Hotty Toddy, Rebel Nation!
I’m so excited to be a gridirongirl writer and I can’t wait to start talkin’ all things Rebel Football!
Ole Miss is a special place, with its lovely architecture, beautiful landscaping, southern hospitality, and famous Grove, but on February 6, 2013 it may have begun a whole new era. This is the day that Rebel Football Coach Hugh Freeze and his staff signed one of the top five recruiting classes in the nation—including the nation’s No. 1 prospect, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche.
In a nutshell, what this ranking means is that enough of the top high school football players in the country decided to commit the next four years of their lives to play for the Rebels, and that the gurus who analyze such things chose this 2013 incoming class as one of the very best.
The Rebels had the eyes of the nation on them on National Signing Day, with ESPN frequently cutting to Oxford to check on the status of the Rebel commits. Why was this so remarkable? Because the Rebels are in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), where the likes of ‘Bama, LSU, Florida, Texas A&M, and Georgia are used to bringing home the big dogs of the high school football world.
But suddenly, Coach Freeze and his staff—a staff that includes National Recruiter of the Year, Chris Kiffin; Rivals.com Top 25 recruiter, Wesley McGriff; and 247Sports.com Top 50 recruiter, Maurice Harris–came from out of nowhere to take the nation’s best football conference by storm. Actually, it wasn’t literally out of nowhere—the Rebel staff logged many tireless months to produce what culminated on Feb. 6. (Note: The New Orleans Saints have hired Coach McGriff away from the Rebels to coach their defensive backs.)
Unfortunately, as is to be expected in the world of big-time college football, there were those out there who questioned how the Rebels could sign such a phenomenal class without being guilty of recruiting violations. In fact, I had about a six-hour long, Facebook-back-and-forth argument with a high school friend of mine who insisted that something “fishy” had to be going on, or why else would the Rebs be signing such talent?
I spent hours trying to explain to this friend what makes Ole Miss so special, and pointed out that Coach Freeze even Tweeted a message to all the haters out there, telling them to contact the Compliance Office at Ole Miss if they had any issues—and to quit disparaging the players and their families with unfounded accusations.
As a side note, I have a little bit of experience in the recruiting arena at Ole Miss. When my daughter Katie committed to play volleyball for Ole Miss, she chose to leave her home in Texas and move 775 miles away to play for the University of Mississippi. She didn’t know a soul there, and when the coach who recruited her was fired the very next day after she signed her NCAA National Letter of Intent, my daughter still chose to attend Ole Miss. She made the decision that, with or without athletics, Ole Miss was the place for her. She must have been right, as she went on to receive three degrees from the school—including her Doctorate in Pharmacy. (Can I hear a “Hotty Toddy” for that?!)
My point is this….high school athletes choose their collegiate homes for many reasons. They decide if they like the coaches, their future teammates, the school, the location and possibly its proximity to home, and the style of offense or defense the school plays, etc. In the world of Facebook, Twitter, and the internet, there’s no reason a player should ever go into a four-year relationship with a university without understanding almost everything there is to know about the school.
So, it makes sense to this Rebel that the relationships the coaching staff cultivated with the incoming 2013 class of high school players were such that it “felt right” for the players to sign with Ole Miss. And, let’s not forget that success breeds success. When the nation’s top players start making noise that they’ll attend a school, it stands to reason that other top players also stop and take notice. It’s sort of like what happens when one sorority becomes known for having all the gorgeous, popular girls—it makes all the other gorgeous, popular girls want to join them.
So after the Rebels signed their prized recruits, Coach Freeze addressed the media and the Rebel Nation and pointed out what we Rebels already knew: “If you get a kid to campus and have a chance to develop a relationship with him, one, get him to this campus. The same people that are always talking about Oxford, Mississippi, one of the top college towns to live in in the nation, Ole Miss top tailgating town in the nation, safest campus in America, top five year-in, year-out, those same people should understand if you get someone here, you’ve got a chance.”
Freeze went on to explain another little nugget of recruiting info, one that shouldn’t surprise any gridiron girls out there- the importance of “Mom” in the whole process. Case in point, Ole Miss needed all the help it could get to sign standout offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil. It wasn’t just coaches and players who helped draw the Florida native to Oxford. Tunsil’s mother was a huge part of the decision, as Coach Freeze pointed out when he said, “It took every one of our players to get that national guy, but once we got him here on that weekend with all the other national guys, I knew we had a chance, because the mom fell in love with it. If you win the mom in the South, you’ve got a good chance at winning the recruit. Ms. Desiree loved Ole Miss.” Thank goodness for Ms. Desiree!
Likewise, and just as importantly, it didn’t hurt that the mother of the nation’s top recruit, Robert Nkemdiche, also wanted her son to play for the Rebels. Ms. Nkemdiche is a legislator in Nigeria who flies back and forth to the US to see her kids play football. Oh, and Robert’s brother, Mrs. Nkemdiche’s other son Denzel, is an incredible playmaker at linebacker for the Rebels.
Mrs. Nkemdiche was quoted as far back as last fall saying she wanted both her sons to play for the same team. She didn’t want to have to worry about picking which son’s game to attend when college football season rolled around.
Every mother who has ever been faced with choosing between two of her kids who are playing at the same time at different locations, could understand Mrs. Nkemdiche’s point. So as soon as I heard how vocal Robert’s mom was about wanting her son to play for Ole Miss, I knew Coach Freeze and the Rebels were a lock to sign him. Don’t ever underestimate the influence of a mother over her son! Rebels everywhere should be grateful for the legislator from Nigeria and the mom from Florida.
So onto the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will walk Laremy Tunsil, the nation’s top offensive lineman; Laquon Treadwell, the nation’s top receiver; Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s top defensive end and overall number one pick in the country; Austin Golson, the number three ranked tackle in the nation; Tony Connor, the number three ranked safety; and, Lavon Hooks, the nation’s number one junior college player and defensive lineman. A job well done, Coach Freeze and Rebel staff!
These Rebels are indeed rising, and with the incoming class of 2013 and the recruits already committing for 2014, these Rebels are no longer the Johnny-come-lately’s of the SEC West. They’re ready to roll with the big boys. Fins Up and Hotty Toddy, Rebel Fans!