When Hugh Freeze stepped onto the podium to address the media on Wednesday, he did so with a smile. The fifth-year head coach had just compiled another unprecedented recruiting class, ranked fourth nationally by ESPN.
“I don’t know if our staff has ever done a better job of developing relationships that can withstand the onslaught of difficult things that are thrown at you through the course of recruiting,” Freeze said. “We feel like, top to bottom, it’s the best class we’ve had— and we’ve had some good ones.”
Ole Miss signed 24 players in the 2016 recruiting class, including the nation’s top quarterback and offensive tackle in the country. Eight of the 24 were early enrollees and are already on campus.
“If you’re going to put together a championship class, I think you always start at quarterback,” Freeze said. “And obviously, we feel like we have the best one in the nation in Shea Patterson. I love everything about that kid.”
The Rebels addressed a number of weaknesses across the board in this 2016 class, including at running back. Ole Miss added four star D’Vaughn Pennamon out of Manvel, Texas. They also added three-star Jarrion Street of Trussville, Alabama. Street was the 7A player of the year in the state of Alabama.
“Two guys that are really athletic. Pennamon is a big, strong kid and Jarrion, a more athletic kid,” Freeze said of the two backs. “We had to fight off schools at the end with both of them. They’re quality kids.”
The Rebels were thin on the offensive line in 2015, and there were holes that needed to be filled. Ole Miss did just that as it signed five offensive linemen, including the nation’s top offensive line prospect in Greg Little.
“Many are saying it may be the best in the nation as a unit,” Freeze said of the group. “I know we are very pleased. We think these kids and families fit ideally with who we are.”
With the departure of Laremy Tunsil, perhaps the most gaping hole was at left tackle, but Freeze and Matt Luke found a more-than-capable replacement in Little.
“With us losing Laremy, of course you’re looking for the best available, and we think Greg Little is that,” Freeze said. “We think he has the best feet in America.”
Freeze called the offensive line class, “a home run.”
Another area where the Rebels have hit home runs in the past is at wide receiver, and it was no different in 2016. Ole Miss grabbed three wide receivers, including the top two prospects in the state of Mississippi— D.K. Metcalf and A.J. Brown.
“We continue to put in that room guys that I think are phenomenal,” Freeze said. “The kids that commit to where they want to go, and are loyal, and recruit for you and never waver are kids that you have an extra appreciation for and (Metcalf) was that way for us.”
Brown, a Starkville native, was the biggest steal of the day for Freeze and his staff. They were able to lure him away from Starkville and his hometown university, Mississippi State.
“I really enjoyed the building of that relationship with he and his father Arthur,” Freeze said. “The moment he told me that he grew up wanting to play for Ole Miss, I knew we had a chance.”
If there is one weakness in this class, Freeze thinks it may be on the defensive line and at linebacker.
“I’d probably say in the defensive line or a linebacker or two,” Freeze said when asked about where he might have missed in this class. “We’re battling a lot of good places, and they’ve got a lot of good options.”
All in all, it was the strongest class in program history, and Freeze feels he has established a confident way to go about recruiting.
“I think we can go nationally and win our share. We’ll continue to do it. Ole Miss is a great place,” Freeze said. “If you get people here, they’ll want to come back.”