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
    • NASCAR's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Visits Ole Miss

      Tuesday, September 16, 2014 - Football

      NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr., visited Ole Miss on Wednesday. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, native spoke to various student groups, including the football team. Stenhouse Jr. presented head coach Hugh Freeze with a firesuit, and Freeze presented him with an... read more

    • Ole Miss Athletics Week in Review (Sept. 8-14)

      Monday, September 15, 2014 - Athletics

      Ole Miss Athletics Week in ReviewSept. 8-14, 2014Volleyball- Ole Miss captured the Magnolia Invitational this past weekend to improve to 10-0, its best start in school history.- The Rebels downed UAB and Mercer 3-0 and then defeated Jacksonville State 3-1... read more

    • Historic Start to the Football Season

      Sunday, September 14, 2014 - Football

      After a 56-15 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Saturday, Ole Miss moved up four spots to No. 10 in the latest Associated Press poll, released on Sunday.  Despite breaking into the top 10, the Rebels remain fifth among Southeastern Conference Western Division... read more

    • Observations from the Best Seat in the House - Sept. 14

      Sunday, September 14, 2014 - Athletics

      This is the third installment of Observations from the Best Seat in the House. The idea of this weekly feature will be to bring you all some of our observations from the previous week in Ole Miss Sports. This week... read more

    • Three Rebels Net First Goals of the Season

      Sunday, September 14, 2014 - Soccer

      Leading 1-0 after controlling the play for much of the game, Ole Miss opened up a 3-0 lead on Middle Tennessee with a pair of goals in the final minute of the first half on the way to a 4-0... read more

    • Golson's Buy-In Pays Off

      Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Football

      Senior cornerback Senquez Golson has come a long way since he was a freshman.  That season, he was most notably on the receiving end of a highlight reel juke from Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Three years later, as part... read more

    • VIDEO: Ole Miss-ULL Motivational

      Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Football

      Ole Miss vs ULL Official Team Motivational from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.... read more

    • Three and Out: Keys to Ole Miss-ULL

      Saturday, September 13, 2014 - Football

      Three areas to watch as Ole Miss faces Louisiana-Lafayette in its home opener Saturday. Wearing the Bull's-Eye After a 2-0 start with wins over Boise State and Vanderbilt, Ole Miss moved up to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll,... read more

    • Thompson Lifts Rebels to Historic Start

      Friday, September 12, 2014 - Volleyball

      With a chance to make history, Ole Miss dropped a first set for the first time this season. The Rebels answered the bell winning the next three sets to defeat Jacksonville State 3-1 and improve to 10-0 on the season,... read more

    • VIDEO: Return of The Grove

      Friday, September 12, 2014 - Football

      read more

    • Rebel Nation Remembers Stan Sandroni

      Thursday, September 11, 2014 - Football

      Rebel Nation goes into its home opener Saturday excited for the return of football at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, but also saddened by the loss of one of its most renowned voices.Stan Sandroni, 64, passed away of a heart attack late Wednesday.... read more

    • Freeze Talks Schedule, Areas for Team to Improve

      Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - Football

      Highlights from Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze's time on the SEC teleconference Wednesday, ahead of the Rebels' home opener Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and will be televised on the SEC Network.Freeze's time... read more

    • Former football player releases Chucky Mullins book

      Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - Football

      Former Ole Miss football player Jody Hill has partnered with Square Books in Oxford to launch his book, "38: The Chucky Mullins Effect," celebrating the life and impact of his Ole Miss teammate Chucky Mullins. Hill will be signing copies... read more

    • 3 Things About Gameday - Ole Miss vs. ULL

      Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - Football

      read more

    • Freeze, Luke Talk Offensive Line Progress

      Tuesday, September 9, 2014 - Football

      From week one to week two, head coach Hugh Freeze and offensive line coach Matt Luke are generally pleased with the progress along the offensive line. The number of false start penalties went from eight to two, while the... read more