Fans Expect Rebels To Convert Dazzling Class Into Wins
Casual college football fans were shocked in February when they opened their internet browser tabs and saw that Ole Miss had reeled in a top-five recruiting class. Critics immediately accused Ole Miss of cheating and started joking about a future of vacated wins. Meanwhile, head coach Hugh Freeze was on TV, wearing a navy blue polo, and grinning from ear to ear. He knew there hadn’t been this much buzz around Oxford since Eli Manning was on campus.
Rarely does a team starving for depth and playmakers bring in a haul of recruits this talented. The top high school players normally go to the best programs, leaving fans to speculate about their impact for a few seasons before seeing them actually play. This is not the case with Ole Miss. These super freshmen are joining a team with open competitions all across the depth chart. The top of the Rebels' 2013 recruiting class will get a chance to back the hype.
Laremy Tunsil has the one thing that makes every offensive line coach drool: NFL size. Tunsil (6-foot-6, 295 pounds) looks to be a mauler in the trenches right away. He was rated as the top tackle in the 2013 class and looks to play this season.
Talented college linemen usually find themselves on the bench as they grow into their frames. Adjusting to their bodies usually is the issue rather than a lack of talent. Size is obviously not a concern for Tunsil and he should transition to SEC football rather smoothly.
Apart from the size and talent of this freshman, Tunsil is also joining an injured unit. Injuries have hampered the Ole Miss offensive line throughout spring practice. Both guards and the right tackle have watched from the Gatorade coolers, giving Tunsil a lot of reps and giving the Rebels' coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate whether Tunsil can start immediately.
"I expect Laremy (Tunsil) ... to play," Freeze said after a recent morning practice.
The five-star recruits garnered most of the media attention, but wide receiver Laquon Treadwell might be the most noteworthy Rebel freshman by the end of the season. Like Tunsil, Treadwell has been seeing more reps than usual due to the various injuries to Ole Miss receivers. Currently standing as the fourth receiver, Treadwell might seem like a long shot to play this year. However, the gap between WR2 and WR4 on the Rebels' roster is tiny. In fact, it won’t be surprising if Treadwell locks down a starting position before the fall semester begins.
Apart from the opportunity, Treadwell has the size and talent to produce right away. Treadwell (6-foot-3 195 pounds) has 4.4 speed that will fit in well with the SEC. Rebel fans are excited about Treadwell’s upside because he has the build to play over the middle but is also a legitimate deep threat in the passing game.
Treadwell is a perfect fit in the Rebels' upcoming offense. Ole Miss is returning talented sophomore wide receiver Donte Moncrief and strong-armed junior quarterback Bo Wallace. Moncrief will insure that Treadwell won’t see double coverage, and Wallace can put the ball downfield for Treadwell to simply run under. This trio, in Freeze’s up-tempo system, could resemble the 1980s Oakland Raiders. The potential of the Rebels' vertical passing game must have Al Davis crying tears of joy from beyond the grave.
No analysis of Ole Miss’ freshmen class would be complete without discussing Robert Nkemdiche. Several respected analysts ranked Nkemdiche as the No. 1 overall recruit, comparing him to Jadeveon Clowney. While Nkemdiche (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) is a step slower than Clowney (running a reported 4.7 to 4.5, respectively), they have similar size and Rebels fans hope that Nkemdiche will have a similar impact on the program.
Ole Miss already has a talented defensive line and will have to shuffle some players to find room for Nkemdiche, but that is a problem that any program would love to have. Nkemdiche is a player that grades off the charts and his talent will demand playing time this season.
Fans in Oxford are hoping that the addition of Nkemdiche will drastically improve the Rebels’ 60th ranked scoring defense from last year, and propel them into the SEC West conversation. The SEC West looks to be competitive as always this year, but this recruiting class could change the DNA of this team. No other team has upgraded their talent in areas of need like Ole Miss did this offseason. Now, everyone will be looking for results in the win column.