Alabama. Ohio State. Michigan. Florida. Notre Dame. Mississippi?
Ole Miss muscled in on the powerhouses that usually dominate national signing day, landing some of the most sought-after prospects in the country on college footballs annual first-Wednesday-in-February frenzy.
The Rebels, coming off a promising 7-6 season in their first season under coach Hugh Freeze, had the experts swooning by signing three of the bluest chips still on the board and building a well-rounded class otherwise.
The day started with defensive end Robert Nkemdiche from Loganville, Ga., rated the No. 1 recruit in the country by just about everyone, deciding to join his brother Denzel in Oxford, Miss.
I feel like its the right place for me, Nkemdiche said after slipping on a red Ole Miss cap. I feel like they can do special things and theyre on the rise. I feel like going to play with my brother, we can do something special.
Nkemdiche originally committed to Clemson last year, then backed off that and narrowed his picks down to LSU, Florida and Mississippi – and the Rebels beat the big boys.
They werent done. Coaches in the Ole Miss war room were exchanging hugs and high-fives again a couple hours later when Laremy Tunsil, a top-rated offensive tackle from Lake City, Fla., picked the Rebels over Florida State and Georgia.
Tunsil to Ole Miss I think was the biggest surprise of the whole (recruiting season), said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports.com.
And, as if the Ole Miss needed more good news, highly touted defensive back Antonio Conner from nearby Batesville, Miss., chose the Rebels over national champion Alabama.
The end result was a class good enough to even catch the attention of LeBron James.
Ole Miss aint messing around today! Big time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy, the NBAs MVP posted on his Twitter account.
Crazy good. While the Rebels racked up, its important to remember they still have plenty of ground to gain on the rest of their conference competition.
Nick Saban reloaded the Crimson Tide with a class that Rivals.com ranked No. 1 in the country.
SEC powers Florida, LSU and Georgia pulled in typically impressive classes. SEC newcomer Texas A&M cracked the top 10 of several rankings. Even Vanderbilt, coming off a nine-win season, broke into the top 25.
Its the cycle of life in the SEC, which has won seven straight BCS championships. Stock up on signing day and scoop up those crystal footballs at seasons end.
Some flips on USC
Signing day didnt do much to soothe the scars left from a difficult season for Southern California.
NCAA sanctions limited the number of scholarships coach Lane Kiffin and the Trojans could hand out this year, and then as signing day approached USC had several players who had given verbal commitments change their minds.
The most notable defection on signing day was five-star defensive back Jalen Ramsey of Brentwood, Tenn., who flipped to Florida State.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher from Louisville, Ky., bailed on USC and signed with Kentucky, and defensive end Torrodney Prevot from Houston not only reneged on his USC commitment, but he landed at Pac-12 rival Oregon.
People expected (Prevot) to flip from USC, but they thought it would be to Texas A&M, Shurburtt said.
USCs class wont be lacking blue chippers. Quarterback Max Browne from Washington is considered the next in a long line of topflight Trojans quarterbacks, and Kenny Bigelow from Maryland is rated among the best defensive linemen in the nation.
Kiffin will be banking on quality to make up for the lack of quantity, but thats a precarious way to play the recruiting game.
If momma’s unhappy ...
Alex Collins, a top running back prospect out of Plantation, Fla., announced Monday night that he was going to Arkansas instead of Miami.
It was considered a huge victory for new Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema.
But on Wednesday morning, when it was time to make it official, Collins letter of intent didnt come spinning through the fax machine in Fayetteville, Ark.
There were some odd reports about Collins mother not being happy with her sons decision to go so far from home.
College coaches arent allowed to talk about specific players before they sign, but Bielema did acknowledge during his signing day news conference that Arkansas class of 22 players could grow by one.
Baseball or football?
Oklahoma hopes it has found the next Sam Bradford in Cody Thomas, a pocket passer from Colleyville, Texas.
One small problem.
Thomas is also a big-time baseball player who could draw interest in the major league draft this summer.
We wouldnt have pursued him if we didnt feel there was a great chance hed be playing football, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.