Ole Miss Football Inks Top 20 Class on Early Signing Day
Published 7:00 am Friday, December 18, 2020
OXFORD, Miss. – The first full recruiting class of the Lane Kiffin era is off to a strong start as the Ole Miss football team inked 22 signees for the Class of 2021 and closed the day at No. 18 in the 247Sports Composite team rankings.
As it stands, the Rebels boast 13 signees with a four-star rating and nine three-star prospects according to the national recruiting services. Of the 22 total signees, 16 are mid-year enrollees and will get a head start on their careers in Oxford in the coming weeks.
“I think it’s a really good class,” Kiffin said. “We have to remember where we’re at with COVID issues. I’ve said when that happened and these dead periods, the bigger schools that have been winning over the last few years, I think that was going to help them. If kids can’t go visit places, it’s hard to win them over. Kids not coming here, which is one of the strong points here—the gameday environment, the pregame, the town, the university. Just made the most of the situation we’re in. With that being said, to sign a top-20 class, you have to give a lot of credit to our recruiting people and our assistant coaches.”
The day began with a pair of signees on the defensive front with JJ Hawkins and Taleeq Robbins inking in red and blue. Demarcus Smith joined later on, along with two junior college D-linemen, Jamond Gordon and Isaiah Iton, formulating a strong group of signees up front that Kiffin and Co. hope will only improve in February.
“The really good part is 16 mid-years,” Kiffin said. “We know we need defensive help. We knew we needed to sign defensive players, especially defensive line and secondary. Of the 13 defensive players, so far 11 of those guys are mid-years, which is huge. If we need guys to help next year, them being here next month, some of them even being here next week for bowl practices, will be huge.”
Defensive back was another clear point of emphasis for this Rebel class. Ole Miss felt good about its standing in the secondary going into the day, and verbal commits Trey Washington, Kyndrich Breedlove, Dink Jackson, Tysheem Johnson, Demarko Williams and Elijah Sabbatini all made it official.
The Rebels also added two more names to the defensive backfield in four-star prospects Markevious Brown and MJ Daniels. Daniels entered the day verbally committed to Mississippi State, marking a massive signing day flip for Kiffin and his staff. The Rebel defensive staff showed this season that they will shuffle defensive backs through multiple roles on in the secondary, and this latest crop checks that versatility box as well.
“It just helps the coordinator that he can play a lot of different things and disguise things,” Kiffin said. “The more athletic players you can get, the better. We’ve always tried to even find quarterbacks who might be a DB so they have really good field awareness to play all the different spots.”
Ole Miss also stocked the shelves on the offensive side, highlighted by a Starkville, Mississippi, product in quarterback Luke Altmyer. The four-star signal-caller was previously committed to Florida State but verbally flipped two weeks ago. Once the Under Armour All-American was on board, the momentum picked up considerably for the Rebel class.
“I think he has special talent. I think he’s a natural leader. Really good family. Good feet, quick release, good arm-angle throws. Just really excited about him,” Kiffin said. “I think you could see some of his leadership in the way that he recruited. People say, ‘What was the turn in recruiting?’ I think one was on-field performance…and I think the second thing was Luke turning. It became the cool thing to do and he helped recruit these guys too.”
Kiffin’s staff also secured an excellent crop of receivers and maintained the pipeline of outstanding tight ends coming through the program. Receivers Bralon Brown, JJ Henry and Brandon Buckhaulter, as well as one of the nation’s most coveted tight ends, Hudson Wolfe, will look to continue the tradition of top-flight playmakers in Oxford.
Those playmakers will have some excellent protection up front, as the Rebel staff inked three offensive line prospects—Micah Pettus, Cedrick Nicely and Jayden Williams—who will bring size, athleticism and tenacity to the O-line room.
Finally, Ole Miss signed one of the nation’s top kickers, Caden Costa. While some schools are hesitant to use a coveted scholarship spot on a specialist, Kiffin and Co. had no qualms about offering the highly touted kicker out of Mandeville, Louisiana, who earned a 4.5-star rating from Chris Sailer Kicking.
“Chris Sailer, the other people that work with the kids raved about him,” Kiffin said. “I think he won a lot of areas in the kicking camp they had—they had him No. 1 in a number of areas. I’ve always said, if you find a special one, put him on scholarship. Everybody wants to do the walk-on thing, and that sounds great until you’re at the end of the game and you lose the game for wide-right.”
With 22 new Rebels officially in the fold, Ole Miss still anticipates another announcement in the early signing period. After that, Kiffin and Co. will go back to work filling the final few spots in the class during February’s late signing period.