After leading Pearl High School to a perfect 16-0 record and a Mississippi 6A state title, Tylan Knight was only a two-star rated athlete heading into Wednesday’s signing day.
However, Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke thinks he may be this year’s biggest surprise, even being the lowest-rated signee in the 2018 class.
The 5-foot-7, 170-pound dynamo played on both sides of the ball in high school and oozes electricity. Totaling 2,742 all-purpose yards and 25 touchdowns in his four years, Knight took snaps at quarterback, running back and in the slot as a receiver on offense and accumulated 117 tackles as a senior defensive back.
“The steal of the class is Tylan Knight,” Luke said. “Everywhere I went in Mississippi, people said, ‘This is the best player in the state. If we picked the Mississippi/Alabama game over again, this kid would be picked first.’”
The No. 68 player in the state may not jump off of the page with his measurables or big-time offers, but his raw talent shines through the minute he steps foot on the field and on the film.
Originally having committed to Louisiana at Lafayette, Luke visited the Knight household last Thursday and made his pitch. Knight did not deny that it was going to take some convincing to flip him from ULL, upset that Ole Miss had not offered him earlier. As a result, the staff rushed him in to visit Oxford over the weekend, and the rest is history – Knight signed Wednesday.
“State champion, MVP of the Mississippi/Alabama football game, he’s just a kid I’m very, very excited about,” Luke said.
Knight, who played all over the field throughout his high school career, comes with a sense of positive uncertainty surrounding his position flexibility, and he leaves the coaches scratching their heads on where to play him – in the best way.
“Tylan is a versatile athlete that reminds me of Jaylen Walton with his skill set,” running backs coach Derrick Nix said. “He is able to run the ball on the outside on the perimeter, catch the ball out of the backfield and line up as a receiver.”
Going so far as to compare him to former Rebel running back Dexter McCluster, Luke said he believes he will be an immediate factor no matter which position he is best suited.
“We’ve looked at him at nickel, at returner, at running back, maybe at some slot,” he said. “I think he’s very versatile, but for his size, he is really physical.”
Venturing away from the style of athlete Ole Miss has brought in previously, Knight moves away from the big, physical receiver who can win the one-on-one ball and brings an element of slipperiness, with a low center of gravity. As a change-of-direction guy, his ability to make defenders miss in a phone booth will provide a new dimension that offensive coordinator Phil Longo has not had in Oxford.
“In the return game, potentially some speed sweeps, some shorter sweeps, let (him) get the ball up the field,” Luke said about how to utilize the Pearl native. “And obviously, the return game is now a chance for a big play, not just a fair catch all the time.”
No matter where on the gridiron Knight ends up, his presence will be felt.
“The kid can play,” Luke said. “We’ve got him on the bus. Now we’ve just got to find the right seat.”