state of Mississippi.

“I’m thrilled with our class, like every coach would stand and say today,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. “Our coaches did a phenomenal job in building relationships with the prospects and their families and significant others that can stand the onslaught of the recruiting process. It’s definitely a grind and a challenge. The last couple of weeks are always extremely anxious moments.

The major recruiting service rankings currently list Ole Miss at No. 14 (247Sports.com), No. 18 (Scout.com and ESPN.com), and No. 19 (Rivals.com). It marks the first time in school history to record back-to-back consensus top-20 classes dating back to the first recruiting rankings in 2002.

Among the 14 All-Americans are four U.S. Army-All America selections in defensive back C.J. Hampton, offensive lineman Christian Morris, wide receiver Markell Pack and offensive guard Jordan Sims. There were also three Under Armour All-America selections in defensive lineman Garrald McDowell, offensive lineman Rod Taylor and kicker Gary Wunderlich.

The 26-player class includes 18 players rated 4 stars or higher by at least one recruiting service, including five consensus four-star prospects, as well as offensive lineman Rod Taylor, who is listed as a 5-star prospect by 247Sports.com and a 4-star prospect by the other three major recruiting services.

“I hope we can redshirt more kids than we were able to the last two years,” Freeze said. “That’s a sign we’re headed in right direction and getting kids more maturity before they have to hit the field. Last year, we had some top-heavy guys that got a lot of attention. We were also able to evaluate correctly guys like Evan Engram and Derrick Jones. This class, we might be better top to bottom.”

The Rebels pulled in prospects from nine different states, including Mississippi (12), Georgia (three), Alabama (two), Florida (two), North Carolina (two), Tennessee (two), Illinois (one), Louisiana (one) and Texas (one).

By the position, the Rebels welcome to the program six offensive linemen, five defensive linemen, three athletes, three linebackers, three defensive backs, two wide receivers, one quarterback, one running back, one tight end and one kicker.

“We’re close,” said Freeze of the roster’s depth. “I consider it two classes because the first year I had three weeks before signing day. After three full recruiting years, we should have our roster to where you look at it and feel this is an SEC roster. We’re definitely a lot closer.”

The jewel of this year’s class is Taylor, the consensus top-rated prospect in Mississippi and listed No. 1 on the Clarion-Ledger Targeted 22 list. He is also listed as a 5-star prospect, the No. 1 offensive guard and the No. 25 overall player in the country by 247Sports.com

“Rod Taylor is as good as I have ever seen in drill tape,” Freeze said. “You may watch a game tape and you may say he doesn’t look as good as this guy, but you go watch a drill tape. I don’t know if I have ever seen a guy any better than his feet in those things. That means a lot more to me.”

Led by Taylor, the Rebels hauled in the top four high school players in Mississippi, according to 247Sports.com. Joining him are Hampton, Pack and defensive lineman Breeland Speaks. Each of those three players is also a consensus four-star recruit, as well as defensive back Tee Shepard.

“We set out a goal to capture our state and the top guys in it, first, and then identify positions of need,” Freeze said. “We were able to accomplish both of those things in this class. It added significant depth to our young football team, particularly at certain spots.”

Ole Miss continues to build depth and helped fill immediate needs by signing five junior college players, as well as adding offensive lineman Christian Morris, a mid-year transfer.

Among the junior college players are Akeem Judd, the nation’s No. 1 junior college running back by Rivals.com, 247Sports.com and ESPN.com.

“We think the junior college route solved some immediate needs, like at middle linebacker with Christian Russell, and a big, physical tailback with Akeem Judd,” Freeze said. “We decided we needed another corner about a week ago and we were able to get a great talent like Tee Shepard to join us. At offensive tackle, we added Fahn Cooper. Those are positions that were of great need for us.”

The nation’s No. 1 JUCO cornerback by 247Sports.com and the No. 2 JUCO cornerback by ESPN.com, Shepard was one of the few signing day surprises for Ole Miss, flipping his commitment from Mississippi State to Ole Miss. Otherwise, it was a day with no bad surprises for Freeze and the Rebels.

