| MATT LUKE - OLE MISS HEAD COACH
"Really exciting day for the Rebels. A lot of great energy and positive momentum. I really appreciate the work of our staff, they did a tremendous job getting on the road after the Egg Bowl and getting to work and making up ground, and I'm really pleased with that. I really appreciate the trust of the families of the guys who signed with us. A lot of really good relationships were formed. Just going by position, I thought it was imperative that we go out and sign a mid-year quarterback to come in and compete in the spring. We're able to do that with one of the top quarterbacks in the country in Matt Corral -- tremendous, tremendous talent, and he's going to be able to come in and compete in the spring, so we're excited about that. We're losing our running back, so we had to go out and sign one, and we're very pleased with that -- Scott Phillips, the number one junior college running back in the country, and then along with Isaiah Woullard who will be joining this class, who is a Mississippi kid, very, very excited, he's been here for a summer, we know what his character is, and we're excited to get him back. Wide receiver, losing a couple guys there, but we're really, really excited about Demarcus Gregory, big physical receiver, he's going to be able to come in mid-year, and then obviously having a guy like Elijah Moore that can do so many different things, punt returner, kick returner, slot guy, he's a guy that we really just haven't had, so we're really excited about him. Coach Peeler did an amazing job on him. Offensive line wise, Jalen Cunningham kind of fits in that mold, but he's probably going to start on the defensive line, just because he's a big, physical nose guard, but I think he also has a chance to be a NFL offensive guard as he develops, so he's kind of a swing guy. I really like his potential. Defensive line wise, I really feel like we did a good job addressing some needs. Hal Northern is a first-team All-American Junior College defensive lineman, he's originally from Tunica Rosa Fort, Mississippi kid, and worked really hard to get where he is and he's a very impressive player that will be able to join us at mid-year and be there in the spring, so that was a huge position of need. And you put him with KD Hill, Quentin Bivens, and James Williams, just a very, very good, solid class to start with in this early signing period, so we're very excited with that. Linebacker, you have another first-team All-American in Vernon Dasher that can come in at mid-year and help us at a position that was a huge position of need, so we're very, very excited to get him there, along with the high school guys Hess and Jacquez Jones, they're very, very good players, really tremendous families and great kids. Then in the defensive secondary, Keidron Smith and Cameron White, we're excited about those guys."
On how the NCAA's final verdict gave recruiting momentum:
"I think the biggest fear for people is fear of the unknown. Once people know what it is, they can move forward, and I think that's where we were. When you have fear of the unknown people can say whatever they want to say, but now that everything's out there, we're moving past it, and we're just moving forward. We can deal with it and move forward, and I think that's what everybody's doing. That's why you see so much positive momentum moving forward, just because everybody knows what it is. Let's move forward."
On how recruiting changed when interim tag was removed:
"I got a lot of questions about how I was going to recruit as the interim coach, and I kind of said all along, we just kind of maintain relationships with these guys, and again, Ole Miss sells itself. People that come visit here want to come to Ole Miss, so all you had to do was stay within striking distance for these awesome guys, and as soon as it was time to go, and the fear of the unknown (NCAA Sanctions) was removed, people were excited. I just think that staying within striking distance and as soon as it was removed, people were excited."
On how the team signed multiple players committed elsewhere:
"I think it's just all about relationships and fit. When a young man is trying to make the decision, he's got to pick the best environment for him, and that's the whole key. A lot of these outside influences and Twitter, none of that stuff really matters. What matters is picking the best environment for you so you can go be happy. If you're happy at that place, then you're going to be your best at that place, and I think that was the key with those three young men."
On signing high school players vs. junior college players:
"It's all about need. The problem we had, we had very limited mid-year spots that guys could come in and perform in spring practice. So, we knew we had to get a quarterback, we had to get a d-lineman, and we had to get a linebacker, so those were three huge positions of need. We didn't have very many mid-year spots, we only had six, so we had to really utilize those six spots to the best of our ability."
