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Matt Luke discusses 25 new signees, what is left in February to round out Ole Miss’ 2019 class

Ole Miss did the bulk of its work in filling out its 2019 recruiting class during Wednesday’s early signing day.

The Rebels signed 25 players in a class that featured seven offensive linemen, five defensive backs, four linebackers, four wide receivers, two defensive linemen and two quarterbacks.

“I felt like we were able to address a lot of needs,” head coach Matt Luke said. “I thought we filled needs at every position and did a good job getting some junior college guys in here as well.

“We signed 25 kids, 16 of them from the state Mississippi. We all knew the 2019 class was really good, but to sign 16 guys from the state of Mississippi, I am really proud of that. There are a lot of really quality young men in this class. I am excited about it. I think it is a huge part of rebuilding this program.”

(Ole Miss full list of signees can be found here)

It’s a class that in some ways— fairly or not — will likely be remembered for who did not sign. Ole Miss missed on Horn Lake products Nakobe Dean (Georgia) and Raydarious Jones (LSU). Dean was the top ranked player in the state and happens to play atOle Miss’ most dire position of need: linebacker. Lafayette High School product Brandon Turnage picked Alabama and Gulfport defensive end Derick Hall picked Auburn. Of the top 10 players in the state of Mississippi per 247Sports’ state composite rankings, the Rebels signed two of the top 10 players in the state: Sumrall wide receiver Dannis Jackson and Jackson Prep running back Jerrion Ealy. In Ealy’s case, many think he will choose to play professional baseball upon being selected in the MLB draft this summer.

“You don’t want to focus on the guys you didn’t get,” Luke said. “Really, one or two players don’t define a class. This is another top 20 recruiting class with a lot of great players. Obviously, those guys are good players too and will have great careers. But we are going to focus on the guys that are here and that is how we are going to build this program.”

This class is hovering around the top 25 by most sites who rank such things. The Rebels sit at 23rd in 247’s and Rivals’ rankings, and 20th in ESPN’s rankings. It sits as the 10th best in the SEC. To call it a disaster would be dramatic and inaccurate, but to call it underwhelming would be fair. There are some good players in this class but Ole Miss didn’t close well. Striking out with both Horn Lake kids and not being able to flip  Turnage in their own back yard are crucial missed opportunities.  Ole Miss is finally has its NCAA troubles in the rearview mirror, but struggled to use this class as a springboard toward building momentum.

In terms of sheer numbers and adding depth, Ole Miss did fulfill some needs with this class. It signed seven offensive linemen after waving goodbye to the likes of Javon Patterson, Sean Rawlings and Greg Little. It signed four linebackers — a position that has been the program’s weakest link for three years now.

“We’ve got some young linebackers in Sanogo and Jacquez Jones,” Luke said. “I think that is a building block, but heading into February I think you can look for us to go sign a junior college linebacker or a guy that can come in here and compete with those guys.”

It signed four wide receivers as D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and Damarkus Lodge depart the program and signed two quarterbacks to pad depth at Matt Corral. 

“We did a very good job at signing receivers to come in and replace the guys who left,” Luke said. “You take Drummond, who is a first-team All-American junior college receiver who can come in and help immediately. Dannis is a very dynamic player. He’ll have a role early, just because of his speed and explosiveness—punt returning, kick returning, speed sweeps, receiver—he can do a lot of different things. He’s definitely one of the top receivers in the state and in the country for this class. Jadon same thing. He’s a very fast guy, very long, very good receiver.”

As previously mentioned, the bulk of Ole Miss’ work has already been done. It is still expecting Ealy, Brandon wide receiver Jonathan Mingo and offensive lineman Caleb Etienne out of New Orleans to all sign in February. Whether Ealy ever sets foot on campus remains to be seen. The Rebels intend to sign 30-32 players in this class and will be able to pinpoint more specific needs over the next six weeks with the remaining spots available.

“I think we probably have two spots on the D-line, one at linebacker, that’ll be important. You probably want to look at one more receiver and one more running back. But the two spots on the D-line and the spot at linebacker are critical,” Luke said. “That’s the good thing about this early signing period, now you can focus in and lock in and go get those guys.”

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