July 21, 2010

McCready: Buliding blocks for Rebs' 2011 class

Ole Miss won't be changing its on-campus speed limit from 18 to 17 anytime soon.

July 17 won't become a university-wide holiday.

There will even be some Rebel fans, those who fervently held out hope that Saturday would result in a cavalcade of commitments, who will head back to work Monday morning a bit disappointed.

They shouldn't be upset, however. Not in the least. Instead, they should celebrate, for Saturday was a banner day for Ole Miss' football program.

The Rebels picked up verbal commitments from four-star wide receiver Donte Moncrief, three-star wide receiver T.J. Worthy and three-star quarterback Maikhail Miller.

Moncrief is a difference-maker, a rare athlete who projects on both sides of the football but who should help immediately at wide receiver, a position of great need on the Ole Miss roster. Worthy, while not as fast or explosive as Moncrief, is a smooth route-runner with excellent hands. Miller has a thunderbolt for a right arm. He can touch 90 miles per hour with a fastball, and while still a bit raw on the gridiron, he can make every throw. No one should be surprised if he's a Southeastern Conference starter in two or three years.

Both Moncrief and Miller are Mississippians, joining Chevarlez Brown and Cody Prewitt as Ole Miss commitments from the Magnolia State. The importance of that fact can't be overstated, as third-year Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and his staff have clearly made in-roads in Mississippi that are now paying off on the recruiting trail.

Rivals.com charts heights, weights, 40-yard dash times and assorted football stats. Rivals.com can't rank character, but if it could, all three of the Rebels' new commitments would score quite highly in that category. The trio became friends during the recruiting process, and acknowledged during conversations with this reporter that they saw a little of themselves in each other. That led to bonds being built and made it easier for all three to pull the trigger on early decisions.

None of the three are going to shut down their cell phones or Facebook.com accounts now that they've committed. Instead, they're going to become Rebel recruiters, something they had already begun privately in recent weeks. The impact of positive peer pressure on other top prospects likely can't be precisely measured.

There were rumors and rumblings over the past month or so that Saturday was going to bring an even bigger haul of commitments to Ole Miss. There were rumors that Batesville, Miss., four-star wide receiver Nickalos Brassell and Madison, Miss., four-star wide receiver Tobias Singleton were going to commit to Ole Miss with Moncrief.

Brassell admitted he gave an early commitment strong consideration before deciding to take some visits first. The feeling here and in other camps is Brassell will make a verbal commitment to his school of choice at the U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio in January. That he was close to pulling the trigger for the Rebels has to be considered a plus for Ole Miss. Singleton isn't talking recruiting, at least not to reporters, but he's grown close to Moncrief and Brassell, and that should be encouraging to Ole Miss fans.

Tupelo, Miss., three-star defensive lineman P.J. Jones said earlier this week he was considering giving Ole Miss a commitment this weekend. He didn't, but the Rebels are clearly in very good shape. The same holds for Moncrief's teammate and cousin, defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton. Hamilton couldn't make the trip to Ole Miss Saturday, but Moncrief's presence on the Rebels' commitment list _ and the fact that Ole Miss was the first to offer a scholarship _ is going to be a plus in their battle against Mississippi State for his signature.

There were even rumors that Mississippi State commitment/Greenwood, Miss., four-star cornerback Jermaine Whitehead would flip to Ole Miss this weekend. The feeling here is those rumors were never well-founded. Whitehead didn't make the trip to Oxford, in part because of a death in his extended family. However, his public comments last week to RebelGrove.com and the Clarion-Ledger revealed his thoughts: If Ole Miss lands a majority of the state's prep talent in February, he'll sign with Nutt and Co. as well.

The drama of this recruiting season wasn't going to end Saturday no matter what. There are plenty of twists and turns remaining, in addition to a football season and the inevitable changes that will occur on the college football landscape. Prospects such as Brassell, Singleton, Jones, Hamilton, Whitehead and others won't be surrendered without a fight.

Still, Saturday was a huge day for Ole Miss, one that will serve as a building block for the rest of the 2011 signing class.

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