On how early signing period played an impact in recruiting:
"I don't think the message changed, and again, I don't think everybody's got the whole early signing period down yet, because this is the first time it's happened, but I do think there is some good for the kids that know one hundred percent where they want to go, then it's a good thing. For some of the guys that aren't sure, they have the opportunity to wait. But what I don't know is if the recruiting calendar gets moved up as we move forward, but for now, it doesn't change our message."
Reaction on how many players signed throughout the nation with early signing period:
"I'm not surprised. If a young man knows where he wants to go, it takes a lot off those guys. He's got three weeks where he doesn't have to see all these coaches and field all these phone calls, he can now focus in on his academics and things like that. If a young man knows where he wants to go, it has a chance to be a positive."
On what Ole Miss is looking for in February signing period:
"We'll probably end up going after a couple more wide receivers, and again all this is best available, but we will sign at least one more receiver, potentially a tight end, maybe one to two more offensive linemen, depending on how Jalen (Cunningham) fits into that category, maybe one more defensive lineman, another backer, and maybe one more corner-safety body. Again, it's all best available prospects, but potentially eight to nine more guys."
On Matt Corral and if it brought a momentum swing in recruiting:
"Yeah, I think it did. I think a lot of people, when he made the decision, were excited, but for me, it was a huge position of need, and we filled it with a very, very good player. So that, for me, was the most important thing, and all the stuff that comes with that becomes a bonus. When you have a position of need, and you know you need a good quarterback to come in and fill a position, and you get that, then I think all the bonuses that come with that is all that is. I think maybe some players saw that, and if you're a receiver, and you see a quarterback commit like that, it helps, no doubt."
On whether linebacker improvement will come through new players or developing ones:
"I think when you sign a mid-year guy, you expect those guys to come in and contribute quickly, but the answer is both. We'd like to keep developing the young guys, and keep bringing in guys to help and create competition, that way you're getting better from both ends and they're pushing each other to be better. I think some of the guys that we redshirted last year are pushing for playing time, and also the guys that we bring in are pushing for playing time. It's also not out of the realm that we go get a junior-college guy that's a May-out that can help make a difference. To answer your question though, the answer is both, we want guys to keep developing and we want guys to push for early playing time."
On how if this class helps speed up the 2019 recruiting:
"Absolutely it does. I think when you get half your class signed, or more, then you have a limited focus on the rest of the '18 class and then you start focusing on the 2019 class, which, in the state of Mississippi, is very good."
On what to do about players who were committed but did not sign early:
"You just keep recruiting them. To me, it's no different. This is just the guys that committed and signed, and if you got them, then you focus on the guys that aren't (signed). You treat them the same, and if you want them, you go after them, just like normal. As far as us, it's going to be business as usual regarding recruiting and going after these guys. It's a normal February signing period."
On how first-year recruiting experience was for Coach Luke:
"You just wanted to see those names come across the fax. It wasn't a whole bunch of surprises, it was what we thought, with maybe a couple surprises on the positive side, which is always good. It's just a credit to the staff, they did an outstanding job, I think everybody was in by 10 a.m., but it was what we expected trying to fill some needs especially at some certain positions, but I thought it was a really, really good day."
On what the team is looking for in linebacker prospects:
"In this league, the running backs that you have to play against are obviously big and physical, so you obviously have to have big and physical guys, but you also have to have guys that can play in space, so it's a tough position to find. What we were looking for was physical guys, and guys that could run. Vernon Dasher is a little bit of an under-sized guy, but he can really run and hit. Hess has a lot of length and has the potential to grow into a big linebacker, and then Jacquez is more of a big, physical Mike linebacker that we've been looking for. I just think you identify your needs and go after the best available."
On James Williams:
"He is an unbelievable athlete. Coach Nix just got back from watching him play basketball, and he can just play a bunch of positions. He can be a rush end, he can play inside, and people compare him to Breeland Speaks just because they're from the same school, but he's just a tremendous athlete and player, and he has a lot of upside both as a pass rusher and a run stopper. He can fit in a lot of different spots. That's what's so intriguing about him is his versatility."