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Ole Miss 2017 Recruiting Class Finishes Strong – National Signing Day 2017 Wrap-Up

Photo courtesy of Bill Barksdale

Everyone had an opinion on how National Signing Day would go for the Rebels with the NCAA investigation continuing to cloud the program in uncertainty. Stars and rankings will fluctuate depending on the source, but the bottom line is the Ole Miss Rebels got better today. 
The 2016 season ended without a trip to a bowl game, and head coach Hugh Freeze’s staff needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. As the 2017 class takes shape, the focus was clear. The rebuild of the land shark defense is underway, and Freeze knew that the Rebels had areas that needed addressing after the 5-7 finish. 
“I think we addressed a lot of needs that we have. I think that’s what signing day should always be about, there will always be a lot of great players, but you need to address the need that you have, and we certainly did that,” Freeze said during his press conference earlier today. “Defense was the priority of the class, to get it fixed.” 
The linebacking core for the Rebels in 2016 was a concern, and 4-star LB Breon Dixon leads the way for young players who will come in with a chance to see the field in 2017. Dixon enrolled early along with several others including ILB Brenden Williams from Northeast Mississippi Community College. The Rebels first commitment of the day was made by Mohamed Sanogo, a 6-2, 239-pound ILB from Plano, Texas. OLB Josh Clarke also sent his letter of intent to Ole Miss and became the third linebacker of the Rebels class. Last to sign with the Rebels was ILB Zikerrion Baker, and at 6-1, 210 pounds, he may be able to play both inside and outside linebacker for Wesley McGriff. 
This young group will have a chance to learn from returning seniors Marquis Haynes and Demarcus Gates, but will also be expected to play key snaps for the Rebel defense. Freeze mentioned that “time will tell” while talking about his new linebackers, but that he believes they picked up “quality individuals.” The Rebels were unable to stop the run last year, as teams were able to wear down the Ole Miss defense as games progressed. A revamped linebacking core will go a long way in getting the defense off the field, and in giving the ball back to the Rebel offense. The Rebels did miss out of the state’s number one LB, Willie Gay who ended up committing to Mississippi State. Gay de-committed from the Rebels in October of 2016. 
When Kendarius Webster went down in the first game of the 2016 season, it exposed a lack of depth in the defensive backfield. The Das were constantly shuffled, and freshmen were asked to step up, and the Rebels defense was constantly exposed. The Rebels did their best to help sure up that spot by bringing in a plethora of talent as they attempt to add depth. Incoming CBs C.J. Miller and Javien Hamilton will likely sit behind upperclassmen, but in seasons past we’ve learned that the next man must always be ready. Kam White and AJ Harris also sent their LOIs to Oxford to round out the Rebels defensive backfield. Another key singing for the Rebels, was D.D. Bowie. Bowie was recruted by many as a wide reciever, but it appears he will potentialy see time on the defensicve side of the ball as well. 
On the defensive line, early enrollees Ryder Anderson and Markel Winters provided a solid foundation which the Rebels built on throughout National Signing Day. Sincere David will bring 300 pounds to the line and will provide a body in the middle to free up some of those linebackers to step up and make plays at the line of scrimmage. The Rebels also picked up a late commitment from DE Chester Graves. Graves is a 6-4, 220-pound pass rusher has the chance to make an immediate impact on the defensive line if he doesn’t head to JUCO for a season which is a possibility, according to Ben Garrett of the Ole Miss Spirit. 
While the offensive side of the ball wasn’t the main priority, Freeze was able to put together a solid addition to what has the chance to be a prolific offense in 2017. Surprise commits like Braylon Sanders, and JaVonta Payton will help bolster what is already a deep WR group with AJ Brown, a healthy D.K Metcalf, Van Jefferson and more. Depth on the O-line will always be a concern, and the Rebels flipped Taekion Reed from Mississippi State and brought in Under Armor All-American OT Tony Gray. Also joining the Rebels 2017 class is Ben Brown, who will become the 7th member of his family to play for the Rebels. 
Running back has been a question mark for many Rebel fans after missing out on the state’s #1 back Cam Akers. While Isiah Woullard’s name may not hold the same caché, the all-time leading rusher in Mississippi high school history sounds like he’s ready to put in the work necessary to succeed. 

This class many not be the best of Hugh Freeze’s tenure, but how soon people forget what last year’s class holds in store for 2017. A year of maturation goes a long way for a true freshman QB like Shea Patterson. Adjusting to the speed of the SEC may take a year for guys like Benito Jones and Greg Little. The players in this class will have the chance to make their contributions felt on both sides of the ball in supporting roles, and coupled with an imense amount of tlane from the 2016 class, the Rebels are in a great spot. The NCAA investigation may have hurt this class, but make not mistake, Ole Miss football’s future is bright just beyond the clouds of the program’s dark days of the 2016 season as we look ahead to 2017. 
The Rebels entire recruiting class can be seen below courtesy of 247sports.com. The Rebels class is currently ranked 33rd by the site. 

Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at steven.gagliano@hottytoddy.com
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