Ole Miss continued its recruiting momentum on Sunday, landing its third recruit in three days with the commitment of four-star defensive end Elijah Daniel.
By: Ben Garrett, Staff Writer OMSpirit.com
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Daniel, rated the No. 9 defensive end in the country by Scout.com, chose the Rebels over, among others, Florida, Mississippi State and Arizona State.
He visited Arizona State over the weekend.
“Well, I made my final decision on the flight back from Arizona State tonight,” he said. “I talked to my coach here, and we both agreed that Ole Miss was the place for me. Arizona State came in second.”
The commitment of Daniel comes on the heels of the Rebels picking up verbals from five-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell of Crete, Ill., and three-star linebacker Marcus Robinson of Memphis, Tenn.
“I picked Ole Miss because I have a good relationship with the coaches,” Daniel said. “I really liked the school, the coaches and the players. It felt like home to me.”
Daniel visited Ole Miss officially in November, attending the annual Egg Bowl rivalry game between the Rebels and Mississippi State. Ole Miss snapped a three-game losing streak to the Bulldogs with a 41-24 win to earn its first bowl appearance since 2009.
“My experience was really, really great,” he said of the visit. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It was good.”
Daniel, a former Clemson commit, fills a need for Ole Miss. He de-committed from the Tigers in November.
The Rebels lost senior defensive ends E.J. Epperson and Jason Jones following the 2012-13 season, a season in which they finished 7-6 overall in the debut year of head coach Hugh Freeze.
Ole Miss closed the season with a rout of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., earlier this month.
“I’m extremely excited to get this decision made, and I can’t wait to get to Ole Miss,” he said.
Ole Miss ranked in the top half of the conference in sacks in 2012, totaling 38. The Rebels were also among the nation’s leaders in tackles for loss. Rising junior C.J. Johnson led the team with 6.5 sacks.
Daniel finished his senior season at Avon High School in Avon, Ind., with well over 20 tackles for loss.
“I bring a lot of energy and passion,” he said. “I have good play-making ability.”
“He’s an explosive defensive lineman coming off the ball, especially coming out of a three-point stance,” Avon coach Mark Bless said. “He has great take-off. I think he can be an immediate help with his size, strength and speed. I expect him to come in and help Ole Miss as a freshman.”
Daniel, an Under Armour All-American, is one of a handful of top defensive ends Ole Miss is pursuing.
The Rebels are considered by most as the favorite for five-star Robert Nkemdiche, the top prospect in the country, and brother of Ole Miss linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche. They’re also in the mix for four-star Jason Carr.
But Daniel is highly-regarded in his own right. He believes his speed his best attribute.
“He’s taken a lot of good visits,” Bless said. “I just think that Tom Allen, being from the Indianapolis area, had a lot to do with it. He’s always wanted to play in the SEC, and I just think he was really comfortable with Coach Freeze and Coach Allen.”
Daniel held an impressive list of offers. Other offers included Georgia, Florida State, Miami (Fla.) and Tennessee. But in Ole Miss, Daniel saw an opportunity for immediate playing time.
Daniel was named Avon defensive MVP and first team All-State by both the Associated Press and the AHSA.
“I think I can come in and make a good impact,” he said. “They said I fit into their system real good. I’m fast and move around pretty good, so they think I’m the perfect fit.”