Ole Miss inks six commits, adds ‘steal’ in Tylan Knight on National Signing Day

Published 6:03 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2018

National Signing Day was a relatively quiet one for Ole Miss this year.

The Rebels wrapped up their 2018 recruiting class Wednesday with just one new addition. Ole Miss signed all six of its commitments that waited until the traditional signing period to ink their National Letters of Intent, officially adding to the 14 players that signed with the Rebels during December’s early period.

Ole Miss missed on most of the uncommitted prospects it was in the mix for Wednesday but landed a signature from Pearl athlete Tylan Knight, who flipped from Louisiana after receiving an offer from the Rebels late last week.

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Still, Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said he liked the way the Rebels closed considering Ole Miss’ class was outside the top 60 nationally in the 247Sports composite rankings before the early signing period. As of late Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss’ 21-member class sits at No. 30 in the 247Sports composite.

“Any time that you start where we started and end up around the top 25 in the recruiting rankings, that’s just a credit to the (coaching) staff and the job they were able to do,” Luke said.

Defense was the emphasis with Ole Miss signing six defensive linemen, five linebackers and three defensive backs. Arizona Western four-star defensive tackle Noah Jefferson, a former USC signee, officially joined the fold Wednesday after committing to the Rebels last week as did Lee High (Montgomery, Alabama) three-star linebacker Kevontae’ Ruggs and Brentwood Academy (Tennessee) three-star linebacker Luke Knox, who will join his brother, tight end Dawson Knox, in Oxford. Ruggs’ teammate, three-star cornerback and long-time commit JaKorey Hawkins, also signed.

Cypress Creek (Texas) four-star receiver Miles Battles followed through on his commitment and inked with the Rebels on Wednesday, joining early signees Demarcus Gregory and Elijah Moore to give Ole Miss a trio of four-star wideouts in the class.

Ole Miss’ highest-ranked signee, U.S. Army All-American quarterback Matt Corral, will enroll early and add immediate depth and competition at the position. Corral will be one of just three full-time scholarship quarterbacks on the roster this spring following Shea Patterson’s decision to transfer to Michigan.

Luke said junior college running back Scottie Phillips, another early signee, is a prime candidate to contribute immediately with Ole Miss having to replace 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Wilkins and also losing Eugene Brazley. He’ll add depth to a backfield that consists of D’Vaughn Pennamon, Eric Swinney, DK Buford and Isaiah Woullard, who grayshirted last season.

“That was a big need for us,” Luke said.

One position that still needs to be addressed is the offensive line with Chamblee Charter (Georgia) three-star guard Hamilton Hall being the only lineman to sign with the Rebels. With Rod Taylor out of eligibility and Greg Little possibly bolting early for the NFL after next season, Luke said tackle will be a focus of a large offensive line class in 2019.

“I think we’ll probably end up signing five next year,” Luke said. “Potentially four depending on how it goes, but four or five for sure next year.”

As for Knight, Luke called the 5-foot-7, 170-pounder “probably the steal of the class” with his production and versatility. Knight was a two-way standout for Pearl last season, finishing with 117 tackles and accounting for 14 touchdowns (13 offensive, one defensive). He earned co-MVP honors at the annual Mississippi-Alabama All-Star Game after recording five tackles, three tackles for loss and an interception.

Luke said he’s already had discussions with his coaching staff about lining Knight up at corner, running back, receiver and in the return game.

“We had a lot of discussions in our staff meeting similar to what we did when we had Dexter McCluster,” Luke said. “This kid I think is a dynamic player, and I’m really excited about him.

“We got him on the bus. Now we’ve just got to find the right seat.”

Transferring in?

Luke said he’s hoping to bring in “a couple” of graduate transfers at positions of need to help immediately.

One of those is former Cal offensive lineman Dwayne Wallace, who announced his commitment to Ole Miss with a post to his Twitter account Wednesday. Wallace, who has one season of eligibility remaining, was not included among Ole Miss’ list of signees Wednesday.

The 6-4, 350-pound Wallace played in 12 games with nine starts at right guard for Cal in 2016 but was not associated with the Bears’ football program last season.

Missing out

Ole Miss was in the mix for Park Crossing (Montgomery, Alabama) four-star guard Tank Jenkins, but the 6-3, 325-pounder signed with Texas A&M.

Jenkins was just one of a handful of uncommitted targets the Rebels missed out on Wednesday.

Olive Branch three-star defensive lineman Fabian Lovett signed with Mississippi State, Clemens (Texas) four-star receiver Tommy Bush inked with Georgia, Conway (South Carolina) three-star linebacker Jaylen Moody took Alabama up on its late offer, Stockbridge (Georgia) four-star athlete Marquez Ezzard chose Miami, and McDonogh (Louisiana) three-star safety Joseph Foucha picked Arkansas.

Union County (Florida) three-star running back Charles Strong, the last Ole Miss target to make his decision, inked with Texas A&M early Wednesday night.