Ole Miss Football Inks 21, Notches Unanimous Top-25 Class on Early Signing Day

Published 11:24 am Thursday, December 21, 2023

By Ole Miss Athletics

Ole Miss football welcomed 21 new high school and junior college prospects on Wednesday’s early signing day, pushing the Rebels to a unanimous top-25 class by all four major recruiting services.

Ole Miss accepted national letters of intent from 17 high school signees and four junior college additions. In total, the Rebels will welcome in one five-star signee in DL Kam Franklin (Lake Cormorant, Miss./Lake Cormorant HS), 13 four-stars and seven three-star prospects. All four JUCO signees rank within the national top-10, including the No. 1 rated JUCO prospect by Rivals and On3, WR Deion Smith (Jackson, Miss./Holmes CC). Ole Miss will also add six from the ESPN300 and five who received at least one top-150 ranking from any of the major services – topped out by Franklin’s No. 17 overall rank by Rivals.

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As a team, Ole Miss holds a top ranking of No. 17 from Rivals, a No. 19 ranking from both ESPN and On3, and a No. 21 slot by 247Sports.

“Today was an exciting day,” said Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin. “Lots of things going on between practicing for a major bowl and having Signing Day on the same day. I’m excited for so many players around the country that achieve their dream of making a college decision today. It’s always a special day for all of them and their families. We’re excited about the guys that are coming here. I want to credit our staff, really our whole building, for putting a lot of work into these high school, portal, and junior college players. To be able to put this many guys together takes a lot of work by a lot of people. I’m very grateful to all those that helped around here. Our staff put together, what I think, collection-wise, would easily be our best class we’ve signed since we’ve been here.”

The Rebels once again did considerable work in the state of Mississippi, signing 11 from the Magnolia State – including five of the top-10 players in the state across all four major services. Franklin and Smith are among the highlights of the new Mississippi signees, as well as unanimous four-stars DL Kamron Beavers (Bay Springs, Miss./Bay Springs HS) and DL William Echoles (Houston, Miss./Houston HS). Other four-star signees from Mississippi include QB AJ Maddox (Hattiesburg, Miss./Oak Grove HS), DL Jeffery Rush (Pascagoula, Miss./Pascagoula HS), WR Noreel White (Moss Point, Miss./St. Martin) and top JUCO linebacker, Raymond Collins (Gulfport, Miss./Jones College).

“There’s combinations of things that go into (recruiting in-state),” Kiffin said. “I think this was a really good year, in-state, of players, especially defensive linemen. I feel like it was the best class of in-state players, high-level players, since we’ve been here.”

Defense was a particular focal point for the Rebels this recruiting cycle, with 12 signees on that side of the ball – highlighted by five key additions along the defensive line. Four of those newcomers on the defensive line – Beavers, Echoles, Franklin and Rush – hail from Mississippi, and are joined in this signing class by three-star addition Cam Clark (Medina, Tenn./South Gibson HS).

“Our whole staff’s done a great job,” Kiffin said. “(Defensive coordinator) Pete (Golding) has always been a relentless recruiter. I think that when you get someone out of Alabama, it’s easier to show that because at Alabama, they just always recruit at a high level, regardless of who’s there, because coach (Saban) does such a great job. Now it’s so easy to recruit because of the amount of draft picks they’ve had. Pete’s been unbelievable. He’s done a really good job of improving our defense on the field and now. He really didn’t have a chance last season because he didn’t have an off-season because of how late he got here. His relationships with players from previous recruiting went a long way too. Like I said, maybe we won’t be very good, but we’ll look really good coming out of the tunnel.”

Five-star addition Franklin highlights those talented new signees as the No. 1 rated player in Mississippi by On3 and Rivals, as well as a consensus top-75 recruit nationally and a unanimous top-20 player at his position – topped by a No. 3 defensive lineman ranking by Rivals. An Under Armour All-American, Franklin was the MHSAA 5A Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-team all-state honoree in 2023 following a 75-tackle senior season that featured seven TFL, four sacks and five pass breakups.

Smith, from Holmes Community College, leads six offensive four-star additions for Ole Miss as a unanimous four-star transfer by all the major outlets and a unanimous top-five JUCO prospect – including a No. 1 ranking by Rivals and On3. At Holmes, Smith was a NJCAA All-American after hauling in 48 passes for 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns. He compiled six games of at least 100 yards receiving, as well as five games with multiple receiving touchdowns.

Prior to Holmes, Smith played five games as a true freshman at LSU in 2021, catching 11 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Coming out of Jackson Academy, Smith was a four-star prospect and the No. 1 ranked high school player in Mississippi.

Other four-star offensive additions included Maddox, White, OL Kavion Broussard (New Iberia, La./Zachary HS), OL John Wayne Oliver (Nashville, Tenn./Christ Presbyterian) and WR Marquis Willis (Atlanta, Ga./Coahoma CC).

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