When time ran out in the 2017 Egg Bowl, Ole Miss fans finally had a reason to celebrate.
After a long and difficult season, both on and off the field, the Rebels defeated in-state rival Mississippi State in an Egg Bowl win that tasted a little sweeter than usual. In the back of their minds, however, Rebel fans knew that there was still work to be done.
At the time of the Egg Bowl, Ole Miss did not have a permanent head coach. Matt Luke had managed to keep the team together throughout the tumultuous season, but he had done so as interim head coach. Many of the Rebel faithful expected 2017’s Egg Bowl to be Luke’s last hoorah and that a new face would soon emerge and attempt to right the ship after the NCAA’s investigation into Ole Miss’ recruitment tactics.
That didn’t happen.
Luke stayed, the NCAA’s penalties were levied against the football program and it seemed that the nightmare of the last five years was finally over. But the question remained: Could Matt Luke get it done? Would he be a strong enough recruiter and coach to lead the Rebels back to prominence?
While the jury is still out on a few of these questions, Luke took a major step toward silencing his critics Wednesday. Despite the turmoil surrounding the Ole Miss football program for the last few seasons and the NCAA’s punishment, Luke and his staff just finished one of the most impressive recruiting cycles in the school’s history.
Although Ole Miss’ class finished just outside of the top 25, the fact that Luke and his staff were able to land high-profile names and salvage a recruiting class that was ranked in the 60s a few months ago speaks volumes.
Luke’s mantra has been “Mississippi Made” since he took over the program. Luke is a native of Gulfport and played football at Ole Miss in the ‘90s, so he, along with many current and former Rebels, truly is Mississippi-made.
Luke’s appeal to the in-state recruit cannot be ignored. The fact that he possesses a deep love for and connection to this university bodes well for his 2018 class, and once much of the cloud surrounding Ole Miss football has lifted, one can assume the Rebels’ classes will get even better.
Ole Miss may not have had a top-five recruiting class for 2018, but it definitely delivered a message. Though Ole Miss football has been shrouded in uncertainty for years now, with the right Mississippi Made coach in place, recruits don’t seem to mind. Luke knows how to recruit, especially in Mississippi, and how to sell this university to young athletes.
Luke may not have been at his new job long, but if this is any indication of what’s to come, the future is bright in Oxford.