“You come into it with your guys who have committed to you and you don’t have any bad surprises on that day,” Freeze said. “We were able to get through today without any, and it went pretty smoothly. We lost a few battles with some really good schools that we were in it at the end with some really good players.

“Our focus is totally on the players that we get because those are the Rebels and those are the ones who chose to come with us, and our concentration will be on the many, many great players. We got our team faster and deeper, and I can’t wait to get them here and get them on the field and get to practicing.”

Ole Miss Gear
    Facebook
    Twitter
    • Loading Tweets...
      1 second ago
    Blog
    • Volleyball Opens Steven McRoberts Era

      Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - Volleyball

      Here are three pieces to keep in mind as we look ahead to the Ole Miss volleyball team's season-opening weekend in Buffalo, New York, starting with Canisius on Friday morning, the first of four matches over three days at the... read more

    • The Season: Ole Miss Football Episode 1

      Wednesday, August 27, 2014 - Football

      The Season: Ole Miss Football - Episode 1 (2014) from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Dome, Sweet Dome for Atlanta Area Rebels

      Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - Football

      For high school football players in Georgia, all roads lead to the Georgia Dome and the state championships.  For a handful of Rebels, those roads lead home, as Ole Miss opens the 2014 season against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A... read more

    • VIDEO: Forward Together Construction Update

      Monday, August 25, 2014 - Athletics

      read more

    • Relentless is the Word on Defense

      Sunday, August 24, 2014 - Football

      ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy asked each of the 65 coaches from the Power Five conferences to describe their team in one word.  Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's word? Relentless. The same can be said of the Ole Miss defense.  And... read more

    • McCormick, Defense Shine in Win

      Sunday, August 24, 2014 - Soccer

      After playing 110 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Georgia on Friday night, Ole Miss responded with a gutsy 1-0 win over Iowa State on Sunday afternoon. The defense, led by senior goalkeeper Kelly McCormick was the story of the... read more

    • Rebels Battle to Draw on Historic Night

      Friday, August 22, 2014 -

      Big time crowd for @SECNetwork live sports event debut. Record attendance of 1,823 for @OleMissSoccer Let's finish strong.-- Ross Bjork (@RossBjorkAD) August 23, 2014 Ole Miss kicked off the 2014 season in thrilling fashion, rallying to a 1-1 draw with... read more

    • Kiffin Pleased with Defensive Line Progress

      Friday, August 22, 2014 - Football

      Like defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, defensive line coach Chris Kiffin has been pleased with his players throughout fall camp, particularly the depth bolstered by the return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and the addition of sophomore Fadol Brown and... read more

    • The Season: Ole Miss Volleyball Day One

      Friday, August 22, 2014 - Volleyball

      THE SEASON: Volleyball - Day One from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Rebels Kick-Off Season on National Stage

      Friday, August 22, 2014 - Soccer

      Three things from Ole Miss soccer head coach Matt Mott, previewing the season opener against Georgia on Friday night. Rebels Look to Take Next Step Ole Miss made history this past season, not only setting a school record for wins,... read more

    • Nkemdiche Headlines Retooled D-Line

      Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - Football

      The return of junior defensive end C.J. Johnson and additions of sophomore Fadol Brown and freshman Marquis Haynes have changed the face of the defensive line, but freshman All-American Robert Nkemdiche remains front and center.  With a season of experience... read more

    • The Season: Ole Miss Football Sneak Peak

      Monday, August 18, 2014 - Football

      The Season: Ole Miss Football 2014: Episode 1 Sneak Peak from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Wallace: 'It's My Offense'

      Monday, August 18, 2014 - Football

      The dean of Southeastern Conferences quarterbacks and the league's leading returner in total offense, passing yards and passing touchdowns, senior Bo Wallace is as healthy and confident as ever, and he's also assumed a more vocal leadership role on the... read more

    • VIDEO: We Are Ole Miss

      Saturday, August 16, 2014 - Athletics

      We Are Ole Miss from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.In case you missed it, "Forward Together: We Are Ole Miss" from earlier this year: Forward Together: We Are Ole Miss from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss Football: Fins Up (Part 2)

      Saturday, August 16, 2014 - Football

      In case you missed it, Fins Up (Part 1) from last year:... read more