With early signing period over for Ole Miss, what’s next?

Published 2:50 pm Thursday, December 21, 2017

Considering the circumstances, the early signing period was a success for Ole Miss.

The Rebels’ 2018 recruiting class entered Wednesday ranked last in the Southeastern Conference, according to the 247Sports composite team rankings, with Ole Miss spending much of the past two years recruiting under the cloud of uncertainty when it came to the NCAA’s investigation into the football program. The final ruling came down Dec. 1, leaving less than three weeks for Ole Miss coach Matt Luke and his staff to spread that clarity to recruits and their families.

It apparently worked as Ole Miss may have landed its quarterback of the future in four-star signal caller Matt Corral, flipped four-star receiver Elijah Moore from Georgia and flipped Callaway three-star defensive lineman James Williams from Mississippi State. The Rebels also landed two of their top uncommitted targets in Alabama four-star lineman Jalen Cunningham and three-star junior college linebacker Vernon Dasher, ending the period with 15 signees to catapult to No. 35 in 247Sports’ composite rankings.

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“When you have fear of the unknown, people can say whatever they want to say, but now that everything’s out there, we’ve moved past it and now we’re just moving forward,” Luke said.

The Rebels aren’t done. The traditional signing period begins the first Wednesday in February, so how does Ole Miss plan to go about filling out this year’s class?

Ole Miss is limited to signing 21 players in the 2018 cycle, four fewer than the standard 25-signee cap because of scholarship reductions as part of the NCAA penalties. Yet Luke said the Rebels will look to sign eight or nine more recruits.

That’s because some of them can be counted back to the 2017 class, including running back Isaiah Woullard, who delayed his enrollment until the spring semester as a grayshirt signee in the previous class. More scholarships could open up if more underclassmen transfer or declare early for the NFL Draft.

As for what Ole Miss is specifically looking for to fill out its class, Luke said he’d like to sign at least one more receiver, one or two offensive linemen, another defensive lineman, another linebacker, another defensive back and possibly a tight end. There are also a pair of commits who will wait until February to sign in Meridian High defensive end Deuntra Hyman and Lee High (Montgomery, Alabama) defensive back JaKorey Hawkins.

“You just keep recruiting them,” Luke said. “To me, it’s no different. This is just the guys that committed and signed, and if you got them (during the early signing period), then you focus on the guys that aren’t. You treat them the same, and if you want them, you go after them just like normal. As far as us, it’s going to be business as usual regarding recruiting and going after these guys.”

Having signed more than half of the current class also gives Luke a chance to start peeking ahead to the 2019 class, which is loaded with Mississippi talent. Twelve four-star players in next year’s recruiting cycle call the Magnolia State home, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, with Horn Lake linebacker Nakobe Dean being the headliner.

Ole Miss already has four commitments for 2019 headlined by Jackson Prep four-star running back Jerrion Ealy, the No. 4 prospect in the state and the nation’s No. 90 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings.