Mississippi Made: Top 2019 class signals recruiting revival

Posted on Apr 11 2018 - 5:56am by Flint Christian

Rebel recruiting is making some noise this spring.

The Ole Miss Rebels suddenly found themselves on top of 247Sports’ 2019 Football Recruiting Team Rankings after a flood of commitments over the Grove Bowl weekend.

Since last Friday alone, five players have committed to the Rebels, including four-star quarterback Grant Tisdale out of Allen, Texas, and four-star athlete Diwun Black from Forest. While it is extremely early to place any definitives on the verbal commitments of high school athletes, the work head coach Matt Luke and his coaching staff have done so far in their first complete recruiting cycle is a massive win for the Rebels.

With the uncertainty of a drawn-out NCAA investigation, the Hugh Freeze scandal and a two-year bowl ban hanging over the program in past years, the recruiting ranking may be a signal that Ole Miss has moved on and is again building toward a brighter future. Luke and his staff ended the season on a high note with an Egg Bowl win, and they continued that momentum by snagging the No. 31 2018 recruiting class despite the bowl ban and Luke’s postseason hire. The No. 1 ranking extends that positive attention even farther, and it shows that many recruits are ready to buy in to what Ole Miss still has to offer.

Matt Luke coaches players from the sidelines during the Grove Bowl on Saturday. Photo by Taylar Teel

One key component of the 2019 class is the “Mississippi Made” mantra Luke and his staff have continued to push. Mississippi boasts an impressive collection of high school football talent, and the state’s small size lends itself to connections and communication between recruits. In the Rebels’ current 2019 class, 12 of the 15 commits are from the state of Mississippi. On Sunday, three-star linebacker Ashanti Cistrunk from Louisville became the latest to join the movement, and the possible implications of the trend of Mississippi athletes staying in state and choosing Ole Miss have to be enticing for Ole Miss fans. Nine of the top 13 recruits in the state remained uncommitted, including four-star linebacker Nakobe Dean, whose athleticism and skill set would fill what has been a consistent need in the middle of the field for the Rebels.

In 2017, the Rebels signed three of the top 20 recruits in Mississippi. In 2018, the Rebels signed two of the top 20. In 2019, the Rebels already have commitments from four.

A.J. Brown catches a pass during the Grove Bowl on Saturday. Photo by Taylar Teel

The success of current Mississippi natives at Ole Miss, such as A.J. Brown, Breeland Speaks, D.K. Metcalf, Benito Jones, Rod Taylor, Javon Patterson and Sean Rawlings, under the tutelage of Luke, a Gulfport native himself, serves as further proof of the in-state potential and inspires confidence in the recruiting staff’s strategy.

Running backs coach Derrick Nix has played a crucial role as a recruiter for the Rebels. Nix currently holds the top spot on 247Sports 2019 Football Recruiter Rankings as he has locked down three commitments in the central Mississippi area. Four-star running back Jerrion Ealy, three-star safety Jay Stanley, and four-star athlete Diwun Black all hail from the area, and Nix’s decade of experience at Ole Miss speaks to a track record of success in recognizing and capitalizing on local talent.

The Rebels will almost certainly fall from the top tier of the recruiting rankings as other schools increase the quantities of their respective classes and more five- and four-star recruits begin to make their decisions. There are also still an entire summer and season to be played before the 2019 recruiting season hits its peak.

However, the No. 1 ranking is a sign the Rebel football program is finally moving in the right direction, back to a place where New Year’s Six Bowls and Alabama upsets are attainable rather than absurd.