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Ole Miss football 2012 recruiting class in perspective

David Collier


Now that National Signing Day has come and gone, recruiting junkies only have one thing left to do: wonder. 

Those wonderers will sit around and ask themselves if Hugh Freeze’s recruiting class was good enough or if it will be something that ruins his career at Ole Miss, much like it did Houston Nutt.

Those wonderers will sit around and think to themselves, what if Ole Miss had landed Lafayette quarterback Jeremy Liggins, who picked LSU over the Rebels, or Long Beach linebacker Richie Brown or even North Pike defensive end A.J. Jefferson, both of whom signed with Mississippi State? What could have been?

To those wonderers, all I have to say is this: relax. Take a deep breath and calm down. 

I realize Ole Miss missed out on a lot of good players, including those listed above, as well as cornerback Sheldon Dawson, running back Justin Taylor and junior college wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. I realize how close Ole Miss was to landing those guys and what a big impact that would have had.

But what many of those wonderers fail to realize is how tough recruiting can be not only in general, but also given the circumstances. 

Freeze was named head coach on Dec. 5, and his full, on-the-field staff was not completed until Jan. 13. That is less than a month to hit the recruiting trail and land these guys, compared to the relationships other coaches around the country have had with them for about two years. 

Just think about who you would trust more – a friend you’ve known for two years or a friend you’ve known for a few weeks? There’s really no comparison.

Secondly, recruiting class rankings are overrated. There are too many factors that determine what kind of player a high schooler is going to be that it can’t be predicted. Does it help to sign the more highly thought-of guys? Of course, but that isn’t everything.

Look at Virginia Tech, for instance. Over the past 10 seasons, their recruiting class has an average ranking of 28.5, according to Rivals.com and 30.3 on Scout.com, but they have managed to average more than 10 wins a season, including five BCS bowl appearances in the same time span.

What about Oklahoma State? They’ve had an average class ranking of 29.75 on Rivals.com and 30.25 on Scout.com over the past four years, but the Cowboys have averaged more than 10 wins a year in those seasons, including a win in the Fiesta Bowl this past season.

So how does Ole Miss stack up to those programs? During the Nutt era, the Rebels had an averaging recruiting class ranking of 20.75, according to Rivals.com and 22.5 on Scout.com, but Ole Miss averaged only six wins a season during that period, including just 2.5 SEC wins a year.

So while I know everyone is thinking this year’s class must be really bad compared to those, it’s not. Those classes had more attrition than most in the country. Nutt was not a bad recruiter by any means. He just didn’t bring in guys that would stick around long enough to make an impact. 

In Nutt’s first class in 2008, 12 high school guys of the 30 players he signed were not on last season’s roster. In 2009, 19 of the 37 were not. In 2010, 10 of the 25 were not. So in Nutt’s first three recruiting classes, 41 high school players of the 92 players he signed left for one reason or another. That is no way to build a program.

It’s common sense to assume that the first year of recruiting isn’t going to be the greatest because it is so hard to build relationships in transition years, but where does Freeze’s first class rank against Nutt’s and Ed Orgeron’s first classes?

Orgeron’s first class was in 2005, and the average star ranking out of five was 2.56 average on Rivals.com and 2.5 average on Scout.com. For Nutt, his first class had a star average of 2.71 on Rivals.com and 2.68 on Scout.com. 

Despite being ranked a lot lower than those classes, Freeze’s class this year had an average star ranking of 2.94, according to Rivals.com and 2.82 on Scout.com.

So before all of you go and panic about a low ranking for the recruiting class, be patient. Everyone knew it would take some time to build this program back up. Just imagine if Freeze can keep these guys on campus for four years. Then, you’re talking about a senior class of Channing Ward, I’tavius Mathers, Issac Gross, Trae Elston, Temario Strong and Jaylen Walton. That alone is an impressive list of seniors who could very well be big-time contributors.

So hang in there, and see what Freeze and this staff can do.