Hugh Freeze’s first football signing class wasn’t big on numbers, but it did include some important players for the future of the program. By the Oxford EAGLE’s press time at 10:15 a.m., Ole Miss received a total of 11 National Letters of Intent from players across the state and region. Four players — quarterback Bo Wallace, defensive back Dehendret Collins, offensive lineman Darone Bailey and offensive lineman Pierce Burton — already signed scholarship papers and are enrolled in the spring semester.
Ole Miss also gained a huge verbal commitment from Oxford, Ala., defensive back Trae Elston (6-foot, 183 pounds, 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash) during a press conference at his school broadcast across the nation on ESPNU.
Elston, who is expected to sign his LOI later today, chose the Rebels over LSU and Oklahoma State. Elston visited Oxford two weeks ago and his commitment and subsequent signature gives the Rebels a player that can not only add instant depth at defensive back but a player that could also see time on offense. Elston was rated as the 28th best safety in the country by Rivals.com. His commitment was much needed for Freeze, who had lost some players in the final days leading up to signing day.
Ward leads way
Aberdeen defensive end Channing Ward (6-4, 250) is the headliner of the 2012 class. Ward, who was rated as the No. 1 player in Mississippi this year by both Rivals.com and Scout.com, verbally committed to play for the Rebels during the Under Armour All-American game on Jan. 6.
He remained committed to Freeze throughout the rest of the month despite a late attempt to change his mind by Mississippi State. Ward was the first player from Mississippi to officially send in his LOI this morning, signing at 7:14. Ward is rated as one of the Top 150 players in the nation, regardless of position, by Rivals.com and is a member of the ESPN Top 150 list.
Robert Conyers (6-5, 277), an offensive tackle prospect from Miami’s Braddock High School, was the first to fax in his paperwork this morning, according to Ole Miss. Conyers is rated as one of the Top 25 overall prospects from Miami-Dade County this year as well as the No. 62 tackle prospect by Rivals.com and No. 69 prospect by Scout.com. Conyers chose Ole Miss over 20 other offers, including Duke and Wake Forest.
Other players who have signed with the Rebels include Mike Hilton (5-9, 175), an athlete from Sandy Creek High in Georgia; Cody Core (6-3, 173), a wide receiver from Auburn, Ala.; Senatobia athlete Quintavius Burdette (5-10, 180), who made his commitment to the Rebels on the final recruiting weekend of the year; Murfreesboro, Tenn., running back I’Tavius Mathers (6-0, 195); Memphis running back Jaylen Walton (5-8, 164); Memphis offensive lineman Ben Still (6-4, 295); defensive end John Youngblood (6-5, 230) of Trussville, Ala and the South Panola duo of Issac Gross (6-3, 270) and Temario Strong (6-1, 210).
Both Gross and Strong were both selected to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic this year. Gross, who finished with 65 tackles and eight sacks this year, also played with Ward in the Under Armour All-American game. Gross and Strong were two of the first players to commit to the Rebels this year and neither wavered in their commitment despite the coaching change. Strong finished with 60 tackles and four sacks this past year for the Tigers.
Strong RB class
Mathers is rated as a four-star recruit and the No. 20 overall running back by Rivals.com. He rushed for 2,193 yards and scored 23 touchdowns. He had 2,614 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior.
Walton is ranked as the eighth-best all-purpose back in the nation and the 12th-best player in the state of Tennessee by Rivals.com. He rushed for 2,235 yards and 23 touchdowns his junior year. He finished with 2,584 yards and 33 TDs this past season and over 3,000 all-purpose yards. Walton was also named the 5A Offensive Player of the Year as a senior in Tennessee.
Hilton, who could also see playing time at running back, helped lead his team to a 12-1 this past season. He was an honorable mention Class AAA All-State selection by the Georgia Sports Writers Association. He played safety his junior season and set a school record with nine interceptions.
Burdette and Core both committed to play for the Rebels the final weekend of the recruiting season. Core finished with 24 catches for 610 yards and eight touchdowns this past season, while also garnering 31 tackles and three interceptions as defensive back.
Burdette finished with 1,235 yards and 16 touchdowns this past season for the Warriors. He was also selected to play in the Bernard Blackwell All-Star game and was a second team selection on the Mississippi Association of Coaches team as a junior.
Wallace sets record
Wallace started his college career at Arkansas State before playing one season at EMCC under coach Buddy Stephens. Is expected to compete for the starting quarterback spot this spring. He was an NJCAA All-American selection and set NJCAA records for passing (4,475), touchdowns (53) and total offense (4,676). He chose Ole Miss over Miss. State, Texas, UAB, Memphis and Florida Atlantic. (February 1, 2012, Page 6)