Ole Miss football collected yet another piece to the puzzle when Hugh Freeze signed one of the nation’s most-talented recruiting classes this past February.
If you “build it,” they will come (and they’re coming).
The eighth-most important factor to 10-wins in 2013 is the “Rebel Recruits.”
Not only did the Rebel coaching staff sign five-star talent like DE Robert Nkemdiche, OT Laremy Tunsil, S Tony Conner and WR Laquon Treadwell, but equally as important they signed potential early-impact players like DT Lavon Hooks, OT Austin Golson, RB Mark Dodson, TEs Christian Morgan and Evan Engram and WR Quadarias “Q” Mireles among others.
Then don’t forget about signees like OTs Daronte Bouldin and Davion Johnson, WRs Quincy Abeboyejo and Derrick Jones and QBs Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade. The offensive line and wide receiving corps are always looking for a few good men to mix into their rotations, while there still has been no legitimate No. 2 quarterback option emerge ahead of summer.
Undoubtedly, the majority of the class will be red-shirted and saved for the future (which is good).
However, various new Rebels will hear their numbers called at some point this season. Whether August 29 in Nashville or not until Thanksgiving Night in Starkville, there will be times when newcomers will have a hand in deciding a game’s outcome. Just bank on it.
Treadwell hauls one in late in the game for a comeback win over Texas.
Nkemdiche causes McCarron to fumble, setting up a game-winning field goal at Alabama.
Conner picks-off Manziel twice, and it’s the difference in a Rebel win over the Aggies.
Tunsil protects Wallace like his life depends on it, and LSU falls in Oxford.
Mireles goes wild at Scott Field, as Mullen drops two in a row to the rival Rebels.
While these are just a few possibilities, you get the point. There are several athletes among the recent signing class capable of being game changers in 2013.
Will there be times when balls are dropped, coverages are blown and penalties called?
Before the season even begins though, it’s important that Rebel Nation remembers one thing. As talented as these incoming players are, don’t forget that most of them are 18-year-olds and fresh out of high school. It’s the SEC and there’s a learning curve for even the brightest young talent.
That being said, with great expectations come great responsibilities.
Not only must leaders among the incoming class perform well on the practice fields this summer and playing fields this fall, but players like Nkemdiche, Treadwell, Tunsil and Conner must also serve as positive examples for fellow signees in the classroom, in the weight room and in general life outside of football. Before they’ve even put on pads, they’re role models.
Freeze expects his players to hold one another accountable as student-athletes, and nothing less will be expected from the incoming class. That means incoming players must go to class, hit the books, put in hard work and conduct themselves off the field as if all eyes are watching (because they will be).
Not only will the actions of the class impact the team as a whole this fall, but it will also have an impact on the recruiting classes of 2014, 2015 and beyond. Interested high school and junior college prospects, along with their families, will be closely watching what happens at Ole Miss this season.
With some incoming freshmen having not lost more than a game or two in their entire high school careers, it’ll be extremely interesting to see how they respond to their first loss this season.
The bottom line is that there are players within this class capable of being game changers in 2013.
For that to happen, newcomers must take care of business on and off the field, stay out of trouble and strive to become leaders from day one. As Freeze would say, they must “win the day,” everyday.
If that happens, there’s ample reason to believe one or more players in the class could be the difference in a game or two this fall. In fact, they could be the difference between nine or 10 wins.